An editorial in today’s Daily News calls for “the world’s richest bank” — that would be Goldman Sachs — to “give the taxpayer a bonus” and pass on $321 million that the bank is rightfully set to collect from New York City and State government.
Goldman should hold its ground vs. misplaced populist pressure — including by our billionaire mayor — and take its money.
Why is Goldman set to collect this cash? In 2005, Mayor Bloomberg and then-Governor Pataki agreed that their taxpayers would pay penalties if the state and city missed certain deadlines at Ground Zero. Goldman wanted downtown to be in a pretty advance state of construction by the time it opened its own new building next door, and figured that monetary incentives would help the state along.
Now the state is about to miss its deadline, so Goldman is about to get its money. It doesn’t matter that the city has met its deadline; the contract requires both.
Except: Bloomberg thinks that he can get Goldman, nervous about how everybody is jealous of it because the federal government has allowed it to print money in the basement, to back down. “Just think about the P.R.” the mayor said, noting that he was “optimistic we’ll work something out.”
Nonsense. Goldman made a great investment — that Albany and City Hall would continue to rebuild Ground Zero very slowly — and should collect on it. If taxpayers are unhappy, they should put the blame where it belongs, on Bloomberg and Pataki for entering the risky deal in the first place and then on the state for not fulfilling its obligations to avoid the payout.
Whether Goldman is the “richest bank in the world” and whether the city and state are “getting poorer and poorer,” as the News further put it, has nothing to do with it. Otherwise — the mayor is pretty rich, too. Maybe he should just pay the $321 million himself, for the mistake of relying on Albany to protect city taxpayer interests.
If the real problem is that Bloomberg, the Daily News and others are unhappy that Goldman seems to make tremendous amounts of money in part of because of an implicit government guarantee from Washington, they should mount an argument for more rational regulation of the financial industry, not try to help the state and city get out of their contractual obligations as some sort of very rough tit for tat.
One political risk — the financial industry’s status as a ward of the government, and the distortion this protection creates in the economy — can’t be fixed by another political risk: the threat of contract abrogation via political bullying. In the end, this behavior just raises costs for government, anyway.
In general, Goldman’s chief sin, whether it has to do with Washington, Albany, or City Hall — seems to be its understanding of a good rule of business. When someone foolishly offers you money, you take it.
Instead of whining that the big, bad great vampire squid is taking advantage, Albany and City Hall should admit that they shouldn’t have thrown the taxpayers in the squid tank in the first place. (Ugh, sorry!)
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