Responding to “What price Christie?” a reader writes from New Jersey:
I think you have to have lived in NJ for a while to really appreciate what Christie is trying to do. You might be surprised to learn that there are four branches of government in NJ: executive, legislative, judicial, and NJEA (NJ Education Association — the teachers’ union). Of the four, the last one is the most powerful. Never in the 30 years that I have been here has anyone had the cojones to face off with the NJEA . Doing that is a quick way to get unelected.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and NJ is broke and desperate. We already have the highest property taxes in the nation (no, wait — I think I read that MN now has that title, you lucky dogs, so now we are second). The easy solutions of “borrowing” from this state fund or moving another item around on the books have all been exhausted.
Former governor Corzine, true to his Goldman Sachs roots, wanted to solve the budget problem by “monetizing” one of the state’s two main toll roads — whatever that means. It was complicated transaction that no one understood, but everyone laughed at, so despite Corzine’s statewide tour to promote it, it was DOA. Instead he raised the sales tax and finagled some more. See what you learn at Goldman!
Now the NJEA wants to raise taxes on the rich: A millionaire’s tax they called it, only in NJ a millionaire earns $400,000 a year. Christie gave the NJEA a choice: cut state aid to local districts, which will mean teacher layoffs, or a one year pay freeze. Their counter-offer was more new taxes.
Christie knows why he was elected and stood firm: No new taxes, he said.
The Democratic legislature opposes him. No doubt members of the NJEA and the other public employees are burning him in effigy somewhere. Does Christie have enough public support to pull this off?
He has the corruptocratic machine against him; he has the fourth branch of the government against him; he has all of the state employees against him, because they know if the NJEA fails to hold the line, they (or rather their pensions) are next.
Personally, I am rooting for Christie, but to be honest, just like in the battle of Britain, the final victory could hardly be predicted at the outset of the battle. The comparison to Churchill in WWII is spot-on.
Well, even Churchill had his doubts. While he was driving home from Buckingham Palace on May 10, 1940, after having received the King’s appointment as prime minister, Churchill said to an aide: “I hope that it is not too late. I am very much afraid that it is. We can only do our best.”
In the decisive Cabinet meeting of May 28, Churchill addressed members of the government who were considerably less resolute than he was: “I have thought carefully in these last days whether it was part of my duty to consider entering into negotiations with That Man…. And I am convinced that every one of you would rise up and tear me down from my place if I were for one moment to contemplate parley or surrender. If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.” The effect on his colleagues was electrifying.
Commenting on this episode in Churchill on Leadership, Steven Hayward writes: “[F]rom time to time, and especially in a crisis, the genuine leader must simply exert his personal force and summon up his willfulness.” Watching the video of Governor Christie responding to the question regarding his allegedly confrontational tone, one senses that he has absorbed this particular Churchillian lesson (not that he wouldn’t appreciate a copy of Hayward’s superb handbook for inspiration).