Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's Missing from Chris Christie's Campaign Website? Oh, yeah, an Issues Page.

My sister recently became a registered voter in New Jersey.  I was talking with her the other day about the gubernatorial and senatorial races there because Jersey just had its gubernatorial primary yesterday. (Surprise: Christie and Buono both won by a landslide.)  My sister commented that she didn't like the campaign ads she'd seen so far from Barbara Buono: they were all negative ads, none of which emphasized the positions for which Buono stood or policies which she would implement.  A registered Democrat who is progressive if not political, she'll vote for Buono in the fall rather than Christie; however, to make sure that she does, I thought I would send her some information from Buono's website about her campaign platform.
The Issues page on Barbara Buono's campaign website highlights a number of the failures of the Christie administration and the ways in which he is out of sync with the people of New Jersey.
Buono's Jobs section highlights the troubled economic situation in New Jersey and Christie's weak record:
     *NJ's unemployment rate, at 8.7%, is the highest in the region and the 7th highest in the country.
      * NJ's property taxes are at a record high, even as Christie continues to push a failed policy of tax cuts for the rich.
     *Tuition rates at NJ's public colleges and universities have been growing rapidly, far outpacing inflation--in large part a result of Christie's cuts to higher ed.
     *Foreclosure numbers continue to rise in New Jersey even as they slow down in other states.
In this section, addressing solutions to these problems, she highlighted her past legislative efforts to make college costs more transparent and keep tuition down, to hold down property taxes and ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share, and to cut taxes for small businesses.  She's a strong supporter of raising the minimum wage while Chris Christie vetoed such a proposal earlier this year. She's promised to restore the funding to the earned income tax credit, which Christie veoted as well.
In her Education section, Buono highlights her support for equitable funding (which Christie has opposed) and her opposition to Christie's cuts to education (which, at $820 million, were so steep that a judge ruled them unconstitutional).
In her Environment section, she criticizes Christie's decision to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and his decision to offer waivers to polluters.  She promises to restore NJ's leadership in clean energy by attracting solar and wind projects. She certainly has credibility on such issues, with a near 100 percent environmental voting record.
In her Health Care section, she highlights her work in opposing Christie's effort to defundPlanned Parenthood.  She has co-sponsored legislation requiring insurance companies to cover life-saving mammograms and promoted potentially life-saving stem cell research.
In her Transportation section, she criticizes Christie's rejection of the ARC tunnel project, which would have made commutes easier and fueled the economic development of the region. Buono was a consistent supporter of the project and vocal critic of Christie's misguided decision.
In her Gun Violence Prevention section, she offers a comprehensive plan to curb gun violence in New Jersey, including smaller magazine capacity, universal background checks, and face-to-face sale of ammunition.
In her Working Families section, she highlights the Paid Family Leave Act she ushered through the Senate as well as her support for raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation.  She's also fought Christie's reactionary efforts to restrict collective bargaining for teachers, firefighters, and police officers.
In her LGBT section, she highlights her sponsorship of the marriage equality legislation that Christie vetoed, her sponsorship of anti-bullying laws, her expansion of hate crimes legislation to cover transgender New Jerseyans, and her recent co-sponsorship of legislation banningconversion therapy.
Across all of these sections, she demonstrates a strong progressive record, which she promises to continue if elected governor.
After reading through her site, I thought to myself, "Self, I wonder what Chris Christie has to say on the issues on his site."
So, then, I went to his campaign website, and lo and behold, there is no issues page.
When you go to the homepage of the Christie campaign site, you see top tabs that read Chris Christie, Get Connected, Be Involved, Media, and The Latest.   If you go to the bottom, you see sections titled About, Contact, Volunteer, Video, and News.  Again, there is no section explicitly devoted to discussion of the issues.
Looking across these tabs, I decided to go to the About page, which is normally just a candidate bio, to find a campaign platform.  His About page does address his record (I'll highlight points below), but it offers no platform for re-election.  He tells us what he's done but says nothing of what he will do, other than a lot of empty rhetoric of "bipartisanship" and "toughness."
Let's look at how he speaks of his record.
Returned fiscal sanity and accountability to state government.  After years of tax hikes and reckless spending, Governor Christie has brought common-sense budget practices back to Trenton.  Under his watch, New Jersey has enacted three consecutive balanced budgets while not raising taxes.  
