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Comrade De Blasio Takes the Helm

Actually, it was not corpses who spoke. Rev. Fred A. Lucas Jr. told the audience that New York City was like a slave plantation run for the wealthy. Belafonte falsely asserted that Mayor Mike Bloomberg had increased the concentration of African-Americans in the city’s prisons. The city's newly elected public advocate, Letitia James, called for a government “that cares more about a child going hungry than a new stadium or a new tax credit for a luxury development.” All this was even too much for the New York Times editorial board, who called the speeches “backward-looking … [and] both graceless and smug.” As for James’ comments, they were “the worst among them.” And Belafonte’s remarks, they noted, were “utterly bogus.”

Perhaps the owners of the Times were afraid that next on the mayor’s agenda might be Hugo Chavez-style press control or, God forbid, a takeover of the paper by the mayor’s press office carried out by administrative decree. No wonder the paper is considering a bid to sell to a Chinese magnate. As Mona Charen quipped, if the Chinese Communists buy it, the paper will definitely be more rightwing.

Jim Epstein, writing at The Daily Beast, understood what de Blasio is about better than anyone. Let him aim away, he writes, pointing out that “[h]is new job won’t afford him the political power of Lenin or Mao -- or anything close to what would be necessary to reshape the city’s demography.” His plan to raise taxes on the rich will collapse in Albany where the state’s budget is created, the city’s budget has to be balanced by law, and he doesn’t have on hand the money he promised to the labor unions when new contracts are negotiated. Actually, he is only beholden to the teachers' union in particular, since only they backed him in the primaries and did the legwork on his behalf.

That is clearly why de Blasio has promised to cut down the charter schools popular with the African-American community. The anti-reform union opposes them. As for his promise to build 200,000 more units of affordable housing, Epstein writes that “will only happen if the city gets a miraculous windfall of federal tax credit allocations, which provide most of the equity for such projects.”

The tragedy is that leftist do-good programs for the poor are self-defeating, and could make the city far worse. Moreover, they are based on a faulty understanding of why big cities like New York have both rich and poor living in their domain. Writing in the New York Daily News a few months ago, Ed Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard, explained that the city’s “extreme inequality reflects other extraordinary aspects of New York: the massive global financial markets based here, America’s most accessible public transit system, hyper-dense immigrant communities and broad social services, like public housing. These forces attract both rich and poor to New York, and New York should not be ashamed of that economic diversity.”