IT looks like the City Council is trying to kill off New Yorks economy once and for all. With city businesses facing a crippling 18.5 percent property tax hike while 9/11 and the threat of future terrorism continue to drag down local investment, a quarter of the council (with more votes to come) has decided that now is the perfect moment to subject Gothams companies to the slavery-reparations racket.
And a particularly ludicrous reparations racket, at that.
Any business that sells the city a significant quantity of goods or services must disclose its recent financial history and any crimes its officers may have committed. Such information lets the city determine whether the firm is a “responsible bidder” with the financial capacity to fulfill its contract and the “business integrity” to justify the award of public dollars.
And now the councils reparations racketeers want to amend the citys contracting law to require any company doing business with the city to document, as part of its showing of business integrity, whether it had any “engagement with” or “profit from” slavery.
Suddenly, the council has developed an epochal sense of time. The city now judges a firms financial and ethical fitness at most over the last decade, not by leapfrogging two centuries into the past. Has your firm delivered substandard goods or falsified its payrolls? Have its owners been convicted of a felony? The citys contracting office doesnt want to know, as long as the infractions occurred 10 years ago.
But . . . lets say that your firms corporate great-great-grandparent sold some machinery for use on Virginia plantations in 1805. Under the bills sloppy language, this could be relevant to whether you are a responsible bidder for city contracts today.
Never mind that even if your business is run entirely by octogenarians, they would have been born nearly 50 years after the federal government abolished slavery. Anyone in your firms corporate ancestry who was alive at the end of the Civil War has been dead for nearly a century.
In other words, no one in business today has any possible responsibility for business decisions made at least 150 years ago. No one in business today ever had the opportunity to stop commerce with slave-holders, because - City Council please take note! - slavery no longer exists in America.
These are obvious truths, but the obvious has totally disappeared for the reparations racketeers. How should the citys contracting office use the information about a firms ancient “engagement” with slavery? The council isnt saying. Such information should be “considered in the context of a companys full record when making [the] determination” of business integrity, the sponsors suggest coyly.
The racketeers are too pusillanimous to state the absurd implication of their bill - that a companys lawful engagement with slavery over 200 years ago shows bad business integrity of the owners today.
Heres what the bill really is: a Christmas present to O.J. attorney Johnnie Cochran and Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree. Cochran and Ogletree plan to file billions of dollars worth of reparations lawsuits against corporations and governments for their alleged involvement in slavery. The City Council wants to make businesses provide Cochran and Ogletree with the historical research that the lawyers will then use to sue them.
Last March, tort lawyers filed a reparations suit in Brooklyn against FleetBoston, Aetna, CSX and one hundred “corporate [John] Does.” And who might those as-yet unnamed corporations be? The City Councils reparations bill will smoke them out.
At the time the Brooklyn suit was filed, Councilman Charles Barron, one of the bills 13 co-sponsors, warned grimly: “Somebody has to pay.” Barron and his colleagues are now making good on that threat.
Given reparations advocates claim that every living white American still profits from slavery, there isnt a company today that wouldnt be covered by the councils bill. Many of New Yorks contractors will undoubtedly decide that the citys business is hardly worth the risk of hanging up a sign saying: “Sue me!”
With less competition for the provision of goods and services, the citys contracting costs will jump, exacerbating the existing budget crisis.
But the council cant be bothered with such trivial matters as ensuring efficient and competitive services in a time of straitened resources. Its far more satisfying to play symbolic race politics.
And never mind that nothing in this bill will help any black resident in New York - or even that it will set children back by perpetuating the lie that black progress depends upon white concessions.
Slavery and segregation were brutal betrayals of Americas founding principles, but the country has long since acknowledged its original sin. Instead of penalizing New Yorks firms for moral transgressions they did not commit, the council should create the business climate that will allow Gothams entrepreneurs to once again make the city an opportunity machine.