It was probably Henry David Thoreau who said, “I heartily accept the motto: That government is best which governs least.”
Long a Republican tenet, it is this belief that more than anything else seems to be driving Governor Christie. Yes he is slashing the budget, attacking unions, and bludgeoning the vulnerable. However, in a more profound way he is seeking to destroy the concept that in a complex society government has an important, necessary role.
As the Star Ledger pointed out this weekend, “From homeland security to family-planning services and the environment, state agencies use their money as leverage to win matching federal grants. As the state desperately cuts spending to balance its budget, it loses the ability to ante up its share to qualify for millions in federal funding.”
By not only cutting the budget but by disallowing his departments from obtaining federal grants he is further shrinking the size and role of state government. It like some other conservative governors who do not want to accept federal unemployment insurance or Medicaid funds because they have to make some contribution to the total. An unwarranted intrusion these governors say, while depriving their constituents of needed benefits.
A lawyer, prosecutor, and politician, Governor Christie is no businessman and no steward. No businessman would turn down tax cuts, tax credits, or federal grants which help the company in its mission. Likewise, as elected governor, Christie has been entrusted as the steward of NJ’s government, but instead he seeks only to shrink it. More significantly he is doing so in the midst of a steep and long recession when weakened individuals and businesses need help to recover.
He displays reckless disregard for government’s role in helping citizens and in performing tasks which individuals by themselves cannot. In denying the state access to federal grants, particularly when needed most, he is harming NJ residents. And he does so with arrogance and egotism, “Any of the cuts that you see us make in the budget are all about me setting priorities that I think are important for New Jersey.”
As our constitution indicates (Article VII, III, 1), “The Governor and all other State officers, while in office and for two years thereafter, shall be liable to impeachment for misdemeanor committed during their respective continuance in office.” At what point does this harm rise to the level of a misdemeanor or higher? Possibly not yet, and one has to consider that his successor would be Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno who, in the mold of Christie, has served as federal prosecutor, NJ Assistant Attorney General, and Sheriff of Monmouth County.
Nonetheless, a sick patient needs nourishment not starvation. What doctor would not lose his or her medical license for such recklessness?