New York City Democratic Mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio appeared on Al Sharpton's "Politics Nation" (MSNBC) last Thursday. He was comfortable. He was strong. He is the most robust Democratic nominee for Mayor in a long time. I am happy he is the nominee.
Perhaps it is now time for him to 'center' his message a little. The general election campaign begins today. Below I note how two of his policies might be re-introduced as the campaign begins: his proposal for a 1/2 % percent tax surcharge on incomes over $500,000 to pay for universal pre-kindergarten; and community policing.
On the 1/2% percent income tax surcharge:
De Blasio must say more about the economics of the proposal. Most voters are aware of the 'income inequality' argument for this. But de Blasio can deflect the 'class war' charge. He must show skeptics that he has thought seriously about the the proposal's effect on the city's business environment. He might not win votes by speaking directly to 'fiscal conservatives' (Wall St, and big Real Estate, etc.). But maybe he can at least neutralize their instinct to vote for (and contribute to) whoever promises lower taxes.
Three points to be made about the 1/2% tax rise, plus one on the accusation of 'class warfare'.
1. Good for Business argument
This modest tax rise and resulting jobs created should help the local economy by creating more demand for services and goods throughout the city, in all five boroughs.
1a. Keynesian argument
The same argument as above but rephrased in the language of economists. Without saying "Keynes" it would still be good to somehow note that "aggregate demand" would be stimulated.
Globally many economists - like the IMF - say that part of the problem with the global economy (including the weakness of the US recovery) is too much austerity. Over the last decade too many tax cuts for the wealthy and too many subsequent reductions in government spending have led to what economists call "reductions in aggregate demand" .
Perhaps mentioning Warren Buffett's endorsement of a (national) tax increase is best. No need to mention Stieglitiz or Krugman or any hedge fund guys who might agree.
2. Fairness/ compare with Bush Tax Cut
This just puts the modesty of the tax proposal in perspective. Many of those affected by the proposal will realize they have been benefiting from the 5% Bush tax cuts from 2001 for almost an entire decade now; this represents a small (10%) correction.
3. Comparable investment
The plan calls for a small, $500 million investment in a proven strategy for increasing the performance of lower income kids. Most of these children enter school with smaller vocabularies than middle class kids and most never catch up. The preparation provided by full day pre-kindergarten has been shown to especially help these children throughout their schooling and beyond.
Bloomberg has invested $8 Billion simply remodeling schools in pursuit of unproven strategies like creating small schools and unwanted charter schools. That money reduced the classrooms available and so increased overcrowding. And we have nothing to show for it. After 12 years of Bloomberg, three quarters of NYC's eighth graders still can't do eighth grade work.
Universal pre-K represents a much smaller commitment to building up our neighborhood schools, and a clear break with Bloomberg's policy of aggressive neglect of neighborhood schools.
4. "Class warfare" argument - Reagan raised taxes. Bloomberg raised taxes. Nobody accused them of 'class warfare'. We're not talking about raising the overall tax burden to the level it was under President Carter or Reagan or Clinton. It is just a very small change.
On Community Policing
Crime and community safety are important to many 'Reagan democrats' or whatever you'd like to call them. The Republicans are excellent at pandering and fear mongering. De Blasio can set the record straigjht.
1. Rudy Giuliani often walks around like he invented crime fighting. As we all know, crime went up under Mayors Lindsey, Beame and Koch.
2. But if you only listen to Rudy Giuliani, I doubt you know which modern mayor first led the reduction in crime? The answer is David Dinkins.
De Blasio can say "I should know. I was there."
Mayor David Dinkins led a lot of the initiatives to reduce crime. He hired thousands of officers to the force, increasing the force by 25%. He pushed the sort of community policing we want to extend in the next four or eight or maybe twelve years (if de Blasio can borrow some money from Mayor Bloomberg).
Giuliani's reputation, ambition and pride leads him to act like he was the first to reduce crime. The mainstream media tends to accept this. But the turnaround, the implementation of the metrics, all that was started under Dinkins, and de Blasio can say 'I am proud to have served in his administration. And I want to continue his effective policies as well as those of his successors that don't create unwarranted civil rights violations'.