THE OPEN MIND
Host: Richard D. Heffner
Guest: Rudolph Giuliani
Title: His Honor, The Mayor
I’m Richard Heffner, your host on The Open Mind. And the other evening I read back over the transcripts two Open Mind programs with today’s guest that I broadcast just a decade ago, finding in my guest once again qualities that I had noted so delightedly at the time: wisdom and a remarkable measure of balance and fair-mindedness and intellect, qualities that unfortunately one isn’t often privileged to associate with public figures in this age of pretension and contention, of reckless charge and political counter-charge.
Well, at that time, my guest was still a prosecutor, a tough-minded United States Attorney who had held the vaunted, tough-on-crime Reagan administration’s number-three law enforcement job as Associate Attorney General of the United States. Even so, he spoke wisely and with restraint on law and order issues, again and again providing measured and balanced insights into issues too easily and too often made the playthings of demagogues: rehabilitation as a goal of punishment, capital punishment, procedural delays in our courts, too-soft or too-tough sentencing, the obligations of lawyers and judges; and so on. Again, everything thought out wisely and well.
Today, Rudolph Giuliani is Mayor of the City of New York, faced with the extraordinary challenges set before every contemporary leader of our great urban centers. And if the particularly insightful speech Mayor Giuliani just gave at Yale Law School about “A New Urban Agenda” is any guide at all, he is bringing to these challenges the same qualities of mind I marveled at a decade ago; qualities that alone can make the turn of the century a turn for the better in our urban fortunes.
So that I would like to begin today’s program by asking Rudy Giuliani just how he would describe and characterize those personal and intellectual imperatives that have, that do, and that will in the future inform his conduct in public life. Fair enough question?
GIULIANI: It’s a tough one, but fair enough. (Laughter)
HEFFNER: What are they? What informs your posture in so many areas?
GIULIANI: I think the most important thing is to try, when you’re dealing with very difficult problems, to find the positive things that are happening, and use them to push you forward. So, if we think about cities, we’ve spent 40 or 50 years thinking about cities from the point of view of their problems, of which there are many, social, criminal, economic, educational. They’re all significant. They all need a great deal more attention. They need a lot more creativity. So, in all that, what we fail to look at are the assets that cities have. How they are the biggest contributors to the wealth of America. Without America’s great cities, America, the American economy would be in shambles, without New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Los Angeles and Boston, Miami, Houston, Dallas. These are the centers of wealth. Bigger contributors than they are receivers of dollars from the federal government. And that concept is one that we’ve kind of lost. We think of cities as a drain on federal tax dollars because of the urban problems. What we don’t think about is, in the balance of payments in this country, cities contribute more to Washington than Washington gives back to cities. New York City’s deficit with the federal government is about $9 billion. We contribute, from New York City, $9 billion more to Washington DC than we receive back in return. And that’s true of most of the major cities in the United States. We are the engines of America’s wealth. Therefore, our being able to handle our problems more effectively is going to mean a real net gain for the American economy.
HEFFNER: It’s interesting, in the speech you gave up at Yale; you talk about other countries, and you make reference to the fact that, in France, they treasure Paris as more than their capitol city, as something very wonderful, something that provides the rest of the nation a great deal of profit and good. Why don’t we do that?
GIULIANI: Maybe because we developed differently. Italy, France, Germany, England, the European nations, by and large, developed from their cities into countries. The Italian city-states predate the nation of Italy. Rome predates the Italian city-states. These were cities. Europe was built around cities. hen they became nations. America was an agrarian society. And I don’t think we’ve ever properly understood the role of cities in the development of a nation.
But, if you think about it this way, you can understand that the same thing is happening in America. Many, many more people develop their notion of America thinking about a city, New York being the primary one. New York is probably better known to many people than America. So it shapes the sense that people have of America. And as the economy becomes more international, as America has to deal more in the international economy, the role of cities become even more important to us. If cities succeed, America gets a larger share of the international economy. If cities fail, America tends to fall behind. So cities do shape a lot of the fate of the American economy, even for suburban areas and for rural areas. And that’s something that we don’t properly appreciate in the political dialogue when we talk about how to deal with our cities.
HEFFNER: Now, does this kind of view fall on accepting ears or deaf ears?
