Vive les Vacances

Vive les Vacances

Deborah M. Figart, Ph.D.

It is May. With approaching Memorial Day signifying the unofficial start of summer, it means planning a summer vacation. Or does it?

I read with interest a recent column by my colleague, Joe Molineaux, Director of the Small Business Development Center at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey: “Business owners can profit from taking a vacation.”

Vacation is an English word derived from old French. But Americans are not acting like the French when it comes to vacations.

If we think that Americans even have much vacation time, the National Compensation Survey (NCS) – Benefits Program by the U.S. Department of Labor reveals otherwise. The NCS provides information on the availability, costs, and usage of employee benefits, including holidays and vacations, sick leave, health and life insurance, and retirement plans. The latest data from the 2012 indicates that 77% of workers in the broad survey of private and public employers had access to paid vacation. On average, workers with at least 1 year of service received 10 days of paid vacation in 2012.

Ten days of paid vacation (2 weeks) is low by European standards. The Working Time Directive of the Commission of the European Union (EU) guarantees twice as much—4 weeks or 20 days. Europeans are typically “on holiday” for the entire month of August. A 2013 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research arrays the paid vacation days for employees across 21 developed industrial (OECD) countries (see Table 1). The United States and Japan are the “work horses” of the world with only 10 paid vacation days. At the other end of the spectrum, France has 30 days and the United Kingdom has 28.

Since Americans average only two weeks of paid vacation, you might think we are using it. Think again.’s 13th annual Vacation Deprivation study reveals that we are leaving 577,212,000 vacation days on the table unused, about 30% of our total days. Another Glassdoor survey from the first quarter of 2014 finds that Americans are only taking about half of their vacation or paid time off.

This get back to Joe Molineaux’s dispatch to entrepreneurs: take time to recharge those batteries. If workers are hanging around because their bosses are loath to leave the workplace, then it’s up to the bosses to set an example. This means small business entrepreneurs, CEOs, managers of medium- and large-size companies, non-profit organization directors, state and municipal leaders, and even the President of the United States. Psychologists agree: take your vacation.

Being at or near the top of the world’s list of workaholics is not an occasion to chant “We’re #1.” Instead, embrace your inner French: Vive les Vacances.

Opinion: Is Gov. Christie Headed for a Political Comeback or Catastrophe?

Opinion: Is Gov. Christie Headed for a Political Comeback or Catastrophe?

Carl Golden | April 22, 2014

Presidents Nixon and Clinton offer some very useful examples on how to manage through a crisis — and how not to

carl golden

Most political scandals ultimately come down to a public relations war.  Bridgegate — the uproar over closing access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last September — is headed in the same direction.

A little history:

In 1998, when President Bill Clinton was caught in an Oval Office dalliance with a woman barely older than his daughter, he lied about it for months. His strategy was to convince the American people that his misbehavior was a personal matter between him and his wife and did not impact his ability to continue as president.  He adopted a tough-it-out approach, gambling that while people would find his conduct distasteful, they’d eventually agree that it was a family issue and not sufficiently egregious to drive him from office.

Clinton rode out the storm, finished his second term, embarked on a lucrative after-office lecture circuit, and rehabbed himself into a revered party figure in great demand as a fundraiser and campaigner.

Twenty-six years earlier, President Richard Nixon spent more than two years trying to ride out the storm of Watergate with a public relations offensive that insisted he knew nothing about what a gang of rogue operatives working in his re-election campaign had done.  His strategy ranged from the dismissive (Watergate was “a second rate burglary.”) to ridicule (He didn’t intend to “wallow in Watergate.”).  None of it worked. Slightly more than two years later he resigned from office and — like Clinton — took up writing books and giving speeches.

Clinton’s affair with an intern was remarkably stupid and publicly embarrassing, but it did not measure up to Watergate with its repeated lawbreaking and obstruction of justice.

The common thread was the effort to convince the American people to look past each president’s conduct and forgive him for it.  It worked for Clinton, whose party rallied to him; it didn’t for Nixon, whose most fervent supporters deserted him.

The Christie administration’s strategy for dealing with Bridgegate is similar: Ride out the storm, maintain political support, strive to bend the public debate toward other issues and areas of concern to taxpayers, discredit the legislative investigation as a politically drenched attempt to embarrass him, and — most crucial of all — continue to drive the narrative that he was unaware of the misconduct of his subordinates and that not a shred of evidence has been produced to disprove that.

