President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are providing a phenomenal case study of the intersection between economics and political argument.
The President and Governor each make their case about how much government should spend on salaries of teachers and other government employees in a recession. The debate is fascinating because the traditional arguments are inverted. The Democrat is arguing growth, while the Republican is arguing equity.
First here’s the President on Monday in Fairfax, Virginia:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Now, the challenge we have is, ironically, that if you start laying off a whole bunch of teachers, or a whole bunch of police officers or firefighters, now they don’t have a job, which means they spend less, which means that there’s less tax revenue. And you start getting into a vicious, downward spiral.
Now, here’s Governor Christie, speaking at a Town Hall meeting last week:
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: Ask the people in the private sector in the state of New Jersey, when the last time was they got a raise. Yet the average teacher contracts, before I became Governor, had 4.9 percent annual increases, when we had zero or one percent inflation. Now that can’t be justified any longer.
I’ll label this the Christie Principle of Shared Sacrifice: At all times, and especially during a difficult economy, it is unfair for those who run government, and those who receive paychecks from government, to exempt themselves from the difficult financial decisions that other private citizens are required to make.