A WIN FOR OCCUPY WALL STREET: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is one of those self-described progressives who are good on social issues (marriage equality) but not so good on economic fairness. Having received substantial support from the business community, when it came time to propose a budget he insisted on letting the state’s “millionaire’s tax” expire—a $5 billion windfall for the top 2 percent of state taxpayers.
But on December 6 the New York Post—which once ran the headline Read Andrew’s Lips repeatedly to hold him to his “no new taxes” plan—was in a rage, calling Cuomo a “rate-fink” for his recent decision to partially re-establish the millionaire’s tax. Cuomo has cited the state’s worsening fiscal situation as the reason for his change of heart. But the deeper, more interesting explanation is Occupy Wall Street. As Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party (WFP) wrote recently, the Occupy movement changed the national conversation “from austerity to inequality.” And this new tax deal, which will improve the lives of many working and poor people, is a result of that changed conversation.
After Cuomo delivered his tax cut to the wealthy—and balanced the budget with massive cuts in spending to programs for the young, the poor and the nonpowerful—the economy remained stagnant. As the state’s major unions joined with the WFP, Citizen Action and scores of other organizations to launch a seemingly farfetched campaign to revive the millionaire’s tax before it even expired (on New Year’s Eve), they caught the hugest of breaks: a hardy band of young people showed up in Zuccotti Park, and didn’t leave.
A march to the homes of billionaires on Park Avenue. Actions at banks. A camp in the capital with a banner reading Welcome to Albany, Home of Governor One Percent. With one aspirational eye on national politics, Governor Cuomo couldn’t allow the nickname to stick. He had to act, forced into motion this time by the left. The tax deal passed on December 7.
Chalk one up for the Spirit of Occupy. Other governors and members of Congress ought to start paying attention. KATRINA vanden HEUVEL
PUNISHING MUSLIM PRISONERS: This past summer, the Justice Department published its semiannual report disclosing allegations by US prisoners of civil liberties and civil rights violations, revealing that 1,065 complaints were filed in the first half of 2011 and that 155 of those “required further review” by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Office of the Inspector General. At the root of every complaint was an anti-Islam bias. (The report, a formality established by the Patriot Act, focuses on Muslim inmate abuses, passing off other prisoner complaints to different government agencies.) Inmates reported being sexually and verbally assaulted by guards for their Muslim faith; being sent to lockdown on trumped-up charges; and being prohibited from praying, publicly or privately.