Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bully Economics

When Politico publishes something under the title "How Well Do You Know Chris Christie?" you expect a puff piece.  And you get what you expect, including such questions as

Chris Christie calls himself one of Bruce Springsteen’s greatest fans. How many Springsteen concerts has Christie attended?

Christie is a fan of the New York Mets and New York Knicks. What NFL team does he root for?

What TV show will Christie make a guest star appearance for this fall?

This past weekend, Christie joined the elite group of politicians who have been elected into the Little League Hall of Excellence. Which of the following politicians is not also an inductee?

Christie played catcher on his high school baseball team and his son Andrew followed in his footsteps. What college does Andrew play baseball for?

Christie and President Barack Obama played a football tossing game at an arcade during a tour of the rebuilt Jersey Shore earlier this year. Obama failed at the game, but Christie won on his first try. What prize did he win Obama?

As a U.S. attorney in Newark, Christie racked up 130 convictions. How many cases did he lose?

The answer to the last question, which appears substantive, is zero.  But without context, the question is at best misleading because Christie's time at the U.S. Attorney's office was marked by ethical improprieties. Additionally, a prosecutor's won-loss record, like that of a head coach, says more about the people serving under him than about himself.  You, too, probably would coach the NBA's Miami Heat (with LeBron James) to a winning record; and no one who ever lived could get the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars to a .500 record. Moreover, few if any media outlets have pointed out that a U.S. Attorney's office has considerable discretion over what cases to pursue and the plea bargains it offers in order to avoid "losing" a case.

We all know Governor Christie cares little about the rights or dignity of women in need of preventive health care, public employees promised a pension, public school students in urban areas, or workers earning minimum wage.  But a short quiz about the economy might be entertaining and couldn't help but be more meaningful than Politico's. For instance:

1) Property taxes in New Jersey are among the highest in the nation.  How has the property tax burden been affected since Chris Christie has been governor?

a) declined across-the-board
b) remained virtually the same
c) increased across-the-board
d) generally increased, but declined for the wealthy

2) Employment has increased across the nation in the four years Chris Christie has been governor.  How has employment fared in New Jersey compared to that in other states?

a) increased more than in any state
b) increased less than in some, but in more than most, states
c) increased approximately as much as in most states
d) increased than in all but 6-10 states

3) Mortgage delinquencies are dropping across the nation but still are higher than before the recession.   How is New Jersey ranked compared to other states in holding the line against mortgage delinquencies?

a) in the top quartile
b) in the second quartile
c) in the third quartile
d) in the bottom quartile

4) Personal income is on the upswing throughout the U.S.A.  Where does the increase in New Jersey place it among other states?

a) in the top quartile
b) in the second quartile
c) in the third quartile
d) in the bottom quartile

If you answered (d) to each, you deserve an "A," especially because the mainstream media has been hard at work convincing you Christoper J. Christie has been a successful governor.

The deterioration, including economic, of the State of New Jersey the past four years cannot be completely attributed to Governor Christie, though some of it- such as the increasing property tax burden- results from his obsession with keeping income taxes low for the state's wealthy residents.   Although liberals, conservatives, and moderates all have experienced the impact of leadership long on egomania and short on leadership, one aspect of the governor's economic record may delight the right-wing which dominates the GOP presidential primaries foremost in Christie's mind.  While tax revenue has increased in New Jersey, it has risen less than in 44 other states, a good way to suffocate government and programs which help the poor and middle class.

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