Tuesday’s Headlines: Homophobe Ruben Diaz Sr. Is Still on the Council Edition

Council Member Ruben Diaz spent much of the day saying that he’s the victim (NYDN) because people are criticizing him for his three consecutive days of homophobic remarks. He rejected Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s call for him to resign (NY Post). The Times offered a review of decades of Diaz’s most repugnant comments. Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer will lead a protest against his anti-gay colleague on the steps of City Hall at 10 a.m.

Two hours later, Families for Safe Streets will demand the Council pass a Brad Lander bill that would help get reckless drivers off the road. The bill is sponsored by 24 members of the Council — but not Ruben Diaz Sr.

Meanwhile, here’s the news:

  • Mayor de Blasio went to Albany, where he did a terrible job of supporting congestion pricing (which he doesn’t likely actually support, as the Wall Street Journal flatly pointed out). The Post focused on his support for a toll exemption for farmers to deliver produce to Manhattan greenmarkets — suggesting that poor greenmarket shoppers in Manhattan would suffer unduly if farmers passed along the $5.76 toll to their customers. He also wants carve-outs for small businesses and people who need a car to see a doctor. Assemblyman Bobby Carroll pounced on the mayor’s weak support for congestion pricing, which only encouraged outer-borough opponents to again begin their reflexive defense of the non-existent hordes of lower-income drivers who they believe commute into the central business district of Manhattan. (NY Times, amNY)
  • Just because we know what caused the L-train stink doesn’t mean it’s going away. (Gothamist)
  • The Post followed our exclusive on Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s bid to outdo the mayor and actually do something on placard abuse. (NY Post) True gentleman Vin Barone at amNY also followed our scoop, but he gave us a nice hat tip.
  • Car carnage in the Bronx kills one. (NYDN, NY Post, Gothamist). And a senior citizen was hit by a bus in Manhattan. (Gothamist)
  • The Times did a nifty photo spread on how bad the subway is (make sure you click all the way through to see the photo of the pole in the newly renovated station blocking a turnstile). That said, delays were down last year.
  • A new data-scrapping website called ReadyPipe did a deep dive on subway delays and found that the overall worst line is the A train — but the 4 train is worse during rush hour. The chart-heavy post is fascinating reading. (ReadyPipe)
  • And finally, some personal news.
  • Joe R.

    Either the Mayor is truly an idiot, or he insists on pandering to those who are. Someone with a third grade education can figure out that any proposed congestion charge spread over at least a thousand pounds of cargo, often much more, amounts to a cent or less per pound. No doubt sellers will try to pass on exorbitant price increases to buyers under the guise of congestion pricing costs, but that can easily be countered by the city putting out a series of PSAs showing the math.

  • Larry Littlefield

    That’s what you get from absolving DeBlasio for any responsibility for mass transit in NYC. He sees it as something he can just have fun with, since the future of the city is not his concern (his pension will be paid regardless).

    There needs to be a lot of honesty here. We are heading for large fare increases, tax increases, toll increases, cuts in services. People need to be honestly told why this is.

    As it is, DeBlasio can say the MTA doesn’t really need the $1 billion per year when it actually needs is $3 billion to $4 billion per year — and sorry, but that’s going to be $30 billion to $40 billion over ten years and not the $60 billion announced for “Fast Forward” plus more for the operating deficit, so there had better be some cost and expectations reductions.

  • r

    He’s not an idiot. He’s a liar. He has plenty of advisors who can tell him how congestion pricing works. Either they have and he isn’t listening or they want to and he won’t listen. It’s Trumpian.

  • He is now and forever officially known as Gay Ruben, in my house at least.

  • He is a douche though.

  • vnm

    Let’s all remember that the reason New York doesn’t have congestion pricing already, and has spent the last 10 years not benefiting from it, is that after it was approved by the City Council, Mayor, and NYS Assembly, it was blocked by “the Fare Hike Four”: four senators who consisted of Ruben Diaz Sr. and three guys who are either in jail right now or recently got out of jail.

