Republican primary voters should rally around the GOP field’s most accomplished supply-sider, the all-but-announced Rudolph W. Giuliani. Having sliced taxes and slashed Gotham’s government, New York’s former mayor is the leading fiscal conservative among 2008’s GOP presidential contenders.
Before Giuliani’s January 1, 1994 inauguration, New York’s economy was on a stretcher. Amid soaring unemployment, 235 jobs vanished daily. Financier Felix Rohatyn complained: “Virtually all human activities are taxed to the hilt.” Punitive taxes helped fuel a $2.3 billion deficit.
Mayor-elect Giuliani sounded Reaganesque when he announced he would “reduce the size and cost of city government” to balance the budget. In his first State of the City address, he said: “We’re going to cut taxes to attract jobs so our people can work.”
Giuliani spent eight years keeping these promises.
“America’s Mayor” cut or killed 23 levies, saving taxpayers $9.8 billion. Giuliani pared Gotham’s top income-tax rate by 20.6%. Washington, D.C.’s CFO reported that between 1993 and 2001, local taxes on a family of four New Yorkers earning $50,000 fell 23.7%.
Giuliani cut the commercial-rent tax, curbed sales taxes, and curtailed the marriage penalty on taxpaying couples. Giuliani proudly shaved Gotham’s hotel tax from 6% to 5 in 1994. Consequently, that tax’s revenues soared from $135 million in Fiscal Year 1995 to $239 million in FY 2001.
Giuliani defends his supply-side instincts with bracing candor. Asked after September 11 if he would hike taxes, Giuliani called that “a dumb, stupid, idiotic, and moronic thing to do.”
Giuliani’s expenditure growth averaged 2.9% annually, while local inflation between January 1994 and December 2001 averaged 3.6%. His FY 1995 budget decreased outlays by 1.6%, while his post-9/11 FY 2002 plan lowered appropriations by 2.6%.
If President Bush had followed Giuliani’s example and limited Washington’s spending to 2.9% average, annual growth, the just-unveiled FY 2008 federal budget would cost $2.275 trillion, not $2.9 trillion, saving taxpayers $625 billion, the Cato Institute’s Stephen Slivinski estimates. Such Giulianian fiscal discipline would generate a $386 billion surplus, not an anticipated $239 billion deficit.
Giuliani repeatedly privatized municipal assets. Giuliani sold WNYC radio for $20 million, WNYC-TV for $207 million, and Gotham’s share of the U.N. Plaza Hotel for $85 million. Divesting the New York Coliseum excised an eyesore from Columbus Circle and added $345 million to city coffers. Giuliani also let the private Central Park Conservancy manage Manhattan’s fabled urban forest.
These eight years of tax reduction and fiscal responsibility helped hammer unemployment from 10.4 percent in 1993 to 5.7 percent in 2001. Simultaneously, personal income advanced 53 percent.
It’s hard to compare a two-term ex-mayor, a one-term governor, and a four-term U.S. senator. Nevertheless, Cato’s 2006 gubernatorial report card gives former Massachusetts chief executive Mitt Romney a “C.” While the top personal tax rate fell 6 percent on his watch, thanks to a referendum voters approved before he arrived, Romney’s first budget raised $140 million by closing corporate-tax loopholes. It also featured some $501.5 million in increased fees, including higher marriage licenses (from $4 to $50), pricier gun permits ($25 to $100), a $100 biannual fee for volunteer firefighters (rescinded under pressure), and a $10, previously free, ID card that lets the blind ride Boston public-transit gratis.
Few in Congress expose outrageous federal boondoggles as fervently as does John McCain. However, he is an ambivalent tax fighter. According to Club for Growth research, McCain opposed President Clinton’s 1993 tax increases and supported his 1997 capital gains tax cuts. He also voted to extend President Bush’s 2003 tax cuts. For 2005, McCain earned a 78% National Taxpayers Union rating — an “A.”
Unfortunately, McCain opposed President Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. McCain voted against repealing the Death Tax in 2002. Also, in 1998, McCain embraced former Sen. Tom Daschle’s (D.-S.D.) motion to approve Big Tobacco’s Master Settlement Agreement, including a $1.10-per-pack cigarette-tax increase.
“I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues,” McCain conceded to Wall Street Journal editorialist Stephen Moore. “I still need to be educated.”
Conservatives seeking a proven leader to lasso taxes and rein in runaway spending have a natural choice for President: Rudolph W. Giuliani.