Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 Review: We've Already Lost A Seat

The news that New Jersey is likely to lose a House seat after the 2010 Census has already sent some in the political class talking about what will happen and who will go. From a political standpoint it's rather interesting because, as noted by Wally Edge, it represents the first time since 1972 two incumbent Congressmen could be facing off in either a primary or a general election.

However, as noted by the title, we as a state only really have 12 Congressmen anyway. All one has to do is look at the votes where the entire delegation, Republican and Democratic, voted as a block in 2007 to notice the 12 to Representative Scott Garrett nature of the representation we here in the Fifth are stuck with. These are posts about 21 votes where Garrett was the lone Representative from NJ to vote the way he did:
  1. The Energy Bill - Increasing MPG and investment in alternative forms of energy.
  2. $250,000 for Greenwood Lake - This was the vote Garrett flipped at the behest of The Club for Growth, upholding the President's veto, after voting for the bill twice.
  3. Pledge to President Bush - This isn't really a vote, but Garrett was the only Republican from New Jersey to sign our vote over to the President on vetoed bills. I also wrote about it here.
  4. Train Safety - Garrett was one of 38 to vote against making freight train crossings safer.
  5. Jews & Muslims: Garrett was the only Rep from NJ to vote against funding a Jewish Museum and "stay off" the vote commending Ramadan. The latter was initially said to be a mater of principle, which was shown to be a lie when he voted for the Christmas resolution.
  6. Dog Fighting - This actually happened in December '06, but Garrett was one of 39 Representatives who felt the punishment given to the likes of Michael Vick was strong enough. The bill also outlawed cockfighting blades, used to make those fights more gruesome.
  7. Improving Head Start - Garrett was one of 35 to vote against this.
  8. Popcorn Lung Prevention Act - Odd sounding, but the chemical flavor in microwave popcorn has been linked to an irreversible fatal lung disease.
  9. Rural Housing - These were two votes to assist families living in rural areas to move off Section 8 housing, and expand opportunities of home ownership. Garrett was one of 49 to oppose this.
  10. First time homeowners in the Fifth - This bill reformed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and allowed conforming loans to be made in our District by raising the ceiling on loan limits.
  11. Small Business Owners - These were two votes where Garrett stood alone against those living the American Dream: Ten years of tax cuts for owners and better loan programs from the SBA.
  12. Scholarships and Grants - These bills increased the funding for math and science scholarships and grants for scientists. The combined margin of passage was 786-44.
  13. Hurricane Katrina Victims - Funds to help people rebuild their homes.
  14. Water Quality Investment Act - A bill to prevent flooding like that which slammed New Milford earlier this year.
  15. College Student Loan Relief - A bill lowering the interest rate paid on college student loans by eliminating the corporate profit guarantee for those servicing the loans.
  16. Community Policing - Garrett was one of 39 to vote against restoring funding he had voted to strip over the previous years.
  17. Improved Citizen Access to Information - This was a mega post about accountability and mentioned were Garrett's votes against Presidential accountability and improving the Freedom of Information Act.

This is not an exhaustive list, as many amendments Garrett votes for are not supported by more than a handful of Representatives in the House. That was kind of covered in this piece. Heading into next year, it should be interesting to see what other 12 to Garrett votes we're presented with.

Barring some irresistible news to write about, this is likely the last post on Blog the Fifth for 2007. I want to thank all the readers, folks who link here, and those who e-mail me privately for providing the motivation to keep this thing going.

Those in government must be held accountable for their actions in order for us to have a healthy Republic. I'm glad to do my very small part, and look forward to continuing (perhaps in a larger role) in 2008.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year, be safe, and may those resolutions last at least a month ;-)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Garrett: Top 10 Mass Mailer

People often have asked me how Representative Scott Garrett is so good at getting his message out when he raises so little money to campaign. The AP has provided us with the answer: taxpayer dollars.

While ranking toward the bottom in a number of categories of influence and effectiveness, Garrett is in the top 10 in sending out mass mailings. In the election year of 2006, Garrett sent out 741,971 pieces of mass mail at a cost of $160,795.

The 21 cents per piece places Garrett second only to one other Representative in cost per piece. Actually, the 21 cents to produce his 2 page full color card stock spin pieces (here, here), is a heck of a lot less than a full color campaign piece would cost to print locally.

Add to that the savings from not having to pay postage, and Garrett is definitely using the system to his full benefit. This is one of the benefits of incumbency, no doubt.

Being able to find little nuggets like this is probably why Garrett voted against the House version of improving the Freedom of Information Act. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to tell that not only is Garrett sending out misleading information, but he's spending more than almost everybody to do it.

If Garrett wants to send out spin pieces he should only do that on his campaign's dime, not the taxpayer's.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Aronsohn's Return?

In an interesting Op-Ed published today, Paul Aronsohn repeated almost his entire campaign pitch in the opening paragraphs. One might be led to speculate he may be contemplating a return. If I hear anything, that's not off the record, I'll post it here.

Garrett's Out of District Spending Spree

With President Bush's signing of the massive Omnibus spending bill today, about $10 billion worth of earmarks are now about to be handed out. Of that amount, our Representative Scott Garrett is responsible for $8.77 million (h/t Herb Jackson).

The extremely small amount of earmarks could lead one to believe that Garrett is sticking to his guns about only getting earmarks for the District and opposing everything else. However, as with most things Garrett, appearances are deceiving.

In fact, 70% of Garrett's earmarks appear to be out of District in nature. From military research at undisclosed locations ($6 million) to an earmark for Englewood Hospital, Garrett spread the majority of what little wealth he went after outside of the District.

What's also interesting is Garrett's geographic spread of funding within the District. Here's how the in-District funding broke down:
  1. Sussex: 44%
  2. Warren: 31%
  3. Bergen: 22%
  4. Passaic: 3%

I guess, if Garrett really were trying to represent the District as a whole he would try for a little more population parity. Also, Warren County's numbers are a little distorted by one $750,000 earmark (Garrett's largest non-military) to Centenary College. While I have little doubt of the quality of Centenary or the program there, this points to Garrett's failings as an overall Representative.

Why is it Rep. Steve Rothman had to secure money for Bergen Community College (which is in our District; and serves the population of 60% of our District)? Why didn't Garrett think Warren County Community College, Sussex County Community College or Ramapo College deserved funds?

While sending dollars to the hospital of your birth is usually reserved for an endowment fund out of your personal checkbook, Garrett decided to send $150,000 taxpayer dollars to Englewood. What about hospitals like Valley in Ridgewood, Bergen Regional, Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg or Hackettstown Memorial?

If Garrett, by his own "principles" isn't going to go after earmarked funds, we need to take a hard look at how he goes after the funds he does. It's one thing to say you're against earmarks, it's another thing to say by your funding choices that you're against your own constituents. It's a matter of putting taxpayer dollars where Garrett sees fit, and overwhelmingly that's not in our District.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone who celebrates has a wonderful holiday.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Borrowers Win

The AMT bill without any offsets to prevent further borrowing was passed by a whopping majority. This is a good thing for the taxpayers next year, but a bad thing down the line. It also does nothing to change the fact 120,000 families in our District already pay the AMT. Representative Scott Garrett voted for the patch, and the continuation of our District's disproportionate share of the Federal tax burden.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Garrett and the AMT Standoff

In the four years Representative Scott Garrett served in the Republican majority he never got a single bill he wrote enacted into law. Of particular disappointment to the people I spoke with last year was the AMT and Garrett's inability to prevent people in our District from being forced to pay it.

