Friday, March 27, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Here's my personal favorite comment he made in an interview, as reported by the National Journal:
Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ): "We've heard the story before under the prior secretary of Treasury, where he said he had a plan, it is the only plan, and that plan will work. ... I guess he's suggesting that it's something to do with will that has to get it done. No. I think it really has to get down to what's in the weeds of the plan and whether the plans are actually good ideas from day one"We're talking trillions of dollars, and people have to ask questions.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
SEEING THROUGH STIMULUS SCAMS
With talk of stimulus plans ruling the news, it’s no surprise a new round of stimulus scams are afoot.
Here’s how it goes: An email, online ad, or website says you’re eligible to get an economic stimulus payment. You just have to send back a form or submit one online to get it. The message might appear to come from a rebate company or look like it’s straight from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
But the promise of stimulus money in return for a fee or financial information is always a scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency.
There’s more than one way to perpetuate a stimulus scam. Some scam artists ask you to send a small processing fee, supposedly to get a much larger check in return. That’s money you’ll never see again. Others skip the fee, and instead, ask for your bank account number so they can “deposit” your check. Then, they use the information to clean out your account or open new ones using your identifying information.
Some stimulus scams encourage you to click on links, open attached forms, or call phony toll-free numbers. But simply clicking the link or opening the document can install harmful software, like spyware, on your computer. The result could be your personal information ending up in the hands of an identity thief.
If you get a message offering you money from the stimulus program in exchange for your personal information, ignore it, delete it, or throw it out. The IRS doesn’t send emails like this asking for personal information, and rebate companies claiming to have stimulus payments for you should not be trusted, regardless of how plausible the script sounds or how official the forms look.
When a stimulus plan does involve a check to you (it may not), you won’t need to fill out a separate form in an email or give out personal information — like account numbers or your Social Security number — to someone who calls you out of the blue.
If you get an unexpected email from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking you to call a number or email back personal information, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org, then delete it without clicking on any links or opening any attachments. If you think you are the target of a scam, you also can file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
If you need to reach an agency like the IRS, don’t use phone numbers or links included in an email. Always type the web address directly into your browser, and look up any url you aren’t sure about. Use phone numbers listed on agency websites or in other reliable sources, like the Blue Pages in your phone directory.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
EPA TO UPDATE PUBLIC ON PROGRESS AT RINGWOOD SITE
As part of its ongoing commitment in keeping residents informed of the most recent activities at the Ringwood Mines Superfund Site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host a public information session at the Ryerson Middle School in Ringwood, New Jersey on March 24, 2009 at 7:30pm. This information session will be an opportunity for residents and other stakeholders to discuss issues and ask questions related to the site.
“EPA has and continues to work closely with interested members of the Ringwood community on every aspect of our work at this site,” said acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “We are keeping the line of communications open and will continue to make sure people have access to EPA experts and can participate in the important process of addressing contamination at this site.”
EPA will update residents on the work that has gone on at the Ringwood Mines Superfund site in the past year during the public session. This update will include discussion of cleanup actions taken at the site, as well as discussion of future plans for work at the site. The information session will be held at the Ryerson Middle School, located at 130 Valley Road in Ringwood, New Jersey. EPA welcomes all residents and members of the community to attend the public information session to ask questions or raise any concerns they may have in relation to the Ringwood Mines Superfund site.
To find out more about the Ringwood Mines Superfund site, visit:
Monday, March 23, 2009
"The severity of issues facing our financial regulatory system calls for us to put aside partisan differences and elevate the level of dialogue," said New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett, top subcommittee Republican, in a statement.I've written a lot about partisanship, as well as how unhelpful Garrett's normally overly partisan nature is toward getting anything done. Just last week he took to the floor slamming all things Democrat, to the point he engaged in a fight over who started the Federal Reserve a hundred years ago.
Seriously, American families worried about paying their bills don't care who is to blame, and certainly don't care what party did what a hundred years ago. It's petty and pointless, but is a great example of why we'll have to be a more than a bit skeptical that Garrett actually act on this sentiment. That said, here's to hoping he'll act this way, because Garrett's statement is right even if his actions to date are partisan.
