Mayor Bloomberg's "State of the City" address this week trumpeted his plans to to lift New Yorkers out of poverty with education and better public health. What the mayor ignored, however, was one of the knottiest causes of economic inequality in our city and state: a lack of good-paying jobs.
About one fifth of the people in New York City live in poverty. Indeed, since 1975, as the mayor's own commission pointed out, the city's poverty rate has consistently exceeded the nation's since 1975. (In upstate cities, the problem is even worse: poverty rates there run at 30 percent.)
In a time of low wages, working doesn't always get you out of poverty: as the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) pointed out, in New York State in 1990 the percentage of people in working families who were poor was six percent. By 2005, that had climbed to 10 percent.
When Mayor Bloomberg promotes the tourism industry as a way to create "tens of thousands of jobs for those on their way up the economic ladder," he's dreaming. Tourism jobs are mostly low-paid, dead-end work. (Unless, of course, New York tourism workers unionize the way Nevada's casino workers did.)
As James Parrott of the FPI points out, "You can't have a middle class without middle class jobs."