Monday, 28 February 2011

Governor Chris Christie - a politician for the future

(Image by Hoboken Condos)

This blog does not usually cover domestic policy in the US - or any other country. It is the time to make an exception, because there is a governor in New Jersey, Chris Christie, who deserves to be more wellknown outside of the US, particularly in Europe. The governor´s fight for fiscal responsibility in his state is exactly what the US needs - and what is needed also in most European countries, which still are doing far too little in addressing spiraling welfare costs.

The New York Times´s well-written profile is a good introduction to the thinking and agenda of this fascinating former federal prosecutor. Here are a couple of excerpts:

What makes Christie compelling to so many people isn’t simply plain talk or swagger, but also the fact that he has found the ideal adversary for this moment of economic vertigo. Ronald Reagan had his “welfare queens,” Rudy Giuliani had his criminals and “squeegee men,” and now Chris Christie has his sprawling and powerful public-sector unions — teachers, cops and firefighters who Christie says are driving up local taxes beyond what the citizenry can afford, while also demanding the kind of lifetime security that most private-sector workers have already lost.
It may just be that Christie has stumbled onto the public-policy issue of our time, which is how to bring the exploding costs of the public workforce in line with reality.
The centerpiece of Christie’s frenzied agenda, which passed the Democratic-­controlled Legislature last July, is a strict cap on local property taxes, which will be allowed to rise no more than 2 percent every year. When combined with a reduction in state aid, what this means, practically speaking, is that New Jersey’s townships and cities will have to hold the line when negotiating municipal labor contracts if they want to remain solvent, because they can’t rely on either their residents or the state for more money.
The crux of Christie’s argument is that public-sector contracts have to reflect what has happened in the private sector, where guaranteed pensions and free health care are becoming relics. It’s not surprising that this stand has ingratiated Christie to conservatives in Washington; advocacy groups and activists on the right have carried out a long campaign to discredit the ever-shrinking labor movement in the private sector, and what Christie has done, essentially, is to blast his way into the final frontier, taking on the public-sector unions that have come to wield enormous political power. More surprising is how the governor’s proposals are finding sympathy from less-partisan budget experts, if only because they don’t see obvious alternatives. “I’ve tried to look at this objectively, and I just don’t know of any other option,” says Richard Keevey, who served as budget director for a Democratic governor, Jim Florio, and a Republican governor, Tom Kean. “You couldn’t tax your way out of this.”
The most sophisticated communicators of the modern era hammer at a consistent argument about their moment and the response it demands, and they choose carefully constructed metaphors to make the choices ahead seem obvious — think of Ronald Reagan’s morning in America, or Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century. And Christie’s communications strategy is about as sophisticated as any you will find in American politics right now.

Read the entire New York Times profile here.

Another interesting article on Christie by the NJ Star-Ledger.

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