Tuesday, November 02, 2010

New York's Reddish Blue State of Mind

With AG Andrew Cuomo about to win what should be a substantial electoral victory, the NY Daily News' Bill Hammond takes a look at the attorney general's remarkably conservative fiscal message-a message that seems to have percolated all up and down the ballot this election season: "While the rest of the country splinters over everything from national health care to President Obama's birth certificate, New Yorkers are amazingly unified on the biggest issue facing their state: Albany's spending and taxes are too damn high. That's the political rallying cry of Andrew Cuomo, the mainstream Democrat who's the front-runner for governor."

What Cuomo has done-and done brilliantly-is to co-opt the furor on his right flank; and his message is being replicated even in circles where the folks may need to gag before mouthing this new deal for New York: "In fact, virtually every contender in a competitive race for state office has promised to oppose tax hikes and fight for lower spending. And many of them have put those commitments in writing - either by signing former Mayor Ed Koch's New York Uprising pledge or, like Cuomo, writing a pledge of his own."

Hammond is following in our own footsteps with this cogent, great minds think alike, analysis: "Andrew Cuomo launched his bid for NY State governor by hitting all of the right notes-something that we foreshadowed earlier this year: “Which is why we believe that a tax revolt may be on the horizon-even in as liberal a state as New York…That is, unless we get a new sheriff who can use the current crisis to implement a new governing paradigm. And the talk we heard from Andrew Cuomo the other day surely looks like the kind of approach we're talking about. As Liz pointed out last week: "AG Andrew Cuomo sounded a distinctly pro-business and centrist note at a Tuesday night fundraiser organized for him by Republican supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis, according to an attendee at the event..."It was almost as if he was reading the tea leaves of some of the results in Nassau and Westchester counties," said my source. "He talked about lowering the cost of government and business, how we can't be taxing people in the middle of a recession. It was the right tone for the time, and the right tone for a business audience."

And so it goes all the way down the ballot: "All are certifying that our runaway state government has reached a breaking point - which makes today's election a watershed. No matter how the votes break down when the polls close tonight, New York's long-neglected and much-battered taxpayers should be the winners. The demand for fiscal sanity in Albany now cuts across party lines, appealing to New Yorkers of all stripes - liberals and conservatives, upstaters and downstaters, Yankees fans and Mets fans. It's not that New York's Democrats have suddenly morphed into Newt Gingrich acolytes. But they're smart enough to realize that Albany's habit of throwing money at every political problem has accomplished nothing but bankrupting the state, destroying jobs and literally driving citizens out of the state."

Everywhere, that is, but in the last bastion of liberal orthodoxy-NYC, where the mayor remains tone deaf to the national mood and the message that will be delivered today. Give Andrew all of the credit for understanding exactly which way the political winds are blowing-sounding, as Hammond points out, more like George Pataki than his own father Mario: "Cuomo deserves credit not just for sensing the public mood, but also doing his best to whip the political establishment into line. His detailed campaign platform includes promises to freeze taxes, hold state spending growth to the inflation rate and cap property taxes. He further proposes to freeze public employee salaries and trim the health and retirement benefits they hold dear - a direct shot at one of Albany's most powerful interest groups and a key Democratic constituency. These are remarkable positions to take for a mainstream Democrat in a deep-blue state - and Democrats in Washington should be watching carefully. Because Cuomo not only committed himself to these stands, but demanded the same from those who wanted his electoral support."

But now will shortly come the Stand and Deliver moment for the soon to be elected governor-and walking this walk in a state used to profligacy will not be easy. He will need a substantial mandate to get the right momentum. The NY Times makes the point: "Mr. Cuomo’s plan to fix Albany is a difficult sell, involving substantial cuts to spending, independent ethics oversight of the Legislature, and the passage of a cap on New York’s crushing local property taxes. If elected, he will stand a better chance of pushing those measures through the Legislature if he can show that he has the support of a broad coalition of the disaffected, including independent and Republican voters."

Cuomo will need all the help he can get-and all the skill he can muster. But from this corner, he has all of our blessings in his herculean task of trying to make NY State affordable-and a better place for businesses-both large and small-to grow and prosper. We'll give Hammond the last word: "The real question in today's election is not whether to cut spending, but how deeply and how deftly - while taking care to protect core services for the public. May the smartest budget-cutter win."