This week, Gov. Chris Christie is rolling out a new campaign ad touting the purported accomplishments of his first term. Unfortunately, like so many campaign advertisements, it's filled with half-truths and distortions that present an imperfect picture of how the state has fared over the last four years.
Some claims are just silly - like bragging about balancing state budgets when the state constitution requires all budgets to be balanced. But just as disingenuous and far more damaging are his claims about New Jersey's economic health.
As much as Christie wants to paint a rosy picture of New Jersey's economy, we still rank eighth in joblessness nationwide and have recovered only 51 percent of the jobs we lost in the recession. In August, BusinessWeek took a look at New Jersey's economic performance since the beginning of Christie's term and compared it to the experience of other states. The magazine looked at household income, home prices, employment levels and tax revenue. New Jersey's economic performance was the sixth worst in the country - and the absolute worst in the Northeast.
While it's true that after three years of being stuck in a rut, New Jersey finally started showing some signs of robust job growth earlier this year, it's still too little and far too late to catch us up with the rest of the nation. The brief job spurt - which experts at Wells Fargo believe was partly a result of federal stimulus in response to Hurricane Sandy - hit a wall in July, when we actually lost 11,800 jobs across all sectors.
Even for those lucky enough not to be a part of the 8.6 percent of unemployed New Jerseyans looking for a job without much luck, life in Christie's first term has not been kind. Just this year average hourly wages for workers dropped by 84 cents, and poverty has now reached a 52-year high. Legal Services of New Jersey found that one in eight people in the state are even having trouble buying food. And if you're having trouble buying food and other basic necessities, you're probably having trouble making your mortgage. In August we also learned that New Jersey is once again ranked second in the country for foreclosures, and economists say New Jersey's foreclosure crisis has created a major drag on our economy.
Christie's jobs strategy hinged on lower taxes for people making more than $400,000 per year and generous subsidies to large multinational corporations like Citigroup - all paid for by deep cuts to public investments in education, transit, clean energy and public safety.
It's classic trickle-down economics, and it has failed here like it has failed nearly everywhere else it has been tried. Even worse, the cuts he made to public investments to pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations have actually slowed down our recovery.
He cut $75 million in foreclosure relief meant to help underwater homeowners, scrapped the largest public infrastructure project in the country that would have created 50,000 jobs, and slashed operating budgets for colleges and universities that produce the highly trained workforce that is New Jersey's biggest draw for employers.
New Jersey can't afford four more years of the same policies. Any effort to get New Jersey back on track will require an honest assessment of where we are and how we got here. Even more, it will take elected officials willing to fight for crucial investments in infrastructure, higher education, and green jobs that can bring the real recovery New Jersey needs.
Bill Holland is the executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance.