The debate over New Jersey’s now-chronic budget problems, among politicians and the media, continues. But many of its “progressive”-oriented participants are contradicting one another and even themselves, while continuing to miss the real issue of why New Jersey’s government is not affordable.
Lisa Fleischer of The Star-Ledger (Newark) Statehouse Bureau laid it on the line: according to the Office of Legislative Services, New Jersey will have almost the same budget deficit next year as this, and for the same reasons. Those reasons include ever-growing pension obligations (that the governor cannot defer forever), aid to towns and schools, and property tax rebates–a thing for which the income tax is supposed to be exclusively dedicated. But one reason escaped Fleischer’s attention: a government that has grown beyond any rational estimate of the means to support it.
When public employees and welfare clients, taken together, make a significant proportion of the electorate, those same people are an even more significant load on the budget. The rest of the State’s residents somehow have to spare enough of their substance to pay all those salaries, pensions, health-care costs, stipends, et cetera. No wonder that $70 billion of private wealth fled the State during five years of Democratic governorships.
Governor Chris Christie understands this. “If you tax them, they will leave,” he said. And he understands part of the solution, which is why he has pledged more efforts toward directly reducing pension and health-care costs, and by a substantial amount.
The Star-Ledger editorial board does not–but then, few do. The Star-Ledger editors must be the only ones in this State, other than the heads of the teachers’ and government workers’ unions, who think that the just-passed FYE 2011 budget is austere. And they warn of dire consequences, and specifically a threat to shut down New Jersey’s shellfish industry because the Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t the men or boats to keep clams and oysters safe. In other words, say the editors, pony up for strong government, or risk food poisoning. But the experience of Underwriters’ Laboratories, which has been in existence for nearly a century and regulates safety standards for everything from Christmas tree lights to computer power systems, should suggest to all but the most die-hard fan of “the everything government” that private initiative is just as capable as, if not more than, government in ensuring product and consumer safety in virtually any context.
The Democrats who currently control the Senate and Assembly don’t understand it either. But while today they accuse the governor of failing the State (in view of a looming deficit problem for next year), they forget that they are the ones who, together with three sympathetic governors (McGreevey, Codey, and Corzine), ballooned the budget to its present level.
Steve Lonegan understands the situation better than Chris Christie does; hence his alternative budget and his repeated insistence, going back to his days as Mayor of Bogota, on replacing defined-benefit pensions with defined-contribution savings plans, equivalent to the 401(k) plans available in private industry.
The solution is: let individuals take responsibility for themselves, and avail themselves of private services that can help ensure their safety more efficiently than the government can, and at less cost, and with less of a threat to basic liberty. And put an end to the spectacle of “two citizen classes,” with those getting government checks able to outvote those who must put up the money for those checks.
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