Thursday, September 01, 2005

Tax Cuts, Poverty and Non-Working Families

The Times is reporting today on the Working Families Party's current indecision in the Democratic mayoral primary. While Bertha Lewis and Acorn has thrown its support behind Freddy the WFP remains sidelined. That did not stop Party leader Dan Cantor from taking an oblique sot at Anthony Weiner's call for tax cuts.

The thrust of Cantor's criticism was directed at the fact that we shouldn't be calling for tax cuts when one out of every five New Yorkers is living below the poverty level. This is the exact point where we part company with the WFP's philosophy. In our view you don't raise people up through government largesse, as important as temporary public aid might may be in troubled times.

Economic growth is the sine qua non of raising a society's standard of living. If there are those who need more help to become economically competitive than that is where government can play a creative and positive concomitant role. When strategies focus on government exclusively that is where the troubles begin. From a New York City standpoint the best take on this discussion is Ken Auletta's "When the Streets Were Paved With Gold", an analysis of the city's fiscal crisis in the 1970s.

It needs to be pointed out that the city's emergence from the cataclysms of the 70s, a decade marked not only by fiscal decline but by urban disorders and an arson epidemic as well, was stimulated in part by the yeoman efforts of the city's neighborhood retailers. These pioneering entrepreneurs, many of whom were new immigrants, filled the void created by fleeing national chains and redlining banks. They rebuilt stores, re-invested in the community and, most importantly, hired tens of thousand of New Yorkers.

We bring all of this out because we believe strongly that the jump in the city's poverty rate, the only major American city to experience such a rise, can be laid directly at the mayor's doorstep. It is the Bloomberg policies, the tax increases and regulatory blitzes, that have tamped down New York’s growth.

Cutting taxes and easing the city's regulatory burden is the smartest method to stimulate the kind of economic growth that will bring more low income New Yorkers off of dependency and onto the tax rolls. After all the 100,000 city residents who are employed by New York bodegas are the kind of folks who are getting their first leg up on the economic ladder. The words of legendary bodega pioneer Johnny Torres are still true today: "The best form of welfare is to give someone a job".