I’m not sure where to begin. I have been thinking about the repercussions of the Christie/Sweeney benefit and pension laws that were recently enacted. The increased health and pension benefit contributions, combined with cap law and the polarization of PERC will ensure for me, and tens of thousands more, a pay cut for the next 5 years. My disposable income in 2011 will be more than it will be in 2016. I know this makes many feel good. The greedy public worker finally gets what has been coming to him. It was a good call to arms by Christie to rally those who have suffered from the greed and selfishness from the Wall Street thieves. A common enemy in a depressed economy is a fabulous way to propagate an ideology to make others feel someone should suffer. So here we are…..tens of thousands will not see pay increases as the cost of living increases and the value of investments and real estate plummet.
To me the question is, what is the value of this law and union busting to the general economy? The issue of health insurance and its ever increasing costs is where the answers lie, the real ideological difference between left and right. Should the ability to see a doctor for a reasonable cost be a human right, or should it be a privilege for those fortunate enough to participate in a for profit health insurance scheme? The answer is obviously that Christie and Sweeney believe that perpetuating a privileged, for profit health care system is the America they would prefer to see. The cost of health insurance is where they decided to target, they could have chose a Massachusetts style reform, or expanding the SHBP by making public employers mandatorily participate and increasing the negotiating power of the state. The governor and legislature chose perpetuating the current broken, privileged, for profit system of delivering health care.
The economy is another ideological difference here. Any economist will tell you, and history will prove that government should spend during a recession, not curl into a ball and let things fall apart. Christie and Sweeney took this opportunity to pursue their ideological fantasies to screw public sector unions. Each public sector employee will now take a multi-thousand dollar pay cut, money that will not be spent on cars, home improvements, and flat screens. The lack of spending will reduce commission paid to sales people and sales tax paid to the state of NJ. Some may not be able to afford their homes any longer, adding more stock to available real estate, thus pushing real estate values lower and decreasing the value of real estate taxes. As day care, fuel, electricity, and food costs continue to rise this will further diminish purchasing power of the middle class. Increased cost of living combined with legislated pay cuts to the public sector will further decrease sales tax revenues.
The Christie/Sweeney pension and benefit reform may produce some short term relief for municipal budgets as the public sector is now required by law to take a pay cut. I question if taxes will really go down as government is subject to the same uncontrollable costs as every other citizen. Real, long lasting reform could have been accomplished by fixing real problems (like our broken health care system). The pension-benefit law will do more harm than good. It fulfills an ideological hatred for government and its employees. The damaging effects of this recession and its impact on those most vulnerable creates a real need for competent government. Shrinking government when those who need it most is insane. Perpetuating a broken system on the backs of the middle class is insane. Legislating a pay cut that will further damage a weak economy is insane. It may take decades to correct the Christie legacy, if we are lucky enough to make a correction.