State Politics Aren’t National Politics

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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34 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Wow, very well said. I agree with most of this although i think your statement that “it does no one any good to pretend that there will be some sort of justice in how they are made.” is mistaken. I think when people use the phrase bi-partisan what they probably mean in without vendetta, which you describe well, and with some degree of justice. The focus on bogeymen, like unions, isn’t productive since it forfeits any claim to fairness, inhibits any desire to self-sacrifice or work together to find solutions. Eric’s piece came of as a whack the bogeyman kind of piece. If various groups are going to have to suck it up, they need to feel like they are part of the team so to speak. If leadership in tough times means anything it is to get everybody ( or at least a reasonable facsimile) to pull in the same direction. In cutting budgets everybody needs to see and feel that the axe falls on everybody. Yes the poorest and most vulnerable will probably get screwed over the most, but the people in Short Hills, Upper Montclair etc, need to feel some pain.

    On a separate point the situation where one state supplies a lot of the suburbs for two major cities but doesn’t get to share a lot of the benefits ( read as taxes) is a problem. What would NY states budget look like if NY was part of NJ? It seems to make more sense to have a major city and all its suburbs in one administrative unit. However if there is a bright side, at least NJ didn’t get stuck with Staten Island. That would be truly terrible.

    When i left Joisey 16 or so years ago Chrisite Whitman, who was inexplicabley a leading Repub hopeful, found a way to cut the budget a bit by restructuring the states pension fund. She got lower yearly payments, so she could blow her budget horn, but that led to the state having to pay more money in the long run. I’m not surprised the state has budget problems. And property taxes were high then.Report

    • Koz in reply to greginak says:

      “The focus on bogeymen, like unions, isn’t productive since it forfeits any claim to fairness, inhibits any desire to self-sacrifice or work together to find solutions.”

      Not at all. Liberals, in various manifestations, are the problem and punishing them is part of the solution. The point is that the unions have to be able to internalize the blame and accept the punishment as just.

      This might be a stretch for some of you but for me it’s like the OJ case. The worst thing that ever happened to OJ (besides the murders, of course) was being found innocent by that jury. Nicole Brown wasn’t married to OJ at the time, but even so you can see that a jealous man might reasonably take revenge against his wife and lover. If he’d gone to prison for 2nd degree he could have some chance to pay his debt to society, and he might even be out by now.Report

  2. Bob Cheeks says:

    When you dance with commie-dems there’s always a bill that has to be paid.Report

  3. Mike Farmer says:

    State politics aren’t national politics, but if the states become dependent on the federal government we’ve lost a large part of our defense against central planning.Report

  4. MadRocketScientist says:

    Another reason the budget is in trouble

  5. E.D. Kain says:

    Fair enough, Mark. But if Jersey doesn’t do something about its outrageous spending, tax rates, etc. then I don’t see how it can expect much of an economic recovery. Obviously national and state politics are different animals. What works (or doesn’t work) for Jersey isn’t going to necessarily work for Arizona, or the federal government, etc. But it does seem that in Jersey or California (as well as other states) you have a significant problem with public unions, out of control benefits for public sector workers, and so forth. It also appears that governments over the past ten years spent like drunken sailors thanks to the economic boom, and now want to continue to do so, and start to call it “austerity” the moment anyone talks about walking back that spending to pre-boom levels. I’m not 100% on Christie’s privatization programs. My post was more about the concept of austerity in the public sector in general. And I don’t think simply cutting public spending will miraculously work toward instant prosperity either, but if the public sector is eating up too much of the private sector then you certainly ought to work in that direction if you ever do hope to regain higher employment levels and a more sustainable public sector.Report

    • @E.D. Kain, But no one who lives here denies that the problem exists and that it has reached crisis levels. (Almost) No one outside of the public sector unions denies that public union salaries, benefits, and jobs are going to have to bear the brunt of the hit, if only because they’re the most obvious target. But that doesn’t mean that there will be some sort of justice in those cuts, nor does it mean that the effects of those cuts won’t be quite severely felt in a lot of quarters. And it definitely doesn’t mean that our problems can be squarely placed on the shoulders of the public sector unions.

      There were, after all, government decisionmakers who could have said no to any number of those benefits at any point. That’s not the unions’ fault – they exist to represent their members’ interests, just like any other interest group, and it’s no more immoral for them to do that successfully than it is for the NRA to represent gun owners successfully. And while union benefits and social spending may form a sizable portion of our budget problems, they are by no means the entire problem and it is at least theoretically possible that the budget problems could be largely resolved by pursuing other avenues that would cause pain in other sectors or at least by shifting more of the cuts into those other sectors. I’m not saying that costs should be borne more by other sectors, mind you – just that our problems cannot simply be laid at the feet of public sector unions and social spending. It is the combination of a whole host of things that got us into this situation.