GIULIANI: More and more there’s a technocrat concept that fits all this that’s going on in Washington right now that would allow cities to realize their assets more. It’s called “doing away with unfunded mandates,” where the federal government requires cities and states to do things, and then doesn’t fund whatever it is that’s being required, or underfunds it, or in a very, very particular way tells cities and states how to do things. The movement to lift those mandates, the movement to give more power and discretion to cities, is one that would restore a great deal of autonomy to cities. And I think that could be enormously valuable.
HEFFNER: But, Mr. Mayor, in the years right after the Second World War, you had a governor like Adlai Stevensen in Illinois, and a governor like Earl Warren in California, and these were people who thought that it would be important for the states to take over measures that must be taken, and if that, if they didn’t, then the national government was bound to step in, which is what happened.
GIULIANI: Right, right. And that may very well have been a reflection, and a correct reflection, of what was going on in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, into the ‘50’s, maybe even into some part of the ‘60’s. At some point a major change took place. You have much more capable, much more mature, much more effective city and state governments today than you had before. And Washington DC is much more in gridlock. And this is not just a reflection of today’s administration and Congress; but a reflection of maybe the last 10, 15 years than has been the case before. Most of the new ideas in government today that are circulating come out of cities and states: privatization, the readjustment of how we deal with welfare, the whole idea of workfare. All these things emerge from the grassroots, not from Washington above being dictated down. So a lot of the concepts that are now, the reforms that are going on in government are coming from cities and states that have made major revisions. The federal government is no longer the creative architect. And maybe this is the way it was supposed to have been in the first place. We kind of forgot about the Tenth Amendment, which basically tried to create a government that had a limited federal government, and where there was power reserved, that power was given back to the states.
HEFFNER: But the movement today seems to be in terms of cutting budgets, cutting budgets. And I’m talking now about on the national level. Where are the funds going to come for the states and the cities to do what they think they can do?
GIULIANI: Oh, in the case of New York, if two things were done, then the cutting of the federal budget within acceptable margins would not have any effect at all; it could be beneficial.
HEFFNER: Did that mandate…
GIULIANI: If the mandates were done away with, or many of them were done away with, and in reducing taxes some thought were given to reducing them in a way that leaves more money back in the local and state governments, then that money will remain part of the local economy. New York loses on the tax exchange with Washington. When money is taken out of New York and sent down to Washington, less money comes back. If the money is left in New York then our local economy will benefit from that. So that’s something that, because, I guess, in earlier days, in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s and ‘40’s, maybe into the ‘50’s, local government wasn’t capable of dealing with a lot of problems. Washington felt that it had to do it, or state governments. Far different now. You have reform and very effective mayors in Chicago, in Philadelphia, in Los Angeles, in all of the key cities. You’ve got very different kinds of governments there that are capable of solving problems if you return the resources to them to do it.
HEFFNER: Are you going to be able to sell this point of view?
GIULIANI: I think so. I think it fits very much into this whole notion of trying to realign the relationship between the federal government, the state government, and local governments, and to return more power to the government that’s closest to people so they can make their own decisions about it. How to deal with the problem of welfare is very different in New York than it may be in Texas or in California or in Florida. We have different sets of problems that affect us. We have to have more discretion in being able to work with it within our local context.
HEFFNER: But are you sanguine that throughout the country you will have this positive reaction on the part of, not the cities you mention, but the administrations, the local administrations in enough of the cities to make this a workable concept?
GIULIANI: I think we have to. Because I think a part of the alienation that people feel in government is government is too far away, it’s too abstract. Even a government like New York City’s, which is so large, is almost too big for people to feel and to touch and to access. And try very hard to make it more local. Because people need to feel that government is responsive to their problems.
HEFFNER: Yes , but what seems to be happening is that there is a willingness or a willingness to talk about ending the mandates, but not getting back the monies. I mean, you want both things.
GIULIANI: Yes. And that should happen first. Before we actually make cuts in federal spending. You’ve got to return the resources or the capacity to get your hands on the resources to local and state governments.
HEFFNER: How likely is that to happen?
