In case you haven't been paying attention, the Democratic governor of one of the bluer states just spent last night cranking through a deal with a bipartisanly corrupt legislature in which A) he'll ignore his promises and let them have their gerrymandered districts for the next ten years and B) they'll let him have his pension "reform" so he'll be able to run for the White House in 2016 as a business-friendly Democrat who's not afraid to trample on government workers and their unions.
He'll get more law and order cred for expanding police use of DNA databases too. (Try not to get busted for any misdemeanors in the Empire State. Be a shame if your DNA came up in a capital crime case because of a lab error...) In the magic revenue department, he's come up with everyone's favorite gimmick - more casinos. And, in 10 years there might be real redistricting reform as part of today's deal - if you can trust the legislature to keep its promises ten years from now.
Yup, Andy Cuomo is a true Centrist Neo-Liberal, not afraid to sacrifice the middle class dreams of public sector employees to avoid raising taxes on the Super Rich - don't want Wall Street to run off to New Jersey after all. He's shown that he wants to get government more in line with the Private Sector - the same one that's been strip mining the middle class for the last three decades.
He's willing to make tough choices - lay off state workers in the middle of an economic slump, cut services, cut aid to local schools, raise tuition at state universities, raise fees on public parks, and all the rest of that austerity wisdom that's working so well. He knows we can no longer pass on a burden to our children - because they're not going to have anything anyway the way these policies are going. He knows the only way to make the middle class prosperous again is through sacrifice: Wealth through Poverty!
Sure he pushed through same sex marriage. It's a real accomplishment and the right thing to do. But... New York State isn't exactly the hardest place to pull that off; even Republicans voted for it in the state legislature. Social justice is a good thing - but we need economic justice too, and Cuomo is AWOL in that fight. Despite popular support for raising taxes on the upper brackets (the millionaire's tax), Cuomo has fought it time and time again. At the end of the day, he knows there's no percentage in pissing off Michael Bloomberg and his pals at the NY Post if he wants to go on to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Come 2016, Cuomo is going to be a top choice for the Democrats based on his poll approval to date. He's been in Washington and he knows how it works, whose corporate butts to kiss. The punditocracy will be thrilled. He saw his father ruled out of a national run because he was too liberal; no one's going to say that about Andy. If Obama's not going to get his grand bargain to 'save' Social Security and Medicare, Andy's just the guy to do it. He has all the arguments down pat - what he's doing now in New York is a rehearsal as much as anything.
I'm going to make a disclaimer here. I work for New York State. I've worked for the state long enough to have seen this before. Every year the governor (whomever it is) and the legislature scramble for money. Every year they come back asking the unions to accept less, to give up things. That we're looking at Tier 6 for the state pension plan should tell you all you need to know about how this works.
But here's the thing. IF the answer is for state workers to give up and give back, why hasn't it worked? Why do they keep coming back to us year after year? Could it be we are not really the problem?
Now I hear that the state can't keep raising taxes. I can understand that - I pay taxes too. I see and hear people all around me complaining about how expensive it is to live in this state. But I also see that they too have been told they have to accept less, to give up things. In their case it's not about burdening taxpayers; it's competing with overseas cheap labor and off-shored jobs. It's all about doing more with less, creating value for shareholders. (They get the more, we get the less.) It's why there's no money to fix our schools, our roads and bridges. It's why state colleges cost more every year, and there are fewer services.
It's about finding taxes a burden because we're getting less in exchange for them at the same time we're also having to give up and give back on the income we need to survive even before taxes. And it's not making things better for us. It's been making it worse for the last 30 years - except for the tiny minority doing very well for themselves in this rigged game. They're doing better than ever.
While they may not be in the headlines at the moment, this is still what Occupy Wall Street understands - and what Cuomo chooses not to. This is still about making our state and our country work for the 1% at the expense of the 99%. The 1% Cuomo and every other politician seems to need to run for office and win...
Miss Rahm Emmanuel? Don't worry - based on his track record to date, Andy will make you forget all about him.
Fri Mar 16, 2012 at 10:33 AM PT: UPDATE - Mentioned to a co-worker the idea of Cuomo running for the White House in 2016. Reaction?
"I'd vote for him in a second!"
"Because he's a Republican Democrat!"
No, this was not snark. Sigh.