Mayor Bill "Tale of Two Cities" de Blasio is nearing the second half of his second year in office and, in a dismaying but predictable bout of political two-facedness, he is glad-handing with the same corporate executives New Yorkers elected him to take on (or at least tax more).
The Times reports:
More than a year after taking office, Mr. de Blasio is engaged in his first sustained courtship of the city's most powerful private sector executives. The mayor, who ran for office railing against "moneyed interests," is now making what corporate chieftains describe as a long-delayed, sometimes awkward, attempt to meet them on their home turf.
He has wooed them in private phone calls and unannounced meetings at City Hall, and has staged several striking events: On a visit last month to Morgan Stanley, for example, he posed for selfies with employees and joked that moving into Gracie Mansion was like living in a museum. Mr. de Blasio, as part of his getting-to-know-you tour, also dined recently with about a dozen business and nonprofit leaders at the home of Ralph Schlosstein, chief executive of the investment firm Evercore Partners.
There's more: there have been solicitous visits and phone calls with the heads of Macy's and Xerox. There has been tugging of Napster founder Sean Parker's sleeve. Some of it has been in the service of setting up a neo-liberal youth employment program. Some of it has been to pad a nonprofit board. All of it has been in service of toning down all that confrontational inequality talk that makes the ultra-rich so antsy.
Sure, de Blasio, during his courtship, asked investors to put money into companies that pay well, and suggested to some executives that they raise wages voluntarily. It was the least he could do for the sake of appearances. But in meeting with Morgan Stanley—the Wall Street firm that gobbled up, and joked about, subprime loans, pushing them into riskier and riskier configurations, then got bailed out to the tune of $107 billion as the Great Recession began—de Blasio called financial services "crucial to the city's future."
Yeah he talked about inequality, but he did it in a way financiers can relate to. In a very appropriate way. Take it from Morgan Stanley vice president Thomas Nides: "He did it in a very appropriate way. He did not suggest that [inequality] began and ended with Wall Street."
This is the same Bill de Blasio who once called the financial services sector a "legacy industry" in a room full of financiers, and whom the Times in 2013 eagerly described as "barely able to contain his fury" at Bloomberg's loyalty to plutocracy. And it is the same de Blasio who used a hypothetical financier as the unsympathetic counterpart to a single mom in a lofty campaign speech.
But none of this should be surprising. After all, saving Long Island College Hospital from closure was a signature de Blasio campaign issue, but that didn't stop de Blasio from appointing a businessman who once presided over the gutting of the hospital to his administration. Nor could his avowed outer-borough pride keep him from calling into question the green taxi program, not after the yellow-taxi industry paid to get him elected.
Nor are the recent boardroom visits his first. On the campaign trail, de Blasio ducked into a meeting with Lloyd Blankfein, Rupert Murdoch, and other comic-book super-villains to assure them that all of his talk about inequality didn't mean he planned to dismantle capitalism or send the bankers and media tycoons out on a rail or anything.
But perhaps the most jarring revelation in today's Times report is one that would be innocuous if he was saying it to anyone else. De Blasio has reportedly been "insistently asking" executives from the powerful Partnership for New York City business alliance to "to contact his office with any concerns." These are executives who have an unprecedented amount of political power in this country thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and who for the 12 years before de Blasio took office had one of their own running City Hall. Homeless people and seniors could use reminding that City Hall will take their calls. But business titans? The people whose arms de Blasio is stroking are in no danger of forgetting that, in politics, money is power.