Right now, 120,000 people from our District pay the AMT. Garrett's solution is to eliminate it and borrow the money so people's children and grandchildren get to pay compound interest on the debt. Sadly, when the Republicans went from the debt reduction PAYGO party to the tax cut and borrow party, Garrett and those who agreed with him created an awful bind. The second round of Bush Tax cuts, which Garrett co-sponsored, couldn't have been passed without eliminating PAYGO, expanding the AMT, and borrowing TRILLIONS.

The cut and borrow philosophy has caused the deficit to explode a staggering 60% in the last seven years, to over $9 trillion, causing our economic policy to be dictated by the likes of China. When I was campaigning last year, someone reiterated Cheney's "deficits don't matter" line when I was talking about the need to re-institute PAYGO and I reminded them of this from the 14th Amendment of the Constitution:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

The AMT debate has come down to a standoff between the borrowers and the true fiscal conservatives in both parties in both chambers of Congress, and our District is caught in the crossfire. When 20% of the District is impacted by something, one would hope Garrett would be the one to come through with the compromise that gets the job done.

Unfortunately, as usual, Garrett has chosen partisan rhetoric over substantive work. Garrett hasn't offered a deficit neutral solution of his own, he's voted against the Democrat's deficit neutral proposal, and now has come out and slammed the Democrats for inaction on the AMT even though it's the borrow happy Republicans in the Senate getting in the way of the patch getting passed.

This hasn't been funny or cute for a long time.

In his closing remarks about the omnibus spending bill passed last night, which neither Democrats nor Republicans were 100% happy with, Representative David Obey made the following statement:
The difference is that this year we are recognizing that in an adult world, win, lose, or draw, we have an obligation to reach some final decisions. We have an obligation to compromise and move on. And that's what we are trying to do with this legislation. It is a responsible thing to do.

Nearly 20% of the population of our District are about to pay the price for Garrett's entrenched ineptitude. Garrett has an obligation to the 120,000 taxpayers in this District, and to future generations, to work toward a compromise. A compromise involves both sides giving up something.

If Garrett doesn't like 50,000 hedge fund managers paying the same tax rate as everybody else, he has an obligation to propose something else. Not some borrow more scheme endorsed by the Club for Growth and their 3 donors that live in our District; but a solution that can get passed and doesn't continue to cripple the American Dream for future generations.

If Garrett continues to substitute rhetoric for action, this being a Republican district, then the obligation Garrett abdicates falls on the shoulders of Republican primary voters. I cannot believe the Republicans I worked for years ago are pleased with Garrett's ineptitude and deficit exploding stances. There has to be a point where Garrett's reckless stances are taken to task.

Garrett vs. Future Energy Independence

This was not a surprise.

In another 12 to Garrett vote, Representative Scott Garrett voted against the Energy Bill yet again. This bill was yet another bi-partisan effort Garrett voted against, picking up 63 Republicans from the first vote, as well as President Bush's promise to sign.

On energy matters, Garrett's short on foresight and long on bad stances. Garrett has previously voted against price gouging protection for consumers twice. Garrett also holds the distinction of being the only Representative from New Jersey to vote against investment in alternative energy, while also being the only one to support oil drilling off the Jersey Shore.

I had a chance to listen to some of the debate, and it doesn't seem Garrett got up to explain why he was opposed. If he submitted anything to the Clerk I'll post it here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thoughts for the Weekend

What can you get with 200 qualified partisan signatures?

A spot on the ballot in a primary contest for the US House.

Who can you ask to support your candidacy (h/t Blue Jersey)?

Registered partisans and unaffiliated voters.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hoyer Sick of Garrett's SCHIP

Well, Representative Steny Hoyer seems to have had enough of Representative Scott Garrett's constant misrepresentation regarding the SCHIP bill the President vetoed yet again. After another of Garrett's misinformation efforts, Hoyer took to the floor and took Garrett to task:
I was not going to participate in this debate, but the gentleman from New Jersey doesn't fully understand what we've been about for the last 2 months. He talked about the rank and file. Mr. Dingell, the senior Member of this House, myself, Senator Baucus, Senator Hatch, Senator Grassley, Members of the rank and file on your side of the aisle who had not voted for this bill and didn't vote to override the veto. Mr. Barton was in some of those meetings. Mr. Deal was in some of those meetings. We met for almost 100 hours with rank-and-file Members on your side because we felt so strongly we wanted to address some of the issues of concern.

It's important at this point to point out that Hoyer didn't say, "you were there". How serious can Garrett really be about working with the other side if he won't go to a meeting. A 100 hours of meetings and Garrett can't bother spending 15 minutes for a program providing roughly $1.5 million in aid in our District every year? Hoyer continues:

We haven't gotten there yet, but I want to tell the gentleman, first of all, he says this bill is not for indigent children. Medicaid is for indigent children. This is for children of hardworking Americans who are not making enough because either their employer doesn't provide insurance or they can't afford the insurance to cover their children. We tried very, very hard. I defy you, and you haven't been here that long, I understand that, but I defy you to find another instance where that many hours has been put in by such senior Members, including two of the most senior Republicans in the United States Senate who voted for this bill, as did 18 of their colleagues in the United States Senate, and 44 of your colleagues here voted for this bill, and 45 for the previous bill. This is a very significant bipartisan bill.

That's a "sit down rookie" statement.

And this bill responded to some of the concerns raised by the President. You continue to talk about adults. There are parents on here at the States' choice, as you know. Your State's choice, my State's choice. However, we precluded, as you know, in this bill nonparents, and rather than a 2-year phaseout, we did a 1-year phaseout. We responded to the President's concern about $83,000. We capped it at 300 percent. We responded to the question of trying to identify and to make sure that we add people who are authorized to be in this country.

I've dealt with Garrett's misrepresentations of what the SCHIP bill contains, it's tough to pick a best effort, but this one may have helped prevent his Op-Ed from being published.
So I think the gentleman's comments about the Democratic Party, or Democrat, as he likes to refer to us, is totally inaccurate, I will tell my friend. We've worked very hard. Why have we worked very hard? Because we think that 4 million children who the President of the United States in 2004 got on the Republican National Convention floor seeking the votes of all of his fellow citizens to be re-elected as President of the United States, said, I want to add millions of children currently eligible to this program who are not yet served. I tell my friend that's what this bill does. That's why we are so surprised and disappointed that the President rejected this bill and vetoed it and said, as the Speaker said, I forbid this bill going into effect and adding those 4 million children.
I'm glad somebody was finally able to stand up and say to Garrett, directly, while he was on the floor, that he's been misrepresenting the SCHIP bill from the beginning. I hope there is more of this to come, and I hope some of the Republicans backing this bill will stand up and tell Garrett he's full of it as well.

PSAs from Garrett Gazzette

I normally don't post the entire Garrett Gazzett, but this week's has two important notices for residents of the Fifth.

The IRS has just announced that some disabled veterans may be eligible for tax refunds for benefits received through the Department of Veterans Affairs' Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) program.

A U.S. Tax Court decision issued earlier this year held that CWT payments are tax-free veterans benefits. This reversed a 1965 ruling that had classified the payments as taxable income. Disabled veterans who paid tax on these benefits in tax years 2004, 2005, or 2006 can claim a refund by filing an amended return (IRS Form 1040X). And, as the benefits will not be taxable for tax years 2007 and beyond, the Department of Veterans Affairs will no longer distribute a Form 1099 toCWT beneficiaries.

More than 19,000 veterans received CWT benefits in Fiscal Year 2007. This program provides assistance to veterans unable to work and supportthemselves, helping them learn new job skills and secure gainfulemployment. The Department of Veterans Affairs contracts with bothprivate industry and public sector for work by veterans through this program.

