Rallying today with union leaders and rock star Jon Bon Jovi for a higher miniumum wage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped into the popular progressive slogan “income inequality” as a slander against the wealthy and suggestive of an impossible egalitarianism.
Taking the podium at the Hotel Trades Council’s midtown headquarters after an introduction from the New Jersey rocker and to the sounds of his song “Work for the Working Man,” Mr. Cuomo criticized fast food giants McDonalds and Burger King for paying wages that he claimed leave their workers dependent on state assistance. But in doing so, he renounced Mayor Bill de Blasio’s favorite phrase, “income inequality,” as an inherently unfair and unrealistic term.
“People call it ‘income inequality.’ I don’t use those words ‘income inequality.’ Why? Because we never said we were all going to have equal income. It’s not about income inequality, and it’s not about disliking rich people. I want my daughters to grow up to be millionaires. I want them to take care of me. I want to retire tomorrow!” Mr. Cuomo said. “And I’m banking on my daughters making a lot of money. So God bless them if they become millionaires. That’s not what it is. What it is is this nation said ‘fairness for all, opportunity for all, mobility for all!'”
Mr. Cuomo has in fact repeatedly used the words “income inequality,” lamenting that “income inequality is at the highest point in over a century” in his inaugural address in January, and beginning an op-ed in the New York Times last month with the assertion “income inequality is a national problem.” Confronted with this contradiction after the event, Mr. Cuomo avoided giving a direct explanation.
“I wasn’t critical of income inequality,” he told reporters. “Well, the connotation, I said ‘I use different words.’ The connotation is we want—if you don’t get to explain it—we want equal incomes for people. That’s not our goal. We don’t believe that we should have a system of equal income. We don’t equalize income. So it’s not as much income inequality as the ‘opportunity to earn more.'”
Mr. Cuomo has impaneled a wage board to study the possibility of unilaterally raising pay rates for fast food workers. He has proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour statewide and $13.13 in New York City—less than the $15 pay rate the union leaders he shared the state with demanded.
The governor explained the discrepancy as being a matter of implementation, as he has sought to raise the pay floor by the year’s end, while he claimed enacting the $15 wage would occur over a longer timeframe.
“When they say $15, you have to make sure you have apples and apples. They have over a period of time. So my $13 was one or two years; $15 they’re saying is over a period of time,” he told the Observer.