Thursday, October 7, 2010

Chris Christie and the baseball bat metaphor

They speak a different language in New Jersey, really.

New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, stopped by Waukesha the other day to stump for Wisconsin's Republican candidate for governor, Scott Walker, and he was explaining the value of being direct when negotiating with political opponents. One cannot, he said, merely tell foes what they want to hear.

Frank discussion? Straight talk? Yeah, something like that. Said Christie, "If you don't want to be on the team, you bet I'm going to take a bat out and hit you."

Christie talks that way, which is why in 10 months of being governor, he's become a YouTube star via clips of him confronting hecklers. What has made him a star among conservatives is that he has tamed powerful public-sector unions whose pay and benefits were driving New Jersey's cost of government far beyond taxpayers' toleration. He talked big, followed through and won.

This is cheery news for many places, including Wisconsin, where public-sector pay is above that of the private sector and benefits are far above. For one graspable instance, state law here requires public employees to contribute something toward their retirement; in reality, taxpayers are compelled to cover this for them. This is so absurd that in a Refocus Wisconsin poll in June, 73% of union households said this should change. It's good to hear someone who might know how.

We and Jersey reached this pass not because public employees are greedy. They aren't. They just took the offered deal. Were your boss to say you could get premium-free health, free pension, high pay and ironclad security, of course you'd take it. I would.

Nor is it because unions are greedy, exactly. Their purpose is to maximize what members get, and they're doing it. Where they can be faulted is that they've become huge players in politics, electing the officials with whom they bargain.

The main fault lies with those elected officials. They have, over decades, tended to give in, buying themselves peace with taxpayer money. Both Republicans and Democrats have been among the spineless.

This is why Christie's been a sensation.

No comments: