It's hard to believe that it has been almost four years since hard leftist Bill de Blasio was elected Mayor of New York City; so the next election is rapidly approaching. (We hold our elections for City offices in these bizarre odd off-years.) Indeed, there are Democratic and Republican primary elections next week, September 12. Of course, Mayor de Blasio is running for re-election.
You will be shocked to learn that yesterday the New York Times endorsed de Blasio in the primary. They used the occasion to take a swipe at those who had predicted disaster from having a socialist ideologue in Gracie Mansion:
When Bill de Blasio took office in 2014 as the most left-wing mayor in New York’s modern history, skeptics forecast disaster. In the post-Giuliani and post-Bloomberg era, they predicted, the city would roll back to the chaotic 1970s, when crime rates soared, garbage piled high in the streets, corporations fled to leafier environs and municipal bankruptcy loomed.
And then they proceeded to gloat with a round of "I told you so":
None of those dire warnings became reality. New York remains, on the whole, well run. Crime has continued its remarkable decline. Garbage is collected as efficiently as ever. The local economy is humming, and municipal finances are sound, with steady budget surpluses. Most unions representing city workers are content.
Well, I can't speak for all of the "skeptics" they are referring to, but here at the Manhattan Contrarian we certainly did not predict immediate disaster. That's not how socialist death spirals work. From my post on November 4, 2013, the day before the last election:
The good news is that even the worst left-wing policies do not lead to immediate economic collapse, but rather to slow gradual decline. It took decades of Rockefeller/Wagner/Lindsay overtaxing and overspending before New York City lost 10% of its population in the 1970s, and that one proved possible to correct. Still, you would think we had learned those lessons.
Or, from my post of June 16, 2016:
[I]ncreased government spending and tightening government control of an economy in the "socialist" model reverses the positive incentives of the private ownership/free exchange model (aka "capitalism"), undermines the dynamic of economic growth, and causes a gradual but then accelerating decline of the real economy.
At Pravda, of course, they have never made the effort to observe the real world and see that this is how it works. Anyway, as mere Mayor of New York City, de Blasio has not been in a position to put in place the true socialist agenda that he would like. New York Magazine has a remarkable interview with de Blasio on September 4 that reveals a small piece of where de Blasio would like to take us if only he could:
[Q] In 2013, you ran on reducing income inequality. Where has it been hardest to make progress? Wages, housing, schools?
[A] What’s been hardest is the way our legal system is structured to favor private property. I think people all over this city, of every background, would like to have the city government be able to determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it, what the rent will be. I think there’s a socialistic impulse, which I hear every day, in every kind of community, that they would like things to be planned in accordance to their needs. And I would, too. Unfortunately, what stands in the way of that is hundreds of years of history that have elevated property rights and wealth to the point that that’s the reality that calls the tune on a lot of development. . . . Look, if I had my druthers, the city government would determine every single plot of land, how development would proceed. And there would be very stringent requirements around income levels and rents. That’s a world I’d love to see. . . . It’s not reachable right now. And it leaves this friction, and this anger, which is visceral.
So, lacking the legal ability to impose the Venezuelan model upon us, what have we gotten from de Blasio? A few of the highlights:
- He has repeatedly proposed increasing city income tax rates on top earners. But that requires approval from the state legislature, where the Senate is controlled by the Republicans. So these proposals have gone nowhere.
- Three issues have been repeatedly identified by the Manhattan Contrarian as the most important issues for a New York City mayor to address: (1) overspending on K-12 education (roughly double the national norm per pupil); (2) overspending on Medicaid (again, close to double the national norm per beneficiary); (3) and wildly overgenerous and under-funded defined benefit pension promises for the workforce. De Blasio has done nothing whatsoever to address or make progress on any of these issues.
- As you might expect, the City budget and employee headcount have exploded on some kind of auto-pilot during de Blasio's mayoralty. Nicole Gelinas reports in the New York Post on August 27 that the budget has increased some 14.6% in inflation adjusted dollars (from $76.2 billion to $87.3 billion) since de Blasio took office. And, from the New York Times, October 16, 2016: "New York City is undergoing a rare explosion in city government: More people now work for the city — 287,002 full-time employees as of July — than at any other point in its modern history, with thousands more scheduled to join them." Nobody knows what these people do, or can notice any difference in increased or improved services from the hiring binge.
- We got universal pre-K! Great! Of course, before de Blasio, the City already provided free pre-K for poor people. So this was for the non-poor. Oh, and also for the teachers union -- the largest contributor to de Blasio's campaigns -- which got a few thousand new dues-paying members. The budget impact was about 1% of the City budget, mostly funded by the State.
- "Income inequality" was de Blasio's signature issue. Has it gotten worse or better during his tenure? Worse of course, according to a Manhattan Institute study in December 2016. ("Income inequality has actually gone up in New York City since Mayor de Blasio took office vowing to tackle the problem, according to a new report by the Manhattan Institute.") Was there ever a chance that pre-K education -- or any other de Blasio initiative -- would have a noticeable positive effect on income inequality in less than about 25 years (if ever)?
- Spending on the homeless has about doubled (still only about 2% of the budget). The number of homeless has of course gone up. Has any government program ever improved (let alone cured) the problem that it supposedly was set up to address?
To de Blasio's credit, he has not significantly restrained policing, and crime has continued to fall.
Look around, and things definitely appear to be doing remarkably well. If you want my opinion, that comes from a combination of (1) de Blasio not being able to implement the most destructive policies that he would like to implement, such as much higher taxes and abolition of private property, and (2) the destructive effect of higher spending and more wasteful programs being relatively minor and slow moving so far. Some day, probably when the stock market inevitably takes a big hit, the pension expense will suddenly soar and the extra employees will become unaffordable. Most likely, that will not occur until long after de Blasio has left office.
Meanwhile, de Blasio has an energetic if long-shot Republican opponent named Nicole Malliotakis. If you would like to contribute to her campaign, you can go to this site.