Holding the line on Cuomo’s rich-people tax, while Alec Baldwin has another rich-guy moment

Today's tabloids, Dec. 7, 2011. ()
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Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?

New York Post: Fashion's all about metaphor today, it seems, and the metaphorical universe of fashion seems to me to get smaller every year. Maybe it's age, but I kind of thought the androgynous, David Bowie look had been hanging around town for a while now?

Alexa, the "fashion broadsheet" insert in the New York Post today, comes out with a cover story in which the metaphorical structure seems not just old but kind of mixed. Inside, the spread is called "Rebel rebel," recalling the signature Bowie tune, but the pictures are taken by Mötley Crüe's Nikki Sixx (OK, they were glam—but they were not Bowie) and advertises an "outrageous rock mashup" photographing "gender bending, Bowie-inspired looks" for the holidays. Just what I expect to see Mom wearing for Christmas Eve shrimp cocktail: Leopard-print bodysuits and men's '50s ducktail hair-dos, or baring her teeth while she drags around a six-inch gold stiletto by its heel.

Well, I may disapprove, but it's at least a visually impressive display, with some serious names attached. It is advertised on the front page of the Post today with the words "Luxe fashion pullout inside."

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Most of the page is taken up with today's mission piece. "LIP SERVICE" reads the knockout-white text in the black field, next to a picture of Andrew Cuomo in one of his signature poses that looks half Home Alone, half angry principal. "Gov breaks vow, OKs tax hike to bag extra $2B" reads the dek floating above, and there's a sort of info-box with various type colors and styles that reads "ANDY'S 'CUT'", and pointing out that under his plan people with incomes of $2.5 million will pay an additional $49,250 next year.

It's a strange jumble of things on the two pages inside the paper covering Cuomo's tax deal, because it appears the only local constituency that opposed the tax plan was the editorial board of the Post.

Republican state senators are protecting their reputations as anti-tax warriors for the middle class; Democrats are getting $2 billion in revenue to save some programs that would otherwise likely have been on the chopping block next year; and more than three quarters of New Yorkers in recent polls supported the principles embodied in the plan.

It is true, of course, that Cuomo, who had been saying for weeks that a high-earner tax would hurt business (especially in depressed areas upstate) and force money out of the state, was in the position of fending off precisely this sort of flip-flop criticism, which is why on a superficial level the reports inside are full of him "break[ing] no-hike vow," engaging in "political hocus pocus" and even "political jujitsu."

But the net effect of all of the coverage is to award Cuomo a political win. In other words, it's all topspin, and the source of it is to be found on page 36, where the Post editorial board identifies its enemy: "New York's spendocracy" that "greeted Gov. Cuomo's tax-hike coup with qualified high-fives and alleluias."

The coup will be short-lived, the column opines, when this tax plan fails to deliver substantive change to Albany's spending habit. 

Daily News: The News' take fits the "middle-class newspaper" point of view of its readers. If the Post imagines itself the downmarket tabloid for upmarket readers, the News is proudly the working-man's rag, meant to pick up coffee rings in the course of the day while it's passed around the construction site, the teachers' lounge, the office mini-kitchen, perused for those slow-moving several minutes around 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., or just short of quitting time or lunch time.

"TAX CUTS FOR YOU!" reads the tiny type in a red snipe across the upper right-hand corner of the main story space. That's because in addition to maintaining or increasing tax hikes for the richest New Yorkers, Cuomo's plan calls for some modest cuts for the middle class.

But that's just a tiny little headline across this morning's main news, about Alec Baldwin's hissy-fit on an American Airlines flight in which a flight attendant, he claims, yelled at him for playing "Words With Friends" via Facebook on his iPad while the plane was still on the tarmac.

As we all know, your phones and electronic devices accessing the internet are supposed to be shut off while on the plane (although it has been observed plenty of times that that regulation is total bullshit). Anyway, Baldwin's just adding to his customer-rage repertoire here. Remember his Twitter rant about the barista at Starbucks? "SMART ALEC" is the headline. He was tossed off the plane.

I have a visceral aversion to stage makeup. Fake body parts and hair, to me, look like dead ones, so the zombie Obama at the top of the page with the glasses and mustache of Teddy Roosevelt Photoshopped onto his face makes me recoil. It's about his speech yesterday in Kansas evoking the bipartisanship and sense of duty to economic fairness of his Republican predecessor, an effort to beat the Tea Party and their Republican choir at their own rhetorical game by invoking complex and nuanced historical examples and interpreting them with great literary flourish. Good luck with that, Mr. President.

Observations: Just want to mention without spending too much more of your time on it that the second part of the excellent two-part series on the sexual abuse scandal at elite Brooklyn prep school Poly Prep appears today in the News' sports section, and it's advertised with a blue stripe across the bottom of the page.

But to business: A major event in New York politics, and probably the most important event so far in Gov. Cuomo's tenure in Albany, happened yesterday. However weirdly the Post treated it, it beats Alec Baldwin, and it beats the News' weird Obama photo-stunt, for sheer relevance.

Winner: New York Post.