The recent suggestion by Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick that the Republican members of the select investigating committee may resign en masse is the next logical step in furthering this strategy.

Bramnick claimed that he and his party colleagues were being ignored by the Democratic majority and that the committee’s work had deteriorated into a partisan campaign to besmirch Christie — and an expensive one at that.  Republicans, he said, agreed to the committee’s creation and to serve on it in good faith but after two months of testimony and examination of documents, little progress had been made and it was time to cede control of the investigation to the U. S. Attorney.

Had it not been for the original Assembly Transportation Committee hearings, though, the scandal and the intimate involvement of top Christie staffers would not have been uncovered.  Since then, the committee has been stymied, and even its strongest supporters will privately admit there’s been little of note revealed.

The committee’s effort to obtain emails from former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly and Christie confidant Bill Stepien — two central figures in the scandal — was unsuccessful when a Superior Court Judge ruled the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination covered the requested documents.   The committee’s failure to appeal the decision has produced speculation that the Democrats fear a higher court upholding the ruling would be devastating and encourage anyone else it wished to subpoena to assert the same Constitutional protection.

There has been a reluctance to offer immunity to prospective witnesses out of a concern that such a move could complicate and potentially undercut the inquiry underway by the U. S. Attorney’s office.

Even the documents demanded by the committee from Randy Mastro, head of the outside attorney group hired by the administration to determine what level of involvement existed in the executive office, turned out to be of little value.

Aside from some rather colorful email and personal exchanges among staffers, the documents, consisting of notes and memos rather than official interview transcripts, shed no light on the question of responsibility.  While the Mastro report exonerated the governor and his staff, it was almost universally panned as one in which conclusions were reached first followed by an investigation to support them.

Unable to compel the production of documents while holding cartons of essentially worthless papers and memos, along with the legal complications inherent in granting immunity, leaves the committee with little to continue to attract media and public interest.  Any witnesses it calls will most certainly follow the Kelly/Stepien precedent and refuse to testify.

In contrast, the Watergate scandal was kept alive for more than two years because many individuals — including a high-ranking official of the FBI — were willing to talk . . . and talk . . . and talk, leading to new and more sensational front page revelations on a regular basis.  It was precisely the opposite of what’s occurring with respect to Bridgegate.

Also troubling for the committee was the comment by Senate President Steve Sweeney that, having lost its court challenge to Kelly and Stepien, the committee should consider disbanding in favor of the federal probe.  While Sweeney quickly retreated publicly, there is no reason to believe he’s changed his mind or that, in private, he’s not urging his view on others in his party caucus.

The committee cochairs have said more subpoenas will be issued in a few weeks, possibly ones drawn more narrowly as the court suggested to avoid a “fishing expedition” defense.  Documents may or may not be revealing, but in-person testimony under oath and without immunity is out of the question.

In the meantime, the governor is bounding around the state, conducting town hall meetings where he plays to packed houses and the media, cutting ribbons, delivering speeches, raising money, and doing what he clearly relishes — berating Democrats for repeatedly failing to act on property tax relief.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, in an unfathomable public relations blunder, refused to move on legislation to continue a two percent cap on salary arbitration awards to police and firefighters, allowing the law to expire, and handing Christie a club to bludgeon legislative Democrats while surrounded by a few hundred cheerleading local officials.

The governor’s standing in various polls has crept slowly upward, although remaining in negative territory in several categories, and the investigation by the U. S. Attorney is still ongoing.   Both are matters of concern for him.

The legislative committee is seemingly stymied at the moment and in need of a jumpstart of some kind to pique interest.  Investigations like this need fresh developments and new revelations the way the rest of us need oxygen.

Moreover, if the Republican members make good on their threat to remove themselves and if a handful of Democrats accept Sweeney’s reasoning, the committee’s future is dim, indeed.

The administration has not been immune from its own public relations blunders, most notably the gratuitous insults and personal invective poured on Kelly in the Mastro report. The missteps portrayed an administration confused and uncoordinated, fanning the controversy rather than dousing it. It’s managed, though, to largely move past them and, at this point, is approaching a standoff with the committee.

The tough it out strategy has made inroads.  Christie and his allies hope it turns out like it did for the 42nd president, not the 37th.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Financial Literacy Month: How Capable Are We?

Financial Literacy Month: How Capable Are We?

