Q: Why would you run for an office that you have no chance of winning?
A: I'm doing it because I was greatly disturbed that none of the candidates were articulating a conservative point of view, a point of view from the neighborhoods of this city, which have been assaulted and plundered for a half a century. I'm also running because no one is addressing the fact that we have to reinvent government in this city, fiscally, economically, and culturally, or we're going right down the tubes. Giuliani and Dinkins have a caretaker mentality. The only thing that's going to be left is the undertaker when they're through, or the financial control board. I don't know which is worse.
Q: Do you think the city will privatize more because George Marlin and the Conservative Party have brought up these issues?
A: I think we left a message in this town. As you go through the city, and I don't care if I'm talking in Bayside, Queens or Washington Heights, there's yearning for people to have some sort of control over their lives. The powers that be don't want to give it to them. I was interviewed by the Village Voice last week for their editorial endorsement. Now I don't expect to get that endorsement, but they confirmed to me a certain arrogance, a social engineering arrogance believing that only they have the answers. Well, they have been running this city into the ground for a half a century, and if we don't begin getting of out that business, the city is fiscally and economically going to collapse and it's going to be worse than 1975.
Q: Do you really believe that the people think the government does too much for them? I get the feeling that people want more from government.
A: Let's take the education system. We have a public educational system in this city that's fundamentally failed. We have a 30% dropout rate. We have 12-year-olds on drugs, 14-year-olds having babies, 16-year-olds shotting one another in the classroom, 18-year-olds getting diplomas they can't read. They're coming out of an educational system, and they are unprepared or incapable of becoming part of the economic base which means they add to the fiscal strain.
But if you go to an area like the South Bronx or Harlem, 80% of the enrollment of parochial schools are non-Catholic. These are parents working two and three jobs to get their kids that chance. When I speak to them about vouchers saying you're entitled to have the same choice rich people have, that Rudy Guiliani has for his kid, that Bill Clinton has for his daughter, Chelsea, to send her to a private school in D.C., I get a standing ovation. They are cognizant of it.
Q: Many middle-class people in this city have a vested interest in keeping government big. Ultimately, you will have to run on the fact that you want to eliminate government, and possibly eliminate jobs.
A: First of all, if you start privatizing services like health and hospitals, like sanitation, it doesn't mean necessarily that all these people are going to get canned. With privatization, you're also going to see new entrepreneurs appearing. The key is you're going to create new jobs with privatization and people who are trained in sanitation are going to find jobs, or create their own companies. It's going to add a spirit to things. Is it perfect? Probably not, but if we don't begin to look at it his way, the city's fiscal base is going to collapse.
Q: Why do many new Yorker have such a difficult time accepting someone with your points of view?
A: From LaGuardia to Lindsay to Dinkins, New York has been a one-ideology town, and the intellectual and political bankruptcy of that ideology is setting in deeper. In 1975, the city defaulted because of a liberal ideology that was fiscally irresponsible. But we had an economic base that was able to bounce back. This time around, we're destroying the city economically and culturally, and we're reaching the end of the rope in an ideology that has failed. Let's remember that LaGuardia, in order to balance his fiscal follies, started raiding the capital projects fund. He showed the way which Lindsay perfected. If it was in the corporate world, they all would have gone to jail. So we're paying now the final price, for 50b years of one ideology.
Q: How would you grade the Dinkins administration, from a fiscal standpoint.
A: In my judgment Dinkins has failed to lead, govern, or administrate. Fiscally, he claims he's balanced budgets, but how has he balanced them? By covering up a structural deficit. We had a $2 billion structural deficit. His general operating budget could be out of whack to the tune of $800 million. Again, they continued increasing the rate of expenditures.
Let's face it: Over the last 10 years, the budget's been up well over 100 and some odd percent when inflation was only up about 50%, so we've outpaced inflation. The mentality is to keep on spending, not worrying about the revenue base, and we're taxing every year more. In effect, we're paying more to get less every year, and the city's excessive tax base is now beginning to wreck the economic base, particularly the small business base, which is 80% of the businesses in the city.
Q: So what would you do?
