ANALYSIS: In NY Politics, Hearing Is Not Always Believing


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 and speeches.

“These names are one part descriptive, three parts spin … and occasionally intellectually dishonest,” said Robert Bellafiore, former press secretary for Gov. George Pataki. “Hey, it’s almost impossible to oppose something called ‘Apple Pie’ if everyone is calling it that.”

Government spin is nothing new; it’s just being perfected. George Orwell warned in his fictional government motto of “ignorance is strength” that “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

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.
  • The Women’s Equality Act. Judging by its demise, the measure was about the unborn. But it had 10 elements, and the Assembly and Cuomo agreed on all 10. Senate Republicans rejected just the single controversial one but that sunk the other nine, which would have combated workplace bias, unequal pay and human trafficking.
  • 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.