Things I’ll Never Understand…

Yesterday’s New York Times had an editorial that began

Over the last several years, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has shown utter contempt for the State Supreme Court’s three-decades-old ruling in the Mount Laurel housing case, which bars wealthy towns from excluding affordable housing and requires them to write zoning laws that permit a reasonable amount of such housing to be built.

The editorial went on to describe Christie’s persistent refusal to comply with the court’s orders. It’s hard to believe that Christie was once a lawyer–a profession rooted in respect for the rule of law.

Of course, even ignoring “Bridgegate,” this is hardly the first time Christie has privileged his personal political interests over the common good. When he was first elected, he killed a much-needed, long-planned tunnel into Manhattan. As a New Jersey paper recently noted,

The ARC tunnel would have doubled cross-Hudson rail capacity – helping commuters get to high-paying Manhattan jobs and increasing property values back home in New Jersey. When Christie killed the plan – he didn’t have a Plan B. Instead, Christie grabbed the billions of dollars set aside by Gov. Jon Corzine and spent it on in-state transportation projects – which allowed him to pay for road and bridge repairs without raising the gas tax.  By pulling out of the ARC tunnel and spending the money, Christie left billions in federal dollars on the table and has nothing left to contribute to a new tunnel project – rail capacity that is still desperately needed.

Christie justified that decision by saying that the project faced cost overruns; the General Accounting Office said otherwise.

I wish Christie were an anomaly, but he isn’t. In fact, Christie’s is the face of far too much of today’s politics: officeholders who are contemptuous of the government that pays them and the interests of the voters who elect them, power-hungry, self-absorbed lackeys of special interests willing to do whatever it takes to stay in the good graces of their patrons, no matter who gets hurt in the process.

What I don’t get is why these people–who appear to have no concept at all of the common good, or respect for the purpose of government–choose political life in the first place. Surely in a capitalist economy there are more appropriate venues for their narrowly-focused ambitions.

Might it be that these pompous preachers of the virtues of the market lack the ability to succeed in the real-life marketplace? Why else go into a line of work for which they are so clearly unsuited?


  1. Christie is totally understandable given the template of a Boss Tweed and other Politicians of Tweed’s genetic character. The corruption that was once hidden and exposed by the Muckraking of Newspapers is now brazenly in the open. Even those few Newspapers (The Indianapolis Star is not one them.) that expose double dealing are ignored by the Politicians. These politicians are supreme in their knowledge that nothing will happen to them. The Politicians write the laws and just as important decide if it will be enforced.

  2. Maybe it is easier to get elected to a high level, high power position than to work your way up through business. Buying politicians is a more lucritive business than buying CEOs…especially when it comes to the current members of the GOP.

  3. The conservative world view that prompts hoarding is not rooted in good economics but in a combination of pessimism about the future and I’ve got mine, and I’m not going to let go of it.

    Progress, on the other hand, usually stems from investments in and for the future that assume that opportunity exists. That the future is bright and not limited.

    Conservatism is inwardly centered and liberalism outwardly focused. As some pundit said, conservatives and liberals want the same things, liberals for everyone.

    Yesterday I posited that the trajectory of the US will be set by the 2016 elections and the ability and vision of our choices in support of two policies. The carbon tax and campaign finance reform. There is simply no well considered reasons not to enact both.

    Campaign reform, as I see it anyway, is simply removing the ability to buy elections. Everyone’s campaigns would be financed by the tax payers and be based on public debate, not mass media advertising. The power of the office would determine the number of debates. Other spending meant to specifically support any candidate would become illegal.

    In one fell swoop oligarchy would be sent packing and democracy restored.
    Not to mention our airwaves cleared of the pollution of ads that mislead, lie, and bore us and leave in their wake no useful candidate qualification information.

    Perhaps however we have already slipped into oligarchy’s grip to the degree that this simple progress is now impossible to realize. That monied interest will defeat them as they are democratic and therefore contrary to the interests of wealth redistribution up.

    Two years, two policies on which could be built a future for democracy. Seems pretty straightforward. I think that it’s a safe assumption neither will be suggested or supported by the Great Oligarchy Plot. That leaves Democrats.

    Can they get their mojo back in time?

  4. Actually, the answer is quite obvious. People like Christie crave power, rather than wealth. In the world of business, at best they could rise to the level of middle management- they would never be the Koch Borthers. But in the world of politics, every one of them looks in the mirror and sees the President of the United States.

  5. Simply because politics, i.e. government, is essential in the making and maintenance of millionaires. One fifth of all fortunes today, can be directly traced back to slavery. This institution was essential in the making of America. It was America long after Europe had abandoned the system. Southern politicians, through local government; sheriffs, constables, chiefs, etc were able to perpetuate this system well into the 1960’s. Black Laws, enacted after reconstruction, were solely designed to maintain firm control over the proceeds of black labor and to insure the continued flow into white coffers.

    If the system worked so well against black people, why not use it against all people? So they did and they do. White labor unions, which at one time barred blacks, have been rendered impotent by laws enacted by politicians elected by labor unions. See how viscous the cycle happens to be? How normal people can be coerced to act against their own interest? By politicians and preachers?

    And now the Southerners are the Otherners. Starting in the 60’s and completed in the 80’s, the parties flipped once more. Which lets you know that there are no parties. Only philosophies. And that philosophy is that we rule you through you because we are political and you are not.

    This is not rocket science. Cue the cliche’: Some of the best people I have ever known were southerners, especially Texans. Still, when the over engaging issue of the races arose, all rationality seemed to pale, replaced by an all pervading fear of which there remained a genesis I could not discern. Did this start in Europe? Thousands of years ago? Is this what happened when the Cros encountered the homos?

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