If you think that you may be eligible for a refund, IRS forms can be accessed at:



The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced that federal economic injury disaster loans are available for small businesses in Warren County as a result of hail and high winds thatoccurred on August 17, 2007. The disaster declaration by the U.S.Secretary of Agriculture extends to Hunterdon, Mercer, Morris, and Somerset Counties as well as Warren.

Both farm-related and non-farm-related small businesses and small agricultural cooperatives that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster are eligible to apply. Farmers and ranchers are not eligible to apply to the SBA. Under this disaster declaration, the SBA cannot provide loans to agricultural producers.

Eligible applicants may qualify for up to $1.5 million in loans with a 4 percent interest rate and terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size and type of business and its financial resources and sets loan amounts and terms based on the applicant's financial condition.

If you think you may be eligible for this disaster relief, you can call the SBA's Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955, Monday throughFriday from 8:00am to 9:00 pm. Applications must be returned to the SBA no later than July 7, 2008. You can download a loan application at:

Completed applications should be mailed to:
U.S. Small Business AdministrationProcessing and Disbursement Center
14925 Kingsport Road
Fort Worth, TX 76155

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Garrett: Holiday Hypocrisy

As I noted earlier today, HR 847 acknowledged the start of Christmas. Unlike when Representative Scott Garrett was given the opportunity to acknowledge the start of Ramadan and voted present; on the Christmas vote Garrett voted yes.

Now I didn't have a problem with either resolution. However, Garrett had a problem with the Ramadan resolution because, as he said, "Congress really should not be doing, should not be picking one faith out and commending that faith."

Yet today, when presented with the exact same type of resolution, Garrett decided it was okay to pick and commend one faith. The reason I raise this is because it is complete hypocrisy, and shows how flimsy Garrett's principles are. This isn't about faith, this is about Garrett claiming to be principled and proving how devoid of principle he really is.

Garrett vs. Christmas?

Here's a vote to watch today: HR 847 - Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. The resolution is almost identical to that of one passed in October recognizing Ramadan's importance to Islam. Our Representative Scott Garrett was one of 42 Representatives to vote present the Ramadan resolution.

Here's how Garrett justified the vote at the time:
Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey says he too was "troubled" by the Ramadan resolution. "There were a number of members who, as we call it down here, 'stayed off' that vote and did not support it because I think that they looked at it as something that Congress really should not be doing, should not be picking one faith out and commending that faith."
So, was it really a principled stand? If it was, we can expect Garrett to also vote present on the Christmas resolution. While I pointed out earlier, Garrett's support for Diwali could be explained away by the fact a number of faiths participate in the festival. However, the Christmas resolution is about one faith being picked out and commended.

So how principled is Garrett? The answer later...

Not As Broke As They Thought

Well, Bergen County Republicans have something to be happy about today. The Record is reporting that they are only $38,000 in debt. This is welcome news to those of us hoping they get back on their feet in order to fight Papa Joe and the BCDO.

To avoid problems for them in the future, I picked up on something in the article Chairman Rob Ortiz said that could cause problems for them down the line:
The party failed to pay federal and state income taxes on its executive director's salary in 2003. It owes a combined $6,040 to the IRS and to the state of New Jersey. Ortiz said that the future director, a full-time position, would be paid as an independent contractor and not a salaried employee subject to the payroll tax. The post was vacant as of last week.

Here is the IRS's way of explaining the Independent Contractor vs. Employee

Who is an Independent Contractor?

A general rule is that you, the payer, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work done by an independent contractor, and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result.


Who is an Employee?

A general rule is that anyone who performs services for you is your employee if you can control what will be done and how it will be done.

I'm sure with all the lawyers they've got, the BCRO can figure out a way to structure the contract for some exceptions. However, does an organization trying to come back from a near death experience, where reestablishing credibility is key, really want to also be seen trying to skirt tax laws?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Blog the Fifth Is Back

Well, the last week showed why I should get some other people writing on this little blog of mine. Life can get in the way of blogging at times. Here's what went on:

In Washington:

Representative Scott Garrett voted against making our nation more energy independent and was one of only 55 Representatives to vote against providing funds to clean up the water supply in the North Bay. This bill will help prevent all those little e coli breakouts we've been having, so I'm not sure what Garrett was voting against.

On a positive note, Garrett did vote with nearly all of Congress to fight child porn and child abduction, as well as make funds available to reservists and veterans to start businesses and for small businesses who hire reservists and veterans.

Garrett has largely panned the President's sub-prime interest rate freeze, but we have to remember he feels the housing market is in good shape. On Bloomberg television he seemed almost pleased with the way the housing market is going. Garrett does say that when there is fraud, the government should step in. However, Garrett places all of the blame on the mortgage holder as opposed to the product they were told they could take.

I may have only done it for eight weeks, but I'd be happy to discuss how a largely sub-prime mortgage broker house works with Garrett, or any of his staffers. The interest was on developing a spread of loans, from good to bad, to sell investors. I ended up quiting because it didn't seem right to try and sell people loans they couldn't afford. I never did close a loan because I'd tell people they didn't need us.

On the campaign trail:

Camille Abate got some press for a breakfast she had with several union leaders. There's some confusion in the press as to whether she was or was not endorsed by the group. This is understandable, as her press release about the event is similar in verbiage to that of Aronsohn's back in February announcing Corzine's "endorsement."

Herb Jackson is reporting that Rabbi Dennis Shulman is going to be down in DC talking with various fundraisers, including the DCCC.

In the 39th:

Assemblyman John Rooney is pondering retirement. Eric Sedler of Red Jersey has "started" his campaign to succeed Rooney. speculates that Bob Schroeder, Lisa Randall, Old Tappan Mayor Victor Polce, Norwood Mayor James Barsa and Ramsey Mayor Chris Botta as possible Republican candidates.

Why doesn't my name ever make these lists?

Just for fun:

A big congratulations to Oradell's Jim McGovern on his return to the PGA. He's worked really hard for this, and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Accountability Toy

Oh, this is good. OMB Watch has a fun website I hadn't seen before:

It has a lot of great information like:
  • So far this year there have been $20,244,923 in Federal contracts awarded to our District. Of those;
  • 75.8% have not been competitively bid;
  • 12.4% have been open bid, but only one bid was received;
  • Over $1 million can't be determined how it was awarded.
The site also lists the names of contractors. If I had the time, I'd be curious to see how the contract awards match up with campaign donations listed over at the FEC website.

FedSpending also breaks down program assistance within the District. The last full year they have is FY2005, where the District received $603,549,754 in Federal funds. This includes everything from Social Security payments to SBA loans and $1.9 million in SCHIP funds. As a District, we ranked 245 out of 435 in total amount received.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

AARP: This is Ridiculous

This from the comment section of the Medicare Part D post:
Medicare might be allowing seniors to change their prescription plan, but what about the many seniors and people on fixed incomes that can even afford their Medicare because of increasing premiums? AARP has set up So that we can sign a petition to make our voice heard. They also provide updated info, videos, and a way for you to e-mail your congressman and let him know how you feel. I’m working to help AARP promote better Medicare, because this is an issue that affects all of us...

Clean Elections Off To A Good Start

I've made no secret that I'm a fan of removing special interest influence from elections. When someone like our own Representative Scott Garrett will vote against a bill benefiting Greenwood Lake that he previously voted for twice, apparently because a special interest group with only 40,000 members comes out against it, something is seriously wrong with the process. Nothing like watching our Representative bend our District over a barrel to ensure he gets some campaign donations and expenditures on his behalf.