GIULIANI: It’s likely. It really is likely. I think that the thrust of both the House and Senate is in that direction. And if you pay close attention to the president’s State of the Union speech, that was one of the major focuses of his State of the Union speech. And the president was a governor who fought for these things. So it comes from part of his own political philosophy. So you have here, even though vast disagreement between the president, and even between the two houses of Congress, even though they’re both Republican, this is an area in which there appears to be common agreement. So I think, if we do it right, this is something that can happen.
HEFFNER: You say, “do it right.” That means, as you just suggested, before you cut, you divide up what you have in a very different way.
GIULIANI: Before you cut, you, for example, move from categorical grants, where there’s detailed instructions on how money is used for housing, or how money is used in the areas of the social services. You start to, in essence, move toward block grants, some of them going to states, some of them going directly to cities. And let us make some choices about how we want to spend the money. In one city, it might make more sense for housing to do more public housing. In another city, it might make more sense to encourage more private ownership. That may be the thing that you need. And the federal government shouldn’t be having a formula that applies nationally, but allows you to tailor it to the needs of a particular city. In New York, for example, I want more of the federal money to be able to be used to make people owners of property rather than just tenants, even if we’re talking about a kind of co-op or condominium ownership in the context of low-income housing. Because I’ve seen the good work that home ownership can do in poorer communities. Some of that freedom isn’t there, with the detailed restrictions and regulations that the federal government imposes. If the federal government were to lift that and allow us to make that choice locally, we could get much better use out of those dollars. And even less dollars would get us more of an effect.
HEFFNER: Well, wait a minute. Isn’t that the key? Even less or fewer dollars? Because it seems to me that what we’ve heard more of than devolution, what we’ve heard more of is, “cut taxes. Stop spending money on social programs,” whether they’re in the hands of the officials in Chicago and New York and Los Angeles, or anywhere.
GIULIANI: Part of the problem is we’re spending a great deal of . money but not getting the results that bear any relationship to the amount of money that we’re spending. We’re spending enormous amounts of money on social problems, on education; but we’re not getting the results that we want, because a lot of the money is being spent inefficiently, because it’s being mandated from Washington, and it might fit some abstract formula, but it doesn’t fit what has to be done. In education, for example, we spend $8 billion in the New York City Board of Education. That’s an enormous amount of money. Roughly 70 percent of it is mandated from somewhere, state or federal government. The amount of discretion that you have is very, very small. So, what we would need, more than we need more money is more discretion. To be able to cut the levels of administration, to be able to do away with the formulas for special education, so that we can mainstream more young people. We spend $28,000 a child on children in special education; we spend only $5,000 per child on all the other areas of education. We’ve got to narrow that gap. It’s court mandates that come out of state and federal laws that prevent us from doing that.
HEFFNER: Yeah, but you seem to be avoiding the question of: can we spend less money?
GIULIANI: Yes, Sure.
HEFFNER: Considerably less money.
GIULIANI: I don’t know what “considerably less” is, but yes, we could spend less money. We could spend five, ten, 15 percent less.
HEFFNER: And be more effective?
GIULIANI: I’d make that deal in a minute. I would make a deal in a minute to give me less money but allow the City of New York to decide how to spend that money existing under the mandates that now exist from the state and the federal government in which, very often, you are encouraged to spend money in a way in which you don’t even want to spend it just in order to get your hands on it. The Crime Bill is a good example of that. When the Crime Bill was first proposed, the only way you could get money was if you added more police officers. New York City didn’t need more police officers. We had just built our police department to an all-time high. Philadelphia didn’t need more police officers. We would have been shut out of the program. Or, we would have been motivated to take money, use it for a purpose that we really didn’t need it for. The Clinton Administration and Congress –this is the reason I supported the bill so much –showed the flexibility and the understanding to open up that mandate and allow us to use the money for technology, for hiring civilians, for overtime, which is the thing we needed, that allowed us to access that money.
HEFFNER: But I want to make absolutely certain that I understand you. You’re not simply saying, “let us decide at the local, city, state level the way the funds are to be used. We’ll be more effective. We’ll recognize local needs. And we’ll deal with them better.” You’re saying, “keep 20 percent of what was being spent. Give it back to-the taxpayer, and we’ll still get along better.”
