Chris Christie versus the couch potatoes

New Jersey governor Chris Christie addressed the Bush Institute Conference on Taxes and Economic Growth in New York on Tuesday, and had some tough words for the couch potatoes littering our “paternalistic entitlement society.”  A little video, courtesy of Politico:

“I’ve never seen a less optimistic time in my lifetime in this country, and people wonder why,” Christie said.  “I think it’s really simple: It’s because government’s now telling them ‘stop dreaming, stop striving, we’ll take care of you.’ We’re turning into a paternalistic entitlement society.”

Christie warned this would bankrupt us both financially and morally, “because when the American people no longer believe that this is a place where only their willingness to work hard, and to act with honor and integrity and ingenuity determines their success in life, then we’ll have a bunch of people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check.”  Strangely, Politico chose to omit the “honor and integrity and ingenuity” part from their quotation of Christie’s remarks, but took pains to render “sitting” without the “g,” precisely the way the Governor said it.

It’s considered extremely rude for politicians to address Couch Potato Nation in such blunt terms, and Christie knows it.  “I’m not looking to be loved,” he said.  “You see, I think politicians get themselves into the biggest trouble when they care more about being loved than being respected.  That’s why we run up these deficits we run up.  That’s why we can’t say ‘no’ to anything.  Because we care too much about being loved.”  He went on to assure the audience that he gets all the love he needs at home, “on occasion.”

However, Christie went on to talk about reaching across the aisle and reaching constructive compromises with Democrats.  Dan Bigman at Forbes sums up Christie’s approach to compromise as follows:

He retold the story of how New Jersey faced the need to trim $11 billion plus from the state’s budget, some 30% of the total budget. Unlike in Washington, there was no chance to kick the can down the road. Faced with this inability, Christie said the state was able to get the job done by reaching across the aisle and making his case that there was little choice. More important, he credited his Democratic counterparts–not Republicans–with taking the difficult stand that got the deal done, with one-third of Dems joining with the legislature’s Republicans.

For those who have forgotten how to work across the aisle, Christie, a guy known for blunt bombast, offered a suite of ideas that were downright touchy-feely. How do you work across the aisle to get things done? Convince your opponents that you are “focused on listening,” willing to say no, telling the truth despite political risks, are looking to be respected and not “looking to be loved.” He said politicians get into all kinds of trouble when they look to get loved. He talked about “a boulevard” that every politician must risk crossing to engage with the other side in the name of getting things accomplished, an idea that seemed downright out of time, far more Johnson than Pelosi. Politicians are sent to office “to get things done,” he said. And precious few are actually accomplishing much these days.

…which actually sounds a lot more like “winning the argument” than “compromise,” in the usual mushy bipartisan drop-your-principles potato-cultivating sense our perpetually growing federal government and its attendants use the term.  Among other things, Christie stopped a “millionaire tax” in New Jersey, capped property taxes, and called for a sizable growth-oriented income tax cut.  Those aren’t the sort of sugar plums Democrats normally have dancing in their heads when they anticipate “compromise” with Republicans.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center has been working on a “4% Growth Project,” which seeks to “identify changes in government policy and business practices that will produce higher growth, and advocate those changes to policy makers and the public.”  They present the optimistic side of the divide Christie identified.  The alternative is to spend the coming years watching increasingly desperate politicians promise to divide a shrinking economic pie according to their notions of “fairness” – a process that will leave the rest of us fighting under the table for scraps.

Why shouldn’t long-term economic growth be at the top of the government’s agenda, rather than sharpening the rusty knives of “fairness” and “income equality?”  Freedom demands a government that takes the smallest portion of wealth from its citizens, to accomplish its carefully limited duties.  Logic suggests that if the government must have an expansive agenda, taking a small tax bite from a huge and robust economy is the best way to pay for it.  To borrow a word popular with the Left these days, nothing else is “sustainable.”  The couch is already beginning to creak and snap beneath the weight of all those potatoes.