September 5, 2018

JOHNS | New York Democrats’ Twelve-Year Road to Nowhere

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Correction appended. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo faced his Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon in their only scheduled debate last week. It was an unimpressive and shallow display. For an hour, the two Democrats shouted over each other and spouted political clichés, allegations and factual inaccuracies as they each postured to embrace a policy agenda further to the left of the other.

The debate’s obvious takeaway is this question: Why would we seek to entrust this state to either of these candidates for the next four years?

It is not a rhetorical question. Since Eliot Spitzer took office as New York Governor in 2007, New York Democrats have managed New York continuously for nearly 12 years. Their record, by every conceivable metric, is one of nearly universal failure.  Say this for the good citizens of the state: They have been more than patient.

How have New York Democrats failed New York? The better question is: How haven’t they? On education, healthcare, state infrastructure and welfare dependency, the state’s crises have only deepened on their watch. But two specific failures alone, the economy and state corruption, point to an obvious conclusion: It is time to reverse course in Albany.

Economy and jobs: Under Democrats’ governance, New York now holds the distinction of having the highest combined sales and income tax rate in the nation. Twelve years into Democrats’ governance of New York, the state also has the second-highest individual income tax in the country, the fourth-highest property tax, and the eighth-highest sales tax. No wonder New York residents currently lead the nation in leaving their state.

If a business were to open today and could locate its headquarters in any of the 50 states, or in any nation of the world for that matter, what logical corporate leader would evaluate all of these options and subsequently choose New York with the seventh-highest effective business tax rate in the nation? Fiduciary responsibility alone would almost necessitate placing it elsewhere.

Then there is the saddening story of upstate New York’s colossal mismanagement by Cuomo and his Democrat predecessors. For decades, New York Democrats have promised to address upstate New York’s economic malaise through a variety of economic development plans comprised predominantly of state spending, all of which have failed.

Cuomo is no exception; his so-called Buffalo Billion is an aid package that has thrown state money at the region with the primary goal of earning political points. Not surprisingly, political allies have been rewarded, but upstate New York remains as undeveloped and bleak as before Democrats took over the governor’s office in 2007.  Since 2010, Cuomo has spent an astonishing $25 billion on upstate development, and ended up with almost nothing to show for it because the state’s progressive regulatory and tax policies continue to hold it down. Like many other Cuomo initiatives, Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion did not just fail; it also ended up the subject of a federal investigation that resulted in a corruption conviction.

From 2010 to 2017, the nation experienced 11 percent job growth. But Cuomo’s policies toward upstate New York caused it to trail the national performance substantially with a mere 2.7 percent job growth. Put another way, if upstate New York were its own state, it would rank behind 46 other states in job creation since 2010. Nor have the jobs created in the state been predominantly good ones; outside of New York City during this period, 88.4 percent of these jobs have been created in low wage sectors. Bottom line: Cuomo has failed New York on the economy and job creation.

Corruption and waste: In 2010, Cuomo launched his campaign for governor with promises of cleaning up Albany. It has proven to be all rhetoric. Eight years later, Albany’s corruption is actually more entrenched and the state’s national reputation for it even more solidified than before Cuomo’s arrival.

In July, Cuomo advisor Alain Kaloyeros was convicted of federal corruption charges over bid-rigging hundreds of millions in economic development contracts, including with Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion project. Kaloyeros joins Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s former campaign manager and executive deputy secretary, who was convicted this March of soliciting and accepting bribes. He, in turn, is joined by two prominent New York Democrats, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, former majority party leaders and two of the “three men in a room” with Cuomo in the New York State Assembly, both of whom were convicted on similar charges. Cuomo’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, entrusted with enforcing the state’s laws, famously and quickly resigned in May after four women accused him of sexual abuse. As with the economy and job creation, Cuomo has failed New York on corruption-related matters.

How much further down this rabbit hole are New Yorkers willing to go? Thankfully, the field is not limited to just these two candidates. The winner of Thursday, September 13’s primary will go on to face Republican Marc Molinaro, who enters the field with a robust plan to end corruption in Albany, a determination to alleviate the state’s substantial tax and regulatory burdens, and a real outsider’s perspective — not an extremist version of the failed policy agenda that has held the state back for the last twelve years.

This post has been updated to correct the date of New York State’s gubernatorial primary elections. 

Michael Johns is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Athwart History runs every other Wednesday this semester. He can be reached at mjohns@cornellsun.com.