If anyone was wondering, Chris Christie is still a Republican.

If Kanye West were in New Jersey last week, he might have loudly announced, "Chris Christie hates poor people!"

What other conclusion can you come to when you look at the actions of our lovable media superstar?

 

Despite the state's high cost of living, high foreclosure rate and lack of affordable housing, Christie vetoed an increase of the state's paltry $7.25 minimum wage and two key housing assistance bills which would have brought much-needed assistance to struggling homeowners.

 

His counter proposal on the minimum wage? To increase it by $1 an hour over the next three years, which wouldn't even cover the cost of inflation (Democrats voted to raise it $1.25 instantly, and have yearling increases based on the rate of inflation).

Even more galling, Christie is using the tried-and-true Republican tactic of hostage taking to get his way. In this case, it means dangling an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor, the same one he gutted during his first year as Governor.

He's too kind.

As far as housing is concerned, one of the bills Christie vetoed would have allowed the state's Housing Mortgage and Finance Agency to purchase foreclosed homes and transform them into affordable housing, killing two birds with one stone. The other would have help improved a program to help unemployed or underemployed homeowners make their mortgage payments.  

Given the challenges of the state's housing market and economy, these bills would have helped a lot of people in need. Or, as many in the Republican Party might call them, takers.

All this comes on the heels of a study conducted by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, which showed New Jersey's poorest families have a higher tax burden than its wealthiest. The study found poor families pay more than 11 percent of their income on state and local taxes, while the rich only pay about 7 percent.

The only area where the rich pay more is in state income taxes. New Jersey's progressive income tax system charges less to lower income earners. Despite income tax accounting for more than 36 percent of the state's total revenue, that's precisely where Governor Christie wants to lower taxes. He prefers a 10 percent across-the-board tax cut that would overwhelmingly benefit the rich and blast a billion dollar hole in the state's budget.

New Jersey is alone in disparity between the rich and the poor.  The same situation exists in nearly every state – a disparity that is continuing to grow. It's simple math - the wealthy have more money, therefore taxes don't represent as large a piece of their income or net worth.

Christie's disdain for those in need shouldn't really come as a surprise. Regardless of his current "I'm a bipartisan" outreach program, Christie has been a class warrior for the rich during his time in office. Remember, he vetoed higher taxes on millionaires at the same time he pushed targeted cuts onto senior citizens and slashed women's health programs.

He's also proposed cutting Medicaid for the working poor (he thinks a family making $6,000 a year is too rich for the program), and abolished the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). Not only that, he wants to seize more than $140 million that was originally earmarked for low-cost housing to help plug a hole in the state's budget.  

And all this comes from a guy with a proclivity for living high on the hog on the taxpayer's dime. Remember the private helicopter ride to his son's baseball game, or his occasional $400 a night stays at luxury hotels while he was U.S. Attorney?

Unfortunately, appearances on David Letterman garner more attention from voters than the nuts and bolts of governing. Christie's genuine concern for Hurricane Sandy victims is admirable. His complete focus on them at the cost of the state's working poor isn't.

 


 

Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.