Governor Corzine delivered his fourth budget address to the Legislature yesterday asserting “we are living within our means.” This has been a favorite theme of Democrats since 2001 when Jim McGreevey campaigned against the Whitman-DiFrancesco spending spree of 1998-2001, and in 2005 Jon Corzine campaigned as a savvy Wall Street manager who was going to shake up Trenton and impose more fiscal discipline on spendthrift career politicians.
When former president Bill Clinton declared in his 1996 State of the Union address, “The era of big government is over,” Republicans gave him a standing ovation and cheered wildly. Clinton easily won reelection to a second term by running to the “right” of the hapless GOP nominee, former senator Bob Dole, who expressed admiration for the welfare state. Ross Perot also was in the race and grabbed only 9% of the vote, after a strong third party run in 1992.
Although Jon Corzine did not declare the era of big government is over in New Jersey, nor did GOP legislators cheer him for his self described fiscal discipline,the governordid declare several times that he has not turned his back on our “core values.” Those core values are redistributing income to do “good” for the kids, seniors and the “most vulnerable among us.”
Corzine’s embrace of the welfare state is a reflection of his uncompromising belief that government must provide as many services as possible to individuals and families. In short, Corzine believes that redistributing income is a moral imperative to maintain and grow the welfare state.
Nowhere in his budget did the governor propose to phase out the welfare state so that community solutions can take root to replace the annual fiscal crisis that has gripped New Jersey for nearly a decade. Nowhere in his budget address did the governor acknowledge that tax and spend policies albeit with good intentions is a dead end. Nowhere did the governor acknowledge that the $2 billion federal “stimulus” money that will help balance the 2010 budget is a one shot gimmick.
State government is beyond broke. The state budget must be restructured rather than tinkered with to do the “common good.”
Corzine first can begin by identifying the most basic moral principle of the human experience, namely that the ends do not justify the means. Sadly, the proponents of the welfare state have a blind spot for “legal plunder.” Any program or expenditure for the children, seniors and the least fortunate among us is sacrosanct. And taxing upper income and middle income individuals and families to maintain the welfare state is the highest political goal of the left in America.
The core belief of the Left is based on the Marxian view of the world: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” The essence of the welfare state is the philosophical foundation of socialism. Liberals, progressives and so-called moderates in both political parties have internalized decades of teaching (brainwashing), namely that the redistribution of income via the progressive income tax must never be repealed.
But financial reality is making the welfare state less and less viable. Three years ago I gave a talk at a local college, “The Coming Collapse of the Welfare-Warfare State.” During the Q&A period I was asked when this collapse would occur. I estimated about five to ten years. I was wrong. We are witnessing the collapse before our eyes.
Unfortunately, Governor Corzine and the politicos in Trenton from both sides of the aisle are too myopic to realize the welfare experiment has been a widespread failure. Instead of beginning to phase out the culture of dependency and begin to create the conditions for the blossoming of voluntary solutions to meet the needs of the kids, seniors and the least fortunate, the state budget will be in crisis for the foreseeable future.
Lastly, Corzine presented his campaign theme as well as his budget address to the Legislature. He effectively said I am as compassionate (using other people’s money of course) as any politician in New Jersey who has made the tough decisions to balance the budget without gimmicks like my predecessors and I deserve reelection because damn it, we are a blue state, and I know a majority of the people want a welfare state.
So if the people reelect Governor Corzine they will be endorsing to continue the failed welfare state experiment. It is no wonder H.L. Mencken said: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”