When I was younger and had more time to watch tv, I really enjoyed medical dramas. The nip and tuck nature of life, encompassing the full gamut of human emotion, all wrapped up in sixty minutes. Good television. Those shows remind me of the present state of New Jersey's fiscal well being. As yet another of the major Wall Street rating houses has downgraded New Jersey’s credit rating; we are faced with the question of, “Where do we go from here?"...or to fit the opening narrative, "How do we save this patient?"
This sixth such downgrade under Governor Christie is perhaps the most troubling, because the use of fiscal gimmickry that has plagued our state’s budget process over several administrations cannot “artificially paper over” the problem. The time is now to turn the page on a philosophy of austerity and trickle-down economics, steeped in sound bites and rhetoric, to one that embraces pro-growth policies which invests in physical, human and innovation-based resources. The ill-conceived choices that have begat anti-government groundswells on one end of the political spectrum and bore anti-corporate populism on the other, has led to a crisis of confidence in the electorate. This crisis is apparent in the lack of trust from our constituents that their elected representatives can effectively solve this issue, which has led to a growing pessimism about whether we, in government, have the fortitude or aptitude to fix this mess.
So, the solutions that I believe which can get us out of this latest fiscal dilemma and set us on a sounder financial course must be concise, common sense corrections to our current thought process. These solutions must be nimble enough to withstand the ebb-and-flow of highly charged economic and political cycles, while maintaining a dynamism that can spur real sustainable growth. It begins with growing the economic pie, rather than getting caught up in the politics of wealth redistribution. This ongoing debate has taken away from the real objective of enhancing overall economic growth for all New Jersey residents. Furthermore, this debate has replaced an earnest and needed conversation with a shortsighted narrative that works in political circles, but does nothing to foster consensus around broad-based initiatives that benefit more than a select group. Therefore, the first step in our new fiscal thinking must be to invest in programs and policies that are powerful enough to spur real economic growth, such as infrastructure development and the expansion of the manufacturing and clean energy industry sectors just to name a few.
Secondly, nurturing and fostering innovative ideas by the entrepreneurial dreamers within our society is critical to sustainable economic growth. Providing the regulatory environment necessary to allow this to happen, or more importantly, not stymie it from occurring is essential to government’s role in this growth cycle. In general, we need to make sure that New Jersey’s regulatory system is more innovation-friendly. Sensible regulatory reform has demonstrated that it has a true cause-and-effect relationship on economic growth. The bi-partisan New Jersey Red-Tape Review Commission has begun the necessary steps to spur that growth, but more work remains. Let me be clear. By no means am I suggesting that government abdicate its responsibilities to provide an adequate safety net of protection from unscrupulous individuals. However, by focusing on making our regulatory system more flexible, rather than placing a greater emphasis on ironclad rules, government can work better and create an environment that makes our economy grow.
Lastly, and what is certainly most important is the investment in our greatest resource…the educational enrichment of our children. Without adequate investment in our earliest students...all the way to those retraining themselves for new career pathways, we will be destined to an economic future that is handcuffed by our own lack of vision. A robust educational structure that provides opportunities for all life-long learners will help our state generate the future income necessary to fund the investments that will sustain our economic growth. Additionally, it will also allow us to confront the fiscal challenges that stil lie ahead of us with a workforce educated and trained to meet them. I believe that this brand of pragmatic progressive thinking is the prescription to fix what ails our great Garden State. That's my take, what do you think?