Christie has combined deep cuts to education and other vital services with tax cuts for the rich.  That's upward redistribution, not "fiscal sanity."  And accountability?  A governor who has diverted significant funds to a private halfway house system that the NY Times described as "a shadow corrections network, where drugs, gang activity and violence, including sexual assaults, often go unchecked."  Oh, well since he used to lobby for them---nothing to see there, I'm sure.
Also, Christie--or any governor of New Jersey, for that matter--deserves no credit for balancing the budget.  It's a state requirement.
Took action to rein in New Jersey’s out-of-control property taxes. New Jersey’s property taxes are among the highest in the nation.  In order to rein in this ever-increasing burden on taxpayers, Governor Christie has successfully implemented a 2-percent property tax cap to combat unsustainable yearly budget hikes and incentivize local governments to rein in costs. The result of these reforms was the slowest growth in average property taxes in more than 20 years.  
He may have capped them, but they are at record highs while, as noted earlier, he's been slashing taxes for the rich and offering corporate tax breaks left and right.
Enacted sweeping, bipartisan reforms to New Jersey’s over-burdened pension and health benefits system.  Thanks to tangible efforts, taxpayers will save over $120 billion over the next 30 years and New Jersey’s pension funds will be solvent for future state worker retirees after years of mismanagement.  
Notice how this doesn't acknowledge that this was a massive cut to the pension and health benefits system; he weasels around the word "cut."  NJ unions sued Christie over these cuts.  If he has the money to give tax cuts for his friends and for corporations that don't end up creating many jobs, certainly he has the money to guarantee a dignified and secure retirement to public workers.
Made New Jersey a more competitive place to start or grow a business and create good jobs.  To make New Jersey competitive and grow the private sector, Governor Christie cut $2.35 billion in job-destroying taxes. The Governor has also eliminated hundreds of confusing rules and regulations that put an onerous and unnecessary burden on New Jersey businesses. Since Governor Christie took office, New Jersey has created more than 120,000 private-sector jobs.
As the NY Times reported last year, Christie gave $900 million in state tax credits to 15 companies (including Panasonic, Goya, Prudential and Campbell’s Soup) over 10 years.  These companies promised to add 2,364 jobs, or $387,537 in tax credits per job, over the next decade.  So much for "fiscal sanity"!
And those "confusing rules and regulations" of which he speaks are the environmental regulations he's allowed polluters to ignore, threatening the health of Jersey's citizens and their environment.
And Jersey still has the 7th highest unemployment rate in the country.
Delivered on historic education reforms to help ensure every child has access to a quality education.  Governor Christie has taken action to revise New Jersey’s antiquated teacher tenure laws and increase the number of charter schools serving under-performing districts around the state.  The Governor has increased education funding to the highest levels in state history, while continuing to fight to increase accountability, improve failing schools, and expand school choice in the lowest-performing districts.
Charter schools, which corporate ed reform darling Christie loves, do not outperform public schools and sometimes underperform.  Christie has demonstrated a consistent commitment toprivatizing Jersey's school system, further worsening existing inequities and undermining the ethos on which the public education system rests. Christie has worked to undermine NJ's fair school funding.  Also, NJ's schools received more aid in 2010, so school funding is not its highest in history.
Expanded access to critical health services for New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents. Governor Christie is firmly committed to providing access to critical health services for New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens. The Governor has dedicated nearly $1 billion to hospital charity care and increased funding to New Jersey’s 105 community health care centers to $50 million, an all-time high.
Christie may have accepted the recent Medicaid expansion, but two years ago, he cut $540 million from Medicaid to balance the budgets on the backs of the poor.  He's also, as I noted earlier, sought to defund Planned Parenthood.
Worked across party lines to rebuild New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy. Since the moment Hurricane Sandy made landfall, Governor Christie put aside politics and focused his administration on rebuilding New Jersey.  From fighting to secure the necessary Federal Disaster Assistance New Jersey will need during the recovery, to ensuring that residents have access to the assistance they need, the Governor has made New Jersey’s recovery a top priority of his administration.
He also gave out a number of no-bid contracts that could end up costing NJ residents millions in federal funding down the road.
Christie's website tells you no policies he hopes to enact, nothing that he plans to do other than be "tough," "strong," and "bipartisan."  And that's his whole campaign in a nutshell.

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