Day and night, black and white, right and wrong.
All describe what New Jersey is versus what it was.
The difference?Â Simple.Â Itâ€™s Chris Christie versus Jon Corzine.
One presided over a legacy of abject failure, driving the state into near bankruptcy, while the other has taken the bull by the horns â€” read: upending Business As Usual â€” and is winning the day.
Since Jon Corzine got trounced by Chris Christie in the governorâ€™s race â€” once thought folly for a Republican â€” the answer of whoâ€™s who is obvious.
In taking on once-untouchable sacred cows, Governor Christie has redefined political leadership while reigniting faith in citizens not just in the Garden State, but around the nation.Â Common sense, conviction and consistency are the hallmarks of the hard-charging former U.S. Attorney.
Agree with him or not, Christie is universally respected for not doing the Political Two-Step. Instead, he has shown the remarkable ability to tackle the most controversial issues without regard to political consequences.
As a result, Christie has been so successful that a mere ten months after he was sworn in, he has rocketed to the short list of presidential contenders.
Not coincidentally, another law-and-order candidate is enjoying similar success â€”Pennsylvania Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett (also a former U.S. Attorney).Â With just three weeks until Election Day, Corbettâ€™s lead remains in double digits.
A major reason?Â Corbett has charted a course totally contrary to the track record of outgoing Governor Ed Rendell.
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The core belief of Corzine and Rendell is that Big Government â€” not the people â€” know what is best. Time and again, the two Governors cozied up to unions and political insiders, championing huge tax increases, toll hikes, industry-killing regulations, and class warfare.Â To them, the answer to every problem is the same: more spending.
They never understood that increased taxes on already-overburdened people has the opposite effect of raising revenue.Â Citizens and businesses vote with their feet, seeking more friendly locations.
Corzineâ€™s tax-and-spend policies resulted in a mass exodus of taxpayers and revenue.
Despite the fact that New Jersey had the highest state and local taxes, the second highest business tax burden, and more property taxes per capita than any other state, Corzine proposed a $1billion tax increase!
Meanwhile, the out-of-control unions continued their unchecked greed, siphoning economic life out of the state with unrealistic salaries and pension plans that made even Wall Street blush with envy.
Corzine ignored the fact that the system was unsustainable, and proceeded to drive the state off the cliff. Â Which is why heâ€™s out of a job.
But with Christie pulling the state out of the abyss, and union leadership and special interests on notice that thereâ€™s a new sheriff in town, New Jersey is actually becoming â€” dare we say it â€”Â desirable.
And the people love it.
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The only difference between Rendell and Corzine is that Pennsylvaniaâ€™s Governor has had four more years to wreck his state.
From not signing a single budget on time to his relentless attempts to transfer money from the people to government coffers, Rendell has decimated the economy of the Commonwealth.
At a time when Pennsylvania families are doing the responsible thing â€”tightening their belts â€” Rendell has consistently done the polar opposite.
Spending has increased a whopping 40 percent under him, yet, incomprehensibly, he continues to ignore the fact that revenues are declining.
Instead, he uses smoke-and-mirror tactics to balance the books when, in fact, the state is facing a budget deficit in excess of $5 billion.
Like $400 million from tolling Interstate 80 â€” except that initiative never happened.
Like the $800 million raided from the special fund to alleviate exorbitant medical malpractice premiums. Except that the courts ruled it must be paid back.
With no more stimulus money, a looming pension bomb, and state obligations increasing eightfold over the next two years, Rendellâ€™s solution to this fiscal Armageddon was to expand gambling, levy massive new taxes, and kill the only industry that can resurrect Pennsylvania â€” the vast Marcellus Shale natural gas fields â€” by hitting energy companies with a crushing extraction tax.
This, despite Pennsylvania companies already facing the second-highest corporate net income tax in America and the most hostile legal climate in the nation.
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I had the opportunity to be with Corbett and Christie in Pennsylvania this week, and couldnâ€™t help but marvel at the stark differences between them and Corzine and Rendell.
The prosecutors refuse to raise taxes, unabashedly advocate school choice, promise a continued crackdown on corruption, and resolve to dramatically slash spending and eliminate stifling regulations, regardless of the political fallout.
Most important, they staunchly support openness and accountability in government â€” both seriously lacking in prior Administrations.
In each state, Democrats outnumber Republicans by significant margins, yet both Corbett and Christie are winning the hearts and minds of a majority of people. And the reason is simple.
They believe government should serve the people â€” not the other way around.
Donâ€™t look now, but New Jersey and Pennsylvania are becoming relevant again, and all it took was common sense policies and the political will to implement them.
President Christie, anyone?
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. Readers of his column, â€śFreindly Fire,â€ť hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.” Freind also serves as a weekly guest commentator on Philadelphia-area talk radio shows, and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX 29.Â He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com