COVID-19: Cuomo’s Bubble is Starting to Burst

UPDATED: The NY governor’s 2020 budget was approved by the state Legislature, which included cuts to Medicaid, undermining his newfound status, reports Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

In a nation desperate for leadership in this time of peril, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has risen to the occasion, delivering reassuring daily press briefings in a no-nonsense style that contrasts sharply with Donald Trump’s nonsense in his own daily appearances at the White House.

Cuomo’s performances, in which he says “we’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life,” have catapulted him to national prominence. He is being widely promoted as the Democrat who should replace disappearing frontrunner Joe Biden to face Trump in November.

Mainstream media has been piling on the praise. The New York Times reported:

His briefings — articulate, consistent and often tinged with empathy — have become must-see television. On Tuesday, his address was carried live on all four networks in New York and a raft of cable news stations, including CNN, MSNBC and even Fox News.”

MSNBC gushes over Cuomo:

But Cuomo’s bubble is about to burst if the policy behind the rhetoric becomes common knowledge.

More Than One Face

Cuomo’s present regard for the well-being of every New Yorker, rich or poor, and his lyrical demands to ramp up the number of hospital beds and ventilators is undermined by an ongoing record of drastically cutting back on the state’s assistance to public medical facilities that serve the poor.

While he is now frantically trying to add hospital beds in the state (which has lost 20,000 in the past 20 years), Cuomo, over the past decade, agreed to close and consolidate numerous public hospitals, mostly serving the poor, to save money. For instance, in 2013 he approved the closure of the 500-bed Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, despite objections from the community.

Even in these extraordinary circumstances his budget proposal to shave $400 million off the state’s $35 billion Medicaid bill—which provides care to the poorest New Yorkers—was accepted by the state Senate on Thursday and the Assembly early Friday, when both passed Cuomo’s 2020 budget. It comes precisely as Medicaid recipients need it most. 

So determined is Cuomo to slash Medicaid spending that he’s prepared to reject more than $6 billion in matching federal aid approved earlier this month because it would force him to alter his austerity strategy,” The Nation reported on Monday.

It said:

If Cuomo gets his way with the state budget [which the Legislature has now given him], many of the city’s most besieged hospitals will lose money at a time when Covid-19 is threatening to crash New York’s health care system. Central Brooklyn hospitals, serving many of the borough’s working class and poor, could lose $38 million a year. Manhattan hospitals could lose up to $58 million a year.

Naomi Zewde, an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy at CUNY, told the magazine: “’The proposal to cut funding to public hospitals during a pandemic reflects really poor decision-making.’”

Making it worse, is that Cuomo’s budget did not include rises in property or wealth taxes, despite a $10-15 billion shortfall. “There were no new taxes on the ultrarich, a measure many liberals had clamored for,” The New York Times reported.

New York State Capitol in Albany. (Flickr)

Cuomo’s budget also included a measure that makes it harder for third parties to get on the state’s ballot. The Working Families Party blamed him for “using the pandemic to silence his opponents, expand his executive power and pursue an austerity agenda.”

New Image Challenged

In spite of his newfound superstar status, some state Democrats and alternative media are starting to take notice of his contradictions. 

Reacting to his Medicaid cuts, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat who chairs the Senate Health Committee, told The Nation: “It’s obscene. These are immoral actions that the governor is taking.”

The Nation article by Ross Barkan on Monday, headlined, “Cuomo Helped Get New York Into This Mess,” has so far been one of the sharpest critiques. Barkan wrote:

…the same Cuomo who is racing to expand New York’s hospital capacity and crying out for more federal resources is quietly trying to slash Medicaid funding in the state, enraging doctors and nurses, and elected officials of his own party. The same Cuomo who holds press briefings at a major New York City convention center, now the home of a temporary 1,000-bed hospital, presided over a decade of hospital closures and consolidations, prioritizing cost savings over keeping popular health care institutions open.”