  • Flakker

    It’s really incredible how much this guy has skated. He’s a living testament to how fraudulent the outrage over the IDC was and how the NYS Dems are a completely fake party. Hate on Cuomo all you want, but everyone else in the party had time to make an example of Diaz and they didn’t. It directly led to the IDC which in turn was only aborted by the black swan event of Trump winning causing people to start blaming them for everything.

  • walks bikes drives

    Trump and his policies, the ones he has enacted, or even threatened, have caused the economy to falter as evidenced by the stock market correction of late 2018. This has dropped state and local income tax receipts for the end of 2018 into FY19. While the receipts will theoretically be recouped in FY20, especially since the market has rebounded back to pre-correction levels, it is still a drop in revenue due to Trump’s policies, or rather, his tweets.

  • AMH

    Not to mention that the vendor licensing fees for greenmarkets are significantly higher than $5.76 — this is one reason why markets like Union Square are a lot pricier than ones in outer neighborhoods. The farmers coming to my neighborhood (and most markets in lower-income neighborhoods) would not even need to pay a congestion toll. The mayor is willfully ignorant.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Caused the economy to falter as evidenced by the stock market correction of late 2018.”

    Stocks fell because they were already vastly overpriced before the Trump bubble of late 2016 and 2017. They are insane now.

    https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/the-stock-market-for-those-of-you-keeping-score-at-home/

    It’s more of the same temporary phony prosperity we’ve gained by cashing in the future. That economy has been on the verge of collapse for sometime, long before The Donald, and needless to say he isn’t making anything better.

    https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2018/03/26/americas-debts-those-who-came-of-age-in-the-1960s-and-early-1970s-are-still-in-charge/

  • Larry Littlefield

    Actually I find that Union Square is cheaper than Grand Army Plaza, which completely blows my image of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

  • Joe R.

    Exactly why I’m setting up an exit strategy from the stock market as soon as I’m back where I was in October. The markets are getting too precarious for my tastes. I’ll put everything into cash equivalents, hopefully more or less when it peaks, then buy back in once it’s bottomed out.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Do it now. And not Bitcoin. T-Bills. Although there is a risk that the federal government will cut rates to zero and not let you take your money out.

  • redbike

    Cryptocurrency’s one undeniable asset: a bottomless pit of answers to the question “What could possibly go wrong?”

  • Joe R.

    I’m not sure fiat currency is a whole lot better. I personally think we need to return to the gold standard. Until we got off the gold standard inflation rates seemed to average out to zero. Sure, you had some years when prices rose but they were invariably followed by years when prices dropped. The gold standard also kept governments or individuals from borrowing to any great extent. If you wanted something which cost a lot, you just saved for it and bought it when you had enough saved. With no inflation, you knew exactly how long that would take. Now trying to save for a house is like trying to hit a moving target. Often prices are rising faster than you can save.

  • AnoNYC

    Any information at all about any new bus lane expansions?

    Any news on the Bronx bus route reconfiguration?

  • cjstephens

    I’ll never shed a tear for Ruben Diaz, to put it mildly, but unless there’s a safe streets/transportation/urban infrastructure angle to the story I’m missing, maybe this isn’t the correct forum for your rage about him, Gersh? Focus, man. Focus.

  • redbike

    unless there’s a safe streets/transportation/urban infrastructure angle

    Diaz chairs the City Council’s Committee on For-Hire Vehicles. Providing context is a task for the little people, not the editor.

  • kevd

    the gold standard?!?!
    good lord joe. welcome to 1970-something.
    that ship sailed (thankfully) a couple generations back.

  • Joe R.

