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About Today's New York Times Chris Christie Hatchet Job...

1:30 PM, Mar 10, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Well, it was inevitable. Chris Christie was becoming more well-liked by the American people than any GOP politician rightfully should be. Thank goodness the Paper of Record is around to cut him down to size. We wouldn't want him to have a credible chance of running for president and defeating Obama next year, would we?

And so today the New York Times takes to the front page and decides to factcheck Chris Christie -- "Christie’s Talk Is Blunt, but Not Always Straight." Not with any one specific thing in mind, they want to factcheck, you know, his haughty attitude:

New Jersey’s public-sector unions routinely pressure the State Legislature to give them what they fail to win in contract talks. Most government workers pay nothing for health insurance. Concessions by school employees would have prevented any cuts in school programs last year.

Statements like those are at the core of Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign to cut state spending by getting tougher on unions. They are not, however, accurate.

In fact, on the occasions when the Legislature granted the unions new benefits, it was for pensions, which were not subject to collective bargaining — and it has not happened in eight years. In reality, state employees have paid 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health insurance since 2007, in addition to co-payments and deductibles, and since last spring, many local government workers, including teachers, do as well. The few dozen school districts where employees agreed to concessions last year still saw layoffs and cuts in academic programs.

To address the least murky assertion by the Times here, Christie is dishonest for saying public sector union workers pay nothing for their health insurance, when the reality is they've been contributing a whopping 1.5 percent of their salaries since 2007. And let's not forget that they do pay co-payments and deductibles even though those costs are paltry compared to the crushing premium payments made by private sector workers who, by the way, also pay deductibles and co-payments. Maybe the new and relatively tiny amount public workers pay is not literally nothing, but for all intents and purposes, it might as well be.

But wait, there's more:

But in going beyond those facts, the governor sometimes wanders into gray areas. In addition to claims about unions circumventing collective bargaining to “get what they want” from the Legislature, he has frequently said that “there are dozens of states in this country” that do not let public-sector unions bargain collectively (there are, experts said, eight).

According to Josh Barro, "Only 26 states have laws that grant collective-bargaining privileges to substantially all public employees. Twelve have laws that give collective bargaining to some workers, and twelve have no statewide collective-bargaining law at all, though some municipalities may grant bargaining rights in those states." "Dozens" is not necessarily innaccurate.

Of course, the Times is suspiciously short on context from Christie here. But as any rational person paying attention to the union battle in Wisconsin will tell you, limiting the extent of collective bargaining for public sector unions is not an all or nothing battle. Defining the extent of collective bargaining is the crux of the debate for the GOP, not eliminating it altogether. However, you wouldn't know that from reading this piece.

And these are just the two most egregious points in the piece. Most of the other nitpicks are beneath comment. Better luck next time, New York Times.

UPDATE -- A reader writes in to remind me that the NYT's claim that union negotiations were also "adversarial" under Democrats Jon Corzine is a real howler. Here's how the union protests played out under Jon Corzine:

And it led directly to a pivotal moment that came to define the Corzine administration. In June of the governor's first year in office, about 10,000 public employees rallied outside the Statehouse -- on a work day, by the way -- to protest the Sweeney plan, which included such sensible reforms as an end to defined-benefit pension plans for new hires.

As the union members gathered around a giant inflatable rat that was meant to represent Sweeney, the governor took the podium to assure the employees that he would not do a single thing Sweeney suggested. The speech culminated with Corzine proclaiming "We will fight for a fair contract!"

Emphasis mine. "We"? Does that sound like Corzine was representing the interests of the taxpayer against unions?

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