Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Cut Police, Become GOP Star

Tom Corbett can be forgiven. Perhaps. Elected governor of Pennsylvania on November 2, the Republican boasted “Throughout the campaign, people asked me, ‘What kind of role model do you have?’ I reminded them: Just look across the Delaware River to New Jersey. Take a look at Governor Christie.”

He's not alone in his sentiments. Elected governor in 2009, New Jersey's governor has proven to be a huge hit among GOP politicians and voters nationwide and has become a YouTube standout.

Eleven incoming Repub governors, almost as a tribute to Christie, have pledged not to raise taxes, with Wisconsin's Scott Walker remarking "Chris Christie is the primo example of how you turn around government" and Iowa's Terry Branstad remarking "he tells it like it is, and it's time for that."

Barely after taking office, Christie vetoed a millionaires tax increase passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature in New Jersey and now says that he wants to cut income taxes for the wealthy. In a development (sarcasm alert) that may please conservative Republicans even more, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday

Camden will lay off nearly half of its police officers and a third of its firefighters, while eliminating positions in every other city office, according to a layoff plan approved Tuesday by the state.

The 383 layoffs represent about a quarter of the city's workforce and touch all corners of city government - from 15 courtroom positions to 20 police dispatchers to all four animal-control officers.

The elimination of 180 positions from a 373-member force means more bad news for a poor, violent city that has seen 37 homicides this year. A national survey recently named Camden the second-most dangerous in the United States, although police officials have pointed to some recent reductions in crime.

Camden appears to be in a worse predicament than Newark, which laid off 167 of its 1,034 police officers this week after negotiations broke down between their union and the city. Cities and towns around New Jersey are struggling this year following cuts in state aid, with layoffs in public safety increasingly common.

The news here is, or should be, the risk to public safety in New Jersey's deteriorating cities of cuts in state aid engineered by a Republican governor who, now in California on yet another tour to raise his national profile, has taken on the trappings of a rock star. It is, more significantly, a classic example of the impact on the lives of people by solid Republican theology, emphasizing tax cuts for those least in need of them, a strategy now being played out nationally. Nationally, in New Jersey, or in states throughout the nation, public officials are aware of the devastating effect those tax policies will have on their populace. But they won't let the public in on it, and neither will a media which will largely report on a declining quality of life without tying it directly to an ideology friendly to the wealthy and hostile to the middle class.

Perhaps it is merely overheated rhetoric to suggest that people in Camden and Newark will die as a result of Governor Christie's tax cut mania. No, it probably isn't.

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