Another Perspective

Escape from New York

A new mayor makes it a good time to leave.

By 11.12.13


Here’s a joke for you: What is the difference between President Obama and New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio? One is a so-called progressive who plugs damaging and divisive policies in the name of a misguided sense of “fairness,” seeks to punish the successful through redistribution, wants to expand an already bloated welfare state, has unsavory friends, and is even rumored to be connected to communism. The other lives in the White House.

Those who don’t hail from the Big Apple might wonder what all the fuss is about. New York is, after all, a true blue stronghold. The city’s recent dearth of Democratic mayors was merely an accident of history. Rudy Giuliani, once a celebrated federal prosecutor, took the reins after a David Dinkins administration that was largely ineffective in dealing with crime. It is perhaps a telling footnote that de Blasio cut his teeth as a young staffer during that administration. Michael Bloomberg ran as a nominal Republican because the Democratic primary field was too stacked in 2001 for the wealthy but relatively unknown technocrat to win. He subsequently governed as a nanny-state progressive who famously attempted to ban the sale of large sodas on public health grounds. Lefty governance is nothing new to New York. 

De Blasio is a donkey of a different color, however. When he takes office in January, he will handily lay claim to the title of America’s most progressive big-city mayor. There is plenty of ripe, low-hanging fruit to pick for those who would disparage the man who emerged late in the campaign from among a lackluster field of candidates. As a student and budding socialist in the 1980s, he traveled to Nicaragua to lend support to the Sandinistas. He is married to a liberal activist and onetime lesbian poet. He was the architect of Hillary Clinton’s successful 2000 Senate campaign. Raised in Massachusetts, he is a lifelong Red Sox fan. The Red Sox, for crying out loud! 

These are merely distractions, though. The truly damning thing about the man that New Yorkers will soon call hizzoner is that he comes from a reckless political tradition that will make Gotham worse, not better. He is politically simpatico with the Working Families Party, a curious fusion of moneyed labor unions, ACORN affiliates, and community activists that are holdovers from the New Left of the '60s and '70s. If the past five years have taught us anything, it is that community organizers get things done. Bad things.

De Blasio is also an admirer of Occupy Wall Street, the protest movement known as much for impressively high rates of rape and violence within their squalid encampments as for giving voice to populist rage. Mike Lupica, sportswriter cum liberal columnist for the Daily Newssaid of de Blasio that he “wasn’t so much the Democratic candidate in this election as he was the candidate of the 99 percent and Occupy Wall Street and Zuccotti Park.” De Blasio’s oft repeated campaign theme, “A Tale of Two Cities,” beat the drum for class warfare. Indeed, de Blasio earnestly believes the most pressing concern for New York is the gap in income between the rich and poor.

As a result, he is threatening higher taxes on the rich in a city where the much maligned top 1 percent of earners already bear 43 percent of the city’s income taxes. It is apparently lost on him that one of the reasons that the income gap is so wide is that New York is home to tens of thousands of wealthy people who make up the tax base required for the expansive social programs that people like de Blasio cherish.

But then, people who see the world his way never ask the right questions: What difference does it make if the gap between the rich and poor is increasing as long as the quality of life is increasing for everyone? Isn’t it a bad idea to create powerful disincentives for new businesses to open in New York? Shouldn’t our social policy be geared towards helping people off of the public dole, rather than supporting them for life? Of course, de Blasio and his progressive ilk don’t quite grasp the economic realities that the rest of us naturally understand. Trying to explain these things to them is like…well… trying to explain an incentive economy to a Sandinista.

At least New York is still America’s safest big city—for now. De Blasio has a solution for that too. Over the course of a generation, the city was transformed from a graffiti- and crime-ridden hellhole into a place safe enough for even the most doe-faced Midwesterner to visit. The key was wise selection of police brass, giving precinct commanders greater latitude—and subjecting them to greater accountability—and deploying an exhaustive quality of life policing program which, yes, included controversial tactics like stop and frisk.

The fate of stop and frisk is in legal limbo. The practice was challenged in federal court on dubious charges of racial discrimination. These were validated by an activist judge who was recently removed from the case for her legal chicanery! Regardless, de Blasio has already announced his intention to drop the city’s appeal, a move which will severely limit the NYPD’s ability to stop suspicious individuals. If de Blasio cared about the poor as much as he claims to, he would let the police keep the tools they need to do their jobs in the most dangerous neighborhoods.

Unlike de Blasio, I am a native son of New York. After attending Fordham University, I participated in the same fellowship program in city government that de Blasio had been a part of 21 years prior. The difference is, I grew up afterwards. I’m by no means rich, but I have no shame in saying that I hope to be someday. And I will never forget that my responsibility to the poor is not defined by how much the government arbitrarily taxes out of my hide.

As fate would have it, I moved away from New York for the first time in my life only a few months before de Blasio’s election. Good timing. Just as President Obama was celebrated as the first post-racial president, de Blasio will be the first post-New York mayor of New York.

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About the Author

Bill Zeiser is a communications consultant living in New York City and a 2012 Publius Fellow of the Claremont Institute. Follow him on Twitter @BillZeiser.