[For the full story on this transcript, see
Part 2 of our exclusive special series at Mother Jones.]
As introduced by David Koch
Koch Brothers' 2011 Summer Seminar
Ritz-Carlton Beaver Creek Resort - near Vail, Colorado
Audio recorded June 26, 2011
[PART 5 - MP3, Appx. 11 mins]
Transcribed by Emily Levy for The BRAD BLOG
[Beginning the Q&A session after applause subsides… ]
GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (CON'T): Here comes…This is the fun part now. If any of you have seen me on YouTube, you've seen some of my town hall meetings. And I have some interesting interactions with my constituents. I will not go through all four of the rules of my town hall meetings, I'll just give you the fourth rule. This is what I say and I'm sure I'm not going to have this problem with you, even though I say it to my constituents at town halls. So listen, "It's fine for people to disagree with me. And if you have a disagreeing point of view and I call on ya, stand up and express your disagreement. If you do it in a respectful way, you'll get respectful disagreement back. However, if you decide that today's the day that you want to show off for your friends, if you decide that today's the day that you want to take the Governor of New Jersey out for a walk, I want to explain something to you very clearly, we are all from New Jersey." [laughter] And that means one simple thing: you give it, you're gettin' it back." So that explains some of my interesting interactions with my constituents, the ones who decide they want to take on that challenge, they have no idea what they're in for. So, who's got a question? [scattered laughter] If you dare. Yes, sir?
AUDIENCE QUESTION: I'm from Minnesota and a good friend of Tim Pawlenty. And Michele Bachmann is our, my congresswoman. They're wonderful people, and I love 'em. You're the first guy that I've seen who I know could beat Barack Obama. [audience: "yes!", cheers and whistles] …And if you love your country as I think you do…[sustained laughter, cheers, applause] …then you'll rethink what you've said.
CHRISTIE: Next question! [loud "woos" and applause] Yes, sir?...
AUDIENCE QUESTION: I don't have a mic, so I'm gonna be loud. What have you learned in New Jersey that would work [for the U.S.]?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think the [inaudible] part of New Jersey that'll work in the U.S., are the simple truth that everybody around here knows. I think part of this President's problem, among many [scattered laughter], is that he tries to make everything so damn complicated. You know, and that there's some virtue in complexity. And that there's some sin in simplicity. This is not hard. We spend too much. We borrow too much. We tax too much. It is time to turn those three things around. Now, pain will be inflicted when we change that. People are going to do with less. People who are used to having entitlement at a certain level will not have them at that level anymore. That's the story. Now, you know, we see what's happening in Washington right now, Paul Ryan comes out and is courageous and puts forward a plan, a thoughtful plan that he believes will help to fix those systems, and we allow the political system to demagogue this guy. Now, I don't know if Paul thinks that that's like the plan and he wouldn't settle for anything else. I suspect he's a politician and knows he's going to have to compromise a little bit, but he's at least out there presenting the plan, telling the truth as he sees it. These are not complicated problems.
And what I've seen in New Jersey, in a state, again, that is a blue state and is predominately Democratic, is folks come up to me all the time and say, "Listen, I don't agree with everything you do, but man, you're doin' it. And I'm glad someone's finally taken the reins and takin' charge." And when I said this morning on Meet the Press about the failure of this President, I mean. Being the executive, and all of you in this room know this, is not a spectator sport. This guy treats it as if, "Oh, let's see if they can work it out, and if they can, great, if they can't, well maybe I'll pay attention at some point."
I mean, he should have these folks in a room. We know how to solve these problems. This is not a mystery. We've had task force after task force. Figuring all…We know the answers. They're painful answers. We're going to have to reduce Medicare benefits. We're going to have to reduce Medicaid benefits. We're going to have to raise the Social Security age. We're going to have to do these things. We're going to have to cut all type of other government programs that some people in this room might like. But we're gonna have to do it.
And so what I think has worked in New Jersey is, I haven't tried to sugar-coat it. I said to people, "This is going to hurt and it stinks and I'm sorry. But for 20 years before I got there, people lied to you on a regular basis. And they promised you things they couldn't deliver and didn't have any way to pay for." And so I say all the time, you know, that I feel like the guy who was invited to dinner by all the former living New Jersey governors, and we had this great dinner, like tonight, you know? Great salad, great main course, looks like wonderful dessert [laughter], wine. Wine, and all the rest. And then, right at the moment when the eating was coming to its logical conclusion, they all got up and left and went to the bathroom at the same time. And they never came back. [laughter] And I'm the guy stuck with the bill!