In an article on Monday under the headline, “Media Need to Scrutinize Andrew Cuomo’s Record, Not Crush on His Words,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) wrote:

Yes, he is projecting both empathy and competence in a way Trump never will, filling a leadership void that people desperately need filled at the moment. But particularly in times of crisis, when executive power tends to expand dramatically, media should be holding the powerful to account, not settling for ‘better than Trump.’ And there is plenty to hold Cuomo to account for.

Cuomo was not only slow to react to the growing crisis, he continues to make decisions that prioritize his neoliberal agenda over the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable: As he battles Trump with one hand, with the other he is continuing his longstanding efforts to cut healthcare and hospital funding and education support, roll back bail reform, and give himself the power to unilaterally slash government services rather than raise taxes on the rich to deal with budget gaps.

As local activists have pointed out, there are many other ways to close the budget gap that don’t involve cutting essential services—at least 14 concrete options for new taxes on, or an end to various subsidies for, the ultra-rich and corporations. But Cuomo is so committed to his corporate-friendly deficit-busting that when the emergency federal Covid-19 aid package to states (including $6.7 billion to New York) included a clause prohibiting changes to Medicaid programs, Cuomo declared that he couldn’t accept it (Politico, 3/27/20). Stop and think about that: Cuomo’s instinct is to forego billions of dollars of desperately needed aid because he is unwilling to give up Medicaid cuts which themselves will directly jeopardize the lives of those most at risk of dying from Covid-19.”

And then comedian Jimmy Dore took a prolonged swipe at Cuomo.

Cuomo has clearly filled a void left by Trump for a frightened nation desperate for leadership.

Given everything he has said in his briefings that run contrary to his Medicaid cuts, Cuomo should have acknowledged his mistake in the current circumstances, and reversed his position, including raising taxes on the rich to help pay for the coronavirus crisis in the hardest-hit state.

That would only have enhanced his image as a leader. Instead, in the budget both houses of the Legislature have now passed, he stuck with cutting medical assistance for the poor and letting the rich off the hook.

Cuomo inherited from his father, the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo, both presidential ambitions and a marked talent for oratory. But if the mainstream media catches on (and that’s a big if) to his persistent hypocrisy on medical treatment for poor New Yorkers it might not be easy for Cuomo to talk his way out of this one.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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37 comments for “COVID-19: Cuomo’s Bubble is Starting to Burst

  1. robert e williamson jr
    April 6, 2020 at 16:41

    Especially if you are one of those plastic media moguls seeking ratings.

    But this isn’t over by a long stretch. It will be very interesting to see just how the National Security apparatus and the Home Land Security apparatus react in the end.

    DAVID OTNESS Read Jane Mayers book “Dark Money” this neo-liberal thing has roots back to the 1950’s. I recently posted a comment aton the DNC Lawsuit post here. Check it out. I posted some lengthy quotes from David Talbots “Devils Chess Board” .

    The history is here if we can find it. I have found some. Enough to prove to me that Allen Dulles with the help of his brother John Foster Dulles, Robert Blum and several others of the Allen Dulles “inner elite” hijacked the CIA creating an Agency of their vision and no one else.

    In doing so they managed to hijack congress also. Who would question CIA after they stood by and facilitated the murder of JFK.

    Folks we don’t have a lot of time here. Do your own research before making a decision but tell me just exactly what has the National Security – Home Land Security apparatuses done for any of us lately?

  2. robert e williamson jr
    April 6, 2020 at 16:20

    Still a sick cat may appear to many to be a better choice for a pet than, say, a skunk!

    • John Drake
      April 6, 2020 at 19:06

      Must inject some humor here.

      Skunks are reported to make good pets, as long as their musk glands are removed.

      Wonder if that could work for politicians?

  3. David Otness
    April 5, 2020 at 10:48

    Thank you Claire and Susan Siens.
    Mr Flores’ opinion (not facts) is representative of those trained by the ranting austerian gods, they who presided over the now-obvious failures of 40 years of sledge hammer neoliberalism.
    Yet those of his ilk continue to smugly bark and blame the now-marginalized of the former promise / rightful expectations of the New Deal-engendered middle class of the 1960s-early 70s.

    We, whose rise and apogee was reached in the mid-1970s until the ‘sainted’ Democrat Jimmy Carter first cracked opened the gate to the notions of Milton Friedman and the lesser-known, but much more poisonous ideology of James Buchanan—a monster of our age who makes Ayn Rand look like a princess in a fairy tale once exposed.
    So no wonder the Koch brothers so heartily embraced and employed—and continue to employ—his (Buchanan’s) scorched earth to-any-New Dealism by cruel economic and overtly antisocial philosophies, apparently quite pleased with the 1973 Chilean coup, in spite of some ‘messiness.’

    And of course this is why anytime a Latin American nation even aspires toward social justice at ANY level, all of a sudden the U.S. is fomenting coups and meting out harsh, inhumane economic sanctions, calling on the tired old trope of ‘communism’ or in the case of Venezuela by Democrat Barack Obama naming it—-“a clear and present danger to the security of the United States of America.”
    No, Mr Flores. Just no.

  4. Kenneth
    April 4, 2020 at 18:44

    To the author, Joe Lauria, there’s one reality you’re missing. New York is economically broke. The federal government is broke. The powers that be are shuffling accounts and robbing Peter to pay Paul. But that only goes so far. Do you believe money grows on trees or just appears out of thin air? At some point, economic reality hits.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      April 5, 2020 at 00:20

      There’s plenty of money to be had from New York’s rich if Cuomo had the guts to tax them. That would take care of the state’s budget shortfall, but probably also his political career. — Joe Lauria.

  5. Realist
    April 4, 2020 at 17:33

    Spot on analysis. Crises always elevate the popularity of leaders in control whether they act competently or do a botch job. Trump’s approval ratings are up as well. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is in hiding because he cannot articulate a coherent sentence. The Dems are desperate to find an excuse to dump him and a “charismatic” pol with high name recognition to replace him. Joe is, in fact, running substantially behind Hillary’s numbers at this stage of the campaign, and he dispatched Bernie much sooner than did Hillary. So, Joe gotta go. He was, after all, just a place holder employed in a “prevent Bernie” defense. Don’t expect to hear about any of Cuomo’s negatives from the mainstream media, assuming he’s “the guy” the establishment wants. Frankly, beyond Mario’s son, all I notice are lightweights as far as the eye can see. History is not conspicuously creating the man of the moment. The media understand their role in how this country is run. They are just meme dispensers like Madison Avenue hawkers, not truth tellers. Enjoy your $1200 loaf of bread while the media entertains you with a circus rather than enlightenment. Are you not entertained?

  6. Brian James
    April 4, 2020 at 14:30

    FYI-Nov 4, 2019 Event 201 Pandemic Exercise: Segment 4, Communications Discussion and Epilogue Video

    Event 201 is a pandemic tabletop exercise hosted by The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The exercise illustrated the pandemic preparedness efforts needed to diminish the large-scale economic and societal consequences of a severe pandemic.

    youtu (dot) be/LBuP40H4Tko

    Mar 23, 2020 Medical Experts Discuss Dr. Zelenko’s Coronavirus

    Hydroxychloroquine Treatment w/ 100% Success Rate

    youtu (dot) be/hPPkhmPOwi0

  7. Robert Firth
    April 4, 2020 at 07:24

    So Governor Cuomo is slashing budgets that benefit the poor, and giving the rich a free ride. Big surprise! It is the rich, not the poor, who are going to bankroll his planned presidential campaign; of course he is keeping them onside until needed.

    And when he planned to sell New York’s entire stockpile of emergency ventilators at a $20,000 markup apiece, whose snouts were in that little trough?

  8. Drew Hunkins
    April 4, 2020 at 03:00

    Somewhat off topic.

    This two minute clip of Jimmy Dore absolutely going off on Bernie for selling out to Schumer, Pelosi and the Dem establishment is so heartening it’s beyond words. Enjoy the fiery anger that’s more necessary now than ever.
    see: twitter.com/i/status/1246025259767205889

  9. Jared
    April 3, 2020 at 16:07

    The bourgeoisie. Their cognitive dissonance knows no bounds. It’s bad enough to make even a Christian blush.

  10. Robert Wortman
    April 3, 2020 at 15:35

    Joe Lauria, I have absolutely no argument with your stinging conclusions about Andrew Cuomo, but – Lord have Mercy – how do you presume, even for a moment, to compare Mario Cuomo’s exalting oratory with that of the nasal whining of his son Andrew? Andrew is a “gabbadotz”, a three-card-monte man!

  11. George
    April 3, 2020 at 15:28

    You should watch his relationship with Israel. He has opened NYC for business to Israeli entrepreneurs specializing in cybersecurity, health care and smart homes, allowing them to further colonize one of the many parts of the US.

  12. Douglas Baker
    April 3, 2020 at 15:19

    Like California term four term Governor , Edmond, “Jerry” Brown, New York’s, short sheets public health as austerity without fixing taxes so each year, state’s financial obligations are settled with surplus for a “rainy day”. California’s Ex-Governor Brown during his third term inherited a red lined state with little in the state till ; but as stocks rose, so did state income thanks to gigging stock transactions that allowed for a “surplus” while ignoring the continued decline in public education and balancing state retirement obligations that would have required heavy lifting as leader, past Governor Brown’s can do, leaving that can of red paint to tip over down the road.

  13. John Drake
    April 3, 2020 at 14:04

    Good job Joe, especially at a time like this dangerous duplicity like the Governor’s needs to be shouted from the roof tops, so to speak.
    And then what about family loyalty? His brother Chris who has been featuring him on his CNN show-very advantageously- just tested positive and is in isolation. Chris should tell Governor brother it is time for a “come to Jesus moment”, his hero status is about to flop.

  14. Hide Behind
    April 3, 2020 at 13:04

    Where is the guarantee that those in State or any civil governing body will be less corrupt than at Federal level?
    Where is the difference between those who call themselves Democrat, Republican or Independent who roam in both party’s heirarchy?
    It is politics they first enter , and politics is not the actual, well nor supposed to be, but the back doors of they who govern.
    Politicians are supported by two different types, those who through own abilities and efforts, voters and weak willed psychophants, are incapable of holding public offices of any import and then there are those who actually hold the real “powers of governing” who hire others to manage those powers for them. No elected or appointed to high positions of government, or is able to retain those positions solely by own initiatives.
    There is no power of the vote if those who one votes for have been chosen by others and then presented to voters for their approval.
    Why then should voters think that their chosen person owes allegiance firstly to them, and not, as is the truth the system they first had to join and be approved by.
    The vast majority of populace have no reality based ideas of difference between political policy making and resulting Government Policies.
    Government is not real, the actions of government personalities is reality, Government has no function but to legalize power of those within it, it and they within it owes not one damn thing to anyone else, and politics but the means to enter power, wether in government, buisness or employ, and society at large.
    Humanity needs restraints, but not all humans are necessary to a thin layer of humans who govern, some are knowing of power, of more worth than millions of humans.
    For last 70 years one government body’s power has slaughtered tens of millions and destroyed and determined hundreds of millions future destiny and it is those few of US and worlds wealthiest allies who have own political and governing principles that own the system.
    It is they few who “act” through politics and government, while all the rest can and do react in predictable ways they know we will.
    There is one cardinal rule about democracy by the people, they are always too f’n slow to enter the game arriving after there is no way they can win

    • April 4, 2020 at 16:52

      Hi excellent but sad- very few voters know in depth differences in party and personal politics- and this performer in the WH and his adoring followers is uniquely evil

  15. Lois
    April 3, 2020 at 12:17

    And yet he continues to dump huge sums into the state brownfield program to the benefit of developers, on the claim that it is good for public health (though the cleanups never remove the toxins, just burring them in place). Those funds would do far more for public health if payed directly to the sources providing healthcare.

