Thursday, December 4, 2008

Taking (most of) December Off

I'm working on a new website right now, so I'm going to be putting most of my energy and sparse spare time into that for the coming month. I'll be back sporadically with news and commentary, with an eye toward climbing back in the saddle regularly around January 5th.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Frank and Garrett

I've often thought about what a great reality show it would be to have Representative Scott Garrett and Representative Barney Frank live together. Their fights on the House Floor often have a hilarious, old married couple feel. From the Boston Daily comes an example:
On Republican Congressman Scott Garrett’s testimony that he had sponsored numerous amendments that would have helped prevent the Fannie/Freddie meltdown if they hadn’t been defeated by Democrats:

“Yes, the gentleman from New Jersey offered amendment after amendment—in his head. This is a serial violator writing on the mirror, ‘Stop me before I don’t legislate again.’ …I know it is a bad feeling not to get your own party with you. Sometimes, [your amendments] were defeated by only 60 percent of Republicans.”

With Garrett getting much more face time with regard to the bailout bonanza, I'm sure we can expect more exchanges in the future of a comic value. Unfortunately for our District, this is the reputation Garrett has. Although, as noted in an earlier piece, because he's become a voice against the bailout bonanza Garrett has the chance to reinvent himself.

Whether it's reinvention or continued comedy, there's a lot to look forward to in the coming months. For that I'm grateful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bailout Bonanza

With the news that Citigroup is going to get $300 billion in taxpayer dollars, and that commitments of taxpayer dollars are nearly $8 TRILLION, it's not surprising to see Representative Scott Garrett in the news today. From Bloomberg:
“Whether it’s lending or spending, it’s tax dollars that are going out the window and we end up holding collateral we don’t know anything about,” said Congressman Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican who serves on the House Financial Services Committee. “The time has come that we consider what sort of limitations we should be placing on the Fed so that authority returns to elected officials as opposed to appointed ones.”

Garrett's dead on with this one. And when pressed for more transparency, Fed Chairman Ben Bernancke had this to say:

“Some have asked us to reveal the names of the banks that are borrowing, how much they are borrowing, what collateral they are posting,” Bernanke said Nov. 18 to the House Financial Services Committee. “We think that’s counterproductive.”

I'm sorry, but this isn't Ben's personal piggy bank we're talking about. It's nearly $8 TRILLION in taxpayer money. We have a right to know that the Fed and Treasury are being more responsible with it than the people they seem hellbent to lend it to were with their own institution's money.

The commitments made by the Fed and Treasury (appointed), when added to our existing deficit (Congress), have pushed the amount each man, woman and child owe to over $61,000.

For comparative purposes, the median income for a family of four in the United States was $67,000 in 2007, but their Washington induced debt is roughly $244,000.

We're responsible for it, but without Congressional oversight, we have no way of making sure we get our money back or that we're not throwing money down a hole. In order for the Big Three to get their $25 billion, they have to present a business plan. That's .32% of what the Fed and Treasury are kicking out without having similar conditions.

Something has gone very, very wrong. And we the taxpayer are in line for getting royally screwed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Garrett Bailout Op-Ed

Representative Scott Garrett published an interestingly sarcastic Op-Ed in the New Jersey Herald over the weekend. I don't have time to dissect this right now, but here it is for folks to read.

Bear Stearns bailout. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout. AIG bailout. $700 billion bailout. Auto industry bailout. Medicaid bailout. Where do the bailouts end? Depends. How much money can you, the taxpayer, afford to pay?

Every bailout is the government committing you the taxpayer to pay more money. Thought you were saving for your children's college fund? Nope. That money is going to save Detroit. Thought you were going to save up for a house? Nope. That money is going to help people who bought houses they couldn't afford in the first place.

I have fought against all of these rash bailout measures, calling on my colleagues to stand against this commitment of your money with little or no government oversight. With the support of many of my colleagues, I called on President Bush for an increase in transparency to provide the American people and Members of Congress insight into the decision-making process that yielded the $700 billion bailout plan. I also backed the bill that was introduced as the alternative to the $700 billion bailout, the Free Market Protection Act. This Act contained many efforts to fundamentally address the systemic issues affecting the financial markets while preserving free market principles.

Every year, the government goes through an appropriations process of determining how much money will be budgeted for spending over the next fiscal year. There are hearings, there are debates, and while there could always be more oversight, there is at least a degree of accountability for how we are allotting money to be spent in the federal budget.

With these bailouts, however, there is no oversight. There are no hearings. There's a degree of exigency that started with Bear Stearns ("Too big to fail!") that has carried over to every other bailout proposal ("We bailed out Bear Stearns, why not Fannie and Freddie?!"). As a result of this "sky is falling" pressure to pass these bailout initiatives, Congress has spent almost as much in bailouts alone this year as it has in the federal budget. And has certainly ignored any attempt at the preservation of the free market.

Congress is currently discussing a "Stimulus II" package, to potentially be voted on next week. The word "stimulus" is really a misnomer, used to shore up public support for yet another bailout. In reality, it's "Spending II: Bailout Returns." It's unclear as to whether Nancy Pelosi will be fighting Apollo Creed in this bailout sequel, but by the end of the 110th Congress, there will be more chapters in the bailout saga than there are Rocky movies.

The line for a piece of the bailout pie is growing as businesses see an opportunity for free money from the government (aka: you, the taxpayer). American Express is faltering because of high credit card default rates. Their bailout handout means that you are writing a check to cover the people who aren't paying their credit card bills. The "Big Three" auto producers, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, received a $25 billion bailout in September. Now, they're back for more, claiming they need money to fund "innovation." You, the taxpayer, are writing a check to get them through this creative rough patch. Ethanol producers are also eagerly awaiting your money, as is the Medicaid program.

I am working diligently to find real and effective solutions to this economic crisis. There are other alternatives to constantly turning to the American taxpayers to bail out struggling companies, and I assure you I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find ideas that are in our best economic interest, both in the short and long term.

Shulman on the Campaign

Folks have probably already seen this, but for those that haven't, Dennis Shulman wrote a very thoughtful post-mortem on the race here in the Fifth:

This was a remarkable year.

A year that was peopled by thousands.

A year that found me:

In countless county and neighborhood fairs;

In Capitol Hill offices and parties;

At high school football games;

Marching in parades on Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Halloween, surrounded by enthusiastic supporters and some not-so-well-wishers;

On the pages of the New York Times and the New Yorker, on Blue Jersey, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Kos;

In campaign caravans rushing from Alpine to Phillipsburg;

In a union hall speaking to a hundred or so sheet metal apprentices, after investing five years of their life mastering their trade, unsure now if there will be work when they graduate;

In spacious living rooms, sipping champagne and munching hors d'oeuvres with governors and senators;

In Ringwood, touring a desolate track of land poisoned by Ford, surrounded by the Ramapo Mountain Indians who were this land's owners, its victims, its defenders.

This was truly a remarkable year.

And what I heard wherever I traveled this year was that people, whether affluent or impoverished, young or the retired, Republican or Democrat, were worried -- worried about their children, worried about their future, worried about our country.

Political campaigns these days have a way, too often, of getting lost in the contest between the two individuals vying for the seat. They become something closer to a food fight than a comparison of ideas and issues and alternative visions for America'

s future. They become a competition about "Gotcha," and in the process the more personal accusations drown out the political differences that really do matter. There are many reasons why this happens in this political climate, many reasons why this happened in the congressional race between Scott Garrett and myself, but that analysis is for another time and another place.

This race for the United States House of Representatives in NJ-5 should not have been about Scott Garrett or Dennis Shulman. It should have been about the contrasting political ideology and moral vision of the opponents. It should have been about the future of America. It should have been about the soul of our country and of our district.

It should have been about global warming and alternatives to oil and gas -- whether we should support increases in fuel efficiency and investment in wind, solar, and bio fuels.

It should have been about stem cell research -- whether we should provide the scientific community an incentive and the freedom to do the research here in the United States that could offer hope and cure for people with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's, and spinal cord injuries.

It should have been about taxes -- whether any representative who voted for a war that is costing us ten billion dollars a month, who voted against the Alternative Minimum Tax every time it came to the House floor, and voted for every one of the Bush budgets could honestly claim to be a fiscal conservative and a tax cutter.

It should have been about healthcare for children -- whether there was any moral justification for a congressman or congresswoman who makes more than 165 thousand dollars a year accepting a premium healthcare plan paid fully by federal funds for his or her family, but votes to deny healthcare to a family of four who makes twenty-five thousand dollars a year living in Dumont or Cresskill or Newton.

