Is New York's Middle Class Really Dead?

Joel Kotkin is an insightful writer on topics relating to demographics, and he has written much that is very interesting and informative.  A few days ago he had a piece in the Daily News titled "RIP, NYC's middle class: Why families are being pushed away from the city."  There is a lot to like about this article, but I also think that on many issues Kotkin is being seriously misled by useless and often fraudulent government data.

The thesis here is that while the rich in New York are getting richer, the number of poor is actually increasing and the middle class is stagnating.

As the cost of living has skyrocketed while pay has stagnated except for those at the very top, New York has shifted from a place people go to make it to a place for those who already have it made, or whose families have.  And once here, the rich are indeed getting richer even as the rest of the city is barely holding on.

The problem here is that Kotkin is relying on government data.  It's hard to blame him for that, because it's all we have.  But you really can't try to draw many conclusions from this stuff, at least not without seriously accounting for the obvious inadequacies and outright fraud practiced by the government in compiling the numbers.  When it comes to income, poverty, and income inequality numbers, there is good reason to think that the government has pretty good information as to the top two quintiles (probably less so as to the top 1%), but in the bottom three quintiles there are huge problems, and it gets worse the lower you go.  By the time you get to the bottom quintile, the government numbers are almost completely fake, failing to take account of around a trillion dollars a year in government handouts and completely missing unknown hundreds of billions, or possibly trillions, of dollars of off-the-books and illegal income.

So here is Kotkin's key piece of data:

Between 1990 and 2010, the city’s 1% saw their median income shoot up from $452,415 to $716,625 in 2010 dollars, even as the bottom 60% hardly saw their incomes budge at all, according to a recent City University study.

Kotkin doesn't cite the specific City University study, but it's not too hard to find information from Census data strongly supporting the narrative of the supposed "stagnation" of New York's middle class.  For example, here is city-wide and neighborhood-by-neighborhood data compiled by WNYC from Census information on New York median household income.  According to this compilation, the median went down from $54,057 in 2007-09 to $50,711 in 2010-12 (adjusted for inflation).  That sounds rather bad!  (Although note that among a small number of neighborhoods where median income increased, by more than 5%, two are Central Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York's two most iconic African American neighborhoods.) 

But the question is, how much of the actual income of people in the bottom three quintiles is being captured by Census, and has the uncounted portion increased over time?  The two big categories of uncounted income are government in-kind handouts and off-the-books and illegal income.  The in-kind handout category has clearly soared over twenty years, and particularly during the Obama years.  Food stamp recipients nationwide have increased from about 30 million to almost 50 million just during the Obama years, meaning that there are now large numbers of recipients even in the second income quintile.  Medicaid has also greatly increased.  And now Obamacare is a whole new category of uncounted in-kind handout coming with its own big new incentives to minimize and/or hide at least some income in order to qualify for subsidies. 

How about that middle quintile, those just above and below the approximately $50,000 median?  There used to be lots of manufacturing jobs in New York that were the bread and butter for the people right around the middle.  Now there are hardly any manufacturing jobs.  Those manufacturing workers generally went to work at the same place for substantial companies every day, and their income was easily monitored by the government.  Today it's different.  For example, where I live, twenty years ago we had a huge rent-regulated housing stock in which no one had invested a dime in fifty years.  The buildings were declining and decaying.  The last 15 or so years have seen a very gradual phase out of rent regulation, together with a big run-up in housing values.  The result is that literally every second building has some kind of major construction or renovation job going on.  There are armies of people who work a few days or weeks on such jobs, often for small sub-contracting firms, before moving on to the next job.  Now, how much of that income does the Census Bureau capture?  In considering the answer to that question, take into account the tremendous incentives in today's handout society to show visible income below certain thresholds, whether it's to qualify for food stamps, or Medicaid, or Obamacare subsidies, or lots of other things.  

And that's just one example.  On the female side of the employment picture, the numbers of housekeepers and nannies are also vast.  Based on the market in my neighborhood, those jobs can pay around the median of the income distribution (and the median is for households that often include more than one worker).  Again, how much of that income is captured in the official numbers?  I only have anecdotal evidence, but frankly I think my anecdotal evidence is better in this instance than the Census data because the Census people completely know that they are missing large categories and they systematically report data missing those categories because they find it advantageous to support their agenda of advocating for more government spending.  Based on reports from my friends and acquaintances, well less than half of the income of nannies and housekeepers gets into official government information.  In fact, the government makes it literally punitive and almost impossible to be fully compliant in putting household workers on the books.  You must withhold federal, and state, and city, and FICA taxes; and you must pay workers compensation insurance, and unemployment insurance, and disability insurance.  And each of these must be paid to different entities and with different schedules and deadlines.  And once you're on their radar screen they audit you and torture you.  Or you can just pay cash.

