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New York Daily News


What De Blasio's Speech Left Out

January 02, 2014

By Daniel DiSalvo

The mayor made a few major omissions, including an honest look at tough fiscal realities

In his inaugural address, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio offered an unapologetically progressive agenda framed by his campaign theme of the “crisis” of economic inequality.

Skipping over the recent successes of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, de Blasio reached back to the 1930s and placed his new administration in the liberal tradition of FDR and LaGuardia. That tradition, he claimed, is the city’s real DNA.

His programmatic agenda includes his signature idea of taxing the rich to pay for an expansion of pre-k and after-school programs, as well as other priorities such as paid sick leave, affordable housing and reform of the NYPD.

But there is a huge gap between the policy tools at the mayor’s disposal and the scope of his call “to end social and economic inequality.”

Income inequality, vast as it is, is more likely a sign than a source of the obstacles facing poor and middle-class New Yorkers. These include high taxes and nuisance fees, red tape that constrains businesses and the crazy quilt of housing laws that drive up rents.

New York may have liberal DNA, but that DNA also happens to be responsible for creating some of the city’s most daunting problems. To be sure, de Blasio’s speech was bold — but mainly in what it ignored.

The new mayor inherits massive budgetary challenges. Among these are labor negotiations with the city’s public sector unions and rising legacy costs, namely pensions and healthcare. De Blasio mentioned none of this in his speech.

The unions’ demand for back pay — $7 billion or more in retrospective raises — would bust the budget. De Blasio has said repeatedly he won’t negotiate in public. But he once again skipped a chance to indicate a broader approach on this important issue.

Increasing pension and healthcare liabilities for the city’s retirees now constitute a third of the city’s budget. Spending on these two items far outpaces spending on affordable housing, new transportation infrastructure or pre-k education.

De Blasio also failed to face up to other budgetary problems on the horizon. As the Federal Reserve pulls back on quantitative easing, which has goosed stock values, city tax revenues may take a hit. And de Blasio’s sick-leave and living-wage proposals will add costs to doing business in the city. A slowing of job growth is a real possibility.

Besides economic reality, the mayor faces few obstacles to advancing his agenda — except perhaps his own managerial inexperience, which has led to the slowest formation of a city government since 1966.

The other important elected positions in city government — the City Council speaker and public advocate — are likely to be liberal de Blasio allies. They will make the mayor appear to be a centrist. Neither is likely to be very critical. Rarely have there been so few pockets of political opposition to a new mayor.

All told, de Blasio offered a full-throated liberal agenda that ignored some of the problematic legacies of the city’s past liberalism. If the new mayor can’t figure out a way to solve the city’s structural budget problems, there will be little money left over for programs to combat income inequality.

Original Source:



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