Ambrose: Bill de Blasio may bring New York back to the bad old days
New York City is a cultural center, a commerce center, a finance center, a media center and every now and then an ideological inanity center. Its voters proved as much in electing as mayor Bill de Blasio, an income equality kind of guy who just could become the next John Lindsay, a mayor who helped make a great city a sad city until other mayors, after a long, hard climb, finally made it great again.
"Some on the far right continue to preach the virtue of trickle-down economics," he said in his inaugural speech. "They believe that the way to move forward is to give more to the most fortunate, and that somehow the benefits will work their way down to everyone else."
What utter buffoonery this is.
What defenders of free markets preach is the virtue of freedom that helps create prosperity while giving us all more of a chance to pursue the kind of life we want. It is the left that preaches a trickle-down theory by which an ever bigger, ever more coercive government grabs money from taxpayers and passes it on in welfare programs that would be less needed if there was less intervention in the first place. What's most vitally needed to help the poor are such cultural changes are far fewer fatherless homes and political changes that unleash the saving power of the market place.
Governmental trickle-down, however, is the de Blasio theme. Whichever direction the rich or the unwary turn, he wants to take their cash and sprinkle it on someone else, sometimes the poor.
To finance more prekindergarten programs in the city, he wants higher city income taxes on those making more than $500,000 a year. He wants to take money from charter schools, which are not rich, to spend on other schools. I am not sure how he's going to finance it, but I've also read in a roundup of promises that he wants to do sweet-deal favors for the city's unions. On top of that, he apparently wants to swipe money from park programs financed privately to spend on other park programs, and he wants a minimum wage hike.
Ah, the minimum wage. It's the answer to all the woes of the poor, isn't it? No. It affects relatively few of the poor, the good it does is minimal and more economists think its harm outdoes its good than those who think otherwise, according to at least one survey.
I have nothing against being fair to city workers, but you have to be fair to taxpayers, too, and promising public employees too much has gotten scads of municipalities into devastatingly deep trouble. New York's charter schools have reportedly done a pretty good job and the main thing about them, it's said, is that they offer variety in a system that needs more.
Prekindergarten programs can be greatly beneficial if done right and if there is follow-up in the K-12 public schools. But New York State's liberal governor, Andrew Cuomo, says such a program can be otherwise financed, and listen: Combined state, federal and local taxes in the state are already among the highest in the nation and that could be at least one reason many residents are fleeing and often going instead to Florida, which has no state income tax.
Some remember him as a shining star, but New York's liberal Mayor Lindsay demonstrated in the late 1960s and early 1970s that it just does not work to fatten government through putting the private sector on too strict a diet. Some observers believe he contributed to a decline not dramatically reversed until two relatively conservative mayors - Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg - came along.
De Blasio seems to want to go back to the bad old days and you have to hope he either sees the light or his policy dreams are thwarted.
Jay Ambrose is the former director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard Newspapers, and was editor of The Rocky Mountain News in Denver and the El Paso-Herald Post.