Now if you ask the Census Bureau (which I did a few weeks ago) they will say that the recipients of their surveys are supposed to report all of this income, and don't worry, because we'll never tell the IRS about it.  Well, in the age of the Surveillance State, would you trust them to honor that promise?  You would be out of your mind.

People are not dumb.  Today, many are flocking to New York City to take jobs in the middle of the income distribution.  They would not be doing it if they saw no opportunity.  The fact is, it's the government numbers that are wrong.  I strongly suspect that the state of New York's middle class is just fine.  But every year, in the attempt to achieve perfect fairness, we put into place yet a few more incentives to minimize reported income.   So the numbers show stagnation or decline.  There is no reason to believe them.   

The March Of The Surveillance State

Almost all the news you read on the subject of government surveillance of the citizenry is about the NSA and its programs of broadly sweeping up all emails and telephone metadata.  While I wouldn't say that there's nothing to be concerned about there, the NSA is a tiny tip of the iceberg.  After all, if you ask any government bureaucrat charged with some aspect of the security of the people to do his job better, his answer will always be the same -- "I can just monitor all of the people all of the time."  Today, I'll discuss a few examples of the ongoing march toward the panopticon surveillance state.  Remarkably, all of this is a phenomenon of the very recent years, thirteen at most in the case of the examples below.

  • As previously reported by me here, under Section 505 of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 the government claims the right to send a so-called "National Security Letter" to your bank or other financial institution, requiring it to turn over all information it has about you, and it is a felony for the bank to tell you that it has received the letter or what it is turning over.   In March 2013, in a case called In re: National Security Letter, Judge Susan Illston of the Northern District of California ruled the "gag" provisions of the PATRIOT Act unconstitutional for failure to incorporate procedures to prevent the imposition of illegal prior restraints on speech.  But the ruling was stayed pending the government's appeal.  Of course they appealed.  According to an update here from plaintiff Electronic Frontier Foundation, the appeal has now been fully briefed, and oral argument at the Ninth Circuit was held on October 8.  There is an audio of the oral argument at the link.  The wheels of justice grind slowly.  Meanwhile you must assume that the government is monitoring all of your financial transactions at all times behind your back.
  • Realizing that the idea of instituting a "national ID card" would be a complete non-starter with the American people, the government figured out that the better approach would be to turn the state driver's license into a national ID card by stealth and behind your back.  This process began with the so-called REAL ID Act of 2005.  That one surprisingly got lots of push back, with an actual majority of states stepping up and saying that the feds had no authority to do this and they would not comply.  Actually, of course, the states had only minimal concern for protecting the citizens against government spying and overreach, and were mostly concerned about the cost.  And then you just don't hear about the issue for a long time.  So what do you think is happening?  Of course, one by one the states are crumbling.   Here from the Department of Homeland Security is a state-by-state list of who's in "compliance" with the federal mandate, who is non-compliant, and who has an extension.  Turns out that 48 states and territories either are in compliance or have an extension, which I presume means they are hard at work on complying.  A big seven states and one territory (American Samoa!) are still non-compliant.  One of the non-compliant states is New York, and believe me, in the case of New York it has nothing to do with doing the right thing by citizens and has only to do with cost.  Read the HHS write-up at the link, and you will see that they are threatening to bar your citizens from air travel beginning in 2016 if you don't come into compliance. 
  • I've recently been told by extended family members that when they go to a doctor and are getting a prescription, the doctor looks them up on his computer and there is a list of what prescriptions they already have.  How does that happen?  This one, it turns out, is a program of New York State, supposedly to deal with "prescription drug abuse."  According to the web site of the New York Department of Health, all prescriptions for so-called Schedule II, III and IV controlled substances in New York must now be reported to a state data base called "I-STOP/PMP," and "most prescribers are required to consult the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) Registry when writing prescriptions"  for those drugs.  So 1 or 2% of patients may be abusing some prescription drugs, and to prevent that, everybody gets monitored all the time.  Nothing to it!  Time to find a pharmacy in Canada.  The rumor I hear is that the government is already on to that one and has a plan to ban paper prescriptions and make all prescriptions electronic and thus monitorable by them.  OK, time to find a doctor in Canada! Believe me, none of this will have the slightest effect on the availability of meth or ecstasy or oxycontin or whatever on the black market.  Since they have to know that, the only logical conclusion is that the real purpose is to get more ability to surveil the honest, law-abiding populace. 
  • You probably haven't been paying attention to this one, but the big news in the federal tax bar is that all international tax treaties have been held up for several years by Senator Rand Paul.  The reason given by Paul is that, whatever else may be in these treaties, they all contain provisions for information exchange between the tax authorities of the signatories, even in the absence of any specific reason to think the taxpayer has done anything wrong.  (The reason that one Senator can hold up all these treaties is that they are typically cleared by a procedure called "unanimous consent.")  In a speech on the Senate floor on May 22, 2014, Paul said (sorry I don't have a link): "Many of the previous treaties that we have had in the past focused on information specific to tax fraud . . . .  What we are doing is taking the standard down to something [that] 'may be relevant,' which could be a dragnet for getting everyone's information. . . .  I cannot support a treaty that would pave the way for a law that would permit the IRS to share information of customers at U.S. banks with foreign governments."  Bravo to that, but I wonder how long he can actually hold out.  Many of these treaties contain provisions that, for example, eliminate double taxation situations for American businesses.  Some are with not-unimportant countries, like Switzerland.  So will this one go the way of REAL ID?  Anyway, at least this one item of panopticon surveillance is not a done deal -- yet.



