Elections have consequences.

In those heady days when everyone was excited about Obama, a familiar refrain was often written when he did something good, appointed a smart person, issued an executive order, etc: Elections have consequences.

On the other side of the Delaware, in the persona of new Governor Chris Christie, people in New Jersey are getting a daily reminder of this.

Elections have consequences:

In a series of proposed sweeping cuts aimed at closing a $2.2 billion gap in the state’s current-year budget by June 30, Gov. Chris Christie announced on Friday plans to slash operating aid to higher education in the state by $62.1 million.

Elections have consequences:

Gov. Christie told a group of business leaders today that his first budget will not include a corporate business tax surcharge that has been repeatedly renewed by Democrats in Trenton.

Christie, a Republican who beat former Gov. Jon S. Corzine in November by promising to cut taxes and reduce government spending, said he will let the 4 percent surcharge sunset in the budget he will present on March 16....

Christie, who took office in January, also highlighted his decision to allow the expiration of higher income tax rates that Corzine began last year to help balance his last state budget.

Elections have consequences:

The $158 million the governor robbed from the Clean Energy Fund is dedicated money utility customers can use to help fund energy conservation, efficiency and renewable energy projects.

These funds match investments in solar and wind and help consumers buy energy-efficient appliances or winterize homes. Cutting this fund will eliminate up to 4,000 private sector jobs in New Jersey while impacting another 20,000.

Elections have consequences:

The news for mass transit commuters keeps getting worse.

Lakeland Bus Lines will implement a fare increase by June, company controller Greg Mazzarisi said on Friday. The exact amount hasn't been determined, but Mazzarisi said he expects it will be under 10 percent.

The disclosure about Lakeland Bus comes as NJ Transit riders are contemplating the prospect of a draconian fare hike of anywhere from 20 to 30 percent, coupled with likely service reductions. NJ Transit is grappling with a budget shortfall exacerbated by a sizable cut in its state subsidy.

Meanwhile, while bus and train commuters are about to get slammed, those who drive to work are catching a break. Gov. Chris Christie, who ordered a reduction in NJ Transit's state subsidy, has ruled out raising the state's gasoline tax even though it last went up in 1988 and is among the lowest in the nation.

Elections have consequences:

Gov. Chris Christie’s freezing of $475 million in aid to 500 school districts could cause layoffs, program reductions and higher property taxes for residents in Cape May County.

On top of that, Christie has also promised 15 percent less state aid for schools next year.

Elections have consequences:

Gov. Chris Christie today froze nearly all actions by a controversial state board that for a quarter century has pushed towns across New Jersey to build affordable housing, promising municipalities their "nightmare is over."

The governor’s executive order also created a committee to report on how to provide affordable housing, including housing designed to ensure people can live in towns in which they work, while considering the environment and open space...

The action drew fire from affordable housing advocates, who called the order illegal, and praise from municipal groups and attorneys.

Let's keep that in mind as we get closer to our own elections this spring and fall. Elections have consequences. And, as we know, those consequences can be devastating.

Important post, Dan

It's easy to just be completely disillusioned with electoral politics at this point with "Hope You Can Believe In" feeling pretty much like an empty political slogan. But Obama is still much better than the alternative would have been, and has kept lots of folks from falling off the cliff that the Republicans left behind them as they exited. Plainly, Christie is much worse than Corzine on his least progressive day.

Which takes us to PA in 2009. Hoeffel cares about women, LGBT people, the poor, the environment and equity in general. The other Democrats, less so. All of the Republicans, much less so. We'd better get ourselves moving and motivated folks, or PA is headed back to the stone age.

governing badly also has consequneces

since progressives acct for only 20% of the pop ,they always have to attract the maj of ind to win elections. the only diff between progressives and inds is that progressives support good causes no matter what while ind support good causes up to the point where they consider defecits and the tax increases to close them to be just too excessive . the maj of ind in nj reached that point and the ind and mod dems who votedfor christie had a good idea when voting that drastic cuts were coming .
with regard to school funding is it correct to say that all he did is tap the surpluses that schools have built up and that these surpluses were suposed to be a rainy day fund. your not going to get more rain than the current econ circumstances.