Well, I'm not complaining about it because that's the job I asked for. I knew we were in bad shape when I ran for this job. I didn't know it was this bad [laughter], but I knew we were in bad shape. And so, you know, I told people. "It's going to be painful. It's going to be difficult. But the sacrifices will be shared by everyone. And we're going to dig out of this hole together. And when we do, we're going to feel great about ourselves as a state again."
And I think if the President of the United States would just have the guts to stand up and say to the people of this country, "Listen, we're in a big big fix. And everybody's going to have to pitch in to help. But I'm gonna make sure it's fair to everybody and make it consistent with principles that are American principles, and I'm going to work with the Republicans to make sure that we do it together," I think that's the kind of leadership we're lookin' for. I doubt he can provide it. I hope there's someone out there who will. Because that's what we need right now and that's what's exportable from New Jersey, I think.
Yes, sir. Right there.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Governor, how does it feel [inaudible]
CHRISTIE: Well, it is, it is … all the things I've talked to you about tonight, are merely the prelude to the biggest fight. And the biggest fight is to reform an education system that is built for the comfort of adults not for the challenge of children.
And it's built that way because we have tenure system that says after three years and a day, you have a job for life. And that there's no accountability for how well you're doin' your job or how poorly. I mean, let's face it, everybody. There are only two professions left in America where there are no rewards for failure and no - no rewards for success - and no consequences for failure. Maybe three, if you include Congress. [laughter] But there are only two left: teachers and weathermen. [laughter] Now, with weathermen it usually means an inconvenience, you know? Like you take the umbrella and it doesn't rain, or vice versa. Right? Teacher's a whole different thing. You know, the educational establishment of New Jersey says, "He's too impatient. He's too brusque. He's too blunt." Guess what? I am impatient. 'Cuz my daughter, she only has one year in the third grade. When she's got a lousy teacher up at the front of that classroom, she's behind when she goes to fourth grade. And fifth grade. And sixth grade. And unless she has an extraordinary teacher or I pay for tutors, she's never catchin' up.
Now, we see this in the cities in my state everywhere. In the city of Newark we spend $24,000 per pupil per year. And of the kids who went to the ninth grade this year in Newark, 23% of them will graduate with a high school degree in four years. Twenty-three percent. And of that 23%, 90% of them have to take remedial class work for a year to qualify to sit in a college classroom.
In the city of Asbury Park we spend nearly $30,000 per pupil per year for the public schools. And in the Asbury Park high school less than 50% of the students can do math at an eighth grade level.
My party sometimes thinks I'm crazy talkin' about this, cause they say, "Chris, you've got like 25 votes in Newark. Ya know, what are you spending all this political capital on places that don't vote for you?" What I said to 'em is, "No life is disposable anywhere in New Jersey. No life is disposable." [applause]
So I want to pay teachers more. I want to pay the good ones more. I want to carry 'em on our shoulders to school every day because they're building America's future leaders. But in return I want the lousy ones shown the door. They don't belong in the teaching profession and they're hurting our children. And I don't understand why this is so difficult. It is because we care more about how we're perceived by the teaching profession than we care about the results.
There's nobody in this room who runs a successful business who says, tells an employee after three years and a day --- I'm sure this doesn't happen at Koch Industries --- where they call 'em in after three years and a day and say, "Hey, you have been great for three years and a day, and guess what? You have a job here at Koch Industries for the rest of your life. Congratulations!" Man, they wouldn't be runnin' this thing if they did that. Okay? [laughter]
But this is the way we're running our schools. We need to get rid of tenure. We need to pay people based upon performance. We need to have more charter schools. We need to have educational choice so the children in failing districts and their families, that their future, that their destiny, is not determined by their economic circumstances and their zip code. It's just not right. And so we need to do these things and that's where we head next. We've taken care of the first two big of the big things, at least for the moment, and now the third big thing is we need to take on the teachers' union once and for all and we need to decide, who is determining our children's future? Who is running this place? Them or us? I say it's us, and we've got to go fight to do it now. [applause, cheers, whistling] Thank you. All right. The New Jersey crew in the back is telling me I can take one more question. [scattered laughter] And then I got to go.
Yes, sir. Over here in the corner.
[For the full story on this transcript, see
Part 2 of our exclusive special series at Mother Jones.]