Well, could this possibly get any better? Two politicians who represent varying degrees of reprehensibility going after each other. I suppose on a reprehensibility index of 1 to 10, with 10 being more douchebaggy than anyone else in American politics (let’s keep this a small dataset), Paul is at 10, right up there with James Inhofe, and Christie would be what, a six? Five? Hard to say. I’m going to naturally be more sympathetic to a Jersey guy like Christie than a cracker like Paul. Even though Paul was right about drones, he’s wrong about just about everything else. And it was hard not to feel for Christie when he looked just slammed by the devastation of the Jersey shore, as if Sandy had it in for him personally. Only people like Paul, who were born without that gene that gives the rest of us empathy, could, and would, criticize Christie for his gratitude to Obama for helping out. (Of course, we now know that that group of senators whose empathy count is in negative numbers runs to a larger number than we expected.) But still, Christie himself can be a huge jerk, and enjoys being a bully. So he’s a five or six. Compared to Darrell Issa, he’s a prince, but still.
So now they’re going after each other. This is obviously about 2016 positioning and pre-emptive attacks. Paul has decided to get ahead of Christie with the Tea Party crowd—not hard, they don’t like Christie much anyway. But the Sandy comments really got to Christie. And his response was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Because he did what I would do (and have done, more times than I can count): he went after the fact that Kentucky is a taker state, big time, and New Jersey is a giver state. As far as I’m concerned, Christie didn’t push this hard enough. No one does, though.
For those who are new to this (or my other) blog, here’s the deal (and some of us have written about this more than once): Some states get back more in federal money than they pay in federal income tax. We call these taker states. Some states get back less than they pay. We call these giver (or donor) states. Make up your own labels. And there are several organizations that track this—the Tax Foundation is probably the best known, but it’s hardly alone. About one third of the stated subsidize the other two thirds. And, as it runs out, there’s a red/blue split as well. You will not be surprised to learn that most of the giver states are blue states, and the majority of the taker states are red states. You can already see where this is going—and we’ve gone there.
Let’s just point out that Christie started the most current round, but it has some historical precedent, as The National Memo informs us:
Back in June, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) took a not-widely-noticed potshot at New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, over his “not very conservative” choice of holding an unnecessary special election.
Apparently the governor was stewing for weeks because last week, he had no qualms about calling the junior senator from Kentucky “dangerous.”
Here’s what Christie came back with:
“This strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said on Thursday at a Republican forum in Aspen, Colorado. “You can name any number of people and [Paul is] one of them,” he said.
“These esoteric, intellectual debates — I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. And they won’t, because that’s a much tougher conversation to have,” he continued.
Then what happened? Well, over to Paul:
“The people who want to criticize me and call me names, they are precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending,” Paul said at an event in Franklin, Kentucky, according to CNN affiliate WKRN-TV.
“They are ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme all my Sandy money now.’ Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not allowing enough money be left over for national defense.”
Whoa. So Christie popped back with this gem:
“So if Senator Paul wants to start looking at where he’s going to cut spending to afford defense, maybe he should start looking at cutting the pork barrel spending that he brings home to Kentucky, at $1.51 for every $1.00 and not look at New Jersey, where we get $0.61 for every $1.00,” Christie said, noting his state pays out more than every federal dollar it receives. “So maybe Senator Paul could — could, you know, deal with that when he’s trying to deal with the reduction of spending on the federal side. But I doubt he would, because most Washington politicians only care about bringing home the bacon so that they can get reelected.”
Paul has responded by calling Christie “The King of Bacon.” Whew, that’s quite a swipe. Then he added this deep thought, as quoted in Time:
“Why would he want to pick a fight with the one guy who has the chance to grow the party by appealing to the youth and appealing to people who would like to see a more moderate and less aggressive foreign policy,” he added.
Jeez. I don’t think any further comment is necessary after that.
Anyway, this goes on, and will continue, since it’s emblematic of the struggle that now is dividing the Republican Party. I have to admit that I don’t necessarily disagree with Paul’s interest in a bit less international action—the Republican Party track record there is miserable, obviously, and one can, presumably, share Paul’s alarm at Lindsey Graham’s enthusiasm for bombing the shit out of Iran on virtually any pretext. On the other hand, Paul is in most respects insane, and the idea of him holding any elected office whatsoever is genuinely frightening. Christie is at least demonstrably human at times, although he does his best to act like a jerk.
No, my interest here is that, for the first time I my memory, a major US politician has raised the issue of states subsidizing other states. We’ve been tracking this phenomenon for some time now—I first blogged about way back in 2004, probably before anyone else got a hold of it, and it’s nice to see the world catching up. It’s everywhere now, although I’m constantly surprised that people still don’t know this—Paul Ryan, for example, although I no longer am surprised at what Paul Ryan doesn’t know.
As I commented back in 2004,
What does this tell us? Well, that Red states generally take money from Blue states. But don’t Red states elect mainly Republicans, who want lower taxes? Well, yes. But that doesn’t mean that these people don’t know a good deal when they see one. It also tells us that red states are deadbeats. They either can’t or won’t pay their bills, and rely on the hated Federal government, and the deeply loathed Blue states, to accomplish this straightforward task.
So it’s nice to see at least one politician talking about this. I hope we’ll get more. It is a real political issue, pretty fundamental to the future of the country. How much longer will the givers keep subsidizing a bunch of takers who want to trash the government—except for their share, of course. And I damn well want to see Elizabeth Warren and Fred Durbin start going after Lindsey Graham and Jeff Sessions over this. And I absolutely want to see Chris Christie stomp Rand Paul into the mud. And then sit on him.