Tag: new york

Right Problem, Wrong Solution

I can’t stand crony capitalism. I have little tolerance for special subsidies and tax breaks being paid out to rent-seeking industries. So you can imagine that I’m not on board with what’s going on in New York because … holy crap.

Nearly two-dozen studios raked in more than $1.5 billion in rebates from New York over the past nine years as the state rapidly expanded its incentives to lure in movies and shows.

Indeed, no New York tax program is as generous as the one targeted toward the film and television industry, and records obtained by Gannett’s Albany Bureau shows that big-name studios reaped massive rewards for shooting in the Empire State.

NBC/Universal was by far the leader in rebates awarded between 2006 and 2014, getting back a whopping $320 million for up to 30 percent of its production costs to film in New York.

Sony/Columbia was refunded $200 million, while HBO got $198 million, the WB got $185 million and CBS received $171 million, the records obtained by Gannett through a Freedom of Information request showed.

The figures were staggering to critics of the program, who said the money should be used instead to help existing businesses in New York, particularly in regions trying to recover from decades of decline in manufacturing jobs.

Overall, $423 million was sent back to studios in 2014 – with the most, $117 million, returned to CBS, said Empire State Development, the state agency that runs the program.

Defenders of the program point to $8.7 billion in business Hollywood studios bring to the Empire State. But there’s no way that this possibly pays for itself. Hollywood mostly brings in its own people and its own experts. What’s the benefit to New York jobs? Selling the camera crews some Starbucks? And it’s not like if the tax benefits disappeared, Hollywood would stop making movies and TV shows in New York altogether.

And the benefits to New York businesses run into another problem. If Hollywood studios aren’t paying their taxes, that means someone else is. That means businesses that are native to New York, that are based in New York, that do all their business in New York have to make up the difference.

Here’s where the critics get it wrong. They think New York should be replacing those subsidies with other more targeted subsidies for upstate businesses. That’s better, I guess, in some weird sense. But here’s a better idea: just make taxes lower for everyone. Make New York friendly to all businesses, not just those that have some pull in Albany.

But … then you wouldn’t have Hollywood movie stars kissing up to politicians and making them feel important. Can’t have that, can we?

Attack of the Boobs

Remember when “progressives” were all about personal freedom? That’s OK. Neither do they:

New Yorkers have been freaking out over the last few weeks, via their local media, about topless women performing at Times Square. Women. Topless. Asking for money. The horror! What do they think this is, America? Any complaints about the women physically harassing other people, of course, should be possible for police to handle using existing laws against things like harassment. The cops would rather take pictures with them—a telling sign of the “danger” these women actually pose.

Now Mayor Bill de Blasio has set up a task force for the specific purpose of banning the topless women, and floated one solution to the “problem”—closing the pedestrian plazas in Times Square and bringing back the vehicular traffic.

Why do government solutions to any perceived “problem” always always involve making life difficult for innocent bystanders? These women — who call themselves desnudas — dress up in panties and some creative paint and ask for money in exchange for taking pictures with them. So naturally the response to this has to be to close the damned pedestrian mall and inconvenience everyone.

De Blasio believes this would also rid Times Square of the costumed children’s characters some New Yorkers ridiculously fear. Because God forbid you live in New York and choose to spend your time and earn your money in a way some New Yorkers might find objectionable. They’ll try to use the power of government to bully you away from your choice.

Yes, that’s Mayor de Blasio, the supposed Leader of the Revolution, who has recently hired 1300 more cops — at a time when NYC is at or near record low levels of violent crime — to investigate stuff like this (said investigation involving confiscating the women’s costumes and questioning them in their robes. For safety).

It’s worth noting that going topless is not a crime in New York. In fact, nothing these women are doing is a crime. The Naked Cowboy has been entertaining tourists for years. The only reason a crackdown can even be contemplated is because of crony capitalist bullshit:

Economic activity in Times Square, one of the most famous commercial locations in all the world, actually falls under the jurisdiction of the state government, as well as the city, because it is part of the state’s economic development (crony capitalism) work, as the 42nd Street Development Project.

Because of that status, the Empire State Development corporation (ESD), the state’s “chief economic development agency,” can set rules for Times Square. Last week, the board of directors voted on a last minute resolution that insisted the topless women were breaking the law against disturbing the public order, because they had a “tendency” to disrupt commercial activity in Times Square. But the women are taking photos with tourists in exchange for money, isn’t that a commercial activity? Of course it is, but not the kind the state’s cronyist development agency is interested in.

Read this account from a New York Post reporter who spent a day as a desnuda. People were friendly and polite. Families wanted to take pictures with her. The only downside was a few creeps who stared at her. How is anything in that account “disturbing the public order”? It isn’t. But it offends someone’s delicate sensibilities so the Great White Dipshit has to call out the cops.

