Tag: Chris Christie

RomneyCare: Making a Fool of Every Republican It Touches Since 2006

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) hearts former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), so much that Christie says it is ”completely intellectually dishonest” to compare RomneyCare to ObamaCare.  Why?  Because Romney didn’t raise taxes, and President Obama did.  Oh.

Avik  (pronounced O-vik) Roy explains how Christie gets RomneyCare so very, very wrong:

There isn’t a single person, left or right, who follows health policy seriously who disagrees with the assertion that Romneycare was the model for Obamacare. And Massachusetts has had to raise taxes, after Romney left office, to pay for the law’s significant cost overruns.

Here are some examples, left and right. But Roy o-mits a few important points.

  1. Mitt Romney increased taxes the moment he signed RomneyCare.  RomneyCare increased net government spending.  That in itself is an increase in the tax burden.  All that remains to be determined is who will pay for that added spending and when they will pay it.  The fact that the incidence of that added tax burden fell after Romney left office does not mean that’s when the added tax burden was created.
  2. Mitt Romney has raised taxes on as many people as Barack Obama has.  Half of RomneyCare’s new spending was financed by the federal government through the Medicaid program, which is financed through federal taxes, which fall on taxpayers in all 50 states.  That means that when Romney financed half of RomneyCare’s new spending by pulling down more federal Medicaid dollars, he increased taxes on residents of all 50 states.
  3. RomneyCare was born of, and expanded, a corrupt scheme by Massachusetts politicians to tax residents of all 50 states.  What motivated Romney to enact RomneyCare, as former Romney/Obama adviser Jonathan Gruber explains here, was the widespread desire (within Massachusetts) to hang on to $385 million of federal Medicaid money that Massachusetts had secured using one of Medicaid’s notorious and fraudulent “provider tax” scams.  In other words, the whole purpose of RomneyCare was to enable Massachusetts to hold on to $385 million that it received by defrauding and taxing residents of other states.  And of course, Romney/RomneyCare caused the tax burden that Massachusetts effectively imposes on non-Massachusetts residents to grow.

Christie is so laughably wrong about RomneyCare that one cannot help but smile that his remarks came during the same news cycle as this:

Newly obtained White House records… show that senior White House officials had a dozen meetings in 2009 with three health-care advisers and experts who helped shape the health care reform law signed by Romney in 2006…One of those meetings, on July 20, 2009, was in the Oval Office and presided over by President Barack Obama, the records show.

“The White House wanted to lean a lot on what we’d done in Massachusetts,” said Jon Gruber, an MIT economist who advised the Romney administration on health care and who attended five meetings at the Obama White House in 2009, including the meeting with the president. “They really wanted to know how we can take that same approach we used in Massachusetts and turn that into a national model”…

Romney said the people involved in the White House meetings were “consultants,” not “aides”…

[Gruber said,] “If Mitt Romney had not stood up for this reform in Massachusetts … I don’t think it would have happened nationally. So I think he really is the guy with whom it all starts.”

All of which is pretty much what my colleague/boss David Boaz and I have been saying since April 2010 in this well-worn Cato video:

Gov. Christie, Bill Kristol, and the Future of the GOP

The interest in New Jersey governor Chris Christie as a possible 2012 presidential candidate is understandable. His tough line against state spending, his willingness to take on entrenched interests in the Garden State, and his candor and blunt manner of speaking all appeal to Republicans weary of the current candidates. But while his views on domestic policy are relatively clear, Christie’s foreign-policy views aren’t. Indeed, governors have little reason to speak out on foreign-policy issues unless they run for president.

Without a track record, however, no one can know how a former governor will perform what is arguably a president’s most important job: deciding whether, where and when to deploy U.S. troops abroad. Recall George W. Bush’s plea for a humble foreign policy and his senior foreign policy adviser Condoleezza Rice’s assertion that the U.S. military should not be in the business of “escorting kids to kindergarten” in foreign lands. This was all forgotten by the time that Bush and Rice exited Washington eight years later. Rice essentially recanted her earlier opposition to nation building, and Bush had presided over a foreign policy that was anything but humble.

With that huge caveat in mind, can we venture a guess about Chris Christie’s foreign policy views? Not quite. But this passage from Christie’s speech at the Reagan Library hints at a measure of humility and pragmatism that is long overdue:

The United States must…become more discriminating in what we try to accomplish abroad. We certainly cannot force others to adopt our principles through coercion. Local realities count; we cannot have forced makeovers of other societies in our image. We need to limit ourselves overseas to what is in the national interest so that we can rebuild the foundations of American power here at home.

Such sentiments strike most Americans as eminently sensible. Numerous polls show that Americans want to stop fighting other people’s wars and building other people’s countries. Most believe it is better to husband our power and deploy our military abroad only when vital U.S. security interests are threatened. We should lead by our example, build a society that others wish to emulate, and avoid the temptation to meddle in other people’s affairs.

Not so, says William Kristol, Weekly Standard editor and Fox News commentator. In a famous essay co-authored with Robert Kagan in 1996  the two made the case for “benevolent global hegemony.” Kristol and Kagan especially took issue with those conservatives who:

succumb easily to the charming old metaphor of the United States as a “city on a hill.”

[…]

Because…the responsibility for the peace and security of the international order rests so heavily on America’s shoulders, a policy of sitting atop a hill and leading by example becomes in practice a policy of cowardice and dishonor.

So why would Kristol be pushing Christie to run for president?

At first glance, it appears that Kristol is willing to look past Christie’s foreign-policy views in the interest of finding a candidate best able to defeat President Obama in 2012. Perhaps Kristol believes that he will be in a better position to influence Christie’s policies at a later stage. Kristol was notably lukewarm on Governor Bush in 2000 but was nonetheless able to influence President Bush’s foreign policy.

But should Republicans listen to Bill Kristol?

Kristol’s brand of foreign-policy activism has always looked more like Woodrow Wilson than Ronald Wilson Reagan. Indeed, notwithstanding Kristol’s deliberate efforts to wrap his foreign-policy views around Reagan’s legacy, Reagan was more skeptical of confrontation with the Soviet Union than the neoconservatives, as Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke expertly demonstrate in their book America Alone. And conservatives’ understandable skepticism of nation building at home has never fit with the neoconservatives’ notions of nation building abroad.

Beyond this serious philosophical disagreement, Republicans should recall the terrible effects that the neoconservatives’ foreign policies had on Republican candidates in recent elections. Kristol was a leading champion for some of the biggest foreign policy blunders in U.S. history. Those blunders denied George W. Bush a mandate for major domestic-policy reform in 2005, cost the GOP control of the Congress in 2006, and provided an opening that Barack Obama skillfully exploited on the road to the White House in 2008. Those are all reasons enough for Republicans to ignore Kristol’s advice.

It is too soon to say whether Chris Christie’s few early comments about foreign policy signal a genuine commitment to military restraint, or whether his skepticism toward foreign military adventures will be discarded as quickly and easily as George W. Bush’s humility. But there are modestly hopeful signs that Governor Christie hasn’t fully bought into the neocons’ benevolent global hegemony, and that suggests that he will be open to other points of view.

Cross Posted from The National Interest.

Cash Rewards For Failing Schools, the Lawsuit Way

I see the editorialists of the New York Times have rhapsodically hailed last week’s 3-2 New Jersey Supreme Court opinion striking down the budget-trimming plans of Gov. Chris Christie. As the press reported, the court ordered instead that an extra $500 million in state funds be allocated to some of the state’s poorest-performing school districts – the so-called Abbott districts, named after the three-decade-running New Jersey school finance litigation, Abbott v. Burke.

It’s too bad the editorial said nothing about the report five years ago in which one leading newspaper surveyed the wreckage done by the then-25-year-old litigation, which it called an “ambitious court-ordered social experiment.” (At that point, $35 billion in state tax money had already been lavished on the Abbott districts.) The paper’s reporting made a convincing case that the orders had squandered billions on mismanaged districts that were already far outspending most others in the state and region, as with Asbury Park, which was spending 70 percent more than the typical New Jersey district. Indeed, “the highest-spending districts were making the fewest gains” in student performance. It’s especially unfortunate because the newspaper that reported all this was the New York Times itself.

As I argue at greater length in my new book, school reform lawsuits like Abbott are much more than just vehicles for inefficiency and waste of tax dollars: they’re examples of an alternative method of governance, accomplished through what is sometimes called institutional reform litigation, and quite remote from the channels of lawmaking and appropriations familiar from civics books. Typically, successful litigation of this sort transfers control over an important issue like school funding from branches of government that are accountable to taxpayers and voters to a cluster of private litigators, expert witnesses, special masters, consultants, law professors, backers in liberal foundations, and so forth. The legal basis for the power grab is often flimsy in the extreme; in the Garden State, for example, the state constitution vaguely mandates that there be a “thorough and efficient” system of public education, and “educational equity” lawyers have prevailed on the courts to erect the whole thirty-year edifice of Abbott orders on a filling in of those mysterious blanks, a process that Gov. Christie has accurately described as “legislating from the bench”. (Our friend Hans Bader at CEI has more here and here.) In New Jersey, as in many other states and cities subject to these suits, governors and legislators may come and go, but the permanent government of court orders and negotiated consent decrees grinds on and on, conferring a curiously unaccountable power on the lawyers who manage and advance the litigation and their circle of allies.