    By the way the brownfield program lets developers get off scot-free on taxes for 25-35 years, they don’t pay anything into common kitty for things like trash collection and schools. And the state tax payers take on all liability for any exposure that may occurs from contamination left under those new “affordable” rental buildings.

  16. Vera Gottlieb
    April 3, 2020 at 11:58

    Just as despicable as the rest of them.

  17. John Puma
    April 3, 2020 at 11:02

    Re: “Starting to burst” (???)

    STARTING??? Cuomo has been a flaccid, burst bubble for some time.

    The “voters’ remorse crowd” (re Biden) are smitten with Cuomo because, in comparison, he can speak
    sense for two consecutive sentences.

    Of course, that was the “charm” of Obumma, relative to George “the profoundly impaired” Bush.
    And look where that got us!!!

    • Ed Wlody
      April 3, 2020 at 18:23

      As a retired NYS worker and union leader, I can attest to even worse actions by Cuomo. The only disagreement is with the author is with the closing of L.I. College Hospital. This hospital was a total shit-hole which just about lost its accreditation and was put under the auspices of Downstate Medical Center, a top rated teaching hospital in Brooklyn. Cuomo actually tried to sever the hospital’s agency status and put it UNDER the auspices of L.I. College Hospital!! The reason for his action was to rid the state of public union workers, who would then, as private hospital workers, be forced to join 1199, the union which is one of his biggest supporters, and one of the most corrupt unions in the nation. (The bread went stale and the roses have wilted away!)

  18. E J Dewey
    April 3, 2020 at 10:59

    If Cuomo is so bad (agreed) there needs to be a much better explanation of the complicity of the other Democrats in the State Senate who apparently feel he’s got the “right formula” and agreed with these cuts and voted to support him.

  19. Drew Hunkins
    April 3, 2020 at 10:56

    Great article Mr. Lauria.

  20. saurabh
    April 3, 2020 at 10:53

    Please follow Dean Baker’s complaint and put budget numbers in context. So Brooklyn hospitals will lose $38 million a year. What does this mean? Unfortunately I don’t have the budgets of Brooklyn hospitals memorized so I have no idea.

    • Truth first
      April 3, 2020 at 13:02

      Take a wild guess. Do you think ANY hospital could do ANYTHING with $38,000,000???

  21. Ida G Millman
    April 3, 2020 at 10:52

    Pure 93 year old Democrat/Democratic Socialist emotion: disappointment. Impure emotion: disappointment at his lack of perfection BUT Cuomo is still a better leader than Trump. Reason: he acknowledges that there are rules. Reason: he appears to be aware that he is a representative of the State and the Country BUT that he is NOT the State/Country. L&B&L/Love&Blessing&Laughter

    • rosemerry
      April 3, 2020 at 15:22

      Anyone is better than Trump- is that your starting point? 320 million people and this is the choice? What happened to Bernie, who actually foresaw a lot of the problems and wanted real changes-is he just tossed aside because of DNC corruption?

  22. Skip Scott
    April 3, 2020 at 10:08

    “But if the mainstream media catches on, and that’s a big if, to his persistent hypocrisy on medical treatment for poor New Yorkers it might not be easy for Cuomo to talk his way out of this one.”

    A very big “IF” indeed. Since the MSM is owned by and controlled by the Oligarchy, Cuomo’s persistent hypocrisy will go unreported by any major media. He may well be the democratic choice for November to replace the addle-brained Biden and challenge his Royal Orangeness. Another smooth talking, corporate sponsored warmonger. Surprise surprise.

