The Impact of Wall Street and Congressional Power Shift on the NY Economy
December 16, 2014, NYC – Last Friday the Business and Labor Coalition of New York (BALCONY) hosted a forum on the state of the New York economy featuring keynote speaker New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was also slated to speak but was unfortunately unable to attend due to a last minute vote in Washington on a $1.1 trillion spending package, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-206 (Congresswoman Maloney voted against the proposed package). She was replaced in the BALCONY Forum by Bruce Raynor, former President of UNITE HERE.
The BALCONY Forum began with a breakfast and introduction by BALCONY Director Lou Gordon, who welcomed the audience, and introduced the panel and the first speaker of the day, Mark Rifkin, a partner at Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP.
Mr. Rifkin spoke about the recent Second Circuit Court decision on U.S. vs Newman that makes it far more difficult to prosecute insider trading. According to Mr. Rifkin, the decision will have a “chilling effect on the interest of major foreign institutions and nations willingness to invest in the U.S.” and that because those investments are predominantly made through Wall Street, the decision will also have serious consequences for New York’s Common Fund.
Next Alan Lubin, BALCONY founder/Co-Chair, and former Executive Vice President of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), spoke. According to Mr. Lubin, “this is not a good time for our society, our unions, or business.” He proceeded to speak about the importance of continuing to engage both business and labor, and promoting common ground between the two, in order to address the significant problems that New York State faces moving forward.
David Pollak, of Pegasus Capital and Executive Board Member of BALCONY, introduced NYS Comptroller DiNapoli. Mr. Pollak spoke about the important work that the Comptroller has done handling retirement funds, creating greater transparency for citizens, and praised a recent audit that uncovered vast sums that were misappropriated and charged to the state by a New York City-based special education provider. He lauded the Comptroller for his landslide victory in the recent election, saying “his popularity and competence are no coincidence.”
In his keynote speech New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli spoke to the fact that where other panelists had focused on the many troubles facing the state economy, there are a lot of positives that should also be acknowledged – including gains in employment, the State’s pension fund (which now totals $176.8 billion), and in salaries and bonuses on Wall Street. Addressing labor, the Comptroller urged cooperation between public and private sector unions. DiNapoli praised labor unions as the institutions responsible for creating the American middle class and was adamant in his support of both. He also acknowledged that both face serious threats saying “the middle class is under attack because unions are under attack.” In speaking about the investment of the State’s pension fund, DiNapoli emphasized the importance of diversification and not being tied too much to the public markets. Additionally, the Comptroller spoke about improvements that have been made in the return on fixed income under his tenure. Regarding Wall Street, DiNapoli emphasized how critical the income generated by the stock market is to the state of New York. He also stressed the importance of implementing the rules and oversight measures ratified in the Dodd-Frank act as well as the need to pay down the State’s debt and fund infrastructure. Comptroller DiNapoli concluded his speech by thanking BALCONY for the work that they do in achieving common ground between business and labor, a project that he referred to as being “essential” in moving the New York economy forward.
Following Comptroller DiNapoli’s speech, Bruce Raynor, former President of Workers United and UNITE HERE, filling in for Congresswoman Maloney, spoke about the Congressional spending bill that was passed the previous evening and its potential impact on the New York economy and New York Labor. Raynor called the vote a “debacle,” and criticized several items that were left out of the bill (as well as several that made it in) in the interest of expediency and keeping the government running for the next year. Mr. Raynor spoke about the importance of supporting labor, and pointed to its historical role in the national push for critical reforms like Social Security and later civil rights, as well as its continued role in preserving the middle class. He expressed his concern that the recent power shift in Congress will make it more difficult to curb bad practices in Washington and on Wall Street. Additionally, he fears that it will strengthen the enemies of labor, which will have immediate and negative consequences for the working people of New York.
Finally Mark Jaffe, Treasurer of BALCONY and President and CEO of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, gave closing remarks. He thanked BALCONY for its work in bringing together business and labor saying, “the future of the New York economy depends on the cooperation of business and labor, something that cannot be achieved without the work of groups like BALCONY.”
BALCONY concluded its annual forum with a raffle where four attendees were given prizes, including Yankees tickets (courtesy of Joe Stamm, CEO of MedReview), Mets tickets (courtesy of David Pollak of Pegasus Capital), and gift certificates for dinner at Pershing Square and O’Brien’s restaurant in midtown.