Deborah M. Figart, Ph.D.

Special months can be designated by U.S. presidential proclamation. For example, February is Black History Month. March is Women’s History Month. June is Caribbean-American Heritage Month and Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

In 2011, President Barak Obama declared April as National Financial Literacy Month. Four years later, like the many other special proclaimed weeks and months, it has stuck. April—the month that our income tax forms are due—is financial literacy month. In 2014, the United States Conference of Mayors joined the cause, declaring April 2014 to be their DollarWise Month.

Do we really need a month to focus on financial literacy? According to findings from national surveys, we do. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation piloted the first-ever National Financial Capability Study in 2009, and has updated the findings in 2012. The most recent results are startling: 36% of individuals surveyed spend all of their income, and 19% spend more than they earn. Only 40% of persons had access to a “rainy day” fund, a reserve of several months of expenses to carry them through a spell of unemployment or unexpected emergencies.

Compared to other industrialized countries with whom we increasingly do business, we have the lowest personal savings rates. According the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the household net savings rate in the U.S. was 3.9%. Switzerland’s was 13.1%. Sweden and Australia were 10.9% and 10.0% respectively. The EU average was 7.8%, double the U.S.

It may not be surprising to find that Americans are not the greatest savers. We’re not very good managing debt, either. Because of compound interest, paying the minimum amount on a credit card bill can keep one indebted for a long time. Yet 34% of FINRA’s survey respondents paid just the minimum. And 6 out of 10 did not shop around to compare credit card offers, annual fees, interest rates, and other policies.

The financial behavior of those who live in New Jersey, a high-income and high-expense state, are more encouraging. (FINRA now actually conducts state-by-state studies and a military survey, as well as the national survey.) Fewer New Jerseyans spend more than their income. They also save more in rainy day funds, are more likely to pay their credit card bills in full, and are less burdened by have less outstanding medical debt. Yet when it came to answering five knowledge questions covering aspects of economics and finance encountered in everyday life: (1) compound interest, (2) inflation, (3) principles relating to risk and diversification, (4) the relationship between bond prices and interest rates, and (5) the impact that a shorter loan term can have on total interest payments over the life of a mortgage, New Jerseyans did worse than the national average. So there is still room for improvement in our financial literacy.

A Buy-Now-Pay-Later culture has fueled a U.S. consumption binge for the last 50 years of the twentieth century. This consumerism sustained several decades of prosperity and economic growth—and seemed manageable when we were buying products that we ourselves produced. Spending on goods “made in the USA”, at least, allowed money to circulate domestically and increase family incomes.

Though our financial knowledge and behaviors seem to be wanting in the twenty-first century, they are affected by our circumstances. We still are recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Survey answers reveal that in a typical month, 42% find it “difficult” to make ends meet, that is, cover expenses and pay all the bills. Another 16% find it “very difficult.” Medical debt, one of the chief causes of personal bankruptcy, is a major reason. Roughly three out of ten individuals face outstanding bills from a hospital, doctor’s office, or testing lab. And 54% of adult respondents with student loans have concerns about their student loan debt, which has been rising at the same time that a college degree has become more important for economic survival. Financial education can help, but it can’t solve all of these problems.

A 2013 Junior Achievement survey about teens and personal finances suggests that this dismal economic news is having an impact. Today’s teens don’t anticipate achieving financial independence from their parents until their mid-20s or even later. And 52% recognize that students are borrowing too much for college. Teens’ cautiousness about their financial future compared to their parents’ and grandparents’ generations may be the silver lining in this story. Financial Capability studies in ten years may show improvement.




Holes in the Airspace, Holes in our Infrastructure – Deborah M. Figart, Ph.D.

Holes in the Airspace, Holes in our Infrastructure

Deborah M. Figart, Ph.D., Professor of Education and Economics, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

With globalization, we thought the world was shrinking until the reality set in that a valuable and expensive asset, a Boeing 777 from Malaysia Airways, along with human beings can go missing from the skies. Why is it that Global Positioning Systems software (GPS) can track our children through their cell phones but we cannot instantaneously determine where a large jumbo jet is in the sky? Because air traffic control technology is over 70 years old.

Air traffic control uses ground-based radar (short for radio detection and ranging) to track the location of airplanes on the ground and in airspace. It is more precisely a transponder on a plane that broadcasts data through radio waves to the ground. While advances have improved accuracy, airplanes could still be hundreds of miles off from the sophisticated triangulation. (My apologies to scientists and engineers for this amateur explanation of radar.)

