Cuomo and Hochul Wins Show No Consequences for Democratic Politicians

Andrew CuomoAssociated Press is reporting that Andrew Cuomo has won the New York Democratic governor’s primary. He got 60% of the vote and Zephyr Teachout got 36% of the vote. That’s actually a pretty pathetic showing by Cuomo, given that Teachout had no name recognition and not much of a budget. Cuomo’s win depends entirely on the fact that most voters just go along with what they know, even though what they know sucks.

Cuomo is the ultimate New Democrat. He’s modestly liberal when it comes to social policy. And by that, I mean he is basically in favor of social policies that have majority support in the United States. But when it comes to economic policy, he’s easily as conservative as Ronald Reagan. To give you some idea of just how conservative he is, he’s even worse than Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Back in 2011, Eric Alterman summed up Andrew Cuomo perfectly, Governor Cuomo Is Still Governor One Percent:

Asked why, when he was being forced to lay off thousands of city and state workers, cut the pensions of countless others, and reduce aid to mass transit and education, he insisted on fighting tooth and nail to kill the so-called millionaire’s tax on the state’s highest earners — a tax, by the way, that would have ensured an additional $4 billion for such needs, and that was favored by 72 percent of respondents in an October poll — Cuomo replied, “The fact that everybody wants it, that doesn’t mean all that much.” Cuomo then recalled that his father, Mario Cuomo, famously opposed the death penalty despite strong majority support. “Reporters would say, ‘Well, people want it,'” Cuomo added. “And the point was, you know, we don’t elect — you can’t just have as a governor a big poll-taking machine, right?” So Andrew Cuomo’s willingness to thwart the will of the majority and stick a thumb in the eye of his own party on behalf of the interests of multimillionaires and billionaires — literally, the “1 percent” — is somehow analogous to the lonely, brave, and extremely costly political stand his father took on behalf of condemned prisoners on death row.

Yes, Mario Cuomo is a great man and was a great politician. Andrew Cuomo is a privileged brat who thinks he deserves money and power. I can’t imagine that his father is anything but secretly ashamed of his son. I don’t mean ashamed as in, “My son is a drunk…” I mean, “My son is a selfish bastard who doesn’t care about anyone but himself…” And the fact that Cuomo the Lesser would fluff himself up as a brave truth-teller when what he is doing is to his political and economic advantage is truly offensive.

But the most disturbing thing from that quote is the statistic that 72% were in favor of the millionaire’s tax. It must have been much higher for Democrats. That was only three years ago. But these same Democrats marched to the polls to vote for a man who is only a liberal using the most generous definition. As Alterman noted, this is a man willing to “stick a thumb in the eye of his own party on behalf of the interests of multimillionaires.” If only Cuomo were as loyal to Democratic voters as they are to him.

Also on the ballot was Timothy Wu running against another New Democrat and all around offense to liberalism Kathy Hochul. He did better, gathering 41% to her 59%. But there was much discussion that he might even be able to win that race. So this is a real disappointment. And it is a reminder that there is no level of betrayal that a Democrat can show the base that will stop them from winning a nice, well-funded primary campaign.

With “liberals” like Cuomo and Hochul… Well, here’s Dead Kennedys doing “Kill the Poor”:

For the record, if Andrew Cuomo ever runs for president, and I’m sure that is his plan, I will not vote for him. In fact, if the Democrats nominate him, I’m leaving the party.

Update (9 September 2014 9:01 pm)

Associated Press has updated the numbers and it is even better for Cuomo and Hochul. Hooray! Democracy loses again!

Also, earlier today, Jonathan Bernstein wrote :

But anecdotally, there are at least some liberals who envy the Tea Party and its primary challenges, and it’s not at all difficult to imagine one or two improbable candidates gaining some momentum.

Yes, I am one of those liberals! And I think this is important for Democracy. The moderation of the Democratic Party, always pushing to the right, is what got us the crazy Republicans. If this were offset by actual liberalism, we would end up with more moderate parties. But as long as the Democrats insist upon being Republican Lite we are going to be stuck with a political system where there is no limit to conservative extremism because there is effectively no alternative to it.

Update (9 September 2014 10:54 pm)

I found this nice rundown on Cuomo from earlier today by Ed Kilgore. It actually includes all three things I hate about him. But give me some time, and I suspect I can come up with others. Well, maybe I have. His sense of privilege wasn’t mentioned. But this lays it out pretty well:

Gov Andrew Cuomo is going to be renominated today in NY, and will almost certainly win a second term in November. But a lot of people who will vote for him on one occasion or the other think he should perhaps be taken down a peg or two, and/or don’t particularly see in him what he almost certainly sees in the bathroom mirror each morning: a future President of the United States.