    Here’s an interesting chart:

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d3/Cpi-2010.svg/1280px-Cpi-2010.svg.png

    Note how on average there was little inflation from 1800 to around WWII. There was some from WWII to when the gold standard ended in 1971, but that was mostly due to the government increasing the price of gold (hence devaluing the dollar). Once we got off the gold standard the CPI jump from about 100 to over 650 in only 40 years. I don’t consider that a good result. Governments love inflation because it lets them borrow and pay back in cheaper dollars. It also lets them levy taxes on investments even when those investments don’t grow in real dollars, but just keep pace with inflation. Taxes on capital gains and interest should be levied only after the gains or interest are adjusted for inflation. At today’s interest rates people with money in bank accounts should actually be allowed to deduct capital losses because that’s what they’re really incurring.

    The gold standard is one way to eliminate inflation. If there are others, I’m all ears. And note I don’t consider 2%, or whatever number is the standard now, as “acceptable” inflation. No inflation is acceptable. The prices of goods should fluctuate based solely on supply/demand and/or the cost of producing them.

  • kevd

    Do tell, Alex, why exactly (in your tin foil hat covered, disaster prepping brain) is all inflation “bad”, especially when wages rise at the same rate?

  • redbike

    This topic is wide of anything remotely related to livable streets, but I’m taking your comment seriously because many of your livable streets comments merit being taken seriously.

    That long relatively flat line on your chart — extending backwards to pre-history — correlates with a time when there was lots of commerce but not much monetary exchange. The latter may facilitate the former; it’s absolutely not essential. All that’s required for commerce is parties exchanging stuff with the perception they’re receiving value for value. Gold’s “value” is no more objective than that of baubles, bangles, or bright shiny beads. Or tulip bulbs. Or “money”. Or whatever.

    Me? I’m not advocating reverting to barter. I do suggest that any exchange involves subjective perceptions of “value”.

    Now, let’s get back objective reality as we know it. Like livable streets.

  • Joe R.

    First off, wages haven’t been rising at the same rate as inflation. I know people who haven’t had a raise since Clinton was President. But in case you doubt me, read this:

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/08/14/salaries-real-us-wages-back-1974-levels-pew-report/37468497/

    Average hourly earnings peaked around 1974, and haven’t risen since, despite huge increases in worker productivity. Funny but 1974 seems to coincide more or less with when we got off the gold standard and inflation skyrocketed. Also, this doesn’t even account for the fact CPI is a flawed metric. Real costs of living are going up faster than the CPI would indicate, so actually real wages are falling.

    Second, let’s say you want or need to buy something very expensive. In the old days, you knew how much it was, you put aside x dollars each year, confident the price would more or less remain stable. When you had enough, you bought. Now the only way to potentially do that is to find reliable investment vehicles which grow your savings after taxes at least as fast as inflation. Good luck with that. Interest is taxed as ordinary income, so you need to find an interest rate at least about 30% higher than the real inflation rate (which could be between 6% and 10% according to this: http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/inflation-charts ). So in a nutshell to save for something, and that something could also be retirement, not just buying a house, you’ll probably need to find something with reliable returns above 10% just to do what you used to be able to do sticking money in a mattress.

    And yes, debt is bad in most cases. I might make an exception for very big capital projects where it makes sense to spread the cost over many years because future generations will also benefit. Household debt though is almost universally bad, and most government debt isn’t a whole lot better. The national debt is now at $22 trillion and counting. Are we ever going to pay it back? We actually had surpluses under Clinton and may well have been well on track to zero national debt had we continued that course. But then the rich wouldn’t get their tax breaks, and we wouldn’t have money to spend on wars to protect oil.

  • Joe R.

    The point of a gold standard is mostly that governments fix the value of currency to gold, and are bound to exchange currency for gold if asked to. That means there can only be a finite amount of currency. This inherently keeps inflation in check, or so my understanding of it goes. A barter economy may have had something to do with it also, but I’m not seeing how that could account for near zero inflation well into the 20th century when most people were being paid in currency. Governments of course could choose not to increase the money supply in lieu of a gold standard but that’s rarely a politically palatable choice.

