Cuomo needs to stop trying to beat Nixon at her liberal agenda

Before he took office, Andrew Cuomo’s Big Idea was to be a “strong governor.” He believed New York was lagging the nation because his predecessors had been pushed around by the Legislature, unions and other special interests.

Any assessment of his tenure would have to conclude that Cuomo kept that promise. He has been New York’s strong man, sometimes to a fault, but there has never been much doubt about who runs Albany.

Until now. Faced with a challenge from the left by Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo suddenly isn’t so much running Albany as he is running scared.

His campaign is fixated on anticipating what Nixon will say next, then saying it first. That he does it with his customary bravado doesn’t hide the fact that she is setting his agenda.

Thus, when he stood next to Al Sharpton to announce he was granting 35,000 parolees the right to vote, the governor said it was “unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have paid their debt and re-entered society.”

Presumably, he found it conscionable for the first seven years and three months of his tenure.

Similarly, his revelation this week is that plastic bags are bad for the environment, saying they are a “blight” that take a “devastating toll.”

But just last year, when Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed taxing them 5 cents each as a way to discourage public use, Cuomo dismissed the idea.

The governor’s fearful conduct toward Nixon is especially odd given that, by almost every measure, he has been one of the most liberal governors in America. He early on delivered the Holy Trinity of the left’s agenda — passing gay marriage, gun control and banning fracking.

And none can accuse him of imposing austerity. Per capita, New York spends more of its own money on residents than any other big state in the nation and the tab has been rising relentlessly.

Year after year, New York is among the most generous when it comes to Medicaid benefits, school spending, employee salaries and pensions, caring for the poor and distributing grants and business incentives.

One result is that Cuomo’s New York also tops the charts when it comes to squeezing taxpayers. Many high earners are leaving and are being replaced by poorer newcomers, a dynamic that has saddled the state with high fixed costs even as taxes and services cannot keep up with growing demand.

That gap is the heart of Nixon’s argument, which is that the state is not doing nearly enough for the poor and middle class. She, like Bernie Sanders and de Blasio, fancy themselves as progressives, which is a euphemism for wanting to tax and spend more — a lot more — than mere liberals.

On one level, Nixon’s case is an indictment of liberal governance. Although she talks mostly about expanding government instead of reforming it, the fact remains that a bloated bureaucracy, political pandering and corruption soak up large chunks of public spending, with the result that many services have a threadbare quality despite the $168 billion budget.

Take the subways. Waste and the feather-bedding union rules that drive up the cost of new construction to as much as $3.5 billion per track mile don’t leave enough money for basic maintenance and services. That translates into near-daily disruptions for millions of riders.

Although Cuomo’s recent actions amount to a concession that he has not been doing enough, another, more rational response would have been that there are limits to what government can do. It cannot, he might have said, be all things to all people and take care of every conceivable human need.

By example, he could point to the rise of homelessness in the city and challenge Nixon and de Blasio to stem the tide within a budget approaching an astonishing $1.6 billion.

But Cuomo doesn’t make those arguments because, even if he believes them, he fears a leftist backlash. So he gives and gives and gives, hoping to persuade progressives that he really is one of them.

It’s a tough sell and also leaves the argument for a more efficient, targeted government still on the table. I hope the Republican nominee, likely to be Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, will make that case.

His goal need not be to shrink government, though that would be nice.

Rather, the state can realistically aim to do a better job of delivering services while living within its means.

That would make New York more competitive and spark more growth than all of Cuomo’s misbegotten mega economic development plans, which produced more corruption than jobs.

At any rate, Cuomo is now stuck between two arguments for change, giving him the unenviable position as the status quo candidate in an era when nearly all voters are dissatisfied. Even assuming he defeats Nixon for the nomination, it is a guessing game about which Andrew Cuomo would show up for the general election.

Would he try to veer sharply back toward the middle? Or would he keep wearing the borrowed mantle of Sanders and Nixon?

Such is the predicament of someone who has lost confidence in himself and his record.

Well-Red journo

The spirit of Commie-loving Herbert Matthews lives at The New York Times. In a piece that could have been written by the dishonored correspondent who promoted Fidel Castro’s revolution with giddy enthusiasm, reporter Azam Ahmed offers a long puff piece about retiring Raul Castro without any hint that Cuba is a police state that has not held real elections in nearly 60 years.

Naturally, Ahmed’s most barbed criticism is aimed at President Trump, who is accused of having “lashed out at Cuba” and creating a “sudden slide” in relations. By all means, blame America first. Some things — and some places — never change.

Amazon begins deliveries to vehicles

In New York, this isn’t as shocking as it sounds. Traffic here is almost always at a standstill, giving your car the closest thing to a permanent address.

Dems’ perilous game of Armaget-Don

Do Democrats in Washington stand for anything other than being anti-Donald Trump?

The question has urgency because of the upcoming midterm elections, and because of the disgraceful recent conduct of party leaders.

The near-total opposition to Mike Pompeo in the Senate for secretary of state marked a new low for an opposition party.

Pompeo squeaked by the Foreign Relations panel without a single Dem vote, despite the fact that he is superbly qualified and had been easily confirmed as CIA director.

As many 45 Dems will vote no in the full Senate, with those votes having nothing to do with Pompeo and everything to do with the president who nominated him.

This is partisanship of the most extreme kind and, unless it stops, will lead to a collapse of the core cooperation necessary for the government to function.

If that happens, Katie bar the door, the end is near.

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