A lot of progressives don’t like Cuomo’s fiscal policies and his relationships with Wall Street, and a lot of partisan Democrats don’t like the game of footsies he’s played with the Republican-led coalition that (at the moment) controls the New York Senate.

Personally, I’m one of the remarkably large number of people who over the years have been impressed negatively by Cuomo’s exceptionally high opinion of himself, and his intolerance for constructive criticism. I haven’t paid close enough attention to his tenure in Albany to adjudge whether he’s making therapeutic progress on that front, or if he still needs to be reminded now and then of his non-divinity.

He also mentioned that Alan Greenblatt said that if Cuomo didn’t get at least 70% of the vote, it would be seen as a healthy rebuke. Well, Cuomo got only 62% of the vote. That isn’t quite as good as Cuomo finding that he has learned something that requires him to spend more time with his family, but I’ll take it.

Update (10 September 2014 12:11 am)

Andrew Prokop reported at Vox:

Yet there was an undercurrent of bitterness to the race. Cuomo’s campaign challenged Teachout’s residency in an unsuccessful attempt to get her disqualified from the ballot. When the candidates crossed paths during a Labor Day parade, Cuomo — intentionally or not — didn’t acknowledge Teachout’s presence. And, finally, as the election results became clear Tuesday night, several reporters tweeted that Teachout couldn’t call Cuomo to concede — because the governor’s campaign wouldn’t give out his phone number.

Classy, Cuomo. Real classy!

Civility as a Weapon Against the Weak

Steven SalaitaThe consistently great Michael Hiltzik pointed out a really important thing today, Free Speech, “Civility,” and How Universities Are Getting Them Mixed Up. The specific issue is that brouhaha about UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’s remarks about the fiftieth anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, “We can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility.” Let me translate: free speech will only be allowed if it doesn’t upset anyone.

This is a big part of how the power elite keep their power. They would never stop anyone from expressing themselves, as long as they only talk about things that don’t upset the status quo. So if you want to wax poetic about motherhood, have at it! But if you want to criticize the Israeli attacks in Palestine, as Steven Salaita did, be prepared to lose your job offer — not because of what you said, of course, but because of how you said it. The University of Illinois would never have admitted to stifling unpopular opinions. And that’s the whole point of the “civility” complaint: it provides cover for doing what would not be considered socially acceptable.

A big part of being powerful is having the luxury to take the “high ground,” even as they use it to cudgel the weak. I was recently in an argument with a neighborhood kid about the Israel-Palestine conflict. I try not to take sides, but he was arguing that Israel was in the right because they abide by the rules of war and Hamas does not. I was shocked that an otherwise smart boy could be so dense. Hamas doesn’t fire rockets at random because that’s the best theoretical tactic; they do it because they see it as the best tactic available to them. They do not have a modern army like Israel and so aren’t able to fight a more “civilized” war.

So the argument he was making was simply that he supported Israel because they had all the power in the situation. And the argument that those who support the University of Illinois are making is the same. Those who have power and want to keep things as they are can take the high ground by claiming the mantel of civility. But the act itself is a reflection and use of that power. So to support calls for civility is to support the status quo.

Hiltzik summed up the issue well, “Insistence on ‘civility’ is a weapon, and it’s almost always wielded by those in power against those whose free speech needs protection.” What we have to decide as a civilization is whether we are going to have public discourse that simply reinforces the existing power structure or not. If we are then we should give up the pretense that we have, much less value, free speech. I don’t like listening to the ravings of Bill O’Reilly either. But it is part of the price I pay to protect my own speech.

Why the Economy Sucks: We Get What We Demand

Power Concedes NothingEvery three years, the Federal Reserve puts out a Survey of Consumer Finances, and they just released their newest one that covers the period up through 2013. Neil Irwin provided a good overview of it at The Upshot, How Are American Families Doing? A Guided Tour of Our Financial Well-Being. The short answer to the question is: American Families are doing really poorly.

It would be nice to note that the picture isn’t completely bleak. But that isn’t true. It is true for certain segments of the population. The top 20% of income earners have seen their incomes go up by 4.3% over the last four years. And people with college degrees have seen their incomes go up a whopping 1.1% over the same period. But families over all have seen their incomes go down by almost 5% over the last four years. That’s shocking. According to FRED, during the same period, the economy grew by 8%.

This always makes me wonder about Milton Friedman. Whenever anyone would complain about income inequality, he would counter that although the vast majority of productivity gains went to the very rich, the poor were nonetheless seeing their standard of living increase. What would he say now? I can’t say in terms of details. But I know that as the conservative ideologue that he was, he would have come up with a new apologia for why it wasn’t true or didn’t matter. He may have just fallen back on the old libertarian crutch, “The practical effects don’t matter because… Freedom!”

