The “de Blasio Boom”: Progressive Policies Work In New York City

Isaiah J. Poole

The conservative naysayers who predicted that New York City was going to fall into an economic abyss under the unapologetically progressive mayor Bill de Blasio are having to eat their words.

The New York Times on Monday is the latest publication to find that New York City, under his leadership, “has rarely been in better financial shape.”

The city has added a record 248,000 jobs in the last two years, according to numbers cited by the Times from the New York State Department of Labor. And those jobs have come with rising wages, in part because of efforts by de Blasio to increase wages for fast-food workers, city employees and city contractors.

“Of course, a roaring real estate market has left many New Yorkers struggling to pay for housing and has fed a homelessness problem that has bedeviled Mr. de Blasio,” the Times’ news story said. “Still, by virtually any measure, the city continues to do better than the rest of the country in rebounding from the financial crisis, economists said.”

One of those economists is James Parrott of the New York City-based Fiscal Policy Institute, who categorically rejected the notion that the health of the New York City’s economy was driven by Wall Street.

“Wall Street doesn’t dominate the economy as it did in the city’s past,” he said in an interview. The city’s economic revival, he went on to say, reflects a diversified economy that includes growth in professional services, technology and media, as well as huge growth in tourism. Because the growth is not driven by such elements as Wall Street financial speculation and corporate bonuses, “the expansion hasn’t gotten out of hand,” he said.

Growth has instead been supported by such factors as De Blasio settling a standoff with public sector unions in the city, which resulted in long-term contracts that gave raises for the first time in four years to the city’s more than 300,000 public employees. This past summer, fast-food workers were placed on a path toward a $15 minimum wage, and more recently so were city workers and workers under contract with the city, such as health aides working for nonprofit city grantees.

The New York Times is not the first publication to notice that New York City has continued to thrive under progressive economic policies. In August, Crain’s New York Business said, “the New York City economy can be boiled down to this: The continuing expansion can now be called a boom.” The article concluded, “Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg set the expansion in motion after the Great Recession, but it is probably time to call it the Bloomberg-de Blasio boom.”

New York City’s economic success so far is not only a testament to de Blasio, which the Campaign for America’s Future honored as a progressive champion in 2014. It is a testament to the fact that policies that start with boosting the well-being of workers have ripple effects that benefit everyone – which is not something that can be said for policies that seek to first benefit those at the top.

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