It's Hard To Cry Poor When You're Rich

A central tenet of the New York mindset is that we are the struggling "inner city," afflicted with extraordinary burdens of low income and poverty that they don't have in the more prosperous surrounding areas.  Therefore, we feel a strong sense of entitlement to have our high spending local government subsidized by those supposedly more prosperous neighbors.

And so last week our Mayor Bill de Blasio made the annual trek to Albany to seek to get more of the supposedly bountiful state money for the City.  Here's a report at  De Blasio loves to burnish his image as the spokesman for the poor and downtrodden.  As described in the linked article, de Blasio asked for more state money for the City's schools, more for its low income housing projects, more for its mass transportation system, more for its homeless shelters, and so on.  Key quote: "The moment has come for the city to get its fair share of state funding."

Well, there's a small problem here if you are an old-time income redistributor like de Blasio:  While nobody was looking, New York City got richer than the rest of the state.  And not by a little.  Here's a table of 2010 Census data on per capita income of New York State by county.  Of course, New York County (Manhattan) is by far the richest at $111,386 (yes, that would be over $445,000 for a family of four).  Do a little math with the table and you find that per capita income for the City as a whole was about $40,000 against about $31,000 for the state as a whole.  And back the City out of the State, and you find that the remaining per capita income of the non-City parts of the State was only around $25,000.  In the comparison between the City and the rest of the State, it's not even close.

Now that's 2010 data, and I can't find something more recent that is as easily manipulable to make these comparisons.  But if anything in the last few years things have skewed even more dramatically in the City's favor.  Upstate continues to languish and decline, while the suburbs have not seen the same growth as the City since 2010.

What all this means is, scrap the obsolete "inner city" imagery and get used to the idea that the City is a lot better off than the rest of the State.  Sure there are some very prosperous suburban counties like Westchester and Nassau, but even they can't come close to competing with Manhattan's wealth.

And of course the consequence is, if there is going to be redistribution going on, the City is going to be on the paying end, not the receiving end.  When de Blasio goes banging his tin cup in Albany, he never mentions the relative income numbers.  But don't you think he'd be a little careful tossing around phrases like "fair share"?  It's de Blasio who's always advocating redistribution from rich to poor.  If they start distributing strictly from richer to poorer in this state, the City stands to be the huge loser.  You have to wonder if de Blasio is even familiar with these numbers.

And further in the category of people who can only hope that nobody looks up the real numbers, the United Federation of Teachers is out with a new web page titled "Show Us The CFE Money."  For those unfamiliar, CFE stands for "Campaign for Fiscal Equity," an advocacy group that sued New York State back in 1993 on behalf of New York City seeking more state aid for the City schools on the ground that the state school aid allocation formulas disadvantaged the City.  That lawsuit dragged on through 2006, and ended with a Court of Appeals decision in 2006 that generally ordered more funding but declined to specify the exact amounts and means.  The UFT now asserts that the City is "owed" some $2.5 billion more per year.  Of course, again the problem is that in the time since 1993 the City has gone from roughly equal in per capita income to the rest of the state to far richer.  As to school spending, according to a Washington Post report in May 2014 of Census data as of 2012:

During fiscal 2012, New York City's school district, the largest in the country with nearly a million students, spent more money on each one of them than any other large public school system in the country.  New York spent $20,226 per pupil, according to updated Census data released Thursday on the finances of the country's public schools.

That $20,226 per pupil is about double the national average per student K-12 spending.  Adding $2.5 billion per year (for about 1 million students) would add about $2500 per student and bring it to almost $23,000 -- way above national norms and well more than most upstate New York districts spend.  "Fiscal equity"?  Again, if they actually applied that principle we'd be in for a big cut.