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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn On New Yorkers’ Amnesia Of How Bad It Was In The 70s

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HH: But we begin, and how appropriately so, on the first live show of 2014 with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. Hello, Mark, Happy 2014.

MS: Hey, yeah, Happy New Year, and congratulations on the book, Hugh. It’s the perfect match of author and subject, because you are the optimistic man. And I sometimes feel that leads you a little bit astray on the political field, but this is perfect terrain for you, all the important stuff.

HH: Well, whenever I start to go like the floating uncle in Mary Poppins, I go get my After America book down and read a few chapters, and then I’m back on the ground. In fact, I was thinking about…

MS: The Happiest Life and After America should probably be published in a joint edition. You know, you start one from one end, and then flip it over and read from the other end.

HH: I’m thinking about sending you a giant T-shirt with The Happiest Life on it for your Steynomite tour. I’m looking at you Steynomite tour in Florida, February 9th through 13th. Very few people will perceive this is actually a very shrewd play for the early New Hampshire showbird vote for your Senate race, isn’t it?

MS: That’s true, and like every, like half the population of Toronto and Montreal, I’m headed to Florida for February. And I’m hoping to get a big chunk of the New Hampshire snowbird vote while I’m down there.

HH: You know, everyone should know if they are in Jacksonville, St. Pete, Fort Pierce, Fort Myers or Miami, I’ll bet you sell out this tour entirely like your Australia tour. They ought to go to if they want to book the tickets before that happens, beginning February 9th. All right, I’m in De Blasio land, Mark. Let me give you a little taste of what I watched live from a 44th Street hotel room yesterday. Here is the new mayor New York, of course setting a new tone.

BDB: Now of course, I know that our progressive vision isn’t universally shared. Some on the far right continue to preach the virtues of trickle down economics. They believe that the way to move forward is to give more to the most fortunate, and that somehow the benefits will work their way down to everyone else.

HH: So Mark Steyn, do you suppose because it was so cold, he just wanted a giant straw man to light on fire?

MS: Yeah, that’s pretty much it, isn’t it? The richest 1% in New York City provide 50% of the city’s revenues. The richest 1% provide 50% of the revenue. I wonder what figure he could tell us he thinks they should pay. Should they pay 65%? Should they pay 80%? People in New York, you know, you have to be above a certain age to remember what that city was like in the 1970s and 80s, and you have to still be living there. A lot of New York’s population is transient. I happened to catch a bit of a PBS special on Marvin Hamlisch, the composer of A Chorus Line. And it showed some scenes of Broadway in the year A Chorus Line opened in 1975. It showed Times Square when Times Square was the kind of place where you’d be lucky to get across it without being mugged in broad daylight. That city was dysfunctional. You take the rich people out of that city, and what you’re left with is basically an East Coast version of Detroit.

HH: Yeah, Mark, I moved here in 1980, in February of 1980, and I honestly would come out of the hotel on 44th Street and not know if I could go one block left or right without getting beat up. It was truly a horrific place to live. And he’s talking about an equality crisis, Mayor De Blasio is. I just got back from South America. I toured the favelas of Rio.

MS: Right.

HH: I went down to the river slums of Buenos Aires. You want an equality crisis, that’s an equality crisis. He just doesn’t really seem to know the difference.

MS: No, and I think that’s testimony, I mean, essentially what Nanny Bloomberg and Giuliani did was make the city safe for a guy like this De Blasio guy to be elected to office. And that’s a gamble. I mean, as you said in 1980, I remember when I first used to go to New York, and I got to the stage a couple of years ago where they’d cleaned it up so much. You know, I was walking with a couple of show biz pals past the New Amsterdam theatre, and we were saying oh, my, for Heaven’s sake, Times Square, it’s just so Disnified and antiseptic and clean. Do you remember the good old days when on this block you couldn’t walk eight feet without being mugged by a transsexual hooker? Whatever happened to that Manhattan with all its richness and character? And I think essentially, that’s what’s gripped New Yorkers, is that their memories of how bad it can be have absolutely vanished.

HH: Yeah, they complain about the M&M store, and forget that peep shows were around the clock in that neighborhood.

MS: Yeah.

HH: Well, this morning, when I was doing Morning Joe, Steve Rattner was one of the panelists, and he looked at me, Mika was very welcoming, as was Harold Ford. But Rattner kind of wore a look of disappropriation, of looking at me like I was from Mars. And he said what do you think the government needs to do for the poor? And I said for example, in my hometown in Northeast Ohio, they could just let people start fracking. They could let them go and get the energy out of the ground, and you wouldn’t believe what my Twitter feed lit up with, Mark Steyn. The left in this country doesn’t understand how you really help poor people.

MS: No, and you know, I could tell you similar stories from broken downtowns across the Connecticut River from me in Vermont’s northeast kingdom, which you know, it’s not about what the government can do for you. It’s about creating conditions whereby you’re able to do things for yourself, because no matter how generous your welfare programs are, a satisfying life, a life of dignity, a life of self-respect, comes from being able to support your family, and be able to assume the responsibilities of a freeborn individual yourself. And the idea that somehow we now have trans-generational poverty in this country, trans-generational welfare, I mean, basically, that’s what people came to America to get away from. That’s exactly what they came to the city you’re in. They got off the boat at Ellis Island, because their ancestors had been peasants in the 13th Century, and they were peasants in the 19th Century, and they didn’t want to be peasants in the 20th Century. And now the government is basically miring them in that in perpetuity.

HH: And the most interesting aspect of this morning’s show, sad to say, it wasn’t the discussion of my wonderful book, The Happiest Life. It was, in fact, Brian Sullivan, CNBC correspondent, telling the story about how his dad lost his job in San Diego 30 years ago, was completely unemployed, they piled into a car, they moved to Southern Virginia, they lived in a three bedroom house with one bathroom, his dad clawed his way back, had no job, no money, and Brian Sullivan is a very successful, very accomplished correspondent now. And that’s the American way. And it was very inspiring. Everyone kind of stopped and said wow.

MS: But it should be the American way, Hugh. He’s right. It should be the American way. But the sad fact is America now has less social mobility than all the countries people came to America to get away from. In other words, less social mobility, not just in Canada and Australia, but Britain and Europe, too. And the reason for that is because the Democratic Party has found it’s in its electoral interest to maintain tens of millions of people as a permanent dependent class. So they can, there’s the ruling class, and there’s the dependent class. and the escalator between the two is slower than at any time in American history. Americans should be ashamed of that. That’s un-American.

HH: And to close our first segment, I must give you the ironic headline of the year, and it may last. Access to health care may increase ER visits, studies suggest, from this afternoon’s New York Times website, Mark Steyn.

MS: Yeah, well, we were told, we were told that one of the reasons we had to have Obamacare was people use the emergency rooms of hospitals as a kind of family doctor, because they didn’t have health insurance, so they went to the emergency room. And you can bet your bottom dollar the lines and the waits at emergency rooms are only going to get even longer from Obamacare. That’s some kind of genius at work there.

HH: Have you had your first Obamacare letter? Both my wife and I got letters two days before I left California telling me we could no longer use our back doctor of choice. They were out of network. My promise, the President has already just screwed up my health care, and I just wonder if you’ve got yours, yet.

MS: No, well don’t forget, I’m 20 minutes south of the Canadian border, so my out of network doctor is actually…

HH: …is out of country.

MS: My out of network doctor is what we call the rest of the world around here.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure. The Steynomite tour gets underway on February 9th, America. Go to to get your tickets now, or you will be left behind. Don’t get left behind.

End of interview.


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