Opinion
New York City New York City's skyline. Robert Glusic/Getty Images.  

BEDFORD: Bill de Blasio isn’t going to destroy New York City (for a while)

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Christopher Bedford
Managing Editor

Bill de Blasio was sworn in as mayor of New York City Wednesday amid promises of “a new progressive direction in New York” and an end to the Bloomberg “plantation.”

The far left applauded the election, envisioning a progressive renaissance led by Mr. de Blasio and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Even while CNN’s Jake Tapper opined on the unusually exclusionary, partisan nature of the inauguration, Bill Clinton hitched his — and his wife’s — wagon to the train, breaking script to “strongly endorse Bill de Blasio’s core campaign commitment.” (VIDEO: Sabato: Bill Clinton’s progressive NY speech was to help position Hillary for 2016)

And while understandably worried about an unrepentant socialist running America’s greatest city, many on the right have predicted a public failure for the Big Apple’s social experiment. Some even sound a little excited at the prospect. What better drama to prove conservatives right than a shining city on an island brought low by liberalism unconstrained?

But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Detroit wasn’t destroyed in one either.

Margaret Thatcher famously quipped that the trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money. Perched atop the commanding heights of one of the richest cities in the world, Mr. de Blasio has a lot — a lot — of other people’s money, meaning the worst consequences of his policies won’t be felt for years.

One of the key philosophies that saved New York City was the broken window theory — the concept that an ugly, littered, rotting community is self-perpetuating; that crime, welfare dependence and broken families beget crime, welfare dependence and broken families. By spending years rebuilding damaged communities as well as cracking down on trash, criminals, graffiti, pimps, prostitutes and grime, Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg not only helped their city to flourish, they banished the culture of acceptance that held it down.

In 1993, the year before Mr. Giuliani took office, there were 1,960 homicides in New York City — among the highest levels in the country. In 2013, as Mr. Bloomberg left office, the number was 333 — one of the lowest rates in the country. But a 20-year-old New Yorker wouldn’t recognize how dramatic the changes have been. New Yorkers below the legal drinking age have never lived a year without those two mayors in charge. Sure, they can catch a glimpse of 1993 through a hip art exhibit that allows them to hear stories about having “to walk in the middle of the street” in the now-glitzy Meat Packing District because the rats were “as big as cats,” but today, walking down the bustling sidewalks and glittering  avenues, don’t expect them to remember how bad things were — and how things got back on track.

It’s a combination of this short memory and the common human failure to appreciate the hard work of others that allows men like Mr. de Blasio to win in the first place. After years of growth in wages and living standards under sound economic governance, the Bill de Blasios of the world find an ear when they call to rob the men and women who drive the growth and hand the loot out to their constituents. (TREACHER: God forsakes Bill de Blasio’s mayorship)

But as mentioned, it’s a sizable haul, and the conservatives predicting imminent anarchy will find themselves more disappointed than the progressives predicting the end of inequality.

They say everything can change in a New York minute. But it took Messrs. Giuliani and Bloomberg over 6.3 million of those to fix the mess that Mr. de Blasio’s predecessors had made, and it will take a few more for the new mayor’s worst policies to be felt.

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