Our view: In NYC, north­ern in­hos­pi­tal­ity greets Ama­zon

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS | OPINION -

When Ama­zon an­nounced last year that New York City and the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area would share Ama­zon’s much-cov­eted sec­ond head­quar­ters — and would get 25,000 high-pay­ing jobs apiece — much of the coun­try was green with envy, and a lit­tle sur­prised.

That the com­pany struck deals with these two ur­ban, East Coast ar­eas was some­thing of a rev­e­la­tion. It showed there was some­thing to the lib­eral vi­sion of eco­nomic growth. Tech com­pa­nies might want low taxes and light reg­u­la­tion. But they also need highly ed­u­cated, skilled work­ers — there­fore the vi­brant, ur­ban, arts-lov­ing com­mu­ni­ties where young techies like to live.

Now Ama­zon must be won­der­ing about its de­ci­sion as politi­cians in one of the two win­ning com­mu­ni­ties — New York — are push­ing back. Given Democrats’ leg­isla­tive gains in Novem­ber’s elec­tions and the odd­i­ties of the state’s gov­ern­ment, where a small com­mit­tee could thwart the will of city and state lead­ers, the op­po­nents might ac­tu­ally suc­ceed in scut­tling the deal.

That would be very bad news for New York. As pros­per­ous as the city is, its econ­omy re­mains overly de­pen­dent on finan­cial ser­vices. Build­ing up its thriv­ing, but still small, tech in­dus­try would help its quest for di­ver­sification.

An inser­tion of tech jobs would also pro­vide tax rev­enue that would far out­strip the in­cen­tives the com­pany got, help­ing to fund crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture and ed­u­ca­tion in­vest­ments.

Scut­tling the deal would also be bad for Democrats, who would leave them­selves open to be­ing branded as the party of 70 per­cent tax rates and cities so hos­tile to free en­ter­prise that they are try­ing to chase away good jobs.

Some of the op­po­si­tion to Ama­zon fo­cuses on the tax breaks and sub­si­dies as high as $3 bil­lion that the city and state offered. This seems a rea­son­able amount for such a mas­sive haul. But in as much as North­ern Vir­ginia offered less, there might be some merit to the ar­gu­ment that New York could have got­ten a bet­ter deal.

The more sweep­ing crit­i­cism is that all these Ama­zon work­ers would worsen New York’s al­ready high hous­ing prices and in­come in­equal­ity. In re­al­ity, 25,000 peo­ple added to a city of 8.6 mil­lion and metro area of 20 mil­lion is not that many. It would be roughly equiv­a­lent to 2,500 jobs land­ing in down­town Pitts­burgh.

For decades, the lib­eral credo has been that in­vest­ments in such things as ed­u­ca­tion, job train­ing and child care are the way to com­bat in­come in­equal­ity. Keep­ing peo­ple from get­ting rich, or keep­ing the rich from mov­ing in next door, was never part of the ar­gu­ment. Not un­til now, at least.

Most Ama­zon work­ers are not that wealthy, cer­tainly not by the stan­dards of New York, where hedge fund man­agers are known to buy eight-figure con­dos for oc­ca­sional use. This whole anti-Ama­zon ar­gu­ment sounds like a toxic mix of re­sent­ment and not-inmy-back­yard pol­i­tics. The op­po­nents should keep in mind that scores of other com­mu­ni­ties would love to have what Ama­zon has to offer.

Demon­stra­tion in New York City last month. DREW ANGERER/GETTY IM­AGES

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