By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
Last week, Republican Gov. Chris Christie held a ?town hall meeting? in Galloway Township, Atlantic County. Those who follow politics know that town hall meetings provide a useful way to sell bad ideas to uninformed voters.
Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine used them in 2008 sell his scheme to hock the Parkway, Turnpike, and Expressway for $30 billion, and then and raise tolls by 800 percent. Democrats in Congress used them in 2009 and 2010 to sell Obamacare.
That is because while town hall meetings appear to be open and spontaneous, they are easily controlled and manipulated. They let politicians get their main talking points reported as facts in the newspaper and TV news without being challenged or contradicted.
They do this by stacking the audience with friendly supporters. Most others come to town hall meetings to ramble on about local or personal issues of little interest to anyone else. Time is limited, and no follow-up questions or debates are permitted when the politician running the show gives an incomplete, dishonest, or evasive answer.
On rare occasions, informed citizens prepare, organize, and hijack a town hall meeting and change the agenda.
Steve Lonegan?s Americans for Prosperity and our LIBERTYandPROSPERITY.org did that to derail Corzine?s toll hike scheme in 2009. Tea Party conservatives around the country dominated the town hall meetings of Democratic members of Congress who tried to sell Obamacare in 2009 and 2010. Then they voted many of them out of office to put Republicans back in control of the House of Representatives.
But that takes lots of time, money, and preparation.
Nobody challenged Christie last week. All of his talking points were reported as facts.
?Governor Christie cut the New Jersey state budget by $11 billion during his first term. . . He reformed the state pension system. . . He revived the New Jersey economy and created jobs. He now wants to cut taxes, but Democrats in the Legislature won?t let him. . . ?
None of these things is true.
Christie never cut Corzine?s Democrat budget of $29.8 billion for 2009-2010. Christie?s first budget of 2010-2011 budget was $29.3 billion ? only a half billion less than Corzine?s budget. Christie did not do this with spending cuts. He instead failed to return state income tax money to property taxpayers through Homestead Rebates and state aid to suburban towns, as required by the state Constitution.
Another billion dollars was ?cut? when Obama?s 2009 federal stimulus aid to states ended. Republican Christie actually increased spending for state government salaries and programs.
Christie padded our electric bills with a hidden tax hike to balance his budget, and raised taxes on employers to fund New Jersey?s generous unemployment checks.
Christie had the state borrow money to bail out private business failures like the Revel Casino. According to www.sunshinereview.org, New Jersey now has total debts, (including unfunded pension debts) of?$281,544,674,000 ? about $210,000 for every family that pays taxes in New Jersey.
Christie did nothing to curb the undue influence of government employees in New Jersey. Unlike Gov. Walker in Wisconsin, Christie said he ?loved? collective bargaining for public employees. Christie never opposed the laws that force each of the 103,000 public school teachers in New Jersey to pay dues of roughly $1,200 per year to three unions (national NEA, state NJEA, and local chapters). Those dues give those unions $123 million each year to buy political clout ? far more than what billionaires like the Koch Brothers spend here.
Christie did nothing to fix the public employee pension mess. The June NJEA newsletter reported that New Jersey pension funds had $70.7 billion in March of 2012. That money is supposed to cover 580,345 active New Jersey public employees and 256,850 retirees now collecting pensions. If you divide the total pension funds by the number of active and retired members in the system, you get about $84,807 per person.
No private employee with a 401(k) of only $84,807 would dream of retiring at age 55 and anticipate a yearly retirement income of $40,000 per year for the next 26 years of his or her expected life. But teachers and government employees in New Jersey can do it ? until this Ponzi scheme crashes and leaves younger employees with nothing.
By September, when the Revel Casino lays off the employees it hired last month with taxpayer loans, grants, and tax breaks, Christie?s ?Jersey Comeback? sign at his town hall meeting will look as ridiculous as the ?Mission Accomplished? sign of former President George Bush.
(Reprinted from June 20, 2012 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/snt/news/index.php/politics/26212-christies-town-hall-meeting-is-just-more-political-spin.html)
(***There are a few corrections made here in the online version.
The total NJ debt is $281,544,674,000, not the “$281,544,674” that appeared in the print version.
Total active public employees is 580,345, not the “590,200” that appeared in the print version.
Total number of retirees collecting pensions is 256,850, not the “800,000” that appeared in the print version.
Total number of active and retired public employees is 837,195, not 1,390,200 that is the total of the two figures that appeared in the print version of this article.
Sorry for any confusion.?? Please be aware that the numbers in this online version are accurate.)
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.
(Image Sources – http://www.ironmill.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/spin-300×259.jpg & http://www.stakecreativedesign.com/images/portfolio_images/graphic_design/political_spin_photo_1.jpg)