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Carl Davis

Subway Mystery

La Guardia Joins Gang-up on People

(July 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 28, 10 July 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Mayor LaGuardia of New York City pulled “another beaut” in connection with the dispute over the ten-cent fare for the city’s subway system. Little Butch’s scheme to get out from under the pressure of the big real estate interests and their drive for a higher fare is characteristic of the Mayor.

New York City periodically witnesses a struggle between the politicians and the business interests over increasing the nickel fare. The city-owned and operated transit lines run on a deficit. This is important depending on the point of view taken.

From the standpoint of good capitalist business, anything which does not yield a profit is bad – even though socially useful and of aid and benefit to the people. Front the viewpoint of the people of the city, the deficit is not too important, as long as the millions of workers get good service and cheap service.

The details of financing the subway are long indeed, and under examination would reveal that much of the trouble which exists today can be traced to the many years during which the service was privately owned and operated on the basis of a franchise from the city. The city was often not paid by the private interests, which showed this as a loss year after year, while it paid out dividends and fabulous salaries to its officials.

Big Business Behind Higher Fare

In any case, financing of the subway and transit system requires revenues in addition to fares and these have been met by real estate taxes. These taxes have not met the deficit because they were never high enough. But any kind of tax is too high for the real estate and business interests. We are not referring to the little landlord who has his one building. He is not decisive in this situation. When we speak of real estate interests, we refer to the big corporations which own hundreds of buildings, the banks, whose properties run into the millions of dollars and the skyscraper corporations.

They have been clamoring for a ten-cent fare in New York City for many years. The doubling, of the fare might greatly increase revenues that would more than cover any deficit. That’s just the point, overcoming the deficit by millions of dollars would lay the basis for another squeeze play on taxes. These interests, whose spokesman js the politician and corporation lawyer, Paul Windels, are fighting for just such an aim: raise costs on the people, lower the taxes on those able to pay and thus increase profits!

The Mayor’s Grand Slam

How does Mayor LaGuardia meet this of the big interests? By side-stepping their challenge and offering up a proposal even more dastardly than theirs. They at least are frank. They want an increased fare. Not LaGuardia. That means political defeat in New York. He dare not raise the fare, so he proposes a program which is the rankest piece of class legislation we have seen for a long time. The Mayor proposes to tax each tenant in the city on the basis of rent paid in order to cover the deficit. And this is what the Mayor’s plan looks like as a whole:

There may be a few people in this listing capable of paying a small tax. But the vast majority of those covered by the Mayor’s so-called plan will be workers and those least able to pay. If the Mayor’s proposal is carried it will literally take food out of the mouths of the people.

Has His Tongue in His Cheek

In all of this discussion, the Mayor makes sure to avoid mention of the fact that real estate taxes, have been cut. They have been cut thirteen points in Manhattan, fourteen points in the Bronx, twelve points in Brooklyn, twenty points in Queens and, sixteen points in Richmond!

How does His Honor defend his gouge of the people? By citing how much cheaper the tax would be for the people as against the ten-cent fare.

Last year he was fighting against a living wage for transit workers ou the ground of the deficit. This year he is saving the people money with a tax plain which avoids the real issue.

Certainly as against the ten-cent fare, his tax plan is cheaper. But the answer to that is simple: Reject both plans, the bankers’ and real estate scheme for a ten-cent fare, add LaGuardia’s scheme for a tax on rents. Put the tax where it belongs: on the banks, which are amassing untold millions in profits, the big real estate corporations and profiteering brokers.

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