Friday, August 29, 2014

Progressive capital of the lolwut?

Check this out, Jim Hoft, is that a gang sign? Photo by AP.
All of a sudden young Andrew Cuomo has decided he wants my vote. Two mailers yesterday, and a phone call, where I'm afraid I got a little sputtery with what I'm sure was a very nice young volunteer (well, at least nice and young; I'll bet she was paid). One of the mailers said
Governor Cuomo helped New York reclaim its place as the progressive capital of the country

Well, last time he wanted my vote there wasn't even an election going on, in January 2013, when he delivered his third State of the State message, and announced his plans for a bunch of progressive initiatives. How's he doing on that list, by the way?

1. Called for a minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $8.75. Settled for $8 even. Less than California ($9), Connecticut ($8.70), D.C. ($9.50), Illinois ($8.25), New Jersey ($8.25), Oregon ($9.25), Vermont ($8.73), Washington ($9.32).

2. Called for public financing of elections. Settled for a ridiculous program to finance the election of the state comptroller, which died on the vine when the incumbent comptroller, Thomas Di Napoli, the author of the original plan for an experiment along these lines, decided it was
a badly written, sloppy piece of legislation that was obviously rushed into effect — “a Frankenstein monster,” he calls it — and he fears that it may actually have been designed to fail, by lawmakers who either do not really believe in, or do not understand, public campaign financing at all
and turned the money down. Leaving New York behind Arizona and Maine, although if those states are the gold standard in this area maybe we need to start over anyway, and Connecticut and D.C., which are a little more encouraging.

3. Called for a 10-point women's rights program including strengthened abortion rights and equal pay legislation, but that fell apart in June 2013 in a State Senate controlled, with Cuomo's bizarre assistance, by a Republican minority and a group of Democratic turncoats. This situation is now coming to an end through the efforts not of the governor, but the mayor of New York City. New York did come in second, behind Vermont, in a ranking of states by Women's Economic Opportunity index, and fifth, behind D.C., Maryland, Nevada, and Vermont, in wage gap against men in 2012, but Cuomo's initiative couldn't have had much to do with that, since it failed.

4. Called for tougher greenhouse gas standards. Hasn't seemed prepared, however, to go beyond the legislation that was already in place in 2011 and the Energy Plan developed under Governor Patterson in 2009 (though, to be fair, that's pretty good by US standards; in 2010 New York ranked third out of 50 states in greenhouse gas reduction in a ranking produced by the Climate Action Reserve). A draft new plan issued in January was criticized by environmental groups for failure to press for renewable energy sources and failure to tackle greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide (especially methane). It also somehow doesn't mention hydro fracking, on which there is an uncomfortable moratorium, at all, but some experts think it's part of the plan, which calls for the state to produce natural gas in amounts that would hardly be possible unless fracking was allowed.

In April a pretty exciting solar energy initiative was announced, though, to build 3,000 megawatts of solar capacity (with 1,300 jobs) by 2023, a development whose carbon savings will be the equivalent of taking 450,000 cars off the road, which looks like an unambiguously good thing.

Moreover, he's worked hard and successfully for marriage equality and what seems to be a really good gun law, both of which were not at all easy for upstate Democrats in the Assembly and Senate to vote for, and Cuomo deserves a lot of praise for getting them to do it. He's really not, as I may have seemed to suggest, Chris Christie. (New York ranks fourth, behind California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, on the Brady Index for strictness of gun laws.)

But his hostility to taxes and unions is really a problem, his views on education are retrograde, and his identification with those Hedge Fund Democrats (who actually turned Republican in a big way in 2010 and 2012, but may be contemplating a return) is really not what the party needs. As the Times wrote a couple of days ago in declining to make an endorsement in the gubernatorial primary,
 His first budget cut education by $1.5 billion, and later ones failed to give the schools what they needed. Though he pleaded poverty, he imposed an unnecessary property tax cap and refused to extend a tax surcharge on the state’s wealthiest. In January, he proposed yet another damaging tax cut, one that would largely benefit the wealthy and threaten more state services. He highhandedly dismissed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for a city tax on the wealthy to pay for universal prekindergarten, instead substituting a pre-K plan with far less guaranteed financing.
(Yesterday the Times did endorse Zephyr Teachout's running mate, Timothy Wu, in the lieutenant governor race, against Cuomo's ghastly anti-Obamacare, anti-immigrant, anti-environment choice Kathy Hochul.)

And there's the issue of corruption, which to me is a central piece of the progressive agenda, since it is through corruption that abusive employers and polluting industries get their way. The last straw for many with Andrew Cuomo was his shutting down of his own Moreland commission in the middle of its term, apparently because he hadn't been able to tell it not to investigate groups to which he had political ties, in which he may have put at least a toe over the line into the realm of criminality.

So no, it's not the progressive capital yet.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

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