It should have been about reproductive choice -- whether the people in this district agree with the incumbent that abortions should be illegal even when the pregnant woman was a victim of rape or of incest.

It should have been about our sacred responsibility to our young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan -- whether we should support any congressman or congresswoman who would vote against medical benefits and other needed services for our disabled vets, and against tuition and housing benefits for those who returned to us able bodied.

Instead, sadly, incredibly, ridiculously, our election was about whether I was patriotic enough or in league with terrorists, and whether Scott Garrett had a farm or just a tax dodge.

Would the results on November 4th have been different if this election were about the comparative moral vision and political sensibilities of the candidates? I don't know.

But what I do know from this extraordinary year of my life is that everyone I met, irrespective of where they lived in the district and where they sat on the political spectrum, believed that the past eight years have been disastrous years -- that these have been years when our great and beloved nation has lost its way, and that we, as a nation, are certainly better than this.

Although I will not be taking a seat in Congress in January, I am hopeful about our country. I am hopeful that, with a new president and with Scott Garrett's positions becoming even more marginalized in the House, that our country will again find its way.

To all, in this past year, whom I have touched, and who have touched me:

Thank you.

Dennis Shulman

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Let My Spaces Go

This has been a growing frustration of mine, the parking garage at the Ramsey Rt. 17 station. Granted, far too few people had discovered how great a set-up it is, and to offset some expense the top floor and a half have been rented to car dealers. I didn't agree with that, but could understand.

Now, it seems they're getting ready to block off more spaces for non-commuters and it's getting packed in there. This is a park and ride, and the harder NJ Transit makes it to park the less people are going to ride. With the new lines going into the Meadowlands, appropriately scheduled trains could make the park and ride an integral part of the bigger picture of reducing traffic into the Meadowlands.

Adding insult to injury, NJ Transit decided to eliminate the 8:13, 9:17, and 10:15 evening trains from stopping at the station. While there may not have been the ridership to justify trains every half hour, why would NJ Transit choose to eliminate the trains with the shorter trip?

Ten (scheduled) to fifteen minutes (reality) may not seem like a lot to NJ Transit schedulers, but you're talking about an extra hour out of the lives of commuters every week.

The Rt. 17 Station has the potential to be the gateway point for north Bergen county transit. More express trains, and less difficulty finding a space are the keys to success there. I can't believe I'm alone in thinking this.

Taxpayers didn't put up a corporate parking lot, they put up a park and ride.

Update: Even worse, some of the spaces have been blocked for parking, others seem to be blocked because the ceiling is falling in. Unbelievable.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Let's Go Red Bulls

With an impressive win last night on the road, the Red Bulls are playing in the Major League Soccer championship game next Sunday. As I've mentioned in the past, I'm a fan, so this is great.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Garrett vs. GM

Represntative Scott Garrett has officially started beating the drum against saving GM, Ford and Chrysler. From today's Wall Street Journal:
Another Republican, Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, said that "the real problem with this is that [a bailout] is not going to change the company, but simply to perpetuate the same business practices that created the problem in the first place."

"You will be asking the average middle-class taxpayer that doesn't have as rich of a benefit package to subsidize buyouts," Rep. Garrett added. "There are a lot of jobs on the line, but a bailout does not permanently solve the situation. Who's to say we won't be facing the same crisis in 2009?"
I'm not surprised by Garrett's stance, and even heard someone use the same line on the train this morning. Unfortunately, it's a sentiment, a subtle kind of class warfare if you will, that is likely to gain traction.

Instead of addressing the root cause of this issue; Garrett and others are going to go after the employees. While the credit crisis and gas prices were the incendiary added to the Big Three's cash burn, it's not the cause. It's health care.

Unfortunately, GM saw this crisis coming back in 2005, and started pushing for meaningful reform then. Back in 2006, the CEO's of the Big Three were given an audience with the President, who paid them the typical lip service. They weren't asking for a loan then, they were asking for health care reform. Our health care crisis is killing them.

The problem is, from a competition standpoint, that their competitors all come from nations with socialized medicine. The last estimates I saw in 2006 were that health care per car is costing more than steel per car. Obviously, we can't flip a switch and eliminate that cost to save the Big Three overnight. However, there may be another way.

While it may be too late for this, instead of a loan, the Big Three should be able to buy into the government health benefit plan. They'd pay for it, not taxpayers.

The main reason this could be a win win is from the massive cost savings both to the Big Three and taxpayers; the more people in a pool the lower the costs. Right now, GM is insuring more than a million people. Ford and Chrysler pooled with that would create a new group of close to 2.5 million all together.

Pooling the Big Three's employees with Federal workers would offer unparalleled savings to taxpayers as well, once again, as the bigger the pool the lower the cost per person. It's simply how insurance works.

I realize there will be those who would falsely claim this is some kind of expansion of government. In fact, it would be more cost effective than loans or bailouts; while at the same time lowering fees for insuring our government employees. And the Big Three would be paying for it, not taxpayers.

In essence, this option is a practical shrinking of government while preserving the companies who provide so many jobs to so many people across the country.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Garrett on Veterans Day

Dear Friends,

We owe no greater gratitude than that belonging to our nation’s veterans. These service members have sacrificed their lives, comfort, and safety to fight for the continued security of our democracy. From World War II through Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the current War on Terror, our veterans deserve the best that we can give to them.

As President Calvin Coolidge said, ‘The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.’ We must take pause more often to thank those who sacrificed their time and in some instances, their lives, so that we may live in freedom. We are fortunate to have these brave men and women share their histories and memories, which are really pieces of themselves. While we can never repay their heroism, we can learn from their experience and thank them for their sacrifice.

I am so very proud of the Members of our Armed Services, and I am very proud to have the privilege of representing them in Congress. I salute our veterans, their families that stand with them, and those who currently serve our great nation. They have fought on the behalf of our country and now it’s time for us to fight for them. Rest assured that I will continue to work to protect and provide them with the security and support they need.

Scott Garrett
Member of Congress

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Earnhardt Economics

Those looking to bolster the efforts of GM to get loans from the government to weather the economic crisis got a voice to raise expectations: Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

The most popular driver in NASCAR had this to say:
Earnhardt doesn’t believe GM will go the way of failed banks.

“They’re too big,” he said. “The government won’t let them fail.”

For those that don't follow NASCAR, this would be akin to Derek Jeter saying something like that about NY politics. Earnhardt has a national following so large he runs his own social networking site.

If NASCAR nation is expecting the government to give the loans, it will be harder for those who depend on their support to reject the idea. Back when the bailouts began, Representative Scott Garrett often would ask how we define "too big to fail". Well, Earnhardt may have just defined that for Washington. It should be interesting to see how the debate plays out down there.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Garrett & The Burned Cross

Not sure how many people heard about the cross burning in Warren County or not. A family that supported Obama had a homemade banner torn down and turned into the kindling for a cross burning. Now, the eight year old daughter of the family is having trouble sleeping.

This is a spot where Representative Scott Garrett needs to take a stand. Garrett won the Warren County part of our District by a 2 to 1 margin, so what he says there carries some weight. I'm disappointed I haven't seen any comments from him condemning the act.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Future of the Republican Party?

Governor Sarah Palin is headed back to Alaska, apparently with $150,000 in new clothing and a lot of ill will with John McCain's staff. In what seems like an effort to prevent her from further damaging the Republican Party, McCain's staff are starting to talk and Fox News is on the warpath.

From the Los Angeles Times:
Fox News reported Wednesday that Palin's lack of knowledge on some topics also strained relations. Carl Cameron reported that campaign sources told him Palin had resisted coaching before her faltering Katie Couric interviews; did not understand that Africa was a continent rather than a country; and could not name the three nations that are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement -- the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Wow. When Fox News is slamming a Republican, you know they've got to be pretty bad.

Hope for Garrett

Similar to John McCain, as soon as the financial crisis hit, Dennis Shulman's chances seemed to dwindle. Representative Scott Garrett performed better, in a more hostile environment, because he actually represented the views of the vast majority of our District at a critical juncture. On whether or not the bailout should happen, Garrett was in his element in opposing it.

With a staff that kept him in front of the cameras, Garrett went from the obscure Northeast Congressman voting against the Voting Rights Act and extensions of unemployment benefits, to a leader speaking to the American people. The American people were with him in opposing the bailout, and obviously so was the District.

Now, we get to find out what Garrett's made of, and what kind of Representative we actually have.

