As the Washington spending juggernaut steams furiously ahead, Rudy Giuliani has offered to toss several monkey wrenches into its gears. Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa, the Republican presidential frontrunner unveiled several attractive ideas to “restore fiscal discipline and cut wasteful Washington spending.” Among them:
Require that federal agency chiefs propose 5 to 20 percent spending cuts annually, forcing them to streamline their operations and improve services for less money.
Slash federal civilian employment by 21 percent. By 2017, 42 percent of federal workers are expected to retire. As president, Giuliani would replace only half those vacancies. These 150,000 unfilled bureaucratic slots would save taxpayers $21 billion annually, while sparing Americans that many meddlers and nannies.
“GAPStat,” a proposed government-wide accountability program, would evaluate federal activities and correct or eliminate failures.
Place mandatory sunset clauses on all federal programs. Congress would have to rate and reauthorize federal initiatives, or let them expire.
Require Congressional Budget Office price tags on legislation before voting begins on any bill. No such requirement exists today.
Make Washington follow the same generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that it demands of publicly traded companies. This would harmonize conflicting accounting systems among, and even within, agencies.
So what? Why should anyone believe Giuliani ever would implement such clever plans?
Well, he already has. As mayor of New York, Giuliani used similar reforms to reverse the city’s decline and rejuvenate its finances.
Giuliani instructed agency managers to suggest annual spending cuts of at least 5 percent. This enhanced public services and helped keep average annual spending growth 1 percent below inflation. On Giuliani’s watch, per-capita spending sank 2.4 percent, some $149 in today’s dollars.
Despite hiring more cops and teachers, Giuliani reduced city-funded full-time employees from 117,494 to 94,313 — a 19.7 percent cutback.
Giuliani’s CompStat system helped NYPD precinct commanders measure crime block-by-block and deploy cops where hoodlums hovered. Such savvy manpower allocation helped slash overall crime 57 percent and homicide 66 percent.
Giuliani did all this and more while reducing or eliminating 23 taxes, chopping the top tax rate 20.6 percent, and saving taxpayers $9.8 billion.
Also encouraging is Giuliani’s recent rejection of Washington’s religious tenet that entitlements are untouchably “non-discretionary.”
“All spending is discretionary,” Giuliani said this month in Bedford, New Hampshire. “Congress has to appropriate it; the president has to sign it … and it has to be looked at from the point of view of, can we afford it now?”
Giuliani’s fiscal-discipline program, among his “12 Commitments to the American People,” coincides with his appointment of an economic policy board. The board includes flat-tax guru Steve Forbes; supply-side stalwart David Malpass, Bear Stearns’ chief economist; Hoover Institution economist Michael Boskin; and Annelise and Martin Anderson, co-editors of the Reagan in His Own Hand compilations of the late president’s public-policy writings. Martin Anderson also was President Reagan’s first chief domestic policy advisor.
These are boldly Reaganite economic hardliners. Tax slicers and budget squeezers should lick their lips in anticipation.
Giuliani’s fiscal commitments and achievements require GOP primary voters to decide whether the 2008 Republican nominee should be someone who actually has accomplished something. Giuliani’s rivals in (or recovering from) Congress have sponsored bills, some better than others, and conducted oversight hearings. But what have they managed? The former governors competing against Giuliani have been public chief executives. Good for them. But whose tenure can compare to Giuliani’s successful rescue of a deadly, dysfunctional, and indebted metropolis (America’s largest), which he whisked to safety, efficiency, and surplus? Giuliani did this while Democrats controlled at least 44 of the City Council’s 51 seats, and the New York Times spat venom at him.
It would be refreshing for Giuliani to restrain Washington with his headstrong attitude and his roadmap for fiscal responsibility. Imagine having a president who writes, as Giuliani recently did: “I want to be held accountable for the progress we make as a nation.”
Still, perusing Giuliani’s first-rate prescriptions leaves one melancholy. They resemble those of a conservative Republican aspiring to clean up after liberal Washington Democrats — much like Ronald Reagan preparing to sweep up the litter of Carterism.
But Giuliani’s proposals arrive after twelve recently concluded years of GOP congressional control, half of which coincided with a Republican presidency. What should have been a golden age of limited government swiftly deteriorated into a fiscal bacchanal, with no boondoggle left behind. Brand-new entitlements blossomed while a smothering incompetence enveloped everything from foreign intelligence to hurricane relief, and even the timely delivery of get-well cards to hospitalized veterans.
It may take this New York Republican with solid GOP ideas to hose down the mess created by his widely counterproductive party brethren in Washington.
– New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.