Wotka World Wide

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A fair and balanced look at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie from the New York Times? Unbelievable, but true:

Perhaps the most consequential episode between Christie and the union, at least as far as public perception was concerned, had to do with the pay freeze. Almost as soon as the scope of the budget problem became clear, the governor called on teachers, who received scheduled raises during the recession, to accept a one-year freeze. He reminded the teachers that a lot of private-sector workers felt lucky if they could keep their current salaries, and he said a voluntary freeze would enable the union to avoid widespread teacher layoffs in cash-poor school districts. Most local chapters of the union ignored him. Ultimately some 10,000 union members — teachers and support staff — saw their jobs eliminated. Christie hasn’t stopped talking about it since.

The union maintains that Christie’s plea was mere gimmickry, because the layoffs would have happened even if its local chapters acceded to the demand for a freeze. But even if this is true, it would seem to reflect a staggering lack of political calculation. Had the teachers agreed to take the short-term hit by acquiescing to a temporary freeze, it would have been worlds harder for Christie to then run around the state demanding longer-term concessions on pensions and benefits. And when the layoffs did materialize, the governor would most likely have shouldered most of the blame. Instead, the whole affair seemed to prove Christie’s point about the union’s self-involvement, and it enabled him to blame the teachers themselves for the layoffs.

Christie is letting the unions hang themselves, which is always a great strategy for winning a political argument. The fact that it plays well with the voters and the NYT is a bonus. This guy seems to have the chutzpah and broad appeal required to be President, and I hope he gets enough done this year in New Jersey to decide that he is needed to tackle similar problems at the federal level and that our federal government is dying for some of his tough love.

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