The Real Truth About Fixing New Jersey

Cross-posted from my blog. Promoted by Rosi.

Former GOP Assemblyman (LD16) and 2017 Gubernatorial Candidate, Jack Ciattarelli, closed his recent op-ed in the Star Ledger with this:

New Jersey can be fixed. But first we need some truth-telling.

I agree. But, as the saying goes, “Position determines perspective”—and in this case, the truth.

While it’s true that the state is “facing a fiscal precipice”, it’s not true that the only outcome of “progressive rhetoric” would be “a culture of dependence,” or worse: “socialism”! If that’s the alternative to eight years of Chris Christie’s disastrous version of trickle-down economics that left this state in a shambles, I say, “Bring it on!” (Good thing I’m not running for office. I can just see the oppo mailers: ‘Corfield is a Marxist!’)

He says:

  • We cannot afford, nor do we need to fully fund pre-K – we simply need means-testing and fairer distribution of current funding.
  • We cannot afford, nor do we need to fully fund public pensions – we simply need fair benefits reform.
  • We cannot afford, nor do we need to make community college free – we simply need to fairly subsidize tuition.
  • The truth is our most taxed citizens cannot afford, nor do we need to raise taxes on the most taxed people in America – we simply need to reform our tax code to benefit all New Jerseyans.
  • Our small business economy cannot afford, nor do we need a $15 minimum wage – we simply need to adjust the current minimum wage.

Ciattarelli tries to speak in a unifying voice, using “We” over and over. But who exactly are the “We” of which he speaks? The “We” of the ‘Healthy, Wealthy and White’ suburbs? The “We” of the solid middle class? Or the “We” of our low-income urban centers? All three groups fared far differently under Christie. And all three will fare very differently under the Trump/GOP tax scam: the rich will win, and the poor and middle class will lose. Ciattarelli offers no solutions except those that hurt the largest number of “We” in the state: children, young adults, seniors, the working poor and the middle class. Christie 2.0.

When reviewing the quality of life indices in the top ranking countries in the world (here, here, here), it’s important to note that a) the US is not in the top 10, and b) what Ciattarelli decries as “socialism” (including quality, affordable education and a live-able minimum wage) is in part what makes the quality of life in these other countries so high. But putting the needs of the people first isn’t as profitable in the “Corporations Are People” era.

The truth is that greatest investment in socialist programs this country ever made pulled us up out of the Great Depression and built the middle class. If we want to pull New Jersey out of its tailspin, we must invest in our people, not continue to give huge corporate tax breaks that yield few jobs. We must invest in infrastructure and education. We must pay workers a living wage so that they have a real chance of getting out of poverty. We must have a tax system where everyone pays their fare share. And the state must uphold its contract with its public employees to fully fund our pensions. We have kept our end of the bargain while both Republican and Democratic state leaders reneged on their promises. We have made concessions. We now work longer, pay more and get less in return. While the wealthiest 1% in this state have seen their net worth skyrocket, many public employees (along with countless others in the private sector) have seen their paychecks decrease every year since Christie took office. That’s the “We” in my circle. And that is not a recipe for recovery.

Take a look at this counter. That’s how long the state teachers pension has to live. That’s the biggest fiscal precipice facing this state. Nothing—including tax revenues from legalized marijuana— should be off the table when it comes to creative solutions for this mess.

Ciattarelli blames his party’s lack of “direction” or “solutions” for Guadagno’s defeat. But the larger truth is that the GOP allowed itself to be bullied from the get-go. Bills to spur job creation, Port Authority reform, funding for women’s health care, and so many more issues that would have helped the state get back on its feet— and shown that the GOP had a heart—fell by the wayside as electeds cowered in fear of the “Wrath of Christie” for daring to override one of his vetoes. A party so beholden to a man who chewed us up and spit us out, who left this state for greener—albeit unattainable—pastures to advance his own political agenda was never going to win that race.Ultimately, fixing what’s wrong in any system comes down to priorities. Phil Murphy can affect many of the changes he ran on as long as those who govern with him hold those same values, and the people of this state hold them all accountable.

And that is the truth.

PS: Also contained in Ciattarelli’s piece was a cheap shot at NJEAs decision to endorse Sen. President Steve Sweeney’s opponent in November. While I don’t always agree 100% with what my union does, I can count on the fact that we will hold accountable those who break promises to our members. Maybe if Ciattarelli’s pension was about to fall off a cliff, he’d think differently.

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