New York - In NY Politics, Hearing Is Not Always Believing
New York - Where else but in Albany can five years of automatic tuition increases at public colleges be called a “rational tuition policy” that officials say, with straight faces, is beloved by students and their families?
Where else is a much-lauded tax break actually a $2 billion tax increase and a SAFE Act something that has some New Yorkers afraid of becoming victims of violent crime in their homes?
It’s all part of political spin that applies rosy, vague names to laws, wields euphemisms like “gaming” for gambling and calls almost any action a “reform.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers brag about their accomplishments in the legislative session that just ended through taxpayer-paid mailings back home and speeches everywhere.
Next year, the volume will be turned up when Cuomo and all 213 legislative seats are up for election.
“These names are one part descriptive, three parts spin ... and occasionally intellectually dishonest,” said Robert Bellafiore, former press secretary for Gov. George Pataki and a longtime political adviser and commentator.
Government spin is nothing new; it’s just being perfected. George Orwell’s “1984” warned in his fictional government motto of “ignorance is strength” that “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
“Hey, it’s almost impossible to oppose something called ‘Apple Pie’ if everyone is calling it that,” Bellafiore said. “It fits nicely into campaign mailings, TV ads — and 140-character tweets.”
This year’s name game included:
—The Fair Elections Act. Who could be opposed to that? A lot of people, it turns out, when they found out it was about public financing for campaigns. That bill would have used taxpayer funds — supporters say $40 million, opponents say $200 million — to provide politicians with a 6-to-1 matching program to reduce the power of big money donors.
—The Women’s Equality Act. Judging by its demise, the measure was about abortion. But it had 10 elements, and the Assembly and Cuomo agreed on all 10. Senate Republicans rejected just one — a late-term abortion measure — but that sunk the other nine, which would have combatted workplace discrimination, unequal pay and human trafficking. An abortion proposal failed a year ago, too, when it was called the Women’s Reproductive Health Act.
—Start Up New York. The tax-break law to lure new employers had a midstream change from a title that apparently was far too clear. Cuomo had barnstormed the state with more than a dozen stops for his marquee program he originally called Tax-Free-New York, until the communities that would have to welcome newcomers for a tax-free decade indicated they didn’t feel so inviting.
—The NY SAFE Act stands for the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act. That’s a bit vague for an assault weapon ban, but the point is the acronym spells “SAFE.”
—The Middle Class Tax Cut and Job Creation Plan is actually a $2 billion-a-year tax increase on millionaires. Cuomo and the Legislature campaigned in 2010 on a promise to block the “job killer,” then extended it twice.
Search New York bills and laws: http://www.assembly.state.ny.us/leg/ and http://www.nysenate.gov/legislation
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