    As for the relevance to livable streets, there is some. First off, the ease of borrowing has gotten governments into borrowing by default, even when it makes no sense. Case in point is the idea of bonding against congestion pricing. This results in less money for projects in the long term. Second, inflation for capital projects seems to be higher than the general CPI, so again this hurts us. Probably a bunch more reasons, but I don’t want to stray too far off topic.

  • Joe R.

    BTW, never heard of Alex Jones. I tend to avoid listening to talking heads, whatever their political stripe.

  • kevd

    Inflation from, 10 to 100 is the same as going from 100 to 1000.
    Your very own chart doesn’t show a lack of inflation.
    It actually shows pretty consistent inflation from 1900 to now (minus the deflationary cycle of the great depression).
    For the chart to be in any way useful, you’d need it to be on logarithmic scale.

    Here’s some more charts that are less deliberately misleading than yours!

    Autism caused by organic food!
    Pirates prevented global warming!
    (from here
    https://www.datasciencecentral.com/profiles/blogs/hilarious-graphs-and-pirates-prove-that-correlation-is-not)

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b8ab75c8d5c0c0f367341bc7207aa190672afa74ce704307cc172834ec31828d.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f30335d1a819ebea6d1bf6381812bc39171c3c59d8ed6543de6c9ea90da5ea4f.jpg

  • kevd

    we get off topic here some.
    its all well intentioned – like my attempting to explain to Joe the hating all inflation is just weird moralizing, debt scold lunacy.

  • Joe R.

    The chart’s scale starts at 0, and there are no years where the CPI is 10. If you doubt me, here are the numbers:

    https://www.minneapolisfed.org/community/financial-and-economic-education/cpi-calculator-information/consumer-price-index-1800

    The numbers seem to hover in the 25 to 50 range until WWII but there’s no consistent upward or downward trend. Remarkably, the numbers fall in the 25 to 29 range from 1878 to 1912.

    You want the chart to show something it doesn’t, which is that inflation was just as bad in the old days as now. I’ll certainly grant that perhaps the gold standard and low inflation were a case of correlation rather than causation, and there may have been other factors. One thing I can think of off hand is the lack of an income tax until WWI.

  • Joe R.

    Didn’t you also think bonding against congestion pricing was a bad idea? Sure, a few kinds of debt are good if they potentially expand the economy. In general debt for infrastructure is a good thing. So is debt for home improvements which net a return, like solar power. Debt for operating costs, wars, consumer spending, and so forth is bad, period. There are no long term returns on any of these things. Borrowing for them means paying a lot more for them in the long run.

  • kevd

    1900-1976 (end of gold standard) CPI went from 25 to 171. A 684% increase in 76 years.
    1976-2018 it went from 171 to 753 – for 440% increase in 42 years.

    The difference between the two is not that great.
    Inflation was not “bad” then, and it isn’t “bad” now.
    There certainlywere times it was too high (70’s and early 80s, late 40’s teens and 20s) but your own numbers show that for 120 years there has a been steady, overall inflation, irrespective of a gold standard.

    In fact, the two highest single years of inflation were in 1917 and 1918 Joe.

  • kevd

    if your argument is that too much debt and debt to finance operating costs is problematic, then yeah. I agree.
    If it is that the trump tax cuts are counter productive, then yes. of course.
    We’re in an economy that is growing at a decent pace with high employment so we should not have defecit now.
    If you want to argue that Clinton was a better fiscal manager than W. or Trump – of course.
    But “All inflation is bad” is one of the dumber things I’ve ever seen you write.
    You know what brings down our debt in real terms?
    Inflation joe, inflation.

    I’m gonna stick with every mainsteam macroeconomist over you and your inane gold-standard / “all inflation is bad” ravings, thanks.

  • kevd

    “Debt for…wars…is bad, period”
    WWII begs to differ

  • kevd

    he should definitely put it all in bitcoin.

  • Joe R.

    Um, we had no choice then. If we didn’t borrow to finance WWII, we would all be speaking German on the East Coast, and Japanese on the West Coast. The wars we’ve fought since the 1950s were bullshit wars, especially the oil wars we’ve fought since 9/11.