At the state level, the Clean Elections program seeks to eliminate the Garrett-esque about face by removing corporate and large individual donations from the process. In the first poll released about the program, it seems it's already had a positive impact on voters. Rutgers' Eagleton Institute of Politics and Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind teamed up to review the program.

Here's what they found:
• Twice as many likely voters in the Clean Elections districts had heard quite a lot or some about the Clean Elections legislation compared to the state as a whole
(44% to 22%).
• The same was true regarding awareness of the legislative races in their districts, with 70% of likely voters in the Clean Elections districts saying they had heard quite a lot or some about the races, compared to 37% of likely voters statewide.
• Voters in the Clean Elections districts also reported having received more information than voters in the rest of the state. Eighty-two percent of likely voters in the Clean Elections Districts reported receiving campaign ads in the mail, compared to 49% statewide. Seventy-four percent of likely voters in the Clean
Elections districts said they had gotten information about the legislative races from an article or articles in the newspaper, compared to 56% statewide.
These are tangible results. Something not in the report that is also tangible was voter turnout. It's widely believed turnout earlier this month was the lowest ever for a legislative election, with estimates at 30%. That's a 4% drop in turnout from 2003, the last time the entire legislature was up for re-election, and effectively means 15.01% of the population gets to call the shots.

In the 37th District, where the Republicans did not qualify for the program, the unofficial results show a 5.9% drop in the percentage of registered voters voting for State Senator over 2003's number.

HOWEVER, in the 14th District the drop was .6% (even though 2,775 more people voted), and in the 24th turnout increased 6.1% (nearly 11,000 more voters). While still not great, State Senate voting for the 14th and 24th were 40% and 35% respectively. My hope is that when the turnout numbers are finalized by the state they will publish it by legislative district, in addition to county, since they already estimate voters before the election.

In spite of these gains, what is going to take time is restoring the public faith in our state government. Clean Elections voters polled didn't have significantly more faith in government to do the right thing compared to those outside the clean elections District:
Compared to statewide voters, voters in the Clean Elections districts were just as likely to say they:
• trust the legislature only some or none of the time to do what is right;
• are concerned that campaign money influences legislators after the election;
• are not confident that public financing of campaigns will reduce the influence of large donors in the political process.
Faith in elected officials is earned, not given, and it is incumbent upon our elected leaders to do better. It's a strong statement when only 17% of voters statewide trust the legislature to do the right thing most of the time. Often, as done in the Bergen Freeholder debate by the BCDO candidates, officials protest that they are not crooks and should not be thought of as such. However, if 83% of the public thinks that way; something either within the process or through the actions of those protesting has triggered that opinion.

If the Clean Elections Program, over time, can help restore the public faith in our elected officials it's a good thing. Ultimately, it will be the responsibility of the officials to seal the public confidence deal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Abate's Fundraiser

To those who marked their calendars for Wednesday, I'm very sorry, the fundraiser for Democratic hopeful Camille Abate was actually last night. I goofed. Abate's campaign wrote about it on her blog, complete with pictures.

Just asking...

What kind of Impala can you buy for $187,789.50?

After reading Juan Melli's post on Asset Monetization over on Blue Jersey, I decided to download the 2006 Annual Report for the Turnpike Authority. I took State Senate President Richard Codey's "say yes or come up with a better idea" sentiment to heart, so I figured I'd take a look.

No solutions on my end at this point; but on page 60 there is a line-item contract for a $187,789.50 2006 Chevrolet Impala. A bullet proof BMW 745Li doesn't go for that much. One has to wonder what we got for our money. At 88 MPH can we go back in time and fix the budget crisis before it begins?

Medicare Part D Enrollment

Seniors are in the open enrollment window for Medicare Part D, and the Garrett Gazette reminds constituents of what is going on:

November 15th marked the beginning of open enrollment for the new Medicare prescription drug program, Medicare Part D. This is your opportunity to review your current coverage and determine if you’d like to change plans. Open Enrollment season runs through December 31st, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends that you enroll by December 7th if you expect to change your coverage to ensure that there is no break in your prescription services in the new year.

There are a number of resources available to help you navigate this process. The New Jersey SHIP network (State Health Insurance Program) at the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services can be found online at

They can be reached at 1-800-792-8820 (toll free for in-state calls only) or at 1-877-222-3737. You can also go online to or call 1-800-MEDICARE for assistance. CMS has added a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder and Formulary Finder to help you narrow down the wide array of choices to fit your personal needs. CMS also has several publications to help you make the most of your benefits and assess your plan for cost, coverage, and customer service:

Rx Enrollment Check-Up (
Guide to Rx Drug Coverage (
Medicare & You 2008(

This is the only opportunity you will have to change your plan until November 15, 2008. Of course, you can always contact me and my staff for assistance as well. We will help put you in touch with the right people or materials so you can make an informed decision. My Paramus office can be reached at 201-712-0330 and my Newton office can be reached at 973-300-2000.

Randall vs. Garrett?

According to Sussex Steve over at, Ho-Ho-Kus Mayor Thomas Randall is considering a challenge to Representative Scott Garrett next year. Randall appears to be a moderate, having endorsed the team of Kathe Donovan against the Guy Talarico/Todd Caliguire ticket.

I've said before that the best thing for the BCRO to do would be to get rid of Talarico & Garrett. A strong Republican candidate with name recognition and views in line with the District, coupled with a growing understanding of how awful a representative Garrett is, could make this a great campaign.

More to come...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Could Garrett Get Karcher-ed?

Here's a thought I had while looking at the Record's list of cut your own Christmas Tree farms: Could Representative Scott Garrett be subjected to the same sort of attack that helped bring down State Senator Ellen Karcher? Part of what undid Karcher was a tax break she receives for having her property designated as a Christmas Tree farm, contrasted to her votes raising taxes.

While Garrett has never declared income from the farm on his House Financial Disclosure forms (over $200 from any source must be declared), both Garrett's supporters and detractors seem to be of the impression he sells the $500 worth of Christmas trees a year in order to get the property tax break. Garrett doesn't seem like the type to risk an $11,000 civil fine for each report falsified, plus fines from the House itself, so I don't think folks should jump to conclusions about the status of Garrett's property taxes. Plus, people have to decide if this is the sort of thing we want in campaigns.

Regardless of whether or not he gets a break, Garrett's voting record and philosophy do in fact lead to higher property taxes. For instance, Garrett has been on record since at least 2002 as saying he felt that the Department of Education should be eliminated. While it varies on a town by town basis, 8.9% of education funding comes from the Federal government. So, in essence, Garrett's been committed to raising property taxes an average of 8.9% since 2002.

That last bit may be a bit of a stretch for folks, but people need to consider when Garrett talks about eliminating Departments and programs like Head Start; states, counties, and towns will be left to fund them on their own or end them. When Garrett opposes SCHIP funding, leaving the state to cover those children already covered, the money has to come from somewhere. In our state, that means property, income, and sales taxes.

It's something to think about.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

News and Stuff

Having a few minutes, I thought I'd post a few things.

- Representative Scott Garrett is taking some heat for cutting funds to Naturally Occurring Retirement Community programs. Specifically, $170,000 was intended for the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey. Garrett wrote the Jewish Standard with his reasoning:
"Unfortunately, this bill was about politics, not people," Garrett said in an e-mail to this paper on Friday. "The new majority knew it would be vetoed and that the veto would be sustained because this bill would have busted the federal budget and exceeded executive branch budget requests by over $8 billion."
This is the same SCHIP line Garrett used in backing the President's veto over SCHIP. Obviously, once again, Garrett's pledge to the President has trumped those of us living in the District.

