Thursday, January 31, 2008
My first hope was that a moderate Republican in the mold of Rep. Marge Roukema, Sen. Susan Collins, or Rep. Ray LaHood would come along to take him on and I could help them. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem anyone is stepping up.
With that in mind I started exploring whether to roll as a moderate Republican in the primary or a Blue Dog Democrat. I see the national debt as the greatest threat to our nation's future, and the Republicans I knew and worked for growing up would agree. However, after the entire Republican Party voted to borrow another $50 billion instead of closing a tax loophole exploited by a few thousand people, I was leaning heavily toward the Blue Dog.
A friend mentioned to me I had to do what would make the most impact. At that point, I realized that would have to be a head on challenge to Garrett. The push against moderate Republicans was started here by Garrett's friends at the Club for Growth, so I figured it's as good a place as any to start the push back.
While I'm sure none of his people were losing any sleep over the prospect of me jumping in, Garrett hasn't had to face an unapologetic moderate in a primary since Roukema. Since no one else seemed ready to do it, I was ready to take it to him. The chances of success were slim, but in life you have to take on fights worth fighting even if you may lose.
Unfortunately, my life as an employee was turned upside down by the bankruptcy of my company's payroll processor. Having spent the last month dealing with this issue, not getting home until 10 or 11 most nights, it's made it impossible to do any sort of organizing.
Now, it seems, my commitment to work will entail long hours, and likely six to seven days a week, until April 1. There's hardly enough time to put together a campaign in the few weeks before petitions are due at that point.
So to those of you who encouraged me to jump in a primary, I'm sorry. I just don't see how it can happen this year.
I'm one of those folks who believe that everything happens for a reason, and I look forward to figuring out what that is.
Garrett was recognized by the Congressional Management Foundation for his website. Receiving a Bronze Mouse Award, Garrett's site received high marks across a number of categories. In the Foundation's estimation, Garrett's site excelled most in Communications Tools:
These are all the features and applications that foster a relationship between the user and the office, beyond just reading what is posted on the Web site.
Garrett was one of only 16.8% of Congress to receive recognition from the Foundation, so it's kind of a big deal. Out of 435 members in the House, there are only 46 with a better website. Garrett didn't receive the award in 2006 so it's probably time to give Mary MacLean, or whoever oversees the site, a raise for a job well done.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Even in the current era of on-line data, the Government Printing Office[GPO] prints thousands of excess copies of floor proceedings and legislation – most of which are never read.
Garrett supported an amendment to decrease the printing budget for the GPO. On those grounds, in this "current era", one would think that President Bush going to a paperless budget, saving taxpayers around a $1 million, would make Garrett happy. One would be wrong.
“I think people who request a copy of the budget should be given it gratis,” said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), another Budget panel member. “You want something in your hand so you can thumb through it and mark it up and reference it.”
Garrett is skeptical of the business vision of entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, who are hawking digital books and claim that paper versions will someday become a thing of the past.
“The whole idea of books going online, I don’t think it’s going to catch favor,” he said.
To be fair, I don't know Garrett's practice. He may make notes on every page. However, if he doesn't he should practice the fiscal responsibility he preaches and save taxpayers money by printing only the pages he needs.
As Herb Jackson reported, this was Garrett's sentiment last week:
taxpayers would use too little of the rebate money on spending to make a real long-term difference in the economy.
Here's Garrett's posting yesterday to The Hill Blog:
Any time hardworking Americans are able to keep more of their money, our economy wins.
I just wonder what his sentiment will be when the conference report on the stimulus package is voted on in the House.
Friday, January 25, 2008
In a lengthy piece speculating about County Clerk Kathe Donovan's absence at the BCRO meeting last week, Inside Bergen made another observation: Representative Scott Garrett took the stage.
Also notable was Congressman Scott Garrett's presence at the meeting. Garrett took the stage with Ortiz and presented his update from Washington. Their joint appearance allays some of the rumors of a pending feud between the BCRO and Garrett.That's really too bad. As I noted earlier, Bergen County received 6% of the earmarks Garrett fought for in the appropriations process, while sending 70% out of District. Bergen represents 60% of the District's population. Garrett popping into a meeting once in a while doesn't change the diminished stature of the BCRO in the county since Garrett took office. Part of that is that he doesn't fight for us.
