New York’s Progressives Blow It Big Time

Here’s a question for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other progressives celebrating Amazon’s decision to abandon its plans to open a second headquarters in Queens: Which number is greater, $3 billion or $27 billion?

The first number represents the value of the incentives New York State and New York City offered Amazon to build another headquarters in Long Island City. The second was the deal’s anticipated tax revenue over the next two decades. Using these numbers alone, the long-term cost to city and state of losing Amazon is approximately $24 billion, not counting 25,000 jobs and a host of other opportunities for entrepreneurs to serve the needs of the massive campus. Those tax receipts could have been spent fixing New York City’s dysfunctional subway system and building affordable housing for its growing homeless population. Most New Yorkers — including the majority of those polled in the Queens district selected to serve as the headquarters’ locale — favored the deal. Nonetheless, Ocasio-Cortez and other so-called “progressives” declared victory when Amazon decided to take its business elsewhere. What exactly did we win?

The current wave of progressive disapprobation of big businesses and their founders is both cynical and misguided. There is a wealth and opportunity gap in this country, but fomenting anger among the masses at those who build great ventures is not the way to address it. Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and others’ attacks — blaming the more fortunate for all of society’s ills and employing a lynch-mob mentality to tear them down — is as disingenuously simplistic as accusing Mexicans and Muslims of ruining the fabric of American society. Politically correct scapegoating, like it’s Trumpian far-right counterpart, not only offers no solutions but is both intellectually lazy and inherently dangerous. It provides nothing more than a handful of talking points to the glorified cheerleaders who would ride others’ resentment to pinnacles of political success.

The Amazon debacle adumbrates the result of left-wing politicians adopting the current president’s tactics to further their own political careers. Ocasio-Cortez, a self-proclaimed Democratic-Socialist who may not know what either word actually means, is nothing more than the progressive Donald Trump, a narcissistic, vapid, self-promoting Twitter-aficionado. She viewed the Amazon deal not as an opportunity to deliver jobs and revenue to benefit her constituents but simply as another chance for self-aggrandizement, and her victory lap was not for the denizens of her district but for herself. She came out against the deal, Amazon decided not to put a headquarters in Long Island City, and for her that counts as a victory. Perhaps if “AOC” spent less time on Twitter and bothered to learn about modern political and economic realities, she would understand just how important that tax revenue was to New York City. The Trump Administration — with its coastal-elite-loathing base centered squarely in the rural South and Midwest — has made a concerted effort to financially deprive New Yorkers who pay higher state taxes but lost key deductions as a result of recent federal legislation. Washington is concurrently curtailing infrastructure investment in the metropolitan Northeast. The Amazon deal was one means of replacing much needed revenue and funding key projects. Now it’s gone and Ocasio-Cortez is dancing for joy. Bang up job, AOC.

(Coincidentally, it’s behavior and math, not race and gender, behind this criticism. A rebuke of Ocasio-Cortez’ conduct and positions is not tantamount to hate speech. In the wake of Minnesota representative’s Ilhan Omar’s latest anti-Semitic tweet, progressives seemed desperate to remind everyone that criticism of Israel is not automatically an attack on Jews. The same logic applies here.)

Entrepreneurial success — even the out-sized kind enjoyed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — has its benefits. It rewards innovation, market disruption, and well-considered risk-taking. Companies like Amazon provide more efficient ways to meet consumer demand and can invigorate the economies of the locales they enter. They create opportunities not just for new employees but for entire communities. Queens not only lost 25,000 high-paying jobs. The opportunity cost to entrepreneurs who would have supported the new Amazon headquarters — dry cleaners, restaurants, coffee shops, retail establishments, professionals — is incalculable. Still doing victory laps, AOC?

It was fair to expect Amazon to be flexible and adapt to the realities of maintaining a corporate headquarters in New York City. The sides should have been able to reach an accord on the issues that separated them. But progressives wanted a scapegoat, not a deal. Having seen Donald Trump successfully motivate staunch conservatives by appealing to their basest instincts, they decided to emulate him. And in their gambit for a short-term political victory, they made a decision that will cost their constituents billions.

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