In the past, Garrett has been excessively partisan and hyper-critical of bi-partisanship. He's also wasted a lot of time proposing going-nowhere legislation. And let's not forget all of the misrepresenting the facts on issues, which has led to open ridicule within the press and on the House floor. This has made it difficult for us as a District to have a voice that is listened to on the Hill; whether we needed AMT relief or transit funds.

The bailout debate has likely changed that; and as odd as it is to write this about someone who was in the bottom 5.5% of influence a short time ago, Garrett seems to have political capital.

How long that lasts will depend on Garrett and Garrett alone.

In essence, Garrett needs to return to Washington and make the decision as to whether he is going to play well with others. Garrett has the potential to be the leading conservative voice on the Hill, however, there's a pragmatic way to do that and an ideological one. Does he work toward sensible fiscal conservative principles in bills? Or does he do what he's always done?

Here's an example: small business programs and tax cuts. In the past, Garrett's voted against them based on ideology. If his goal is to reduce government, and actually achieve it instead of talking about it, programs which create jobs are important. Such programs and tax cuts reduce government by reducing the unemployed, medicaid, government housing, and welfare rolls. Garrett should be voting for them pragmatically.

Make no mistake, there are going to be a lot of no votes from Garrett in the next two years. That said, I'm optimistic Garrett will realize the opportunity he has, and take our District's vote in the House from an afterthought in the legislative process to one of prominence.

Granted, this may seem too optimistic to most of you, but a year and half ago I was optimistic about having an Obama vs. McCain Presidential race. Every now and again, you get what you hope for. Either way, I'm wildly curious to see how the next few months pan out.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Shulman Letter on Election

Dear Friends,

Thank you for all you did to help bring change to our country over the course of this campaign. While we were not victorious in our race in the Fifth District, our work contributed to a national movement which helped bring important, much-needed change to our country. Our opponents poured millions of dollars into what was once considered a "safe" seat, taking resources from other races throughout the country, many of which we won.

This election was about more than me or you or Scott Garrett. It was about fixing our broken economy. Solving our energy crisis. Ending the disastrous war in Iraq. Caring for our veterans. Protecting a woman's right to choose. Offering hope to people in search of a cure. Offering support for America's working men and women and the middle class.

We did not win, but we remain right on all of these issues, and we will continue to fight for what we believe in.

While Scott Garrett will keep his seat in Congress for now, he will no doubt continue to be a marginal figure in the minority of his minority party. He will no doubt continue to take money from the special interests he is supposed to oversee. He will no doubt continue to hire former lobbyists into his taxpayer-funded office. He will no doubt continue to evade ethics laws and take tax breaks he is not entitled to. He will no doubt continue to pursue an aggressively extremist, right-wing agenda. And no doubt, the day will come when Scott Garrett will be defeated. His seat is "safe" no longer.

No one likes negative campaigning -- but we were right to take this fight aggressively to Scott Garrett, and we are right to continue highlighting the disturbing record of extremism and corruption he has amassed in Washington while he was supposed to be representing us. We have lost this battle, but this war is not yet over. Together, we will win this long-term struggle, we will beat back the special interests, and we will defeat corrupt politicians like Scott Garrett who hold us back from our nation's righteous course.

Thank you to each and every one of you who invested your time, energy, money, thoughts and prayers into this race. Our efforts were not in vain. We delivered our message to hundreds of thousands of people, and we helped bring about a wave of change that ushered President Barack Obama into office. It is a new morning in our country, and all of us should be proud that we helped make that happen.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all the support you gave me during the past year. Thanks again, for everything, from the bottom of my heart.

Dennis Shulman

Garrett's Statement on Re-Election

Rep. Scott Garrett won re-election in the race for NewJersey’s 5th congressional district with 57% -42% of the vote, adecisive 15-point spread.

This victory will mark Garrett’s fourth election tooffice, and will send him back to Washington to continue his work as a taxpayer hero.

“This election is confirmation that voters want solutions to the issues facing this country and they repudiate the negative tactics employed by the Shulman campaign,” said Garrett.

“I would like to thank my family for their love and support, and I thank the people of the 5th district for the honor of returning me to Congress to fight to lower taxes, rein in profligate government spending and keeping our homeland secure.”

“Our opponent had an overwhelming amount of out-of-district resources, including DCCC financial support, and hundreds ofout-of-state volunteers,” said Amanda Gasperino, Garrett’s campaign manager.“They threw everything but the kitchen sink at him and spent well over a million dollars, yet Garrett’s victory, in spite of these factors, is overpowering evidence that he represents the interests and values of the people of New Jersey’s 5th District.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


President Barack Obama.

As I was hopeful after Iowa, now we can officially say, bring the change.

Garrett Wins

According to CNN and the AP, Representative Scott Garrett will be going back to Washington. With 80% of our Districts reporting, Garrett has a commanding 15 point lead.

Congratulations, Congressman.

What's With The Record?

For their Election Central '08, the Record seems to not count yours truly, Blue Jersey, CWA or Inside Bergen as part of the Blogosphere.

Most of us link to them, or at the very least to the excellent work of Herb Jackson, Charles Stile, and Alfred Dobson. Most of us were linked to by them in 2007. What changed?

I'd understand if I was knocked off the list for telling them they needed to do a better job of fact checking the campaigns and press statements from politicians. I could even understand a couple others, but all of us? Where's the Jersey love in their list of the Blogosphere? Here's their list, as of this afternoon:

Jersey Public Interest Research Group

N.J. Elections
Huffington Post
Red State
Talking Points Memo
The Corner
Town Hall

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hoboken Mayhem

Hoboken lived up to my expectations in terms of insanity. I had the priviledge of being introduced to Senator Lautenberg by Dennis Shulman. Then I was able to talk to Representative Scott Garrett for a while. Now I can say quite a few people have pressed my flesh.

I honestly wish both candidates good luck tomorrow. To the staff of each, who have busted their tails for this, enjoy it.

Come Wednesday morning, it's going to be a different landscape in Washington. Whether it is Shulman or Garrett, I'll be here to report on how they're doing down there.

Robo-calls for Shulman

President Bill Clinton and Mayor Mike Bloomberg are doing robo-calls for Dennis Shulman. I tried to post the audio, but for some reason it's not working.

In response to the Steve Forbes endorsement of Representative Scott Garrett, Shulman's campaign manager Jeff Hauser showed he still has some bite left in his remarks:
"Garrett's earth shattering endorsement from Steve Forbes, who almost but not quite earned a delegate per million dollars of his father's money he spent running for President, indicates that Garrett is seeking to shore up his base of support. What's Garrett's base? People like Forbes and Garrett who inherited millions upon millions of dollars in cash or fake farms.

On the other hand, Dennis is proud to have earned the endorsement of groups who don't always endorse members of his party -- the Firefighters, the nation's best respected Independent (Mayor Bloomberg), and of course the school children of Garrett's home town of Wantage. Yes, indeed, the Wantage Schools children voted last week, and in a landslide, Shulman beat Garrett 350-250. And while those school children are nowhere near as wealthy as Forbes, Mayor Bloomberg is actually wealthier -- and earned it himself."

Giuliani for Garrett

Rudy Giuliani has come out to endorse Representative Scott Garrett:
“Scott Garrett has been called a Hero of the Taxpayer – and rightfully so. He has been a true leader in the fight to lower taxes on New Jersey families, working diligently to ease the burden of the AMT and fighting to bring back more of the money New Jersey sends to Washington. Even when challenged by members of his own party,Scott stood up against wasteful spending. I know first-hand the determination it takes to make a stand on what you think is right, and Scott’s resolve in protecting the taxpayer should be commended."

“In these tough economic times, we need more principled leaders to fight against increased taxes and bloated government budgets. That’s why I am proud to support Scott Garrett’s campaign for re-election to Congress.”

Garrett Pressed My Flesh

It was a pleasant surprise to see Representative Scott Garrett shaking hands at my train station this morning. There were a few folks who came up to shake his hand in the couple of minutes we were there and wish him well. It was a little chaotic because NJ Transit switched tracks on us, but he took it in stride.

For those that would like to meet Garrett, or challenger Dennis Shulman, both will be in Hoboken this evening greeting evening commuters. Should be a zoo. People can buy popcorn from one of the vendors in the station to watch the festivities.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Record for Shulman, Slams Garrett

This was a bit of a foregone conclusion, as the NJ Herald was for Representative Scott Garrett, however, the Record's endorsement of Dennis Shulman was the most harshly worded attack on Garrett I've seen recently.

From the endorsement:

SCOTT GARRETT is afraid. And he wants voters to be afraid. But the only thing voters should fear is Garrett's reelection to the House of Representatives.


