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January 30, 2007

Rudy the Reaganite

I've held off linking this because it's so long it's hard to excerpt. But the City Journal makes a persuasive case for Guiliani, the small-government, personal-accountability free-marketeer:

But in a GOP presidential field in which cultural and religious conservatives may find something to object to in every candidate who could really get nominated (and, more important, elected), Giuliani may be the most conservative candidate on a wide range of issues. Far from being a liberal, he ran New York with a conservative’s priorities: government exists above all to keep people safe in their homes and in the streets, he said, not to redistribute income, run a welfare state, or perform social engineering. The private economy, not government, creates opportunity, he argued; government should just deliver basic services well and then get out of the private sector’s way. He denied that cities and their citizens were victims of vast forces outside their control, and he urged New Yorkers to take personal responsibility for their lives. “Over the last century, millions of people from all over the world have come to New York City,” Giuliani once observed. “They didn’t come here to be taken care of and to be dependent on city government. They came here for the freedom to take care of themselves.” It was that spirit of opportunity and can-do-ism that Giuliani tried to re-instill in New York and that he himself exemplified not only in the hours and weeks after 9/11 but in his heroic and successful effort to bring a dying city back to life.

The entrenched political culture that Giuliani faced when he became mayor was the pure embodiment of American liberalism, stretching back to the New Deal, whose public works projects had turned Gotham into a massive government-jobs program. Even during the post–World War II economic boom, New York politicians kept the New Deal’s big-government philosophy alive, with huge municipal tax increases that financed a growing public sector but drove away private-sector jobs. Later, in the mid-1960s, flamboyant mayor John Lindsay set out to make New York a poster child for the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty, vastly expanding welfare rolls, giving power over the school system to black-power activists, and directing hundreds of millions of government dollars into useless and often fraudulent community-based antipoverty programs. To pay for all this, Lindsay taxed with abandon. The result: sharply increasing crime, a rising underclass inclined to languish on welfare rather than strive to uplift itself, a failing school system that emphasized racial grievance and separateness, and near-bankruptcy.

When Giuliani’s predecessor, David Dinkins, came into office—thanks to voters’ hopes that as the city’s first black mayor, he’d defuse Gotham’s intense racial tensions—he wholly embraced the War on Poverty’s core belief that the problems of the urban poor sprang from vast external forces over which neither they nor the politicians had much control. Under Dinkins, the city’s welfare rolls grew by one-third, or some 273,000 people. By 1992, with some 1.1 million New Yorkers on welfare, the city’s political leadership seemed stuck on dependency, too. Dinkins became the chief proponent of a tin-cup urbanism, constantly hounding Washington and Albany with demands and grim warnings about what would happen if they were not met.

...

By the time Giuliani challenged Dinkins for a second time, in 1993 (his first try had failed), the former prosecutor had fashioned a philosophy of local government based on two core conservative principles vastly at odds with New York’s political culture: that government should be accountable for delivering basic services well, and that ordinary citizens should be personally responsible for their actions and their destiny and not expect government to take care of them. Giuliani preached the need to reestablish a “civil society,” where citizens adhered to a “social contract.” “If you have a right,” he observed, “there is a duty that goes along with that right.” Later, when he became mayor, Giuliani would preach about the duties of citizenship, quoting the ancient Athenian Oath of Fealty: “We will revere and obey the city’s laws. . . . We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public sense of civic duty. Thus in all these ways we will transmit this city not only not less, but far greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

...

To those of us who observed Giuliani from the beginning, it was astonishing how fully he followed through on his conservative principles once elected, no matter how much he upset elite opinion, no matter how often radical advocates took to the streets in protest, no matter how many veiled (and not so veiled) threats that incendiary figures like Al Sharpton made against him, and no matter how often the New York Times fulminated against his policies. In particular, offended by the notion that people should be treated differently and demand privileges based on the color of their skin, Giuliani was fearless in confronting racial extortionists like Sharpton. Early in his tenure, he startled the city when he refused to meet with Sharpton and other black activists after a confrontation between police and black Muslims at a Harlem mosque. And though activists claimed that Giuliani inflamed racial tensions with such actions, there were no incidents during his tenure comparable with the disgraceful Crown Heights riot under Dinkins, in which the police let blacks terrorize Orthodox Jews for several days in a Brooklyn neighborhood.

For Giuliani, the revival of New York started with securing public safety, because all other agendas were useless if citizens didn’t feel protected. “The most fundamental of civil rights is the guarantee that government can give you a reasonable degree of safety,” Giuliani said. He aimed to do so by reinstituting respect for the law. As a federal prosecutor in New York in the 1980s, he had vigorously hunted low-level drug dealers—whom other law enforcement agencies ignored—because he thought that the brazen selling of drugs on street corners cultivated disrespect for the law and encouraged criminality. “You have to . . . dispel cynicism about law enforcement by showing we treat everyone alike, whether you are a major criminal or a low-level drug pusher,” Giuliani explained.

