With his political aspirations on the ropes, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie decided to go bold on Tuesday, calling for cuts to social security benefits during an event in Manchester, New Hampshire. Some of the changes would affect more affluent social security recipients. For example, Governor Christie suggested that benefits should be cut for individuals earning more than $80,000 annually, and phased out entirely for those who earn over $200,000 a year.
He also proposed more controversial changes that could have an impact on beneficiaries of all income levels. For example, he suggested raising the retirement age for eligibility. Governor Christie also called for requiring individuals who receive temporary disability benefits to return to work more quickly.
Chris Christie was once considered to be one of the more formidable Republican presidential hopefuls. As a blue state Governor with a record of electoral success in New Jersey, and a reputation for being a political moderate, Christie was viewed as a legitimate threat to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
However, the bridge scandal, combined with Governor Christie’s blatant pandering to the far right, have worn off the luster of his once-promising candidacy. His favorable ratings are in the ditch, and his poll numbers are languishing in the single digits. Furthermore, among the Republican hopefuls, Chris Christie fares the worst in a head to head match-up with Hillary Clinton, losing by 9 points, 46-37.
Governor Christie’s dilemma is compounded by the fact that the right-wing of his party still doesn’t trust him, even as he has lost his grip on moderate and Independent voters. Understandably, with media attention being heaped upon Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio recently, Chris Christie is making his last gasp effort to try to stay relevant in the Republican race.
Governor Christie’s gambit appears to be to try to appeal to the economic right-wing of the Republican Party by presenting himself as the candidate willing to tackle “entitlement reform”. The problem Governor Christie faces, however, is that cutting social security is not a very popular policy. It isn’t even popular with rank and file Republicans, much less with Independents and Democrats. Furthermore, because Christie’s plan calls for cuts to benefits for rich and poor alike, it is likely to please almost nobody.
Governor Christie is trying his best to regain footing in the presidential race by stepping into the spotlight to discuss making social security cuts. While he may seize the moment long enough to generate some media attention, by harnessing his hopes to an unpopular policy, he is only driving his campaign deeper into the political abyss.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.