Chris Christie’s Summer of Self-Promotion
As speculation builds around Chris Christie’s role in the upcoming fall presidential campaign, New Jersey residents have been treated to what the governor calls his “Endless Summer Tax Relief Tour.” Barnstorming the state, Christie has been slamming so-called “Corzine Democrats” in the legislature for refusing to enact his proposed income tax cut. It’s part and parcel of his “Jersey Comeback” narrative, which the governor recites ad nauseum in front of admiring national audiences.
The Jersey Comeback story goes something like this: Having inherited a state on the brink of bankruptcy, Christie cut state spending; held the line on taxes; fixed the state’s unfunded pension liability; and took on the vested interests that have so long made Trenton a den of dysfunction. In short, tough-guy Christie took a bat to the bad guys and saved hard-working taxpayers from economic ruin.
It’s a great story, made more powerful by an unpopular foil (Jon Corzine) and a deferential national press corps. It also happens to be completely untrue. Christie certainly brings an unusual disposition to the governor’s office. But in every other way, he has proven just as unwilling (or unable) as his predecessors to confront the structural barriers to meaningful reform. And that is the real tragedy of his governorship. First, let’s dispense with a few myths.