Extreme Faith In The All-Knowing Government Bureaucrats

One of the great parlor games of economists is to identify what are claimed to be "market imperfections" and "market failures," and to propose solutions to them.  Among liberal academic economists, somehow the solutions are always the same, namely that the all-knowing government bureaucrats must intervene in the market to impose the preferable result.  Might any problems arise from giving the bureaucrats such powers to transform large markets?  Somehow that never gets discussed.  After all, the bureaucrats are all-knowing and perfect! 

An extreme example of this genre appears in a column by Official Manhattan Contrarian Worst Economics Writer Paul Krugman that appeared on October 19, titled "Amazon's Monopsony Is Not O.K."  Krugman's topic of the day is, which according to this article has accreted way too much power to itself in the marketplace for books, and needs to be taken back down by the government.  They are just like the robber barons of old!

Does Amazon really have robber-baron-type market power? When it comes to books, definitely. Amazon overwhelmingly dominates online book sales, with a market share comparable to Standard Oil’s share of the refined oil market when it was broken up in 1911. Even if you look at total book sales, Amazon is by far the largest player. . . .  So can we trust Amazon not to abuse that power? The Hachette dispute has settled that question: no, we can’t.

And obviously, the government must intervene to impose a better result:

Standard Oil . . . had too much power, and public action to curb that power was essential.. . .  The robber baron era ended when we as a nation decided that some business tactics were out of line. And the question is whether we want to go back on that decision.

Remarkably, Krugman never says exactly what he proposes the government should do here.  Should it bring a court case to break up the monopsonist -- which is what the government did in the oil, steel and tobacco industries in the early 1900s?  The whole idea that government action in a situation like this may have adverse or unintended consequences just is not part of Krugman's world view.

And by the way, that line that "public action to curb [Standard Oil's] power was essential" is just one of those endlessly-repeated pieces of official conventional wisdom that cannot be proved or falsified, but there is every reason to think it is wrong.  Why wouldn't the competitors of Standard Oil have quickly caught up with it, as have other competitors of plenty of other corporate giants that the government has not dismantled?

To consider a couple of examples, IBM was the bugaboo of the 1960s and 70s, with its tremendous dominance of the market for what were called "main frame" computers.  The government sued to break up IBM in 1969, and began a court trial seeking that remedy in 1975.  The case was still on trial in 1982 when the new Reagan administration concluded that it was "without merit," and they then gave up and walked away from the case.  Meanwhile, the whole market for "main frames" had already begun to decline, and today it has completely disappeared.  Computers have gone from main frames to personal computers, to laptops, to smartphones, and IBM has more or less stayed away from the whole thing and become a consulting business.  IBM was number 9 on the Fortune 500 when the antitrust trial started in 1975, and has gradually slipped to number 56 by revenue in this list from 2014.  Just this week IBM backed away from an ambitious profit forecast for next year, and its stock took a big hit.  Again, what was the reason that IBM needed to be dismantled by the government?  Today, nobody even remembers.