Voters did not approve these cuts

so that the wealthy and corporations could save on taxes. They were voting against the ins and for the outs because the state of the economy sucks. If they keep voting Republicans like Christie in out of that kind of reflex, they will find things going from very bad to much worse. Exceptions to that might be banks to big to fail, and those who live on interest and dividends and don't have to work.

More to the point, NJ voters

More to the point, NJ voters didn't so much vote *for* Christie as they voted *against* Corzine. Remember, Corzine was deeply, *deeply* unpopular; virtually any candidate with a pules, and perhaps any candidate without one, would have defeated him.

Vote Candidate Zombie- brains for everyone!

i think they were voting for the outs because of the state of

budget and the level of taxes needed to balance it. in nj nearly every home owner ,regardless of income level, has a higher property tax bill than their mortg payments , which is unheard of in pa. the majority of ind were just sick and tired of this. if they think christies cuts are too draconian , they'll boot him out next time too.

The main reason that local

The main reason that local taxes in NJ are so high is that Christie Whitman slashed state taxes so heavily that local governments were forced to hike their own takes to make up for the lost funds. What is it about NJ GOP governors named "Christie," I wonder.


You don't get it, ian

lower statewide taxes on the rich and corporations equal higher property taxes on everyone and/or lousier schools. I don't think a majority of New Jersey voters were demanding that.


reading all of this, I have to ask "why does christie hate New Jersey"?

4,000 jobs lost because of cuts to the clean energy fnd, with an additional 20,000 impacted? The dude DOES realize the economy's in the toilet, right?

i don't know how well he's gonna do, or how long he'll last.

New Jersey voters voted to cut government spending

I'm not agreeing with them, I'm just reporting what a Rasmussen poll says.

Don't shoot the messenger. I mean, how unjust!

In modern political history (that is, since the last changing of the epochs in 1980), New Jersey voters go through this doh see doh wherein they break from their normal liberal habits (they're among the most reliable Democratic voters in presidential elections) and periodically elect a Republican governor to cut spending and taxes, largely because voters are pissed off about their high property taxes (which, indeed, are high compared to most East coast places). Governors Tom Kean ('82-'90), Christie Whitman ('94-00) and now Chris Christie have benefited from such voter anger over taxes and spending.

What generally follows the election of a Republican governor is a) a round of spending cuts b) a more profound round of tax cuts, leading inevitably to c) larger and more dangerous state debt, (Kean borrowed and borrowed; Whitman cooked the state pension books) as spending increases during intervening years, which isn't surprising since New Jersey goes back and forth with Connecticut as the the highest per capita income state, and wealthy people won't suffer inadequate services very long.

There's a couple of lessons to learn here, I think.

1) The easy one for people on the left to accept, is that we need to evolve into the next epoch of political history, meaning we need to get past the Ronald Reagan era -- in which voters accept as political truth the idea that government spending is an evil, and that simply lowering taxes is the best way to stimulate the economy into health. That's why E.J. Dionne calls on President Obama to start a Reagan-esque ideological dialog with the American people regarding how smart government investment (in education, infrastructure, green economy) is not only best for American society now, but also for the future competitiveness of our economy, a dialog for the future like Reagan's (except for in Housing, Reagan was unable to make the spending cuts he advocated, but he set the table for '90s Republicans and W.).

In the present climate, where voters still hate spending and taxes, a not-untalented progressive politician like Jon Corzine couldn't survive a second term (both Kean and Whitman got re-elected).

So President Obama should start now the long journey of changing people's thinking about spending and taxes. People on the left usually have no problem with the idea that the voting public needs to think more like us! (Exactly! We think.)

2) The harder lesson -- because, for some (though CERTAINLY not necessarily), it involves something like conceding points -- is that progressives now need to sell government spending to middle class voters by making efficiency/government transparency and reform a hallmark of Democratic government, and also by explaining how government spending aids the middle class.

