My name is Stephen Dames and I am one of your new co-Editors-In-Chief of the Next Generation Politics blog. Our former EIC–the very talented Alex Madaras–has started college, so I and the wonderfully prolific Inica Kotasthane will be Next Gen Politics’ Editors-In-Chief for the upcoming year. We have many ideas for how the blog can be improved and re-invigorated which will be communicated as the year goes on. We also would love to hear from you–our readers–on what you like and don’t like about Next Gen Politics’ blog currently, or what else you’d like to see from us. Reach out to us through our website, or just comment your ideas at the bottom of this piece–either works! And now, onto the meat of this missive.
The Saturday Evening Post was one of the most influential magazines in America for good portions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It carried editorials, current events articles, art and humor pieces, short stories, and letters from an expansive base of readers. Never a magazine for the intelligentsia or the elite, the Saturday Evening Post was one of a select few American magazines produced by, and for, the middle class. It shared work by the greatest minds in both art and politics with the masses, blending the two distinct fields into one unified culture. I believe in the legacy that this magazine left behind and so, in its spirit, every Saturday evening we will publish a short blog entry detailing thoughts on either the week’s events in politics and/or that is new in the world of the arts. Along with these ideas and takes, I will also share glimpses of what’s going on in the land of NGP. So, without further ado, here is the first issue of the Saturday Evening Post:
Pandemic Pains and the Cult of Cuomo
The state of New York is witnessing one of the greatest political swindles of the past 100 years. Andrew Cuomo–our three term governor–is being hailed as the great savior of our state, guiding New York with a firm hand, and a “tell it like it is” attitude back from the brink of some of the worst pandemic conditions in the world. This narrative–helped along by his daily press briefings and interviews with his CNN reporter brother–has been carefully crafted by both Cuomo’s press office and the national media at large. The reason this narrative is so misleading was that it was in part the very actions–or rather, inactions– of Governor Cuomo that caused New York to be hit as hard as it was. Mayor de Blasio recommended New York be closed down as early as March 15th, but Governor Cuomo seemed both unconcerned about the health risks associated with the coronavirus, and at the same time, profoundly concerned about the economic harms associated with closing down the state too early. The seven days between de Blasio’s recommendation, and Governor Cuomo’s PAUSE order, would later prove crucial, as epidemiologists have shown that if the order had been issued just one week earlier, potentially fifty to eighty percent of the lives lost in NY could have been saved. As reported in the New York Times, former NYC deputy health commissioner Issac Weisfuse said that “New York City as a whole was late in social measures.” During an interview with both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo on March 2nd, Cuomo gave the following quote, which in the subsequent months since he said it, has been seen as symbolizing his less-than-ideal coronavirus response: “Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers–I speak for the mayor also on this one–we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York, so, when you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”
After his initial problems shutting down the state early enough, Cuomo still made blunders during the actual lockdown itself. One of the worst mistakes made by the Cuomo administration was in regard to nursing homes, where the policy implemented by Cuomo directly resulted in 6,000 needless deaths. The policy entailed that if a person contracted COVID-19 and was taken from a nursing home into a hospital, the nursing home was mandated to take them back if they recovered, and, on top of that, were prohibited from testing any incoming residents for the virus. It is estimated that over 4,500 people were put back into nursing homes after contracting COVID-19, which according to Charles Branas, the head of the epidemiology department at Columbia University, increased the death toll in NY state by several orders of magnitude. Along with his failed policy around nursing homes, in the middle of the pandemic Cuomo sought to cut nearly 400 million dollars from hospitals in NY state, causing needless shortages and closures in the very facilities that he was applauding every day on television. Even after State Senators wrote a letter to Cuomo calling the cuts “cruel, inhumane, and unacceptable,” and urging him to undo the decision, Cuomo pressed on with the proposed legislation which, if implemented, may cause several hospitals to close altogether.
One final way that Governor Cuomo has harmed New York in the previous months is not to be found directly in his coronavirus response, but in the way he has handled New York’s massive budget deficits as a result of the virus. Due to tax shortfalls and a strained government, New York faces a nearly fifteen billion dollar budget deficit over the next fiscal year. Instead of either raising taxes on the income of the richest New Yorkers, or on their assets and investments (either in real estate or the stock market) Governor Cuomo has instead advocated for a policy of austerity, with dramatic cuts coming down on nearly every state and city agency. CUNY and SUNY schools are set to lose millions of dollars in funding, public housing is expected to be gutted, and even much needed food assistance programs are set to be cut. Even if New York ended just a single tax rebate on stock transfers, our budget deficit would shrink dramatically. In justification of this austerity budget, Cuomo blames Washington and the Republican Senate who refuse to pass legislation assisting states and municipalities. The Republicans in Washington (Trump included) do, of course, deserve an incredible amount of blame for the crisis we now find ourselves in, but Cuomo blaming them for simply being themselves is a cynical stance at best. This problematic maneuver to blame deep cuts on Washington–instead of imposing taxes on his well-off friends and supporters–has gone almost unnoticed by the national press, who continue to fawn on the favorite son of the #resistance liberals.
Even–or perhaps even more necessarily– with a profoundly uncaring, uncouth, and incredibly malignant president in the Oval Office, Democrats still have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, and must pursue progressive change at every level of government. Progressives, Andrew Cuomo is not your friend–he is, in fact, a contributor to the crisis we are in. It’s high time Democrats realized that.