New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose fiscal irresponsibility has indirectly led to an extremely high coronavirus death toll in his state, deserves more criticism rather than the praise he has received of late.
New York state has quickly become an epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States. According to the New York State Department of Health, there were 251,690 confirmed cases of the virus as of April 22.
The concentration is highest in the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester county, and Long Island. With a death toll of 14,828 and the threat of the virus still a concern, New Yorkers have been ordered to wear masks when outside and continue quarantining until May 15.
Cuomo, who has served as the governor of New York since 2011, has been in the national spotlight lately. He conducts frequent press conferences about health regulation updates and encourages New Yorkers to practice social distancing. With New York’s current position as a state that is severely affected, Cuomo’s decisions particularly matter.
Many have voiced support for the Governor’s response to the virus. An article from Business Insider cites Dr. Anthony Fauci’s support for the governor.
“Fauci, a native New Yorker, said he ‘strongly’ supports Cuomo’s actions, and urged residents of the state to follow the governor’s directive.”
While the coronavirus is an unprecedented challenge, one which political leaders should not be expected to combat with perfection, Cuomo’s history of fiscal corruption and waste prior to the pandemic should not be excused. His incompetence in dealing with the current crisis lies in the corruption of the past.
New York’s state government is far from exemplary. A database at the University of Missouri tracks corruption in the states. According to the database, New York has the highest number of corruption cases since 2005, with thirty cases.
New York’s taxes are also the highest in the country, according to a report from CNBC, paying $2,249 per person.
The billions of dollars taxpayers relinquish to the government every year should be budgeted well and funneled into programs that positively impact residents. Cuomo’s record suggests he has done otherwise.
According to Real Clear Politics, Governor Cuomo was made aware in 2015 that there was a shortage of ventilators needed for a pandemic. Instead of purchasing the life-saving machines, he ordered health professionals to create standards for rationing the supply that was available.
“Cuomo could have purchased the additional 16,000 needed ventilators for $36,000 apiece or a total of $576 million in 2015. It’s a lot of money but less than the $750 million he threw away on a boondoggle ‘Buffalo Billion’ solar panel factory. When it comes to state budget priorities, spending half a percent of the budget on ventilators is a no brainer.”
In 2012, the governor announced plans to invest $1 billion dollars into the city of Buffalo in an effort to spark economic prosperity and investment. The project has since been tainted by corruption: Alain E. Kaloyeros was the project’s leader and a big donor to Cuomo’s election campaigns.
“Mr. Kaloyeros, the former president of the State University Polytechnic Institute who was once called ‘New York’s secret weapon’ by the governor, stands accused of bid-rigging several upstate development projects, including Buffalo Billion’s biggest: a $750 million solar-panel plant on the banks of the Buffalo River,” according to an article in the New York Times.
Another article in the Times reports that other large investments by state officials have been under federal investigation.
“While no one has been charged, the governor’s office has opened its own investigation into what it has called suspicions of ‘improper lobbying and undisclosed conflicts of interest’ that may have defrauded the state.”
Cuomo, along with other governors, has pressured the federal government for more financial support in administering aid to residents.
“The collective of the country’s governors recently penned a letter to the president, asking for $500 billion of aid that would be sent to the states. Cuomo said Friday that the money should be given to states based on each one’s current COVID-19 situation,” according to an article from The Hill.
If Cuomo had not been so irresponsible with the state budget, investing billions into failed stimulus packages for cities, and allowing corrupt officials to squander New York taxes, he would not be in trouble now. Thousands of New Yorkers may have been saved with an adequate supply of ventilators but instead, fiscal blunders are costing them their lives.
Lily McHale is a sophomore studying political economy.