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New York City’s in trouble and other commentary

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New York City’s in trouble and other commentary

Fiscal expert: New York City’s in Trouble

At The Wall Street Journal, Richard Ravitch — who helped guide Gotham out of near-bankruptcy in the 1970s — warns that the city “has never been in serious trouble until now.” Back then, it borrowed for operating expenses and needed federal help to pay its debts, but “culture and commerce weren’t meaningfully affected.” Yet “today is a different story.” The city has “over twice the national unemployment rate,” the entertainment industry has “closed down,” and “an enormous number” of offices are ­vacant. The Legislature “seems to believe that the revival depends on even more government spending” and tax hikes, but that won’t “compel people to invest here,” especially when they can work remotely. “Policymakers should focus” on “keeping capital in New York.”

Builder: Joe’s Bias Against Non-Union Workers

President Biden wants infrastructure projects “built by union workers and union workers alone,” laments Associated Builders and Contractors chapter president Brian Sampson at Empire Report. The prez’s $2 trillion plan calls for “project labor agreements” that steer work to union contractors and create jobs “exclusively for union members at the expense of hardworking taxpayers” — raising costs by up to 20 percent. “Non-union construction workers, who comprise over 70 percent of New York’s construction industry, won’t even be eligible. . . . You cannot claim to be a voice for all while rewarding the chosen few.”

Foreign desk: Iran’s American Agents

The FBI recently arrested onetime Harvard and Boston University teacher Kaveh Afrasiabi, charging that “his persona as a neutral, mild-mannered scholar was a cover” for his work as an Iranian agent, notes A.J. Caschetta at The Hill. Yet any payment Afrasiabi got “was wasted money”: US academics have long done “Iran’s public messaging free of charge.” When former President Barack Obama “began his rapprochement” with Tehran, “academia had his back,” with 73 professors urging Congress to support the nuclear deal. Rutgers prof Hooshang Amirahmadi claims, “Iran has not been involved with any terrorist organization. Neither Hezbollah nor Hamas are terrorist organizations.” George Washington University’s Hossein Askari said Tehran “should answer US criticisms of Iran’s human-rights abuses with charges of American racism.” These apologists will do their job on “modest academic wages.”

Libertarian: Teachers’ Unions’ Toll on America

Los Angeles announced it was “caving to the local teachers’-union demand for an extra $500-per-child monthly stipend” for district employees, reports Reason’s Matt Welch. Why are unions pressing for “every last-minute advantage” as reopening nears? Because “they can. At least in polities controlled by the Democratic Party, which receives around $19 of every $20 in teachers’ union political donations.” In New York, lingering restrictions for schools, like the six-foot rule and mandatory closures after just two cases, “are all the product of teachers’ union muscle,” wielded by the likes of United Federation of Teachers boss Mike Mulgrew. “And they have contributed to America having less in-person instruction over the past year than almost any other industrialized country.” The price: “massive learning loss.”

From the left: Dems Can Count on Hispanics

“Across the country, areas with large Hispanic populations moved sharply right in 2020, even as the broader electorate moved left,” New York magazine’s Eric Levitz points out. But a new Equis Research report suggests the shift may have been a fluke. Its takeaways: President Donald Trump managed to persuade Hispanics and mobilize them, yet he “gained far more ground with Hispanic women” than he did with men, since “the pandemic reduced the salience of immigration to these voters, while increasing that of the economy.” So although “in the “peculiar context of the 2020 election, economic concerns may have pulled these voters right,” if President Biden presides over a post-COVID economic recovery, Dems are likely to “boast an advantage with Hispanic voters on bread-and-butter issues in 2024.”

— Compiled by The Post Editorial Board

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Opinion

Biden finally saw the folly of our Afghan adventure, but Trump got it first

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Biden finally saw the folly of our Afghan adventure, but Trump got it first

Nearly two decades, $2 trillion and more than 2,300 US casualties later, President Joe Biden has announced that it is time to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan.

Biden is absolutely right. As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the 10th anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing, we need to accept the fact that we accomplished our only real objective in the region long ago: eliminating the terrorist mastermind responsible for the murder of thousands of Americans.

There was never any other reason to be there. Killing Osama bin Laden was an appropriate response to heinous attacks on American soil, and it is unfortunate that it took us a decade to find him hiding out in neighboring Pakistan. But a decades-long attempt to bring democracy to a country that has never known anything but brief intervals of peace amid thousands of years without a centralized government? This was mad folly, and no one should be surprised that the authorities in Kabul have accepted the reality of sharing power with the Taliban.

We should, too.

The saddest thing about our “forever war,” to use a phrase Biden has appropriated from his predecessor, is that its futility was totally predictable. I hate to be one of those young fogies who laments the decline of reading, but sometimes I wish people in charge would just open an encyclopedia for once. Here is what it says in my dusty old set of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1911:

“The Afghans, inured to bloodshed from childhood, are familiar with death and audacious in attack but easily discouraged by failure; excessively turbulent and unsubmissive to law or discipline; apparently frank and affable in manner, especially when they hope to gain some object, but capable of the grossest brutality when that hope ceases.”

Does this sound like the start of a modern fairy tale about the triumph of liberal democracy and brotherly love in a despotic wasteland? Did anyone really think that democracy hadn’t arrived in Afghanistan before 2001 because no one had ever thought of trying it before and that its people would abandon centuries of habits to play along with our pet project? Let’s keep reading:

“Among themselves the Afghans are quarrelsome, intriguing and distrustful; estrangements and affrays are of constant occurrence; the traveller conceals and misrepresents the time and direction of his journey. The Afghan is by breed and nature a bird of prey.”