Our nation can't afford anymore of this childish bickering over who is to blame. Both parties are to blame, big time, and both parties are going to have to work to get us out of this mess.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
This tax gives the government permission to take what is private property.Nope, sorry Scott, that's the people's money AIG was handing out and we the people have asked for it back, and 77% of Representatives voting went and got it for us.
The thing is, Garrett's statement comes across as an opposition to the reclamation of taxpayer's money because he was opposed to giving it in the first place.
The pointing of fingers at those receiving bonuses is shifting the blame from who’s really at fault.Even though these bonuses were given to those responsible for the economic meltdown, Garrett only wants to blame the Democrats for this, we get it. However, two wrongs have never made a right, and for someone who has been so right on opposing the bailouts, it's disappointing to see him so wrong on this.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
From the Associated Press:
"Part of me wants to say to some of the loudest critics, 'What did you expect and why weren't you asking more questions before?' I would argue that the real outrage now is the $170 billion of taxpayer money that's been pumped into this company and to what effect," he said.
From Voice of America:
"Why didn't [Treasury] Secretary [Timothy] Geithner raise this issue just last week with the president when we knew he was briefed in detail about the bonuses from the CEO of AIG? What about the fact that the Fed [i.e., Federal Reserve, the nation's central bank] and the administration still have not outlined an exit strategy from this whole situation? "
The problem here is that Republicans are doing a little bit of revisionist history when it comes to TARP. Garrett, to his credit, was against all the bailouts all of the time.
However, I keep seeing Republicans doing their best to make it seem like it wasn't President Bush who started this whole thing. Or the fact after the House defeated the first bailout, it caved a few days later.
Unfortunately, both parties are guilty of creating this mess. The contracts were known about since before TARP I, and we still gave them money. This is a bi-partisan mess, and it doesn't do the nation any good for the Republicans to be dancing around while the nation burns.
This Institute was made possible by a grant of $894,348 awarded to Centenary College from the U.S. Department of Justice to develop a fully-integrated incident response and crisis management training for law enforcement agencies and first responders in small rural and suburban communities in Northwest New Jersey, as announced by Congressman E. Scott Garrett in June.
This was an earmark. The problem is that calling these things grants gives the impression that the program beat out other similar programs for funding because it's a superior use of taxpayer money. This simply isn't the case.
I have nothing against Centenary. It's a excellent school that I was fortunate to visit during the campaign a few years back. The problem is with the earmarking practice as it relates to taxpayer money.
Could another NJ college provide this same program at a lower cost? Could another college have better outcomes? Is another college more qualified?
We'll never know the answers to these questions because there was no competition for these funds. With Garrett bestowing the money, we lose the guarantee of a review beforehand, and the reporting requirements on an earmark are less than for a grant after the fact.
I have no doubt Centenary will do a fine job, but let's call and earmark an earmark.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.
As an example, our state recently received high marks for making things available on-line. However, anyone who wants to compile how much an individual receiving a no-bid contract has donated to the powers that be must compile it themselves. Hardly encouraging for citizen participation.
There's a long way to go for us to get all the information out there that we the people are entitled to. As I mentioned earlier, Bloomberg News has had to sue the Fed to find out where all of our bailout money is going. Under enormous pressure, AIG, disclosed who received some of their bailout money today after people went crazy they were giving out an estimated $450 million in bonuses to the very people who ran the company into the ground. Without public pressure, they may never have yielded.
This week promises to showcase the unveiling of several new initiatives and pieces of legislation nationwide aimed at providing we the people with our information. Should be interesting to see what comes out of it, but a good government is a transparent government.
Friday, March 13, 2009
However, that's happened over at PolitickerNJ, where former EPA Region 2 Administrator Alan Steinberg talked about bailouts and credit default swaps. Here's a taste:
I first met Scott Garrett when I began my service as Senior Policy Advisor on the Assembly Republican Staff in June, 1992 while he was serving in his second term as an Assemblyman. Over the past 17 years, both in his capacity as an Assemblyman and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, I have had the good fortune to work with Scott on numerous issues, and my respect for his intellect, character, ethics, integrity, and courage has grown.Although not a constituent, or donor, Steinberg is obviously starting the fight of 2011 now on Garrett's behalf.
