The courage to tackle the left

New York’s Governor Cuomo intrigues me. What he is trying to do may impact the entire country some day.

Cuomo is from the left, of course. He gets a lot of campaign money from the left. Teachers unions, the education lobby, give him big bucks. So do the unions for state and municipal workers.

And yet he is confronting them. He is forcing the issue of teacher evaluation. Basically, the teachers’ unions don’t want teachers to be evaluated seriously. They fight against poor teachers being identified. They fight against poor teachers getting the boot. They put up various smokescreens and say they just want fairness. Right.

Meanwhile, your school cannot sack its hopeless teachers. Because the union will fling so many roadblocks at the school. Overcoming the roadblocks will cost more than a new gym. So schools put up with incompetence. And the kids take it on the chin.

Cuomo is challenging this ridiculous racket. He is threatening to put teeth into the evaluations.



The Governor is also confronting civil servants. Over their pensions and other benefits. Now, you cannot blame unions for wanting to hang onto the existing benefits. They are fat, compared with benefits in the private sector.

Cuomo proposes that new hires pay a bit more toward their pensions. And that they retire three years later than current public employees. He also suggests the pension program begin to shift toward a 401k-type system. Like those that cover private employees.

These are hardly radical changes. But they will save cities and the state billions in the long run.  Of course the unions immediately condemned them and predicted they will end life on the planet.

What intrigues me is that Cuomo shows the courage to tackle the left. Politicians know that leaders from the left can tame abuses on the left. Sometimes they can achieve more in this regard than leaders from the right. In negotiations they cut through the bluster and propaganda. They basically say “Hey, guys, you know we’re on the same side. I wouldn’t challenge you unless it’s really necessary. Well, it’s really necessary.”

This gives the negotiators on the left some cover. They cause a big stir in the papers. They whine big time. But they admit to their members “The governor wouldn’t force this if he didn’t have to. If we had a right-wing guy in Albany things would be a lot worse.”

If you want to find an example of this phenomenon on the right, consider Richard Nixon. He was stubbornly anti-communist. Fiercely right-wing. Yet it was Nixon who opened our first public discussions with Red China.

These are early days for Cuomo. Pre-negotiations. We will have to wait to see how tough he is in adding flesh to his proposals. If he is successful, the success could have national ramifications.

He probably wants to run for the White House. The costs of education and civil service in New York are bloated. They cause higher taxes and help cripple the state’s economy. If Cuomo reins in the teachers and civil servants in New York he will contain some of those costs. That should take pressure off taxes. This will help the state prosper.

This would give him a reputation that will help him with Democrat movers and shakers nationally. They like candidates from the left who can tame the extremes on the left. Such candidates are better able to win the all-important voters from the middle. The ones who decide who wins the presidency.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.                  

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows and new TV shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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