President Obama could learn a lot about fiscal responsibility from New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie. The governor is making hard choices to close a $2.2 billion state budget deficit by freezing spending and erasing surpluses to meet current needs.
Mr. Christie is cutting money for schools, colleges, hospitals and the New Jersey Transit system - 375 line items total. He is removing noncitizens from the state health care system and canceling a jobs program that mainly created jobs for government bureaucrats. His cuts are intended to impose efficiency and accountability on government spending, concepts people generally do not associate with New Jersey politics.
Mr. Christie is taking withering fire for his efforts, which is a knee-jerk response to making hard choices, particularly when they affect government spending that some came to view as entitlements. But he is doing what he was elected to do. Mr. Christie’s rationale is that, “We cannot spend money on everything we want.” It’s an approach refreshing in its simplicity and common sense.
Contrast Mr. Christie’s efforts with the orgy of self-indulgence Mr. Obama calls a budget bill. Mr. Obama seeks drastic and unnecessary increases in federal spending, resulting in projected trillion-plus-dollar deficits for at least five years and probably beyond.
On Feb. 2 in Nashua, N.H., Mr. Obama lectured the American people on fiscal responsibility. “When times are tough, you tighten your belts,” he said. “You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage.” However, his budget proposal is the most fiscally irresponsible in American history. It lavishes billions of dollars on unnecessary programs, pet projects and pork for cronies. There is no belt-tightening in his reckless budget; he does not believe in budget cuts. He’s the guy who can’t pay his mortgage but decides to buy a boat, a sports car and a home theater and then browbeats his unemployed neighbors about doing more to make ends meet.
Mr. Obama has proposed a number of gimmicks to make himself look more responsible, such as a freeze on discretionary spending. This will affect just a minuscule part of the budget and will begin freezing only after his spending spree has been put in place, guaranteeing long-term fiscal deficits. In his Feb. 1 budget message, he said, “We cannot continue to borrow against our children’s future,” but his policies are saddling America’s young with more debt than those of any president in history. Mr. Obama’s fiscal irresponsibility will give birth to the first generation in American history to have lower living standards than the generation that preceded it. His budget proposal is an assault on the American dream.
Mr. Obama’s proposed deficit commission is another gimmick, a front to allow him to avoid responsibility for necessary hard choices. This is evident before the commission has even been formed. Mr. Obama admitted he is “agnostic” about middle-class tax increases, and that it would be up to the commission to assess if that is necessary. He is laying the groundwork to break a critical campaign pledge and shoving responsibility onto others. Presumably the American people elected a president to make these decisions, but a vote for Mr. Obama always was more a fashion statement than a realistic assessment of his executive abilities, as is now painfully clear.
The contrast to Mr. Christie’s fiscally responsible approach could not be more vivid. When the governor announced his budget cuts, he said, “I am not happy, but I am not afraid to make these decisions, either.” Mr. Obama could use some of Mr. Christie’s grit.