It was interesting to watch the Tri-State Governor Smackdown on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this week, although having to sit through Chris Christie’s awkward flirtation with Mika Brzezinski was a reminder of why I’m glad I ditched lecher-infested Wall Street to write in basement solitude. When Mika rolls her eyes toward the camera at 2:12 you can almost hear her thinking, “In your dreams, creep!”
Christie went through the “unions are the root of all evil” spiel that brought him to national prominence and reduced Joe Scarborough to a simpering fan boy, although he stopped just short of endorsing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s strategy of trying to end collective bargaining altogether.
When Brzezinski brought up Governor Dannel Malloy’s strategy of seeking union concessions, cutting spending and raising taxes, Christie was scathing.
“Connecticut’s Governor is raising taxes. Yeah, well, let me tell you something…I’ll be waiting at the border to take Connecticut’s jobs when he does it. ”
This is an all-too-familiar conservative refrain, and one has only to read the comment sections of any CT newspaper or blog for the hysterical notion that we are on The Road to Doom.
Yet as Governor Malloy pointed out, “New Jersey’s sales tax as of today is 7 percent. New Jersey’s income tax today has a maximum rate of 8.97 percent. New Jersey’s corporate tax ranges up to 9 percent so if he’s waiting for Connecticut jobs to move to New Jersey he should not hold his breath.”
Even with the budgeted tax increases, our property, income and corporate taxation make CT a relatively more attractive place to situate than New Jersey – and that’s before I start making any New Jersey jokes.
What really angers me about the Walkers, the Christies and their ilk is their demonization of public sector employees. It seems like they’ve conveniently forgotten that we were plunged into this crisis due to the sordid practices of private sector banks, which were then bailed out with taxpayers’ money.
A discussion started on one of my friend’s Facebook page about the situation in Wisconsin, and a teacher from New Jersey had this to say:
“All I cared about growing up was becoming a teacher and working with children. I did all of the right things, went to college, got my degrees and certifications… Now, the states are telling me …that what teachers have been doing all of these years was wrong, that students are failing standardized tests, and that it is our fault for being bad teachers. It is so easy to point the finger and blame teachers for this mess… teachers want too much… expect too much… No, we just want to be treated fairly. How many people … are cursed at, threatened etc by the people…they serve and can do nothing about it? …Teachers put up with this on a daily basis from their students… Sure, we give our detentions and write students up, but in the end the students are back in our classroom behaving the same way and we have to make sure that they are learning something on top of this. As for learning., so many students just don’t care.…When you call the parent they complain: “what can you do to help my child?” When you explain that Johnny continually falls asleep in class, that you have given him a multitude of extra credit opportunities, after and before school tutorial opportunities but that he still won’t come in for help … the parent has the nerve to press on and ask “but WHAT ELSE can YOU do for my child?”… Then when not satisfied with you standing on your head and staying longer than your contractual day runs, turns around and calls the principal who in turn tells you to change the student’s grade…America wonders why students are failing standardized tests… sometimes they should look in their own households before they start pointing fingers. So, the education system is failing…What shall we do? I KNOW… let’s run schools like businesses! We KNOW that businesses have NO problems! We will get rid of all of the teachers and their pesky unions and replace then with people who have graduated with business degrees!” Many years ago, a lawyer who was trying to resolve a long-standing dispute told me, “If everyone ends up a bit unhappy, then it’s probably a good settlement.”
Will there need to be concessions from various unions? Yes. Will CT go to ruin because we have to pay a bit more in taxes to balance the budget? I’m willing to bet that Chris Christie will be waiting at the border like a jilted swain.
While he’s there, no doubt he’ll continue to blame public sector employees for everything, because, as the New York Times observed, “he may simply be the latest in a long line of politicians to give an uneasy public the scapegoat it demands.”
Sarah Darer Littman is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers and an award-winning novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.