Cuomo to Take One for His Team

New New York (try again) Governor Andrew Cuomo just announced that he'll be returning 5% of his gubernatorial salary.

Shocking coincidence: The State of New York's contracts with many of its largest public employee unions (I'm a member of one of these) will expire soon.

Shocking fact: Politicians and the media are really vilifying public employees these days.

I just don't have the energy to fully go into the war on public employees (FWIW, my father is and grandmother was a public employee, so I'm used to it), but I do have a couple of issues.

1) Just as entitlement programs aren't *the* problem with the US Federal budget, public employees' wages and benefits aren't *the* problem with state and local budgets. Didja know that lately New York State has generated around 20 percent of its income from the taxes paid by Wall Street paper shufflers? This would seem to indicate a systemic problem. New Yorkers used to make steel and chemicals and air conditioners.

IMO, New York's never figured out what (or perhaps more appropriately, if) to do about the rust belt. Granted, issues arising from global capitalism are best tackled globally, but it'd be good to at least see New York State's leaders acknowledge Upstate New York in a way that doesn't involve vague references to Ma, Pa, and flannel.

2) We're not all in this together. Well, we should be, but the notion that if 'we' all do our 'fair share' of sacrificing 'we' can pull through this is bullshit. The Governor of New York is giving back several thousand dollars on what is a $179,000 salary.

While as far as I'm concerned, $179,000 is an eminently reasonable salary for a state's top executive (hint, hint...), this number doesn't count the Governor's assets, including the house he shares with someone who's a national television personality. I haven't talked to Cuomo's financial advisor lately, but I think it's pretty safe to assume that he has a financial advisor.

While New York's public employees do have jobs (at least a lot of us still do), it's a bit disingenious to imply that we need to sacrifice for the good of 'the team.' We sacrifice every other Wednesday (or Tuesday, if we have direct deposit-- speaking of which, I am so buying groceries tonight). Sometimes we go to the doctor, sometimes we don't.

And while public employees might count ourselves lucky to get paid money to do unimportant work and to possibly retire with pensions that governments may or may not default upon, it's hardly fair to use other people's misfortune (which is also ours, given that many of our households rely on income from the private sector, too) as an excuse to call for public employees to 'share' the pain. As I see it, governments are supposed to be the ones setting the example here. Perhaps that's the problem.

Most USians are already doing their share of sacrificing. While I don't begrudge Cuomo's faux-sacrifice, let's be clear about what it is: another attempt by a member of the ruling class to pretend to do hir share to get the country out of the mess the wealthy created for their own benefit. We don't need charity. We need change, and that includes revisiting the policies that led to the massive inequalities in wealth that make such grand gestures possible.

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