  • kevd

    But I thought debt to finance wars was inherently bad, joe?
    You said it, not me.
    Could it be that financing a needless war in Iraq through debt was a massive mistake but defeating fascism using debt financing wasn’t?

    Maybe your absolutist logic is somewhat flawed and you need to reconsider?

  • Joe R.

    Get back to me when you look at “real” inflation numbers, not the cooked statistics the government uses so they can have lower increases in benefits like Social Security (i.e. my mom got her first small increase in something like 4 or 5 years but food prices seem to have gone up 50% during that time).

    1971 was the official end of the gold standard but it was effectively abandoned in 1933. That’s when you could no longer exchange currency for gold. You should compare the periods 1900-1933 and 1933-2018. The numbers are +55.6% and +1935%, respectively.

  • Joe R.

    You know what brings down our debt in real terms?
    Inflation joe, inflation.

    And who loses in that scenario? Right, the people holding that debt, namely people who live below their means and save, like me. The ones who live above their means and borrow are the winners. So whether or not inflation is bad is really a value judgement on which is better.

    I’m also glad you agree with me on the other stuff. Correct, we shouldn’t be this heavily in debt now, either on a governmental or individual level. Debt may serve a valid purpose jump starting an economy in recession, but during boom cycles that debt should mostly be retired. This has long been one of Larry’s signature points.

    I’m gonna stick with every mainsteam macroeconomist over you and your inane gold-standard / “all inflation is bad” ravings, thanks.

    Unfortunately, some of those mainstream economists also think no level of debt is bad. It’s created a culture of buy now, pay later. Again, another of Larry’s signature points.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve said repeated some types of debt aren’t bad, and I gave some examples. Obviously a war where the very survival of your nation is at stake is one I missed.

    But seriously, the MTA borrowing for operating costs, the US government essentially borrowing to finance a tax cut on the wealthy, and so on are classic examples of bad debt. So are people who use home equity loans for vacations or consumer junk.

  • Joe R.

    Honestly, at best I’ll put maybe $25K in bitcoin, and then only when it falls to a level I feel comfortable with. I still think there’s some more downside potential.

    If you want to hear about really stupid “investments”, my late father bought baseball cards (common 1980s and 1990s sets) and Precious Moments figurines, and stamps (again, common ones) thinking he was going to make a killing. I figured he spent roughly $200K on all that crap. It’s still in the basement collecting dust. It’s worth so little it’s not worth anyone’s while to try and sell it, especially when you’ll be dealing with literally thousands upon thousands of items.

  • kevd

    just put your money in low cost, diversified index funds, joe – and in high yield savings while buying those index funds via dollar cost averaging.
    please, joe?
    over 20 years, you’ll do great.

  • kevd

    “War” was explicitly one of your examples of bad debt.
    I’m glad you see the error in that reasoning.
    My issue with is that you tend to employ absolutist reasoning “too much debt is bad, therefore DEBT IS BAD!” “Too much inflation is bad therefore ALL INFLATION IS BAD!” “society’s over emphasis on personal auto transport is bad therefore ALL CARS ARE BAD” instead of actually hashing out the intricacies and gray areas. Of which there are many in all these areas. If you’re arguing with me that MTA debt financing of ongoing operations is poor financial planning, you’re preaching to the choir.

  • kevd

    It ain’t hard to earn above inflation yields on capital.
    if you aren’t, you’re doing it very very wrong.

    “some of those mainstream economists also think no level of debt is bad.”
    That is not exactly a commonly held view.

  • kevd

    “You can’t buy the governments and the experts’ numbers” is some real bat shit crazy trumpian bullshit, joe.
    “Real unemployment is 50%!”

    How did that low inflation work out for people 1900-1933?
    I’m not sure anyone has ever looked back at 1933 as a particularly good year, economically speaking. Maybe, oh I don’t know…. our financial and monetary systems were seriously dysfunctional and in need or complete overhaul since we’d just fallen in a thing called the Great Depression?

