“A new reality, an old infrastructure”

Andrew Cuomo tells the inconvenient truth: New York, from now on, will have to start thinking like New Orleans

A few minutes ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a press conference (no video or transcript yet, but I’ll be happy to provide it later if I can find it) again gave a version of the line I’ve been hearing from him since last night: “We have a new reality, in terms of weather patterns, but we have an old infrastructure….  I don’t think anyone can sit back any more and say, ‘well, I’m shocked by that weather pattern.’ ” As Cuomo has been pointing out, the storm has caused events that were never envisioned, and that utilities, city planners, and private entities can’t be faulted for not anticipating (most damaging, saltwater flooding throughout lower Manhattan’s subway tunnels)—but that we must plan on becoming routine from now on. Lower Manhattan, southern Brooklyn and Queens, any place near the East River—these were not regular flood zones in the past. But they are now, and must be redesigned as such.

The governor has said he’ll keep pushing this. I hope he does. Against my inclination, I’m starting to side with Matt on this: given how far climate change has already gone, and how many interests stand against quick action, we can’t assume a climate future that resembles the past. But the reward to acknowledging climate reality will be (where local politicians aren’t climate deniers, and only there) urban areas that are far better designed to accommodate the new reality than they have been up to now.

Wall Streeters don’t balance New York’s budget. Taxes on Wall Streeters do.

Yet another commentator faults the 99 percenters for failing to see that Wall Street types contribute to “the public purse.” But they don’t. It’s their taxes that do.

Clyde Haberman’s “What to Expect in New York in 2012” contains what I realize is a throwaway line. But I can’t let it go because the sentiment it reflects is both pervasive and pernicious.

The local economy may feel the effects of layoffs in financial services this past year. Even hard-core haters of the 1 percent might come to appreciate the importance of Wall Street types to the public purse, not that many of them would ever say so publicly.

This line has rankled me for more than a decade—ever since Andrew Sullivan in 2000 (in an article that I unfortunately can’t find; the web was young then) derided Al Gore’s promise to raise taxes on the wealthy by snarking about “the top one percent, without whom there would be no surplus.”

Correction. Without taxes on the top one percent there would have been no (Clinton-era) surplus. This isn’t opinion. It’s history. The top one percent didn’t go away after George W. Bush lost won the 2000 election. In fact they did very well, due largely to capital gains. What went away was even the modest, Clinton-era level of taxation on the top one percent—and with it, the surplus.

If Wall Streeters want to, they can try to argue that what they do creates huge benefits for the economy as a whole. The narrower argument that they benefit Gotham specifically, by hoovering up profit that would accrue to the rest of the country and spending it in New York, would be somewhat more persuasive (though this argument, which might be called the “efficient-parasite hypothesis,” is for some reason rarely asserted in the first person). But if we’re talking about a contribution to the city, state, or national budget, it’s not their economic activity or anyone else’s that brings about that. It’s the taxes on that activity.

This point matters politically and matters a lot. “Class warfare” hysteria aside, very few who criticize the top one percent want them to stop existing (nor is there a shred of evidence that any mainstream progressive proposal would threaten their existence). We want them to face somewhat tighter regulations and substantially higher taxes. If you want Wall Street to contribute to “the public purse,” you belong on the side of Elizabeth Warren, not Donald Trump.



Pamela Geller’s pro-Israel ad is bigoted and idiotic. And she has a clear First Amendment right to post it in the New York subway.

Pamela Geller is an idiot and a bigot. And like all such, she has a clear First Amendment right to express her ideas in the New York subway.

The title of this post more or less speaks for itself, I think. I wish the issue did as well.

Pamela Geller wants to run an ad in the New York subways that says opponents of Israel personify “the savage.”  The ad is bigoted and idiotic (image below the fold, if one cares). But the First Amendment does not contain exceptions for bigotry or idiocy. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is a public agency. Public transit agencies are required to run ads even when they can’t stand their content.  (The famous case here is Lebron v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, famous partly because the decision telling the Washington Metro that it couldn’t ban a satirical poster critical of Ronald Reagan was written by Robert Bork. He was actually good on most First Amendment issues and knew the difference between protected speech and approval of the speech thus protected.)

I have little doubt that Geller’s threat to sue the MTA will cause it to reverse its ban on the ad, as a similar threat by Geller did in the past. The MTA presumably knows its constitutional law by now, but has cynically calculated that it will gain PR benefits by initially denying Geller’s rights and appearing to grant them only later, reluctantly, and under threat of litigation. One of these days the geniuses who run the MTA may start to realize that denying Geller her rights, repeatedly, only helps a powerful racist spread her opinions and play the underdog.

And yes, this means that Geller should enjoy the same First Amendment rights that she would deny to Muslims seeking to build a community center several blocks from Ground Zero. The right to free speech, as always, protects the self-aware and the hypocrite alike.

Continue reading “Pamela Geller’s pro-Israel ad is bigoted and idiotic. And she has a clear First Amendment right to post it in the New York subway.”