There is much work to be done in Washington. Garrett is not the man for the job. He alienates Republicans and Democrats. That is not the bipartisan résumé for a federal legislator.


We acknowledge Dennis Shulman is untested. We do not know how effective he would be as a legislator. But we do know that Garrett's fiscal extremism makes him an ineffective lawmaker. We know that Garrett will vote his personal ideology regardless of the impact on constituents. Voters can be sure that Garrett will represent himself, not them.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Obama Video

I didn't get to see Barack Obama's infomercial until tonight, but thanks to YouTube, it doesn't matter I was on the train. This is pretty much the best political video I've ever seen. If you missed it, here you go:

Garrett's Camp Has Some "Fun"

The campaign of Representative Scott Garrett had some "fun" today by releasing bitingly sarcastic press release. Garrett is calling on Dennis Shulman to return money roughly $168K from a particular donor: Dennis Shulman.

From the release:

This donor heads a long list of questionable donors to the Shulman for Congress campaign, many of whom represent interests outside of New Jersey’s 5th District:

* Playboy Enterprises CEO Christie Hefner
* Ethically-challenged Congressman Charlie Rangel
* Fannie/Freddie Patron Saint Barney Frank
* Scandal-ridden Clinton fundraiser Beth Dozoretz
* Pro-amnesty businessman Roger Berkley
* Eliot Spitzer devotee Marsha Laufer
* Illegal-immigration activist and basement couch surfer Jeffrey M. Hauser

In reality, Dennis Shulman should be thankful he’s not in Congress, because if the tax plan he supports went through, he’d have less money to loan to his own campaign.

It is kind of an amusing way for them to raise the fact that Shulman's raised far less in state money than Garrett, and take a poke at Hauser who has been the chief antagonist of Garrett's people.

Shulman Makes Me Famous

Well, not really.

The campaign for Dennis Shulman put out a very nice video today. I happen to be in a background shot talking with Dennis after the debate in Woodcliff Lake. Take a look:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Rabbi and the Mayor

The endorsement of Dennis Shulman by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to take on Representative Scott Garrett is old news. Here's how they've covered it:


Blue Jersey

Star Ledger

The Record

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Garrett Claims Victory

Surprisingly, I didn't get a press release from the Dennis Shulman campaign after last night's heated debate. However, as one would expect, Representative Scott Garrett has claimed victory.
Congressman Scott Garrett was at the top of his game on Wednesday night in his second debate against Dennis Shulman, hosted by the New Jersey Herald at Sussex County Community College.

Garrett was again able to tout his strong record as a taxpayer advocate, highlighting that he has received the Americans for Tax Reform “Hero of the Taxpayer” award every year he has been in Congress. Additionally, Garrett discussed his commitment to the ideals espoused by Citizens Against Government Waste, as well as the National Taxpayers Union.

Garrett also referenced the negative campaign tactics employed by his opponent, urging audience members to participate in an active listening exercise. “Every time my opponent makes an attack against me put a check in one column,” Garrett said. “And every time you hear my opponent offer a solution, put a check in the other column. I thinkyou are going to hear a lot of attacks but not a lot of solutions from my opponent on important issues that affect all of our families; solutions to thehigh cost of energy, or solutions to high taxes or solutions to end wasteful spending. Tonight, I will provide you with solutions because for the past six years I have been your Congressman I have fought for these important issues.”

True to Garrett’spredictions, Garrett stuck to the issues, Shulman hurled wild accusations. After 60 minutes of debate this evening, voters still do not know where Shulman stands on solutions to high taxes, illegal immigration, the energy crisis, healthcare, or any other number of issues.

Republicans Worried About Garrett

The Politico scoops again (bolding mine):

The National Republican Congressional Committee just put out a calling-all-Republicans E-mail to solicit volunteers to man a phone bank on behalf of ten endangered incumbents.


The following “Top 10 Phone-Banking” campaigns have done a great job of recruiting volunteers, and have collectively made nearly 30,000 connections with voters from the phone-banks in the basement of the RNC:
1) Robin Hayes (R-N.C) – 5,643 calls
2) Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) – 4,922 calls
3) Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) - 4,459 calls
4) Don Young (R-Alaska) – 3,583 calls
5) Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) – 3,437 calls
6) Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) - 3,014 calls
7) Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) – 1,483 calls
8) Jon Porter (R-Nev.) – 935 calls
9) Phil English (R-Penn.) – 868 calls
10) Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.) – 338 calls

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not Surprising, Both Claim Victory

One has to love press releases. Not a surprise, both the campaigns of Representative Scott Garrett and Dennis Shulman both claimed victory in last night's debate.

First, from Garrett's campaign:

Congressman Scott Garrett scored a decisive victory in Sunday night’s debate against challenger Dennis Shulman at Temple Emanuel. In the first of three debates, Garrett was afforded the opportunity to share his message of fiscal responsibility and limited government, as well as to refute attack claims made from his opponent.

“I am probably bestknown for my fight against higher taxes and my efforts to control wasteful spending,” said Garrett in his opening statement. “Frankly, I don’t think the government can make better decisions about how to spend your money than you can.”

The debate centered around questions relating to Israel, Iran, healthcare, and the economy.

Fresh from his endorsement by the Express-Times newspaper, Garrett seemed at ease in his role as the favorite to win re-election in the race for the 5th Congressional District.

“As I travel around NewJersey, I meet with families who are concerned about our nation’s economy and future,” Garrett said. “People are worried about their retirement accounts and funding their children’s college funds. I share your concerns and havebeen fighting against the Washington establishment. We need to find new solutions to the problems that face our nation, not the continued failed policies that helped to cause the problem.” Garrett closed with observations about what makes the United States unique.

“This is what makes America different from the rest of the world. We fully embrace the rights of all Americans to pursue happiness and to succeed. It does not matter if you are Joe the Plumber or Joe Kennedy—all Americans have limitless opportunities.”

The second debate in this series will be held at Sussex County Community College on Wednesday,October 22 at 7pm.

And now the Shulman camp:

In the first of three debates, Democratic challenger Dennis Shulman kept incumbent Republican Scott Garrett on defense while scoring the most memorable lines of the evening. Here are some of the highlights from last night and some questions that remain unanswered:

Garrett continued to stonewall on the investigation into whether he is improperly taking a farmland assessment meant for real farmers. Garrett clearly said that his property is used as a "Christmas tree farm." However, Garrett has had to swear to an oath on his official New Jersey farmland assessment papers concerning what he farmed, and he swore that his farm is a "tree and shrub" farm, rather than selecting the "Christmas tree farm" category.

If Garrett is farming Christmas trees over the required 5.20 acres, why will he not invite reporters to visit the estate? Why does he classify the property under the more vague "tree and shrub" label when "Christmas trees" is a clear option on the form? Is it because the casual observer can more easily identify whether 5.20 acres are in fact being used to farm Christmas trees? Most critically -- why hasn't Garrett filed the environmental impact statement legally required for a "tree and shrub farm?"

Garrett refused Dennis' invitation to pledge not to take contributions from the industries he is charged with overseeing in Congress. As a member of the House Financial Services committee, Garrett has taken more than $1,000,000 from banks, insurers, and other special interests he is supposed to be regulating. Why won't he join Dennis in taking this pledge?

In a rare moment of honesty, Garrett defended massive tax breaks for Exxon-Mobile while talking about energy policy. Garrett has taken tens of thousands of dollars from Big Oil, and he has been one of their best friends in Congress. Garrett thinks it is just and appropriate to heap massive tax breaks on Exxon Mobile and the rest of Big Oil despite the record profits these companies are making at the expense of American taxpayers and consumers. Why should Fifth District voters trust a Big Oil crony like Scott Garrett to lower gas prices and invest in a sensible energy plan?

Remarkably, Garrett accused Dennis Shulman of misquoting scripture. During an exchange about healthcare, Dennis accurately recited from Matthew 10( when he said, "Even your scripture, Scott, says heal the sick and cleanse the leper." Why does Scott Garrett think that the government should guarantee healthcare for his family but not yours?

Garrett discussed his radical, out-of-step opposition to embryonic stem cell research. In contrast, Dennis Shulman discussed his dedication to funding all potential cures for disease, invoking his first-hand experiences with patients and congregants. Shulman also chided Garrett for his anti-science views and dismissal of research. How can voters trust Scott Garrett to represent them responsibly when he dismisses unbiased research in favor of extreme ideology? Why won't he support federal funding of stem cell research?