- The Asbury Park Press points out that Garrett's self professed love for the 10th Amendment (powers not delegated to the federal government go to the states) is hollow. Garrett is the only Representative from New Jersey to vote against formalizing New Jersey's power to ensure rail waste transfer sites are not polluting our neighborhoods and water supply. This measure was attached to the Federal Railroad Safety Administration bill, which I noted Garrett was one of only 38 Representatives to vote against it.

- Fred Snowflack got an answer from Garrett as to why he was one of only 36 Representatives to vote against improving the Head Start program. Garrett said he was opposed to the bill's cost and "such minutiae as the level of required training for teachers, details of background checks for bus drivers, and hiring policies for providers." As Fred noted, "Since when is training teachers and background checks for drivers a bad thing?"

- Herb Jackson pointed out that Camille Abate is having a fundraiser hosted by Mark Denbeaux, an attorney fighting for the rights of those at Gitmo. The event is this Wednesday, and you can find details here.

- Dennis Shulman, who is challenging Abate for the Democratic nomination, got some love from Matt Stoller over at Open Left. His piece about the GOP predicting they will get thrashed next year includes this little snippet:
...Democrats are spreading the playing field thin, and are forcing the Republicans to use what resources they have defending incumbents like Scott Garrett against potentially strong candidates like Dennis Shulman in district Bush easily took in 2004.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

So Much To Be Thankful For...

I hope somewhere between the cooking; the family; the football; the assault of tryptophan on your ability to stay awake; seconds, thirds and fourths; and whatever makes your Thanksgiving special that you actually take a moment to reflect on all the things to be thankful for.

It's also important to realize that so many of us have the ability to make a difference in someone's life during this time of year. While doing your last minute shopping, pick up an extra can of something (or a lot of things), and then find out how the items can be dropped off at a food bank near you. Here's a link to our State's local food banks. There's a lot of meals between now and Christmas, and there are people in each of our communities who could use a little help.

To my readers, thanks for coming back time and again. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. We'll see you next week.

Republican Primary Wars

With the announcement by Representative Mike Ferguson that he'd be retiring, NJ's political class (PolitickerNJ, Blue Jersey, Red Jersey, Conservatives With Attitude) has started full tilt speculation as to who is going to run.

This is likely to be a heck of a fight between the Conservatives and moderate Republicans. AJ Sparxx over on CWA-NJ has already started beating the Conservative drum:
Now is the time to find a Conservative to win this seat and take it away from a moderate like Ferguson, keep it out of the hands from a moderate like Kean, Jr. and most importantly, keeping the Democrats from picking it off.
One group that is likely licking their chops is the Club For Growth. Back in September, they were already very pleased with their prospects for next year. The question is, outside of our District where they spend and raise a ton of money backing Representative Scott Garrett, how successful can they be in New Jersey?

Robert Novack pointed out that The Club was "founded to support conservatives and punish liberals in Republican primaries." They claim 40,000 members, and their bundling ability is rivaled by very few. Even though it seems they've only given Garrett $16,192 in donations, it's nearly impossible to guess how much of the $4.6 million he's raised over the years have come from Club members. I'm sure they let him know, which likely is why he switched his vote on Greenwood Lake funding once they came out against it.

The Club cost Republicans the Senate with their attacks on former Senator Lincoln Chaffee, and they are already targeting several Republicans. As with Rhode Island, we're a relatively blue state with several purple Districts, so it would be interesting to see how their tactics play here. Here's their list of priorities:
Club for Growth Policy Goals:
    • Making the Bush tax cuts permanent
    • Death tax repeal
    • Cutting and limiting government spending
    • Social Security reform with personal retirement accounts
    • Expanding free trade
    • Legal reform to end abusive lawsuits
    • Replacing the current tax code
    • School choice
    • Regulatory reform and deregulation
Notice balancing the budget, paying down the deficit, fixing the AMT and creating jobs are not on the list. As I pointed out earlier, the Bush policies Garrett pledged to back have caused the deficit to grow and the dollar to sink. I suppose it could be called the "Club for Foreign Wealth and Power Growth."

The point is, Republicans (and Democrats for that matter) in the 7th, 3rd, and here in our Fifth need to fight to have a Representative who isn't a slave to the special interests. While the Club's 40,000 members can raise a lot of money and they'll spend a lot on ads calling people names, a Representative in NJ has about 700,000 constituents.

Garrett's a lost cause on this front, but in the interest of a better government and economy, my hope is that the Reps and Dems running in those Districts will put the special interests aside. Voters there should demand it. An open seat is the ultimate chance to change politics as usual. We'll have to see what primary voters make of the opportunity.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Garrett's SCHIP Mailer Numbers

Well it took some time to track down the numbers related to Representative Scott Garrett's mailer on the State Children's Health Insurance Program. I still haven't found all of them, but here's a few.

Since Garrett's folks are attacking the SCHIP program as a whole by attacking our program, I figured I'd check out what the official story is and pulled up the Annual Report for NJ's SCHIP program. . Unless otherwise linked, that will be the source for my figures. Unless otherwise linked, that will be the source for my figures.

First up:
43% of NJ's SCHIP grants are used to insure adults

In Fiscal Year 2008, NJ expects to spend 55% of its SCHIP funds on adults
Well, that's not what the Annual Report says. The Budget for regular SCHIP and expanded children's coverage is $448.7 million, with the 1115 Waiver program covering parents adding $206.2 million, for a grand total of $655 million. The portion covering adults this year is 31.4%, next year it's 30.7%.

Next up:
NJ has only a 69% SCHIP participation rate for families with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line.
Well, that number apparently includes an estimated 412,466 children Medicaid, and those with private insurance. There were 594,000 children living below 200% poverty last year, with 25% of them uninsured.
119,000 NJ children living under 200% of the federal poverty level remain uninsured though they qualify for the current SCHIP.
I'm not sure where this number comes from, however if it's accurate, considering the Annual Report cited a three year average of 125,000 eligible uninsured children from 2003-05, that means 6,000 more kids have been covered by either SCHIP, Medicaid, or private insurance. It also means that since the program started we've had a 28% drop in uninsured children below 200% poverty.

There's more to come...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Garrett's Pledge to the President

As I noted yesterday, Representative Scott Garrett has signed a pledge to the President supporting his decisions on Appropriations bills. It's unfortunate that someone who professes strong conviction and understanding of the Constitution would be so willing to abdicate his responsibility not only to us as constituents but to the Founding Father's intent.

Here's a few facts that make the decision more disturbing to anyone with a minor interest in fiscal responsibility or economic growth:

Budget Surplus/Deficit (without borrowing against Social Security):
2000: $1,629,000,000.00
2006: -$537,271,000,000.00
(That's a 33,082% increase)

Total Deficit:
January 2001: -$5,728,195,796,181.57
Today: -$9,113,206,502,561.64
(That's a 59% increase)

US Dollar vs. the Canadian Dollar:
November 2001: $1 =$1.54
11/16/07: $1 = $1.02
(That's a 33% drop in value)

Consumer Prices vs. Median Income:
Consumer Price Increase Oct. 2000-2006: 13.60%**
Median Income Increase 2000-2006:13.67%
(Feeling you're not getting ahead?)

