It is the nature of politics, or at least it has been, to provide benefits without paying for them. That in a nutshell is why we have such a huge deficit both on state and national levels. It takes substantial courage for leaders to undo this largesse. The states are producing these courageous leaders first because they can not print money.
Mitch Daniels decertified the public unions in Indiana in his first days in office, and Governor Walker is facing huge angry crowds in Wisconsin. That is a good sign he and his party are on the right path. This reflects on the teacher unions’ pursuit of raw power over the interests of either the state or the students. I hope Walker sticks to his guns; this is why his party won both houses.
In Today’s Wall Street Journal, Where the Leaders Are, Peggy Noonan quotes New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who addresses a group of very hostile firemen in person to explain a cut in their benefits.
He crumpled up his prepared remarks and threw them on the floor. He told them, “Here’s the deal: I understand you’re angry, and I understand you’re frustrated, and I understand you feel deceived and betrayed.” And, he said, they were right: “For 20 years, governors have come into this room and lied to you, promised you benefits that they had no way of paying for, making promises they knew they couldn’t keep, and just hoping that they wouldn’t be the man or women left holding the bag. I understand why you feel angry and betrayed and deceived by those people. Here’s what I don’t understand. Why are you booing the first guy who came in here and told you the truth?”
He told them there was no political advantage in being truthful: “The way we used to think about politics and, unfortunately, the way I fear they’re thinking about politics still in Washington” involves “the old playbook [which] says, “lie, deceive, obfuscate and make it to the next election.” He’d seen a study that said New Jersey’s pensions may go bankrupt by 2020. A friend told him not to worry, he won’t be governor then. “That’s the way politics has been practiced in our country for too long. . . . So I said to those firefighters, ‘You may hate me now, but 15 years from now, when you have a pension to collect because of what I did, you’ll be looking for my address on the Internet so you can send me a thank-you note.”
Christie did not run from the fight. He addressed it head on. All three of these leaders may be from the same party but they do not hesitate to hold their own party members accountable. Dick Armey had a wonderful axiom that you should not waste time killing someone who is committing suicide. Those screaming to keep unsustainable benefits in a bankrupt state are doing just that.