Regardless, you may be wondering how it is that the economy grew by 8% when even the top 20% of income earners only saw their incomes go up by half that much. It’s that economic gains are just as unequally shared within the top quintile as they are overall. I suspect that those at the bottom of the top 20% didn’t see much if any increase in income. The vast majority of the economic growth went to enriching the already rich 1% and above.

As it is, the total income coming from wages is down from 68.1% in 2010 to 62.4% now — almost six percentage points. The biggest change is that capital gains is up almost four percentage points. And who makes money from capital gains? Well, if you listen to the ranters on CNBC, you will hear that everyone makes money from capital gains through their retirement programs and other investments. Such claims show a shocking disconnect between the power elites and the average family. Many poorer families have been forced to liquidate retirement plans just to get through this crisis. Here is the change in the households who own stocks for the period 2007 through 2013:

Change in Households With Stock Holdings (2007 - 2013)

Notice in this graph that even households at the bottom of the top quintile (80% – 90%) have seen a large sell off of stocks. This is indicative of a power elite that has totally lost its way. This is exactly the group that is supposed to act as the safety value for society. It is what is supposed to protect the power elite from the poorer classes picking up torches and pitchforks. This is what Chris Hedges wrote about in Death of the Liberal Class. But now we have a power elite that is so greedy that it isn’t even willing to allow this group to do okay. (Of course, as Hedges discussed, that class gave up doing it’s job long ago and so hardly deserves to be protected.)

So how is America doing? Terrible. But certain Americans — those who were doing great before the bursting of the real estate bubble — are continuing to do great. And since they are the ones who drive public policy, nothing is not going to change. They don’t care about same sex marriage. That doesn’t have an effect on how much money they have, so sure, let’s the prols have that one. But economic policy that would have a widespread positive effect? Forget it! Or at least forget about them providing it out of some sense of fairness. Remember what Frederick Douglass taught us a century and a half ago, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” We must demand our birthrights.

Wedding Postponed 72 Years

Wedding of Vivian Boyack and Alice Dubes

Meet Vivian Boyack and Alice Dubes. According to Metro yesterday, Lesbian Couple in Their Nineties Finally Marry After 72 Years Together. The service took place at the First Christian Church in Davenport, Iowa by Reverend Linda Hunsaker. She is quoted saying, “This is a celebration of something that should have happened a very long time ago.” I think that’s safe to say, although they clearly didn’t the marriage. And their marriage at this point is more a blessing that they bestow upon our society. They bless us.

It’s amazing to look at them. Are these the women we have heard so much about — the ones that want to destroy marriage by engaging in it? Are these the women who anger God?! Because if these things are true, it means we have a pathetic excuse for marriage and God. One thing is for certain: we have had a very limited culture for a very long time. It’s only been two years since our supposedly liberal President has been willing to say publicly that Boyack and Dubes have a right to this civic sacrament.

The newlyweds met when they were teenagers — in 1942 — in their hometown, Yale, Iowa. They have been together ever since. Boyack was a teacher and Dubes was an accountant. They say that they’ve visited every state in the union and every province in Canada. According to Dubes, “We’ve had a good time.”

Unfortunately, that’s all I know about them. I’ve checked out a dozen different article and they are all short with pretty much the same information. But I doubt it much matters. It is a wonderful story and a wonderful event. And it is a bit of positive news for a change. As a society, I guess we do slowly crawl forward. Regardless, congratulations to the happy couple!

Christians, Frogs, and Luigi Galvani

Luigi GalvaniOn this day in 1737, the great biophysicist Luigi Galvani was born. He is, of course, the guy who showed that applying electricity to the legs of a dead frog would make them twitch. This not only showed that electricity was used within the body to send messages, it also inspired the greatest Romantic work and some of the best horror films of the last century. You are allowed to consider this a more important contribution to humanity.

Galvani was born to what might be called upper-middle class parents. His father was a goldsmith. So at 15, the future scientist went off to college to become priest. But his parents didn’t like that idea at all. It was most likely that they wanted him to have a more profitable trade. So they talked him into studying medicine. Even so, he remained devote his whole life. But despite living almost three centuries ago, he was more open minded than most American Christians today.

Consider the implications of his work, which were more than simply electrifying frog legs, even if today it all seems like “common sense.” The same thing happens in frog legs and human legs. This means that there is a continuity between amphibians and humans. If God had really created all the animals individually, you would think he wouldn’t have made them all work the same way. Not that apologists couldn’t argue that.

But I don’t think there is any doubt that if Galvani were alive today, in the intellectual environment of American Christians, people would be appalled. How dare he say that the same processes that go on inside a frog go on inside human, the creature that God created the universe for?! Of course, they do accept it today for the same reason they accept the electric light and central heating: it is useful. If they could ever be made to see that modern medicine is based on the foundation of evolution by natural selection, they might accept it to. But we aren’t likely to see that any time soon.

Happy birthday Luigi Galvani!