Mayor Rudy and the Arrogance of Power

The Bush Administration has been much criticized for a culture of arrogance that has led them to disastrous decisions on the war, spending, civil liberties and just about everything else.

Well if you like the arrogance of the Bush Administration you will love President Giuliani. Mayor Rudy picked fights with the cab drivers, street vendors, recreational drug users, live music venues and probably the best known most tragic – with the Port Authority (see The Grand Illusion, Barrett and Collins). In an ego driven power play Mayor Rudy attempted to starve the Port Authority for cash which contributed to delaying installation of new fire radios in the World Trade Center. According to Barrett and Collins fire fighters died needlessly on 911 as a result.

Like the Bushies, Rudy doesn’t seem to be a stranger to selective reality. Barrett and Collins describe how Rudy took lots of credit for aggressive preparation for terrorist attacks prior to 911 – when in fact he did zip -despite having the nation’s best known terrorist target in his city.

Rudy’s flat-footedness and psychological problems have made lots of news with respect to 911 but let’s not forget all the little people he liked to step on like the cabbies and vendors and pot-smokers.

Let’s take the pot smokers. One study points out that under Rudy’s Broken Windows policy, public-toking arrests rose 2000% from about 2000 in 1994 to over 50,000 by 2000 ( Harcourt & Ludwig, Reefer Madness: Broken Windows Policing and Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests in New York City, 1989-2000 http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=948753). The study also finds that this had no measurable effect on violent crime. Duh – how many violent pot-heads do you know?

Broken Windows might sound to some like a good idea. Basically it goes like this. If you let the bad guys see one (metaphorically) broken window – they think no one is paying attention and they run amok, breaking all the windows in sight. But if you quickly and severely punish the guy who broke the window people realize they can’t get away with it.

Sound good, right? Unfortunately, Rudy’s broken windows policy didn’t apply to Rudy’s buddies in the New York Police Department. An April 1999 article in Crime and Delinquency (Zero Tolerance: A Case Study in Police Policies and Practices in New York City, Judith Greene) points to a 75% increase in new civil rights claims against the police for abusive conduct. The article also points to a sharp increase in the number of complaints which resulted in no arrest and no summons and where there was no suspicion of criminal activity. Um – just why were people being stopped? What was Mayor Rudy’s response to growing concern about police misconduct? According to the article the new Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) funding was cut 17% compared to the agency it replaced.

How about the financial record of “America’s Mayor”? Remember Mayor Mike’s 20-or-so percent tax increases? Guess where all that spending came from. Yeah, Borrow-and-Spend-Rudy left his sidekick Mike with whopping deficits and a huge local recession. Let’s see – can I think of another big-spending, tough-guy Republican who is ready to stick it to the bad guys?

Ok – I guess if you like George Bush then Rudy might be your guy. As for me – I’m ready to wake up from this nightmare – not to double down on it.

Ron

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