By JAKE FORKEN
Potential Republican 2016 Presidential candidate and current Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, recently exhibited an alarming volume of ineptitude concerning two topical issues: Ebola and the minimum wage. New Jersey, along with Florida, Illinois and New York, unexpectedly implemented a 21-day Ebola quarantine period, affecting health care workers returning to the United States after treating patients in Africa. In regards to the minimum wage, in a speech directed to the Chamber of Commerce, Christie declared that he’s, “tired of hearing about the minimum wage.” Christie’s Ebola policy is counterproductive and founded principally in politics rather than science, while his remarks on the minimum wage are irresponsible and stand in stark contrast to his position as a representative tasked with the obligation of considering public debate and crafting policy.
Christie’s Ebola strategy is detrimental to fighting the disease in that mandatory quarantine periods potentially deter health care workers from traveling abroad to treat patients and assist in containing the disease. The American College of Physicians released a statement rejecting the practice of quarantining health care works, stating, “Mandatory quarantines may do more harm than good by creating additional barriers to effective treatment of patients with Ebola and impede global efforts to contain and ultimately prevent further spread of the disease.”
Experts from the National Institutes of Health, including head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have proclaimed that the evidence suggests those not showing symptoms upon arrival to the United States portray no threat to spreading Ebola. Nevertheless, Kaci Hickox, who treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, was still quarantined against her will in New Jersey, despite twice testing negative for the disease.
After threatening legal action, Hickox was released from quarantine in New Jersey, to which Christie defended his policy, maintaining, “I didn’t reverse my decision. She hadn’t had any symptoms for 24 hours. And she tested negative for Ebola. So there was no reason to keep her.”
If Christie determines that a 24 hour quarantine period is sufficient to evaluate an individual, then why implement the three-week policy in the first place? Furthermore, how can Christie contend that he didn’t reverse his policy when 24 hours clearly doesn’t equal three-weeks?
In the above quote, Christie directly contradicts his proposal that a 21 day isolation period is necessary to safely assess health care workers. Instead of listening to the scientists and experts, Christie opted to appeal to the irrational fear of Americans concerning Ebola, which ironically threatens the actual safety of Americans by disincentivizing health care workers to contain the disease at its’ source.
Moving on to the minimum wage debacle.
Christie promptly followed his announcement that he was tired of hearing about the minimum wage with, “I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.’”
Well, Christie may be correct about the lack of parental discussion, as, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, currently around half of the workers earning the minimum wage are at least 25 years of age. Additionally, FiveThirtyEight reports that about 4.5 million parents are raising a family while earning less than $10.10 an hour (generally the proposed new minimum wage).
If there’s anyone not tired of hearing about the minimum wage, it’s the people of New Jersey themselves. After Christie vetoed a minimum wage bill last year, Democrats in the New Jersey legislature placed the measure on a ballot, on which New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved a Constitutional amendment to set the state minimum wage with annual cost of living increases.
While studies on the economic feasibility of increasing the minimum wage are oftentimes inconsistent, the debate still squarely exists within the public arena despite Christie’s feelings towards the subject. For a Governor and potential Presidential candidate to claim that he’s tiring of a significant public discussion is simply unacceptable.
Christie continued to reason that what Americans want is not an increase in the minimum wage, but instead economic growth. The Governor must surely realize that the two are not incompatible.
The Congressional Budget Office released a report earlier this year detailing the effects of a minimum wage increase, claiming that although anywhere from a negligible amount to one million people may lose employment, real income would increase by two billion dollars, largely benefitting the lower and middle classes.
On the minimum wage, Christie’s stance is not only feeble, but also at odds with the people of his state and with the general duties of public office. On Ebola, Christie places potential political gain before science and ahead of a genuine effort in combating the disease. If the Governor plans to run in 2016, he would be well advised to begin listening to the scientists on health care issues as well as to ready himself to hear a whole lot more about the minimum wage.