The Agenda

Adam Serwer on Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Sometimes I wish that I could build a Meme Prediction Machine. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo successfully shepherded same-sex marriage legislation through the New York State Legislature, I was sure that someone would write something about how Cuomo’s success represents the abandonment of social democracy and the triumph of “lifestyle liberalism.” Per Adam Serwer, Eric Alterman has delivered.

What are the grounds for the claim that Gov. Cuomo is not sufficiently progressive? He has backed a series of extremely weak pension reforms for public workers in New York state. To get a sense of how weak and inadequate these efforts are, I recommend reading E.J. McMahon on the subject. McMahon has been writing about the fiscal challenges to New York state for years, and he brings rigor and long experience to the discussion. 

Serwer writes:

The irony of Cuomo as a progressive champion, though, is that until recently he was being praised most enthusiastically by conservatives. Liberals in New York were furious over his budget deal, which included property tax caps but cut funding for Medicaid and public education. Cuomo deserves credit even from liberals for taking on the prison guards’ union in the quest to close unneeded prison facilities. But overall, Democrats in Albany felt that he was too willing to slash public spending, rather than raise taxes, and until recently, the best place to find gushing praise for Cuomo was from conservative writers at National Review. …

Cuomo in 2016? Reihan Salam can get down with that. “Imagine a presidential election pitting a budget-cutting Democratic governor against a budget-cutting Republican governor,” Salam wrote. “That would be, in my view, an excellent outcome for fiscal conservatives.”

Allow me to share some backstory. I actually don’t find Cuomo terribly impressive, but I think it is important for fiscal conservatives to emphasize policy substance over partisanship. And so I use a sliding scale. When a Democratic governor like Cuomo takes a step — even an inadequate step — that is in tension with core Democratic constituencies, I am more inclined to praise him than when a Republican governor take a step that is in tension with core Democratic constituencies because, after all, there is an obvious difference in the political risks involved. The rest of the post Adam links is centered on a quote from McMahon, who was rightly skeptical about whether the agreement in question would amount to much. 

The “Imagine” in my sentence was used advisedly. I think that a Cuomo presidential candidacy would not live up to my imaginary scenario, as I don’t think Cuomo is likely to prove much of a budget-cutter. I’m grateful to Adam for prompting me to revisit this subject. 

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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