OPINION: Election's focus on anger over policy means Cuomo lacks a mandate
Rick Lazio, a former four-term congressman from Brightwaters, was a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor.
With New York State government facing a $9 billion deficit, political scandals making Albany grist for latenight TV comedians, and jobs, businesses and people exiting the state in record numbers, we sorely needed an election that provided a public mandate for fundamental change.
Instead, this past campaign brought political pablum and angry sound bites. The unwillingness of either major-party candidate for governor to engage in a bold, substantive campaign means that Gov.- elect Andrew Cuomo heads to Albany with no policy mandate.
While Cuomo's campaign did release policy books, the candidate himself rarely talked about their contents. Where was the discussion about making New York attractive to job creators and investors? Or eliminating New York's huge structural imbalance in a sustainable manner? What are the concrete plans for erasing Albany's well-known corruption and dysfunction?
During the campaign, the media largely gave Cuomo a free pass when it came to how he would govern. Republican Carl Paladino's reckless statements became the focus, and Cuomo's campaign was only too happy to keep it that way.
Now that the election is over, Cuomo must take the political capital from his wide margin of victory and invest it early in bringing the turnaround we so desperately need.
Where he takes on the Albany establishment - to put the state's fiscal house in order and restore private-sector incentives for job growth - Republican lawmakers must support him. Our problems are not self-correcting and politics as usual will not bring business and jobs back.
Political chaos and uncertainty have created an atmosphere of caution among employers. If they are resourceful enough to be profitable in this low-growth environment, they are refusing to make any new hiring commitments. Nor are they indirectly adding jobs by expanding. I heard this tale repeatedly while visiting dozens of businesses in New York over the past year.
While general economic risks exist, reckless state government performance creates even deeper disincentives for growth. We simply can't continue to pretend that uncompetitive taxes, crippling regulations and indifferent government attitudes aren't destroying our tax base and driving away quality jobs.
The incoming class of Republican House members in Washington lacks a mandate, too - except to put the brakes on the current administration, thwart "Obamacare" as best it can, and maintain the current tax rates for all.
The new Republican-led House and presumed-Speaker John Boehner have an unmistakable second chance to get it right. A pro-growth agenda - that genuinely cuts government spending and restructures entitlements - is the diet by which the GOP should govern.
While history has proven that targeted lower taxes actually increase government revenues, the new GOP class cannot spend these revenues on pet projects or avoid making responsible reductions, even in what has previously seemed untouchable - including the bureaucracy of the Defense Department and entitlements. That's how the Republicans invited the political mess they found themselves in for the past two years.
The lesson for both Albany and Washington is clear: Regardless of party affiliation, good policy makes good politics. If our elected leaders do what's right, electoral success will follow naturally.
The voter anger of this past election season is a direct result of high unemployment, and it will persist as long as our elected officials stifle economic growth with higher taxation, outdated regulation and unsustainable deficits. In these challenging times, we shouldn't demonize the job creators who provide opportunities, support our tax base and help fund schools, hospitals and other public services. We also shouldn't pit one group of our culture against another. We're strongest when we pull together. Our motto has never been "watch out for No. 1" It is E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one.