Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, all five minor-party candidates in the race for governor of New York got a chance to explain why they’re running — and why they’re a better choice than Carl Paladino and Andrew Cuomo.
Amidst the name-calling and veiled threats of physical violence that have come to define the race between Carl Paladino and Andrew Cuomo, it’s easy to forget that there are other candidates for governor of New York. Five others. So, who are they?
Charles Barron is running on the Freedom Party ticket. He says that the two major party candidates are worse for working families than many people realize because they promise to cut the budget without raising taxes.
They are going to balance the budget on the backs of working families…Anytime you have to balance a budget and you come in and say “No new taxes,” then you know the workers are going to suffer.
Barron charges that Cuomo and Paladino would raid pension funds, freeze wages, cut government services, and force layoffs − all in the name of reducing the budget. He says instead of cutting, that money should come from elsewhere: namely, the pockets of the wealthy. He advocates for a progressive taxation system that would create new tax brackets at income levels above $250,000.
Howie Hawkins of the Green Party voiced similar concerns about who will pay the highest price in resetting the state’s budget. According to Hawkins, cutbacks are the only thing Cuomo and Paladino promise to middle and lower classes.
What we are presenting, I believe, represents better the mainstream of New York’s progressive political tradition than the two major party candidates. We have a prosperity plan, they have austerity plans -- which we believe is politics, not economics, because the money is there if the rich would pay their taxes.
Like Barron, Hawkins envisions taking extra tax revenue from the rich and using it to fund free tuition at public colleges and free public transportation. He would also fund a “Green New Deal,” which would invest in environmentally-friendly public infrastructure projects.
Proposing a different kind of “Green New Deal” is Kristin Davis of the Anti-Prohibition Party. She would legalize the sale of marijuana in New York, claiming that it would bring $1.5 billion in new tax revenues. Combined with revenues from legalizing prostitution and gambling, she says, these measures constitute a plan to make money for the state that no other candidate can match.
All of these other candidates for governor are talking about cutting spending. No one else has a plan to bring new revenues in. I agree that we need to cut spending, but we’re $56 billion in debt. Cutting spending is not enough.
Warren Redlich of the Libertarian Party thinks there is plenty of spending to cut. He cites the exorbitant salaries of some state employees and extraneous state organizations as the most wasteful use of public funds.
We’ve got to get the reckless spending under control. If we do that, people will have more of their own money in their pockets, and we can take care of the things that are important, like schools and parks and bridges...That’s the problem: we don’t need all this power concentrated in the state with all these high paid bureaucrats who are getting in the way. Let the local officials do their job.
Jimmy McMillan is yet another candidate who would like to see people with more money in their pockets. He’s running with the Rent is too Damn High Party. His message was clear:
Rent is too DAMN high. If you hurt your foot, you go to a doctor. If you can’t pay your rent, you come to the rent doctor: Jimmy McMillan. You will not leave the state of New York. If you’re out of New York and you hear this message on The Brian Lehrer Show, I want you to come back to New York because New York will have a brand new look and a brand new time. New York is here to stay.
The root of all New York’s problems, according to McMillan, is that the rent is too high. His first act in office would be to declare an economic state of emergency and use the situation to forcibly roll back rent for pretty much everyone. And then?
When the rent is reduced, Jimmy McMillan is going to take a vacation. I’m going to go get a pedicure, a manicure, and sit back and enjoy out my 64 years of age living that I should be doing.
After this election, we are all going to need manicures and pedicures.