He has the courage

Some people want New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to run for the White House. For a simple reason: He has the guts to tell it like it is.

He sees a problem many politicians see. Unlike them he has the courage to face it. Further, he has the courage to speak the truth to people who don’t want to hear it.

New Jersey is going broke. It cannot afford to pay the benefits that are due public service workers and pensioners. It cannot afford to pay all the healthcare premiums it promised to pay for teachers and cops and firemen and state workers. It cannot afford to raise taxes on everybody else in order to meet these commitments. People have been leaving the state in droves as it is.

Here is the refreshing thing about Christie: He is willing to stand before policemen and teachers and tell them this. When they complain he suggests they complain to the pols who cut the deals to pay these benefits many years ago. Those guys set the fuses. Now the fuses have burned down and set the building on fire. Christie says if they blame him they blame the wrong people.

“A whole bunch of politicians who came before me on the local level and the state level made you promises that they couldn’t keep. And they knew they couldn’t keep them when they made them. So, I understand you being angry. But I suggest to you, respectfully, don’t be angry at the first guy who told you the truth.”

Perhaps some other politicians will work up the courage to speak the truth he does. We have states that ought to go bankrupt. Laws do not allow them to at the moment. But they cannot afford the golden benefits they have promised their workers.

We have a long list of cities in the same predicament. They can go bankrupt. Some will. That will allow them to rewrite contracts that are crippling them. Just as companies do when they toss in the Chapter 11 towel.

We have a country in the same predicament. Politicians of old promised more Social Security benefits than we can afford. More Medicare benefits than we can afford. More government pension benefits than we can afford. They knew when they cut the deals that we would never be able to afford them. But they knew they would be out of town before anybody formed a posse.

A candidate who can frame this clearly for voters might get into the White House on the strength of that skill. By speaking truth to voters he would likely stand out.

You may argue that this is only one of dozens of issues that will come up in the campaign. And that the spotlight may shift away from it by then.

You may be right. But there is a good chance that several cities will be bankrupt by then. And that several states will be begging for Washington to bail them out. Most of us will not like to cough up more tax money to rescue the likes of California and Illinois. Not when they have thousands of civil servants earning huge salaries. And tens of thousand retired on gargantuan pensions.

And not when the country is choking on debt as it is.

Christie speaks the truth. He spices it with compassion for those who won’t collect as much as they expected. He keeps his composure. He never gets nasty over this. He adds dollops of humor.

At the moment, all of this could be pretty appealing to voters come 2012.  

From Tom ... as in Morgan.                  

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows and new TV shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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