The other corporate giant severely criticized in recent years for allegedly too much power is Wal-Mart.  It's actually still holding on to the official number 1 position in the 2014 Fortune 500, but there are many reasons to think that its glory days are behind it.  According to data collected by Credit Suisse and reported by CNBC here, Wal-Mart's market share in U.S. retailing, after rising rapidly for decades, hit a peak of 13.9% in 2009, and then began to decline.  By 2013 it was down to 11.4%.  Same store sales have been very flat for years, and there aren't a lot of new towns in the U.S. to invade.

Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek wrote a letter about Krugman's column to the New York Times, and posted it on his web site.  He includes a long quote from D.T. Armentano's "Antitrust Policy" (Cato Institute, 1986) addressing Krugman's contention that Standard Oil needed to be dismantled:

Here’s the noted antitrust historian D.T. Armentano: “Standard Oil’s efficiency made the company extremely successful: it kept its costs low and was able to sell more and more of its refined product, usually at a lower and lower price, in the open marketplace.  Prices for kerosene [Standard’s principal output] fell from 30 cents a gallon in 1869 to 9 cents in 1880, 7.4 cents in 1890, and 5.9 cents in 1897.  Most important, this feat was accomplished in a market open to competitors, the number and organizational size of which increased greatly after 1890.  Indeed, competitors grew so quickly in the years preceding the federal antitrust case that Standard’s market share in petroleum refining declined from roughly 85 percent in 1890 to 64 percent in 1911.  In 1911, at least 147 refining companies were competing with Standard, including such large firms as Gulf, Texaco, Union, Pure, Associated Oil and Gas, and Shell.”

Meanwhile, the government today maintains two separate antitrust bureaucracies, the FTC and another in the Justice Department, that constantly scrutinize the business organization structure of the U.S. economy for no good reason that anyone can articulate.  They know nothing about the markets they periodically disrupt, and they care nothing about the costs they impose.  Their ranks could easily be shrunk by 80% with great positive effect on the U.S. economy.

My take: sure Amazon has a little more power than I would like.  The antitrust regulators have way, way more power than I would like, and than is healthy for the economy.

The Benefits Of Falling Oil Prices

Which is better, rising energy prices or falling?  I think the answer is obvious:  falling.  If you want the people to become wealthier and to be able to do more things, then falling energy prices are great.  There are also lots of great collateral benefits to falling energy prices, first among them being putting all the worst actors on the world political scene out of business.  More about that later.  Meanwhile, the alternative of rising energy prices means impoverishment of the people.  Who could possibly want that?

The answer is that our President and all groupthinking progressives want higher energy prices.  Somehow they have convinced themselves that if they can make you drive less and use less electricity and keep your home in the winter so cold that you need to wear three sweaters indoors, they will be "saving the planet," or something like that.  Meanwhile, please don't notice while I exit this motorcade of thirty gigantic armored SUVs and get into Air Force One to jet off to Europe.

 During the 2008 campaign then-wannabe President Obama was explicit that the essence of his environmental program was to increase energy prices.  The famous quote is "under my plan of a cap and trade system electricity rates would sky rocket."  He was talking specifically about electricity there, but the EPA under Obama has been overt and relentless in doing everything it possibly can to increase carbon-based energy prices in all forms and for all uses.  For example, here is a 2012 roundup from the Heritage Foundation of various EPA rules and initiatives designed to drive coal out of the U.S. energy mix, thereby increasing the price of electricity.  In 2010 a vast interagency task force co-ordinated by the White House came out with a big study on the so-called Social Cost of Carbon, according to which all usage of carbon-based energy is somehow a negative to society, with zero positive benefit counted for anything from mobility to computers to mechanized agriculture.  And then, of course, we also have the EPA's infamous 2009 "endangerment finding," by which it determined that use of carbon-based energy was actually a "danger" to the health and safety of the American people. And on the oil and gasoline front, how about the EPA's recent rules relating to sulfur in gasoline, specifically designed to jack up the price of gasoline?