When Shulman discussed Garrett's corrupt ties to special interests like Countrywide Financial, Garrett changed the subject by discussing Senator Chris Dodd's personal mortgage with Countrywide. Garrett has taken thousands of dollars from Countrywide Financial alone, his taxpayer-funded chief of staff is a former lobbyist for Countrywide, and Garrett's economic plan would have expanded the role of disgraced lenders like Countrywide prior to the economic crash that Countrywide caused. Why won't Garrett release a copy of his own personal Countrywide mortgage?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Garrett/Shulman Debate Summary

I'll do a more comprehensive write-up in a little bit of tonight's debate between Representative Scott Garrett and Dennis Shulman, but here's a summary of how I saw things.

Garrett's Best Moment:

Talking about the bailout. This is Garrett's sweet spot and he hit a home run with it. Garrett brought up the fact that we were told the sky would fall if the bailout didn't happen, the bailout happened, and the sky fell anyway. Even when Shulman introduced the idea that AMT relief wouldn't have happened, which is a bit misleading, Garrett handled that as well.

Shulman's Best Moment:

Shulman attacked Garrett's use of "support" toward alternative energy, saying he hadn't voted for it. As I noted in an earlier post, Garrett is the only Congressman from NJ to oppose every effort to increase alternative energy tax credits and funding during the 110th Congress. It couldn't have surprising one vote didn't pop in Garrett's head. Garrett did vote for the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which gave tacit support to alternatives, while handing $14.5 billion in tax breaks to big oil.

Garrett's Worst Moment:

See above. In a campaign that's been way too personal, the Shulman camp now has the policy video they need to flood the Internet and the airwaves.

Shulman's Worst Moment:

Saying we should expect government waste. Garrett's other sweet spot is railing against waste, that's what people come to expect, and Shulman defending waste won't sit well with those who are furious about waste and what it costs taxpayers. Now the Garrett camp has their video (but I don't know if they had a camera there like Shulman).

Notable appearances, Councilman Paul Aronsohn and former BCRO Chairman Guy Talarico.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's Getting Ugly

How bad can the internal polling of Representative Scott Garrett be? In his latest press release, Garrett's camp is bringing ACORN into their attacks against Dennis Shulman. I've thought for a while the McCain campaign has been listening a little too closely to the talk radio blowhards. But for Garrett to descend the desperation path, one really has to wonder what the heck is going on.

The Shulman campaign posted Garrett's release on DailyKos, which then prompted them to get nominated for a fundraising drive. From the release:
Top aide Hauser's work as a lobbyist for ACORN interests has manifested in Shulman's campaign as Hauser actively pulls the strings. It hasn't gone unnoticed that Shulman rarely speaks directly to the press; his campaign message is communicated by Hauser, who cut his teeth as the mouthpiece for ACORN interests.


As a result of Hauser's puppeteering, Shulman has been silent about the concerns raised by ACORN voter fraud during this election. Even as concerns are raised about ACORN's influence in New Jersey, Shulman has not condemned ACORN for their efforts to manufacture voter registrations.

One had to expect this kind of attack, and the Shulman campaign seemed to want this fight over who is employing the worst lobbyist, but come on. ACORN? Really? Personally, Mickey Mouse can sign up to vote all he wants (he wins votes every election), it's up to the County Clerk to validate a registration. The people signing him up should be prosecuted, but if they make it onto the rolls and into the polls that's on the County Clerk.

Where was Garrett's outrage over the voter roll purges of legit voters? Or the fact you can hack the machines we're required to vote on by law? There wasn't any. We've seriously watched this campaign go into the gutter on both sides; but Garrett's camp claiming he's a champion of transparency and accountability in the voting process is ridiculous.

The man voted against re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act; actively supported unconstitutional disenfranchisement efforts while standing silent while the Administration actively sought to disenfranchise voters; and joined a group to argue that hackable voting machines weren't a problem.

Please, Garrett, get off your short horse.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shulman's Sarlo Stumble

PolitickerNJ and the Star Ledger are reporting that State Senator Paul Sarlo is calling for the status of Representative Scott Garrett to be investigated. From the Star Ledger:
"The New Jersey Division of Taxation needs to open an investigation to determine whether Scott Garrett is engaged in a tax evasion scheme to duck his fair share of New Jersey state taxes," Sarlo said in the Shulman campaign statement.
Of all the people the Shulman campaign could have gotten to say this, Sarlo is near the bottom of the list for least corrupt NJ politicians.

First, Sarlo was the patron saint of EnCap, the largest waste of Bergen County and NJ taxpayer dollars in decades. We're talking millions if not billions of dollars wasted; in addition to the use of eminent domain within his own District threatening to take away generations of family businesses.

Second, with the exception of the Lautenberg/Andrews tiff, Sarlo is one of indicted former BCDO Chairman Joe Ferriero's favorite State Senators. He was so close to Ferriero, that his quest for Majority Leader in the State Senate back in November was blocked by reform minded State Senator Loretta Weinberg.

Third, he represents absolutely no one from our District. There are plenty of elected Democrats within the District who could have called for the corruption investigation, maybe even a respected leader like Weinberg. But Sarlo!?!

In what has been a campaign strong enough to make the DCCC's list of top campaigns, this may have been the Shulman camp's biggest stumble. Shulman's had more momentum and money than anyone taking on Garrett, and an unparalleled friendly climate. But introducing Sarlo as a surrogate right before the debates opens up a whole can of worms.

I Once Had A Blog...

Similar to January, things have gone crazy at work (It's 2AM, I just got home) and blogging has fallen by the wayside. It doesn't mean I don't care, it's just that I don't have time.

In spite of this, my readership has grown in recent weeks as people are Googling our candidates here in the Fifth. In a sense, that makes the last two years of blogging seem worth it, as people coming searching for Representative Scott Garrett or Dennis Shulman have a lot of material to base their opinions on.

My next big post will probably be after the debate on Sunday (where are my press credentials?). After that, I can't really be sure.

For my regular readers, I apologize. For the newbies, welcome; you've got a little over 500 posts to look at. You should be caught up by the time I get back in the swing of things.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

We Get Debates!

PolitickerNJ is reporting that Representative Scott Garrett and Dennis Shulman will meet for three debates.
The first debate will take place at Temple Emanuel in Woodcliff Lake on Sunday, October 19th at 7p.m. The candidates will debate the following Wednesday at Sussex Community College at 8p.m., followed by a Friday debate on WRNJ radio at 11:00 a.m.

At the very least, I should be at the first one.

Monday, October 6, 2008

How 'Bout That Bailout?

With today's historic sell off, and subsequent continued slump in the Asian markets going on now, one has to wonder what those who sold the bailout are thinking now? I suppose you saw a bit of it in the President's comments, but the bottom line is there isn't going to be some miraculous turnaround.

I'm still glad that Representative Scott Garrett voted against the bailout. Fear and the message that we as a nation can't rise to the challenge of a downturn won the day on Friday. Unfortunately, as today's worldwide market sell off points too, further indebting the American taxpayer without any controls is unlikely to have an impact in the short term. The ugly truth is, there's also no guarantee it will make anything better in the future either. Yet those on Capitol Hill somehow felt it was good to give the people who created this mess even more money to play with.

I realize that Dennis Shulman's campaign is slamming Garrett as being to blame for the crisis, and how people will see it in the long run as it relates to Garrett remains to be seen. The campaign seems to have gotten particularly nasty in the mail on both sides as of late. Shulman attacking Garrett for supporting the flat tax or value added tax; and Garrett's campaign overly darkening a picture of Shulman, apparently blacking out his eyes, falsely claiming that Garrett's plan will lower gas prices immediately. The fact Garrett's even sending out hit pieces at this point makes me wonder what Garrett's polling is showing that he's not ignoring his opponents until late October like previous elections.

Garrett, with his vote against the bailout, stood with his constituents for once. While I kind of doubt voters will blame Garrett alone for the financial crisis, it should be interesting to see how people's moods are in a month when their 401(k)'s still haven't recovered and more of the impact of deregulation is discovered. Just Sunday, 60 Minutes ran a story talking about the $20-30 trillion unregulated credit/default swap shadow market.

It's scary stuff, and this thing is going to get a helluva lot worse before it gets better. At the end of the day we're nearly a trillion more in debt with nothing to show except that our politicians are easily bribed and have little consideration for future generations.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

500th Post: Trillion Dollar Lipstick

Well, the Senate decided to pass the $700 billion dollar rescue package, which according to the CBO is actually a $926.5 billion borrowing spree. It's almost like the Senate didn't bother to look at the report. To use that phrase the Presidential candidates love so much, this is trillion dollar lipstick.

