No, Chris Christie Did Not Have a Choice on Spending Cuts; UPDATED

Last night Stacy did an excellent job of highlighting the overwrought reaction by Chris Christie fans to any criticism of their guy.  Although there’s not much I can add to Stacy’s analysis, I thought I’d add my two cents to the discussion anyway.  Here again is Allahpundit’s exit question:

How is it that a Republican governor in a deeply Democratic state like Jersey is showing little courage by tackling unions and pension reform? The government may be broke, but Christie theoretically could go the Democratic route and push tax hikes or float bonds rather than demand cuts. And why do we assume that he’d have done differently than Palin did if he had the chance to govern a state — a red state, where he has an electoral advantage — with a surplus? He didn’t make the mess but he’s trying to clean it up, even though Jersey’s liberal voters might very well end up punishing him for it.

In deciphering the above, Allah appears to have two issues with Governor Palin’s criticism of Chris Christie.  First, Allah implies that Christie had a choice on fiscal responsibility.  That is, instead of cutting spending, he could have simply taken the irresponsible Democrat route of floating bonds or raising taxes.  I disagree. For both political and economic reasons, I don’t see this as a viable alternative for Christie.

Christie ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, contrasting his program of spending cuts with Corzine’s penchant for raising taxes and digging the state deeper into debt.  While I don’t underestimate the ability of politicians to flip flop (see Christie’s friend, Mitt Romney), to completely repudiate the main rationale for his campaign so soon after the election would have been a prodigious stretch, even for a New Jersey politician.

Allah’s contention that Christie had a choice also ignores the economic realities with which New Jersey is confronted.  As Governor Palin noted, they’re flat broke. Standard & Poor’s recently lowered New Jersey’s bond rating, putting New Jersey among the least credit-worthy states in the country. Only blue California and Illinois are rated lower. So sure, New Jersey could float more bonds, but at what cost? And raising taxes?  New Jersey already has the highest combined state and local tax burden in the country, as Christie himself has noted.  Indeed these high tax rates are causing those who can to flee or avoid the state.  So no, I don’t think floating more bonds or raising taxes is or was feasible for Christie.  Governor Palin is right, spending cuts are his only option.

Allah’s second problem with Governor Palin’s mild criticism is that he believes it’s unfair to assume Christie would have acted differently if he had a surplus.  My question for Allah is this: how can we assume anything else?  Whenever Christie has faced a fork in the political road, he has headed left.  With his current spending cuts, he had no choice: the left fork of raising taxes and/or increasing debt was blocked (see above).

But what does Chris Christie do when he actually has a choice?  Which direction did he choose with regard to cap and tax, for example? Or illegal immigration? Or the Second Amendment? Or whether or not to join the lawsuit by practically every other Republican Governor in the nation in opposition to Obamacare?  Does this mean he supports Obamacare and the enormous spending it requires of Trenton?  If so, how is that fiscally responsible for his state?

In all these cases and others, Christie has taken a distinctly liberal position.  In short, a preponderance of the evidence suggests that when presented with a choice, Christie chooses the liberal path, something Christie’s fans, for reasons known only to them, have been more than willing to ignore.  There’s nothing in Christie’s record to suggest things would be any different if he had a budget surplus. Quite the opposite.

Update:  Two of our readers made good points in the comments section.  “Cantakerous” notes that both Jerry Brown in California and Andrew Cuomo in New York are making similar spending cuts.  Call me cynical but this, I suspect, didn’t happen because these two liberal pols suddenly had a cosmic awakening on matters of fiscal restraint, but rather because they had no choice since their states, like New Jersey, are broke.  “Nancy6” observes that Chris Christie has taken shots at Governor Palin over silly issues such as her media strategy while Governor Palin has taken issue with Christie in a substantive way by pointing out the reality of New Jersey’s fiscal situation, then highlighting her impressive fiscal record in Alaska.  Excellent points.

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