One way of explaining Ronald Reagan's longterm success in re-framing American politics is that in 1980 American voters were just starting to deal with the end of the postwar economic boom, which most historians now locate at or around 1973, the last year when average American wages rose, as they had for every year following the Second World War. Up until 1980, middle class Americans (the vast majority) and poor Americans tended to vote together for the Democratic majority in Washington.

What Reagan did was drive a wedge between middle class -- largely white suburban -- voters and poor and urban voters, by demonizing a "Big Government" that white suburban voters saw as not helping them and, crucially, that in the 1980s was too easily characterized as wasteful and inefficient.

In my political life, from the mid-1980s to the present, the notion that progressives NEED to explain, justify, and even fix government spending has caused a lot of rancor on the left for a variety of reasons, some good, some not so good. Good points: Reagan created the worst budget crisis in US history by irresponsibly cutting taxes and increasing spending by tripling the Defense budget; like Reagan, Republican tax cutters (such as Kean, Whitman, and W) leave huge deficits for others to deal with; poor people, who were already suffering before Reagan, have suffered shamefully, horribly intolerably since. Not so good: resistance to making government spending transparent; resisting other anti-bureaucratic reforms.

There have been breakthroughs: President Clinton gave Al Gore the task of reforming government spending, and he responded with a manual on government efficiency that's now used as a tool of reform worldwide. More recently, Howard Dean made social progressivism and fiscal responsibility the twin goals of his anti-W presidential campaign and Democracy For America movement.

It can be done. I believe such pairing of smart spending and vigorous reform IS the future of progressive politics.

Does such pairing admit that Republicans were right at some point about the hazards of unchecked government spending and bureaucracy?

My strong feeling is: Who cares? I'm for reform now.

But Corzine's loss and Christie's current popularity reveal, among other things, the hazards of skimping on the reform and anti-bureaucracy message.

If Corzine had convinced NJ voters that their government was efficient and waste-free, if he had made a point of taking on the political patronage machines that have shadowed Democratic politics since the postwar era (and that still exist in Philly), he might have had a shot at playing a role in changing the way voters think about spending and taxes.

But he didn't. And now his loss fuels the agenda of the other side.

Lack of clear Democratic messaging is definitely a problem

and, tragically, little that Obama has done in his first year gives me much confidence he will fix that problem. His latest move, to come up with a health care plan that omits a public option -- which is extremely popular -- and increases the penalty for not buying corporate insurance -- which is extremely unpopular -- tells me more than I want to know about his messaging intentions. He's just not free to do, or advocate for, the popular thing if it significantly cuts into the prerogatives of his corporate backers. A little cut here and a little cut there are OK, but if something is going to sharply cut into anyone's bottom line, no.

That being said, I wouldn't take much guidance from Rasmussen. Rasmussen is famous for phrasing questions that get right wing approved responses. Of course people are opposed to government spending in the abstract. The idea of government spending in the abstract has been successfully demonized. But Rasmussen doesn't poll what people think about particular government services that are paid for through government spending (except, apparently, education and fighting crime.) We don't actually see the internals of his poll, but it doesn't look like he asks how people rank college aid, help for cities, libraries, homelessness programs, drug and alcohol programs, AIDS programs, highway repair and construction, mass transit, environmental protection, or any of the other large array of programs that Christie is going to cut. Exposing his bias more, Rasmussen highlights Christie's overall favorable v. unfavorable poll numbers. With Obama he uniformly highlights high favorable v. high unfavorable numbers. It turns out that Christie looks much better when polled for overall favorability numbers, Obama looks much worse when you see his high favorable v. high unfavorable numbers. So I trust Rasmussen, except the week before election day, as far as I can throw Citizens' Bank Park.

I do agree that Democrats need to deal with govt. corruption issues, but the biggest corruption issue, which undergirds all the rest, is corporate control of the Party. Not only is that where the money comes from that buys the politicians, but it's also the reason why the Party's message and program are, at best, confused. Why does Obama's health care plan rely entirely on the private sector despite polling that shows people don't want that? Because of the corrupt, though technically legal, deal he cut with big Pharma and the Wall St. backers of big insurance. Until that corruption is dealt with, nothing else will change either on message or substance.