The United States is taking the lead in working on a new generation of satellite-based air traffic control system. The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) was authorized by Congress in the Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act of 2003. NextGen is expected in phases and seeks to fully provide the new system by 2025. It is a huge undertaking coordinated by the national Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Galloway Township, NJ, serving as the main facility supporting the research and testing for NextGen.

NextGen is one of the largest investments in infrastructure in U.S. history, totaling billions of dollars. The investment has been plagued by delays and difficulties, according to the U.S. General Accountability Office and the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General. At times, this bipartisan program has suffered from spending cuts or threats of spending cuts. This is not how to treat an investment project with such enormous potential.

When governments take leadership in investing in infrastructure, significant scientific advances can exert positive externalities and well-being throughout the globe. Witness the Netherlands and dike and floodgate construction. Or Germany’s national highway system. And the United States’ exploration of space. A similar high priority should be accorded to NextGen.

In fact, with our economy remaining relatively anemic, we should accelerate the NextGen timetable. In addition to making our skies safer, every dollar we spend will generate jobs, income, and technical expertise—all of which can help the private sector. People with jobs and income spend money. The knowledge gained from investments in scientific and technical projects can be translated into applications we have yet to imagine.

Sweeney Serves as Legislator-in-Residence At Stockton’s Hughes Center for Public Policy

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Sweeney Serves as Legislator-in-Residence At Stockton’s Hughes Center for Public Policy

For Immediate Release; with photos, captions on flickr

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Contact:         Maryjane Briant, News and Media Relations Director                              Galloway Township, NJ 08205                                        (609) 652-4593

Galloway, NJ – New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney completed two days as Legislator-in-Residence for the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton College.

The Legislator-in-Residence program is designed to bring New Jersey lawmakers to Stockton to engage with the students and faculty and to share their experiences as legislators.

“This was a great experience for me,” said Sen. Sweeney (D-3rd). “I already knew that Stockton College is a great school that provides a first-rate education and this gave me the opportunity to see it firsthand. I was able to interact with students, professors and school administrators, which gave us the opportunity to discuss issues of importance to us all, from Sandy recovery to college affordability, the needs of South Jersey, jobs and the economy.

“I want students to be able to continue to afford a college education and I want them to graduate into an economy that offers them goods jobs and a prosperous future. Everyone at Stockton wants that as well,” he said.

Sen. Sweeney spoke with students in the Introduction to Public Policy class with Dr. Michael Rodriguez, associate professor of Political Science, members of the Student Senate and other student leaders.

Sweeney also participated in discussions with Stockton experts including Dr. Stewart Farrell and Steven Howard of the Coastal Research Center; Dr. Darryl Greer of the Higher Education Strategic Information and Governance (HESIG) program; Dr. Israel Posner of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming Hospitality and Tourism (LIGHT); John Froonjian of the Stockton Polling Institute; and Sharon Schulman, CEO of External Affairs and Institutional Research for Stockton College.

Over the course of the program, the Hughes Center invites both Republicans and Democrats, and State Senators and members of the General Assembly.

Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald (D-6th) was the Hughes Center’s first Legislator-in-Residence. Other legislators to serve include: Sen. Chris Connors (R-9th), New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34th), Assemblyman David Wolfe (R-10th) and Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (R-9th). Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2nd) will be the Legislator-in-Residence for the Fall 2014 semester.

About the Hughes Center The William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy ( at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey serves as a catalyst for research, analysis and innovative policy solutions on the economic, social and cultural issues facing New Jersey. The Center is named for William J. Hughes, whose distinguished career includes service in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ambassador to Panama and as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Stockton College. The Hughes Center can be found on Facebook at and can be followed on Twitter @hughescenter.

Lamenting the fate of newspapers: Opinion

                    The Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest daily newspaper, said Thursday it is cutting 170 jobs, including 25 percent of the newsroom staff.                                             (Frances Micklow/The Star-Ledger)

By Carl Golden

First jobs — like first loves — are the ones most often and fondly remembered. Showing up in an office or a factory floor or behind a sales counter — nervous, a little scared — is recalled years later with affection and more than a little sentimentality.

It was a seminal moment of life, the passage from adolescence into the adult world. It was the start of accepting responsibility, answering for your own actions, and a fuller understanding that you controlled your future.

