Reprinted from Reader Supported News
New Jersey governor Chris Christie is "tired of hearing about the minimum wage." That wasn't a campaign slogan for his re-election last year, but something he confided to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- the DC lobbying arm of multinational corporations. Oligarchs like the Chamber's members love Christie so much, they already threw their weight behind him in the prelude to the 2012 elections, despite Christie turning down Mitt Romney's offer to be his running mate.
But Christie, the virulent class warrior who bestows bountiful gifts upon his rich benefactors and calls the Koch Brothers "great Americans" while simultaneously punishing the middle class, represents the new face of the GOP -- hard-nosed, stubborn, and eager to blame drastic economic conditions on those preyed upon by his biggest campaign donors.
Pundits who have predicted the end of Christie's presidential potential forget the short-term memory of American voters. Those pundits have forgotten that Americans re-elected George W. Bush to a second term despite Bush acknowledging Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, and Bush's Secretary of Defense acknowledging that his claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ready to use against the U.S. were completely unfounded.
Christie is certainly a top contender for the 2016 nomination, and he'll be running on his alleged economic acumen. However, electing Christie based on the success of his economic policy would be like electing George W. Bush on the success of the Iraq War.
Despite over 70 percent of Americans supporting President Obama's proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, Christie steadfastly refuses to give the smallest wage increase to his constituents. Christie vetoed a very modest proposal to increase New Jersey's minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour and index it to inflation, over a three-year period. The MIT living wage calculator shows that for a single adult with a child living in New Jersey, a living wage -- one that allows a family to maintain a modest lifestyle and pay their bills on time -- would be $22.01 an hour. Christie claims increasing the minimum wage would kill jobs, but ignores economic data showing that every state that has increased the minimum wage is seeing a faster rate of job growth than states that haven't, and lower unemployment rates as a result.
What Christie won't do for minimum wage-earners, he'll gladly do for multinational corporations. Since being inaugurated in 2010, Christie has given out $4 billion in corporate tax breaks in just four years. That's more than all the previous governors of New Jersey combined have given out in New Jersey's history. Yet for all of his corporate handouts, Christie has very little to show for it in terms of job growth. Under the Christie administration, job growth is the second worst in the nation, with only Alaska doing worse. Through Christie's budget cuts, the public sector has been forced to endure salary freezes and mass layoffs, killing jobs as a result of more people spending less money.
From August of 2013 to August of 2014, New Jersey grew only 6,700 jobs. At that rate, it would take 44 years for New Jersey's unemployed to all be working again. While Christie is gambling on more corporate tax breaks to entice big employers to open up shop in New Jersey, he's ignoring the fact that companies formerly in New Jersey have since moved to Massachusetts and California. While both of those states are known for high taxes, they also have educated, highly-skilled workers ready to take on more high-skilled jobs.
The increased squeeze on public workers and stalwart refusal to increase workers' wages has resulted in the highest poverty rate New Jersey has experienced in 50 years. And while New Jersey's unemployment rate has fallen down to 6.5 percent, that's still five-tenths of a point behind the national average. Most jobs that were lost in New Jersey paid median wages of $30,000 to $60,000 a year. Most of the new jobs that have been added pay median wages of just $30,000 or less. In a consumer economy, if people are working but only making enough to meet the most basic of needs, demand will continue to fall and more businesses will be forced to close.
Christie's New Jersey is a model state to be shown as a case to other states -- not as something to aspire to, but as a warning. Gutting the public sector with austere fiscal policies and rewarding the rich with tax breaks at the expense of the middle class kills jobs and prosperity. If you really want to restore the middle class, raise workers' wages and invest in public education. Employers don't open up shop based on who has the cushiest tax breaks, but who has the best workers ready for the job.
*Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.