Michael Bloomberg is trying to pull off a pretty neat trick. The billionaire mayor of New York City can blame his own police department for the growth of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which surged after incidents of police brutality and illegal arrests and will only continue to grow as his police continue to use nightsticks and pepper spray. But now, he’s claiming that the protests are costing municipal workers their jobs.

Mayor Bloomberg fired a warning shot Friday at the city unions who have backed the Occupied Wall Street protests, saying “we’re not going to have money to pay our municipal employees” if the financial sector takes a hit and New York’s tax take goes down with it.

“Everyone’s got a thing they want to protest, some of which is not realistic,” Bloomberg said. “And if you focus for example on driving the banks out of New York City, you know those are our jobs … You can’t have it both ways: If you want jobs you have to assist companies and give them confidence to go and hire people.”

“The protests that are trying to destroy the jobs of working people in this city aren’t productive,” Bloomberg said in his weekly radio appearance with John Gambling. Taking a swipe at “some of the labor unions participating,” Bloomberg added that “their salaries come from – are paid by – some of the people they’re trying to vilify.”

This is just the same trickle-down bullshit that we see from every patrician trying to save the financial sector, as if they don’t take away in human suffering the vast majority of benefits they claim to give to a municipality. I actually thought initially that Bloomberg was saying that the use of police resources to “handle” the protests was draining Wall Street. That is actually a century-old protest tactic invented by the Wobblies, at the risk of entering them into the discussion. Cities where the Wobblies would set up shop and make speeches would throw in jail anyone who made anarchist speeches in public without a permit. The Wobblies would use this to fill up city jails and strain the resources of the state. After a while, the municipality, desperate and running out of funds, would let everyone go and cede to the Wobblies’ labor demands.

You can see a version of this happening in New York City. As the protests impact the public sector (Bloomberg said they could also affect tourism, but only to the positive, as far as I can tell), the demands of the protesters become more salient, because it’s not just a voice of dissent but a financial drain. Making this more confounding for billionaire Bloomberg is that he doesn’t know the demands of the people in the street. There are constraints on his ability to hold out, just the same as he can put constraints on the protesters.

Bloomberg, in short, could take a cue from his fellow mayors across the country, who are handling this much better. Like Mike McGinn in Seattle:

We understand that Occupy Seattle wishes to have a sustained presence in Westlake Park for the purpose of expressing their views. From the outset we have been trying to work out a solution that meets the city’s needs and Occupy Seattle’s need to protest against wealth inequality in our country.

My staff has been reaching out to and communicating with members of Occupy Seattle. Here’s how we are proceeding:

We are providing a permit for protest activities at Westlake Park which will allow them to have an organizing tent that can remain overnight. As a condition of the permit, protestors will have to allow for cleaning of the park, protect park property, accommodate the other existing permitted events, and protect access to businesses.

We are making City Hall Plaza available for those that wish to stay overnight, with reasonable restrictions on the tents so as to allow free use of the plaza during the day. Unlike Westlake, City Hall also has restroom facilities available. Both the permit and the ability to set up tents at City Hall Plaza would last for two weeks, at which point we can assess whether the arrangement is meeting everyone’s needs and should be extended.

These are extraordinary times. We have seen the Occupy Wall Street movement take off in cities across the country, and there’s a reason for it. There is real anger about the unprecedented concentration of wealth and power in this country and the inequality it has produced. I share the values and the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement. We want to provide the opportunity for the people of Seattle to express their views. And we are.

That’s a damn better way to do it than just protecting oligarchs by holding up the jobs of sanitation workers and firefighters and transit workers as a kind of human sacrifice.

David Dayen

David Dayen