Seriously, are these guys kidding. I realize the AP talks about the "sweeteners" added to the bill for passage, but it seems the Senate (at Wall Steet's bidding) is treating the American taxpayer like children at the mercy of the proverbial pervert offering candy in their pocket.

Wall Street doesn't get that they did this to themselves, and this bailout bill doesn't do anything to fix that. On Monday, after the House vote, the Wall Street entitlement complex was on full display in the press.

"How could this have happened? Is there such a disconnect on Capitol Hill? This becomes a problem because Wall Street is very uncomfortable with uncertainty," said Gordon Charlop, managing director with Rosenblatt Securities. "The bailout not going through sends a signal that Congress isn't willing to do their part."

With all do respect to Mr. Charlop, Congress has loosened regulations for the last 20 years because Wall Street has preached they could handle their own affairs. Exactly who wasn't holding up their end of the bargain? Now, after they couldn't put their house in order they expect the People's House to be their personal piggy bank.

No one can guarantee this action will avert the technical recession most Americans have been in for years. If the problem is that there is not enough capital in the market so that the good actors can go about their business, then the funds should be directed to the good actors. Simply giving money to those who couldn't handle it in the first place puts our nation at a greater risk in the future.

I seriously hope Representative Scott Garrett and those who voted against this bill in the first place have the moral fortitude to stick to their guns and vote no again. I actually hope others who claim to care about deficits join them.

We already spend 30% of our taxes paying down debt. Increasing the amount each man, woman and child in this nation owes by 9% in a single vote, with no guarantee of success, is idiotic. If this thing goes through, with no guarantees except for the wink and nod that things will get better, the share of the national debt of every man, woman and child in this nation will rise to about $36,000.

I don't dispute something needs to be done, but Congress can do better than this. It now rests on the House to return some commonsense to this process. Simply because, more often than not, those in Washington seem to care more for sweets than substance, we the American taxpayer are likely going to be hosed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Shulman Campaign on the Bailout Bill

Here's the statement from the campaign of Dennis Shulman:

"This debate and crisis are the direct result of George Bush and Scott Garrett consistently battling against all efforts to reasonably regulate greedy special interests, especially the corrupt predatory lenders like Countrywide Financial that fund Garrett's campaigns and run his congressional office. For Garrett to attempt to duck responsibility for the mess he created while taxpayers pay Countrywide Financial's former lobbyist to run his office is disgraceful, and that's why 5th District voters must and will fire Scott Garrett.

Dennis Shulman guarantees that his office, unlike corrupt politician Scott Garrett's, will be run on behalf of NJ taxpayers and not the special interests, and painfully flawed bills like this will never again be required. For Bush's loyal foot soldier to inveigh against the Bush Administration from the floor of Congress the day before Bush's former mega-lobbyist White House counsel comes in to raise tens of thousands of dollars of scandal-tinged money for him gives the word "hypocrisy" a bad name."

Official Statement from Garrett

This is the official statement of Representative Scott Garrett on the failed bailout bill:

"Congress has been faced with making a grave decision for the future of our country and the welfare of American families. Citizens across the country are anxious for the current economic crisis to end, however I had serious doubts about the ability of the Bailout bill to accomplish that goal. What I am certain of, however, is that this bill would have set a precedent for government intervention in the marketplace, added to the ever increasing national deficit, and increased the chances that inflationary pressures would impose what is surely the cruelest tax on families.

"As a result of these concerns, I have voted against the Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. I have instead chosen to join with over 30 of my colleagues in cosponsoring the Economic Rescue Alternative Plan introduced on the floor today.

"Prior to this bill coming to the floor for a vote today, I was very outspoken about the need for in-depth discussion and hearings among Members of Congress to determine the best plan of action for the American taxpayer. It is my hope that we can now progress forward in productive bipartisan negotiations to formulate a better piece of legislation."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Garrett on the Bailout

This is from the Los Angeles Times:
"This morning we should be very much alarmed," said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), addressing taxpayers directly. "Obviously, Washington is not listening to your wishes. Those who used to work for Goldman Sachs will support this deal. . . . Those who have blocked reform in the past will support this deal. I will not support this deal."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

If I Could Sue Garrett I Would

Representative Scott Garrett may have earned some praise from me lately regarding the bailout, but that doesn't mean it doesn't aggravate me to see him use my party name from 2006 yet again. In the first campaign mailer of his I've seen, once again he uses my "An Independent Voice" as his own, albeit, tagging on "For Change" at the end. For both infringement on my brand and false advertising, if I could sue Garrett I would.

At the heart of the matter are my own undecided political intentions. If I ever were to run again at any level, An Independent Voice is my brand. Over 100 people signed my petition stating that and about 2,600 voted for that brand. First time out of the gate, with no budget, we felt we had done pretty well with that. Yet Garrett's campaign uses my brand as it's own.

There's also the "truth in advertising" aspect that I feel is very important to fixing what's wrong with politics. Garrett votes the party line over 90% of the time, so he's hardly independent. When Garrett doesn't, he is often one of a few dozen lawmakers voting AGAINST CHANGE in the form of improvements to programs.

The Washington Post keeps a record of such votes and here a few recent ones:
  • Garrett was one of 28 Representatives to vote against Elder Abuse Prevention.
  • Garrett was one of 47 Representatives to vote against parity for coverage of treatment for things like autism and alcoholism.
  • Garrett was one of 55 Representatives to vote against improving bridge inspections on interstate highways.
  • Garrett was one of 59 Representatives to vote against improving Medicare.
  • Garrett was one of 23 Representatives to vote against establishing an FBI mortgage fraud investigator to investigate the types of fraud that have contributed to the financial meltdown.

There are a number of examples of this, and I plan to do a more comprehensive review later. However, it really points to what most people hate about party politics when a campaign piece like Garrett's makes completely unfounded claims about their candidate. His claims of accomplisment within the mailer will take more time to discect as false, however they're stretching the truth or flat out misrepresenting his record as well.

Had Garrett's people just stolen my brand, they still could say he's bucked the party from time to time. However, adding for change on the end, when it seems the only time he bucks the party is to vote against change to improve programs is a complete misrepresentation of his voting record and patently disingenuous.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Press Covers Shulman Ad

Herb Jackson of the Record does a nice piece on the factual aspects of Dennis Shulman's attack ad on Representative Scott Garrett. One thing really jumped out, though:
Garett's land in question is 9.88 acres in Wantage Township that was originally owned by his father, now deceased.

Public records show the land was assessed at $6,100 in 2007.

I didn't know you could find land in NJ for less than $1,000 an acre. Does this strike anybody else as odd?

Jessica Coomes of the Express-Times also covered the ad, posting Garrett's campaign's response and an interesting tidbit:
Gasperino said residents deserve policy proposals, not "unfounded political gimmicks," and she said Shulman is attacking open space. Gasperino did not respond to follow-up questions to identify which statements she deems untrue.

Now this is going to get interesting.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Better Bailout?

I'm not sure if my office is typical in how freely we talk about politics, but the bailout proposal has dominated our lunch conversation lately. What's interesting is that no one I know, and I mean no one, is in favor of this thing.

Along with our own Representative Scott Garrett, the skeptics are getting more press and growing louder:
"It's a tough sell to most of our members," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., after a closed-door meeting with Paulson and Bernanke. "It's a terrible plan, but I haven't heard anything better."

There are a lot of plans out there, and most that I've read or heard are better than putting $700 billion in the hands of those that mismanaged the funds they had. Here's one we talked about at lunch, and while I can't take credit for it, it's an alternative that may appease those concerned about throwing more taxpayer money down a pit:
  1. Let the stupid and greedy fail. That's the way capitalism is supposed to work; there are consequences for bad choices.
  2. Make the $700 billion available to small banks who didn't get stupid and greedy. This would give them the capital they need in order to meet a greater demand caused by the failure of the stupid and greedy. It rewards discipline and it also would be repaid to taxpayers with interest.
  3. Eliminate the tax incentives for being stupid and greedy.
It's far from perfect, but it's an idea. There are options out there, and Congress must consider them all before putting taxpayers on the hook. My hope is that the President's awful image among the American voting public, and general belief we can't trust the guy, will doom this plan when he goes on TV to sell it tonight.

Shulman Karchers Garrett

Back in November of 2007, I pondered if it would be possible for Representative Scott Garrett to take the same sort of hell for his farming tax deduction that failed candidate Ellen Karcher did. Today, the campaign of Dennis Shulman answered the question with gusto:

Let the games begin...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Toll Roads and Bailouts

I'm kind of glad that economists are starting to take a breath and realize the bailout program being crammed down Washington's throat as a "the only way" situation may not be. Governor Corzine told us here in NJ the only way to balance our state's budget was to lease or privatize our toll roads. Didn't happen, and we're still kicking.

