Fotios Tsarouhis
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Fotios Tsarouhis in "Profit is sweet, even if it comes from deception." - Sophocles,

Cuomo at me bro: New York governor earns B from fiscal think tank


It’s here! It’s here! It’s here! The Cato Institute has officially released its sleek, organized “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors 2014”! It’s like the announcement of Academy Awards nominees for people who are intensely invested and incredibly excited about how fifty state governors think and act on budgets, and taxes, and pensions, and lions, and tigers, and bears… where was I going with this again? Oh yeah, Cato. Fine. It’s not that exciting. But it is interesting, especially their evaluation of the emperor of the Empire State (all due respect).

When it comes to social issues and the doves of peace, Washington’s Cato Institute has a moderate, even liberal, reputation. When it comes to fiscal priorities, however, the libertarian think tank that set up shop in DC’s Capitol Hill neighborhood earns its stripes with conservatives. As hands-off about government as you can be without waving the flag of anarchy, Cato is hardly mainstream in all it says and does. It is, however, respected, coming in at number fourteen globally and sixth nationally in a 2011 study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania. So even if your bleeding heart or your resaved soul has some issue with them, you at least owe it to human discourse to hear them out.

Andrew Cuomo earned a B from Cato, one of the highest scores awarded to a Democratic governor from an organization often skeptical of Democratic policies. Cuomo won praise for his tax-cut package that cut the corporate income tax rate from 7.1 to 6.5 percent and eliminated a 5.9 percent corporate tax rate on qualified manufacturers, a bank tax, and surcharges on utility customers. Cuomo’s easing of the estate tax, usually reviled by Democrats, and his cuts to property tax breaks for businesses and homeowners likely sealed his high Cato mark.

The report’s entry on Cuomo isn't without some criticism – slipped into a mostly positive sentence on how the governor has kept spending steady is a critique of Cuomo's “costly” push for universal pre-kindergarten. In a different era, President Nixon nearly signed a Republican-backed bill establishing a comprehensive, national child care system in the early 1970s. But Tricky Dick ultimately vetoed the bill, and we never looked back. Despite any musings on the morality or feasibility of such policies, one thing is true: Cuomo's bid for universal pre-K will be costly, at least for the time being. It may, however, prove to have a positive economic impact on New York’s future, but not one that will manifest itself soon.

Competition and business-friendly economics are always marketable slogans emblematic of classic American principles – not least of all in New York, the economic heartbeat of the world. Of course, as a country, we often disagree on exactly what policies best foster competition (but maybe our disagreements aren't as pronounced as we think).

Cuomo's a strange bedfellow for Cato, but it gives a bipartisan gloss to the governor as he (let’s be honest) sails toward reelection – and it reminds us why Cato, often ideological and warring, earns its accolades as an organization of ideas, not politics.

In this case, a moderate middle ground has been borne of people simply seeking out practical solutions to serious problems. More than ideology, pragmatism wins the day. Somewhere John Lindsay, Jacob Javits, and Nelson Rockefeller are smiling.