NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Gov. Chris Christie said the country is becoming a “paternalistic entitlement society” this morning in a speech at a conservative conference headed by former President George W. Bush.
Addressing Bush and other national Republicans, Christie said he hasn’t seen a less optimistic period in the country in his lifetime.
“Government’s telling them stop dreaming, stop striving, we’ll take care of you,” he said at a theater at the New York Historical Society. “We’re turning into a paternalistic entitlement society. That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally.”
“We’ll have a bunch of people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check,” Christie said.
Christie and Bush kicked off a day-long conference on pro-growth tax policy run by the President George W. Bush Institute, a group that Bush said allows him to engage in public policy issues behind the scenes.
Speakers throughout the day include Steve Forbes, Congressman Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and several governors. In addition to Bush, Henry Kissinger was in the audience for Christie’s 30-minute speech.
Bush said the topic of the conference is how to grow the private sector. He introduced Christie by complimenting his “enormous personality” and “belief in the individual,” saying even Texans had taken note of the governor.
“We admire the courageous stance you take,” said Bush, who nominated Christie to be U.S. Attorney.
“I was a proud member of the Bush administration for seven years,” Christie said, later adding that Bush “inspired a whole new generation of conservative Republican leaders.”
Christie spent much of his speech recapping his first two budgets, pension and health benefit overhaul for public workers, and the 2 percent cap on property taxes, stressing bipartisanship but also touting his ability to stick to his principles.
“We developed relationships with the other side of the aisle that allowed them to trust us. And that doesn’t happen overnight,” Christie said. “Day after day after day you have to sit with our colleagues and convince them of the goodness of your spirit and of the understanding that compromise is not a dirty word.”
He used his veto of the millionaire’s tax and his current pursuit of a 10 percent income tax cut as examples of the type of pro-growth tax policy that Bush referenced. He said the public sector in New Jersey is smaller, while he has created jobs in the private sector.
“If you can do this in New Jersey, you can do it anywhere,” Christie said. “Most importantly you can do it in Washington D.C. What we need again is some leadership that is not going to take no for an answer.”
Though Christie alluded to national politics, he spent most of the speech on New Jersey issues. Neither he nor Bush mentioned President Barack Obama, or the likely Republican presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Christie has endorsed and campaigned for Romney, while Bush has not publicly endorsed any of the GOP candidates.
“I have decided to stay out of the limelight,” Bush said. “I don’t think it’s good, frankly, for our country to undermine the president and I don’t intend to do so. But I do intend to remain involved in areas that I’m interested in.”