People need to raise questions, loudly, about the wisdom of this plan. Simply deferring to Treasury Secretary Paulson's experience with Goldman Sachs as being all knowing is a dangerous path to take. So far, this is one of my favorite challenges to the plan:
For somebody like me who believes strongly in the free market system, the most serious risk of the current situation is that the interest of a few financiers will undermine the fundamental workings of the capitalist system," wrote University of Chicago Business School Economist Luigi Zingales, in a short essay titled "Why Paulson is Wrong" cited by Mallaby and a raft of other economics blogs across the ideological spectrum. "The time has come to save capitalism from the capitalists.

Should these large companies fail, the idea that other smaller competitors won't step up and give those with good credit loans runs counter to our American experience and the nature of our economy. This bailout plan is awful, and while still is likely to go through, it seems the reason they're trying to rush Congress through it is to prevent people from asking questions. The reality is, it's a handout to the bad actors on Wall Street who put profit over prudence. They made this bed.

Garrett Beating Shulman in Kos Poll

The folks over at Daily Kos paid for a poll of our Fifth District. If the election were held today, Representative Scott Garrett would beat Dennis Shulman 49-34%. Granted the interview pool was relatively small, however those don't look like promising numbers.

The glimmer of hope or the final nail in the coffin would be that 38% of those polled had no opinion of Shulman. As with every election, Independents will carry the district, as their 48-35% pro-Garrett stance so closely mirrored the poll results.

Should Garrett's campaign use my lines again, or something close, independents may believe they're getting someone other than the Garrett that's actually voted the Republican line 90.7% of the time. It also doesn't help Shulman that Garrett's sentiments on the bailouts so closely mirror every person I've talked to so far. However, should Garrett fail to prevent this thing or get protections for taxpayers added it may provide an opening.

Responding to the post on Kos, Jeff Hauser (Shulman's Campaign Manager) had this to say:
Stay tuned -- by the middle of the upcoming week, you'll begin to see outreach to independents that in no way compromises Dennis' values.

We're going to tell the truth about Garrett in a direct manner via every possible medium, from viral video (check out our star interns, the Texas Oilmen for Garrett, in this parody of the Office -- ) to cable tv to direct mail to, as mentioned above, old fashioned door knocking/field.

There's still time yet, and it will be interesting to see how this thing all turns out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why Can't We Get the Good Loans?

Am I the only one with a sense of deja vu regarding the urgency being pressed by the White House for the American taxpayer to accept $700 billion in bad loans as their own? I'm sure others can recall previous instances where the Administration told us of impending doom where the threat didn't materialize.

It seems an awful lot like the bad actors on Wall Street, who pursued profit over prudence, are being given one last reward for their actions. I haven't spoken to one real person, or heard one talking head, who thinks this is a good idea. It doesn't sit well with anyone I know that we're about to bailout these guys to the tune of $700 billion, leaving them their profit margins and good notes.

If the bad actors need $700 billion in capital, why aren't taxpayers buying $700 billion in good loans? Then at least we'd know we're going to get most of our money back. Why are they shafting taxpayers and telling us it's for our own good?

We're being told the alternative is much worse, well the American people deserve to know what that alternative is. There are enough good actors, small local and regional banks and insurers, who didn't get greedy and stupid. If these institutions are capable of picking up the slack, why not give them a shot first? Or let them buy $700 billion in good loans from the bad actors. The people that made the bad loans shouldn't be able to simply wash their hands with taxpayer sanitizer and move on.

I have little doubt this raping of the taxpayer is going to go through, but as voters and citizens, we have to dedicate ourselves to ensuring that these sorts of things don't happen again. Unfortunately, in the era of special interests first Washington leadership, we the taxpayer will continue to be bent over the barrel and told it's for our own good.

Friday, September 19, 2008

When Do We Call BS?

With bailout after bailout after bailout being announced, when do we as taxpayers get to call bull manure?

Very rarely do I praise something Representative Scott Garrett says, but in a press release reported by the Express-Times I think he hit the nail right on the head:

We were assured that the government intervention on behalf of Bear Stearns was necessary in order to avoid a complete financial collapse," Garrett said in a press release. "Rather than stem the tide, the government bailout of Bear Stearns opened the flood gates.
Now, with a massive fund being assembled for even more bailouts, the American taxpayer could be on the hook for upwards of $500 billion when you add all the bailouts together. That's roughly the same amount as the Iraq War, and neither expenditure has proven an effective use of our money. What's even more frightening is the fact a trillion is not unthinkable for both the bailouts and Iraq.

Here's how the Washington Post describes the massive fund:
The plan involves using hundreds of billions of dollars in government funding to buy bad loans, leaving banks with more money and fewer problems, according to two sources familiar with what was said at the meeting.

Do you get that? We the taxpayer are sending money down a hole, with no chance of being repaid as we were with Crystler. What do we as taxpayers want with a bunch of bad loans? Those that made these bad decisions, based on greed over principle, are being rewarded because they're having their good loans left in their hands.

This is where the American people need to call bull manure.

First off, it represents the end of capitalism as we know it. The idea that Wall Street firms will no longer have to worry about whether they're making good decisions, because now everybody knows the Treasury will bail them out if they don't, won't have any restraint on bad decisions.

It will simply be a get as much money as possible before crashing, call Uncle Sam for help at the crash, and continue forward. Don't think that's how Wall Steet sees it? Then how else could anyone explain an 800 point increase over the last two days with no nuts and bolts economic data out. It's all based on the knowledge they can go back and do what they've been doing.

Sure, there are those like Representative Barney Frank who will say "oh, the Treasury won't use this authority." He said that with Fannie and Freddie, and he was being disingenuous then and those advocating this plan are being disingenuous now.

People have got to learn, whether it is with stuff like the Patriot Act or these bailout bills, if the government is asking for the authority to do something they are going to use it when they get it.

Our Representative's job is to protect us, and represent our voice on the Hill. As much as it pains people to give him credit at times, and as wrong as he often is; Garrett being against government getting bigger is exactly the perspective we need now. The more bad debt we assume, the less government is going to be able to do and the more of our taxes are going to simply pay off bad loans and decisions made in the private sector. It's lunacy.

We're already massively in debt. Roughly 30% of our taxes go to pay off debt (a lot of which Garrett voted for). Now, with the hundreds of billions in lending we're having to borrow from China and Russia to loan to companies who made bad decisions, with no discipline, that 30% could easily top 50% of taxes. What school of business teaches this as a prudent economic model?

People who want things like national healthcare or a stronger defense establishment or whatever, have to recogognize that Washington going forward with this plan is going to destroy our ability to pay for the things we need and want. We shouldn't be throwing good taxpayer money after bad private sector decisions.

But the greed goes on...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ruth Elizabeth (Bonter) Van Steveninck

This is the official obituary:

VAN STEVENINCK Ruth Elizabeth (nee Bonter), 86, passed away September 13, 2008. She was a 55 year resident of Midland Park. Born at home in Paterson, to Elizabeth (nee Locker) and William Bonter on New Year's Day in 1922, Ruth worked in the silk mills of Paterson and was a quality control inspector for Curtiss Wright during WW II. She owned her own business on Godwin Avenue in Midland Park and became a Real Estate Broker in Bergen County for many years.

A full time mother and wife of Wilber A. Van Steveninck, a Bergen County Police Officer, Ruth was an active member and officer of 'Friends of the Library' and Midland Park Republican Women's Club. She also participated in the local chapter of the American Legion Auxiliary and the Valley Hospital Auxiliary. Before becoming homebound she was an active member of the Preakness Baptist Church.

As a devoted Christian, Ruth was a selfless wife, mother, grandmother, as well as faithful friend and neighbor. She was a fantastic cook and an accomplished seamstress and needle worker. Ruth was predeceased in death by her beloved husband, Wilbur and her brothers, George and Leonard Bonter. Cherished mother of Arlene and Bill, beloved mother-in-law of The Reverend Robert Fretz and absolutely adored grandmother of R. Matthew, David and Christopher Fretz of Upper Saddle River.

Friends and family are welcome to visit Tuesday, September 16th from 2-4 and 7-9 PM at the C.C. Van Emburgh Funeral Home, Ridgewood. The Reverend Robert Fretz will conduct a funeral service at 8 PM. Interment will be at the Fair Lawn Memorial Cemetery. In Ruth's honor, donations may be made to The Old Stone Church (Saddle River Reformed) at 500 East Saddle River Road, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I never read Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation. I'm not sure I need to having seen the example set by my mother's parents.

