THE BLOG

Will I Be Forced to Vote Republican?

10/07/2010 01:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I be a Democrat. My parents were Democrats. I'm Jewish, for Chrissake! My people filled the progressive rolls and teachers union in Philadelphia.

I've never voted for a Republican. But, living in New Jersey, I didn't vote to re-elect Jon Corzine governor. I didn't vote for the current New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, either. (There was a third candidate, now forgotten, who promised fiscal austerity AND backed gay marriage rights.) Among his many flaws, Corzine was in bed with the public workers union (literally -- he had been screwing the state employees union leader, Carla Katz).

But, in a two-person race right now, I'd hold my nose and vote to re-elect Christie. New Jersey -- like many states, but perhaps worse than most -- faces unfathomable economic catastrophe. Aside from the current deficit it is facing, New Jersey's state employee (including teachers and cops) pension system was underfunded by $34 billion in 2008 -- and these costs have only skyrocketed since then. These are separate from public employees' health care costs -- which have (surprise) skyrocketed more.

And, so, Christie -- a Republican who seems to have been given the freedom to see economic reality -- has proposed raising the retirement age, reworking the formula to make pensions less lucrative, and requiring public employees to pay a greater share of their health care. Of course, these employees are at war with Christie -- including the teachers union's ads deploring reductions in the state's education budget. (New Jersey's education costs are a whole separate discussion -- but suffice it to say that pouring money into the Newark school system over the decades has done nothing to reverse its steep decline.)

By ordinary financial standards, in terms of its prospects for meetings its existing obligations, New Jersey (like many states) is already bankrupt. But its economic trajectory in terms of deficits is actually acceleratingly negative! And still, Christie opponents focus solely on what New Jerseyans will be losing -- not on what these things cost and what we can afford.

Which brings me to Rachel Maddow -- whom I revere -- and Marco Rubio -- the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida -- with whom Maddow regularly clashes.

I don't know if I could ever vote for the likes of Rubio, a full-blown Tea Party candidate. But I wince whenever Rachel attacks Rubio and anyone else who says that we have to reform Medicare and Social Security to bring their costs down. One valid -- crucial -- criticism of the new Republican platform (their "Pledge to America"), by Paul Krugman among others, is that it recommends lowering taxes AND lowering expenditures, but recommends no specific cuts in the key areas where costs are out of control -- entitlements and wars. And, of these two, health care costs are by FAR the greater liability -- eliminating either, or both, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will reduce our indebtedness only a few percentage points, compared with Medicare and general health care costs that loom many times as large on the horizon as crushing economic burdens.

Rachel, of course, does her share -- more than her share -- in attacking our futile, nation-breaking overseas adventures -- including the as-yet unofficial war in Pakistan. But, like other progressives, she reflexively ridicules any Republican who frankly discusses the need to tackle unbridled entitlement expenditures. Rubio -- and a few other Republicans -- are to be commended for confronting this inescapable issue.

Grow up domestically, Rachel, like you are asking Americans to grow up internationally.