If Cuomo wanted a minimum wage hike, he’d get it

The people of New York state are, if anything, fair, solid thinkers and they want a minimum wage of $8.50 an hour. The boys in the back room won’t permit it. Franz Kafka would have understood the situation. He could have predicted the behavior of the meanies in the Republican Senate who seem to have absolutely no empathy with working people. This is no communist diatribe. It is a shaking of the head and a few observations. The will of the people on the minimum wage will be thwarted by phalanx of the self-interested who does not sympathize with those who are struggling the hardest to make ends meet. The people who are making the rules don’t have to live on $7.25 an hour. Hell, they eat in places where you can’t get a hamburger for $7.25. Some of them pay fifty bucks for a haircut.

Governor Cuomo who has massive positive public opinion numbers says he is for a raise in the minimum wage but he is not about to put his awesome power behind such a raise this year. That’s even though we all know he has the power to get this particular Legislature to do just about anything he wants them to. With just a single vote in their favor, the Republicans in the state Senate can’t alienate this governor who is all that stands between them and political extinction of their minority status. If Cuomo wanted it, he would get it. One can only conclude that he doesn’t really want it.

In fact, it was Andrew Cuomo who has saved the Republicans hash by not carrying through on his pledge to veto the disgraceful, self-serving redistricting bill that is almost sure to keep this Republican Party in office. All the insiders know that by not keeping his word Cuomo has saved the Republican majority. The new Cuomo is light years away from his father, the progressive Democrat. The new Cuomo does not want the Democrats to win the Senate even though the state is so blue it sometimes looks like the ocean on a political map. Cuomo, the younger, made his bones with Bill Clinton, who, you will remember, originally ran for president as a sort of conservative Blue Dog Democrat. Cuomo’s thinking on a minimum wage bill is consistent with his training.

Cuomo knows that the Democrats in the Senate would join their colleagues in the Assembly by passing such a minimum wage bill. The fact that the Democrats, when they briefly had their chance at power, blew it so badly, gives Cuomo all the smoke screen he needs to keep the conservative Republicans in power. According to Siena, 78 percent of the people want this raise in the minimum wage. That is really astounding and more than rivals Cuomo’s own popularity numbers. The people don’t connect the dots. They don’t really understand that it is Cuomo who is keeping the minimum wage where it is. Put another way, if Andrew Cuomo wanted a minimum wage bill, he’d have it.

For his part, Republican leader Dean Skelos calls the minimum wage increase a job killer. He should call it a “people killer.” Who among us doesn’t understand that the present minimum wage doesn’t even approach sustainability? It doesn’t give parents enough money to put proper food on the table. It sure doesn’t give them the resources to send their kids off to school with proper clothing.

The good news is that Cuomo and the Republicans know their constituents understand the reality of the situation. Right now it’s a buyer’s market. People are getting away with murder exploiting their workers. The old robber barons would be proud of the status quo. The dots are connected. This is a disgrace and once again I wonder whether these people have mirrors in their homes and whether they ever look in them.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 5/21/12

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