The epidemic of empty storefronts can be accredited to many things, but the main causes are revealed once one understands that we live in a capitalist society. Landlords naturally want to make the highest profit possible, so it makes sense for a business owner to want to wait and see if they can rent their space for a higher price. Unfortunately, when businesses are closed, not only are there fewer jobs and less government revenue for essential public services, the curb appeal of the surrounding area also goes down. Even when a landlord is able to find tenants willing to pay a higher price, the likelihood of contract renewal decreases, further destabilizing the local economy.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is contemplating a tax on the owners of unoccupied stores to incentivize store-owners to rent their places at a lower rate. While it is admirable of Mayor de Blasio to want to fill vacant spaces, the tax on empty storefronts does not come close to the full solution, a single tax on the value of land. If all land is taxed, rents will naturally fall, and there will be fewer empty storefronts.
The surge in online retailing is another cause of store closings. With increased competition, it is more important than ever to make it appealing for customers to buy in stores, particularly mom-and-pop shops, which in addition to adding charm to a neighborhood, are the basis of our capitalist democracy. The growth of online monopolies, which gain from decreased competition on the ground, magnifies economic inequality and allows those corporations to wield more power in our government. Since the land tax would allow small businesses to multiply and succeed, it would challenge the authority of big business and create a more equal economy. With more small operational businesses, more jobs will be created, and wages will rise as demand for workers increases. If the Mayor would consider a land value tax in lieu of his current proposal, landowners, business owners, consumers, laborers, and the government would all benefit.
* Christina Salas is a 10th Grade student. She is currently working as an intern at the Henry George School of Social Science.