It is unfortunate that Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken a page from House Democrats’ opportunistic stimulus playbook in approaching the rebuilding of New York City’s devastated economy. Rather than coming up with an across-the-board assessment of what it would take to rejuvenate as quickly and as efficiently as possible, the mayor – as did House Democrats in the run up to the finalization of the national stimulus package – saw an opportunity to pursue a long frustrated agenda.

Thus, as part of the recently concluded Harlem Week observances, de Blasio announced a distinct “push for black entrepreneurs” as part of the city’s overall economic assistance program for small business owners. The Department of Small Business Services will administer four special programs directed at black business owners that will aim at fostering better access to capital, help in preparing for the economy of tomorrow, and networking with others with similar businesses. The same services will generally be available to non-black businesses, but from a decidedly smaller municipal pot.

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The idea derives from the Mayor’s City Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity which he established in April to help with the city’s coronavirus recovery efforts. At the time de Blasio noted that every time New York City has faced a crisis, it’s come back stronger. That’s who we are. We will work together and build something better and fairer. We have the power to do more than just return to the status quo…. The task force [will be] focusing on confronting…specific needs in communities of color and breaking down structural racism. I want that mission baked into every aspect of our restart and recovery. (Italics added.)

And we recall that in defending the Democratic version of a stimulus package, the House Majority Whip declared, “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision,” and Speaker Nancy Pelosi came forward with a proposal that included items that Democrats have spent generations trying to get passed into law – but which have nothing at all to do with dealing with the economic crisis the country faced.

Proposals like curbing greenhouse emissions, gender and racial quotas, increased wind and solar tax credits, funding or environmental studies groups, increased collective bargaining rights for unions, free internet, funding for community newspapers, setting up minority-run banks, and gender pay equality found their way onto the Democrats’ wish list.

Better we should all be singularly focused on the objective mechanics of a prompt recovery of the economy than to be distracted by subjective notions of social engineering. In this emergency situation, maybe as a society we should be trying to get the biggest bang for the buck.

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