Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Too Rich For His Blood

There's a wonderfully inapt commentary at the Albany Times Union that goes after Governor Cuomo's campaign to restore fiscal sanity to the state. One Fred LeBrun sees the governor acting as some kind of shill for big business: "Take, for example, Cuomo's latest barnstorming political speech, the budget message. He led off with a most provocative comment that sounded good. He said New York is "functionally bankrupt." What does that mean? We can't pay our bills? We're in receivership? A court-appointed guardian is handling the state's affairs?  Of course not. Many large states are far worse off financially than New York. Now, do we need to rein in our spending so that it does not exceed our revenues? You bet, but that's not what he said. He oversimplified to a fault, in the process pandering to the public's innate distrust of government to make himself look like a shining knight coming to the rescue. That's fine for a political campaign, in which baloney is the daily featured item, but that's not the way to establish credibility as a governor of all the people."

Oh, good grief. How's this for a rallying cry? "We're better off than California!" And LeBrun is wrong if he thinks that the governor's resort to the bully pulpit is only, "fine for a political campaign." It is, in a climate where the state is hold hostage by interests that feed off of the government's trough, appropriate for the governor to try to rally the folks-and polling indicates that the response to his message is overwhelmingly positive.

As the NY Post opines: "Just days after Gov. Cuomo proposed a budget that critics all but likened to the Apocalypse, New Yorkers are giving him extraordinarily high grades. To put it mildly. Clearly, he's on the right track. Fully 77 percent of voters -- more than three out of four -- view Cuomo's performance favorably, a Siena College poll released yesterday shows. And get this: Of the roughly 700 times the pollsters surveyed voters over the last six years, only once did a politician score higher: President Obama, at 81 percent, in January 2009."  Lot of fat cats in that Sienna poll.

But LeBrun reveals his bias in the following: "So it's jobs, jobs, jobs he told us, and New York is dead last in the nation for business climate. Yet one of his arm-twists in that same speech is the threat of laying off 9,500 state workers if he doesn't get his way with the public employee unions. So let me get this straight. These aren't jobs? Unemployment at recession levels threatens to stay with us in New York for another two or three years. What Cuomo is really advocating is destabilizing communities in which these workers live, and encouraging the younger among them to vote with their feet and leave the state. Exactly the opposite of what he's saying
he advocates."

Well, he hashed this out in the campaign where candidate Cuomo laid out his belief that the high cost of government-and the taxes needed to support it-was the root cause of NY's economic doldrums. If state jobs were the panacea, why not raise more taxes and hire more workers? Gee, wasn't that the federal stimulus that has thrown the country into record debt with barely making a dent on the overall unemployment rate?

Current state government has grown way too large, and is not supported by the state's dwindling tax base-triage is a necessary first step; LeBrun isn't buying the rap, however, and sees all of this as a stealth rich guys campaign: "Then there's the pro-business Committee to Save New York and its rump group Partnership for New York City, working on behalf of Cuomo's budget ideas. Gotham high-rollers who are telling us the millionaires' surcharge tax will chase the rich out of the state and won't do a thing for the deficit. Double baloney to that. Well in excess of $1 billion is at stake in tax revenues. The surcharge is a pittance and certainly not a deal-breaker for those who want to live in the city. There is, after all, only one New York City, and it's a magnet to the world. Why shouldn't we tap into that desire?"

A total fabrication on LeBrun's part-the Save NY message isn't that the "millionaire's tax" is gonna drive the high rollers out of the state, but cripple the job creation that we rely on small business for. And wouldn't he be less disingenuous if he labeled the tax accurately? After all, it starts at $200,000 and doesn't just apply to NYC. There are a lot of farmers and small business owners that won't be hiring as many folks if that tax is retained.

LeBrun concludes, as he began, dishonestly depicting the struggle as one between lowly workers and fat cat millionaires: "But, again, look at the inconsistency here, if not outright hypocrisy, in what the governor has been telling us. If it's a public employee union advocating for its members, it's a craven special interest at work. But the rich advocating for tax reductions in the most shameless way, which Cuomo has endorsed by letting the surcharge sun set, is fair and honest public debate and deserves our consideration."

What is left out in this poorly reasoned piece is just how bad the NY State business climate has become because of the righteous lobbying of certain public employee unions-and the fact that it is the private sector, not the government, that is the true job generator. Cuomo, to his credit realizes this-and we'll give LeBrun's ad hominen attack on Cuomo as an appropriately disgraceful last word: "At this point, we have a supposedly populist governor taking the side of the wealthy, and getting away with it. That is some neat trick that deserves respect and recognition. But I do find it a little bit scary."