Every two years, the Trenton insiders of both parties talk of the ultimate electoral demise of Scott Garrett. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of Scott’s political death continue to be exaggerated. I recently had a conversation with a prominent New Jersey political journalist in which he stated that key Republicans want to sacrifice Scott’s 5th District seat in the next reapportionment. Nothing could be a more politically suicidal move for the New Jersey GOP than that.
“If The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 only contained spending that truly improved and protected our environment, I would whole-heartedly support its passage. The legislation, however, bundles good projects with pork projects and spending of $5.5 billion over five years. Examples of pork in the bill include $3.5 million to the city of St. Augustine, FL for a birthday party, $200,000 for a tropical botanical garden in Hawaii and $250,000 to study the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“This is appalling, especially in a time of economic crisis when the American people are looking to Washington to cease the excessive federal spending that continues to bloat our national debt. It’s time to get serious about fiscal responsibility and do more than simply pay lip service to the concept.”
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
First, on the nepotism front, in Palisades Park the school board had a resignation this week. The reason, Board Member Yungoo B. Woo couldn't legally serve on the Board, because he hadn't lived in town for more than a year.
After being in a town of 17,000 for less than a year, Woo was appointed to the Board in February. Woo is a cousin of current Democratic Councilman, and former School Board Member, Jason Kim. Claiming he moved into Kim's house last March, Woo will be able to run for his seat on the school board this spring.
Second, on the suppression of descent front, the Closter School Board voted unanimously to not allow Steve Issacson, who regularly roasts Closter's Democrats at unofficialwebsiteofclosternj, to run for a seat on the school board. They reached this decision prior to Mr. Issacson's deadline from the state to select whether he wanted to run for Closter Board of Education or the Northern Valley Regional High School District. Issacson had filed papers to run for both, but now will only be able to run for Northern Valley.
As one of his fellow Closter folks found, there seems to be some question as to whether the Board missed the deadline to invalidate Issacson's petition. From the State's website:
Objections or Challenges to a Nominating Petition ***At issue may be when the objection was filed. From the Record, on Tuesday, March 10, or after the deadline to file a complaint:
Monday, March 9, 2009 (46th day prior to election)
No later than the 46th day before the election objections or challenges to a nominating petition must be filed in writing with the secretary of the school board. The school board must immediately notify the challenged candidate. (19:60-7)
Granted, Iappelli may have filed his objection later in the day, but it doesn't change the fact Issacson had until today to decide.
Closter schools Business Administrator Peter Iappelli said he plans to formally object to Isaacson's nomination if one of the petitions is not withdrawn."I'm aware of [his nomination] being defective, and I'm just doing what my responsibilities require me to do," Iappelli said. "He sees it as something different. Everything's fine if he withdraws from Northern Valley and lets us know in writing.
It should be interesting to see how this all plays out. Get your popcorn.
Monday, March 9, 2009
"I would assume that information would be shared by the Fed and the New York Fed," said U.S. Representative Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican. "At some point, the demand for transparency is paramount to any demand that they have for secrecy."Basically, the legislation Garrett is backing gives the government the ability to audit the Fed. While we have the authority to do so, there are so many exceptions and ways for the Fed to get out of an audit, the power is useless. For instance, the Fed must agree to the audit. Paul's legislation that Garrett signed on to eliminates the exceptions.
Here are some of the other exceptions, from the US Code:
(1) transactions for or with a foreign central bank, government of a foreign country, or nonprivate international financing organization;Yep, that's basically everything the Fed does being listed as off-limits for Congressional oversight. Garrett's joined the effort to change that, and should be applauded.
(2) deliberations, decisions, or actions on monetary policy matters, including discount window operations, reserves of member banks, securities credit, interest on deposits, and open market operations;
(3) transactions made under the direction of the Federal Open Market Committee; or
(4) a part of a discussion or communication among or between members of the Board of Governors and officers and employees of the Federal Reserve System related to clauses (1)-(3) of this subsection.