One would hope the BCRO would hold Garrett accountable, so as to really challenge the pay-to-play BCDO, for all of our sake.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Garrett said he would vote against any stimulus plan that included rebates and no business tax cuts because taxpayers would use too little of the rebate money on spending to make a real long-term difference in the economy.
I suppose Garrett constantly stating his primary goal in Washington only goes as far as how he'd like us to spend it when it comes to getting us our money back.
First of all, I begin by saying thanks to the chairman of the committee for his help in working through this piece of legislation, and also for the ranking member for her working alongside the Chair as to facilitate the moving along of this legislation to the floor today. As the chairman indicates, we had the opportunity to discuss it in committee, which is, I think, and I think he will concur with me, is always the best way to deal with all legislation as opposed to bringing them up later on. It's best to get out there so we can have full and adequate disclosure and discussion on the issues. We were able to do that; we just weren't able to get it through the next hoop. But now we're able to jump through that hoop today, and, again, I appreciate the chairman's work on that.
What this is all about, very simply, is this. Back in 1968, that is when NFIP was created, the National Flood Insurance Program, and that was done, as the chairman indicated, way back then three or four decades ago, as I guess more and more people were building homes in places maybe they shouldn't be, along coastal lines and what have you, it was just next to impossible to buy flood insurance.
So Congress stepped in and created NFIP, and that allowed folks the opportunity to buy flood insurance for the first time. When they did that, however, they realized that here again we're talking about two sets of houses, those that were already in existence at the time and those that would come afterwards, called pre-FIRM and post-FIRM homes. They thought Congress back then, probably in its wisdom, realized that it wouldn't be right to tell those folks who were already in the floodplains that this new program was going to come along, that they were going to impose upon them a mandate of buying flood insurance when they bought and sold their houses; so what they did was instead to provide a subsidy for those pre-FIRM homes, and that subsidy has existed up until today.
Unfortunately, we know that the flood program has had some problems in the last couple of years, most notably because of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. All the money that they have had to borrow to pay out for those huge flood losses, they are now $18 billion in debt. And that's the reason why the committee is now coming back to relook at the flood program, and that's why we have done that.
The legislation that the chairman talks about that we have already done I appreciate that we've moved through the House. I am a little bit disappointed, though, in that legislation in one regard, in that it increased the exposure to wind damage in the flood program. But despite that what I call an error in direction on that legislation, the underlying bill did make some substantial improvements to the overlying program. It updated the flood maps, increased the phase-in of actuarial rates on vacation homes and also second homes and on nonresidential properties that have been subsidized by the program since its inception.
The one area, though, that was not addressed was these pre-FIRM homes and the fact that the subsidies continue to exist. So to that effort, we have tried to get a compromise between those who said let's not do anything and those who said let's have those pre-FIRM homes immediately put in on the higher rates that would occur without the subsidization. Through the committee efforts, through the work with the ranking member and the chairman, we were able to come through with a compromise. In essence it says this: If you're a pre-FIRM home, your rates will still be subsidized until that home is basically phased in, sold and phased in on the same rate schedule as the underlying bill, and only for those homes that are sold for over $600,000. A movement in the right direction with regard to the subsidization, the problems of the underlying program, and for that reason I think we are moving appropriately, and I look forward to those deliberations that we may have sometime with the Senate on this legislation.
Although his press staff didn't publicize it, Garrett's H.R. 3959 will bring flood insurance rates on PreFIRM houses bought for over $600,000, to an actuarial rate as opposed to the rate currently paid. National Flood Insurance Program premiums will increase 15% a year until that rate is achieved.
Co-sponsored by Representative Barney Frank, the bill passed on a voice vote. I'll post any comments Garrett made today when they are posted, however, he did say several things when he tried to introduce the fundamentals of this bill as an amendment to another bill.
At the time, Garrett used the example of a little old widow living across the street from a mega-star in California to make his point, with this the most succinct expression of his reasoning.
...why it is that we should have the poor and the infirm and those people who have been living in their homes for decades have to subsidize the rich and the wealthy in this country.
One thing that did stand out was that Garrett didn't put out a press release. For all intents and purposes, this is Garrett's first significant Bill he has ever been the primary sponsor of getting through the House.
