New York State has suffered one of the worst COVID outcomes in the country, with roughly 53,000 officially recorded deaths, thousands of businesses shuttered, and millions newly unemployed. But new reporting reveals that Governor Andrew Cuomo pocketed more than $5 million during this time of crisis.
“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s publisher is scheduled to pay him more than $5 million for the book he authored last year on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic,” USA Today reports. “Documents released Monday ended a months-long mystery over the size of the Cuomo’s book deal with The Crown Publishing Group, which issued Cuomo’s best-selling book, “American Crisis,” in October as the state stared down a second wave of coronavirus infections.”
That’s right: In the middle of the COVID crisis, Governor Cuomo took time aside to author a best-selling book about how amazing his leadership was. All the while, his administration was working to cover up scandalous data showing how many elderly New Yorkers died in nursing homes due to the governor’s mandate forcing elderly care facilities to accept COVID-positive patients.
Now, Cuomo will pocket millions in profit after corruptly and incompetently overseeing utter calamity that rocked his state—and having the temerity to write a book bragging about it. But this is more than just a political outrage. (Although it is certainly that.) This rank injustice offers a painful yet poignant reminder of the very nature of politicians our public policy must guard against.
Conventional thinking once held that while private actors in the free market were motivated by self-interest and profit, government officials were motivated by the public interest. But human nature is human nature, regardless of what field one works in. The great insight of Public Choice Theory in economics is that government officials are self-interested, too. This doesn’t make them evil—it simply makes them human.
But it does mean this: we can’t entrust large amounts of concentrated power to a select few politicians, or it will inevitably lead to corruption and dysfunction. The sad saga of Andrew Cuomo getting rich while betraying the people of New York is just the latest example of this timeless truth.
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Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is a libertarian-conservative journalist and Policy Correspondent at the Foundation for Economic Education.
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