Democrats like to call the Republicans the Stupid Party, and lord knows I find plenty to disagree about with plenty of Republicans. But now we have as the Democratic candidate for mayor in New York one Bill de Blasio, a standard-issue Leftist of the most doctrinaire and uncritical strain. Let's go over a few issues that might serve as a proxy for his IQ.
It is by now widely known that as a young "idealist" in the 80s de Blasio went to Nicaragua to work with the Sandinistas. When initially questioned about this he described his work as bringing food for the poor. This was 1988 -- nine years after the Sandinistas had seized power and only one year before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Was it possible by that point not to realize that this was a Soviet-backed thugocracy? Here's a New York Times article from September 22 that, charitably described, does not exactly back up de Blasio's description of his Nicaraguan adventure as a mission of mercy to the poor:
Mr. de Blasio became an ardent supporter of the Nicaraguan revolutionaries. He helped raise funds for the Sandinistas in New York and subscribed to the party’s newspaper, Barricada, or Barricade. When he was asked at a meeting in 1990 about his goals for society, he said he was an advocate of “democratic socialism.”
Then, of course, de Blasio honeymooned in Cuba in 1994. This is now three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Asked on a radio program a couple of weeks ago to justify that one, his answer was:
I also think it’s well known that there’s some good things that happened — for example, in health care.
OK, he's dumb enough to be completely taken in by Cuba's Potemkin health care charade, even now, 22 years after Communism fell apart.
Enough of the ancient history; how about de Blasio's current campaign proposals for New York? First up is "universal pre-K," supposedly to be paid for by yet higher income tax rates on the highest earners. The proposed budget is about $500 million per year, and by the way it's only for about half the kids, so not really "universal" at all. What is the evidence that this would be money well spent? As those who follow this subject at all know, the federal Head Start program has been around for five decades, and there have been five decades of efforts to show that it actually has any measurable effect, at least after a couple of years. Red Jahncke of the Townsend Group summarizes the latest information in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:
[T]hat $8 billion-a-year program [Head Start] has been found to be ineffective in educational terms by most research. That includes the “Head Start Impact Study,” a multiyear study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services during the Bush and Obama administrations. Released in December 2012, the study found “no significant impacts” in education—in the short or long term.
Well, the pre-K program might be effective in one respect, which is having the City hire an additional few thousand teachers union members to contribute to de Blasio campaigns.
The next de Blasio signature issue is "affordable housing. " Just a couple of weeks ago I nominated "affordable housing", particularly in Manhattan, as the worst possible public policy. This one is really pretty objective: even if you believe that any and all government handouts "help" the recipients, it can easily be demonstrated so-called "affordable housing" programs cost far more money to "help" far fewer people than obvious alternatives.
The "crisis of income inequality"? de Blasio has not yet figured out that the government statistics he relies on to think there is such a crisis are rigged in excluding nearly a trillion dollars of in-kind handouts from the calculations. And then he proposes to cure the inequality by yet more in-kind handouts, which then will not be counted in measuring income inequality and will leave us spending yet more money and having achieved nothing by our own measures. Is this anything other than excruciatingly dumb?
Finally, two things strike me as far and away the most important issues facing New York City. First is the shocking overspending on K-12 education for shockingly inferior results. According to the latest Census Bureau data (for 2011) reported at the Huffington Post here, New York has the highest per student in the country at $19,076 per student, compared to the U.S. average of $10,560. And half the states are below the average, with Utah at only $6,212. This is a $10 billion overspending item in the $70 billion annual New York City budget. I haven't seen de Blasio mention it. Ditto for pensions, where New York City allows police and fire workers to retire in their 40s, teachers, transit workers, sanitation and others in their 50s, and then guarantees lavish retirements of 30 to 50 years. These are completely unsustainable promises, already costing $8 billion per year in the current budget, and set to double over the next several years. Again, I can't find any place where de Blasio mentions it.
So yes, this guy is bad, and also dumb. Oh, by the way, he's up 47 points over his opponent Joe Lhota in the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls. Hey, this is New York.