      It also should be mentioned that New Jersey is, per capita, the biggest donor to the federal government of any state. By that I mean that for every dollar of federal taxes we pay, only $0.61 comes back to New Jersey. This is a not-insignificant factor in our budget problems, especially considering the high cost of living.

      As for the issue of employment, it’s worth noting that, even now, our unemployment rate is more or less in line with the national average, and government layoffs will obviously push us higher than that average. This (not to mention one of the two or three highest median incomes in the country) despite having long possessed perhaps the least business-friendly environment of any state in the country. This is in no small part because New Jersey’s job market is (and pretty much always will be since we’re such a geographically tiny state) so heavily dominated by New York and Philadelphia, as well as industries that require the sort of labor pool that New Jersey can provide. This places a heavy limitation on the potential benefits of creating a more business-friendly environment. It also leaves us particularly closely tied to the national – and global – economic environments. Barring a complete fiscal collapse (and, again, everyone agrees that the state’s fiscal position needs fixing, stat), New Jersey’s economy will be no less capable of recovery than any other state, if only because our economic fortunes are of necessity tied to the economic fortunes of Manhattan, Philadelphia, and the pharmaceutical and telecom multinationals.

      Think of it this way: New Jersey is effectively the world’s largest commuter town. The business climate within such a town is of relatively small importance as long as its residents continue to primarily rely on the neighboring town/city for their employment.Report

      • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        ” That’s not the unions’ fault – they exist to represent their members’ interests, just like any other interest group, and it’s no more immoral for them to do that successfully than it is for the NRA to represent gun owners successfully.”

        The unions are to blame for what they’re trying (more or less successfully) to do, not necessarily how they’re doing it. That’s where the whole punishment angle comes in. If we can’t punish the public sector unions they are just going to re-do the things that caused the problems in the first place.Report

        • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

          @Koz, They’re going to push to re-do the things that “caused the problems” as you say no matter what. It is their job. That is a much different thing from saying that politicians need to give them carte blanche, however. Unions are not the problem, and “punishing” them accomplishes nothing; politicians and government who give particular interest groups (and unions most certainly count) carte blanche regardless of the effects on their constituents writ large are a different story.Report

          • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            They’re going to push to re-do the things that “caused the problems” as you say no matter what. It is their job. That is a much different thing from saying that politicians need to give them carte blanche, however. Unions are not the problem, and “punishing” them accomplishes nothing;….

            This is self-contradictory: we intend to mitigate the problem and/or prevent it from reoccurring by punishing (or banning) the perpetrators so as to prevent or discourage their ability to continue to do the things that cause the problem.Report

            • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

              @Koz, The “perpetrators” aren’t the unions. The “perpetrators” are the politicians. Or do you think that the government should be in the position of seeking to “punish” those who exercise their First Amendment rights to petition the government solely for the purpose of discouraging them from doing so again in the future?Report

            • Koz in reply to Koz says:

              “The “perpetrators” aren’t the unions. The “perpetrators” are the politicians.”

              Well, it’s some of both. More specifically there’s a negative symbiosis between them.

              Wagner Act-style collective bargaining is not a First Amendment issue, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s bad enough in the private sector, but there are CEO’s, Boards or Directors and shareholders who are going to be motivated to maximize enterprise value. Decision-makers in the public sector don’t have those incentives.

              That’s why public sector unionism ought to be banned or at least severely curtailed.Report

    • Koz in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      Yeah, I’m getting thrown off by the thread title too. Why exactly is Jersey different from California, the US, Greece, Spain, or the UK? It looks to me like there is very little if any difference in kind, only difference in degree. And, the solution is more or less the same for all of them.Report

  6. Koz says:

    “This is, at a minimum, not a time for vendettas.”

    Putting it that way is something of a strawman for me. There must be a hundred degrees of disapproval that fall short of vendetta.

    It’s unfortunate but still necessary, for reasons that you hint at, that our economic recovery is going to require nontrivial amounts of explicit punishment. We must (or at least ought to) punish grad students, California, government employees and unions.

    The punishment/non-punishment business isn’t so much a matter of policy as metaphor. That is, for our own economic survival, we are going to have to lay off or reduce compensation for multitudes of public sector employees.

