By Art Gallagher, [email protected]
New Jersey voters are either greedy jerks or stupid and impressionable buffoons if you buy The Star Ledger Editorial Board’s (Tom Moran’s) reading of the QuinnipiacPoll released on Thursday. The poll reported that New Jerseyans favor wage freezes for state workers, by a 53-42 margin, and oppose an increase in the gasoline tax by a 65-33 percent margin.
New Jersey voters are jerks. The new state motto: “Screw you, not me.”
That is how Moran starts off his rant. He finishes by cutting the poll respondents a break. Maybe we aren’t greedy jerks, maybe we’ve been led to think the way we do.
We’ll cut the folks responding to the Quinnipiac poll a break – they’ve been goaded in this direction. Despite widespread reforms to state workers’ pay and benefits during the past four years, not to mention budget cuts that led to historic layoffs of police, teachers and firefighters, Gov. Chris Christie used his annual budget address to continue to blame state worker compensation for our fiscal aches and pains.
Hmmm. Moran’s frustration is showing. As the editorial page editor of the state’s largest media outlet, Moran should be the most powerful opinion maker in New Jersey. How could his readers be so stupid?!
Insulting your customers (readers) is a interesting strategy to stop the bleeding of a company (media outlet) that is contracting rapidly and recently announced 167 layoffs which followed millions in concessions from the outlet’s unionized workers and a smaller round of layoffs.
Moran’s thinking obviously isn’t colored by the experiences of his former and soon to be former colleagues who are struggling with the realities of the post 2008 economy. His thinking couldn’t be colored by the likes of people who earlier in life, not long ago, would think nothing of laying out a fin for a latte and a Ledger, but now brew their own coffee at home and keep that dollar for the gas bill instead of buying the paper. Like government workers, Moran has largely been sheltered from the cruelty of the new economic order. Moran must be talking to someone other than the average New Jersey voter that Quinnipiac polled randomly. His thinking is probably shaped by government union leaders and state employees; the people for whom he’s advocating.
New Jerseyans compassion and generosity is evident in the poll. Moran reads the responses that New Jerseyans do not want to layoff or furlough state workers, as a merciful contradiction to the fact that they also prefer layoffs instead of new taxes.
Mercifully, 57 percent of voters say we shouldn’t lay off state workers (38 percent say ‘yes’), but then 57 percent say we should cut government services before raising taxes. And that generally means laying off the people who provide those services.
Moran concludes that New Jersey tax payers must pay for the mistakes of the fiscal mismanagement that occurred under several previous administrations. As if we are not paying for that already.
Christie isn’t wrong. Decades of mismanagement by New Jersey governors and legislators who awarded unsustainable pay and retirement packages to state employees in return for union support helped get us into today’s predicament. But there’s only so much that today’s state workers can do to solve past problems.
New Jersey’s out of cash – especially for expenses like transportation and the environment. At some point, taxpayers will have to assume those costs. And a gas tax increase spreads the pain among those who use our roads and bridges – including high percentages of out-of-state drivers who buy fuel in New Jersey.
There’s only so much today’s taxpayers can do to pay for unrealistic promises made by past governors who were beholden to the union leaders they were negotiating with when those promises were made.
The message I read from the Quinnipiac Poll is that New Jerseyans want their government to reflect the new economic order. We’ve learned to survive on a lot less. We don’t want our friends who work for the government to lose their jobs, like many of us have. We want them to share the pain, not because we want them to hurt, but because we need relief from our own pain and don’t have anymore to give.
Government, Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
We the people, represented by the respondents to the Quinnipac Poll, give or take 2.7%, want a good government that we can afford. We don’t have defined benefit pensions. We can’t afford to give them to our employees (the government workers) either. We wish we could. It would be great if we could give our employees raises every year, but too many of us are living on much less than we did a few years or months ago. We can’t afford to give raises.
If we must make cuts to essential services like police and teachers, we’d like to do it in a way that least impacts our families’ safety and our children’s education. Since we’re paying the bills with less, we’d like our employees to share the pain. We need the focus of the belt tightening to be on, not preserving the salaries and benefits of the most senior employees, but on getting the job done to the best extent possible with all available remaining resources.
The Star Ledger’s owners and readers would be well served by an opinion leader who can feel the pain of the randomly selected New Jersey voter, give or take 2.7%. Management would be wise to find the best thinking writer they laid off a while back and offer that person the Editorial Board helm at half Moran’s compensation. I bet that person would jump at the job.
Moran would land on his feet as a hack for a public utility, union or politician.