So the first thing we have to do, as I've suggested before, is to get the money out of election campaigns by publicly funding them. That's not to say that other forms of public corruption that have more to do with personal weakness, i.e., nepotism and cronyism, and others that come from arrogance and a thirst for centralized power, like lack of transparency, need not be dealt with. We should attack those evils. But the particular job of progressives, as opposed to, say, the good government liberals such as those running the Committee of Seventy, is to uncover the corporate takeover of virtually everything, starting with the purchase of our politicians. We have a creeping corporatocracy. Once it's fully in place, and it just about is, any return to a New Deal, Great Society kind of liberalism will be all but impossible. Putting together a message that anyone can understand, much less really care about, will be the least of our problems.

I don't think it was the beard

New Jersey voters rejected Governor Jon Corzine for some reason, Stan, rejected him in favor of a Republican who vowed to cut government spending and lower taxes.

Rasmussen says 34% of New Jersey voters want Christie's top priority to be cutting government spending, and 29% want it to be lowering taxes.

Those facts seem consistent. NJ voters tossed out Governor Jim Florio in the 1990s for raising taxes and demonized Governor Brendan Byrne in the 1980s for wasteful government spending and corruption.

I take issue with your dismissal Stan not because I want to cut taxes and spending, but because I fear Democrats will never have the guts and will to accomplish the arduous task of changing the way Americans think about taxes and government spending -- of re-framing American politics, really -- if we pretend that we don't currently have a problem with American thinking on taxes and spending, or that the just-elected governor of New Jersey would prove significantly unfavorable if only Rasmussen would ask about college aid.

Rasmussen's likely right this time about NJ's feelings about Christie and his agenda. That sucks, but really it only confirms that Democrats and the left have a lot of work to do, even in one of our most Democratic states.

The president should be starting that work right now. You're right about President Obama's feckless health care compromise. He's missing a golden, teachable moment in which he could explain to the American people why smart government investment in health care right now is good for both society and the economy.

It's a great place to start a longterm dialog about taxes and spending. Pushing a universal health care plan with a public option right now, especially one that negotiated prices with Medicare, would be a great way to show a skeptical public how smart government spending can lower overall costs and produce better results.

Such a move would be subject to a huge pushback from Republicans, and we shouldn't think they wouldn't get some traction with their usual anti-spending rants.

Thirty years of political framing won't evaporate in a day or a year.

That's why I think we need new paradigms, and why I think making such spending transparent, as efficient as possible, and subject to vigorous review and (when needed) reform needs to be part of all Democratic campaigns for new spending in the future.

Pushing a universal health care plan with a public option

would indeed constitute a great Democratic message and it might actually prevent the Dems from losing Congress in November. But too many Dems would rather lose Congress then offend their corporate paymasters. And that's the essence of their problem. When the Dems don't provide a sharp, clear message that's understandable, the voters just decide to throw the ins out when times get tough. That's what happened to Corzine. It wasn't the beard, but it wasn't, in my view, "spending" writ large. People just didn't get, because it wasn't explained to them very well, that the spending would be for them and their children.

But we're not really disagreeing here, Sam. The Democrats seem determined to lose.

a public option that costs 500 bucks a month

and still needs hundreds of millions of subsidies on top of that is not much of a public option. in australia the public opt costs 500 bucks a YEAR for a guy making 50k ( everybody pays a 1% income tax surcharge ) and ZERO govt money is needed on top of the 1%. the ONLY difference in health care between the two countries is that aust has a cap on malpractise awaards and more importantly the loser or loser's lawyer, if they are poor,automatically pays the winners legal bills, so no slip and fall in australia. its really disapointing to hear the left argue against something (tort reform) that would reduce the cost from 500 bucks a month to 500 bucks a year for most people, pretending that its about some noble principal when really its all about the money. in australia docs finance the left and lawyers the right so what a suprise , the left passed tort reform, while in america , since docs give to the right and lawyers to the left , the left wants nothing to do with it.

