Thursday, August 20, 2009

J. Jonah Jameson and the New York City Economy

Amazing Spider-Man #602 by Fred Van Lente and Barry Kitson (2009)

It's been a little while since we checked in with J. Jonah Jameson. When last we discussed his transition into politics, we knew that Jameson had dedicated most of his government funds towards establishing an anti-Spidey squad. Then he had concocted a desperate scheme to encourage investment in the New York State economy by sponsoring bikini shows.

How have these efforts fared, economically? Surprise: not too well. As Ms. Glory Grant so passionately points out in the panels above, despite JJJ's attempts, the New York State economy remains in a bleak state, with unemployment creeping towards the double digits, education quality dipping, and an increase in homelessness. In real-New York, conditions are, unfortunately, similar. In May, the city's unemployment rate hit 9%, representing about 361,000 without jobs, the highest since 1993. As far as statewide numbers go, the most recent report from the Division of the Budget reported that since August 2008, 236,000 have lost their jobs. In addition, more employment declines are projected for 2010 and the state unemployment rate is expected to hit 9.1% in the first quarter of next year.

Homelessness is a harder statistic to report accurately. However, the NYC Department of Homless Services does take a daily shelter census--the most recent reporting about 36,000 individuals in the system. So, while Grant's assertion that they can almost take over the state of Rhode Island is probably inaccurate (Rhode Island's population is over 1 million according to the Census Bureau), it is still a large number. In fact, historical graphs from the DHS show that it has increased since 2006. I mean, maybe if the population of Rhode Island is particularly wussy...

Perhaps one reason that education, homelessness, and other facets of the economy are doing particularly poorly in Jameson's New York is that he has drastically cut back on critical government programs and services, likely including funding for Medicaid and education. According to Peter Parker, he has also cut transportation services--including many of New York's major bus routes--which has put many people out of work and exacerbated the unemployment statistics. Instead, Jameson has decided to take a strict anti-terrorist stance and invest most government funds into public safety (though this is just a guise to root out the Spider-Man influence).

Of course, we should also scrutinize Glory's diatribe to Peter about supporting the mayor and her duty to "make Jameson look good." However, it looks like her efforts to accomplish this have likewise been unsuccessful:

Polls show that the New York population is impressed with Jameson's ability to "balance the budget," yet disappointed by his obdurate, anti-terrorist stance.

I don't buy it. The Division of the Budget estimates a deficit of $2.1 billion for 2009 - 2010, only to grow to $4.6 billion in 2010-2011. If Jameson managed to "save enough to balance the budget," this means that he would have had to drastically cut down on services. This is especially true considering the amount he spends on anti-terror units, crime prevention, and bikini shows.

And people like their services in New York. A Quinnipiac poll in March 2009 revealed that to balance the budget, 52% of respondents would have favored raising taxes, while only 37% would have preferred to cut services. This implies that, despite the economy being the number one important issue for 52% of New Yorkers, cutting services would likely drag down Jameson's approval ratings--moreso than continuing to fund social programs and increasing taxes. In fact, the 2nd most important issue next to the economy was education, which we know Jameson isn't the biggest supporter of. That and I think it's likely that when people note the economy as a significant issue, they're not necesssarily referring to balancing the budget.

According to a recent poll, real-Mayor Michael Bloomberg's approval ratings have dropped to 63% (i.e. 63% of respondents said that they approve of the way Bloomberg is handling his responsibilities), which is down from 66% is June and from a high of 75% in October 2008. And he did not nearly cut as much as Jameson did. How do you think Jameson's approval ratings would fare in comparison?

Glory is right, however, when she declares that people are upset over Jameson's use of anti-Spider squads. The same March poll revelaed that only 5% fo New Yorkers cited crime as their most important issue.

So, once again, Jameson's tenure as mayor of New York is not going so well. Or at least it shouldn't be. The economy is still in the tank and public approval ratings should be down. Maybe in some sort of fantasy world where superheroes fly around battling aliens that mimick human form, Jameson would be doing better. But not here.


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