Exit Ramps and Budget Cuts

By Rich Galen | January 9, 2014 | 5:42am EST
The national press corps is quivering with excitement over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's problems with a traffic problem.

The issue -- and this is the My Weekly Reader version -- is this: The George Washington Bridge spans the Hudson River from northern Manhattan to New Jersey. It is a major, major thoroughfare and it carries hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day in each division.

The first exit on the New Jersey side of the bridge is for Ft. Lee.

Raise hands (not counting those from the NY/NJ metropolitan area) if you've ever heard of Ft. Lee, NJ much less if you're able to locate it on a map.

It seems that someone on the NJ side decided it was necessary to shut down the exit lane to Ft. Lee which led to significant traffic jams -- even more than the significant traffic jams that drivers in the metropolitan avenue face each and every work day.

New York officials were furious over that decision and made a really big stink about it. Governor Christie maintained he didn't know from nothin' and had nothin' to do with it.

Yesterday Christie released a statement saying, in effect, at least one of his staffers had decided to shut down the ramp to Ft. Lee to punish the Mayor of Ft. Lee for refusing to endorse the Governor in this past November's election.

Christie apparently was not harmed by the Mayor of Ft. Lee's refusal to understand the way politics works in New Jersey (or South Carolina, or Chicago) because the Governor won re-election 60% to 38%.

And he won as a Republican running as a Republican in a Democratic state.

As the New York Times reported: "In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 700,000, Mr. Christie won a majority of the votes of women and Hispanics and made impressive inroads among younger voters and blacks - groups that Republicans nationally have struggled to attract."

Nevertheless, as the Wall Street Journal reported: Newly released emails showed that a top Christie aide suggested that another longtime associate of the governor create "traffic problems" in Fort Lee, N.J. Weeks later, the second official imposed lane closures leading to the George Washington Bridge that choked the town across the Hudson River from New York City in auto gridlock.

At least one staffer had apparently lied - either by commission or omission - and Christie had to fall back on the old "mistakes were made and those responsible will pay the price" that we've become so used to.

The brilliant writer (and now teacher at Yale) Walter Shapiro Tweeted: Christie may not have had a political choice in statement, but Great Leader narratives do not normally revolve around being misled by staff.

To which I responded: ... nor do they revolve around closing a ramp to Ft. Lee, NJ

To which Walter responded: Wasn't the line from the Nixon years: "It's not the crime, it's the lane closures."

To which I responded: Damn you, Shapiro! I never thought you'd remember that.

This is how the grownups spend their afternoons.

I don't know Governor Christie. I don't know if I would support him for President if he chose to run. And I don't know if he would end up as the nominee.

I do know that this is January 2014 about two years, 10 months from election day 2016.

I do not believe that Chris Christie's political future is hanging in the balance as the projectile sweat of the national press corps would have us believe.

New Topic

House Republicans are trying to deal with extending benefits for those long-term unemployed whose benefits ran out at the end of the year.

I am not an economist and I have no idea whether - as a purely economic, not a political nor ideological issue - this is a good idea.

The current thinking, as I understand it, is the House GOP will vote for the extension if there are budget reductions to pay the $6.4 billion tab.

I am also led to believe that the House GOP leadership wants the House Democrats to come up with the budget cuts - known as offsets.

If Republicans in Congress want to show the electorate they are capable of governing and thus should be in control of the House and the Senate, they should demonstrate that this week by bringing a complete package to the House floor: The benefit extension and the cuts to pay for it.

The cost of extending the benefits is about six-tenths of one percent of the total federal budget.

House GOP staffers can find 0.6% over lunch in the Longworth Cafeteria.

They should do that and the GOP majority in the House should force Democrats to vote on a full package.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to reporting on both of these stories. Also, a great Mullfoto of the Potomac River at dawn yesterday.

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