Unemployed People:**
Oct. 2000: 5,153,000
Oct. 2007: 6,773,000
(That's a 31.4% increase)

People Working Two Jobs:**
Jan. 2001: 7,134,000
Oct. 2007: 7,852,000
(That's a 10% increase)

Labor Force vs. Employed Oct. 2000- Oct. 2007:**
Increase in Labor Force: 7.5%
Increase in Employed: 6.5%

With a track record like this, signing on to blindly follow the President's lead significantly cuts into the image of Garrett as an independent kind of guy, fiscal conservative, or pro-growth. As I've mentioned earlier, regarding the SBA, often times the things the President and Garrett seek to cut are the very things that provide a return on investment for the taxpayer and reduce expenditures for things like unemployment and medicaid by creating jobs. There's more to be written about this, however this can get folks started.

**It was brought to my attention that the links don't work. The source is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their site was off line the few times I checked today, will post numbers tomorrow (11/18/07).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Garrett Against $14.7 Million for Bergen

Here's an interesting fact:

With Representative Scott Garrett voting against the Appropriations for Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development; Garrett could cost Bergen County $14.7 million dollars in Community Development Block Grants. That works out to roughly 3.4% of the County budget.

It's unlikely, when the dust settles, that we'll lose the entire amount, but what's that going to do to property taxes? What about the transportation funds Garrett voted against? How much of the budget are we talking about? If only the Bergen County Freeholders had the decency to put the County Budget on-line I could answer that question.

As the appropriations battle goes forward, none of us should be surprised by Garrett's string of Nay votes. Garrett was the only Republican from New Jersey who signed a pledge to the President to oppose any Appropriations bill the President vetoes. In effect, Garrett has firmly placed the President's philosophy above the interests of our traditionally fiscally conservative District.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Garrett vs. Head Start, Again

Once again, in a 12-Garrett vote, our Representative Scott Garrett has voted against a program aimed at helping children. Garrett joined 35 other Representatives in opposing the Improving Head Start Act. Garrett voted against the House version of the Bill back in May, this vote was on the version which will be sent to the President.

The only thing Garrett did during the debate on the House version was demand a recorded vote on two amendments. If he did anything of substance I'll post it here.

Garrett, The Rabbi, & Polish Jews

Our Representative Scott Garrett seems to be surrounded by Judaism today.

In kind of an odd coincidence, about five minutes after Rabbi Dennis Shulman announced his candidacy formally, Garrett was one of 13 Representatives to vote against Rep. Chris Smith's bill providing assistance for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.


Obviously, Representative Scott Garrett realizes his opposition to the State Children's Health Insurance Program isn't popular. After having his Op-Ed against the program apparently rejected by the Record, Garrett's staff decided to send out a taxpayer funded two page mailer on SCHIP.

It's a piece so chock full of "new stats" and new sources it's going to take a day or so to fact check the piece. However, since Garrett's been inventing coverage and income numbers from the beginning, it's likely most of these new numbers will prove equally false. I just wish, instead spinning and lying, Garrett would just level people. Like most things, and I think I'm being fair in stating this, Garrett doesn't believe government should play any role in health care.

The most recent tell on that is on the second page of the mailer, which deals with small business access to health care. Here's what he/his staff, put in the mailer:
Congress and state legislatures continue to add coverage mandates year after year, which make insurance more expensive - in some markets by up to 45%
Here's the most current list I could find of the mandated coverage in New Jersey. There are 31 types of care on the list and I'd love to know which of these Garrett feels need to be cut. By his statement, it would seem all. Here are few on the list, which could easily find their way into a campaign commercial next year:

5. Childhood Immunizations, Lead and Hearing Screening
10. Diabetes
11. Domestic Violence Injuries
15. Mammograms
16. Maternity Without Regard to Marital Status
17. Minimum Maternity Stay
20. Nursing Home Care
23. Pap Smears
27. Prostate Cancer Screening
29. Second Medical/Surgical Opinions
30. Wellness Examinations
It's not to say the rest of the list isn't important, but some how these will touch a nerve. Garrett opposes this care being mandated for coverage. One has to wonder if voters would be concerned that if Garrett had his way what little coverage they have left will be taken away.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day

I don't know how many other people had to work today, I know I did, but we as a nation must get back to the intention of Veteran's Day. To take a pause as a nation and really observe.
October 8, 1954
Dear Mr. Higley:

I have today signed a proclamation calling upon all of our citizens to observe Thursday, November 11, 1954 as Veterans Day. It is my earnest hope that all veterans, their organizations, and the entire citizenry will join hands to insure proper and widespread observance of this day. With the thought that it will be most helpful to coordinate the planning, I am suggesting the formation of a Veterans Day National Committee. In view of your great personal interest as well as your official responsibilities, I have designated you to serve as Chairman. You may include in the Committee membership such other persons as you desire to select and I am requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch to assist the Committee in its work in every way possible.

I have every confidence that our Nation will respond wholeheartedly in the appropriate observance of Veterans Day, 1954.


Friday, November 9, 2007

Garrett Votes for $1.5 Trillion Tax Increase

For the second time this week, Representative Scott Garrett voted against the people of our District. Today, the House voted against a temporary fix to the AMT to prevent it from creeping further into the middle class of our Fifth District and other parts of the country.

At issue, and why the bill was approved largely along partisan lines, is the provision changing the way 50,000 or so hedge fund managers are taxed. Currently, they pay at the 15% capital tax rate and avoid the AMT. Herb Jackson has the audio of Garrett's statement here, as well as Representative Bill Pascrell smacking his logic around.

As Garrett himself cited, 120,000 taxpayers in our District alone will be subject to the AMT without the patch Garrett just voted against. Here's how the Record broke down the impact not having a patch would have in our District:
If Congress takes no action this year, the alternative minimum tax would hit an additional 21 million taxpayers, including 1.5 million in New Jersey, with higher income tax rates. Here's what that would mean to a family in Ridgewood:

• Married couple, two children, filing jointly with $150,000 in income, $14,000 in property and state income taxes, $20,000 in mortgage interest and $500 in charitable contributions.
• 2006 federal tax bill: $18,690
• 2007 federal tax bill: $21,970
• Difference: $3,280 more

So even if every hedge fund manager in America lived in our Fifth District, which they don't, Garrett would put a $3,280 tax burden on 120,000 taxpayers to protect them? To be fair to Garrett, he has proposed a bill to completely eliminate the AMT. However, Garrett's bill has no chance of getting out of committee because it would cause the national debt to mushroom. This is another example of Garrett's lack of fiscal responsibility.

Playing the semantics game Garrett likes to play, by opposing the tax relief Garrett is in essence supporting a $1.5 trillion tax increase over the next ten years. We can add this to the list of assaults on the family budget by Garrett this year. How many families will see Garrett's lack of support for their family wallet as an issue next year should be an interesting story to follow, if not directly participate in.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Election Reflection

Most of the elections in our District played out exactly as they were expected to. Voter turnout was in the 30s; Steve Oroho, Kevin O'Toole, and most incumbents cruised to victory; the Republicans won the Legislative races; and the Democrats won Bergen County.

The only eyebrow raiser, if you will, was Sen. Gerry Cardinale's margin of victory going from 12,000 in 2003 to 5,000 yesterday. While the guys over at CWA-NJ count the victory as award worthy, in this "obscure" blogger's opinion, in a Republican year that sort of drop should raise an eyebrow.

I stand by my belief the direction Cardinale took was the wrong path during the campaign. This race was never close. Cardinale has served long enough to make enough friends, and do enough good things for constituents on a personal level that most people I know were planning on voting for him regardless of party. However, taking the route he took, many walked away.