These are hard words, ones that would never appear in a modern reference book. But they are full of genuine wisdom, the fruit of decades of British experience in Afghanistan, which even the Empire upon which the sun never set could not subdue. The Russians couldn’t do it, either, which was why the United States was happy to watch the crumbling Soviet Union waste what was left of its military might there in the 1980s. Why did we think we would fare any better?

I am old enough to remember when what Biden is attempting now was unserious at best and at worst criminal, a return to the wickedness of Charles Lindbergh and the anti-World War II “America First” movement. But lots of things (elite belief in the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, for example) have changed since the last administration. Maybe if former President Donald Trump had campaigned on staying in Afghanistan for all eternity, he would have been impeached for not getting every last American home by Thanksgiving 2017.

The truth is, though, that even Biden isn’t going to have an easy time getting us out of Afghanistan. Like both of his predecessors, he is about to discover that the Pentagon is used to getting whatever it wants and that the US foreign-policy establishment has decades worth of spurious justifications for keeping American troops in the region indefinitely. While it would be nice to think that the president has enough of a mandate to push through a withdrawal, there are good reasons to remain dubious.

In his speech announcing the move on Wednesday, Biden said that all 2,500 US troops will be home by Sept. 11. This is a fitting date.

But I will believe it when I see it.

Matthew Walther is editor of The Lamp magazine.

Twitter: @MatthewWalther

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Opinion

NYC needs a crime-fighting mayor again — not one out to appease the defunders

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NYC needs a crime-fighting mayor again — not one out to appease the defunders

“As you look down the road, as far as crime-reduction in New York City, it’s a very bleak picture,” ex-NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly recently told radio host John Catsimatidis. “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel, as far as I can see.”

That was one bleak assessment by the city’s former top cop. Kelly lamented that none of the leading mayoral candidates has shown an interest in cracking down on crime.

Case in point: Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang was heckled and called “pro-cop” by demonstrators during a bike ride protesting the police-involved shooting death of Daunte Wright on Tuesday night.

Apparently, the anti-cop protesters took offense at Yang’s mild call for more funding for the NYPD’s Asian Hate Crimes Task Force amid a spate of violent attacks. But Yang’s remarks are in-sync with most New Yorkers, who want police follow-up to both solve crimes and prevent future ones — with the perps arrested, tried and imprisoned.

But speaking common sense out loud will get candidates heckled, shamed and run out of events, as the radicals did to Yang.

The bullies have most of the Democratic mayoral wannabes embracing the “Defund the police” nonsense. Progressive favorite Maya Wiley would cut the headcount at 1 Police Plaza and city jails and use the savings to fund one-stop community centers and so on.

Establishment Democrat Scott Stringer strives to appease the radicals by taking various responsibilities (and funding) from the NYPD and giving the Civilian Complaint Review Board final say over cop discipline — kneecapping the department’s commissioner.

Eric Adams, a retired police captain, vows to . . . name the first woman police commissioner. He’s anti-“defund” but promises to find $1 billion in “savings” in the NYPD budget. Another dodge: Rather than disbanding the NYPD’s anti-crime unit, he says he’d have turned it into an anti-gun unit — which is what it actually was anyway. But Adams would much rather talk about his big plans for . . . wind power.

Yang and Ray McGuire talk about naming a deputy mayor just to bird-dog the department. Yang also wants a civilian, not a career cop, to head the department, while McGuire also vows to find “savings” in the NYPD budget.

Absent is any loud vow to get New York off the path to being an open city for criminals and violent street crazies, any clear recognition that subways, buses and other public spaces won’t become safer on their own.

City Hall needs straight-talking leadership with a laser focus on reducing crime and disorder — someone who’ll face down the radicals who demand police scalps and stand with a public that desperately wants the “good old days” of ever-increasing public safety to return.

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The feds’ foolish new J&J delay further feeds false anti-vax fears

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The feds’ foolish new J&J delay further feeds false anti-vax fears

Just two days after the feds announced the pause on the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, vowing it’d only be “a matter of days” as they looked into six cases of blood clots in the 7 million Americans who’ve gotten the jab, they’ve found just two more — and now say it’ll be at least a week to 10 days before they un-pause. This “abundance of caution” has nothing to do with science, only bureaucratic indecision. And it’s downright dangerous as it puts vax programs on hold and feeds anti-vax hysteria.

The issue is a rare blood clot, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, which occurs in about 5 to 15.7 people per million each year. The J&J shot has an even-lower case rate — if it’s actually linked to them. (The first six cases involved women of childbearing age, and birth control heightens the risk of blood clots; one of the two new cases is a man. All eight also suffered low levels of blood platelets, making the clots tough to treat.)

Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a three-hour emergency meeting Wednesday to assess whether this handful of cases should keep a halt on the vax.

Three bureaucrats — Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC chief Rochelle Walensky and President Joe Biden’s vaccine czar, David Kessler — testified to Congress Thursday that all three federally authorized vaccines, including J&J’s, are safe and effective. And they urged Americans to get one of them as COVID cases continue to rise.

But the decision to halt the only vaccine that’s given in one dose rather than two and doesn’t need freezer storage is making mass vaccination more difficult. It’s put a hold on New York City’s home-vaccination program for the elderly and disabled, and likely many others across the nation.

And it’s tanking public confidence in the safety of J&J’s vaccine, from 57 percent before the halt to 32 percent after, per a YouGov/Economist survey. And anti-vaxxers are pointing to the pause to fuel their conspiracy theories about all brands of the lifesaving shot.

You’re far likelier to die in a plane accident than get a blood clot from J&J’s jab, yet we still allow air travel. And getting as many people immunized ASAP is vital to beating COVID and saving far more lives. People can make up their own minds about the minuscule J&J risk, and there’s nothing scientific about bureaucrats taking the decision out of their hands — or about politicians letting them do it.

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