The passage was immediately heralded by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. Garrett has enjoyed significant campaign contribution support from the insurance industry in the past, and as ecstatic as they seem to be about this bill that's likely to continue.
For those realizing the added insurance cost may make it more difficult for people in our District to sell their homes, specifically Bergen County, it's unlikely there is anything to worry about. Similar to Garrett's previous effort, this bill does not seem to be destined for passage in the Senate. As pointed out by the Express-Times when Garrett originally proposed the amendment:
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.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Part of the reason I'm so against our own Representative Scott Garrett is the ease with which his statements and releases use misinformation and lying. We've seen it over the last year with things like SCHIP, his votes on earmark reform, or making up studies to support his positions.
Some would say Garrett's actions are different than those of Bush's, or discount Garrett's as politics. However, Garrett having a penchant for using misinformation is problematic in and of itself, and could have even more troubling consequences down the line.
Nearly 100,000 people have lost their lives as a result of the Iraq War since the 935 lies were told to get us there. Regardless of political ideology, no one should accept this as being remotely acceptable. If we are going to restore our standing in the world, and our own faith in government, we have to eliminate this institutionalized comfort with dishonesty.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlelady for managing this hour as Members come to the floor to speak about this extremely important topic.
I must begin my remarks by thanking everyone who took part earlier today, all those folks who traveled down here to Washington to participate in the annual Right to Life March from all over the country, in bad bus rides and distant flight delays and bumpy car rides. I am grateful to all the marchers who came from the great State of New Jersey. Particularly, I would like to recognize the students from Pope John High School and also the kids from Veritas Christian Academy located in Sparta, as well as some of the parishioners who came down from Our Lady of Fatima in Vernon, St. Jude's Church in Blairstown, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Stillwater, and the folks from Lafayette Federated Church from Lafayette.
I didn't include everyone, but the list would go on and on with all of the people from the great State of New Jersey, people concerned and taking part to make sure that their voice was heard.
Earlier today I had the opportunity, and I would say the honor of speaking to the thousands of marchers who came out. They braved the freezing wind and the rain that was coming on as well. As I had a chance to talk to them, I told them that they, along with Members of Congress, were probably experiencing mixed emotions at the time, similar to the emotions I was experiencing.
Think about it, on the one hand, we are immensely encouraged by what we see. We are encouraged that so many people have gathered here in Washington, DC to mark the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. We draw comfort from that fact. We are encouraged that our Nation has not forgotten that tragic death even 35 years later. We are encouraged that we can stand firm in reminding our fellow citizens that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. And most importantly of all, is the right to life.
Finally, we are encouraged that in many cases, our efforts have been rewarded. For instance, the number of abortions that are performed annually has actually dropped down back to levels not seen since the 1970s. Still, despite those signs of encouragement, our hearts are still heavy with sadness and that is because we mourn the millions of babies who have been mercilessly killed before they can even take their first single breath. And we grieve for the mothers and fathers who suffer from the emotional pain of having to have gone through an abortion.
We lament the fact of a continuing decline of morality, civility, and respect for human dignity and worth. For me and my constituents in New Jersey, I am particularly disheartened by a study that was released just last week that showed that our home State, the so-called Garden State, has the second highest abortion rate in the Nation.
It is in moments like these that we must turn our gaze upward and remember the One, the One who created life is also the One who governs the universe. He commands us to ``run and not be weary, to walk and not faint.''
And so today, we ultimately find encouragement in knowing that the battle is not over. The battle is not ours alone, and the might of right is on our side.
So we will keep working to increase the number of States that have substantive parental involvement laws, thereby protecting teens from the abortion propaganda. We will continue to prohibit partial-birth abortions and fight that in other States as well. And we will show by example how to value life.
Finally, some day I pray that we will experience a January 22 free of these mixed emotions. And instead, we will be able to celebrate a renewed culture of life in this entire Nation.
We elected officials come to the floor to remember the weakest among us. Yet I know we will succeed not because of who we are, but because of what Americans all across this great Nation are doing on behalf of life.
Monday, January 21, 2008
"First, lower the corporate tax rate. The United States has one of the highest tax rates in the world -- that's why so many businesses are going overseas, and we want to keep the businesses and the jobs here," says the New Jersey lawmaker.