In addition to Garrett's efforts, Bloomberg (news, not the Mayor) is suing the Fed under the Freedom of Information Act to get the information we're entitled to.
At some point, seeing how this massive amount of money is being spent is going to happen. The Fed existed heading into the Great Depression, and we need more than their word that they're not making the same mistakes now that they made then. Transparency is key to preventing us from repeating the mistakes of the past, to learn from history. It's important that both the lawsuit and the legislation succeed.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
"The first is that we have adopted a mantra in Washington of trying to either delay or prevent pain. Bailing out all Wall Street, homeowners who made bad decisions, and many others are predicated on the belief that with government intervention, we can somehow prevent pain.
"The second is that some politicians in Washington now believe that an elite group of government bureaucrats is somehow smarter than the collective wisdom of the U.S. population.
"So far, we have heard that the new administration has either considered appointing, intends to appoint, or has appointed: a health czar, an energy czar, a chief performance czar, a climate change czar, a technology czar, a drug czar, and an urban affairs czar. This would seem to indicate less of a leap to socialism and more of a leap to Bolshevism."
This is not a new message from Garrett, readers may remember that back in August he began articulating we should let the Housing market free-fall so we reach the bottom and can start recovering.
Garrett actually did a good job of faking out local constituents about whether or not he attended people. His face was splashed on a ton of local news last weekend, to the point that a couple of people said to me that they were glad he hadn't gone this year.
With Rush Limbaugh's continued role of a assuming control of the message of the Republican party, thinking Republicans shouldn't want to be associated with it either. Limbaugh has done more to mislead public debate with lies and misrepresentations of facts than any figure in recent memory.
Limbaugh, the entertainer, weakens our political dialogue by masquerading as informed and thoughtful. After all, let's turn to something Garrett said on the House Floor a couple years back:
When we looked at those expressions, we remember the words of talk radio host Rush Limbaugh , who often does say the expression ``words mean something.'' He is usually expressing it about one of his callers who has just called in and talked about a particular topic or what have you, and he will take a little slight angle on it and say, well, those words mean something that are being said there.
So, Garrett knows those words Limbaugh said at CPAC mean something. He also had the good sense to get out of town so he didn't have to talk about what Limbaugh said on Saturday night.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Garrett's share of the $7.7 billion in earmarks: 0.052%
Garrett's been pretty good about submitting these disclosures, and despite a number of votes against transparency and accountability, he's transparent about this.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
“Engagement is not the right message” to send today, Garrett said.Garrett was the only Republican at the event, and the response to his sentiment came from Representative Jerrold Nadle:
“I totally disagree with one of our previous speakers [who said], ‘You can’t engage.’ You must engage.” Nadler said that Washington must talk with its enemies and must hold out “the carrots and the sticks.I guess that's another case of the failed policies of the past being pointed out in bright contrast.
“We don’t know if the new policy of engagement will work,” he added, “but the old policy surely didn’t work.”
Monday, March 2, 2009
At the event, I was able to meet all of the people responsible for the sites I use all the time when talking about Representative Scott Garrett (OpenSecrets.org, Tax Payers for Common Sense, Govtrack.us); as well as some I hadn't fully explored (FollowTheMoney.org, OpenCongress.org, Sunshine Week). It was truly one of those amazing life experiences.
What I took away from the convention was a better understanding of how all of these sites worked, internal government issues getting in the way, as well as what to look forward to (there’s a doozey dropping in a few weeks) and a renewed sense of purpose.
A few projects of particular interest to are:
- Readthebill.org: Requesting bills to be posted 72 hours before voting (sign the petition).
- 50 State Project by Sunlight Labs: Every bill, every vote, every state.
- Show Us the Data: Joint effort between the Open The Government and the Center for Democracy and Technology to unlock government data we should have.
With newspapers dying, and television becoming more of a reactionary as opposed to pro-active force, we’re what’s going to be left. In that sense, I really hope those of you that do blog will take advantage of Sunshine Week, to learn about the tools they have available.
At the end of the day it’s our government, our money they're spending, and our data that could save lives. It was an amazing weekend, and I hope if nothing else, my attendance will make this a more useful and accurate source of information than folks have already told me it is.