Can Chris Christie come back?

“First off, we have an opportunity inequality problem now,” Christie said. (He said it in a way that “opportunity inequality” seems likely to be a staple of a Christie economic program.) “In the Obama years, I think you’ve had no attention paid to the things that create economic growth, like a flatter, simpler tax system. We’re not investing in the things that help to grow the economy either, not just in tax cuts but in research and development and other issues that the government has played a role in over time to help to spur private sector economic growth. We haven’t been doing any of that.”

“That’s why I gave a speech on entitlements,” Christie continued, “because when 71 percent of federal spending surrounds those issues, you cannot be able to deal with all the other issues that we have to deal with to help the economy grow.”

But is entitlement reform really the most direct way to help Americans who have seen their income go down, even during a purported “recovery”? Suffering from deep economic anxieties, are they going to respond positively to a proposal to raise the retirement age and means-test Social Security? Why did Christie roll out his entitlement plan first?

“It’s just one of the ways [to help],” Christie said. “It’s the first speech.”

But he chose to do it first. Why?

“Because it’s 71 percent of federal spending,” Christie answered. “You have no business talking about the other 29 percent if you’re not going to address the 71 percent in detail. The fact is that it is eating away the tax base of this country. And that, combined with anemic economic growth, is a deadly combination. So I made the decision to deal with it first because I believe if you don’t address that issue, it will eat you alive.”

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