Sandy Recovery: Don’t Cut Taxes Now, Governor Christie

Check out my opinion piece on our NYU class’s online publication, Sandy Recovery. I discuss why it’s a bad idea for Governor Chris Christie to cut taxes in NJ at this critical junction.

Also, follow the publication on Twitter! @sandyrecovery12

Sandy Recovery

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Governor Christie should keep fiscally conservative policies in mind to help New Jersey rebuild.

By Sonya Chudgar

When Governor Chris Christie and budget officials in New Jersey sit down to assess Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the state budget, they should keep one point in mind: fiscal conservatism helped Louisiana beat Katrina.

This has little to do with politics. And it might sound contradictory at first.

You don’t need me to tell you that many New Jersey storefronts are still powerless, people homeless, employees jobless, denizens restless and communities faithless.

You might ask how financial conservatism will bring defunct businesses and shattered communities back to life.

Firstly, remember that conservatism does not necessarily mean moderation or opposition to change. It means calculation and deliberation. And if New Jersey follows the example set by Louisiana in 2006, conservatism will not tighten the reigns on the state…

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All the Election Day Coverage You Need

I’m super proud to introduce Election Day 2012, the NYU Business and Economic reporting class’s election day coverage. This online publication looks at several angles of today’s election, from small business and policy to Hurricane Sandy’s effects and unemployment.

As deputy editor of this publication, I was able to help my classmates by giving advice and feedback on their story pitches and edit the stories as they came in. My classmates were on the ground in all five boroughs of New York City, filing stories throughout the day. Their hard work paid off; the Election Day 2012 publication came out in terrific form, and has garnered more than 2,000 hits to date, including about 1,600 on the days surrounding Election Day.

Breakout Brands: An Ironic, Yet Necessary, Concept to Apply to the Election

A PR firm in Coral Gables, Florida, called rbb Public Relations has defined a new concept called “breakout brands,” according to Forbes.

Breakout Brands – brands that “focus on the customer and customer’s needs rather than imitating or downgrading the competition.”

That definition comes straight from rbb CEO Christine Barney. Rbb’s examples include McDonald’s, Apple, Toyota, Exxon, and Caterpillar.

More interesting is how rbb applied its new concept to the presidential election. It surveyed 2,141 adults between Aug. 20–22 and asked them 25 questions about these brands, probing how they interact with the companies. The survey also asked about who they plan to vote for.

Credit: Forbes

Romney supporters’ top five brands were: Walmart, Caterpillar, McDonald’s, ExxonMobil, and UPS.

Obama supporters’ top five brands were: Google, Whole Foods, Volkswagon, Starbucks, and GE.

How ironic that a survey based on a concept “that (doesn’t) try to challenge or attack other brands, but rather stand on their own merits” asks about who you’re voting for. I think we can all agree the presidential election has been nothing if not a schmearfest of inaccurate and often trivial ads and claims (need I point you to Obama’s latest Big Bird ad campaign below?), or in other words, the exact opposite of breakout branding.

According to rbb, three elements define a breakout brand:

  1. It forgets chasing and focuses on leading: “Breakout Brands are companies of all sizes and sometimes are already the owners of the top slot.”
  2. Create the future: “They are original, groundbreaking, and inventive.”
  3. Communication first, second, and third: “Consider how many companies try to promote customer service as a differentiator but are loathe to give out a customer support phone number in favor of pushing online FAQ.”

Neither of our presidential candidates have focused on leading. They’ve focused on attacking the other, as witnessed during their presidential debate last week, and while they believe this is the way to win us over, it’s not. If I wanted to watch little boys fight over who tells more lies, I’d become a kindergarten teacher.

As to creating a future, I also haven’t heard much in terms of specific policy that Obama or Romney is going to offer. I know Romney says he will cut taxes, get rid of PBS, and re-erect the white picket fences of the “Leave it to Beaver” era. I’d like to know what Obama has planned, but when I went to his website to investigate, I was only offered posts explaining why Paul Ryan is a liar:

I thought Obama’s website would tell me his plans for the future, but I was limited to a parade of Romney’s and Ryan’s falsities. As a voter who is trying to be as informed as possible, I’m disappointed and more than a bit insulted that the Obama campaign assumes I’d rather read schmear blog posts than a careful analysis of his policies.

And this sums up how both campaigns have failed to communicate anything valuable to voters.

I love the idea of breakout branding. I think companies that do it well know that good branding does not arise from attacking competitors but rather comparing yourself to them.

Remember Apple’s ad campaign from 2005–2007 with Justin Long? Long acted as a Mac and another actor was a PC. While a dainty piano ditty played in the background, they compared themselves. I don’t think any PC users felt ashamed to own a PC after watching these ads. But they did find out something valuable and informative about Macs. And that was all.

How revolutionary.

Mitt Romney as a Brand: What Does He Stand For?

Credit: Gage Skidmore

Let’s say you have a choice between Tide and Bounty to wash your clothes. You’ve been using Tide for the past four years. It cleans your clothes well enough, but you’d like them to be even cleaner. You’d like the Tide to cost you less tax in the checkout line. You’re thinking about switching to Bounty.

The problem is this: though Tide isn’t accomplishing everything you want it to—nor everything the brand has promised it would do—Bounty has yet to prove it can step up to the plate. Bounty has only enunciated broad descriptions of how it might clean your clothes. Nothing about specific microfiber cleaning. Nothing about smelling floral or fresh. And though Bounty promises its tax will be cheaper in the check-out line, it hasn’t given you an explanation of how this will come to fruition.

So, which do you choose? Bounty or Tide?

It’s the $10,000 question. (Really. Mitt promises to pay up if I’m wrong.) There’s been a lot of debate in the country for the past year about what Mitt Romney stands for. The man himself often seems unsure when it comes to personal beliefs and takes on policy, so it’s no coincidence that the public is equally uncertain.

Nonetheless Romney has solidly worked on building himself as the Republican’s candidate to challenge Obama, and along the way, he’s convinced enough voters in 17 states and counting that he’s the man for the job.

There’s just one problem:

“The case for firing President Obama is really pretty obvious, but the case for hiring Mitt Romney is one that has yet to be made.”

That was Charlie Cook, a political analyst, quoted in a story in Monday’s Wall Street Journal about how Romney does not own the swing states he needs to win.

One constant issue with Romney’s branding throughout this campaign is that he has been unable to shed his wishy-washy persona. A great example of this is how he’s wavered on abortion.

Romney was determinedly pro-choice while governor of Massachusetts. He was quoted saying he turned pro-life while in office, being unable to come down on the side of fetal death. However, he’s also said,

“I’ve always been personally pro-life, but for me, it was a great question about whether or not government should intrude in that decision. And when I ran for office, I said I’d protect the law as it was, which is effectively a pro-choice position.”

He said the above during a 2007 GOP debate. But when he beat out moon man Newt Gingrich and handsy Herman Cain to win the Republican nomination, Romney came down on the side of abortion being equivalent to murder. Women’s choice is out the window, and Roe v. Wade needs to be overturned.

I understand changing your mind on an issue. I understand giving something deep thought, investigating it from different perspectives, and talking to friends and family to understand their thoughts on it.

And while I understand caving to political pressure and reversing your opinion on a significant, controversial topic, I don’t condone it.

If Romney wants to win over those eight swing states, he needs to shape up his game, stop speaking in vague generalizations, and be confident and consistent with his beliefs. Until the branding of Mitt Romney is clear and precise, voters are going to resist dropping Tide and walking Bounty all the way through the check-out line.