Democrats are fighting mad — at each other. For once, President Trump is not the prime target of their rage.
Amazon’s decision to scrap plans for an HQ2 campus in New York sent the circular firing squad into action. The blue-on-blue attacks pit the far left against the far, far left in yet another front of the party’s civil war.
In addition to sharp differences about a Green New Deal, taxes, socialism, Medicare-for-all and open borders, Dems are now split over how and whether government should work with the private sector to create jobs and boost the tax base.
The more moderates, a very relative term in this showdown, eagerly engaged in a form of crony capitalism. The $3 billion in tax incentives that Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio offered Amazon included $500 million to subsidize the salaries of construction workers.
The officials argued that the public “investment” would pay huge dividends because Amazon promised to create 25,000 new jobs, many of them high-paying. Politicians often describe these arrangements by saying the government will “partner” with the firms, which always reminds me of how the Mafia likes to “partner” with businesses.
At any rate, Cuomo and de Blasio forgot that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her socialist ilk tend to see capitalism in any form as evil. Her side didn’t want Amazon to get taxpayer help and demanded instead that it be forced to contribute millions to schools and subways.
At the heart of their argument is a narrow view of private rights, one that believes government should use its immense power to make it nearly impossible for companies to operate unless they fund the pols’ social-justice and climate-change boondoggles.
When the clash is a binary one like this one, the so-called moderates clearly have a more reasonable view. After all, incentive-based private-sector growth has been a guiding principle of urban development for decades as officials override the thicket of laws and regulations they create to lure new buildings and jobs.
Naturally, the sweetheart deals often involve pay-to-play campaign contributions to the pols from developers, lawyers and lobbyists. Too often there is also outright thievery of the kind that marks most big developments under Cuomo and de Blasio.
Politicians point fingers after Amazon ditches NYC headquarters
But while the battle still rages and analysts study the entrails of Amazon’s decision-making, here’s a thought: What if both sides of the Dem battle are wrong? What if even crony capitalism is a big part of the reason for the epidemic of the blue-state blues?
The migration of jobs and families out of high-tax, high-cost states has been going on for years, but is becoming a stampede because of the new federal tax law and because of how Democrats are reacting to it.
The provision limiting state and local tax deductions at $10,000 wiped away a preferential treatment for high earners in those states, and helps explain why about 20 percent of filers will either get no benefit or see an actual hike in their federal tax bills. The resulting rush for the exits is putting pressure on government budgets in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere while creating a real-estate boom in Florida and other low-tax states.
Throw in the fact that some Democrat-controlled states, especially Illinois and New Jersey, already face huge problems with their civil- service pension funds and it’s obvious that the blue-state model is undergoing a major stress test.
Incredibly, the leaders of most are responding in self-defeating ways. Simple math suggests they should find ways to lower their spending, and pass on the savings as tax cuts to give mobile citizens reasons to stay.
Instead, driven by a hatred for Trump and a demented desire to do the exact opposite of what he does, many are actually countering his tax cuts and deregulation efforts.
Cities from Seattle to New York are raising taxes, or trying to, imposing minimum wages of $15 an hour and requiring even small businesses to give workers expensive health and vacation benefits.
Simultaneously, many of those same cities are driving up their education and health costs by declaring themselves sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants — in direct reaction to Trump’s push for secure borders.
These and a host of other radical ideas are playing out in the party now and will almost certainly dominate the 2020 presidential primaries.
Before they get too far out on the leftists’ ledge, the presidential hopefuls ought to study the Amazon debacle, especially the destructively unfair playing field it exposed. The company’s competitors and start-ups in various sectors endure crushing taxes and inflated labor and regulatory costs that would have been set aside for Amazon. How is that fair?
Consider the case of the famous Strand Book Store in Manhattan, a survivor despite how Amazon has cannibalized book sales. City officials wanted to landmark its store, a costly proposition for the owners, about the time Amazon got its incentive offers.
Strand owner Nancy Bass Wyden connected the dots lining up against her and in favor of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos.
“The richest man in America, who’s a direct competitor, has just been handed $3 billion in subsidies,” Wyden complained. “I’m not asking for money or a tax rebate. Just leave me alone.”
Being left alone is no longer an option in New York and other blue states. The only question is whether the government will become your partner — or shut you down unless you bend to its will.
Either way, capitalism is dead.