Wall St. protests could be a problem for Cuomo, Silver
As all of us know, the political climate in New York state and the country at large has taken a twist. Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street, has become an encampment seemingly modeled after Arab Spring. Not since the civil rights and anti-Viet Nam War protests have we seen this kind of largely middle class discontent. If you were an all too conservative Democratic politician in New York, you might be starting to sweat. All of a sudden, there has been a sharp U-turn in what was shaping up to be a new conservatism in New York. Liberalism is on the rise again.
A good deal of the frustration is fueled by the economic discomfort being felt around the country. People are actually challenging the banks and the Wall Street financial power establishment, calling them the “1 percent” because, in contrast to the other 99 percent, they control an inordinate amount of the country’s wealth. The people in the park have articulated different reasons as to why they are there. When one sifts through their words, however, it seems to come down to the fact that so many of them cannot find jobs. They are very unhappy about those in the top economic echelons not being held accountable for what they have done to the American economy.
Frankly, I am delighted to see it all happening. There is little doubt that the banks and associated financial institutions have had their way with the American people. While small time old fashioned crooks are hustled off to jail, many of those who occupy corner offices on Wall Street have been getting away with economic murder.
What is most interesting to me is the reaction of the political leaders to what is happening. Up to now, Governor Cuomo seems to have been siding with many of those who have the most. In that, he is backed by the conservative New York Post. His most noteworthy position in that he is against any new taxes in New York including any kind of new tax on those making more than a million dollars a year. Cuomo’s popularity, as everyone knows, is in the stratosphere. Suddenly, however, members of the quiescent liberal and middle class population are gearing up for a massive fight. As they do, the sleeping giant is awakening. As one of the savviest political operatives in the world, Cuomo knows that he has to be careful about this one. Once the people in his own party become properly incensed, he might be called to account by them. This could turn around and bite him in the fanny, especially if he wants to be president.
It’s pretty hard to accept that the governor is in sympathy with the occupiers. After all, Cuomo has been acting the part of a conservative, “no new taxes” guy. Added to his potential woes is the possible awakening of the powerful civil services union in New York. This is underscored by the turnout of organized unions to swell the ranks of the “occupiers.” Cuomo has recently confused a lot of us by announcing that he was in favor of President Obama’s plan to tax the wealthiest Americans while he refuses to do that in New York.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is in a hot spot as well. He has gone public with the observation that the protestors have overstayed their welcome. It’s a sort of a “Not in My Backyard” problem for Silver who represents the district in the Assembly. The problem for the speaker is that while the protestors will not vote for him in a potential primary, the residents might. Many of the regular residents in the areas are annoyed by all the noise and the smells. This could be a potential problem for both powerful men. Just one more reason I’d rather write about them than be them.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 10/17/11