Mine was the newspaper business. When I walked into the newsroom of the Easton (Pa.) Express — a 17-year-old kid who’d graduated high school five days before — I knew this was where I belonged.

It was a cacophony of ringing telephones, shouted questions and orders, the clacking keys of dozens of typewriters, the hammering of teletype machines. Clouds of cigarette smoke clung to a ceiling permanently stained a sickly yellow by absorbing years of fumes. Empty coffee cartons and newspapers littered the floor. Beat-up wooden desks were shoved into a more or less orderly setup.

It was an electric atmosphere, so viscerally compelling that the tingling I felt then returns today, more than 50 years later, when I recall it.

It is, then, sad to witness the steady decline of newspapers, shoved closer to oblivion by the satanic machine I’m sitting in front of at this moment.

Another hammer blow fell last week when The Star-Ledger announced a 25 percent reduction in its newsroom staff — 40 reporters, editors, photographers and other staffers — and a consolidation of its operations to serve its print outlets and online sites.

The Ledger was on track to lose $19 million this year and is by no means the only paper clinging to existence. Shutdowns, layoffs, scaled-back publication schedules and labor concessions have become common occurrences industry-wide.

Paid circulation continues a downward spiral as consumers of news turn increasingly to the array of internet outlets, blogs, commentaries and opinion pieces available at the touch of a button. Advertising dollars have followed readers to the computer screen.

I spent 11 years in the newspaper business, first at the Easton Express and later at the Newark News, a proud and influential paper driven out of business in 1972 by mismanagement, a labor dispute and subsequent sale to a media company that had no intention of rescuing it.

Print journalism has been victimized like so many other seemingly invincible businesses by a competitive force it failed to foresee and fully appreciate and which fell upon it so rapidly and with such impact that recovery is problematic.

Those critics who claim insight but lack it tie the downfall of newspapers to an ideological bias, one that favors liberalism and a partisan left-wing agenda.

It is an absurd argument, ignoring the long history of newspapers thriving, their financial success growing steadily, while their editorial pages reflected a decided political tilt, left or right. They’ve been driven to the financial brink by turbulent market forces, dramatically changing reader habits and advertising dollars fleeing to other outlets.

Purchasers of space in newspapers to sell cars, houses or women’s foundation garments cared not whether the paper endorsed one candidate or another or supported a political agenda. It was good business. Now, other forms have become better and their money more wisely invested.

When I put my reporter’s career behind me, I did so with great regret. It was an exciting, fascinating, exhilarating life. In my basement, there are cardboard boxes containing scrapbooks filled with clips of stories I’d written in my years at two papers. They’re yellowed and crumbled at the edges, but dumping them into a recycling bin is unthinkable.

The late Tim Russert, an extraordinary newspaper and television reporter, once remarked to a colleague about their shared profession: “It’s great, isn’t it? And, tomorrow we get to do it all over again.”

For those reporters at The Star-Ledger and their colleagues throughout the business, I hope they get to enjoy their tomorrows. Like I did.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Opinion: A culture of political retribution?

Opinion: A culture of political retribution?

April 4, 2014, 4:05 PM    Last updated: Friday, April 4, 2014, 4:05 PM
The Record
Governor Christie

Governor Christie

Carl Golden, a press aide to former Govs. Tom Kean and Christie Whitman, is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

AS GOVERNOR Christie struggles to pull himself out from under the dark cloud of Bridgegate, attention has turned to one of the several tangential elements of the scandal: Did the administration create and nurture a culture in which political retribution was not only encouraged but celebrated?

The governor established his administration’s kick-’em-when-they’re-down-and-hit’em-when-they-try-to-get-up tone early on by laying into the leadership of the New Jersey Education Association, characterizing them as a greedy cadre of people whose only interest was in winning higher salaries and more favorable fringe benefits for their members at taxpayer expense.

He returned to the theme time and again and expanded it to include public employee unions, citing them as primarily responsible for high state and local taxes. He took on everybody and seemingly relished his public brawls with legislators, school administrators, bureaucrats, independent authorities, local officials and reporters.

He made frequent use of jokes and sarcasm to put down opponents and to dismiss pertinent and legitimate questions on policy matters.

