How did we get here … and how do we fix it?


2016 was a very tough year but as the old saying goes, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” So I thought I’d take a look at some of the things that happened in the year just passed and diagnose what we may have learned.

In state politics, Andrew Cuomo suffered an incredible reversal when two of his closest friends and another who he had touted as a hero were indicted for ripping off the system. One of them was his so-called “third brother,” Joe Percoco. Another, a former friend and coworker turned lobbyist, Todd Howe, actually took a plea and is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney. In this case, the expectation is that he is singing like a canary.

Everyone is waiting to see whether Percoco and Howe will implicate the governor if and when they actually go to trial. Quite often these things don’t get to trial because a trial would be politically inconvenient for powerful people like Cuomo, so the accused plead guilty to something and make a deal for leniency with government prosecutors. Since Andrew Cuomo sees himself as a future presidential candidate and has successfully weathered many other crises, it is in his interest that there are no trials. He saw what happened to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the infamous Bridgegate trial. Christie ended up with polling numbers lower than a hound’s belly.

Cuomo’s problem is that the SUNY Poly genius, Alain Kaloyeros, who was not personally all that close to Cuomo, will be a hold out on a plea deal. It is doubtful that he has a bigger fish to throw in in exchange for a more lenient sentence. Cuomo, of course, ran for office on a program of cleaning up Albany and it seems that far from cleaning up Albany, his closest compatriots turned out, according to the U.S. Attorney, to be crooks.

Diagnosis to fix the problem in the future:

Surround yourself with people who are so squeaky clean that they won’t steal. Among other things, make sure that they are not living above their means which is always a pretty good road map to temptation. Also, make sure they are smart — these two clowns appeared to be loyal to the governor but were not all that top heavy in the grey matter department. Also, don’t set yourself up for a fall and a charge of hypocrisy by saying that you’ll do something that others have failed to do.

That leads us to the loggerheads that the legislature and the governor found themselves at. Probably to wash the stench of his friends’ betrayal off of him, the governor, quite correctly, tried an all-or-nothing push to get the legislators to clean up their act. He offered them a deal, a pay raise for real ethics reform. The greedy legislature said, “Nothing doing.” They turned down the pay raise rather than be forced to have to limit their outside income. In what looks like a fit of pique, the governor has announced that he would not deliver a State of the State Address in the usual way. So, of course, he looks bad and so does the legislature,

Diagnosis and fix: First of all, “Be a grownup.” Up to now, Cuomo has settled for half an ethics loaf and tried to convince all of us that his fixes were real, sort of like “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” After a while that got cold and old. As for the legislature, those foolish people just have to recognize how bad they look. After all, the United States Congress puts severe limits on their outside income. Now their reputation will be further diminished. Instead of having something on their grave stones to be proud of, they will look like the bums they are. Also, let those legislators who don’t do work on the outside pressure the big bosses to cut out their morally corrupt ways.