Actions Speak Louder
I just read Katha Pollitt’s column “Cuomo’s Words—and Deeds,” [Jan. 26] regarding the late Mario Cuomo. I agree with her completely.
As I listened to the last ten minutes of Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address on January 21, I was, at first, struck by the powerful rhetoric. But as one who has closely followed Mr. Cuomo’s actions, I was left feeling cynical. As with his father, I feel that it’s not the speeches or the delivery, but the actions that matter to me. And each has been found wanting. Pollitt pointed out the prison debacle in which the late Governor Cuomo spent $7 billion of taxpayer money on unneeded, privatized upstate prisons (and increased Ulster County property taxes incredibly).
New York State’s poor, then and now, need emotional, educational and financial help to live their lives to the fullest. I feel that the Cuomos’ legacy is about their own political success, while their lack of action leaves our poor to live lives of suffering.
The sad thing about Mario Cuomo is that he declined the one post in which he could have done the most good: associate justice of the Supreme Court. With his legal talent and his progressive outlook, he would have been a significant factor on the Court. Yet he could not bring himself to accept the position, even though he had lobbied President Clinton for the nomination. His passing reminds me of how disappointed I was when he turned down this opportunity.
Progress and Poverty
I was delighted to see Henry George acknowledged in Jesse A. Myerson and Mychal Denzel Smith’s “An Economic Program for #BlackLivesMatter” [Jan. 26]. We Georgists have been struggling to spread his message for 100 years, because the wealthy who fund economics chairs for universities want to keep George a secret. He not only advocated for a just and equitable society, but also realized that it would not happen until the female half of the population could vote. The man was a menace to the status quo.
In the final paragraph of their article, Myerson and Smith write, “These policies may seem like a long shot”; that is a laughable understatement. “The thrilling movement shutting down transit and commerce operations” is a massive misreading. The political consequence of #BlackLivesMatter is much more likely to be the already obvious pushback, accelerating a clear move to the right. When psychologists theorize about the transition from adolescence to adulthood, they often mention “the reality principle.”
John Stephen Harris
Learning From Teachout
In 2014, for the first time in a very long time, New York State voters had the opportunity to vote for a genuine progressive as a serious candidate for governor. Zephyr Teachout got 34 percent of the vote in a statewide Democratic primary. However, in New York City, Mayor de Blasio did not support her, and the organized Democratic machinery delivered big for Governor Cuomo.
I can understand why the mayor, who is in many ways dependent upon the good will of the governor, would not want to stick his neck out by endorsing Teachout. Still, the fact that he did not endorse her seems to be an excellent example of the contradiction between the need to be pragmatic and the desire to be an outspoken advocate for progressive causes.
I was disappointed that Eric Alterman’s interview with de Blasio [“Bill de Blasio Is Just Getting Started,” Jan. 26] did not contain any discussion of the failure to endorse Teachout. The way Mayor de Blasio handled this issue might provide a clear indication of the limits of the political process and how much well-meaning people can actually accomplish once in office.
I am happy to report that you will find this issue, and many others, discussed in my new e-book/paperback-on-demand, Inequality and One City: Bill de Blasio and the New York Experiment, Year One, available from eBookNation beginning February 16.
Don’t Be Fooled
As with all of your articles for The Nation, I found “This Year’s ‘Free Trade’ Scam” [Jan. 26] well done and worth reading. I do, however, have one question and one criticism related to that question. Your article failed to mention the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the proposed free-trade agreement between the European Union and the United States of America. Why?
The proposed TTIP agreement is very unpopular within the general EU population for many of the same reasons you outline in your article about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Moreover, citizens’ groups, especially in Germany, have been extremely active and vocal in their criticism, particularly as regards regulatory issues related to food safety, the environment and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) stipulations.
Consequently, the omission of the TTIP agreement within your article makes your words of praise for the German government extremely disingenuous: “The short answer is that other nations, if they are big enough, simply ignore America’s sermons. Germany is the most dramatic example. It is a leading player in global trade, with huge surpluses, while the United States suffers debilitating deficits. But Germany decided long ago that its companies and bankers owe a debt of loyalty to the nation and its working people.”
In fact, the German government, as part of the EU delegation to the TTIP negotiations, is more than willing to go along with most of the egregious conditions common to this whole family of trade agreements.
I would certainly welcome reading another article by you that would feature a review of the TTIP agreements. In fact, I would welcome much more reporting on TTIP and the associated grassroots activities against the agreements in the pages of The Nation.
Deborah A. Cecere
A good question, and I don’t have a good answer, except to say the Asian scam is well along toward decision, and the European version is a good ways off. If the crucial issues in the TPP can be blocked, then the European negotiations will be gravely weakened, too. One battle at a time.