Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Corporate City

The media today is obsessed with the Republican/Democrat, Red/Blue, Liberal/Conservative, urban vs. rural socioeconomic/political/cultural divide. The two America's at war with each other, pushing and pulling the country apart -- one America wanting to make us more like Canada (the liberal urban Democrats) and the other wanting to make us more like Mexico (the conservative rural Republicans). This "divide" is at the heart of the current narrative of American politics, with NYC as the capital of Blue America (and I guess the whole state of Texas being the capital of Red America but there are many contenders for that title I suppose).  

But like so many simplistic generalities, this "narrative" is wrong. For NYC isn't really the bastion of liberalism that the media, the conservatives, and the rest of America think it is. And it's not just that we've just elected Republican mayors for the last 20 years (but that's part of it). It's that NYC has become, over the last thirty years, a corporate city, one where corporations and powerful private interests have acquired huge power over our city's government, dictating policies that affect our lives, all while eviscerating public power and crushing the middle while helping the rich.
Let the Free Market rule! 

Ad increasingly, since the age of Ed Koch and Ronald Reagan thirty years ago to the time of Mike Bloomberg and George Bush and Barack Obama today, the Free Market has been ruling NYC and controlling its destiny like never before.

Private money has never been more powerful than it is today in NYC. Same is true in other "hotbeds of liberalism" around the country like Chicago and Washington, DC. I could go on here and give example after example of how NYC today is a Corporate City and how it's "liberalism" isn't quite what it seems. But the always great Matt Taibbi and the brilliant David Sirota have written about it in such perfect language that I will simply re-post some of things they said about it here.

First, Taibbi writes about Mayor Bloomberg, the ultimate corporate mayor, and how this incredibly reactionary mayor has thrived in "liberal" NYC for more than a decade: 

       [Bloomberg] is a billionaire Wall Street creature with an extreme deregulatory bent who has   quietly advanced some nastily regressive police policies… but has won over upper-middle-class liberals with his stances on choice and gay marriage and other social issues.
Bloomberg’s main attraction as a politician has been his ability to stick closely to a holy trinity of basic PR principles: bang heavily on black crime, embrace social issues dear to white progressives, and in the remaining working hours give your pals on Wall Street (who can raise any money you need, if you somehow run out of your own) whatever they want.
He understands that as long as you keep muggers and pimps out of the prime shopping areas in the Upper West Side, and make sure to sound the right notes on abortion, stem-cell research, global warming, and the like, you can believably play the role of the wisecracking, good-guy-billionaire Belle of the Ball…
Second, David Sirota notes what Taibbi wrote and also looks at the corporate city as a wider American phenomenon. Sirota writes about how Chicago has privatized its public infrastructure, selling off highways and parking meters to private interests. The big city Democratic mayors have been trying to destroy public employee unions with the same zeal as Republican governors (Chicago again, and Denver). The charter school movement that has been funded by big private interests -- including Wal Mart! -- has spread in "liberal" cities like LA, New Orleans, and DC (which gave us the odious Michelle Rhee, the schools head who wants to destroy every teachers union in America). Many "liberal" cities have been slashing city budgets and reducing public services while refusing to raise taxes on the rich but offering huge public subsidies for stadiums, office buildings, and public/private ventures (always making the argument that this will "create jobs" and "raise tax revenues" for cities -- but almost never doing that in reality and in fact costing these cities money in the long run).  

These are corporate cities if there ever were any, and NYC is at the forefront of it. But because our media is so obsessed with cultural issues over economic ones, a city is "liberal" if most of its people support abortion or gay rights or gun control -- not if its leaders are selling their people out to private interests and destroying the public sector. Sirota writes:

Though Taibbi was writing about Bloomberg specifically, his words aptly sum up what the American cityscape has become — yet more scorched earth in the successful assault of Limousine Liberals and Crony Corporatists on Lunch-Pail Liberals and Progressive Populists. In political terms, it represents the broader success of the transpartisan moneyed class in fully redefining “liberal” exclusively as “social-issue liberal” — without regard for economic agenda. 

So when you look at Occupy Wall Street you see a movement that is simply angry at money and the corporate state controlling our lives and our destinies -- and it goes beyond any party, any mayor, any city. It goes to the heart of what NYC and America has become -- and it wants to fight back. 

A good fight indeed. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep it civil, intelligent, and expletive-free. Otherwise, opine away.