"Secondly, we want to provide some incentives to spend money and invest in equipment and that sort of thing. Again, that will help keep jobs here."
Garrett does not mention a repeal of the provisions he co-sponsored back in 2003 giving foreign companies an advantage in raising capital compared to their US competition. Also not mentioned would be a repeal of taxpayer subsidized off-shoring.
Garrett also is blasting Democrats' plan to boost the slumping economy by mailing out $200 tax rebate checks to all Americans, similar to what Congress did in 2001. He labels it "a short-term fix that does nothing to help the overall economy."
Yet it was President Bush who introduced this plan.
"The last time Congress tried that ... people took that money and ... paid off a credit card bill or paid off an electric light bill, or if they had any money left over maybe went and spent a few bucks and bought a new toaster," the congressman notes. "All nice things -- but that doesn't get you out of the economic doldrums that you're in. All it does is give you a little spending money for that period of time."
Garrett seems to miss the timely, targeted and temporary mantra economists are calling for with regard to the stimulus package.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
While most economic indicators continue to be positive, a rise in the unemployment rate (from 4.7% to 5%) and the housing slump (the fourth worst since World War II) are fueling consumer fears of a recession.
Yes, Garrett's staff believes the following economic indicators are positive:
- Inflation rose at the highest rate in 17 years.
- The Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index dropped by it's largest amount since right before the 2001 recession.
- Consumer spending in December was the worst in five years.
- Manufacturers stockpiles have grown, likely leading to more layoffs.
Garrett's never getting out of committee package, based on what was highlighted in the release, seems to focus exclusively on business tax cuts. For Garrett this makes sense, as he was one of 19 representatives to vote against extending unemployment benefits during the last recession.
Unfortunately, thanks to folks like our Representative Scott Garrett misrepresenting the scope of SOX, people believe it covers all businesses. The truth of the matter is that it only applies to the publicly traded ones. That's why when Garrett says he's fighting for small business, the vote against 10 years of tax cuts for small business has more of an impact on people's real lives than SOX ever would.
At this point, the apparent greed of two individuals has significantly disrupted the lives of over well over 20,000 people, as well as put other longstanding companies at significant risk. My hope, for the sake of the nation, is that there won't be any more stories like this.
Most of the candidates are speaking about change. Either side of the party is talking about change. But the fundamental question that the voter has to ask: Is the change that they are espousing and bringing about founded on any constitutional principles or are they simply giving us change for change's sake and change that does not have any constitutional powers or rights given to the Federal Government?
I suppose Garrett doesn't believe that the consent of the people is the basis of the legitimate authority of government, as Alexander Hamilton articulated in Federalist 22. The Founders firmly believed this, which is part or the reason they included "to petition the government for a redress of grievances" in the First Amendment.
Redress is defined as "the setting right of what is wrong." Most of America understands we're headed in the wrong direction. Yet when we ask our representatives like Garrett to deal with it, we get form letters with misleading rhetoric. We also see votes out of touch with what we want on matters large and small. Then of course Garrett delivers the mother of all insults to us as constituents: vote flipping at the behest of special interests.
Change. Yeah, we want it. And if representatives like Garrett refuse to budge and work with us as his constituents, elections become the ultimate form of redress. And that is grounded in the Constitution.
Right now, Ferriero said, it’s too early to tell who he will endorse, and that it may not be either Shulman or Abate.
“I can tell you that both he and Abate are not the only individuals who have expressed interest in running in the 5th congressional district, so it’s a little early to tell where our county organization will be going,” said Ferriero, who did not mention the names of any other potential candidates.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Congress, through inaction, gave themselves a 2.5% raise. That's more than people living on Social Security received.
The adjustment will increase the average monthly Social Security retirement benefit by $24, to $1,079. It is based on the rise in the consumer price index in the third quarter, a figure the Labor Department released yesterday.
With Congress getting $4,000 more, their monthly increase is $333.33. That's nearly the car payment for a Cadillac CTS. Meanwhile, seniors are barely getting a half a tank of gas.
Sunday: Mostly sunny and cold, with a high near 7.
