The problem is that Christie's "Jersey comeback" yarn is totally disconnected from reality. On the contrary, New Jersey has fallen behind as the rest of the nation slowly recovers from the Great Recession. Three years into Christie's term, most working families are paying more, getting less, and looking for jobs that are nowhere to be found, even as the state's wealthy become wealthier.
Let's look at some statistics: New Jersey ranked 47th among the states in economic performance last year. Its unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation, at a staggering 9.8 percent. Month after month, state revenue collections have fallen well short of their targets, and Moody's suggests that New Jersey may find itself $2 billion in the hole by the end of the year.
It's no wonder. At every turn, the governor has failed to make investments that might have created jobs, such as the planned trans-Hudson River rail tunnel he scrapped. And he has cut services in areas like education and public safety, which lay the foundation for strong, safe communities that are attractive to employers.
Instead, Christie has favored lower taxes for the wealthy and eye-poppingly wasteful corporate welfare. Unlike the vast majority of working families in New Jersey, the state's millionaires are paying less in taxes than they did three years ago, and the governor has vetoed every attempt by the Legislature to ask them to pay their fair share. Meanwhile, he has spent billions on ineffective corporate subsidies to the likes of Citigroup, Prudential, and casino developers in Atlantic City. Some of the beneficiaries have taken the money and laid off workers anyway.
All these giveaways to the 1 percent come at a cost that's invariably covered by the other 99 percent. Working families are paying higher property taxes, tuition, tolls, and fees thanks to deep cuts to state funding for public schools, higher education, municipalities, and property-tax relief on Christie's watch.
The governor's trickle-down policies may well be a template for what Romney and Ryan aim to achieve on the national stage. Romney's tax plan would cut what America's wealthiest 5 percent pay and raise taxes on the other 95 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center. Meanwhile, Ryan's budget calls for the same sort of steep cuts to essential services that Christie has promoted in the Garden State.
But if New Jersey under Christie is a case study for the country under Romney, it's less a shining example than a cautionary tale. And no speech, however compelling, can change that.
Bill Holland is the director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance.