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Cuomo Takes on Unions

Scott Walker’s union battles may be getting all the headlines at the moment, but far away in the Empire State a very different governor is getting into a battle of his own with the unions. Although Andrew Cuomo’s union fights have not been the sort of cage match as Gov Walker’s in Wisconsin, they’ve been pretty serious, especially for a state known for its liberal, pro-union politics. Cuomo’s early struggles involved reducing benefits for public sector unions and pushing for a tougher teacher evaluation process. The latest round of the union fight concerns delegate seats at September’s DNC meeting in Charlotte.

Politico reports that during the last week, Cuomo removed the leaders of four of New York’s largest public-sector unions from their seats at the convention. Although three of the leaders were eventually reinstated, it was only after considerable wrangling by the unions and frantic calls to Cuomo’s office. Although the Governor denies any motive   that at the very least, Cuomo is sending a message to the unions that he will be more difficult to work with than previous Democratic governors.

This is an interesting development. Ever since Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, governors of New York have had presidential ambitions—Dewey, Rockefeller (who made it to Veep), Averill Harriman and Andrew Cuomo’s father all angled for the nation’s top job during their political careers.

This Cuomo is likely no exception, and significantly, he seems to think that a record of standing up to public sector unions might boost his national ambitions. Looking at Hilary Clinton’s sky high popularity ratings, Cuomo may be thinking that the Democratic center could be the path to bigger things.

Meanwhile, this attitude may help him in his home state as well. Delivering the kind of social services that Democratic constituents want in New York at taxes that won’t kill what remaining business there still is in the state will require tough stands against union demands that make would make government unaffordable in the Empire State. Politicians who deliver necessary services at acceptable costs stand to reap considerable gains. And the numbers back this up—early last month, his approval rating stood at an impressive 68 percent.

The White House and the Democratic congressional leadership are still living in a kind of Blue Lagoon; the federal government can print money while most states must balance their budgets. That President Obama had no executive experience in state government before coming to the White House means that he has less understanding of the real limits that confront governors and mayors, whatever their party, across the country. Over time, there is hope that a new generation of more realistic politicians who know how things work at the state and local level and who have learned that blue model governance isn’t the only way to get things done will rise to national power.

As that happens, some of the polarization in our national politics is likely to fade.

The Democratic party is changing, and while it may never become the party of full fledged reform, the country will be stronger and more united as more and more Democrats wrestle with the realities of governance in a post-progressive world.

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  • Kenny

    In reality, Andrew Cuomo is doing precious little to reign in the public-sector unions.

    I suppose that he’s at least doing something warrants the headlines but so far it’s too little, too late.

  • Anthony

    “Politicians who deliver necessary services at acceptable costs… and more…wrestle with the reality of governance…” If only it were so easy WRM. But one can hope for national interest.

  • vanderleun

    Saturday, this particular Saturday, is a perfect day not to give a tinker’s damn about Cuomo, Unions, the Democratic Party and all the other kerfuffle. I say they are all Spinach and I say the hell with them.

    This theme is getting to be like a Rush Limbaugh monologue that goes on and on in case somebody tuned in in the last hour that hasn’t been paying attention for the last year.

    as ee cummings once wrote, “listen: there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go”

    even seeing the name cuomo is like having a two foot section of rebar nailed down the center of your spine. numbing.

  • Gary L

    WRM says Ever since Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, governors of New York have had presidential ambitions…

    Ever since Martin Van Buren, New York’s 9th Governor, you meant, of course. NY Govenors William Seward, Horatio Seymour, Samuel Tilden, Grover Cleveland and David Hill also pursued presidential ambitions, with varying degrees of success.

    Then, there is the case of DeWitt Clinton (1768-1828). He was the Federalist Party candidate who was narrowly defeated by the imcumbent James Madison in the 1812 election. In 1817, Clinton was elected Governor of NY, and served two terms. A presidential candidate with gubernatorial ambitions, we might say.

  • Boritz

    So blue goes away only as much and as fast as blue decides to. Too bad there isn’t a way to defeat them like Sherman did Georgia.

  • Lorenz Gude

    Cuomo may or may not be doing well, but it appears that he is doing better than Jerry Brown. I completely agree that what governors learn over the next few years is our best hope of dealing with ‘The Creature from the Blue Lagoon’. And by that creature I am not referring to any particular party or politician, but to the corrupt axis of power and money between Washington and Wall St.

  • Ann

    As of right now the tech sector in the Hudson Valley and the Albany area are the bright spots in the new York economy. Cuomo looks as if he is going to leave it alone, and maybe even help further it’s growth. He has presidential ambitions and Chris Christie next door trying to get businesses to move there. There is some hope.

    California is hopeless. They reelected the person who created the laws that they are dying under right now.

    My brother, who lives in CA, and I have been having a contest for years about which state elects the worst politicians. We were neck and neck with Schwarzenegger and Spitzer. My brother has now won his pyrrhic victory.

  • Ann

    Here’s an article about technology in upstate NY from the economist:

  • teapartydoc

    Cuomo is surfing the pension tsunami. Let’s see if he makes it to shore. If he does, maybe he deserves to be president. But again, if he does, can you rightfully call him a Democrat anymore?

  • Albanian

    Cuomo is actually doing less than his publicity indicates. E.g., his latest civil-service pension reform is still defined-benefit and still has an unsustainably young retirement age. A cynical observer might suspect a choreographed Kabuki dance with the unions.

  • pablo panadero

    Very simply, Cuomo is trying to do what Walker did while maintaining the pipeline of the public sector union dues financing the Democratic party. If he is successful, the Democratic party may survive. If Walker is successful, the Democratic party will not survive. This is one person who hopes that Walker wins this contest.

  • willis

    “who have learned that blue model governance isn’t the only way to get things done will rise to national power.”

    The blue model governance is a way to get things done? Really, where?

  • cubanbob

    President Romney and the new republican congress can go a long way towards curbing state and local unions simply by declaring the US will not gurantee any state or municipal bond. Nor formal or implied guarantee, that only will force the state and local governments to deal seriously with their civil service pay, benefit and pension issues when they all of a sudden have a much harder time being able to borrow funds. Couple that with eliminating the tax deductibility for interest paid on general obligation bonds will go even further in forcing state and local governments to deal seriously with spending problems and long term liabilities.

  • John

    I lived my whole life in NY until I escaped 6 years ago. The entire state is run for the benefit of government employees, with private sector unions a close second.

    The Tax Slaves exist to provide said workers with early retirements and gold plated benefits and 6 weeks of vacation every year.

    I’ll believe Cuomo is finally standing up for the middle class when I see it. Until then, it’s the usual pandering to welfare queens and the unaccountable unions.

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