Governor Cuomo began his 2021 State of the State address from the Capital’s War Room this morning by declaring “near universal relief that 2020 has come to an end.”, asking the question, “What is the state of our state?”, and answering, “We are hurt. We are frustrated”. He highlighted how “COVID created low tide in America…government incompetence, the healthcare disparities…and the danger of hateful leadership.” Thirty minutes into his retrospective, he stated, unironically, “Individual rights are absolute.” On these things, we agree, even if the Governor doesn’t fully grasp their meaning.
The Governor teased a multi-part “complex and detailed” plan, full of virtue signaling, and largely devoid of details:
- Defeat COVID
- Vaccinate New York
- Manage Short-term economic crisis
- Invest in the future
- Transition to green energy
- Understand the long term effects of COVID
- Address systemic injustice
Let’s break the Governor’s plan down.
It is hard to defeat an enemy you cannot see, with a weapon whose efficacy is in question, during flu season, when people are indoors and sickness is endemic. Governor Cuomo said “the Federal vaccine supply must increase” and faulted the Federal government for failing to provide the vaccine New York needs. Yet, the New York Times reported on January 10 that “[medical providers] had been forced to throw out precious vaccine doses because of difficulties finding patients who matched precisely with the state’s strict vaccination guidelines — and the steep penalties they would face had they made a mistake.” The article continued, “New York State has received more than 1.2 million doses of the vaccine…More than 400,000 New Yorkers have received their first dose.”. To us, this indicates a distribution problem, not a supply problem. Sadly, the Governor’s penchant for micromanagement and central planning has delayed distribution of the vaccine to county departments of health who have trained for mass vaccinations for decades. He has forced counties and health care providers to sign agreements to distribute vaccines according to his mandates, exacting financial penalties on those who deviate from his misguided mandates. Instead, the Governor should simply let the free market work, and allow those who want the vaccine to get it, building herd immunity far more quickly.
The Governor’s “investment in the future” throws out to his base the usual populist bones such as “infrastructure”, “transportation”, “broadband”, “workforce retraining”, and “green economy programs”, while invoking FDR’s name and New Deal, and equating his plans to one of the greatest wholesale expansions of government in the past 100 years.
Most disturbingly, the Governor characterized the Federal government as both the cause of New York’s fiscal problems, and its savior, while accepting absolutely no responsibility for the $6 billion deficit we had pre-COVID, and the $15 billion deficit he claims now. His message is clear: it’s Washington’s job to bail us out. Invoking New York City’s fiscal crisis of the 1970’s, he insisted that “New Yorkers cannot now be asked to pay the bill for Federal incompetence. New Yorkers already now pay too high a cost…The new federal government has no credible argument against the fact that New York’s damage from COVID is clearly, legally and ethically Washington’s liability…the new Federal SALT provision has cost New York $30bln more over three years…and increased property taxes on hardworking New Yorkers $2600 per year.” In fact, it’s the waste, inefficiency and unfunded mandates with which Albany has saddled cities and towns for decades that are alone responsible for the high property taxes state residents pay. He has accused the Federal government of “starv[ing] our infrastructure funding and…illegally imped[ing] global travel”, while he has unironically built a bridge with his father’s name on it across the widest part of the Hudson River, unnecessarily polished the transportation turd known as LaGuardia Airport, and placed the National Guard and his contact tracing thugs at New York’s airports, to monitor, if not limit, our interstate travel and to fine us if we’re not home when they call to check on us.
Governor Cuomo also brings up the “gross injustice” of “Washington rais[ing]our taxes to benefit other states, and those states then appeal[ing] to our residents to relocate to their lower tax states.” Is this injustice? Because to us, it sounds like the operation of free markets, and the migration patterns of rational people abused by decades of government graft from high tax to low tax areas. (We do appreciate that, for once, he didn’t blame the weather.)
He brought up the fiscal challenges our state faces. We remember a daily briefing in November where Mr. Cuomo alleged a $50 billion revenue shortfall. He apparently found $35 billion, or checked his math, because we’re now “only” $15 billion in the hole. Regardless, he offers several different alternatives to bridge the gap. The most attractive to us: freeze labor contracts on public employees to save $1 billion and cut education funding (along with the associated unfunded mandates) to save $5.2 billion. He also advocated state sponsored sports betting and legalized marijuana; the bad news is that he’ll tax it all and hand out licenses for both to political cronies. (Spoiler alert: the black market will continue to thrive as a result of these hamhanded handouts.) We’d like to suggest he get rid of those executive office hires he made during the pandemic, cancel the $500 million health insurance subsidy plan he teased, and defund the $100 million public campaign finance scheme he implemented last March along with the elimination of minor political parties in New York.
In a rare moment of clarity, the Governor stated, “We cannot stay closed until everyone is vaccinated. The economic, psychological, emotional cost would be incredible. We must begin increasing economic activity.” We agree: the economy must be reopened, and we add that it should have been opened months ago. To be clear: the arbitrary and reactive regulations enacted by Governor Cuomo are solely responsible for the permanent shuttering of thousands of businesses across our state, and the destitution of thousands more people who can nary afford to be out of work. Adding insult to injury, and rather than mourning the loss of these businesses, the Governor doubled down by saying “we should convert vacant commercial space to supportive and affordable housing”. This take on the economic damage he alone has inflicted is both dystopian and remarkably tone-deaf, spoken by a person who has not only continuously collected a paycheck, but also received a pay *raise* and received regular haircuts during the pandemic, while his fellow New Yorkers have gone without and otherwise suffered. Nothing says hubris like redistributing wealth and playing your fiddle while Rome burns.
The Governor characterized his green energy plan as the “Smart thing to do…right thing to do”, and “climate change as the existential threat”. His actions so far have eschewed free markets, home rule, property rights, and local siting authority in favor of the State serving as the central planner for “green energy projects” as far as the eye can see. We demand a diverse, open energy marketplace, generation capacity and land use policies that are far better alternatives to his single-minded vision of thousands of acres of solar panels, windmills and EV charging stations.
We could go one about the endless virtue signaling using terms like “systemic injustice”, “scourge of gun violence”, “inequitable”, “social and racial justice”, “economic justice”, and “social infrastructure”. We could talk about his empty promises implying that his administration and its flawed policies would “fix” everything. That “the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and the middle class has gotten smaller,” despite the fact that the human condition has steadily been improving and income increasing through the decades. That “[New York’s] Medicare reimbursement rate is the lowest in the United States” (and spending and fraud are the highest). But these laughable misconceptions are typical for Mr. Cuomo.
The Governor’s repeated assertions that the State somehow saved us from a worse fate, and that the government will lead us out of our collective morass, are patently false and delusional. Only when the state gets out of our way, and lets us lead our lives the way we see fit, will New York truly thrive. The Governor summed it up succinctly when he said, “New York is suffering, and New Yorkers are tired of being abused.” No wiser words were spoken during this forty-three minute speech or the past ten years of his reign.
Chair, Libertarian Party of New York