The 21st Century hasn’t been kind to Michigan. We were the only state other than Rhode Island to actually lose population during the first decade, even though we’ve started to creep back up at an anemic pace. Unemployment is down and private sector jobs are up from where they were during the darkest days of the 2008-09 recession, but nowhere near the levels we’ve come to expect after past economic downturns.
But at least we aren’t New York. In fact, we look pretty good compared with the “Empire State,” emigrants from which supplied us with a major infusion of “people talent” in the 19th Century when we were just getting started. Here’s a list of some of the atrocities prevalent in the dystopian New York culture:
— Last year, New York’s population dropped for the first time in a decade. The state lost 191,367 residents to other states during the year ending last July 1, according to the Albany-based Empire Center. Florida passed New York as the third biggest state in the country two years ago and now has nearly a million more people than New York. The state’s population drain has been the most pronounced upstate: 41 of 50 upstate counties (outside the New York City metropolitan area) lost population between 2010 and 2015. Over the past six years, New York’s total outflow to other states was 846,669 people — outpacing every other state in the nation.
— New York State government has been beset by scandal. A former director of New York’s massive public pension fund was charged last month by a U.S. Attorney with accepting crack cocaine, money for prostitutes and a slew of other lavish bribes to steer more than $2 billion in trades.
— Wait! There’s more, way more. The state Legislature’s top two leaders — one a Democrat, the other a Republican — were both sentenced last May in separate corruption cases after they were found guilty in 2015. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-NYC) was convicted on charges of pocketing more than $4 million that he disguised as legal payments from law firms specializing in real estate and asbestos claims. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison although he is now free pending an appeal. Ex-Senate Majority leader George Skelos (R-Nassau County) and his son, Adam, were convicted of scheming to use the senator’s position to get more than $300,000 in work for Adam from real estate developers. Skelos was sentenced to five years in the slammer and his son slightly more than that, but they, too, are now free pending appeal, although both Skelos and Silver have been removed from the Legislature.
— The state’s top fiscal watchdog, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, wants more power to oversee public contracts in the wake of a major bid-rigging and bribery scandal in which an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the president of a major public university (SUNY Polytechnic Institute) were arrested last September and hit with felony charges in a wide-ranging indictment in November.
— Let’s not forget that it was less than a decade ago that New York’s Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer was shamed into resigning from office on prostitution charges after he had forged a reputation as a prosecutor in part by securing indictments involving the sex trade. And we all know about former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NYC), the subject of a critically-acclaimed movie that documented how he was brought down by a sexting scandal. We also can’t overlook the fact that, in 2010, DiNapoli’s predecessor, Alan Hevesi, pleaded guilty to accepting nearly $1 million in benefits from a California businessman in exchange for pension investments. He was tried and convicted.
— Many taxpayers in Michigan complain that state legislators are paid too much, but at least ours work in year-round sessions (yes, there is some skepticism about that). In New York, state lawmakers are complaining that they haven’t had a raise since 1998 and are due to get a raise, even though they meet for only six months and are already the third highest-paid lawmakers in the country at $79,500 a year — plus, for their leaders and with daily stipends when they’re in session, thousands of dollars more that jack their total pay in some cases to over $100,00. There’s no limitation on what legislators can do in their “free time,” which is one reason Skelos and Silver got in trouble.
— Gov. Cuomo has decided that, for the first time since the tradition was launched by legendary Gov. Al Smith back in 1923, he doesn’t need to give a State of the State message to a joint session of the state Senate and Assembly in the state capitol. Instead, he’s giving a series of six “regional addresses” in various jurisdictions around the state. Legislators of both parties decried the move. By the way, while the state Assembly boasts a roughly 2-1 Democratic Party advantage, the Senate governs itself through one of the strangest “power-sharing” arrangements in national history — Republicans actually control the chamber because a Democratic senator from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, caucuses with them and seven Democrats calling themselves the “Independent Democratic Conference” side with the GOP.
— Even good news in New York is scary. The state Comptroller’s Office admitted recently that, at the last minute, it had blocked 2,052 tax-rebate checks — worth nearly $819,000 and addressed to some 2,000 dead homeowners — from hitting the mailboxes in 2015. Instead, “only” 2.1 million checks totaling $600 million were mailed out.
— A former Republican nominee for governor, Buffalo developer Anthony Paladino, who was an honorary co-chair of President Donald Trump’s New York campaign, suggested in a 2016 year-end interview that then-First Lady Michelle Obama “should return to being a male” and be “let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe” before moving into a cave “with Maxie the Gorilla.” He also called Barack Obama a “lazy ass president.” Paladino, who had introduced Trump at various campaign rallies across New York before the state’s April primary, drew a rebuke from Trump’s transition team as well as from Cuomo and various public officials although, when last heard from, he was unashamedly seeking a job in the new Trump administration.
A recent Siena College poll found Gov. Cuomo’s job performance was a negative 44% to 54% unfavorable-to-favorable. Still, 47% of voters said they were prepared to re-elect Cuomo next year, when he says he will seek a third term. New York has twice as many Democrats as Republicans.
Whew! Let’s consider ourselves lucky.