THE STREETS WERE PAVED WITH GOLD by Ken Auletta
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THE STREETS WERE PAVED WITH GOLD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

To blame everything and everybody is to blame nobody. On that stringent note, newsman Auletta, who has seen New York's fiscal crisis stretch into chronic beggary, reviews its causes and fixes the blame--on, it first appears, everything and everybody. On government policies that fostered the growth of suburbs (1929+), on rent control (U.S. 1943, NYC 1962), union recognition (1958) and escalating benefits, budget tinkering and the growth of short-term debt, a megalomaniac governor (Rockefeller) and three irresponsible mayors (Wagner, Lindsay, Beame), federal aid and its withdrawal, voter indifference, press abdication. . . all culminating in a crisis of confidence when the state, hand in glove with the city, twice reneged on its debts of honor. What this chain of causation accomplishes is to fix responsibility on specific actions and individuals and not, therefore, on ""everything and everybody""--for Auletta has no patience with theories of historic inevitability (Marxian or otherwise), of right-wing conspiracy (the banks, he maintains, were guilty of cover-up but not of ""dumping"" city notes), or of federal short-changing--at least not nearly to the extent charged. In the latter instance, he deploys his ever-ready data against not only Richard Morris (Bum Rap on American Cities) but also, amusingly, against Senator Pat Moynihan, the city's suave champion (""two parts academic and one part ham"") on Capitol Hill. His own verdict, that ""the entire political system failed,"" is elaborated in the book's second half into an anatomy of the city's ""mismanagement"" (in which much of the earlier data is recycled) and then applied wholesale: what's wrong with New York--the politicians' ""failure to distinguish between what was popular and what was in the public interest""--is wrong with America and the world. But the reader who closes the book prematurely, thinking that Auletta is stuck in a well-worn groove, will miss out. He returns to the immediate scene for a valuable wrap-up on the Koch administration (with a balance sheet on what's changed and what-all hasn't) and a resounding conclusion: the plague of factionalism has given way, in the fiscal crisis, to a high-level camaraderie among labor leaders, bankers, press lords, politicians--the good people who bailed the city out now constitute a ""public/profit complex."" Or: ""City Hall entered the fiscal crisis the victim of too many interests and emerged the victim of too few."" Vigorous coverage, in the main, and the most roundly factual of the several books on the subject.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1979
Publisher: Random House