Does Charlie Crist Have Stomach for the Game?
Around the State
Wonder why Charlie Crist isn't in the game yet? Picture a Little League ballfield.
Charlie's the kid on deck, the Mudcats' only home-run threat.
And he's next.
The pitcher, the fans, the teams -- everybody is waiting.
Is Charlie scared? Doubtful. In this league, he's a veteran.
Charlie's problem is, he doesn't want to be here. He lacks motivation. He should have been promoted to the senior division by now, but he's still here.
Apathetic, a little disgruntled even, he looks out at the bald-headed skinny kid on the mound who still has fire in his eyes and better "stuff" than he'd been led to believe. Gotta get in the game, he's thinking, gotta suck it up and get in the game ...
You can understand it. The game Charlie Crist has been watching from dugout looks like this:
The economic and business climate in Florida is, and has been, improving steadily. In just the last three years, more than 2,600 regulations have been eliminated. Taxes on families and businesses have been cut more than 25 times. The state’s debt has been paid down by $3.6 billion. Yes, that's billion, with a “B.” Florida has paid back to the federal treasury $3.5 billion in unemployment insurance, and now has a $1.5 billion “rainy day” fund.
No wonder Charlie, whose tenure in the governor's mansion even Politifact admits produced a state-debt increase of $3.4 billion, might be a little hesitant to dash up to the plate.
Then there's jobs. Since the skeletal pitcher has taken the mound, the unemployment rate has dropped from 11.1 percent to 7 percent -- and that's below the national average.
The rest of the Mudcats are telling Charlie to blow off that Rick Scott kid's stats. If anybody has improved the game, it's the Big Guy. All the successes, all the economic recovery in Florida belongs to one national figure -- President Barack Obama.
But Charlie will have a problem making that logic work, as well -- and it's not just because Florida's unemployment rate was over 11 percent in December 2010, the month before he left the governor’s mansion. It's because so many other states under Democratic leadership, including the president's own home state of Illinois, have such bad jobless numbers.
National statistics show that between December 2006 and December 2010, Illinois suffered a 5 percentage-point jump in its unemployment rate. Since then, Illinois Democratic leadership has only managed to ease that pain by 0.3 percent.
The point here is this: Prairie State Dems have had four years to put smart policy decisions in place and revive their economy; yet, there Illinois sits with a 9.2 percent rate, 49th in the nation in unemployment recovery.
How about Kentucky, with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear? The Bluegrass State is looking at an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent, its residents are saddled with a 6 percent state income tax and it has the third highest state debt as a percentage of gross domestic product.
So, Charlie's problem is this: If President Obama is the guy who fixed Florida, how come his recovery policies didn't fix Illinois, Kentucky and more than a dozen Democratic-led states including California (46th in unemployment recovery at 8.9 percent), Michigan (47th at 9 percent), and Rhode Island (48th at 9.1 percent)? Isn't Obama their president, too?
Tough game, this one, even for Charlie, a player who once found winning easy. Ready or not, the best hope for the Mudcats had better brace himself and inch back a little from the plate. As Jeff Henderson writes in today's top story in Sunshine State News, he's going to face some high-and-tight heat.
Reach Nancy Smith at sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.