Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

My Governor, as usual, Fails Math

You have to love Chris Christie. The man who said NJ couldn’t afford a tunnel whose cost with overruns was expected to be less than $10B is now backing a tunnel whose initial cost estimate is $13B.

That the great state of New Jersey has sent an actual physicist to Congress, let alone supplies and hosts most of the talent in the Pharmaceutical and Financial Services industry,* and is run by a man who says we couldn’t afford $10.5B that PATH would control but should give $13B to something Amtrak will continue to control is rather close to proof that G-d is either non-existent or a thug with a sick sense of humor.

And now, he’s saving money again (h/t Thers):

Bill A3273 would have expanded New Jerseys’ Medicaid program, essentially reversing action Christie took in July 2010 to ensure $7.5 million in taxpayer money would not go to supporting family planning clinics, most of which [29 of 58 is half, not “most,” but apparently conservative reporters can’t do math either] are run by Planned Parenthood.

“In Fiscal year 2012, it is anticipated that the state’s Medicaid program faces a budget shortfall of $1.1 billion,” said Governor Christie in a statement. Expanding Medicaid to more people “does not make sense from an overall fiscal and health care policy perspective,” he said.

Words can confuse numbers, so let me, er, “spell this one out.”

In Christie-world, not spending $7,500,000 upfront is going to solve a deficit of $1,100,000,000. Those three extra zeroes on the deficit number are, after all, an Arabic creation, and can be ignored if you’re a blithering idiot or a Republican governor.**

Ignoring, of course, that an increase in conceptions and undesired births, combined with a decline in available prenatal care will lead to more underweight, premature, under- and malnourished babies that will grow up to require more services than they would have had they been healthy and/or desired.

In Christie-world&mash;that’s where you go, remaining out of touch, knowing that your Lieutenant Governor is visiting her dying father out of the country, so that the Senate president is left to declare a State of Emergency—proper prenatal care doesn’t pay for itself.

In Christie-world, being the state most tasked with subsidizing the Red States enables one to position to quit and run for higher office.*** Or at least that’s the only simple, direct, “rational” explanation for not investing in human capital and spending more on a less-desirable project.

If Chris Christie isn’t planning to be a short-timer, he’s certainly making certain that his legacy will be one of higher debt and lower preparedness. The next generation of New Jerseyites may be as innumerate as he is.

In which case, who do the Blue Staters think will pay for all their wars and welfare?

*Non-hedge fund financial services talent, that is. They generally live and work in Connecticut, from which they pillage with impunity.

**See also Daniels, Mitch, and Schwarzenegger, Arnold.

***I would say this is part-wishful thinking on my part, but the result would be a mix of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin appearing regularly on CNN or Faux News while—in the grand tradition of previous budget pillager and “centrist” Christine Todd Whitman—the rest of us are left to clean up the mess.

My Kids Have School Today: An Inequality Survey

The kids in the next town over don’t.  Indeed, the place where my Eldest Daughter’s swim team practices is closed because it’s a holiday, and their schools are.  But not here: the banks are closed, the government offices are closed, the local libraries are closed. (Heck, the New York Public Library is closed.)  But the schools are open.

For more than three years, the teachers worked without a contract.  While the Administration grew—and paid itself very well, taking an ever-increasing share of the budget—the teacher showed good faith.  They continued to negotiate, continued not to strike.  It wasn’t until the third year that they started cutting back on the extra effort they put in—things such as displaying children’s art projects in the hallways–.

Finally, two years ago, a contract agreement was reached.  One of the things no one bothered to specify—since the schools are public, and therefore a government institution—was that Federal and State holidays would not be school days.  The teachers might work some of them—teachers, as with most academics, do more work outside of the classroom (in preparation, in training, in research) than in it, so there might be a training day on some of the minor ones—but there would not be classes.  No Administration would be crazy enough to schedule classes on a Federal holiday, when many of the parents would have planned three-day weekends.

Except ours, to punish the teachers for having the temerity to negotiate for a contract, would do exactly that.  And it has for the past few years.

While taking my usual walk from Penn Station to Times Square, I saw more than the usual amount of tourists: a marginal effect of the holiday, as economists would note.  And that marginal effect is marginally reduced by the families whose children had to go to school today, even though their parents have the day off.  By the Law of Large Numbers, economists won’t even notice the difference—though individual stores and businesses might.

Columbus Day may be a minor Federal holiday. An NCIS “Undercover Marathon” on the USA network does not a unique celebration make.  And explaining why it is a holiday may become problematic. (“Well, white men with guns came here because like most men they were really lousy at asking for directions. And unlike the previous white men, they stayed, more or less.” is so much less doggerel or open to misinterpretation than “In 1493, Columbus sailed the Deep Blue Sea.”)  But explaining that the kids have to go to school, not the beach, because the superintendent wants to punish the teachers and the kids are collateral damage, well, that’s an economics lesson that will abide.

Especially when you tell them the punch line: Despite more than containing teacher expenses, the school budget has exploded for the past several years as more and more Administrators have been paid more and more money. And the result of this is that the Superintendent who is responsible for that got a five-year contract extension, bloating the budget even more, with even less of it allocated to children’s education (since the Superintendent is a Fixed Cost).

From there, explaining the growth of income inequality is at worst a lay-up.