Documenting the grim anniversary of the coronavirus-spurred lockdowns with an Opinion series entitled “The Week Our Reality Broke,” The New York Times’s usual liberal obsessions of inequality were livened up by a disturbing diatribe that proposed a resettlement tax on New Yorkers who escaped the failing Democratic city during the pandemic.
Under the foreboding headline “They Left New York During Covid. Make Them Pay,” one would have hoped op-ed writer Luke Winkie was being somewhat tongue-in-cheek in his angry, almost ethnocentric vituperation of the supposedly fake New Yorkers who dared to temporarily escape the pandemic-stricken city in early 2020 as the death toll escalated and no one knew what was going on.
One wonders with trepidation — does the humorless Times see the satire, or did it take the vengeful sentiments at face value? He began with this lament: “My social circle started disintegrating in the spring. One by one, friends, acquaintances and colleagues melted away from their tiny Brooklyn apartments and materialized somewhere else in the country. Here today, gone tomorrow.”
Unfortunately for them, Winkie was taking names from his (gentrified) Brooklyn hovel (click “expand”)
Their escapes went largely unannounced — nobody plans a going-away party in the heat of a pandemic — so I pieced together the puzzle through their social media feeds. Plenty of them had perfect rationalizations; nobody holds any animosity for immunocompromised people who felt safer in the suburbs or those who needed to take shelter after losing their job. But other decampments looked far more conspicuous. Their Instagram Stories no longer bore any evidence of the New York I shared with them. Now they were uploading from bucolic log cabins, undisclosed upstate getaways and the two-story houses of wherever “back home” happened to be. (A long way from the Morgan Avenue L train stop, that’s for sure.)
Meanwhile, I lingered in the Crown Heights one-bedroom I share with my girlfriend, as the cacophony of ambulance sirens wailed outside our windows. By the end of summer, it felt like we were the only ones left in the city.
And now, we’re somehow at the first anniversary of the stay-at-home order. The pandemic has worsened beyond recognition, even as we’ve grown more accustomed to living with it. But with the vaccination rollout, a new presidential administration and a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, many of those defectors have started coming home….
Ignoring what Cuomo and socialist Mayor Bill DeBlasio did to the great city (by not responding quickly enough to the virus danger, and then keeping public life shuttered other than some summertime rioting and looting aside, Winkie called for retribution against those who showed their disloyalty to the empty shell known as New York City.
Glints of hopefully comic exaggeration stopped the immature rant from being totally terrifying, but the punitive impulse was real, and The Times obviously thought he made a great point:
First things first: City Hall should immediately move to enforce a resettlement tax on all returning New Yorkers. The levy will be determined at the very moment they touch down at J.F.K., determined by both their income level and how flagrant their desertion was. (If an exile spent the entirety of the pandemic on the crystal waters between Monaco and Sardinia, they can expect to pay up.)….
Yaryna Serkez’s piece was more typically Timesian, boiling down a year of anxiety and searing sadness into a neat, ideologically binary tale of haves and have-nots in “We Did Not Suffer Equally”:
The pandemic worsened disparities across society — in unemployment, education, housing, health and even survival. The discrepancies in vaccination rates, which are twice as high for white Americans as for their Black counterparts and 2.6 times as high as for Latinos, show such inequities are going nowhere. Whatever it felt like last March, Americans are clearly not in this together. Until the country’s deep inequalities are eliminated, we will not be.
But it wasn’t the coronavirus that totally shut down schools, churches, restaurants, gyms, sports, live events, and parks: It was overreaching state government, often of the liberal variety, flexing political muscles through edicts, using emergency declarations to bypass the legislative process.
Another lunge for leftism (in “don’t let a crisis go to waste” mode) came in Zachary Carter’s “The Coronavirus Killed the Gospel of Small Government” with this humdinger of a subhead: “Markets crashed, unemployment soared, and America remembered that the economy serves society, not the other way around.”