My family lost my grandfather twelve years ago. An only child of the Depression Era, he was always telling stories about when people looked out for their neighbors to help them get through that period. When World War II came around, he served with pride as a Marine in the Pacific.

After the war, he worked as a Bergen County Police Officer, among other jobs, so as to provide for his family. When the organization heard of his passing, they sent a color guard and it meant the world to me because I know how much he loved the job and the honor he felt in serving the community. He gave so much to me and spent so much time together that losing him felt like losing one of my best friends. He adored life, and truly loved my grandmother, Ruth.

My grandmother passed yesterday, and hers was the life so few of those born in the last few years can relate. She left school early, because she was big enough to work and help out at home. When the war came, she went from working in a silk factory to being an inspector in a factory in Patterson, ensuring our planes would fly. We actually took a trip to a museum in Paterson when we were kids and saw a picture of her there. And when the men came back, already married to my grandfather, they began to make their life together.

My grandmother had a quiet confidence about her. The awkwardly tall teenager had grown into a stunning wife, mother and friend to many. Her dedication to service was never lost on any of us. In addition to running her own business for a few years and then working in real estate, when they couldn't give away land in towns like Saddle River, she volunteered for the library, the hospital, her church, worked the polls, and was a faithful Republican of the old type.

When my youngest brother was born, at the age of 60, my grandparents gave all the time they had to us. My grandmother was often the one picking me up on school days when Chris was in and out of the hospital. Nothing was quite as good as the iced tea she'd give you after school out of the pitcher she probably bought when they bought their home.

As I got older, I've realized how important that time was too all of us. Grandma's quiet strength lifted us all. As I got older, I really grew to appreciate her sense of humor and the stories she told. She also had a healthy dose of spunk. For example, when our family took vacations up to New Hampshire, I often rode with my grandparents. Once I was old enough I would drive, and once my grandfather fell asleep she would encourage me to pick up the pace.

In addition to a deep sense of patriotism, my grandma loved New Jersey. We often said she should have worked for the tourism board and the chamber of commerce. She would often give a near dissertation on all the wonderful things our state had to offer, from culture to the rivers, lakes and mountains to the urban and suburban areas and the shore. All within a three hour drive she'd point out.

I also owe quite a bit of my idealism about politics to her and her belief that service of community was the purpose of political office. She was so proud when I got to go to the Republican National Convention in 1996, among the keepsakes I got for her, the magnets are still on her refrigerator. When I decided I was going to run against Representative Scott Garrett, although she wasn't so sure about the Independent thing, she was the first to sign my petition.

Her body has been failing in recent years, however, her mind was never lost. We visited as often as I could make it and it was always filled with spirited conversation about the events of the day, stories of old, and the goings on in my life. Granted, some of our political talk would probably bore other folks, they were great conversations for us.

I may never have read the Greatest Generation, but I've been so very fortunate to learn from them first hand. Even though I know my grandmother is in a better place now, I am going to miss her dearly. She was a wonderful woman, and even after all these years, I feel she had so much more wisdom to impart. I'd like to think she and my grandfather are together sitting in rocking chairs, sipping on some of that iced tea.

Is Garrett Joking?

I understand that Representative Scott Garrett wants to vote for off-shore drilling in the House. However, try and follow this logic for being one of 29 to vote against funding bridge construction and road maintenance:
The bill is headed to the White House, where President Bush has said he would sign, reversing a veto threat earlier this year.

All but one of New Jersey's 13 House members voted for the bill. Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, voted "No," arguing Congress should instead vote on a broad energy package.

I understand that Garrett's idea for reforming transportation dollar appropriation is never going to get out of committee, as well as opposed to by major heads of mass transit. However, when we've had massive bridge collapses, as well as our own studies here in NJ saying we have major problems, what kind of Representative votes against fixing things? Furthermore, what kind of Representative makes up some lame/disingenuous reason for doing so?

There's a world of difference between doing what is right for the people you're supposed to represent and being an ideologue (read: sore loser). Garrett seems, on this vote at least more than any other recent vote, to have put his ideology above his constituents.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The House Corruption Built

Most Democrats in Bergen County that are part of the indicted Joe Ferriero's inner circle are remaining mum on the charges. That is to say, all except County Executive Dennis McNerney:
“This is a sad day for all those involved, but at the same time, I’m confident that the strong Democratic organization [Ferriero] built and nurtured will move forward and crush all of our Republican opposition this year and in future elections,” McNerney said.
"Built and nurtured" is an awfully nice way of saying bribed and stole. Granted, it took nearly ten years as chairman to get the party to where he is today, but Ferriero had a lot of help with the indictment and guilty plea of another Bergen County chairman to jump start the process. It was only 4 years from when the guilty plea was entered until the Democrats became a powerhouse. McNerney may be right this time around, but 2010 may be a different story.

Never Forget

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Greatest Diet Ever

This is something to laugh about: A man in Wisconsin claims he has eaten 23,000 Big Macs.

Ferriero & Oury

I'm late to this for a various number of reasons, but PolitickerNJ and Blue Jersey have coverage going.

The thing is, no matter how many years these guys get and no matter how large the fine, the taxpayers can never be made whole from their corruption.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Garrett Statement on Bailout

This is Representative Scott Garrett's statement on the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:

"While hindsight is 20/20, as we make plans to move forward, it's important to recognize the system under which these GSEs failed. The Congress has long provided ambiguous and conflicting direction to the GSEs and the investing public. On one hand, the GSEs were expected to support affordable home ownership for low-to-moderate-income Americans. On the other hand, it was their fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder return. Without a doubt, these conflicting obligations helped to createthe mess taxpayers are currently facing.

"Since my election to Congress, I have consistently fought to reduce theexposure to GSE failure and believe we must take aggressive steps to prevent additional government bailouts in the future. Going forward, we must implement major changes to limit the size and scope of the GSEs and ensure that free markets are given the opportunity to work on behalf of all Americans.

"In addition, Congress must provide leadership in this time of economic crisis. Several of my colleagues and I called for hearings on the Bear Stearns bailout in March. These hearings did not take place until July of this year. As the Fannie and Freddie bailout proceeds, vigorous oversight is needed so that American taxpayers understand how their government is spending their tax dollars."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Garrett was Right; The Bailout's On

Update: It's official, we're on the hook for "tens of billions"

As I've mentioned before, as well as Herb Jackson, Representative Scott Garrett has been one of the most consistent critics of the government's backing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. With the news that the government is planning on taking over the GSEs tomorrow, confirmed by Representative Barney Frank, it looks like Garrett will get to say the "I told you so" I'm sure he never wanted to say.

On the other hand, Frank has the problem of having to deal with the fact he stood on the House floor and said the legislation they passed back in July, making this bailout almost inevitable, probably wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime. Now it seems we'll be on the hook for at least $25 billion.

What I find most troubling is this decision is not based on all those reports telling us the companies had plenty of cash, but instead seems to be on all those hedgefund managers who would have lost millions if they couldn't short sell the stocks. Now we've got ourselves the largest bailout in American history.

And the greed goes on...

Garrett Award from Those Accused of Fraud

I completely forgot about this: While poking at the award Representative Scott Garrett just received, the folks over at Retire Garrett pointed out that back in 2006, the folks at Citizens Against Government Waste were cited in a Senate report for committing fraud against taxpayers. From the Washington Post in 2006:
Five conservative nonprofit organizations, including one run by prominent Republican Grover Norquist, "appear to have perpetrated a fraud" on taxpayers by selling their clout to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Senate investigators said in a report issued yesterday.

The report includes previously unreleased e-mails between the now-disgraced lobbyist and officers of the nonprofit groups, showing that Abramoff funneled money from his clients to the groups. In exchange, the groups, among other things, produced ostensibly independent newspaper op-ed columns or news releases that favored the clients' positions.


The report bolstered earlier revelations that Abramoff laundered money through the nonprofits to pay for congressional trips and paid Norquist to arrange meetings for Abramoff's clients with government officials including White House senior adviser Karl Rove.

This reaffirms my criticism of Garrett turning to Grover Norquist for talking points after I exposed the New York Times study he was citing as being fabricated.

While it doesn't change the fact that I like CAGW's Pig Book, this does shed some light on why they oppose those deficit neutral bills. While it appears no charges were ever brought, considering this was at the height of the Bush Administration's politicization of the Justice Department, we can't be surprised.