...

Giuliani’s success against crime wasn’t merely the singular achievement of a former prosecutor. He applied the same principles to social and economic policy, with equally impressive results. Long before President Bush’s “ownership” society, Giuliani described his intention to restore New York as the “entrepreneurial city,” not merely providing the climate for new job creation but also reshaping government social policy away from encouraging dependency and toward reinforcing independence.

New York had gone in the opposite direction starting in the mid-1960s, when Lindsay had drastically increased welfare rolls, believing many of the poor too disadvantaged ever to succeed and thus needing to be permanently on the dole. The Gotham welfare bureaucracy saw signing people up as its goal, while an entire industry of nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups arose to cater to and contract with the city’s vast welfare system. Budget documents from the Dinkins years projected an eventual 1.6 million people on welfare. “The City of New York was actually quite successful in achieving what it wanted to achieve, which was to encourage the maximum number of people to be on welfare,” Giuliani later explained. “If you ran a welfare office, . . . you had a bigger budget, and you had more authority, if you had more people on welfare.”

Giuliani decided to launch a welfare revolution, moving recipients from the dole to a job. Mindful that for years the city’s welfare bureaucracy had focused on signing up new recipients (Lindsay’s welfare chief had been nicknamed “Come And Get It” Ginsberg), the Giuliani administration first set out to recertify everyone in the city’s own home-relief program to eliminate fraud. In less than a year, the rolls of the program (for able-bodied adults not eligible for federal welfare programs) declined by 20 percent, as the city discovered tens of thousands of recipients who were actually employed, living outside the city, or providing false Social Security numbers.

Giuliani then instituted a work requirement for the remaining home-relief recipients, mostly men, obliging them to earn their checks by cleaning city parks and streets or doing clerical work in municipal offices for 20 hours a week. Welfare advocates vigorously objected, and one advocate pronounced the workfare program “slavery.” The New York Times editorialized that most people on home relief were incapable of work.

Giuliani persisted, and when Congress finally passed welfare reform in 1996, giving states and cities broad powers to refocus the giant, federally funded welfare program for mothers and children, Giuliani applied many of the same kinds of reforms. He hired as welfare commissioner Jason Turner, the architect of welfare reform in Wisconsin, which had led the nation in putting welfare recipients back to work. Turner promptly converted the city’s grim welfare intake offices into cheerful and optimistic job centers, where counselors advised welfare recipients on how to write a resumé and provided them with skills assessment and a space they could use to look for work.

By 1999, the number of welfare recipients finding work had risen to more than 100,000 annually, and the welfare rolls had dropped by more than 600,000. It took steadfast courage to win those gains. “The pressure on Rudy during these years was enormous,” says Richard Schwartz, a Giuliani policy advisor. “The advocates and the press trained their sights on us, just waiting for something to go wrong in these workfare programs.”

As part of Giuliani’s quintessentially conservative belief that dysfunctional behavior, not our economic system, lay at the heart of intergenerational poverty, he also spoke out against illegitimacy and the rise of fatherless families. A child born out of wedlock, he observed in one speech, was three times more likely to wind up on welfare than a child from a two-parent family. “Seventy percent of long-term prisoners and 75 percent of adolescents charged with murder grew up without fathers,” Giuliani told the city. He insisted that the city and the nation had to reestablish the “responsibility that accompanies bringing a child into the world,” and to that end he required deadbeat fathers either to find a private-sector job or to work in the city’s workfare program as a way of contributing to their child’s upbringing. But he added that changing society’s attitude toward marriage was more important than anything government could do: “[I]f you wanted a social program that would really save these kids, . . . I guess the social program would be called fatherhood.”

I hope City Journal doesn't mind this very long excerpt. I'll try to make up for my transgression by strongly urging all to read the whole thing -- I've cut out all the stuff about race, crime, etc., which most know about. There's a lot there.

One thing I look for in a candidate is the ability to look straight at the New York Times and network news departments and say "Va fan cuul."

As someone who lived there, I can testify Giuliani not only did that on a daily basis, sometimes he'd seem eager to go out of his way to piss these people off.

Sometimes the measure of a man can be estimated by the enemies he's made. By that metric, Giuliani comes off pretty well.

Now, compare that to John McCain.

Plus, consider the fact that it's relaltively easy to sell Reaganism in the South and West. How about in Gotham, Gamorrah on the Hudson? Not so much.

So those who knock Giuliani for not being Simon Pure on conservativism ought to remember he was bringing the creed to the pagans. And, like early missionaries, sometimes one needs to bend a little on the details ("See, Jesus is kind of like Thor...") to sell the religion at all.

I can't believe I'm pimping this pezzanovante so hard and his people have never even sent me an email.

digg this
posted by Ace at 06:31 PM

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