You can’t blame Corporate America for this. Disney and Marvel have said they want no part of the crackdown, even against people using unlicensed Disney and Marvel images. No, you can put this all at the feet of de Blasio, the supposed Man of the People who’s turning out to be just another regulatory thug.

Can’t say I’m surprised.

The Cuomo Apple Doesn’t Fall Far

At one point, I was optimistic that Andrew Cuomo wouldn’t be the big disaster for New York that his father was. Fat chance:

Under a plan approved by New York’s Fast Food Wage Board, a $15-per-hour minimum wage would be phased in over three years in New York City and six years across upstate New York, whose economy has long been the American equivalent of East Germany. The mandate would apply to any restaurant chain with 30 or more locations in the state.

Speaking at a rally in Manhattan, Cuomo pledged that he’s just gettin’ started:

“You cannot live and support a family on $18,000 a year in the state of New York — period….This is just the beginning. We will not stop until we reach true economic justice.”

The legal status of the diktat is not immediately clear. Cuomo created this particular board after failing to push a broader minimum wage hike through the legislature. Chains are expected to fight the rules, which single them out for particular treatment.

OK, do we have to go over this again? You’re not supposed to raise a family on minimum wage. It’s an entry level wage. Yeah, I know Roosevelt referred to it as a “living wage”. It’s still an entry-level wage that we have set up all kinds of anti-poverty programs around to make surviving on it easier.

(Obama’s former cabinet member Janet Napolitano is also raising the minimum wage to $15 in California schools. Expect, in a few years, to see a bunch of think pieces asking why the UC system is having to raise tuition again.)

We are now engaged in one of the most massive economic experiments in history, seeing if governments can magically create wealth and prosperity by fiat. That’s fine … if you don’t care about the people affected by it. But when prices go up and employment goes down, it will be cold comfort to people to learn that the liberals were wrong and the Law of Supply and Demand actually exists.

(As it happens, New York and California already have two of the highest minimum wages in the country. They also have two of the highest levels of income inequality and, if you account for cost of living, very high levels of poverty. It’s a mystery as to why that is.)

Cuomo has a bunch of other idiotic policies you can find at the link. But the minimum wage hike takes the cake. It applies to everyone in the state, whether they live in areas with a high cost-of-living or a low cost-of living. It singles out a particular industry with the hope of diving and conquering. It’s not even clear that it’s legal. But, I guess nothing will stand in the way of idiotic liberals determined to achieve “social justice”.

This sort of crap almost has me hoping that Hillary Clinton wins the election next year. Because there should be a Democrat around to take credit for the mess they’re creating.

What Spitzer Wants

It seemed odd to me that Eliot “courtesans are for royalty, not plebs” Spitzer chose comptroller as his avenue back into politics. Paul Krugman, in probably the most Krugman column ever, opines that comptroller would give him a chance to tangle with the Wall Street fat cats. Of course, Krugman spent the previous column bashing “Libertarian populism” without ever mentioning that a core tenet of libertarian populism is breaking up the big banks and reigning in Wall Street. Apparently, Wall Street can only be attacked by rich hypocritical aristocratic friends of Paul Krugman.

It’s worth repeating what I said in an earlier column: Spitzer went to enormous effort to jail guys looking to get laid and women trying to make some money while he ran around with a high-priced courtesan; Spitzer structured his payments to avoid triggering bank reporting laws; Spitzer used his money and legal friends to avoid any prosecution for his acts. Spitzer is everything liberals claim to hate.

“Conscience of a Liberal”, my ass.

Then agan, maybe Krugman is hoping that electing Spitzer would be so idiotic that it would provoke that economy-stimulating alien invasion he’s always on about.

Walter Olson has a much more likely explanation:

Strong-arming gun makers to act against their perceived business interests, as well as those of their customers:

…in retrospect, there were a few clues that Spitzer was eying a job whose duties include managing the city’s pension funds…

In December, after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., Spitzer wrote a column in the online publication Slate arguing that pension funds should use their investing clout to pressure corporations such as gunmakers to act in the public interest.

New York City’s comptroller, Spitzer said in the interview, is “a significant player in terms of the pension funds and how those shares are voted. And when I speak with folks about corporate governance, the missing link in all of this has been ownership.”

Eliot Spitzer has long been a key player in efforts to intimidate lawful gun manufacturers through both strained litigation theories and hamhanded attempts at economic pressure. The NYC comptroller’s office, with its sway over billions in pension fund money, would present him with a large sandbox indeed.

This sound very likely to me: that Eliot Spitzer is seeking to politicize a pension fund and gain unaccountable unrestrained power to bully, intimidate and harass any business that he doesn’t like. Indeed, it’s for these reasons that I oppose most Social Security privatization plans: because of the power that trillions in investment money would potentially give the government.

