Corporate Welfare

"The New New York": De Niro's Least Convincing Role Since Frankenstein?

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By a country mile, De Niro's greatest role and Martin Scorsese's greatest movie.

New York's Empire State Development Corporation has enlisted the Oscar®-caliber talents of Robert De Niro to provide voiceover for a new commercial claiming the state is back in business. Over scenes of the kind of businesses (energy "highways," high-tech "centers") we now know for sure can only be built by government, the weight-gain pioneer with a whopping 94 screen credits intones: 

There's a new New York, one that's working to attract business and create jobs…nurture start ups and small businesses, reduce tax burdens and provide the lowest middle class tax rate in 58 years. Once again, New York State is a place where innovation meets determination, and where businesses lead the world. The new New York works for business; find out how it can work for yours.

What could be the problem with a major Hollywood star talking up the benefits of low taxes and a pro-business public climate? 

Well for one, a public agency with any variant of the word "Development" in its title is like a country with the word "Democratic" in its title: In practice it does the opposite of what it says. 

At CEI's Open Market blog, Matt Patterson lists some other problems with the new New York: 

Really, who is De Niro kidding? After admitting (tacitly, at any rate) in the aforementioned commercial that decades of left-wing tax-and-spend policies have driven New York industry into the ditch, has the gall to pretend to Milton Friedman-esque pronouncements on the benefits of low tax rates. Is this a policy prescription he picked up from his wide ranging experience campaigning/advocating for such free-market luminaries as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama?

Bobby D. and NYS have some nerve. In fact, New York ranks 50th – that's dead last — in CEI's "Big Labor vs. Taxpayers Index," with a 24.2 percent total union density, and a whopping 70.5 percent public-sector unionization rate. No wonder: New York is a state that tolerates — nay, encourages — forced unionization. Hey Bobby, go ask one of those "start ups" New York is intent on "nurturing" how good it is for business to allow unions access to the company coffers.

But, you say, unionization rates and labor policy are only part a state's larger economic picture. True enough. According to the Mercatus Center's "Freedom in the 50 States," which "comprehensively ranks the American states on their public policies that affect individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres," New York is — gasp! — dead last.

I think it's uncharitable of Patterson to call De Niro the " star of such classic motion pictures as Analyze That, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Meet the Fockers, and Shark Tale." But I have to admit that in this ad De Niro does seem to be doing what he's been doing more or less steadily since Jackie Brown wrapped: phoning it in. (By contrast, Al Pacino, De Niro's Italian-American neo-realist counterpart from the seventies, continues to give his all to even the most hilariously crappy material and is always worth watching, as either an actor or a special effect. These days he's the North Dakota to De Niro's Empire State.)