Most estimates say that tort

Most estimates say that tort reform, at most, would reduce health care costs by approximately 5%. Not necessarily chump change, given the amount of money involved in health care in the US, but nowhere near enough to reduce costs from $500/mo. to $500/yr.


if that is true

i'd really like someone to tell me how the whole public option in australia can finance itself on just a 1% inc tax surcharge which means that the av earner pays only 500 bucks a year. its a fact that no govt subsidy is needed. the whole system exits on that 1% . perhaps the estimates on tort reform savings only refer to savings on capping malpractise awards,wheres having the loser or loser's lawyer pay the winners legal bills is where the real savings are found.when labor enacted that reform in 73 it put a real scare into anyone thinking about a malpractice suit. i travel to australia about a month every year and grew up there and while i'm not professional researcher thats the only difference i can find between the australain and american systems.if someone else has a better reason of how a heatlth care system can sustain itself on 500 bucks a year per person (on average), id love to hear it. ( also private ins costs 165 bucks a month and the ins cos make millions charging this rate)

ian, your facts are wrong

Wikipedia states this about the Australian health care system:

Medicare is funded partly by a 1.5% income tax levy (with exceptions for low-income earners), but mostly out of general revenue. An additional levy of 1% is imposed on high-income earners without private health insurance. As well as Medicare, there is a separate Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that heavily subsidizes prescription medications. In 2007-08, Australia spent 9.1% of GDP on health care, or AUD$4874 per capita.

(emphasis added)

They also have mostly public hospitals and sharp controls on prices charged by doctors seeking reimbursement from the public system. Wikipedia is right, you are wrong. Please get your facts straight, Ian. Thanks.

Ian does have a point though

To be fair, Australia's spending 9.1% of GDP is a lot less, almost a half less, than the 17.3% the US spends.

I know I know we all agree we spend far too much, and we don't cover nearly enough. Hopefully, the president and the Democrats can get some political capital on tv today out of exposing the Republicans' shameless shilling for the status quo.

And while Ian's serving mostly red herring in blaming our higher prices on lawyers (though I WOULD like to see that 5% savings in the form of fair tort reform), he can fairly point to another group of high wage earners contributing largely to our higher health care costs: American physicians make almost twice what Australian physicians make. Australian physicians are compensated about the same as French physicians (average general practitioner salaries around $90K rather the US's around $160K); and, of course, the World Health Organization rates French health care the best in the world, in case you're wondering whether you can get world class care at those prices. You can view a chart (en francais) here:


A secret of the French system is simply having a lot more doctors per person (more competition tends to mean lower prices).

Why do they have so many doctors?

Because they make med school free to students who qualify!

Can you imagine what a boon to Philly, what a change to the culture of our city, it would be if Philly public school kids knew that if they kept up their grades in the physical sciences they could go to med school for free?

As far as I can tell, Ian's only point was that lawyers

and their damned insistence on going after negligent doctors were to blame. For everything. Period. And period.

That's very much along the

That's very much along the lines of a typical GOP talking point, namely that lawyers are the source of all evil. They like to quote Shakespeare's 'kill all the lawyers' line, w/o realizing that the Bard put those words into the mouth of a villain.


Is Dick the Butcher a villain?

Probably not, according to most Shakespeare scholars, I'd guess.

Dick is a character in Shakespeare's depiction of a real 1450 peasant uprising, the Cade Rebellion, in the history play, 2 Henry VI. Dick says the line to Cade. True, Dick's on the wrong side of Henry, but the king is portrayed as weak and hardly a real hero.

The line doesn't reflect so much a moral point of view as one simply of class.

Part of what makes Shakespeare's work so brilliant is his willingness to represent class as an issue of complexity, not just one of nobility being noble and the lower class being low. That's largely because his audiences were of different classes.

What also makes Shakespeare so great is that, like Chekhov's, his plays represent such social complexity as a fact that underlies drama, that pits side against side, without revealing an obvious bias. In that way, Shakespeare's plays work like journalism done right.

Jorge Luis Borges represented this quality in a perfect little one page story.

That said, no matter what Shakespeare thought, of course, it's wrong to kill lawyers.

We need the ACLU and the good ones like Stan!

I took his question of why Australia's costs are so much lower

than ours, which they are, as a question.

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