This guy is a blunt-spoken political star in the making. He warned of a state budget deficit that will run past $11 billion in 2011—and then he declared what is unthinkable in the Era of Obama: He won't raise taxes to fix it. Cut spending, period.
“We know that we’ve taxed too much, we’ve spent too much and we’ve borrowed too much,” Gov. Christie said on-air. “The only way to fix that is to stop spending so much—it’s the only way to do it.”
Wait a minute, anchor Becky Quick prodded him—you won’t raise taxes? “No, we’re not raising taxes—that’s it,” Gov. Christie retorted. Not even property taxes? “We can’t,” he declared, noting that in four years $70 billion in wealth had fled New Jersey “because we are the most overtaxed people in America.”
“We’ve done enough of that already,” he said. “It’s time to get tough, and to say no.” Fuhgeddaboudit!
The way Gov. Christie said it made me feel this wasn’t just some handler-crafted talking point softened with mealy-mouthed hedges like, “We’ll have study it.” Nope, this came straight from the gut—and this governor has quite an abundant gut; it was uttered with dead-eyed certainty.
And I believed him.
So did New Jersey resident Michael Pento, a fiscal conservative at Delta Global Advisors who is a frequent guest on CNBC. “I was blown away,” he says. “Cut spending—how radical!” He notes that in ten years the U.S.’s Gross Domestic Product grew from $10 trillion to $14 trillion, up 40%; yet the federal budget rose more than 100% from $1.8 trillion to $3.8 trillion in the same period.
Chris Christie bears the Republican label, but his own party has a lot to learn from him, given eight years of George W. Bush as the most fiscally irresponsible President of all time. (Albeit, President Obama graces that list of dubious distinction and is rising with a Billboard bullet.)
“Republicans, when they get in power, act like Democrats,” Pento says. “This guy Christie is a constitutional Ron Paul conservative. We need to cut spending, as painful as that can be in the short-term.”
The governor pointed out that New Jersey has the highest taxes in the nation already, leading to the drain of $70 billion in wealth moving out of the state. Tax increases only would make that drain worse.
And he cited a stunning stat: A 42-year-old state government worker in New Jersey who gets a 20-year pension has paid in all of $124,000—and will take out $3.8 million in payments and health coverage for the rest of his life.
This simply can’t continue, yet few other politicians are talking about the government pension bubble that could bankrupt some cities. A new report from the Pew Center on the States says states have promised to pay $3.35 trillion to current and retired workers—and are running $1 trillion short in funding that obligation.
The worst-off state: President Obama’s home state of Illinois, which has funded only 54% of what it will have to pay out. Unions now represent 40% of all government workers, and they are especially powerful at the local and state levels. Given the Dems’ union ties, ya gotta question whether benefit cuts are a viable option, as I wrote about here.
But I now hold out new hope, thanks to Gov. Christie of New Jersey. He brings a fresh new face and a voluble, emphatic voice to politics. Let us pray we hear a lot more from him.
- Follow Kneale at twitter.com/denniskneale
More Kneale ...