It’s worth noting that since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in San Antonio v. Rodriguez, the federal courts have stayed out of most school finance litigation, leaving it to state courts. For decades, outspoken voices in the law schools have been calling for Rodriguez to be overturned or at least end-run so as to confer an Abbott-like charter for social experimentation on the federal courts, which could then proceed to issue orders equalizing school finance, ordering “Robin Hood” aid to underperforming districts, and so forth. The most prominent advocate of this view in recent years has been a Berkeley law professor named Goodwin Liu – his views are summarized by admirers here and here – which may explain in part why Liu’s recent Ninth Circuit nomination raised such strong feelings.

New Jersey Canceled for Lack of Funds

New Jersey is broke. In an effort to get the state back on its financial feet, governor Chris Christie has made across-the-board cuts–including cuts to public school spending. This week, a judge ruled that his school cuts are unconstitutional, in light of state supreme court precedents dating back decades.

Basically, New Jersey’s highest court has ruled that the state must spend a fantastically large sum of money in order to meet its constitutional requirement of providing a “thorough and efficient” school system.

Slight problem: by definition, a system that spends outrageous sums of money for outcomes that are merely “thorough” cannot also be “efficient.” The courts seem to have resolved this logical contradiction by ignoring the word efficient. So now they just demand that the state spend more money on public schools, while acknowledging how futile that is. In Judge Doyne’s words:

Despite spending levels that meet or exceed virtually every state in the country, and that saw a significant increase… from 2000 to 2008, our “at-risk” children are now moving further from proficiency.

Spending more on public schools will do one thing for the state, though: bankrupt it. Unless something changes soon, we could well see the Detroitification of New Jersey: an exodus of residents fleeing failed government services and rising taxes, creating a death spiral as the shrinking tax base exacerbates the fiscal problems and perpetuates the exodus.

The only way that I can see for New Jersey to survive the court-mandated burden of its public school systems is to provide families and taxpayers with an alternative to them.

The state legislature is currently considering a k-12 school choice program that would subsidize private school tuition for poor kids by giving businesses a tax break if they donate to non-profit scholarship organizations. Florida has a program like this and it saves taxpayers $1.49 for every dollar it reduces tax revenues. That’s because monopoly public schooling is so much less efficient (there’s that word again) than parent-chosen private schooling.

If the state doesn’t enact this program–and make it large enough to make a difference… fogettaboutit

Libertarianism Happens to People

You are probably familiar with the story of Brian Aitken, the responsible gun owner wrongly convicted of violating New Jersey’s draconian gun laws. Governor Chris Christie commuted Aitken’s sentence, and his appeal is still pending.

As Radley Balko often says, libertarianism happens to people. It happened to Brian Aitken:

Aitken never thought of himself as a libertarian, but two years in the clutches of the state system has changed him completely. Before the arrest, the young, apolitical entrepreneur was on his way to a successful career in digital marketing.

“I never considered myself a person who is really interested in politics,” Aitken says. “But after all this happened I am definitely a hardcore libertarian now.”

Read the whole thing.

Majority of States for Repeal Too

It’s now official: 28 states are challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare in the courts. For those of you keeping score, the following six joined the Florida-led lawsuit: Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Wyoming and Maine. Then of course Virginia is pursuing its own suit, and now Oklahoma is about to file its own separate lawsuit based on its voters’ approval in November of a Health Care Freedom Act similar to Virginia’s.

Sadly – if I’m allowed to stop being hard-headed and just shake my head in an “o tempore o mores” sort of way – the government opposed Florida’s motion to add the six states to its lawsuit. There was no basis for this opposition: the newcomers are for these purposes similarly situated to the existing plaintiff states and raise no new legal arguments.

The district judge, Roger Vinson – who is expected to release an opinion shortly striking down at least parts of Obamacare – saw through the government’s cynical ploy. He granted the simple joinder motion the day after it was filed and without waiting for a formal reply from the Department of Justice, saying “…I can imagine no prejudice that could inure to the defendants in granting the plaintiffs’ motion, as the second amended complaint changes nothing in the case except for the caption and style, and will not delay its resolution. Indeed, because of this, I will relieve the defendants of the obligation to file an answer to the new complaint and will regard their previously-filed answer as an answer to the new complaint as well.”

This train is picking up steam, folks. But at least one political question remains: Why hasn’t New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, darling of the Tea Parties and all who like plain-speaking politicians, climbed aboard?

Brian Aitken’s Sentence Commuted

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has commuted the seven-year sentence of Brian Aitken, the man wrongfully convicted on firearms charges under that state’s draconian gun laws. Good.

While a full pardon seems more appropriate – the judge in this case should have given the jury instructions on the “moving exception” that protected Aitken – this is at least recognition of an injustice and relief for one man and his family.

The New Jersey state judicial system’s webpage describes the grand jury’s function as “a screening mechanism to protect citizens from unfounded charges.” That didn’t happen in this case. For more on this phenomenon, read this Cato Policy Analysis, “A Grand Façade: How the Grand Jury Was Captured by the Government.”

For more Cato work on criminal justice, check out Tim Lynch’s excellent book, In the Name of Justice.