Well, so far at least the American people seem to have the upper hand over their government on this one.  The so-called "fracking" revolution of new extraction technologies continues to increase the availability of oil and gas, and recently prices have started to fall dramatically.  The price of a barrel of oil on the commodity exchanges has declined from well over $100 to about $80, and now the price of gasoline at the pump has fallen from over $4 per gallon to around $3.15.  Although plenty of pundits on the left continue to believe that this is somehow a bad thing, President Obama seems so far to be keeping quiet about it -- a smart move with an election pending.  Here is the take of economist and CNBC pundit Larry Kudlow:

[O]ne of the absolutely stupidest things I have heard in recent weeks is that the recent drop in oil prices is bad. You heard me right. Serious people on financial television are saying lower oil prices are a signal of worldwide economic collapse. Here at home that translates to recession, deflation, a profits collapse, and rising unemployment.  I've been around for a while, and I've seldom heard such gibberish.

Thank you, Larry.  Now, perhaps he should have a conversation with the idiots at the EPA.

But it's not just that falling energy prices make your hard-earned income go a little farther.  Some of the collateral consequences are nothing short of spectacular.  In particular, it seems like all the worst actors on the world political stage operate crony capitalist economies totally dependent on the oil and gas sector to fund the government.  I'm thinking particularly of Iran, Venezuela and Russia.  When oil prices are up, these guys fly high and use the revenue to throw their weight around.  When oil prices are down, they go broke and fade away.  

Here's a roundup from Reuters on the current predicament of Venezuela.  Remember when they had billions to give away to buy influence in places like Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia?  Well, now they are about to default on their international debt.  Or maybe not -- they deny it; but according to the Reuters article the current price of Venezuela credit default swaps implies a default likelihood of about 80%.  I'll go with the market prediction over what the Venezuelan officials are saying.  Meanwhile, you literally can't buy anything in Venezuela.

Iran and Russia?  Here's a roundup from the Guardian filled with words like "crisis" and "catastrophe."  Actually, I'm sure they'll muddle through somehow, but the fact is that the profits from the oil are exactly where these guys get the resources to fund armies to threaten their neighbors and to build nuclear bombs.  Low oil prices are a wildly cost-effective method to rein in their ambitions, far better than all the "sanctions" we can never really make stick, let alone than our threat to attack them with our own military forces.

So is it possible for our government to be as completely wrong on any aspect of public policy as it is on this one?


Can A Republican Win A Political Office In Manhattan?

Here in Manhattan, we have by my count 31 local elective offices (not counting judgeships) -- three citywide offices (Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate), 6 State Senators, 12 State Assemblymen, and 10 City Councilmen.  Every single one of those offices is currently held by a Democrat.  The Republicans did famously hold the Mayor's office for 20 years from 1994 to 2013, but the last time a Republican held any of the 28 legislative offices covering any part of Manhattan was back in 2002.  As that year began, the Republicans had one State Senator (Roy Goodman) and one Assemblyman (John Ravitz), both from the Upper East Side.  In early 2002 Goodman resigned to take a job with the new Bloomberg administration, as NYC liaison to the UN.  Ravitz ran for Goodman's Senate seat in a special election, but lost.  And then Ravitz did not run in the fall for his Assembly seat, which also then went to a Democrat.

It's not just that the Republicans don't hold any seats, but in nearly all of the districts they aren't even remotely competitive.  In my own districts for City Council, State Assembly and State Senate, in most elections the Republicans don't even put up a candidate.  This year the Republicans do seem to have put up candidates for both my State Senate and Assembly districts, but I haven't seen either of their names mentioned a single time in the press, with the election only a few weeks away.  On the other hand, in my Assembly district there is a candidate from something called the "Progressive" party challenging the long-time Democratic incumbent from the left, and he is getting a lot of mention in the local press.  It's highly likely that he'll get more votes than the Republican. 

Am I the only one who finds it odd that, here in the richest county in the country (measured by per capita income), the so-called "party of the rich" has almost vanished?  Instead, we overwhelmingly vote for the "party of government" year after year, to tax ourselves at the highest levels in the country, supposedly to address the critical issues of poverty, public education and healthcare.  And what do we have to show for it?  A poverty rate higher than that of the country as a whole, dysfunctional union-dominated public education that costs about twice the national average per student for worse results, and a Medicaid system that for an expense double the national average per beneficiary gets no better health results.  How could it even be possible that the very richest county in the country, that spends well more than any place else on "anti-poverty" efforts, actually has a poverty rate higher than the national average?  (National "poverty" rate is  15.8% for 2013 according to American Community Survey report released in September; Manhattan rate is 17.8% according to ACS 2006-10 data.)  You would think that if voters ever held their politicians accountable for anything, our all-Democrat pols would get voted out en masse immediately.  But hey, this is Manhattan.

Of the 18 state legislative races up this year on our island, probably the best shot for the Republicans to win one is the 76th Assembly district on the Upper East Side, an area overlapping the one-time turf of Goodman and Ravitz.   The Democrats have nominated a mostly experience-free cypher named Rebecca Seawright, who is running a mostly contentless stealth campaign, the most notable feature of which is her close association with the public employee unions.  The basic idea seems to be, nobody around here votes for Republicans, so I'm a shoo-in.  She was not the choice of party insiders, but rather won a four-way primary, which may well have occurred because nobody had heard of any of them and she was the only woman in the race against three men.  Her bio includes some time as a staffer to a state legislator in Texas in the 80s, followed by attending CUNY Law School in the early 90s, and a stint of all of 14-months in the Manhattan DA's office.  Since then, she claims to have been a "counselor to small business owners and entrepreneurs" -- I guess that means that she has done some part-time legal work as a solo practitioner out of her apartment.  The law practice does not appear to be substantial enough to justify having a web site, or at least, not one that I can find using Google. 

The Republicans have actually found a candidate of real substance to vie for the seat.  Named David Garland, he has an MBA from Wharton, served in the Commerce Department under George H.W. Bush, then at the World Bank, and more recently has been a consultant with Deloitte Consulting in New York and Tokyo.  He is also a serial candidate, having run (unsuccessfully, obviously) for the State Senate in 2012 and the City Council in 2013.  He got 30% of the vote in the Senate race and 33% in the City Council race, which are actually impressive numbers for a Manhattan Republican.

Needless to say, Garland has tried to get Seawright to engage in debates, and she won't have any part of it.  Her reluctance to debate appears to spring not just from the natural reluctance of the favorite to give time to the long-shot, but also from her own total ignorance of the issues.  Before the September primary, local cable station NY1 hosted a televised debate among the candidates in which Seawright participated.  Her then Democratic rival David Menegon, who was apparently on to her cluelessness, tried to get her in trouble with her union backers by asking her a question she wouldn't understand, namely, whether she would support making New York a "right to work" state.  The New York Observer reported the humorous result on August 23:

“I think [New York] should be a ‘right to work’ state and I would totally support that,” Ms. Seawright said in a response to a question from rival David Menegon.

Thinking she must not have heard the question right, the moderator, Errol Louis, sought to give her a chance to right her ship, without success:

Errol Louis, the host of the debate on NY1, pressed Ms. Seawright to explain her position.  “I think it helps the economic base of the city and I think that the unions backing me would agree,” Ms. Seawright replied.

Did I mention that Ms. Seawright's other claim to fame is backing by essentially all the unions:  teachers, police, NYSPEF, SEIU, CWA, and of course their handmaiden the WFP?  So there is no chance that she would actually support a "right to work" law if she knew what it is.  But don't worry, her union friends are not concerned that she doesn't know what a "right to work" law is.  She'll vote the way they tell her when the time comes.

As the union favorite, Ms. Seawright espouses exactly the "solutions" to our problems that the unions back:  always more money to keep failing by doing exactly the same thing more expensively.  For example, when Sybile Penhirin of DNA Info asked her in August to name the district's "biggest issue," she took the occasion to seek more money for the schools:

We need more middle school seats in the UES, additional resources to support our teachers, and we need to fight for smaller-size classes in public schools.

You wonder, does she even know that New York already spends nearly double the national average per student on K-12 education, and that school spending nearly doubled in the twelve years under Mayor Bloomberg?  If that didn't work, why will the next wad of dough do any good?

Garland?  His big issues are more charter schools and freeing the schools from lock-step union control.  And reducing the regulatory burden on small business.

Oh, and did I mention that Ms. Seawright backs the Official Manhattan Contrarian "worst possible public policy," namely "affordable housing" in Manhattan?  Of course.

Garland may actually have a shot here.  But you can't generally go wrong underestimating the Manhattan voter.  Upper East Siders:  You are the ones paying for the failing unionized public services that the Seawrights of the world protect against reform.  Do any of you understand what is going on?