Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is destroying opportunity for fellow Democrats
Congratulations, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez! You just killed 25,000 jobs for urban Democrats in one of the most racially and ethnically diverse areas in the entire world!
Congresswoman AOC, the thought leader of the Democratic party, was the loudest and feistiest political opponent when Amazon announced it would build (half of) its second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, promising to create 25,000 jobs and generate some $27.5 billion in tax revenue over the next 25 years. Amazon employs a range of people from unskilled workers to tech geniuses and would have pumped large amounts of money into the city economy. It estimated the average salary of its New York City workforce would have been $150,000. Real-estate prices in Long Island City jumped 15 percent since Amazon’s announcement last November.
But after Amazon walked away in an anti-Valentine to the cityon Feb. 14, AOC bragged on Twitter that “everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”
Huh? A Siena poll this week showed that New York City residents approved of the deal by 56 to 33 percent. Fellow Democrats Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio were pushing hard for the deal. Oh, and it need hardly be stated that Amazon is a company staffed by Democrats. Some 87 percent of its employee donations went to the Dems in the latest elections. As for “richest man in the world,” Bezos started Amazon in his garage. He got rich building one of the most beloved companies on earth.
Ocasio-Cortez had previously opposed the deal by enlisting her peeps to “effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world’s biggest corporations.” As a matter of principle, I agree that New York taxpayers should not be subsidizing special tax breaks for corporations, especially a behemoth that is run by the richest man on earth. Amazon doesn’t need a tax break and New York City is, as Michael Bloomberg aptly put it, a “luxury good” that simply costs more to be a part of than Dayton or Oklahoma City.
But AOC didn’t even understand the basics of the subsidies. She said, “If we were willing to give away $3 billion for this deal, we could invest $3 billion in our district ourselves if we want to. We could hire more teachers,” etc. But it’s not like New York was going to write Amazon a $3 billion check. Most of that money amounted to giving Amazon discounts on its future tax bills, with $505 million set aside as cash grants that would be given only if Amazon met certain benchmarks on job creation and capital investment.
Then Ocasio-Cortez went waaaay beyond the subsidies. She claimed the neighborhoods she represents near the proposed HQ2 were in a state of “outrage.” She said Amazon shouldn’t receive tax breaks “at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less.” Yet if funding the subways is your goal, Amazon would have delivered a lot of long-term tax revenue once it was up and running. And Ocasio-Cortez seemed to think that Amazon’s jobs didn’t count for anything unless they came from “the existing community” and were unionized.
Both of those ideas are absurd. Amazon no doubt would have brought in some new New Yorkers, but is AOC suggesting we build a wall around the city to keep out filthy outsiders? A huge part of the city’s energy comes from all the outsiders we keep attracting like, for instance, Ocasio-Cortez’s Puerto Rico-born mother.
As for AOC’s reference to unions, that’s backward-looking. Non-union Google employs some 7,000 people in New York City and it’s expanding. America’s tech giants are not unionized. That’s one of the reasons they became giants in the first place. A New York City that required jobs to be unionized would repel cutting-edge firms. Anyway, an outpost as large as the one Amazon proposed can hardly help expanding opportunity in the neighborhood, for everyone from cab drivers and sandwich makers all the way up the income scale. Unionized construction workers and building cleaning crews would have benefited.
She also charged Amazon’s plan with “displacement,” saying, “Shuffling working class people out of a community does not improve their quality of life.” Yeah, who wants to sell their apartment for triple what they paid and move to Fort Lauderdale? A HarrisX poll showed 80 percent of Queens residents and 77 percent of the residents of the state senate district where HQ2 would have been built approved of Amazon’s bid. AOC is pretending to stand with the people while actually destroying opportunity for Democrats.
Kyle Smith is critic-at-large at National Review