Of all the legacies of Mayor Bloomberg, who would have thought that one would have been an emphatic and concise rejection of the obsession with income inequality? Yet here it is, courtesy of the New York Times, which reports that "In 2011, [the 1,041] New Yorkers who made more than $10 million annually accounted for nearly one-fifth of the city's personal income tax revenue, which is second only to property taxes as a revenue source."
Here's the key passage of the Times article regarding Mr. Bloomberg's response to the criticism of income inequality in New York:
Bill de Blasio, the Democratic mayoral candidate, has repeatedly portrayed New York as becoming two cities under Mr. Bloomberg's stewardship.
But the Bloomberg administration has strongly defended its economic record.
"Other cities have much lower inequality levels," Mr. Bloomberg's press secretary, Marc LaVorgna, said, citing Detroit and Camden, N.J. "Are those better places for low-income families to live? Or would they be better off if they had more wealthy people, and a larger income gap, to provide a larger tax base to support a police department that keeps low income communities safe, funds good public schools and pays for a vast social services network like we do in New York City?
Mr. LaVorgna said that having more wealthy people did not make New York a worse place for poorer people.
"In fact, it makes it a better place and provides us with more ability to help those who are working their way up the economic ladder," he said.
The Times article makes the common mistake of conflating income and assets, or failing to distinguish between the two. And the idea that high-income people should be tolerated because they pay a lot of taxes that are redistributed to poorer people isn't a particularly deep insight. In my view it is a weaker defense than the point that most rich people got that way because somewhere along the line they (or a member of their family) worked hard and created something of value, and that they should be entitled to the fruits of their labor. But those significant points aside, it's great to see some elected politician (albeit one not running for re-election) standing up for the idea that rich people should be welcomed rather than reviled, and that there are some public policy goals more important than reducing income inequality.