Hopefully, Tom Coughlin has the good sense to have the guys practice outside all week.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
There have been times where I put the country ahead of my party, and I will continue to do that as president of the United States.
If people like Representative Scott Garrett actually put the nation first, instead of attacking fellow Republicans for doing it, the nation and our district would be in a much better place.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
One thing that is extremely frustrating about the whole Chapter 7 process is that employees are not given priority status when it comes to getting paid. Several of the women that I dealt with at the payroll company were the primary bread winners for their families, the primary providers for their children.
They went to work every day for the last couple of weeks having no clue that the carpet was going to be pulled out from under them. The way the Chapter 7 process is structured, they're the second in line to receive payment. That's just not right.
Over the last few years, laws have been passed to make it more difficult for individuals to declare bankruptcy. Yet a company is capable of walking away from the thousands who depend on their paycheck without any sort of difficulty.
It's just not right. We should and can do better.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The employees of Axium lost their jobs without notice or their final paycheck. Freelance people who work with companies like mine are now holding roughly $15 million in paychecks that are worthless. Small companies like mine now have to devout manpower to get those people paid again.
Other companies and small film makers not affected by the writer's strike are likely to have lost their money deposited with Axium to cover payrolls, which will cost more jobs in the production world if that money cannot be recouped. And tens of millions of dollars in taxes were not paid to the IRS. The LA Times has a good story about the issue here which highlights the very real situation faced by Axium employees:
"I live paycheck to paycheck and I don't get child support," she said. "We didn't get our paycheck today, so I'll be evicted. I'm out here with no family, no money for food, no money for gas to get my kids to school. I don't know what I'm going to do."
There is a serious issue where, without warning, a creditor of a business can come in and cause thousands of paychecks worth millions of dollars to bounce. This is a classic case where people like Representative Scott Garrett saying the market will deal with the credit crunch misses the point: The damage to people's lives is already done.
Those that believe strongly in the trickle down theory have to acknowledge the fact this impacts everyone who would have been receiving funds from those who lost them. How does that effect people down the line? What about the people after them?
The bigger issue is how many other companies are in the same boat? How many companies received loans from hedge funds who are in jeopardy? Roughly $15 million was sucked out of the economy in one swoop. What's our economy's total exposure to risk like this? Hundreds of millions?Maybe billions? Trillions?
While I doubt Garrett would push the Financial Services committee he sits on to have a hearing on this, one has to hope Representative Barney Frank might. I have a horrible feeling Axium was not the only company to operate as they did, and their funders were not the only ones to make loans like this. This could be a very big issue and it's one we must demand Garrett actually look at.
It's always good to see a politician follow through on their pledges.
I'd rather have all the tolls going toward debt relief than padding the profits of some foreign company leasing the highways. However, kind of like tobacco taxes, if people actually stop driving and start riding NJ Transit because of the hikes how is this plan sustainable?
I guess I need to read more about it.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
January 15th is the last day to register to vote in the New Jersey primary. Unaffiliated voters, which outnumber Republicans and Democrats combined, may participate in the primary. You'll have to go to the polls, declare a party, and then vote. You can unaffiliate yourself the same day by dropping another registration form in the mail, free of charge.
Get out and participate.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
First, on the Republican side: Mike Huckabee absolutely stomped Mitt Romney and his fans at the Club for Growth. If there is a moderate Republican thinking about taking on Representative Scott Garrett and his CFG this should serve as motivation. You will be outspent, the CFG will come after you, Garrett's special interest backers will call you names, but if your message is strong enough and resonates with voters you can win.
Second, on the Democratic side: Senator Barack Obama absolutely stomped the very politics as usual machinery we are all so sick of dealing with. I've been talking about Obama since reading his books, and I believe now as I did then the fact that he represents the best chance for change on the Democratic side.
Our politics have been broken by the last eight years, and we are in need of change. I am so happy that the people of Iowa voted for the two competing candidates who represent that opportunity.
I have such hope for New Hampshire on Tuesday, and the rest of the primary process. Regardless of party affiliation, voters of Iowa said we need change and showed up to vote for it. I hope the rest of the nation will follow suit. The only way we get the kind of politics we want is if we show up to vote and hold politicians accountable. Politics as usual took a beating today, and to move this nation forward we need a lot more of this.