Amazon, New York: Life is Not a Math Problem

Amazon, New York: Life is Not a Math Problem

New York state senator, Michael Gianaris, the guy at the center of Amazon's bailing on Long Island City, got pounded in a game of whack-a-mole by a host on CNBC, but only after Gianaris assured that he’d be popping out of the same ever-deepening hole for the remainder of the interview. 

He and other progressive dems need to learn this: Life is not a math problem.


In a hostile TV interview worthy of Fox News, CNBC commentators pressed hands to their temples and screeched with incredulity at Gianaris about how he could possibly have voted against giving Amazon $3 billion in subsidies to reap a promised $27 billion dollar gain.

Gianaris answered with abstractions that few New Yorkers and almost no one in the rest of the country understands.

"I was fighting for my community.”

Good start. But, before this train even cleared the station, it derailed.

“We have to talk about the subsidy contests that are out of control."

Really? You want to lead with subsidy contests? That’s the debate point that progressive Democrats running in 2020 should use when their opponents accuse them of being anti-business?

Gianaris continued.

“When Amazon, which doesn’t need the money is squeezing governments just to show up, we’ve got a problem. We’ve got a problem that Europe recognizes, which is why they don’t allow these kinds of subsidy contests in Europe.”

Europe? Is Long Island city, the community you’re fighting for, no longer the topic of this conversation?

And so, Gianaris, the antagonist in the NYC-Amazon drama, plays whack-a-mole with a CNBC host who’s using Gianaris’s opening math argument to pound mercilessly on the senator’s head. But, that happened only after Gianaris assured the host that he’d only be popping out of one ever-deepening hole for the remainder of the interview.

“Incentive programs are one thing if you’re helping an industry or a company that wouldn’t survive without them, that couldn’t succeed without them or you’re incentivizing investment in locations that are distressed and need that kind of economic activity to survive. That’s not what this was.”

So, Long Island City is among the world’s greatest economic growth zones. Didn't know that.

Unless progressive democrats figure out how to talk about the Amazon-New York train wreck, Republicans will hold it up as a prime example of progressives’ economic incompetence in the 2020 election cycle. And, they’ll convince a lot of people they’re right.

So, to get this train back on the tracks, here are some suggestions for you, Senator Gianaris, and other progressive candidates who’ll be using their precious media time to defend the Long Island City incident and their own economic platforms.

Take the knees out from under an abstract subsidy argument and say something most people grasp. Here's a starter set of talking points:

-This is not just about economic math, which has been used to benefit the top 1% and has made life much tougher for 99% of tax payers in this country.

-Amazon’s approach would have diminished the quality of life for most of the hard working families in Long Island City and surrounding communities.

-Independent restaurant and shop owners who live and work in community would have been driven out of business by Amazon, just like happened in Seattle.

-Many of our working families would have been forced to leave their homes.

-No working community in our country would have accepted the potential destruction that Amazon forced upon us.

-I would love to have Amazon come to Long Island City in a way that benefits our residents and businesses, but we saw that opposite would have happened.

-We are pro-business when development benefits the working peoples’ lives and livelihoods in my community. That was not the case with Amazon.

And, here’s one more general suggestion, as if the reminder were necessary. When your media host tries to drag you to a perversely narrow or distorted discussion about economic math, don't follow them.

Here's the interview.




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