Compare Cardinale's campaign's actions with those taken by Steve Oroho, which I highlighted earlier. At the end of his second debate with Ed Selby, Oroho said the following:
"You've heard some very clear differences between my opponent and myself. It doesn't mean Ed's a bad guy. It doesn't mean I'm a bad guy. It just means we're different," Oroho said. "We should all be happy we live in a country where it's OK to be different."
My hope is going forward more politicians embrace this kind of civility and decency. I realize it may not be flashy, but we're at a point in our State where we don't need flashy. Our state is in serious trouble on a number of fronts, and as shown by voting down the stem cell and sales tax initiatives, the people of our state know it.

It's important to note that we're not in these crises as Democrat, Republican or Unaffiliated: we're in this as Jerseyians. While differences of opinion exist as to how to fix the problem, it's unlikely we'll get anywhere if our politicians do not rise to the challenge in a decent and honorable way.

Garrett Votes Against Greenwood Lake

As the only NJ member of the House to vote to uphold the President's veto of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, Representative Scott Garrett turned against funding he had promised for Greenwood Lake back in August. Here's how Garrett described the $250,000 he just voted against:
"The growth of aquatic weeds has reached a critical state, putting the lake at risk, and with it, the creatures that inhabit it and the businesses that rely on it as a regional tourist attraction,"

Garrett actually voted for the Bill the first time through. If Garrett said anything as to why he caved to Presidential pressure instead of stand by his original vote for our District I'll post it.

Congratulations to All the Winners

It was one of the uglier campaign seasons in recent memory, and some hard fought battles were won. My hope is, going forward, those of you with the calling of public service will also hear the call of the electorate asking for substance. I'll write more tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Why Garrett's Not Inclined to Debate Pt. 2

Representative Scott Garrett has continued living the lie against the State Children's Health Insurance Program, this was said yesterday:
Well, we know that the poverty level is, for a family of four is around $42,000. I'm not sure if that's showing that on that chart, for a family of four is around $42,000. We also know that the median or the middle range of income in this country, again for a family of four in this country, is around $48,000.

I've already covered that these numbers are not true. However, since Garrett's insisting on doing this, let's try another angle. This is what the novice debater would say should Garrett be making this point and attempting to stick to it:
So, Scott, what you're saying is that the economic policies you've supported over the last 4 years have left nearly half the families of this country near poverty. Because either your numbers are wrong or we're in much worse shape than any of us realized.

We know Garrett's numbers are wrong, and we know he's been misrepresenting the numbers since August. However, this is how you cook somebody in their own lies. Somebody tell Garrett to stop using the numbers, please, he has to stop embarrassing our District and himself.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Shooting Yourself in The Foot 101

In what can only be described as a campaign tactic taken by skimming Karl Rove's Cliff Notes, the campaign of State Senator Gerry Cardinale went the bizarre direction of attacking rival Joe Ariyan as a terrorist sympathizer. As covered by Blue Jersey, Red Jersey, and PoliticsNJ the move has widely been panned as ridiculous.

How Cardinale, his college freshman campaign manager Matt Mowers, or anybody else involved could think this is a good route to go is truly a mystery. If Cardinale does survive this, his reputation will forever be tarnished. He didn't need to do this, but for whatever reason decided to.

This aspect of politics is something I just can't support. Former Republican Congressional candidate George Ajjan is advocating people write in Bob Schroeder. I don't know about that, but I'm no fan of any Papa Joe crony. Tomorrow may be the second time I vote for myself, and anybody who wants to can feel free to join me.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

We Can't Do Better Than This?

This from
Most political observers are estimating turnout in next week's legislative elections to fall somewhere between 25-30 percent, at best.
There is something seriously wrong when the election that has the most impact directly on people's lives is the one that people skip.

I actually have skipped an off-year, but that was kind of my bottoming out point with political involvement. However, very few people I talked to over the weekend are planning on voting on Tuesday: They don't know the candidates; they don't have the time; they're not registered.

I realize that the folks who read this blog are likely to vote, but we as the involved have to do more to involve those who are not. Government works best when people are involved in the process. When voters are the ones holding the officials accountable at the polls, they respond to the voters instead of the special interests. When voters are the ones holding officials accountable the policy more closely reflects the will of the people.

My hope is, in talking to folks, a few of them may turn out. However, this little blog and me handing out some fliers tomorrow isn't going to have the kind of impact we collectively need. We as the active community need to do a better job of engaging the non-active. Not for partisan gain, not for political power, but simply for the strength of the process.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Garrett's $25,000 Lie

This was already pointed out to be a false statement by Representative Scott Garrett about SCHIP:
The medium income, that's the middle income in this country, for a family of four all across this country on average is about $48,000. So, $48,000 is the middle range.
It's actually a $25,000 lie, as the national median income for a family of four is $73,415. So in all the states other than New Jersey, a qualifying family of four is $11,000 below the median.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Garrett's SCHIP Numbers

In the latest edition of the Official What Squad, Representative Scott Garrett shed the usual lies and focused on income levels as a way to justify his stance against the State Children's Health Insurance Program. A look at the numbers catches Garrett once again showing a willingness to distort the truth. Fortunately, there's this pesky thing called the Census Bureau that helps discredit yet another of Garrett's arguments.

Here's what Garrett said:
Right now the SCHIP program, as originally intended, was to fund indigent care for children, at what level? Two hundred percent of poverty. Ballpark figure, that's around $42,000 for a family of four; that's what is defined as poverty for that family. The medium income, that's the middle income in this country, for a family of four all across this country on average is about $48,000. So, $48,000 is the middle range.

While Garrett's $42,000 ballpark for 200% is accurate, where the misrepresentation begins is with the family of four median income. As reported by the Census Bureau, the median income for ALL households is $48,451, not a family of four. While intentionally misstating the middle is a lie in and of itself, this is a very important distinction as Garrett's argument progresses.
So, when they're talking about providing services above 200, 250, 300, well, 300 percent of poverty, that would put you at approximately $62,000 for a family of four. In New Jersey, we're at 350 percent of poverty; that puts you around $72,000 for a family of four.

Once again, these estimated figures are also accurate, but here's where one lie builds into the other:
So, by definition, they're telling us that they are not trying to create a program for the indigent and the poor in this country. By the very definition of the words they're using and the facts that are out there, they are trying to create an entitlement program for the middle class.

Using Census Bureau figures, 74% of states have a median income for a family of four above $62,000. In our own New Jersey, where SCHIP does get up to about $72,000, the median income for a four person family is $94,441. So the truth is, a family of four qualifying for the program is making $22,000 less than the midpoint. Actually, in the 37 states with median incomes above $62,000, qualifying families of four would be below the state's median by over $10,000 in 17 of them (In Connecticut they're $30,000 under).

In fact, there are only seven states where the median income for a family of four is below $60,000, and not one is at the $48,000 level Garrett cited as the middle. The closest to the $48,451 composite national median is New Mexico, and their family of four median is roughly $3,600 above Garrett's distortion. He's not even close to being truthful on this.

Garrett has used fear, Garrett has distorted his own record, and now Garrett has tried to use numbers to argue against SCHIP. To date, Garrett and his fellow obstructionists have no argument against SCHIP that stands up to the slightest bit of truth.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bergen Freeholders Debate

I found this video while bouncing around on campaign sites (h/t It doesn't have an embed option, but it's hosted on Google Video so you don't have to go to a political site if you don't want to. For those wanting to watch those running for Freeholder it's the full debate, and I'm glad I got to see it.

