Being Right: Andrew Cuomo Has Failed New York State

Anthony Palazzola, Staff Writer

New York State is in the middle of three crises: an economic crisis, a fiscal crisis and a crisis in political morality. I argue that the decline of New York is mostly attributable to the poor leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been in office since January 2011. While Governor Cuomo’s leadership flaws were visible to any close observer prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, his handling of the pandemic has been an abject failure. 

Andrew Cuomo ran for Governor in 2010 as a moderate Democrat who would work with Republicans, take on special interests, and root out corruption. Such a platform is pretty appealing, right? Heck, I recall that my parents, both of whom are Republicans, voted for Governor Cuomo in that election. And in no small part because Republicans controlled the New York State Senate during his tenure up until 2019, Governor Cuomo had some impressive bipartisan accomplishments early in his term. For example, in numerous years he balanced the budget without raising taxes and he created an anti-corruption executive agency known as the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. In addition, he enacted pro-economic growth policies, such as the START-UP NY Program, which gives tax incentives to companies that are relocating in the state near a college or university. And as late as early 2019, Governor Cuomo signed into law a much-needed property tax cap. 

But despite these legitimate accomplishments early on in Governor Cuomo’s tenure, he did at times demonstrate poor leadership skills, even if he did so less obviously. For example, he disbanded that same anti-corruption agency when it became clear that the agency was looking at his close political associates. Moreover, in a separate matter, a former top aide was convicted in regard to the Buffalo Billion scandal. Governor Cuomo also has reigned over numerous years of population loss in the state, and many believe that he has been inadequate in addressing New York’s crumbling infrastructure. So Governor Cuomo displayed concerning leadership skills long before any New Yorker had ever heard of COVID-19. 

However, since the pandemic began, the Governor’s failures have significantly multiplied. For starters, Governor Cuomo has instituted some of the strictest pandemic-safety measures on New York businesses relative to other states. The effectiveness of these strict measures on stopping the spread of COVID-19 are, at best, questionable. Florida, which has a larger population than New York, has had a much more liberal approach in terms of COVID-19 restrictions and yet has consistently had a much lower COVID-19 death rate per capita. But the adverse effect of Cuomo’s restrictions on businesses are not at all questionable. Thousands of small businesses in New York have closed for good, and numerous key Wall Street companies have announced plans to relocate their headquarters to Florida. Thus, Governor Cuomo’s leadership skills during the pandemic have failed both the lifeblood of our local communities (small businesses) and the major revenue producers for the state (big businesses), leading to a major economic crisis in the state. This economic crisis has in turn contributed to a major fiscal crisis in the state, as the state faces a deficit of more than $10 billion over the next few years because of a reduction in commerce and thus sales tax revenue. Yes, commerce declined to a degree because of the pandemic itself. But the extent to which commerce declined in New York was unnecessary and a consequence of Governor Cuomo’s strict measures and failed economic leadership. 

Finally, Governor Cuomo’s nursing home scandal has created a crisis of political morality. To provide context for the nursing home scandal, consider that the Governor’s Department of Health Commissioner signed an executive order in March 2020 that forced nursing homes to readmit residents recently discharged from the hospital even if they tested positive for COVID-19. Thousands of elderly, vulnerable New Yorkers died in nursing homes as a consequence. For months, Governor Cuomo hid from calls for accountability for this major scandal from both reporters and Republicans in the state legislature. Moreover, Governor Cuomo’s own agencies underreported the number of nursing home COVID-19 deaths by 50%, according to the Office of the New York State Attorney General. In response, Governor Cuomo’s Secretary, Melissa DeRosa, admitted that the Governor and other executive branch officials last year purposely covered up the actual nursing home death toll so as not to precipitate an investigation from the then-Trump Department of Justice. Finally, Governor Cuomo recently in a private phone call threatened to “destroy” a Democratic State Assemblyman who had demanded accountability for the nursing home scandal. These disturbing actions reveal a Governor who does not know how to take responsibility, who has no understanding of morality and the law and who sees himself as an authoritarian. Governor Cuomo’s actions are also leaving New Yorkers wondering about how we elected such a cruel man to the governorship in the first place. Most importantly, New Yorkers are now wondering how, together and in a bipartisan fashion, we can restore morality in the political institutions of our great state.