After Argentina’s imploding economy swallowed his violin shop, Jorge Dominguez lamented his country’s woeful political leadership. As he recently told the Wall Street Journal: “We need Giuliani.”
Since 9-11, Rudy Giuliani has wowed observers from Broadway to Buenos Aires. His 12-31 departure will be a major loss both for New York and the American Right. While other politicians deliver more conservative speeches or sponsor more libertarian legislation, Giuliani is unparalleled in actually making free-market ideas stand up and stroll down the street.
True, many on the Right criticize him for favoring strict local gun controls and abortion rights, although he inherited the former and rarely discusses the latter. Some conservatives also scold him for marching with Log Cabin Republicans in the annual Gay Pride parade, although this appears neither to have boosted divorces nor reduced live births.
But social conservatives should applaud Giuliani’s emphasis on individual responsibility and accountability rather than excuses. This paradigm shift yielded his greatest triumph: a 57 percent plunge in overall crime and 65 percent reduction in homicide since he arrived on January 1, 1994.
Under Giuliani, New York’s public-assistance rolls shrank 53.4 percent, from 1,112,490 in 1993 to 518,823 today. While most of these individuals now work, others disappeared after Giuliani cracked down on welfare fraud.
In January 1994, Giuliani junked a 20 percent set-aside for minority- and women-owned businesses. This policy also let them win city business while overbidding white competitors by 10 percent.
“How we could pay 10 percent more for anything seemed incomprehensible to me,” he once told the Manhattan Institute. Giuliani replaced rules that would “perpetuate discrimination,” with “an ethnic, race, religious, gender and sexual-orientation neutral program in city procurement.” New York now explains application procedures to new contractors and subdivides large contracts to help neophytes compete.
Giuliani’s executive order, coincidentally sustained in a court case that week, did more for colorblindness than Republicans even have attempted while controlling Congress and the White House.
Fiscally speaking, Giuliani slashed or killed 23 different taxes and lowered the personal income tax rate 21 percent. His budgets held average annual spending increases to just 2.9 percent (versus 3.7 percent in Washington, largely under a GOP Congress). In fiscal year 1995 and his FY 2002 forecast, nominal outlays actually decreased. That out-Reagans Reagan.
While Giuliani hired 12 percent more cops and 12.8 percent more teachers, municipal employment otherwise fell 17.2 percent from 117,494 to 97,338.
Giuliani stopped City Hall from stockpiling tax-foreclosed properties. His “Building Blocks!” program cut city-owned apartments by 70 percent, from 44,000 units in 1994 to 13,278 today. Continued sales to neighborhood entrepreneurs and private tenants soon will extract city government completely from the distressed housing business.
Giuliani aggressively has privatized city assets and functions. As he explains, “the issue of privatization of certain public services is not about public versus private, but rather about monopoly versus competition.”
He revitalized Off-Track Betting (a municipal bookie operation that actually lost $5.3 million under mayor David Dinkins) then sold it last August for $260 million. He divested WNYC-TV for $207 million in 1996.
Giuliani also privatized Central Park. Since 1998, the Central Park Conservancy has managed Manhattan’s 843-acre rectangular wonderland. Strangely, this private group has not commenced logging. Central Park is now immaculately manicured at lower cost to taxpayers.
Giuliani achieved this and more as a Republican in a liberal bastion whose city council is 45-6 Democrat. Long before terrorists attacked, Giuliani was as intrepid, relentless and tough as he has been since 9-11. Rather than tremble before his opponents, as too many do on the Right, Giuliani cajoled, confronted and ridiculed them into submission.
Giuliani also promoted his agenda through innumerable media appearances and his weekly call-in radio show. Unlike so many Beltway Republicans, he does not expect to generate positive headlines by shivering beneath his desk.
In practice, Giuliani is as good as it gets on the Right. President Bush, whose domestic gentility charms Democrats yet invites their mischief, should borrow Giuliani’s bottle of S.O.B. pills.
Bush should return the favor by naming Giuliani director of Central Intelligence. Alternatively, Giuliani should rescue his state by challenging its 40-watt governor, George Pataki, for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. In either case, as Rudy rides off into the skyline, Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians should learn this lesson from his example: If their ideas can make it here, they can make it anywhere.