Armagideon Time

Got the world up my class

September 15th, 2016

“Then Harvey said yes Leningrad was wonderful, and how it was called the Venice of the North on account of how wonderful it was. The man at the other end said yes, and how did Mr. Dempsey like it, and I said it was wonderful but I hadn’t ever heard anyone call Venice the Leningrad of the South, and then there was a silence.”

The above quote comes from Billion-Dollar Brain, the fourth (and my favorite) of Len Deighton’s “Spy With No Name” novels. I think of it a lot, especially whenever the Boston Globe prattles on about how some absurd scheme will turn this region into “the next Silicon Valley” or elevate this benighted collection of shanties and hovels into a truly World Class City.

I would like to point out that I don’t actually read the Boston Globe. My wife buys the Sunday edition of that exercise in journalistic death spirals for the inserts and sales announcements. Over the course of the week following that, I strip off the unread sections so that my dog has a picture of Donald Trump or Charlie Baker to piss on while I’m off at work. On rare occasions, a article will catch my eye long enough to make me wonder if my actions constitute a form of animal cruelty.

For all of its unabashed boosterism, it’s clear that the Globe has no idea what being a World Class City actually entails. A true World Class City doesn’t constantly angst about that status, but wears it with a confidence bordering on arrogance. It is, after all, a center of the civilized universe. They may jostle among themselves for the titles of “global financial capital” or “cultural capital of the world,” but those are just battles of perception involving pre-existing assets.

They certainly don’t need Harold Hill’s great-great-grandkid with a urban planning degree rolling in to collect a fat consultancy fee for suggesting that an Olympic stadium/casino/Formula 1 race event will cure all economic ills and deep-seated feelings of inadequacy. It’s bad enough when a modestly well-off burg like Boston sips of that snake oil, but it’s even more painful when those pipe dreams are peddled to some stagnant Rust Belt town desperate for an economic quick fix.

Places that struggle to pay for basic infrastructure and public sector staffing will eagerly dig themselves into a public debt hole to build all manner of honey pots to attract the oh-so-coveted Young Entrepreneur Class (which is to say, a bunch of mostly doomed dreamers buoyed up by rafts of venture capital).

Is Boston any better because local leaders promised General Electric the moon, stars, and firstborn children to relocate a couple of hundred jobs here? Not as far as I can tell, though the revenue sacrificed through those appalling tax incentives would’ve been put to better use in fixing roads, improving public transportation, and funding education programs. The same goes to the tax credits generously doled out to film and TV productions — who in turn auction them off to huge corporations seeking to dodge paying their rightful due — for the sake of “prestige” and enabling some state rep to snap a selfie with Clint Eastwood.

But, hey, I can sit in traffic for an hour and nearly bust an axle on a pothole so I can “ooh” and “ahh” at a shot of the Tobin Bridge on big screen. Well, providing I have enough money to pay for a ticket after the Governor refuses to honor the terms of my union’s contract.

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4 Responses to “Got the world up my class”

  1. Zeno

    We’ve got much the same gyrations in the metro Albuquerque area, the most recent manifestation of this being finally persuading Facebook to build a data center in nearby Los Lunas, which will net us a whopping 50 permanent jobs (which I’m betting will mostly be staffed by people brought in on H-1B’s) and all it cost us was 30 years worth of tax breaks. It’s a Pyrrhic victory to be sure, yet our governor is crowing that this is a high-tech acquisition on the levels not seen since Intel came to Rio Rancho in the 1980s. Ultimately we just never really got over Microsoft bailing on us back in 1979.

  2. sallyp

    Well I read the Hartford Courant, we are going to Hell in a Handbasket, but the comics page is decent. I am not even going to mention those filthy ingrates at GE..

  3. Arik

    Don’t worry Boston. Public misspending nationwide will ensure us
    Americans that. Yeah , you bet you I like Fargo. It’s just like the Boston of Minnesota.

  4. philip

    Not sure why city officials can’t just let their city be their city. I lived in Boston for 10 years before moving to Seattle in ’99 and it was the same here as there. I thought being so close to NYC gave Boston a raging inferiority complex, but I was shocked to find that Manhattan cast an impossibly long shadow. I could have moved to New York, but I didn’t want to. Glad I got here toward the end of whatever mayor was obsessed with making us a “world class” city. I mean, I guess we are now what with all the tech and astronomical cost of living, so… congratulations?

    To quote young Lisa Simpson, “Mom, anything that’s ‘the something of something’ isn’t really the anything of anything.”

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