GIULIANI: If you work with us and allow us the flexibility, you can save money. And our governor, Governor Pataki, made a recommendation, “we will save federal dollars if you do that, and let us keep half the federal dollars; the federal government keep the other half as an incentive to reduce spending, to reduce the kind of spending that’s done at the state and local level, but that then results in savings to the federal government.” But the point here is not just arbitrary reductions in spending; but these things have to be worked out with cities and states so that we have the flexibility, if spending is going to be reduced, we have the flexibility to manage that, to make choices locally and not be forced to spend money in a direction that we don’t want to spend money. If this is done in consultation, this can be a very helpful change and redistribution of power to the state and local government. And I believe, philosophically, that’s the direction that both houses in the administration are moving in. Whether they can all get together and we can all get there at the same time is a very big question. (Laughter).
HEFFNER: Are taking bets?
GIULIANI: I don’t think I want to get involved in betting on some kind of national wire communication. I think from my old days as U.S. Attorney that…
HEFFNER: (Laughter). Okay.
HEFFNER: Okay. But you know, up at Yale, when you gave this speech, you said, among so many other very interesting things, you said, “so, rather than having a simplistic response in this to the question of centralized government or devolution of government, that we should reduce the role of the federal government or increase the role of the federal government, I think the discipline we should enter into to have this debate effectively is where, according to our constitutional structure, should we be increasing the role of the federal government and where should we be retracting that role, where is the federal government blown out of proportion from what it was originally intended to do, and where should it grow so that it can in fact carry out its core functions and its responsibilities.” That means you see areas in which the federal government should grow.
GIULIANI: Sure. Absolutely. A perfect example of that is the whole response to immigration, which has led to unfortunate results like Proposition 187 in California, because it hasn’t been dealt with effectively at a national level. The federal government has not effectively dealt with the problem of illegal immigration. State and local governments cannot deal with the problem of illegal immigration. They can’t patrol the border, they can’t conduct foreign policy. So this is a problem that is beyond the control of the state and local government. The federal government has to increase its role there, and has to increase its ability to do border patrol, it has to increase the emphasis to do foreign policy, it has to increase its emphasis on deportation and put more resources into that. That’s an area that has to increase. And if that were done sensibly, and done in the right way –and there we’re not talking about a decrease in federal spending; we’re talking about an increase — that would be just as useful as giving a grant to a state or a city. If the federal government did two or three times more deportations in New York City, that would relieve New York City of an enormous burden that we pay in police services, in incarceration. Three thousand, maybe 4,000 prisoners that we have in city jails are technically illegal or undocumented aliens.
HEFFNER: Would you say the same thing about the war against drugs?
GIULIANI: Yeah, even more so. That’s another area in which state and local governments alone can’t fight that problem. We have a role in that, because we have to deal with the demand, and we have to do a much better job of doing that. But the federal government has to do a much better job of dealing with the supply, the foreign policy, the border patrol. That’s an area in which they should increase their resources rather than decrease. And again, if they did that, then they could have a ten or 15 percent bigger impact on drug trafficking, that would be just as good as making a grant to us because it would relieve us of enormous financial burdens that we now have because of the problem of drugs. Seventy percent or so of the people that we arrest or put in prison are involved in some way with drugs.
HEFFNER: What about health and medical issues? Same thing?
GIULIANI: Yeah, more complicated. Because now you’re dealing with something that is very, very different, handled very differently with very different traditions all over the country. New York City, for example, has a large public hospital system. New York City has 11 acute-care hospitals. No other city in America has that. So, the way we respond to health care in New York is far different than the way people would respond in other cases to health care. To try to have a uniform national health-care policy can run you into the same problems of trying to have a uniform national welfare policy, because our problems are different. That’s a more complicated response for the federal government, and I think that’s something where maybe this analysis that we’re talking about — in areas you increase the role, and in some areas you decrease and give more local discretion — that’s an analysis that has to be followed there. And it may have been the problem in the last health-care debate, that we weren’t following that analysis.
HEFFNER: Let me ask what you meant when you said, at the very end of your speech up at Yale, “America is in the midst of a vast transformation. People became Republican and Democrats for reasons that don’t even exist anymore.”
HEFFNER: What was the implication to that?
