During his State of the City speech last Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took aim at income inequality, the one percent, and discussed his vision for the Democratic Party nationally, along with his plans for universal health coverage for the city and legislation requiring paid vacation for private-sector workers.
It was these comments in particular though, that seemed to have CNN anchor Jake Tapper up in arms this Sunday:
He spoke against a campaign-style backdrop of seated supporters in a relatively small Manhattan theater that was filled to capacity, giving the event a heightened energy that previous addresses had lacked. Mr. de Blasio railed against big business, promised to seize the buildings of scofflaw landlords and pointedly framed the argument over income inequality — long a theme of his rhetoric as mayor — in zero-sum terms.
“Here’s the truth, brothers and sisters, there’s plenty of money in the world. Plenty of money in this city,” the mayor said, flanked by screens with graphs of productivity outpacing compensation. “It’s just in the wrong hands!”
Tapper called de Blasio's comments "radical" and asked de Blasio "who decides whose hands are the right hands and whose hands are the wrong hands?" De Blasio responded by pointing out the record income disparity and the fact that most of the country, including the rich, did pretty well when the one percent paid much higher taxes than they do now. Sadly, de Blasio didn't point out that Tapper was reading straight from the right wing Republican playbook where they pretend Democrats pushing for progressive tax policies are really planning on coming and seizing the assets of the rich.
DE BLASIO: Look at what's happening in my city. Look what's happening all over the country. Millions upon millions of people who literally ends meet. Working people working one job, two jobs, working harder than ever, longer hours than ever. The pace of our lives gets tougher and tougher and people get less and less back. Why? Because the 1 percent really has rigged the system, including the recent tax law that gave a huge windfall to the corporations and the wealthy. This is systematic. I said in the speech this has been an agenda from Reagan's administration through to trump's to take money from working people and give it to the 1 percent. When I say there's plenty of money in this country, it's just in the wrong hands, it means to say we need policies that give back to working people. Like guaranteeing health care for all.
TAPPER: What's interesting about the argument, which struck a lot of people, is you are not talking about fairness. You are saying these people have money and it's wrong that they have money. Not that they have money, they live exorbitant or wealthy lifestyles and can give more to help these people. You're saying it's wrong they have money. Who is deciding whether it's wrong?
DE BLASIO: It's clear to me why it's wrong because government policies gave the 1% every conceivable leg up. This was not by accident. As i say, this was an agenda. Systematic. You go back decades, even to the time of Dwight Eisenhower. We had some of the highest tax rates on the wealthy this country ever saw. We had a prosperous country. We had that prosperity pretty well shared among different people, including working people in this country. We had investments in infrastructure. The kinds of things that grew the economy for everyone. Over the years, since Ronald Reagan, that was a -- there was a systematic agenda to take that money and get it more and more in the hands of the few.
That was through tax policy but a lot of other policies as well. This was not an accident. Democrats and progressives need to be blunt about this. And people will appreciate that bluntness. When we say, for example, guarantee health care for everyone. That's a doable thing. The money is there. When i say, we're going to guarantee that everyone has a right to two weeks of paid time off. Paid personal days. So they can live their lives better. The money is there, but it's not going to the right people.
TAPPER: The point is -- but what struck me and a lot of people is you weren't talking about the tax system being wrong. You are talking about the hands being wrong.