Bloomberg's Republican economic policy prescriptions

Story Repair | By Mike Alberti |

December 14, 2010 — In a speech to business leaders at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Dec. 8, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed that his policies had “laid the foundation” for what he characterized as “the City’s resurgence.” He also presented himself as post-partisan, saying, “The economic policies that we have pursued to drive this growth have been neither left nor right, liberal nor conservative.”

Bloomberg offered several proposals on economic policy — reforming regulations, cutting business taxes, promoting international trade, investing in job training, and instilling confidence — though he provided no details on their implementation.

what is story repair?

In this feature, we select a story that appeared in one or more major news outlets and try to show how a different set of inquiries or observations could have produced a more illuminating article. For repair this week: “On Economy, Bloomberg Says Washington Is Failing” (New York Times, Dec. 9) and “Bloomberg Rules Out Presidential Run” (New York Times, Dec. 13).

We made editorial decisions: (a) to concentrate on the economic policy aspects of Mayor Bloomberg’s Dec. 8 speech to business leaders and his Dec. 12 appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, something that meant not focusing on important immigration-related statements that he made; and (b) to allocate more space in the repair than in the original stories to allow for an exploration of the substance of the Mayor’s views.

Based on a close examination of the Mayor’s speech, his past record, and feedback from across the ideological spectrum, however, it is clear that his self-described “common sense proposals” on economic policy largely reflect a traditional Republican stance in the echoing of a pro-corporate agenda (although the position he staked out in favor of liberalized global trade reflects a consensus position shared by most Republicans and Democrats in Washington).

John Petro, an urban policy analyst for the Drum Major Institute, a liberal think tank in New York City, noted that some of the mayor’s positions — most notably the pro-immigration position he reiterated in his speech — placed him far to the left of Republican orthodoxy. But in terms of the bulk of his economic policies, Petro said, “it’s completely a boardroom perspective. It’s this idea that what’s best for corporate America is best for Americans generally.”


Limiting regulation

Limiting regulation was a central focus of Bloomberg’s speech, although he disclaimed a deregulatory agenda: “It’s not that we need more or less regulation – it’s that we need smarter regulation.”

The mayor did not detail what he meant by “smarter” regulation, and his office did not respond to a request for clarification made by Remapping Debate.

However, Bloomberg has long been an advocate of financial deregulation. In 2006, he co-authored an editorial in the Wall Street Journal with Senator Chuck Schumer calling for the deregulation of the financial services industry.

John Parrott, chief economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute said, “I think he was saying, ‘don’t change the way Wall Street operates.’ He likes it the way it is.”

Photo credit: Office of the Mayor of New York City.
Mayor Bloomberg giving his speech to business leaders on Dec. 8.

Brooklyn State Assemblyman Peter Abbate — chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Governmental Employees and a member of committees on Banks, Consumer Affairs, and Labor — agreed, saying, “He’s catering to Wall Street.”

Bill Cunningham, the managing director of DKC Marketing, who formerly served as Communications Director for Mayor Bloomberg and who attended the Navy Yard speech, also said that the mayor was primarily addressing financial regulation.

“He’s the mayor of a city that relies on a very regulated industry called Wall Street,” Cunningham said. “He’s not against regulation, but thinks that it really should be brought up to a modern level that fits with the way that this country does business. And when I say this country, Wall Street is this country’s business.”

(Cunningham will also direct the marketing efforts of the Committee to Save New York, a new group of business leaders who want to keep the state government from raising taxes and to curb deficit spending.)

In his Navy Yard speech, the mayor did specifically target “bureaucrats in Washington” who are busy “writing thousands of regulations over the health care and financial services industries,” which, he said, creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and discourages businesses from investing.

Andrew White, the director for New York City affairs at The New School for Management and Urban Policy, called the mayor’s language regarding regulation of the financial services industry “mind-blowing.”

Referring to what he characterized as the under-regulated derivatives market, White said, “That’s the single most important factor for what’s responsible for destroying our economy and hurting a lot of people.”

In connection with his expressed concerns about health care regulation, the mayor did not elaborate on what his proposed solution would be.

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