Signature criticism

His liberal use of the term “idiot” to describe critics or those with whom he had lost patience quickly became his signature. He bluntly challenged those he felt asked impertinent questions, and who can forget the great ice-cream-cone confrontation on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, a situation which could have turned ugly, indeed, if not for the intercession of his staff and security detail.

He was brash and straightforward, and his what-you-see-is-what-you-get personality won national recognition for him. He referred repeatedly to his “Jersey attitude,” a mindset that warned opponents that if they pushed with one hand, he’d push back with both hands.

The attention he attracted and the acclaim he drew as a refreshing politician unafraid of butting heads or throwing rhetorical haymakers was not lost on those who surrounded him.

The swagger, the supreme self-confidence, the willingness to defy accepted political protocol created a lasting impression. Some who accompanied him to Trenton following his 2009 election and others who joined later took their cue from the man they served.

A largely inexperienced, politically immature individual thrust into such a politically charged environment and given a position of considerable responsibility can easily assume a self- importance dangerously out of proportion to reality. It is a seductive and bedazzling atmosphere. It is being admitted to an inner circle shared by few others, creating the belief that the rules governing the behavior of others don’t apply here; it is behavior that is an expected part of an elevated status and immune from repercussion.

Kelly’s role

Bridget Anne Kelly, who stands accused of setting in motion the chain of events now known as Bridgegate, seems to fit that profile.

If the internal review carried out by the administration-retained attorneys is to be believed, she and she alone abused the power of her position as the governor’s deputy chief of staff to order the closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, creating a massive traffic jam and eventually exploding into a major scandal that has inflicted severe damage on Christie’s reputation and standing, nationally as well as in New Jersey.

Given her steadfast refusal to talk publicly about her role and her assertion of her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, her motives and any doubts she may have had about her involvement in the lane closures remain unknown.

Did she, for instance, simply carry out orders from her superiors despite her misgivings or, as the investigative report contends, concoct the scheme on her own and conspire to carry it out with David Wildstein, a Christie-approved high-level staffer at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

A willing participant

The email communications between Kelly and Wildstein certainly suggest she was a willing participant, but was her eagerness reflective of an intrinsic culture in which meting out punishment to perceived political enemies was routine and accepted?

Or was she a rogue underling embarking on an ego-driven power trip in an effort to prove her political sagacity and impress those around her? Her “time for some traffic troubles in Fort Lee” email to Wildstein, for instance, and her snarky observations about the plight of people stuck for hours in the bridge traffic smacks of the worst sort of self-absorbed arrogance.

There is no doubt any more that seeking political advantage was a constant concern in the Christie administration, particularly as he ramped up his reelection effort in 2013.

A historic victory was the goal, one which proved beyond question that Christie was a Republican who could appeal across party, ethnic and gender lines and achieve a resounding victory in a normally heavily Democratic state. It was designed as well to elevate him to the top tier of potential Republican presidential candidates in 2016.

Toward that end, the campaign undertook a major offensive to gather as many endorsements from Democratic leaders — local mayors, legislators, county officials — as possible. Establishing a good working relationship with the governor’s office could pay handsome dividends in the future for them and an endorsement statement was a relatively easy call, particularly since the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate was written off from the outset.

Conversely, a refusal to support the governor could result in some level of punishment and, with the many weapons at the governor’s disposal, retribution could take the form of withholding state aid, delaying action on urgent requests, or seeing to it that the paperwork approving an appointment to a job disappeared in the bureaucracy.

Sending a message to the mayor of Fort Lee that his refusal to join his party colleagues in endorsing the governor fits easily into a payback mindset.

While the credibility of the investigators’ report has been, and will continue to be, called into question, its finding that Kelly was singularly responsible for the traffic tie-up and that there was no evidence uncovered that Christie or others on his staff possessed pre-knowledge of the closure scheme, has been put to effective use by the governor as an objective exoneration of him and his administration.

The cost of the scandal

The scandal has cost Christie dearly, however. He has suffered steep declines in polls in virtually every category of job performance, trustworthiness, honesty and leadership. He’s no longer atop the list of potential Republican presidential candidates, having fallen into third or fourth place in preference polls.

Kelly has paid an even greater price, publicly vilified by Christie as a lying and stupid betrayer of his confidence, not to mention the humiliation she’s suffered by the exposure of her private life in embarrassing, unflattering terms in the investigative report.

It is a fearsome cost, indeed, if her actions were those of someone caught up in a culture not of her own making but one which captured her with its illusions of power and political immortality.

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