Opinion: People don’t eat in the long term

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers remarks on the coronavirus disease
Gov. Andrew Cuomo looks on before delivering remarks on the coronavirus spread in Manhattan on Nov. 19.
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

My previous column was about cynicism ceding ground to the celebrations that broke out across Brooklyn and the world when the current president lost his bid for re-election. It’s a pleasant memory and indicates, or at least suggests the possibility of, a better future with Joe Biden in the White House.

Unfortunately, he’s not there yet, the current occupant continues to cause harm and then we are still likely to deal with the consequences of a Republican-controlled senate and their likely rediscovery of fiscal parsimony.

As a second viral wave descends upon us with schools once again closing, we as a city see the days to recovery dwindling down to a precious few and we lack time to play the waiting game. More businesses are shuttered, and people go hungry and homeless with each passing day.

While we wait for wickedness to pass, we need a functioning Albany to bridge the gap — and by functioning, I mean a willingness to ask everyone to do their part and not allow anyone to stand in the way of financial relief.

While it now appears likely the Democrats will have won a veto-proof supermajority when the new State Senate is seated, the governor should immediately implement anti-austerity measures. As I’m writing this, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes has pulled ahead of his opponent and is likely to be re-elected when all votes are certified. We have also added to the state senate Democratic Socialists who ran on the Democratic line, such as Velmanette Montgomery’s successor Jabari Brisport.

So the first step — and I think it’s a small first step — would be to implement a pied-à-terre tax. If you’ve got more than one residence and they are worth millions of dollars, that’s great, but under these exigent circumstances, it is reasonable to ask for a small additional payment to make sure our subways run all night and schools aren’t short-staffed. 

Ideally, if we ever restore a fully functional federal government, and the wickedness mentioned above indeed passes, then we’d get sufficient aid, and local taxes could then be a less critical focus. I know that the governor has allowed his fears of flight to serve as his theory of the case, but I firmly believe that he misjudges the balance of consequences. If he doesn’t budge, the new legislature should set the agenda.

As the Roosevelt administration said in responding to criticism as it fought the great depression, “People don’t eat in the long run. They eat every day.” If Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t relent now the incoming state legislature must, thanks to the supermajority, govern with an urgent understanding that lives are at stake.

Mike Racioppo is the District Manager of Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 and has been an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College. Follow him on Twitter @RacioppoMike.