As the Washington spending juggernaut steams furiously ahead, Rudolph W. Giuliani offered to toss several monkey wrenches into its gears. Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa, the Republican presidential frontrunner unveiled several attractive ideas to “restore fiscal discipline and cut wasteful Washington spending.” Among them:
*Require that federal agency chiefs propose 5 to 20% spending cuts annually. This would make them streamline their operations and improve services for less money.
*Slash federal civilian employment by 21%. By 2017, 42% of federal workers will retire. President Giuliani would replace only half those vacancies. These 150,000 unfilled bureaucratic slots would save taxpayers $21 billion annually, while sparing Americans that many meddlers and nannies.
*“GAPStat,” a proposed Government-wide Accountability Program, would evaluate federal activities and correct or eliminate failures.
*Place mandatory sunset clauses on all federal programs. Congress would have to rate and reauthorize federal initiatives, or let them expire.
*Require Congressional Budget Office price tags on legislation before voting begins on any bill. No such requirement exists today.
*Make Washington follow the same Generally Accepted Accounting Principles that it demands of publicly traded companies. This would harmonize conflicting accounting systems among, and even within, agencies.
So what? Why believe Rudy would implement these clever plans?
He already has. As mayor, Giuliani used similar reforms to reverse New York’s decline and rejuvenate its finances.
*Giuliani instructed agency managers to suggest annual spending cuts of at least 5%. This enhanced public services and helped keep average annual spending growth 1% below inflation. On Giuliani’s watch, per-capita spending sank 2.4%, some $149 dollars today.
*Despite hiring more cops and teachers, Giuliani reduced city-funded full-time employees from 117,494 to 94,313 — a 19.7% cutback.
*Giuliani’s CompStat system helped NYPD precinct commanders measure crime block-by-block, and then deploy cops where hoodlums hovered. Such savvy manpower allocation helped slash overall crime 57% and homicide 66%.
*Giuliani did this and more while reducing or eliminating 23 taxes, chopping the top tax rate 20.6%, and saving taxpayers $9.8 billion.
Giuliani’s fiscal-discipline program, among his “12 Commitments to the American people,” coincides with his appointment of an Economic Policy Board. It includes flat-tax guru Steve Forbes; supply-side stalwart David Malpass, Bear Stearns’ chief economist;
Hoover Institution economist Michael Boskin; and Annelise and Martin Anderson, the latter President Reagan’s first chief domestic policy advisor, co-editors of the “Reagan in His Own Hand” compilations of the late president’s public-policy writings. These are boldly Reaganite economic hardliners. Tax slicers and budget squeezers should lick their lips in anticipation.
Giuliani’s new commitments and previous achievements require GOP primary voters to decide whether their nominee actually should have accomplished something. Giuliani’s rivals in or recovering from Congress have sponsored bills, some better than others, and conducted oversight hearings. But what have they managed? The former governors among Giuliani’s competitors have run executive branches. Good for them. But none’s tenure can compare to Giuliani’s successful rescue of a deadly, dysfunctional, and indebted metropolis (America’s largest), which he whisked to safety, efficiency, and surplus.
Giuliani did so while Democrats controlled at least 44 of the City Council’s 51 seats, and the New York Times spat venom at him.
It would be refreshing for Giuliani to restrain Washington with his headstrong attitude and his roadmap for fiscal responsibility. Imagine having a president who writes, as Giuliani recently did: “I want to be held accountable for the progress we make as a nation.”
Still, perusing Giuliani’s first-rate prescriptions leaves one melancholy. They resemble those of a conservative Republican aspiring to clean up after liberal Washington Democrats — much like Ronald Reagan preparing to sweep up the litter of Carterism.
Instead, Giuliani’s proposals arrive after 12 recently concluded years of GOP congressional control, half of which coincided with a Republican presidency. What should have been a golden age of limited government swiftly deteriorated into a fiscal bacchanal, with no boondoggle left behind. Brand-new entitlements blossomed while a smothering incompetence enveloped everything from foreign intelligence to hurricane relief and even the timely delivery of get-well cards to hospitalized veterans.
It may take this New York Republican with solid GOP ideas to hose down the mess created by his almost universally feckless party brethren in Washington.