    • Daniel
      April 3, 2020 at 12:57

      Exactly. Kudos to Cuomo for doing one part of his job well, but what about the rest of it?
      Very recently, it was Bloomberg who was going to save us, then Biden, and now Cuomo. Who will it be next week? I can hardly wait for the MSM to tell me. What a bunch of immature children we have become. Our dear leaders will not save us. They got where they are by preying on and fanning the flames of our collective stupidity and emotional immaturity, aided greatly by their sycophants, the MSM.
      We must drown out this gas-lighting noise and learn to speak with people we might disagree with. Like adults. Until then, until we realize that we’re all in this together, until we understand how to sort through our feelings and rise above them, we’re doomed.

  23. Joe Tedesky
    April 3, 2020 at 09:50

    I have but one thing to say too all Democrats “BERNIE”!

    • Marlene
      April 3, 2020 at 12:05

      Make that two words: Bernie Sanders.

    • Joe Tedesky
      April 3, 2020 at 15:50

      BERNIE SANDERS!

    • Jared
      April 3, 2020 at 16:29

      Bernie’s message to the revolution, “Please vote for my good friend Hillary Clinton / Joe Biden!”

      Time to accept Bernie for what he is: a bourgeois reformer who plays ball with war criminals and at the end of the day endorses the same candidates as Wall Street. Revolutions are made of sterner stuff than that!

  24. Joe Cruz
    April 3, 2020 at 05:44

    Democrats have tried everything and anything to get To challenge Trump, but have failed miserably. Now they are pinning there hopes on another Democrat who chose to give billions away to poor New Yorkers and ignore the fact that $$ was slated for the same respirators needed to fill the shortage in this State? Thanks, but no Thanks!! Keep America Great, and Clean out the Swamp!

  25. Luis Flores
    April 3, 2020 at 01:46

    It’s a far cry from what should be done.
    Let states sort out their own medical welfare if they wish. But end federal involvement in healthcare.
    Restore the tenth amendment. The states acting in their best interest would be more efficient than the Behemoth that is the federal government.

    • Claire
      April 3, 2020 at 14:17

      As an old person of modest means after a life time of service to others in education and the medical field, I am so glad I have the federal programs – Social Security and Medicare – in which I have contributed to be able now to feed, clothe, shelter and help me medically. The suggestion that “states” are better providers made me almost fall off my chair in astonishment. I suggest Mr. Flores you may be interested in a little history as to the origins of Social Security as well as how red states compare with blue states in how they regard “the best interests” of their citizens. To wit, I just finished reading Truthout’s essay – “Right-Wing Austerity Set New Orleans Up to Be a Coronavirus Disaster Zone” – where – “Louisiana law bans cities like New Orleans from raising the minimum wage and requiring paid sick leave for workers”. Is it your opinion, that Louisiana’s law is acting “in the best interest” of its citizens? And, then, there is the information in Heather Cox Richardson (historian) on line newsletter of yesterday about the efficacy of the federal government when it absents itself to the business community to take care of the coronovirus.” Instead, the White House is turning to private interests to manage the national response. It is a philosophical position embraced by those who would overturn the active government that has presided over the United States since the New Deal.” So without a strong, centralized, organized federal response – but instead a reliance upon each state to take care of the national/global pandemic we now have states competing with each in the market place for desperately needed basic supplies. Given your knowledge of the wealth of southern states, how well do you see them performing “in the best interests of their citizens” in this kind of a state to state free for all competition? Do you see any problems with this scenario?

    • Susan Siens
      April 4, 2020 at 16:05

      You do need to read some history. As Howard Zinn said, big government is here to stay, the question is WHOSE big government? I’m fortunate in that I live in a state, Maine, which is dealing with this virus sensibly — I am thankful every day that our drunken thug of an ex-governor Paul LePage is in Florida where he belongs. But the health and well-being of people should NOT depend upon what state they find themselves in and the history of states such as Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, etc, etc, etc, is not good when it comes to protecting their own citizens. When federal programs during the 1960s were turned into block grants for the states — due to right-wing, white supremacist pressure — that was the end of an attempt to address housing, education, nutrition issues in a constructive way. So, you, Luis, you are welcome to live in a state where attempts to rein in COVID-19 are delayed and mishandled, but not everyone where you live deserves the treatment that your stupidity does.

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