NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Despite stark economic inequality in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it would be a “godsend” if every billionaire in the world moved to the Big Apple.
Bloomberg spoke Friday on his weekly radio show about new U.S. Census figures on the city’s high income gap and increased poverty rate.
He said the problem with the income gap was not at the low-end, but was actually the result of the city’s ability to attract “a lot of the very wealthy” from around the globe.
“It gives you this income inequality measure, but if we could get every billionaire in the world to move here, that would be a godsend,” he said.
He said New Yorkers would actually benefit if more high-income earners moved to the city.
“They are the ones who pay a lot of the taxes. They are the ones who spend a lot money in the stores and the restaurants and create a big chunk of our economy,” Bloomberg said. “And we take the tax revenues from those people to help people throughout the entire rest of the spectrum.”
In normal times the mayor’s remarks might not have generated much controversy. But in the heat of an election year, with Democrat Bill de Blasio lamenting the “tale of two cities” — the gap between rich and poor — well, it started a fight, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“The mayor needs to understand that beyond his social circle are millions of New Yorkers who are struggling and are looking to contribute to the economy if they could only get a job to contribute with,” said de Blasio who leads in the latest Quinnipiac University poll over his Republican rival Joe Lhota with 66 percent to 25 percent among likely voters. “The city government needs to focus not on the few but on the many.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer added fuel to the fire.
“We welcome billionaires moving to our city, but that’s hardly sufficient. We need to make sure that the tax dollars they pay go to helping middle class people, poor people advance,” Schumer said.
For the record, the U.S. is home to 442 billionaires. According to Forbes magazine, Bloomberg is ranked 13th. And if he’s really into making the Big Apple billionaire central, he could try recruiting his friends.
Facebooks’s Mark Zuckerberg, No. 66 on the list, might listen. After all, he was born in White Plains and brought up in Dobbs Ferry.
In figures released Thursday, the mean household income of the lowest fifth in the city was $8,993 while the mean income of the highest fifth was $222,871.
New York City’s median household income of $50,895 was barely above the 2011 median of $50,657. It has not caught
up with the 2008 figure of $54,695 despite the economic recovery that started the following year.
The city’s poverty rate, defined as $23,314 for a family of four, also rose to 21.2 percent in 2012, up from 20.9 percent in 2011 and 20.1 percent in 2010.
David Jones, president of the Community Service Society, a research group concerned with poverty, noted that the poverty rate for single mothers rose from 40.4 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in 2012. Hispanic New Yorkers had the highest poverty rate of any ethnic group at 29.8 percent.
“We’re seeing an explosion of poverty problems particularly in the Latino community,” Jones said. “They are concentrated in many low-wage sectors that are particularly hard hit, such as car-wash workers and fast-food workers.”
But Bloomberg argued Friday that the national recession increased poverty rates across the country and said that other major cities saw their poverty rates increase more than the rate in New York City.
“We really have been a national leader in creating jobs,” he said.
He also said the city’s poverty rate was due in part to the poor education of many New Yorkers.
“If you take out that handful at the very top, the correlation between income and education is almost 100 percent,” he said. “Almost all of the social problems we have would be ameliorated or eliminated if people had a better education.”
On Thursday, New York City Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar called the census numbers misleading.
“This number does not count the things we do to shore up low-income earners. Food stamp benefits, earned income tax credit,” he said.
The figures also found that 14 percent of New Yorkers had no health coverage, either private or public.
Bloomberg also said there is still a lot of work to be done in his remaining 120 days in office and said he’s trying to create a smooth transition for the next mayor.
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