Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Thinking for New Times

In the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Congress with words that bear repeating in our current economic crisis.
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

Failures to do this are all around us, most recently on the front page of today's amNewYork, with the headline: "Bonus Blues: How the Wall Street pay bus is going to pinch your wallet." The article asserts that in our city, in tight times, "cash-cow bonuses are harder to vilify." Bologna.

As a recent state comptroller's report points out, Wall Street bonuses fell by 44% in 2008. This certainly means that a lot of workers whose jobs depend on the largess of Wall Street executives are going to suffer.

But instead of pining for the days when bankers' bonuses fuelled service workers' paychecks, we ought to be thinking about building a new economy in New York City that isn't so deeply dependent on Wall Street.

The days of billions in bonuses are not something we want to get back to. We need to look to the future and build an economy in New York City that directly serves the vast majority of New Yorkers, not a handful of billionaires.

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