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Mayor Touts NYC Job Growth as Model for U.S.
Crain's New York
Daniel Massey

December 9, 2010
View the Original Article

In a lengthy speech in front of business leaders Wednesday morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on elected officials in Washington to stop “finger pointing, blame games and endless attacks” and to instead adopt some of the strategies he contends have helped fuel New York City's economic rebound.

He said his administration's job-creation strategies have led New York City to recover from the downturn more quickly than the state and nation. And he insisted government must chart a “middle way” to economic growth that can be embraced across the political spectrum.

The mayor wrote the 30-minute speech himself in what many observers said was an effort that sounded more presidential than mayoral. Delivered at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the speech immediately fueled speculation that Mr. Bloomberg is eyeing a potential run for the White House in 2012.

The mayor called for “common-sense solutions that are straightforward and relatively cost free” and said that creating conditions for innovation would be key the nation's comeback. “Government is not an innocent bystander in the marketplace, and it should not pretend to be,” he said. “In the face of the current economic weakness, government must act: decisively, responsibly and immediately.”

Mr. Bloomberg presented six ways to tackle unemployment and spur job creation. He called for building confidence, promoting trade, improving regulation, cutting business taxes, investing in job training and reforming immigration laws. But other than announcing a plan to open 10 new Workforce One Express Centers in the next year and increase job placement to 35,000 in 2011 and 40,000 in 2012, there was little that was concrete in his proposals on Wednesday.

“The Workforce One Express Center openings sound promising if they are carried out properly, but much of his speech sounds more presidential than mayoral,” said Barbara Byrne Denhem, chief economist at real estate services firm Eastern Consolidated.

Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said the mayor was “filling a vacuum” at the national level. “He was responding to what he hears from every employer in the city: ‘We're not going to hire, we're not going to invest until we understand where the country is going in terms of its economic development strategy.' ”

The mayor said the city's economy has grown faster than any other major city's in the country and pointed out that it has done so without gains on Wall Street. Since last October, the city has added 55,000 private-sector jobs, Mr. Bloomberg reported, adding that the city's economy has grown twice as fast as the country's during the past year and eight times as fast as the rest of the state's.

But he ignored the fact that the city's economy has fared relatively well precisely because of the hundreds of billions spent to bail out Wall Street banks and near-zero interest rates that helped lead to record securities industry profits. And he discounted the impact of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which was designed in part to promote the very innovation that he called for.

Non-government entities in New York City received $550 million in various research and development and innovation-related grants from agencies like the National Institutes for Health, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. For example, New York City-based medical schools and universities received 650 National Institutes for Health grants totaling $245 million and 100 National Science Foundation grants totaling $47 million. Con Edison got $136 million to improve electric system reliability.

“It's great that he says government must act decisively to stimulate growth, but he lays out a middle way that doesn't deliver anything and under-appreciates the character of the stimulus,” said James Parrott, chief economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute.

A labor-backed group issued a statement saying the mayor “wildly overstated” the character of the city's recovery. “As of October, a record number of New Yorkers—nearly 2 million—were enrolled in the city's food stamp program,” said a spokesman for the Living Wage NYC coalition. “That's a clear sign the mayor's economic policies and vision have failed working people.”

But on Wednesday, the focus was less on Mr. Bloomberg's record in New York and more on his future in Washington.

“I think he's clearly trying to position himself to be drafted for a presidential round,” Mr. Parrott said.