But … as shown by Krugman … liberals love Eliot Spitzer. They love him because he may be a pompous, power-hungry, hypocritical, Constitution-shredding horse’s ass; but he’s a pompous power-hungry, hypocritical, Constitution-shredding horse’s ass against people they don’t like (i.e, bankers). So the idea of using NYC’s pensions to bash lawful businesses into obeying their whims sounds great.

The problem is that sleazy tyrants like Spitzer are never satisfied with just going after one enemy. It won’t be long until Spitzer is trying to blackmail newspapers that run escort ads. Or those that run gun advertisements. Or those that are insufficiently groveling. New York may soon elect a comptroller who sees his job not as managing finances but advancing an agenda. Just don’t whine when that agenda turns on you.

Ed Koch

I thought Ed Koch would never die. But he went this morning. Koch, despite being a Democrat and self-professed liberal, was one of the key figures to reviving New York. He was tough on crime, supported the death penalty and pushed back against the unions. When he took over, New York was on the verge of bankruptcy and descending into a crime-ridden hell. By the time he left, the city was rebounding. He paved the way for Giuliani to bring it all the way back (only for Bloomberg to turn into a Nanny State). After leaving office, he frequently endorsed Republicans like Giuliani, Pitaki, Bush and Christie. He opposed Obama on Israel. I didn’t agree with him on everything, obviously. But I think he was always straight about what he thought and believed.


In 1978, New York City was crumbling and the leading indicator of America’s seemingly irreversible decline. The South Bronx, once a thriving middle-class neighborhood, had became a national symbol of urban horror. From 1960 to 1980, New York’s murder rate tripled. Out-of-control spending had brought the city to the brink of bankruptcy, leading to a state takeover of its finances. The city’s subway was plauged [sic] by crime, graffiti, and equipment breakdowns.

On July 13th, 1977, the city reached its nadir when a 24-hour blackout gave way to mass looting. Bushwick, a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, was practically burned to the ground.

Then in 1978, Edward Irving Koch became New York’s 105th Mayor.

A veteran congressman from Manhattan, Koch’s chutzpah was exactly what the city needed. A self-proclaimed “liberal with sanity,” Koch took on special interests, he put the city’s finances back in order, and showed that it was not only possible to govern but to have fun doing it.

Koch gained a national reputation by being the quintessential New Yorker: A Bronx-born ethnic whose disparaging remarks about life outside the city may well have sunk his 1981 bid for the governor’s mansion in Albany. Long presumed to be gay, Koch kept mum about his personal life while pushing for social tolerance. His symbolic and practical role in the Big Apple’s multi-decade renaissance is as huge as his appetite for publicity.

RIP, Mr. Mayor.

New York, New York

In case you missed it, New York legalized same sex marriage tonight. It was a close vote that hinged on insuring the religious freedom of churches to not perform or recognize gay marriages if they didn’t want to. But in the end, four Republican senators showed the political courage that the President seems hesitant to show.

It was fairly remarkable event, covered heavily on twitter and the blogs and with the live TV feed — normally watched by about a hundred people — drawing over 40,000 viewers. I think the reason so much attention focused on it was because this really breaks the issue open. The third largest state in the union, with a Republican-majority legislature, has now jumped on the SSM wagon. It’s impossible to portray this as judicial activism. And impossible to turn back the tide.

I’m actually glad to see it. Gays are not going away and marriage — or at least civil unions — is the conservative way, as long as the religious liberty protections are kept. If gays start getting married, buying houses, starting business and paying taxes, we might just make conservatives out of them.


Are you one of the hundreds – if not thousands – of people who have inadvertently ended up on the no-fly list? Do you really need to travel, and want to take the train instead? Well guess what, dillhole? NO TRAIN FOR YOU. Asshole Senator Chuck Schumer needs to look busy, so he’s doing this now:

A senator on Sunday called for a “no-ride list” for Amtrak trains after intelligence gleaned from the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound pointed to potential attacks on the nation’s train system.

Sen. Charles Schumer said he would push as well for added funding for rail security and commuter and passenger train track inspections and more monitoring of stations nationwide.

“Circumstances demand we make adjustments by increasing funding to enhance rail safety and monitoring on commuter rail transit and screening who gets on Amtrak passenger trains, so that we can provide a greater level of security to the public,” the New York Democrat said at a news conference.

If you think TSA at an airport is bad, wait’ll you get a load of Amtrak TSA.

Seriously, when are we going to stand up and tell these ruling class nitwits that we’ve had enough security theater? Do morons like Schumer really not see that with every move like this, they guarantee that even dead, bin Laden is still winning the game?