June 11, 2001
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The metro section of today's New York Times carries an article under the headline, "Schumer Proposals Address Shortage of Office Space."
The article reports on the findings of a Schumer-convened panel known as the Group of 35. The Times says the group "calls for a combination of condemnation, tax breaks, transit links and zoning changes to create expanded business districts in Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City in Queens, and on the far West Side of Manhattan." The Times reports that Mr. Schumer "said it would cost about $500 million over 20 years to piece together development sites at the core of the three proposed districts." That doesn't include the cost of the tax breaks for the tenants and developers, nor transportation projects endorsed by the report that cost at least $1.3 billion.
The Times article doesn't raise a single question about why Mr. Schumer, who has been voting in Congress against across-the-board income tax cuts, thinks there should be tax breaks targeted at New York real estate developers. Nor does the Times quote anyone who questions the central-planning mentality of the Schumer approach: the senator is quoted as saying, "We're trying to lay out a blueprint for where new businesses can grow in New York City and where existing businesses can expand." Why doesn't Mr. Schumer just get out of the way and get the government out of the way by reducing taxes and regulations citywide rather than in a few Schumer-selected areas? Then, the businesses could decide for themselves where to expand rather than having to follow Mr. Schumer's "blueprint."
Most egregiously, the New York Times article omits any reference to the fact that the report of the Group of 35 was delivered a year behind schedule. Senator Schumer stood up at a breakfast of New York business leaders in January of 2000 and warned that a "troubling storm cloud" was looming on the horizon that "could cause New York City to stagnate or even decline." New York, the senator said, "is about to enter into a space crisis. Firms do not have enough room to grow." At that point, in January of 2000, the senator announced that he was convening a "Group of 35" leaders from business, government and labor to "conduct an in-depth study of the city's space problem and issue a report within six months."
By September of 2000, Mr. Schumer was promising the report "by the end of the year."
In February of 2001, the senator was promising the report "in about a month."
In fact, the Times article says, the report is to be released today. In the meantime, of course, New York's commercial real estate market has softened considerably. It has become clear that the main challenge facing the new economy companies Mr. Schumer was so worried about in January 2000 was not a lack of space but a lack of profits. Which makes all the more ridiculous and telling Mr. Schumer's comment, back in January of 2000, that, "If it were left to the market alone, the type of space we need would eventually develop, but long after many of our growing businesses left and our more established but growing businesses chose to expand elsewhere."
Conservative Plot: An article in the business section of today's New York Times reports on the cessation of publication by two Web sites, Feed and Suck. The Times reports that "perhaps a Plastic contributor offered the best explanation for the publications' dire straits: 'This has got to be some type of conservative plot out to restrict free-thinking attitudes,' Star Temp wrote in the site's chat area. 'I'm quite sure of it.'" Only the Times would consider comments in a chat area about a "conservative plot" to be the "best explanation" for a development in the Internet publishing business.
Contrast: A front-page article in today's New York Times reports on President Bush's relations with Europe. "For one thing, in contrast to Mr. Bush's conservative agenda, Europe is dominated by left-of-center governments that hold fast to the notion that a compassionate state is needed to make sure that inequalities produced by a free-market system do not get out of hand." The "contrast" there is imagined. Mr. Bush, the evidence suggests, himself holds fast to the notion that a compassionate state is needed to make sure that inequalities produced by a free-market system do not get out of hand. (Though he might quibble by asserting that a free-market system produces fewer inequalities than any of the other systems that have been tried, and that that such inequalities that do exist aren't all produced by the free-market system.)
The same Times article goes on to report that Europeans "were horrified and caught completely unaware when Mr. Bush announced that he was tossing out the Kyoto protocol, which would have committed industrial nations to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases." As Smartertimes.com pointed out on June 1, 2001, the Kyoto Protocol was trashed as far as the U.S. was concerned long before Mr. Bush got to the White House. On July 25, 1997, the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 in favor of the Byrd-Hagel resolution instructing U.S. negotiators that any greenhouse gas reduction agreement must apply to developing countries as well as to industrialized nations such as America. The actual Kyoto agreement violated these instructions. On January 30, 1998, the executive committee of the AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling on President Clinton "to refrain from signing the proposed Kyoto Protocol to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change." On July 18, 2000, the Senate passed, 97-2, an Interior Appropriations bill that included a ban on the use of any of the money to implement the Kyoto Protocol. The Clinton-Gore administration never even submitted the Kyoto Protocol for ratification by the Senate, even while it went through the motions of continuing the Kyoto "process" and trying to modify the treaty. If the Europeans were horrified and caught completely unaware, it was their own fault for not paying attention to what was going on.
Dominant Movement: A dispatch from Jerusalem in the international section of today's New York Times refers to "the American Reform Jewish movement, which is the dominant Jewish movement in the United States." While by some definitions the Reform movement may have more self-identified members than Conservative Judaism, the Conservatives are close enough that Reform can't be accurately described as "dominant." Many would argue that the energy and commitment among adherents to Orthodox Judaism mean that Orthodoxy is the dominant movement despite its smaller numbers. Rather than saying how dominant or submissive Reform Judaism is, the Times might just say how many members the movement claims and how many Jews there are in America.
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