For instance, the Big Apple is a place where the elite media publicly complain that it is tough to get by on $500,000 a year and where the rich have elevated apartments for their cars – all while 46 percent of city residents are below or near the poverty line. It is a place where a billionaire mayor who has overseen a spike in poverty nonetheless defends Wall Streeters, justifies police actions disproportionately aimed at the poor and issues one-way tickets designed to permanently exile homeless people. It is a place where that same mayor fights initiatives to mandate paid sick leave and to force city-subsidized companies to pay better wages – and then jets off to his estate in Bermuda where, according to the Times, “he is a fixture, dining out with lawmakers, cruising its streets in his golf cart and hosting small parties at his house.”
As this Dickensian tragedy has unfolded, New York City’s aristocracy has – predictably – marshaled its power to try to suppress any kind of class-based politics from emerging.
In the electoral arena, that aristocracy has responded to the down-ballot success of the Working Families Party with an effort to bury the party in expensive lawsuits. At City Hall, Bloomberg boasted of having “my own army” in the New York Police Department – and he has deployed that army to forcibly crush protests against wealth inequality. Meanwhile, in the press, local media barons like Mort Zuckerman and Rupert Murdoch used their papers to cheer those police actions on – all while devoting column inches to downplaying the very existence of poverty and railing on even the most modest initiatives to address inequality.
Such a coordinated attempt to suppress class-based politics can certainly be successful in economic boom times (recall the 1990s, for instance). It can also scare many New York politicians into avoiding class-based politics for fear of being targeted for electoral elimination by the rich. Indeed, for quite a while, New York has been a place where the elite has happily screamed “let them eat cake” – and yet no basic political reform has followed, much less any kind of full-on revolution.
Wanna say fuck you to a billionaire mayor who has fucked up this city for the middle and working class? Vote for Bill de Blasio.