Monday, October 12, 2009

Deconstructing the Ledger Endorsement

The Star Ledger's assessment of the Democratic and Republican parties in their gubernatorial endorsement of Chris Daggett is on the mark:

"The lamentable fact is that the two parties are, themselves, little more than narrow special interests. Their competition for short-term political and/or monetary gain has jeopardized the state’s long-term economic health and left it with a tarnished national reputation.

Where the major parties have differed, their differences have been inconsequential. Where they’ve been the same, their similarities have been destructive.

They have contributed equally to gross overspending in Trenton by consistently pandering to the pay, pension and retirement policies demanded by powerful public employee unions. Democrats have financed the spree with tax hikes, Republicans with borrowed money, and both with pension-fund raids."

The Ledger's logic in using this historically accurate assessment of both parties to endorse Daggett is flawed, and ignores both Daggett's and Chris Christie's campaign rhetoric.

Daggett is not proposing to reduce Trenton's "gross overspending." He proposes to increase sales taxes in order to reduce property taxes. This proposal is not reform. It is more of the same that hasn't worked since Brendan Byrne instituted the income tax to provide property tax relief. It won't work this time either.

Only Chris Christie has spoken of reducing Trenton's "gross overspending." Yet, the Ledger says to vote for Daggett because Governor Whitman and the Republican legislature in the 90's grossly overspent by borrowing and failing to fund pensions.

Chris Christie has been critical of past Republican administrations. He's used stronger language than the Ledger did. Even during the Republican primary, Christie characterised the Republican party as "miserable failures" when it last controlled Trenton. He said he would be different, that he would stand up to special interests within his own party, and that he "is not a Christie Whitman Republican."

The Ledger was particularly harsh on Christie:

"The most disappointing of the three candidates is Christie. Six months ago he seemed an almost certain winner, a highly successful federal prosecutor facing an embattled governor saddled with a collapsing economy and soaring budget deficits. He could run a rocking-chair campaign, it seemed, make only safe commitments, avoid controversy, and win.

Unfortunately, that’s mostly what Christie has done — a strategy that looks less promising now that his double-digit early lead has melted away.."

What the Ledger chooses to ignore is Corzine's money and the deceitful type of campaign we're seeing from him now for the fourth time if you include the primary against Jim Florio for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in 2000.

All summer long Corzine spent millions to throw a kitchen sink filled with mud at Christie. Nothing stuck. Christie is Bush. He gave a contract to Ashcroft and the former prosecutor who investigated but failed to indict his brother. He got traffic tickets and gave an employee a loan. The voters cared nothing about any of this, as Christie continued to enjoy double digit leads in all the polls until early September.

Along comes veteran sleaze merchant and professional trough swiller Jaime Fox to save Corzine's hide. The Corzine campaign finally came up with mud that stuck. By distorting Christie's somewhat specific proposal to reduce health care premiums to mean that woman could not get mammograms, Corzine finally made some progress in the polls. Not by increasing his own hopelessly low approval number, but by scaring women away from their support of Christie.

The Ledger continued:

Christie’s game plan for dealing with a looming, record budget deficit of $8 billion has been a work in progress. After pledging for months to cut taxes deeply despite the budget red ink, he disclosed Friday in an interview with The Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran that he has put most of the tax reduction on the shelf until the economy begins to recover
Moran, who just recently returned to the beat after a short stint on PSG&G hasn't been paying attention. Christie's plan was always to cut spending first and cut taxes later, after spending was under control.

The Ledger and much of the media has been demanding more specifics from Christie. Again, they ignore Corzine's money and deceit. Look how Corzine twisted Christie's health care plan. What would Corzine do if rather than saying he would improve urban education and revitalize our cities, Christie said he would stop flushing money down those black holes? Corzine would say "black holes" is racist and that Christie wants to take money away from the people who need it most. Nevermind that all that money is making little difference in the lives of those who need the most help. The money is giving a nice living to those who are "serving" the poor. It is also keeping the poor down and dragging the middle class, where the money comes from, down with them.

But he’d still lower income taxes on the state’s wealthiest households by roughly $1 billion and restore a portion of the nearly $600 billion in property tax rebates rescinded last year — a neat trick while still balancing the budget.

Lowering taxes on the state's wealthiest will increase revenue and slow the flight of talent out of New Jersey. Restoring rebates while balancing the budget will be a neat trick. It will mean that $600 billion of waste would have been identified and cut.

Christie’s principal claim on voter support is based on his record as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey — and it’s not without merit. The Star-Ledger opposed his appointment to that post originally, only to be pleasantly surprised as Christie surrounded himself with capable, qualified people and performed well."

The Ledger was wrong about Christie then, and they are wrong about him now.

On Corzine:

"Corzine is an eminently decent and likable man, and not without achievement.

What is that about? Corzine has been a state wide figure since 2000. Most have decided we don't like him, for good reason. He's not decent, he's deceitful. From the Carla Katz emails, to withholding the study of his 800% toll raising monetization scheme, to releasing the details of his school funding plan on Christmas Eve, to withholding state revenue figures, to "forty in four" and "hold me accountable" Corzine has proven he is anything but transparent and will buy his way out of jam rather than be accountable. What is to like about that?

What achievement?

We especially salute his unflagging commitment to state education and his success in changing the Abbott school aid formula to ensure that money intended to help poor children follows them whether or not they live in specific districts.

Like the Schools Construction Corp billions built schools? If a family from Keansburg moves to Middletown, will the money follow that those children? No. This is another scam.

But his shortcomings as a leader are serious

Finally some truth from the Ledger. Yet why would they write an endorsement they clearly helps Corzine stay in office?

They’ve become all too apparent in his dealings with public employee unions, an often unruly Legislature and a Democratic Party that is, at best, an ethically compromised ship and, at worst, harbors a corrupt crew.

The governor may be the nominal leader of his party but there’s mounting evidence its commanding figure is George Norcross, an unelected South Jersey political deal-maker who’s currently rearranging the Democratic leadership in the Senate and Assembly.

So why try to keep him in office. They know Daggett won't win and they know he's drawing support for Christie. A Corzine victory will increase Norcross's power and the Ledger knows it.

"Corzine is the chaplain on a pirate ship, not really its captain."

Moran must have written that line. It sounds nice but doesn't mean anything.

On Daggett:

"Like Christie, neither Corzine nor Daggett has adequately explained how he’d tackle the vast budget deficit. All three, to some degree, are like Dickens’ hapless Wilkins Micawber, hoping "something will turn up."

That is an endorsement?

But only Daggett has produced anything close to a coherent plan to cut property taxes. He’d chop them by up to $2,500 per homeowner — but only if their municipalities kept spending increases in line with the Consumer Price Index. In effect, he’d require local officials to choose between their union supporters and taxpaying voters. It’s not a panacea, but at least a start.

Translation: This won't work either and we know it, but at least Daggett gave us something to write about. Vote for him.

As for government experience, Daggett, who has a doctorate in education, has at least as much as his rivals, having worked for both Democratic and Republican governors and served as regional administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. His mastery of detail is impressive.

Translation: He has a good memory and has worked the system. Vote for him.

The reservation one hears about Daggett among the surprising number who say they’d like to vote for him is that he can’t win. And, indeed, the ballot position assigned Daggett and other independents makes his task daunting. You’ll have to hunt to find him.

But the value of a vote is not limited to picking a winner. The real value lies in the signal it sends about what the voter believes is best for the city, county or state — not merely at the moment, but long-term."

Translation: We know Daggett can't win. We want Corzine to win. But if we endorse Corzine we'll lose circulation and advertising dollars, so we're endorsing Daggett.

1 comment: