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The Cuomo Gambit

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes a point during a meeting on tax cut proposals in the Red Room at the Capitol on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Cuomo has proposed cutting the state’s corporate income tax from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent and eliminating it altogether for upstate manufacturers. He also has proposed paying more state aid as an incentive to any of New York’s 10,500 local governments that impose hard 2 percent spending caps and cut their costs by consolidating services with other towns, villages, cities and counties. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Here’s the thing about Andrew Cuomo. He will happily veto a bill that would grant the poor legal services and then just a few days later announce a plan for free college tuition at New York public universities for any family making less than $125,000 a year. What’s going on here? The short of it, I think anyway, is that Cuomo really wants to the be the presidential nominee in 2020. At the same time, he has no interest in challenging the power dynamics of the nation. He is a Clintonites Clintonite. So embracing middle-class rhetoric and middle-class welfare state expansions that get a lot of big publicity is something he can very much get behind while at the same time doing absolutely nothing to challenge Wall Street, the criminal injustice system, or the Republican Party. And in case you say that the free college tuition will help the poor too, we should remember that Cuomo is going to nothing useful to help improve the possibility that the poor and people of color are actually going to go to college. It will help a few, but it will not change a system that inherently discriminates against people with the least power in our society.

It’s completely fine for the left to get behind expanding free college tuition. Supporting this initiative is absolutely something I will do. But Andrew Cuomo is still a complete non-starter for the Democratic nomination and let’s be careful not to give him too much credit and legitimize his ambitions.

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