The Way to Fail As Governor

The way to fail as Governor, in a situation where certain powerful interests have irrevocably taken more and more and left others with less and less, is to take a deal for a symbolic victory early in one’s term, allow those powerful interests to claim they have sacrificed, and then have ordinary people realize by the end of one’s term that they are worse off than before. The way to succeed, of course, is to play the same game of having the powerful interests pretend they have sacrificed, but defer the consequences into farther off in the future. Such a symbolic but empty victory is being offered to Andrew Cuomo right now. After all, like Bloomberg, Giuliani, Pataki and Spitzer — and Lindsay and Rockefeller — he wants to be President, right? A little symbolic victory with cost deferred could really help, as all those “Presidents” showed, even if the eventual cost is devastating for all the people who don’t matter and younger generations.

New York’s public employee unions want to charge more in taxes in exchange for less and less in public services, and blame someone else. Part of the strategy is to grab more retirement benefits for those cashing in and moving out, and then secretly agree to (while publicly protesting) lower pay and benefits for new hires and service cuts to pay for it. Then claim the unions and existing workers and retirees are victims because they have “sacrificed,” while sacrificing nothing.

They way to give them what they want is to agree to a property tax cap that exempts pension costs, and then reduce pensions only for new hires, without asking existing workers and retirees to pay more. And, in fact, perhaps allow some of those existing workers to retire five years earlier — again — to save money. Since even Mayor Bloomberg continues to claim that by allowing workers to retire ever earlier, money is saved. One wonders why he doesn’t take the retirement at age 50 offer the UFT made.

In reality, no matter how little you pay future workers it won’t save and money for years, in part because no one will be able to hire them. So for the forseeable future labor costs would continue to soar as services were cut. And then in the future, lower pay and benefits for new hires would be offset by less and lower quality work by resentful, unmotivated and unqualified workers — egged on by the unions that sold them out.

Take the deal on offer and three years from now people wound find their property taxes rising much faster than the 2.0% they were promised anyway. Even as their services were cut, and public employees claimed they were underpaid because “we start at $25,000 per year and retire at 65!” And they would blame the Governor in 2014 That’s you, Andrew Cuomo.

The right thing to do is point out how much better off in total compensation current (particularly those with seniority) and retired public employees have become relative to other, lesser people, and demand that they give something back and/or do more to offset this. And say they have been selfish at the expense of their neighbors if they do not, rather than take a false deal.

Preferably while making the same argument about executive, and non-profit executive pay. And the relationship of older, better off generations to younger generations in public policy.

Besides being the right thing to do, admitting things are getting worse because some have benefitted at other’s expense is a better political strategy than going along with the fallacy that everything is happening “due to circumstances beyond our control.” Better to claim defeat while things are getting worse than to claim victory. Mike Bloomberg doesn’t seem to get this, but perhaps another year or two will convince him.

The job of defender of those who have been just living their lives and meeting their responsibilities, while being robbed by those making deals in the backroom, is open. One might have hoped that Mayor Bloomberg, coming in from outside without the support of those same interests, would have taken it. He did in some cases, but in the cases most likely to have consequences a year, five years, twenty years after his administration, he did the same deals they all do. With his silence on the truth about those deals as part of the bargain.

That silence about how we got to where we are is deafening, despite all the talk of property tax caps and pension changes. Because everyone wants the same losers to lose once again. They are arguing about the structure of this, not the reality.