Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Problem With Governor Cuomo

But enough about teachers for a moment. How's
 CUOMO doing?
As he tries to convince voters that teachers should be fired for poor results (here via here) and as an historic amount of scandals now plague Albany, it is well worth noting that one -simple- question about Andrew Cuomo has never (ever) been asked: How effective has he been as New York State's governor over the last four years?

What kind of job has he done?

Remember now, he feels teachers should be fired after just two years of not being effective. But what happens when he is held up to this 'get results or get out' approach is something that is actually rather surprising: He hasn't really accomplished much at all as governor!

How well are people doing?

Hosuing: After four years of Andrew Cuomo leading the government, New York State now has the lowest rate of home ownership in the nation. Dead last (behind even Nevada!). A high rate of home ownership is a sign that we're all doing ok. Low rates of home ownership are troubling. But when your state has the lowest rate of home ownership in the nation, things are really bad. Shouldn't someone be held accountable for that?

Income: After four years of Cuomo, median household income has fallen when you account for inflation. Median income when he was elected in 2010 was $55,603 (here). Four years later it has only risen 6% to to $59,308 (here).  Since the average inflation rate during that time has been 8% (here), New Yorkers are actually making less than what they made before ol' Andy came into town. When income is lower, taxes are lower, spending is lower and savings are lower. When incomes are lower, we're all worse off.

What's deeply unsettling is that household income in New York State has dropped 5.8% since its peak in 1989 (when the real Cuomo was in office). This is a long trend, yet Cuomo has mentioned nothing about it at all in four years of leadership. This problem needs to be addressed by a tough leader. But it's as though our leader doesn't care about income at all.

'Ever notice the Bocca Della Verità looks a little like a donut?

How is New York's government doing?

Debt: It was mentioned to me by a friend that New York State is the worlds fifth largest debtor. The government here, the friend asserted, is in more debt than virtually every developing nation on Earth and many developed ones.

New York's debt is actually a fairly well known fact. Thomas Di Nappoli was recently in the Post asserting New York's debt problem. And Richard Ravitch, the man who saved the MTA and one of the ones who helped saved New York back in the 1970s, warned just last year that New York State could well wind up like Detroit if the borrowing doesn't stop. Cuomo, it seems, has continued a process where the state borrows the money it pays into the pension systems. 

Normally, you would think the answer to this would be to lower spending. And the legislature has lowered its spending. Unfortunately,  New York State's debt is continuing to soar! New York's debt is $63.3 billion! The government has mounted $3.5 billion in new debt this year alone! And there is no plan for paying down New York's debt anytime soon. Wouldn't it be nice to have a political leader who had the capacity to come up with a plan to fix this?

Corruption: I'm not going to detail the Scandals in Albany. What more could I say about Scandals that hasn't already been said? They have become such a part of Albany's culture that people are performing satirical acts about them (this one is entitled "I'm So Excited (That I'm Not Indicted)" and it's really really funny).

He won't be living this one down anytime soon
Thing is. this was the one thing he actually promised to fix if he was elected governor. And instead of being fixed, the problem has gotten much much worse. Andy never promised to give a crap about the middle class. He never promised to work hard to expand median income for New Yorkers (does anyone remember when political leaders used to work for that?) and he never promised to expand New York State's homeownership rates. He never even promised to get rid of New York's crippling long term debt. 

But for crying out loud, the guy outwardly promised to clean up the culture of corruption in Albany! And on that -on the one thing he did promise- he couldn't' even deliver!!

Success of his own policies  You may recall the governor would like teacher evaluations to be worth 50% of their overall 'score'. He has claimed that the current system of evaluating teachers is a failure.

He complains that “… Right now we have a 99 percent effective rate for teachers,” he said. “That can’t be when 30 percent of the students are effective.”

What folks don't realize is that he is the one provided the framework around which these 'failed' systems were enacted. If they are failed, as he claims, then it's his failure (see this piece from Philissa Cramer way back in February 2012 when the governor announced the framework!)

Now I'm a New Yorker and I have seen some acts of hubris in my time. But I have never seen an act so shameless as the one where Andrew Cuomo forced an evaluation framework upon 700 school districts and then blamed -wait for it- the school systems for their failure. That takes guts.

But it also takes an act of stupidity.

Which leads me to the problem with Andrew Cuomo. For all of his intelligence, he does some pretty stupid things. For all of his political brilliance, he hasn't been able to find a way to make life better for most New Yorkers. He hasn't worked down New York's debt and secured all of our future. He hasn't figured out a way to increase home ownership or median household income. He hasn't been able to even make a dent on New York' corruption. His problem is that he just isn't effective at what he does.

And ineffective leaders always blame someone else or some other group in order to distract from their failures. 


  1. Why should we even think that our Reptilian Governor cares to make life better for most New Yorkers?

    Like Bloomberg, he can never fully conceal his contempt for the riff-raff he ostensibly represents, and has also shown that his only real constituents are his campaign donors, whom he is very solicitous of.

    1. Right! But there is, or maybe I should say was, a presumption that our political leaders had a responsibility to help make our lives better (for instance, to help grow the middle class). Once that was done, the great ones could turn to other issues like education. This guy hasn't even come close to fulfilling even the basic responsibility of helping to make life better for New Yorkers and no one has really talked about that.