A: The first thing you have to do is begin zeroing in on the economy to revive it. Eighty percent of the business is small business and we are persecuting them with the unincorporated business tax, commercial lending tax, the hotel occupancy tax. Talk to any businessman and they are being beaten to death by revenue enhancers, such as fines. Go to your deli, go to your dry cleaner and ask them how many times a week they get fined. In New York City, only the big companies get the big sweetheart deals. I'm calling for the elimination of $2.5 billion worth of taxes that are geared towards the economic base to get things cooking again.
Obviously, the return question is you've got a structural deficit -- how do you handle that? I'm calling for a program that would save about $7.5 billion. I'd call for the selling of the land of the Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. [New York State Gov. Mario] Cuomo has already opened the door for that. That could garner up to $2 billion which we would take and apply to bringing down the bonded debt. Next year, I think the principal interest payments in the general operating budget will hit 19.2%. So if we bring down the debt by $2 billion, that helps a little bit. On the other side of the coin, Kennedy and LaGuardia will now go on the property tax rolls and can garner up to $250 million a year. If we have mandated competitive bidding, you could save up to $3 billion a year.
Q: Even on bond deals?
A: Oh yeah, I would do the bulk of bond deals competitively, no doubt about it. I mean obviously you have to do some huge deals where you have to give the industry an opportunity to negotiate the deal, but when it comes to smaller deals, they should be all sold competitively. I've been spending a little time down at City Hall and most of these people are political hacks and PR types. I don't need them around -- I would cut those people by 80%. I'd look to privatize the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation to save $400 million a year there.
Q: Your proposals sound strikingly similar to Giuliani's.
A: No, it's the other way around. If you look at his press releases versus mine, about a week later he gives lip service. Here is a man who four years ago ridiculed privatization and now he sort of pays a lip service to these proposals. Now he's saying, ~well maybe we'll try privatizing a hospital. That was a week after I came out with my proposal. Giuliani has moved to the right on some economic issues. But he has also flip-flopped depending on which way the wind is going, so it comes down to a question of character. Why should I believe a word he says? The most recent example is term limitations. First he refused to sign the term limitations petition. I'm the only candidate for mayor who signed it. When it finally succeeded in the Court of Appeals and was going to appear on the ballot, suddenly he says, ~Oh, I'm for term limitations.' Well where were you? Why did you ridicule privatization four years ago and why is it something substantial now?
Q: Still, many conservatives are voting for Giuliani? The ones I speak with say at least they get economic conservatism from Giuliani, and he's obviously not as liberal as Dinkins.
A: That's where I disagree. Issue after issue when push comes to shove, he comes down as liberal as Dinkins. Remember, this is the man who said in February, at [New York State Sen.] Roy Goodman's dinner, the last great mayor of the City of New York was John Lindsay. This is the man who said on the Gabe Pressman show back in May, I'm going to give the city the kind of change John Lindsay gave it. As I said, he's the super liberal and super fraud at the same time.
Q: AND A: with George Marlin Conservative Party candidate for Mayor of New York City
Except among his colleagues in the municipal bond business and the erudite audience that follows the British author G.K. Chesterton, George Marlin spent most of his life essentially unknown outside his neighborhood in Queens or the offices of the U.S. Trust Co. in Manhattan, where he is a municipal bond portfolio manager.
All that changed last spring when Marlin sought and won the Conservative Party's nomination for New York City mayor.
For Marlin, co-author of books on Chesterton's work as well as the municipal bond market, the mayor's race has given him the opportunity to reach beyond the bar at Harry's at Hanover Square, one of his favorite watering holes, and vent his rage on a much larger stage at "the intellectual and political bankruptcy of the liberal ideology."
At the moment, it's difficult to determine how successful Marlin has been -- either at promoting conservative solutions to the city's economic problems or at promoting his own candidacy.
According to most polls, Marlin, a life-long resident of the city, can expect to receive no more than about 2% of the vote tomorrow, well behind incumbent mayor David N. Dinkins and Republican/Liberal challenger Rudolph W. Giuliani, who are running neck-and-neck.
When the election is over, Marlin may best be remembered for the rubber chicken he pulled from his three-piece suit during a recent debate -- to symbolize Giuliani's cowardice for declining an invitation to the debate.
In an interview with Bond Buyer reporter Charles Gasparino, Marlin says what he thinks is wrong with the city, and what conservative solutions he would implement to the city's social and economic ills.