  • cjstephens

    Is this man’s homophobia influencing how he manages (or mis-manages) the city’s FHV policies? Diaz probably holds plenty of opinions that Gersh and the Streetsblog crowd would find loathe-some (anyone know his position on abortion? Or BDS?), but if they’re not transportation-related, let’s save that criticism for somewhere else.

  • Joe R.

    My big problem with debt, especially on a personal level, is what happens if you’re unable to pay it. Especially student loan debt, a situation I’m personally familiar with. In case you’re unaware, when student loans go into default collection fees get added. Huge collection fees, like 25% and up. The amount then gets recapitalized and subject to interest in its entirely. That’s how so-called rehabilitation loans work. Now if you default on the rehabilitation loan, you go through the same process, again. Read up on it. There’s horror stories of people who maybe defaulted on debt that was initially perhaps $10K and now have six figure debts. Moreover, usually student loan debts can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, and the government can garnish wages or government payments (including Social Security) without a court order. I’ve been in a major fight for the last 7 years because of a situation like this. Also, it’s not as simple as paying it if you have the money because the amount you owe seems to end up a moving target depending upon how much you have. Basically, they’ll fix the amount to settle at some large percentage of your assets regardless of the original amount owed, even if the original amount you owed was $1. I don’t know how any of this is legal, but apparently our friends the GOP put all this into place so these collection agencies can rake in massive profits.

    So anyway that’s the story of why I think debt is bad. Even in situations where it might make some financial sense for a person to borrow, perhaps when making a big capital improvement to their house which also saves them money, I’ll recommend against it. There’s the “what if you lose your job and can’t pay” to consider. In a lot of cases, the end result of that could be losing their home.

  • Joe R.

    I did something like that and I was behind about $50K last October. Also, where are these high-yield savings accounts you speak of? My current savings account used to be something like that. I got 8.5% when I opened it in 1989. I don’t see anything like that these days. The best you get is 2% and change on CDs but it’s not worth tying up money for such paltry returns.

  • Joe R.

    My great aunt made out very well during the Depression. She was smart enough to save money during boom times. When the Depression hit, with the attendant deflation and people desperate to sell things for a song, she bought up real estate. By the 1950s she was a millionaire, and $1 million then was something like $10 million now. Unfortunately for her kids, she lived to be almost 100 and whatever was left by then went to a nursing home.

    A bunch of factors, quite a few of which are in play again now, caused the Great Depression. Arguably, we nearly had a similar situation in 2008 which we barely escaped.

  • redbike

    Here’s a Politico | New York story https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2019/02/13/johnson-faces-skeptical-questions-about-his-decision-to-eliminate-diazs-committee-852892 The time stamp 02/13/2019 04:28 PM EST is more than a day after the 12 Feb 2019 Streetsblog headline summary, but the underlying story’s content is squarely within Streetsblog’s ambit. Diaz’s remarks — to which Gersh alludes — appear to be the proximate cause leading to elimination of Diaz’s committee. But Streetsblog’s summary lacked any context.

  • cjstephens

    Thanks for linking to that article. Gersh and, by extension Streetsblog, appear to be burying the lede and/or are so stressed out with outrage over Diaz’s remarks that they make them sound more important than the transportation angle. What’s really important about that article is nothing to do with Diaz (good riddance, by the way), but that it should dismantle any credibility anyone has on the city council. Johnson created a committee for Diaz in order to get his vote for speaker? And what kind of stipend got attached to that committee chairmanship? And the committee was created even though everyone now seems to agree it was never needed in the first place? Are there any grown-ups in City Hall?

  • Ishamgirl

    Diaz told the truth in a PC city that doesn’t want to hear it.

    Funny when Charles Barron was on the City Council (he’s now in the NY Assembly) and spewed his anti-white hate, no one called for him to step down.

    Love the hypocrisy among liberals.