Despite the never-ending clucking about the President’s marriage, and now the amusing spectacle of former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s soon-to-be second divorce, the true subject of American politics isn’t sex. It’s money, that ultimate object of desire and shame, that dirtiest of all secrets in society and state.
Certainly, money is what motivates political loyalty at the commanding heights of the economy, where there are very few illusions about the personal morality of politicians in either party. The average corporate chieftain is understandably reluctant to admit this, and if you ask why he hates Bill Clinton, he could try to persuade you that it’s because of the President’s bad character. But in a more candid mood, the businessman may confide that he has really hated Mr. Clinton ever since the President raised his taxes in 1993.
Money, not sex, is likely to become the hottest issue in the New York Senate race very soon. Neither of the leading candidates to succeed Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is in a position to emphasize “family values,” and that issue has never sold well here, anyway. In the midst of the greatest economic expansion in history, the question is what to do with the Treasury’s anticipated surpluses.
To date, only Hillary Rodham Clinton has offered a forthright answer: Preserve Social Security and Medicare, maintain domestic spending at adequate levels and begin to reduce the national debt. Whatever is then left may be applied to a modest tax cut, aimed largely but not exclusively at the middle class and working families.
Rudolph Giuliani’s mumbling response is that he favors a tax cut, though maybe not quite as big as that proposed by his fellow Republicans in Washington. The normally outspoken Mayor-a man rarely lacking an opinionated opinion on any topic-knows that for most New Yorkers, problems such as deteriorating schools take priority over tax cuts.
That preference, already strongly expressed in opinion surveys, will become even more acute if voters learn the dimensions of the tax and budget cuts that Mr. Giuliani’s comrades on Capitol Hill are planning. The Republican redistribution scheme would turn 25 percent of tax-cut revenue over to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. The next 19 percent of high-income taxpayers would receive half of the tax cut-meaning that three-fourths of the tax cut would further enrich the wealthiest people in the country. The remaining 80 percent of the population would share a measly one-quarter of the G.O.P. tax cut.
It gets worse, particularly if you’re a New Yorker with children but without a six- or seven-figure income. The budget cuts that Congressional Republicans want to impose-since they know that even their wildly optimistic surplus projections cannot finance their tax-cut orgy-will drastically reduce educational and vocational opportunities for New York’s children.
Estimates of the specific impact are available from the Federal Office of Management and Budget, and they show plainly that New York risks losing billions of dollars in critical education funding over the next decade. (Much of that money would show up here, of course, in the form of tax cuts for the needy denizens of Wall Street, Park Avenue and East Hampton. L.I.)
By the year 2009, the Republican budget would cost New York more than $900 million in Title I funding annually, cutting the number of children benefiting from that program by 357,000, or roughly half. Pell grants that help low-income and working-class families send their children to college would likewise be cut in half, costing the state almost $500 million a year and leaving more than 60,000 students without Federal assistance.
New York would also lose more than half of the money the President plans to spend on reducing class sizes in public schools, or about $140 million a year-which will mean about 7,000 fewer teachers in the state’s classrooms. Headstart, a Federal program that even many Republicans admit is an important success, would be halved, depriving 23,000 children of badly needed help.
There is much more statistical data, but numbers on the page can’t convey what these decisions will mean in real life. To snatch opportunity from the most vulnerable young Americans so that the most pampered can have more ought to shock the conscience, which is the effect these proposals had on most moderate Republicans in the Senate.
The Mayor probably disagrees with his party’s Congressional leadership, but he can’t afford to irritate his new friends in Washington.
He already owes them for pushing Representative Rick Lazio of Long Island out of the Republican primary and for inducing Gov. George Pataki to cough up an endorsement. And he will need lavish funding from the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and all the lobbyists controlled by Trent Lott, Mitch McConnell and Tom DeLay.
So money speaks louder than the Mayor. Which raises the strange possibility that most New Yorkers might be better represented by that woman carrying the carpetbag.