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Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Jersey on "edge of bankruptcy"?

This morning new New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared a fiscal "state of emergency" and stated the state was on the "edge of bankruptcy.". This may pave the way for a series of emergency spending cuts.
This dovetails with the recent, and welcome, publicity about a slew of allegedly very overpaid public employees. The way to frame this debate is, in my humble opinion, to highlight the choice of municipalities to cut either from the ranks of "administrators," the so-called managerial class (of which the members arguably are paid much better than their private sector counterparts) or from the actual rank-and-file (and much lower paid, and paid more closely with private sector counterparts) service providers upon whom residents actually receive services and benefits.

Christie's approach is antagonistic. Indeed, he was compared (hilariously) to the legendary Southern sheriff Buford Pusser (the inspiration behind some tv movies and a short-lived NBC series starring Bo Svenson in the late 1970s) by The Record's Charles Stile (see http://www.northjersey.com/). He may face stiff resistance, but at least his efforts are matching the campaign rhetoric and showing that the influence of his Republican reformer and gubernatorial primary opponent Steve Lonegan remains among the populace. It seems that if Christie does not provide the promised reforms, he will be the next one chucked overboard by the tea partiers.

The problem with Christie's approach is that it does not eliminate the root cause, that of the "deciders" on the local and county levels who get to direct how funds are spent.   These "deciders" are the ones who are on the payroll, along with friends and family.   It is not likely they will cut their own salaries or "bennies."  They are much more likely to cut salaries, or entire jobs, of the rank-and-file real service providers.   These are the teachers, sanitation workers and social workers. 

Christie is thinking he can coerce change, by shaming local and county leaders.   This may be a highly mistaken assumption.   The shameless cannot be shamed.   Even worse, it is possible that this is just a disingenuous -- if not Machiavellian -- way of passing the buck, of shifting the blame.






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