|Queensbridge Houses (Wikipedia)|
It's a pity, then, that Mr. Goodman misunderstands almost everything. His confusion is so typical of my Trotskyist friends that it's worth a post to clarify.
The lede paragraphs from the first article:
On Nov. 13, after long secret negotiations, two New York “progressive” Democrats, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, jointly announced that Amazon will place one of two new corporate “headquarters” in New York City and the other in Arlington, Va.
Virtually kissing the feet of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, whose personal wealth is $166 billion, both Democrats have bestowed upon Amazon about $3 billion in tax breaks and construction grants, which include even a nifty helipad for its owner. ...
New York State offered $1.525 billion and the city is giving $1.28 billion to locate in Long Island City, in rapidly gentrifying Queens, a short train ride from Manhattan. The Wall Street Journal reports a “condo gold rush” in Queens.This data can all be checked by simple Google searches. At today's price one share of AMZN costs $1759. There are 500 million shares outstanding, so multiplication yields total capitalization at $880 billion. Mr. Bezos owns about 79 million shares, worth $138 billion. He has a few other assets (e.g., Blue Origin), but his net worth likely isn't much more than $140 billion at today's market price.
Mr. Goodman should note how hypothetical that all is. It assumes that Mr. Bezos could sell all of his shares at today's market price. Of course he can't--putting that many shares on the market would crash the price. Further, we can suppose Mr. Goodman wants to confiscate his wealth. But if he did he'd end up only with a pile of worthless stock certificates--nobody will buy stock in a company whose assets are routinely confiscated.
Mr. Goodman will claim he doesn't care about the certificates, but instead only wants the physical assets: warehouses, offices, computers, etc. And yes, he could confiscate those, and perhaps those would have some residual value above zero. But the company Amazon is a whole lot more than the physical assets--it is a business that depends crucially on its management, specifically on Mr. Bezos. Take Mr. Bezos out of the picture and Amazon is reduced to a pile of trash.
Mr. Goodman is correct that the handouts offered to Amazon are tax breaks. Those bennies are contingent on Amazon upholding its part of the agreement, e.g., hiring the promised number of employees, and are payable many years in the future. Of the $3 billion in handouts, very little of it is money in the bank that can be reallocated to schools, housing, welfare, etc. As Tyler Cowen puts it,
There is no $3 billion that NYC gets to keep if Amazon does not show up. That “money” was a pledged reduction in Amazon’s future tax burden at the state and local level.By comparison, the annual NY State budget is about $150 billion, while the City budget is roughly $89 billion. The (mostly virtual) gifts to Amazon are small change--Mr. Goodman blows the whole issue way out of proportion.
Mr. Goodman's fixation on "handouts" is a red herring.
Then Mr. Goodman is against the "gentrification" of Queens. Why? Is he against new housing? Does he prefer that construction workers be unemployed? Does he really think that everybody should be forced to live in the low-quality, slum-like conditions present in public housing? Is he opposed to new restaurants, shops, and grocery stores, all of which employ people? Should the subway not be rehabilitated?
Those questions are not rhetorical. The honest answer to all of them is "yes." Mr. Goodman is very much Pro-Poverty!
The best argument he can muster for more poverty is this:
For its part, Amazon promises 25,000 new jobs in New York City, with an average salary of $150,000, far above the average salary of the nearby Queensbridge Houses, the largest housing project in the U.S., where the poverty rate is near 50% and the average income is below $20,000. Amazon says it will spend $5 million in training. ...
Raymond Normandeau, a resident of Queensbridge Houses since 1973, told the on-line Gothamist, “It’s pure bullshit. They’re never going to hire us for these jobs. Only a country bumpkin like de Blasio or Cuomo would believe this shit.”Because of Queensbridge, nobody else should be allowed to earn any money.
My brief encounter with housing projects leads me to believe that most residents are old, disabled, and/or sick. So obviously they're not candidates for high-stress jobs at Amazon. Beyond which, residents of the Houses, even if not debilitated, do not have the skill set necessary for such employment. Because if they did they'd already have high-paying jobs and wouldn't be living in the projects. It's not like there is a surplus of skilled labor in the country.
The Queensbridge residents live almost entirely on taxpayer largesse, and occupy some of the most valuable real estate in the world. Nevertheless, they won't be displaced no matter what company moves to Queens--"gentrification" is not a problem for them.
Quite the contrary, their self-interest is that more people should earn enough to pay taxes. Of all people, they should support Amazon. An employee earning $150K will pay about $10K in state and city income taxes, for an annual haul of $250 million. That's just income tax--it doesn't include sales or property taxes, nor does it include taxes paid by construction workers, suppliers, and vendors who support Amazon and its employees.
It is truly bizarre that a few Queensbridge residents, along with Mr. Goodman, are so blinded by envy and ideology that they can't see the huge, indirect benefit that Amazon potentially provides for poor people in the Queensbridge Houses.
A bunch of Democrats (stupid ones), as pro-poverty as Mr. Goodman, pushed Amazon away, depriving the state and city of tens of billions of dollars in real revenue (as opposed to the hypothetical "handouts"). Progressive heroine Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez led the charge. She may win plaudits in her district, but her future in state and national politics is now foreclosed.
Most people are against poverty. Mr. Goodman is a rare exception.