Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez cost 25,000 Amazon jobs that New Yorkers could ill afford to lose. The year that Cortez won her election, New York suffered the worst population decline of any other state.
Why are they leaving?
Some, like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s mother, are leaving because of high taxes. “I was paying $10,000 a year in real estate taxes up north. I’m paying $600 a year in Florida," Blanca Ocasio-Cortez explained.
Some claim that nobody leaves New York because of the taxes. Cortez’s mother proves them wrong.
But millennials are leaving in record numbers because there are no jobs. New York’s under eighteen population is down 4%. That’s not surprising since their unemployment rate is 78% higher than the New York City average. That leaves 100,000+ New York millennials with no jobs and no future.
New York City offers few options for a middle class outside government work. The formerly working-class city has been retooled to cater to hipster expat millennials. Cortez, child of a Westchester architect who parlayed a hipster gig into a spot in Congress and a social media following, is the perfect representative of the wealthy millennials treating working class neighborhoods as their playground. Cortez is popular because she’s living out their narcissistic fantasy of a slacktivist revolution.
But the Cortez crowd comes and goes. New York City isn’t a permanent destination, but an entertaining stop on their journey. They’re a reliable source of lefty chaos, but not a remotely reliable tax base.
Millennials who want a middle-class life are leaving for cities like Houston where they can still find it. Those left behind are stuck between the soap bubble economy of trendy restaurants and boutiques catering to expats that may pick up and go at any moment, and the dreary realities of an economy where millennial workers earn less at the bottom than they do anywhere else in the country.
New York City’s unemployment rate is already worse than the state and the national average.
City Hall’s solution is gulping more socialist snake oil. After the $15 minimum wage passed, restaurants responded by cutting hours and staff, and 3,000 restaurant jobs vanished. Instead of learning the lesson, Venezuela on the Hudson is doubling down with regulations preventing workers from being fired.
New York City can prevent employees from being fired, but it can’t prevent eateries from shutting down. Just as it can’t build a social justice wall high enough to stop millennials from fleeing New York for Texas. But its Venezuelan strategy doubles down on every bad regulation while destroying its own economy.
Restaurants closing down might not be that big a deal in some places, but hospitality and leisure are the closest thing that New York City has to a major non-government industry. Its other major sources of employment, health care and education, are heavily subsidized, directly or indirectly, by taxpayers.
Meanwhile publishing, one of those major expat industries whose employees throng hip urban hotspots, took a severe beating. Without niche industries like publishing and finance, New York City becomes thoroughly dependent on tourism, all those restaurants and bars, plus some terrible theater, to bring in the tourists to help employ its millennials and subsidize its huge public sector.
New York is the state with the highest ratio of full-time government employees to people in any state with a population of over a million. There are 316 government employees to every 10,000 New Yorkers. Those 632,162 people have to be subsidized by its wealthy and what’s left of its middle class.
But the wealthy are also leaving as the city and state bleeds millionaires headed, like Cortez’s mother, for the sunnier and friendlier financial climes of Florida.
"Tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich,” Governor Cuomo said. “The rich leave, and now what do you do?”
Cuomo had to start rethinking the $176 billion budget after the revenue shortfalls began kicking in.
With 40,000 wealthy taxpayers covering half the taxes, that’s an even bigger issue for the city whose politics Cortez has carpetbagged her way into with socialist selfies and a dumb smirk.
Those 632,162 government employees are being carried by 40,000 taxpayers, many of whom have been joining Alexandria’s mother in Florida which has a higher population, but 200,000 fewer gov employees.
The most expensive thing about government employees isn’t when they’re working, it’s when they’re not. New York City has $142 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. It’s on the hook for $100 billion in retiree health care benefits with only $5 billion to show for it. While Mayor Bill de Blasio offered free health care for illegal aliens, health care for retiring workers was raided to pay for everything else.
New York City has around 300,000 employees, the most in its history, and 200,000 retirees. Anyone who works for only ten years is entitled to free health care on retirement.
And it’s only getting worse. Mayor Bill de Blasio has been going on a hiring spree, stuffing lefty activists and allies into places like the Sanitation Department, which doesn’t need them, with top salaries. New York City’s streets still aren’t being cleared of snow, but the Department is full of environmentalists promoting composting to a population living in one of the densest urban areas in the United States.
Who’s going to pay for all that with older wealthier residents fleeing, while the city is retooled into a lefty utopia for a shiftless millennial expat elite that has no plans to stay long term, while New York City’s native millennial middle class flees, leaving behind unemployed and poor millennials in an aging city with a huge pile of pension debt for more gov workers than the entire population of Atlanta?
There’s barely a middle class left. What’s left of it is weighed toward government workers and taxpayer-subsidized professions which can no more cover their costs than a man can lift himself by his own belt. The wealthy are losing their sense of humor about higher taxes for worse services. And the welfare class doesn’t contribute to revenues, it drains them dry. To say nothing of the city’s 500,000 illegal aliens who use all the services they can, from hospitals to prisons, but who don’t pay anything except sales tax.
As the New York Post’s Michael Goodwin points out, city government spending is up 25%. To the DSA political class, to which Cortez belongs, any cutbacks or spending slowdowns smacks of austerity. Spending, in their minds, is as detached from actual currency and revenues as it is in Venezuela.
When asked how she would pay for any of her proposals, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez spouted meaningless gibberish. The theoretical version of meaningless gibberish is the farce misleadingly named Modern Monetary Theory which, in layman’s terms, believes that there’s a giant money tree.
Modern Monetary Theory follows the Venezuela principle that all economic problems can be solved by printing more money. Venezuela’s finance minister, a left-wing sociologist, insisted that “Inflation does not exist in real life.” Back then the inflation rate was 3,000%. A year later it had passed a million. No amount of minimum wage increases, nationalizations, rationing and other socialist gimmicks worked.
Food became unaffordable. People starved in the streets. The military began to be paid with food.
On Wall Street, leftists rallied in support of Venezuela’s socialist dictatorship. When asked about the Maduro regime, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez refused to denounce the socialist butcher and instead condemned America. “I am very concerned about U.S. interventionism in Venezuela and I oppose it.”
The political solidarity that made Rep. Cortez, her mentor, Senator Bernie Sanders, and assorted allies like Rep. Ilhan Omar, leery of rejecting the socialist tyranny, is also economic. Venezuela’s collapse shines a harsh and unflattering light on Modern Monetary Theory and socialist fantasy economics.
New York City isn’t Caracas, but its main advantages are an accident of history. Like Los Angeles, it was home to a culture industry that featured it in countless novels, plays and movies. But that culture industry is dying and a generation of gentrification and migration smoothed away its personality.
What remains are a lot of restaurants being regulated out of business, overpriced and overrated colleges, homes that none of the permanent residents can afford and homeless on every block. And the whole thing has been financed with bubbles, pyramid schemes and dangerous gimmicks. Since 2002, two progressive mayors have used the city to test their radical policies while plotting presidential runs.
They just forgot to pay for any of it.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is the latest radical to emerge from an urban incubator powered by expat millennials like her for whom New York City isn’t a home, but a place to act out a coming of age story.
When the bill comes due, they won’t be here to pay it. Nobody will.