Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Sock it to the Working Class Budget in New Jersey

by Norman Markowitz
Chris Christie, a very overweight Rudolf Giuliani imitator, was elected Governor of New Jersey last year, in large part because of the austerity policies of the Democratic incumbent.  When parties that depend on  the votes  of lower income people fail to advance progressive policies in economic crises, they usually lose, even though that often means that parties which represent upper income groups win and advance policies that are objectively worse. 
That has happened with a vengeance in New Jersey.  Christie unveiled his budget yesterday and called for 1,300 job layoffs, an $820 million reduction in school aid, closing of state psychiatric hospitals, Meanwhile,  Christie also called for heavy increases in deductibles and copayments for a state drug plan for low income senior citizens and the disabled, sharp cuts in school breakfast aid and aid to low income renters.
And it gets worse.  Plans to intimidate local communities into limiting wage increases for public employees.  Property tax freezes on the model of California's proposition 13.   Reduction in business taxes.
Christie contends that taxes are the problem in New Jersey.  His Republican predecessor, Christine Todd Whitman went a long way in creating the problem when she reduced state income taxes in the 1990s by 30 percent.  Christie comically accuses his critics of seeking to "demonize" him and divide the people.  He had with big money support sought to demonize public employees and divide them from private sector employees, appeal  to the worst kind of suburban isolationism
The class bias in Christie's budget is clear.  It goes against everything in President Obama's stimulus package.  It arrogantly proclaims as necessary policies to overcome the crisis the very policies which produced the crisis.  It is a textbook example of the old definition of  a reactionary.  Someone who learns nothing and forgets nothing and repeats the same disastrous policies over and over again.
Public employee unions, progressive state organizations, the larger labor movement, will be organizing against this anti-working class budget and Christie's attempt to use the state government as a club against communities and labor.   As in life, the only way to stand up to a bully or in this case a reactionary governor with an bullying authoritarian style, is to fight back  and the fightback will hopefully make Christie the Biggest Loser.