Saturday, January 12, 2013

Chris Christie isn't the answer, never has been

Chris Christie 2016. There seem to be an awful lot of people that both see this as a real possibility and as a pretty good idea. Granted, Christie kicked ass on the unions in New Jersey. And granted, Christie stood tall in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (I categorically refuse to call it "Superstorm" Sandy; it was a hurricane). Christie is also pompous enough and right often enough to look really good on occasion. Of course, when he's wrong he can look really bad.

The Daily Caller, in reviewing Christie's chances for the big time in 2016, notes just how bad--to actual fiscal conservatives--Christie looked when he criticized Boehner for not voting on the Sandy relief package fast enough to suit Christie:
But when the Congress considered a $60 billion relief bill, there was something amiss: As the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board pointed out, the bill contained “$150 million for Alaskan fisheries; $2 million for roof repair at the Smithsonian in Washington; and about $17 billion for liberal activists under the guise of ‘community development’ funds and so-called social service grants,” among a slew of other waste.

“Far from being must-pass legislation,” the NYC-based Journal continued, “this is a disgrace to the memory of the victims and could taint legitimate efforts to deal with future disasters.”

But if anyone thought that Mr. Christie gave a damn about the fiscal obligations the House has to taxpayers across the country, his comments following the delay of the bill dashed that hope. By not rushing ahead with billions in pork-barrel spending, the House, Mr. Christie said, had “failed that most basic test of public service.”
Christie ultimately backed down a little, seemingly content with the $9 billion bill for Sandy-related aid that the House ultimately passed, a far cry from the $60 billion in the pork-laden original bill. But it's the initial emotion-driven response that tell the true tale: Christie doesn't have the temperament to sit in the Oval Office. His emotions overrode his intelligence here. As someone that took the Governorship of a State with dire financial problems due largely to waste, pork, graft, and corruption, as someone who claimed to oppose all of the above, he failed miserably when he went after Boehner, with regard to staying true to his supposed principles.

Of course, this moment endeared him to many "moderates" and earned rave reviews from many liberals and progressives who were no doubt close to wetting themselves over the perceived conflict in Republican-land. Because at the end of the day, they know Christie--if stays on this kind of course--is a loser in a national election; he'll never get enough support from the left and he'll lose significant amounts from the right, making the election easy pickings for whomever he is running against Christie (Ms. Clinton, perhaps?). And that's the real lesson from 2008.

But I said "supposed" principles, didn't I? For while I respect much of what Christie has done as Governor in New Jersey, I also have a fully functioning memory. Thus, I know that Christie is not the answer if the problem is how to restore fiscal sanity and properly limit the Federal Government into the future. For it was Chris Christie, back in 2010, who decided that a good way to help the State of New Jersey with its budget woes would be to go after unused gift cards:

The legislation amended part of the state Uniform Unclaimed Property Act to include gift cards for the first time, allowing the state to consider a card abandoned two years after purchase and seize the balance.
The measure was stopped in Federal Court near the end of 2010, thanks to a lawsuit filed by American Express and other merchants. But note how things would have gone, otherwise:
Currently, if a gift card goes unused, the issuing business keeps the money. Under the new law, the state could collect the money after the waiting period. 
If a card were eventually used by a consumer, the state would return the money to the business, though the government would get to keep any interest it earned. Businesses would have been required to keep, at minimum, ZIP codes for the purchasing consumer.
In other words, if I were to buy a Starbucks gift card in New Jersey as a gift for a friend and that friend--for whatever reason--failed to use some or all of the value on the gift card, the State of New Jersey could simply take the money after two years and add it to its own coffers. Christie's rhetoric around this consisted of claiming that the money on the cards was being returned to the consumers via the government. That is not the language of someone in favor of a limited government or of a an actual conservative. It just isn't.

The bill has since been reworked and in July of last year, Chris Christie signed the new version (New Jersey Senate Bill 1928) into law. Less onerous than the 2010 version, it nonetheless gives the State the authority to seize some funds (while also allowing small amounts on gift cards to be redeemed for cash by consumers; probably a fair thing). And because of all this, a number of companies--including American Express--have stopped issuing gift cards in New Jersey, a move that costs the State and businesses millions of dollars in revenues. Likely, the State will lose more in revenues because of this than it can ever hope to gain from gift card "reclamations" (which now cannot occur for five years after the last use of a gift card). Christie is okay with this result, however.

So as 2016 draws closer and the name "Chris Christie" starts popping up as a potential fix to what ails us, let's remember who the man really is and what he really stands for. As a Governor, he has been and still is willing to sacrifice principals for the sake of expediency (i.e. cash). As a leader, he lets his emotions lead, again even when that means forsaking principles. Christie may be good for New Jersey, but I can't see how he would be good for Washington D.C. Don't believe the hype.

Cheers, all.

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