Last year, New Yorkers learned that 90% of Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) employees retire with disability benefits, thanks to a retirement system loaded with loopholes. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) vowed to crackdown on abuse and to prosecute those responsible for fraud. At the expense of taxpayers Cuomo, the man who expects to be anointed New York’s governor this November, launched a massive investigation and subpoenaed over 108 in an effort to combat wrongdoing.
The only problem was that the LIRR retirement system is regulated largely by the federal Railroad Retirement Board, which also pays disability benefits to retirees. The Railroad Retirement Board has a history of being lax; 98% of American railroad workers who file to retire on disability are granted such status. When Cuomo launched his investigation, he had to have known that, as a state prosecutor, he would have little jurisdiction over federal regulations.
One year later, Cuomo announced that… surprise, he had delivered few results other than fining a crook employee $1,500, and asking the LIRR to hire someone to enhance its ethics training.
When asked why his office had accomplished so little, Cuomo and the LIRR blamed the Railroad Retirement Board, as if it was news to him that he had no jurisdiction over a federal matter. But he didn’t appeal to the federal government to push the Railroad Retirement Board to change its rules to stop manipulation of the system. Cuomo didn’t actually want the retirement rules to change for a large group of union employees whose money he’ll need when he runs for governor.
The LIRR case underscores a fact about Cuomo that the media will not report: other than suing investment banks and health insurance companies, along with anything that contributes to the state’s tax base, he hasn’t accomplished much. Cuomo’s career as attorney general has been mostly a dog and pony show, making him look like a crusader against corruption, while in reality he has done little for taxpayers other than issue press releases about his do-nothing “investigations.” All of which are snapped up by an adoring New York media. Cuomo knew that he’d get nothing accomplished with his LIRR case. But he also knew that the media wouldn’t hold him accountable for wasting money on a phony investigation.
Cuomo’s inaction as attorney general has occurred while corruption throughout New York’s government remains rampant. Cuomo hasn’t even touched news that over 700 full-time New York City teachers get paid to not work. Of course he hasn’t: he needs the teachers’ union to support his bid for governor.
Cuomo is just another Albany politician who is, as Fred Dicker of the New York Post put it, “fiddling while New York burns.”