Gov. Christie standing in the way of Jersey’s recovery

 (Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

(Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

This morning, we had great news on the employment front. The country added 288,000 jobs in the month of April, topping expectations and lowering the unemployment rate to 6.3 percent, a 5 1/2 year low.

Unfortunately, we’re failing to see much of a economic trickle-down here in New Jersey.

We won’t know Jersey’s April numbers for another week or two, but while hiring was strong nationally in March (with government statisticians revising numbers upward today) New Jersey still seems in a job largesse, losing 1,300 jobs last month. And that’s on the heels of job losses of 4,900 and 3,700 in January and February, respectfully.

So much for Christie’s long-discarded “Jersey Comeback” slogan. New Jersey has the 10th highest unemployed rate in the country, 7.2 percent, as of March. Our neighbors seem to be doing a better job getting people back to work – Pennsylvania’s unemployed rate is 6 percent, while Delaware’s stands at just 5.9 percent.

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So what’s stalling New Jersey’s economic recovery? Maybe it’s the extremely slow pace of Hurricane Sandy rebuilding that’s acting like an anchor on the state’s recovery.

By all accounts, everyone from Hoboken to Mantoloking are becoming increasing frustrated with Mr. Stronger than the Storm and his administration’s handl ing of post-Sandy recovery. First, it was a sweetheart deal with a debris remove firm with political ties to Christie. Now, it’s criticism that Christie’s administration is playing favorites, doling out money to areas not hit hard by the storm because leaders pledge their support during his re-election bid. 

Now, Christie is trying to peddle the idea that the process has been slowed because – get your tissues ready – he cares too much about the poor.

“I made the decision early on that getting money to the people who need it the most was more important than getting it out as fast as possible,” Christie told Sandy victims in Brick last week, who deserve rewards for not laughing in his face. 

Keep in mind Christie’s compassion for the poor didn’t prevent him from vetoing an increase in the state’s minimum wage. His school-funding cuts were condemned by the New Jersey Supreme Court as depriving poor kids of much-needed education funding. He scaled back the earned-income tax credit, basically jacking up the taxes on the working poor. His deep budget cuts to legal aid hurt the poor almost exclusively. He even tried to seize affordable housing funds from municipalities around the state intended to help house low income families. 

Also remember that the federal government has already slammed Christie’s initial plan for Sandy Relief for doing too little for low income renters, shortchanging public housing residents and largely ignoring those who speak Spanish or other languages.

And according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), officials specifically cited concern about insufficient outreach to low-income and minority Sandy victims. 

Hurricane Sandy caused $37 billion worth of damage. New Jersey can’t expect strong job growth until we’ve put whole the lives that were shattered as a result of the storm. And increasing, it seems like Christie just isn’t up to that task.

So much for Strong than the Storm._____________________________________

Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe.

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