GIULIANI: Well, two things. First is the Cold War. There are a lot of people who identified themselves as Republicans or Democrats based on how they thought America should conduct the Cold War. You have whole populations of people who came even from foreign countries who became Republicans or Democrats because of their view of the Cold War. You had a real division on: Should you deal with the Soviet Union from increasing military strength to put pressure on them, or should you deal with the Soviet Union by negotiating with them? People in the first category tended to become Republicans; people in the second tended to become Democrats. The Cold War is over now. Those reasons don’t even exist any longer. Some of the reasons why people became Republicans and Democrats have to do with responses to social problems, where now we’ve gone through the response and people feel, well, it either has worked or hasn’t worked. So I think you have a vast change going on. A lot of the reasons traditionally why people belong to one political party or the other have now shifted, and I think people are rediscovering their identity. And it’s’ really fascinating to see where it’s going to come out.
HEFFNER: Do you think that means there will be the emergence of still another major party?
GIULIANI: That’s really hard. It’s hard to say. It could be. Certainly you can see in some states, in the state of Connecticut, for example, in the last two gubernatorial elections, the governor was elected with, like, 38, 40 percent of the vote. There were five candidates, all of whom would be considered to be significant candidates. You have situations like that happening more now. I think what actually is going to happen after a period of time is we’re going to return to two-party politics, but the two parties are going to have to define themselves differently than they were defined in the past. The dynamics of that are changing now.
HEFFNER: If a party, a third party, or one of the old parties, were to resurface with great strength, what would be its characteristics? What would have to be its characteristics to meet the challenges that you see that we face?
GIULIANI: I think the party that can re-establish a connection between people and government, a positive connection between people and government, is going to be the dominant party. Which may mean, first, describing government more realistically to people, describing what government can actually accomplish, and also describing what government cannot accomplish, and stop pretending that we can. So then we have a realistic chance of succeeding. But when you over-promise that government can do, the war on poverty, the war on drugs, as if we’re going to be able to have unconditional victories in these areas as opposed to producing improvement in these areas, if we become more realistic about what government can do, I think the party that can create that connection again is going to be a dominant party. The Republican Party has a terrific opportunity right now. It just won both houses of the Congress, a great deal of confidence from the American people. But the real test is going to be, over the next year, can the Republican Party produce realistic results. If it can, it’s going to be in a very dominant position for a long period of time. If it can’t, you’re going to see the same disillusionment occur.
HEFFNER: You, from what you said it’s more than a matter of what it can affect. It’s also a matter of what ideas it puts forth, what. notions it puts forth, that it can’t be anti-government.
GIULIANI: You can’t be totally anti-government. You’ve got to, I think, realistically describe what government can do and what government can’t do. When I got elected Mayor of New York City I said there were three priorities that I wanted to establish and stick to as mayor of the city: to reduce crime and make the city safer; to restore private jobs to the City of New York, re-establish the balance in the economy so that we saw the private economy growing; and to restore the schools of New York City, to begin the process of getting more money to the classrooms and the schoolrooms. And I stuck very, very close to that set of priorities, which is why I think people have developed more confidence in me. Because I ran on that platform, and I’ve delivered on it and will continue to deliver on it.
HEFFNER: Thirty seconds. What’s been the downside?
GIULIANI: The only downside is I’m an impatient person; I would like to have produced more in a year, or a little over a year now, than we did in each one of those areas, as well as there are always so many projects and so many things going on, and you feel you have so little time to get it done. And so I think that’s really the, probably the downside is I wish that I had more time, I wish there was more time in a day so that you could achieve more of this. (Laughter).
HEFFNER: Listen, you’re doing doggone well, and maybe that’s why you look younger now than you did when you started.
GIULIANI: (Laughter). You do too.
HEFFNER: Thanks –not for that –but for joining me today, Mr. Mayor.
GIULIANI: Thank you, Richard.
HEFFNER: And thanks too, to you in the audience. I hope you join us again next time. And if you’d like to share your thoughts about our program today, please write: The Open Mind, P.O. Box 7977, FDR Station, New York, NY 10150. For transcripts, send $2 in check or money order.
Meanwhile, as another old friend used to say, “good night and good luck.”