New York is anything but blasé as de Blasio takes office.
If Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was correct that States are the “laboratories of democracy,” then perhaps America’s cities are the petri dishes – developing political cultures at a micro level.
For 20 years, the Big Apple had largely quarantined the most aggressive tendencies of New York liberalism through a succession of centrist Mayors. Even for all his nanny-state inclinations, Michael Bloomberg was (as we once noted) all that stood between the average Gothamite and an “army of liberal partisans who saw City Hall as Grand Central Station for a variety of socioeconomic engineering ideas.”
It should be of little surprise then that newly ensconced New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign certainly looked like something engineered in a political science lab. De Blasio’s “tale of two cities” rhetoric, his promises to end “income inequity” and repeal “stop and frisk” defined his candidacy as being in stark contrast to Bloombergian Era. Despite Bloomberg polling at a 51% approval as he left office and his supposedly controversial police chief Ray Kelly at 64%, de Blasio won running directly against the accomplishments (and their architects) of prior two decades. Voters who cared about crime and candidate experience – once centerpieces to any New York campaign – barely broke for Republican Joe Lhota, and constituted a paltry 15% of the vote.
De Blasio’s supporters haven’t minced words about the expectations his overwhelming election has created in liberal circles, calling his mayoralty a “progressive revolution.” Such rhetoric, amplified by a litany of speakers at de Blasio’s inauguration that trashed Michael Bloomberg (with apparently with de Blasio’s consent, as he stated he was “very comfortable with all that was done”), glosses over what exactly entails a “progressive revolution”?
From the early previews, de Blasio’s “revolution” may resemble Michael Bloomberg’s in one key, and often criticized, factor – policy tinkering instead of major reforms. Candidate de Blaiso talked on the campaign trail about affordable-housing projects, stopping hospital closures, and a tax on upper-income earners to fund, in part, universal pre-kindergarten. The first act of Mayor de Blasio was to end the handsome cab, horse-draw carriages – a move that drew criticism left and right, and even speculation that the position was based on a campaign pay-off.
Even when de Blasio talks about broader political themes, such his obsession with reducing “income inequality,” it’s rarely followed by policy prescriptions that will address the issue. Some of de Blasio’s proposals will require support from Albany to enact, including aspects of his desired pre-K and after-school programs, while others reek of desperation to find an agenda, regardless of impact or practicality. De Blasio declared he would expand the Paid Sick Leave law…which was just passed months ago and hasn’t even been enforced yet. De Blasio campaigned on a goal of “zero deaths” in New York – a policy that sounds like it was crafted by King Canute the Great.
If de Blasio truly wanted to address “income inequality,” he could look at New York’s punitive tax structure. A married couple with $60,000 in taxable income pays nearly $2,000 in taxes to the city alone. That doesn’t include the 25% federal tax rate for a couple in that income bracket, or the State of New York’s $3,200 in taxes as well. Without including property taxes, school board levies, and a host of other taxes (how about the city’s 8.875% sales tax?), a couple with $60,000 in earned income would be paying out over $20,000 in taxes in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Is that “equality”?