    Of course, they will complain about being scapegoated. Ordinarily we’d like to say this is strictly a matter of economic necessity. But the situation is different now. We have to insist,

    “Yes, we blame you. Your unions, bloated pay packages, work rules, political back-scratching, and free money folk Marxist mentality. We’re cleaning it up.”

    Frankly, it’ll be a difficult maneuver to pull off, but one we have to try.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

      @Koz, So, given that a big part of our budget problem is also that we are a huge net donor to the federal government, does NJ get to also make this insistence upon Texas?Report

      • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Of course not. Texas is good shape fiscally, New Jersey isn’t. Texas dictates to New Jersey (in an ideal world), not the other way around.

        Like you said, New Jersey is a bedroom community and fed gov’t spending goes disproportionately to institutions. Are you trying to argue something I’m not getting?Report

        • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

          @Koz, But the unions are in good shape fiscally, too. Like Texas, this fact is in no small part at the expense of New Jersey.

          As for why Texas is a net beneficiary and NJ a disproportionately net donor, let’s take the explanation from that raving left-wing organization the Tax Foundation:
          “States send federal taxes to Washington and receive federal spending in return. However, some states benefit more from federal taxing and spending policies than others. Some “beneficiary” states receive a positive return from Uncle Sam, making other states “donors” who pick up the tab. The most important factor determining whether a state is a net beneficiary is per capita income. States with wealthier residents pay higher federal taxes per capita thanks to the progressive structure of the income tax. Other factors include whether states have powerful Members of Congress, the number of federal employees present in a state, and the number of residents receiving Social Security, Medicare and other federal entitlements.”Report

          • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            Oy. The unions are in good shape fiscally because the New Jersey (and other jurisdictions) political establishment is takes public’s money and shovels it to the public sector unions, enriching the public sector employees at the expense of the public.

            In order to prevent this in the future we need to come down on the political class as well as the public sector unions. It’s not an either-or thing. I don’t see any reason why we have to choose between one or the other. Let’s do both.

            As far as the donor-beneficiary thing, there’s not really a whole lot there. You haven’t made a real argument (maybe because you wouldn’t believe it yourself if you did). In any case, I’ll deal with that again if you try to make a conclusion for it.Report

            • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

              @Koz, Is it your position that beneficiaries should be able to dictate to donors the terms and amounts of their donations? Or, put another way, is it your position that those who earn less money should be able to dictate the amount of taxes they take from those who earn more money?Report

            • Koz in reply to Koz says:

              No. But taxpayers are not donors, that the complications around that are exactly why those sorts of arguments don’t work (if in fact you believe them yourself, and I’m not sure that you do).

              There’s a lot of complications there, but in this context the main one is that we have to pay for our wants and needs out of the resources that we have. And our ability to contribute to (and by extension attempt to control the direction of) the public square is a function of our net resources, financial or otherwise. Therefore it’s wrong to say that California and New Jersey ought to have more political control because they make the most money and pay the most taxes.

              We have to subtract against that the resources that are consumed at their behest. And on that score California, New Jersey et al are the worst deadbeats in America. And in this regard there’s not too much difference between state gov’t spending and fed gov’t spending.

              The finances of those states are ruined because they are shoveling money to their public sector unions. The fed gov’t spends money in red states because the folk Marxist mentality of people in California and New Jersey directs that it be spent. It doesn’t make very much difference where.Report

            • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

              Do you live in New Jersey? If not, how do you know that our fiscal problems are solely attributable to public sector unions? I can assure you that, while public sector union benefits are a not-insignificant part of the problem, they are far from the only cause of the problem and focusing exclusively on them in order to punish and cast blame thus avoids solving the problem. I can also assure you that fiscal crisis is far from being exclusively the province of “folk Marxist” states – or would you classify Oklahoma and Arizona (as well as Nevada, for that matter) as “folk Marxist” as well?Report

            • Koz in reply to Koz says:

              “Do you live in New Jersey?”

              No. But without looking it up, I’ll assert that the New Jersey Congressional delegation voted 3:1 in favor of the health care bill whereas the Texas delegation voted 3:1 against.

              “focusing exclusively on them”

              Where have I said anything focusing exclusively on them? I am a belt and suspenders guy.

              It’s less avoidable and less vindictive than it looks. You don’t think SEIU is going to complain when we cut gov’t employees compensation. “This is unfair scapegoating.”

              We reply, “Yeah, so what. We have to cut your wages and pension already to save money. The idea that this discourages you or others from doing what you’ve done is an added bonus.”Report