|Gov. Christie: Nation turning into 'people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check'|
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012
By Megan DeMarco/Statehouse Bureau
NEW YORK — Gov. Chris Christie today warned an audience of national Republicans that the country is in danger of becoming a "paternalistic entitlement society" where people sit on the couch, "waiting for the next government check."
Christie spoke at a day-long conference on tax policy in New York hosted by former President George W. Bush, who nominated Christie to be U.S. Attorney in 2001.
Christie spent most of his 30-minute speech on New Jersey budget issues, but brought up national policy toward the end. He said it is the least optimistic period he’s ever seen for the nation.
"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. That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally," Christie told Bush, Henry Kissinger and an assortment of Republican governors in a theater at the New York Historical Society.
"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," Christie said.
Christie never mentioned President Obama by name, but in the past has spoken about the need to reign in entitlement spending for programs like for Social Security and Medicare.
Today, he said entitlement spending would make Bush’s goal to boost the private sector 4 percent difficult.
"A 4 percent solution, a 4 percent growth is not gonna be achieved if we don’t deal with Medicare," Christie said. "A 4 percent growth is not gonna be achieved if we don’t deal with Medicaid. A 4 percent growth is not gonna be achieved if we don’t deal with Social Security."
Democrats today said Christie was catering to his conservative audience at the expense of working class New Jerseyans.
"It’s amazing that even as the governor is caught up in his frenzied efforts to curry favor with the far-right element in the Republican party ... he still finds time to express his resentment and anger towards regular working people," said Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), who is considering a run for governor next year.
A spokesman for Assembly Democrats, Tom Hester Jr., said, "The only people sitting around on the couch enjoying life these days are the millionaires who have been coddled by Gov. Christie. Everyone else is working as hard as they can to pay for the net 20 percent property tax hike they’ve endured under this governor."
Ben Dworkin, a political scientist at Rider University, said Christie gave Democrats a lot to work with today.
"Democrats will probably try to mobilize a large number of those New Jerseyans who are still struggling to find work by portraying the governor as blaming their own laziness for their hard times," Dworkin said.
He said Christie is "by far the most conservative governor we have had in New Jersey’s modern era ... This was an opportunity to talk to this particular audience and I think he used the language that he’s always believed."
The conference, which also featured Karl Rove, Steve Forbes and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, was hosted by the President George W. Bush Institute, which Bush said allows him to remain involved in public policy while staying out of the limelight.
"I don’t think it’s good, frankly, for our country to undermine the president and I don’t intend to do so," Bush said. "But I do intend to remain involved in areas that I’m interested in."
Bush introduced Christie by praising his "enormous personality" and "belief in the individual," noting that Christie has grabbed a lot of attention, even from Texans.
"I was a proud member of the Bush administration for seven years," Christie said, later adding that Bush "inspired a whole new generation of conservative Republican leaders."