Dumbest Excuse of The Campaign

A week after Papa Joe Ferriero admitted he plays a hand in awarding no-bid contracts, BCDO Freeholder Chairman Tomas Padilla has been attributed the lamest excuse against open government I've ever read:

Padilla said that posting the agenda online presents "logistical issues," in that items posted before the meeting could be pulled or tabled during the meeting and may not be accurate within hours of posting.

The bulk of freeholder discussion happens at work sessions a few hours before the general meeting, Padilla said.

If the NFL can update on-line statistics every 30 seconds for every game, at the same time, surely the Bergen County Freeholders can update their agenda to reflect minor changes. "Hours" and "may not be accurate" don't belong anywhere near each other in this day and information age. It's as easy as: "Save As", selecting HTML format, and uploading the revised file. They don't even PDF the things.

In addition to having agendas devoid of content, there are no minutes on the Freeholder website of what they did. We have no way of checking their arguments for or against anything. The Freeholders posted the video of one working meeting, once, and they uploaded the meeting in Quicktime so you have to download the file instead of stream it. They certainly aren't going out of their way to let voters see what's going on. If Al Gore can coordinate a 24 hour on-line concert around the world, surely the Freeholders could set up a webcam and stream the meetings.

Another problem is the Freeholders only post their commemorative resolutions. What about the resolutions awarding no-bid contracts? What about the resolutions cutting or raising taxes? They claim in their literature they've cut taxes, but there is no proof, no recorded vote, nothing. All we as voters get to see are public notices, scattered throughout the Record. Why aren't the public notices published on the website?

There is absolutely no excuse for why any of this isn't done by the Freeholders, except to deliberately shield themselves from public scrutiny.

The Boss and Media Consolidation

I saw a post over at Blue Jersey about how the latest Bruce Springsteen album, Magic, isn't being played by Clear Channel owned radio stations. I'm one of the many people Clear Channel drove away from regular radio listening due to their poor programing. I tend to listen to streaming music stations on-line or CDs I buy, so I hadn't really noticed. However, when the Number 1 album in the country is not getting any radio play it is a little disturbing.

The folks over at Fox News say it's because Clear Channel has said that Springsteen is too old. The folks at Blue Jersey, and other spots, think it's a repeat of the Dixie Chicks getting blackballed by Clear Channel and other stations after they were critical of the President.

Either reason raises serious questions about media consolidation, and the impact it is and can have in our nation. With the company taking their 1,184 radio stations private, this power to dictate culture and news is now in even fewer hands.

Clear Channel deciding someone is too old to be played, and therefore not allowing them to be heard manipulates the press in a way the Forefathers never imagined. However, because they've done it before, the smart money would be to bet it's politics.

Unlike when the Dixie Chicks exercised their free speech, the nation knows we were lied into war. The actions of the administration and those who mindlessly follow their rhetoric have worn out their welcome. There is no backlash about what Bruce is saying because the vast majority of Americans now know it's the truth.

Now it seems, in an effort to stop a message contradicting the mindless rantings of their Rush "Phony Soldiers" Limbaugh poster child, Clear Channel has quietly banned Bruce. I'm one of the thousands who got up to see The Boss play the Today Show (hence the pics). As I said to a friend, he came out swinging (about a minute in):

As a bonus, The Boss also played one of my favorites with "My Hometown." It was especially moving, and unlikely to be a coincidence, because this was while the Jena 6 were making daily headlines. If you look in the bottom right corner at minute 2:46 you can see my head and eyes. I was singing along, I promise.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Garrett Backs Diwali

On the hypocrisy front, a month after Representative Scott Garrett stayed off a vote acknowledging the start of Ramadan, Garrett voted for a resolution supporting the festival of Diwali.

At the time of the Ramadan vote, Garrett said the following:
There were a number of members who, as we call it down here, 'stayed off' that vote and did not support it because I think that they looked at it as something that Congress really should not be doing, should not be picking one faith out and commending that faith.

Well, here's how the bill Garrett voted for describes Diwali:
Whereas Diwali, a festival of great significance to Indian Americans and the people of India, is celebrated annually by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains throughout the United States and the world.

I count four faiths here. Both of these resolutions should have passed, and both did. Garrett picking which observance to acknowledge and which one not to says more about him than the non-binding resolutions.

Lit Up Like a Firecracker

Well, Representative Scott Garrett's views on SCHIP didn't win him any friends among readers of the Record. Today, the paper published four letters critical of our Congressman.

The Record still hasn't published Garrett's latest Op-Ed on SCHIP, and before folks scream media bias you have to read their guidelines:
We do our best to identify factual errors and make appropriate changes. We don't make significant changes unless we believe they are absolutely warranted. When we do, we contact the author for approval.

The problem is, as I pointed out earlier, Garrett's latest op-ed is an exercise in misinformation. I even went so far as to submit my own Op-Ed as a response. I don't know if they liked it or not, but I think I broke another of the Record's rules:
We welcome assertive, even provocative commentary. But we like to keep the discourse civil. We don't permit personal attacks.

My op-ed pretty much slammed Garrett around, using facts to do it, but it was against him. Once all doubt is removed about whether or not the op-ed will be published, I'll put it up here. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Garrett Seeks to Increase Premiums on Flood Insurance

More often than not, when you see Representative Barney Frank next to our Representative Scott Garrett, the exchange goes something like this:
Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. I yield.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, that, I must say, totally disappoints me. For the third time the gentleman has tried to put words in my mouth. The words ``trust in me,'' the gentleman read that, and the gentleman's distortion, systematic distortion, has gone beyond what I can deal with in a brief intervention. But I will say this: I continually said we should address that in separate legislation. If the gentleman doesn't know the difference between passing legislation which sets guidelines and saying ``trust me,'' then the gentleman understands less in this place than I had hoped he did.
Well, the two of them have teamed up to introduce the HR 3959, to reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The Record did a good job of explaining problems with the NFIP program a while back. Here's how Garrett's office described the bill:
The Garrett-Frank bill, H.R. 3959, would require any new purchaser of a pre-FIRM primary residential home that costs over $600,000 to pay phased-in actuarial flood insurance prices using the same phased-in structure that non-residential and non-primary homes are subject to under legislation passed by the House earlier this month.
The bill calls for up to a 15% premium increase every year until the premiums reach actuary equality. The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) has come out strongly in support of the bill:
“The Big ‘I’ strongly supports the NFIP gradually moving towards actuarially sound rates,” says John Prible, Big “I” assistant vice president for federal government affairs. “We recognize that the NFIP’s need for financial stability must be measured against fairness to the customers we serve, which is why we believe it is important that this legislation is aimed at homes valued at over $600,000 and includes a phase-in mechanism.”
The one question I do have is how residents in the Fifth will be impacted by this change? This may be the first time we've seen Garrett flat-out advocate increased fees for anything, usually he refers to rate increases as a new tax.

It also may be the first time he's aiming such an increase largely at the Bergen County part of the District, where inland home buyers here may end up subsidizing flood insurance for beachfront homes elsewhere. Flood insurance is mandatory in certain areas, and a look over the flood maps lets you realize how this proposal may further increase the costs of home ownership in our District.

This is a continuation of an amendment Garrett had hoped to introduce last month when Congress expanded NFIP to include wind damage. Here's how the Express-Times described Garrett's efforts:
However, it's likely an increase in premiums for homeowners with houses worth more than $600,000 would have constituted a poison pill, making the bill unpalatable for officials from states with high property values and lots of shoreline, e.g., New Jersey.
Admittedly, flood insurance is something I have a very cursory knowledge of, and so this will be one of those issues requiring follow-up on my part. In the meantime, we can't over look the fact he's working with Rep. Frank.