Bill de Blasio — another Obama?

By MARTY GOODMAN

 — NEW YORK — Democrat Bill de Blasio was elected mayor on Nov. 5, garnering an impressive 73% of the vote, compared to Republican Joe Lhota’s 24%. The turnout was light, however; according to the New York Daily News, only 22%-25% of the city’s voters cast ballots. The article that follows appeared in Socialist Action newspaper several days before de Blasio’s election victory.

The Bill de Blasio mayoral campaign has garnered rapt comparisons to the excitement generated by the 2008 Barack Obama campaign. De Blasio has a history of support to the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution and spent his honeymoon in Cuba with his African American wife. But that was a long time ago. Like Obama, De Blasio will certainly let down his working-class supporters. He belongs to the Democratic Party wing of the U.S. capitalist class, the deathbed of all social struggles.

On Oct. 5, de Blasio, told the Association for a Better New York, a business group, “I’m a fiscal conservative.” He then repeated, “I’m a progressive activist fiscal conservative, but I’m still a fiscal conservative.”

Nevertheless, polls give de Blasio a remarkable 64% of the vote, a massive lead over his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, former head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The working-class majority is plainly disgusted with three terms of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The vote is Nov. 5.

De Blasio’s popular narrative has been that New York has become “A Tale of Two Cities,” from the title of the Charles Dickens novel about 18th-century Paris and London, to make the point that New York is sharply divided by riches and poverty. It’s an apt characterization. New York is the most unequal city in the U.S. The richest 1 percent of New Yorkers claimed almost 39% of the city’s income share in 2012—up from 12% in 1980.

The city’s poverty rate rose to 21.2 percent in 2012. Over 1.7 million New Yorkers live below the official federal poverty line ($23,314 for a family of four). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 31 percent of the city’s children live in poverty. Some 50,000 men, women, and children are homeless. According to the Economic Policy Institute, an average family of four in New York needs a $93,000-a-year income to live modestly. Yet, median household income in 2012 was about $49,500.

There’s more. A racist police “stop and frisk” policy targets African Americans, overwhelmingly innocent youth, accompanied by high profile cop murders of African American youth like Marley Graham and Kamani Gray.  According to 2012 NYPD “stop and frisk” data for 2012 New Yorkers were stopped by cops 533,042 times. 89% were found totally innocent; 55% were Black, 32% were Hispanic and 10% white.

De Blasio rode the popular outrage to political gain. He has stopped short of rejecting “stop and frisk” and has recently found himself in the company of the rich—including face-to-face sessions with Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Phillipe Dauman, the CEO of Viacom, and the owners of New York’s two major tabloids: Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman.

Moreover, de Blasio has expressed admiration for the Democratic politicians and the Democratic Party-aligned labor misleaders during New York’s economic crisis of the late 1970s who agreed upon a mass layoff of about 60,000 public workers and drastic public services cuts demanded by the banks.

Bloomberg has stonewalled every public union in contract negotiations. Many have been without a contract for years. De Blasio, who heavily courted and won support from big unions like SEIU 1199 hospital workers, has refrained from committing to a raise without the givebacks that Bloomberg demanded. “I’m not here to tell them how much they’re gonna hate me. I’m here to tell them that we are going to get to a deal and balance our budget,” said the Democrat.

De Blasio has positioned himself as a crusading “tax the rich” Democrat. Yet his only plan is to fund pre-kindergarten and afterschool programs with a puny 1/2% tax on those making over $500,000. Taxing Wall Street stock trades, for example, could bring in many more billions each month—a strategy de Blasio has refused to embrace. Like all Democrats and Republicans, de Blasio offers no mass jobs plan, stranding millions of New Yorkers to live in poverty and hopelessness—if they’re not cut down by racist cops.

When de Blasio’s wife Chirlane replied to media questions about the strange contrasts between her husband’s populist image and his many face-to-face meetings with Wall Street hedge-fund tycoons and media barons, she replied, “People change, because they have to grow in order to live.”

Socialists point out that working people need a party of their own, a fighting labor party. The labor movement must reject supporting any Democrat. This “progressive” Democrat, if elected, is destined to disappoint and enrage his former supporters.

Photo: Bill de  Blasio (left) shares a laugh with other Democrats at a campaign press conference.