Author Archive: Ed Potosnak

Congress is failing to get the job done; The Supercommittee is Not so Super.

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In Article One of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers required Congress to control debt and spending.  Our current Congress is failing.  In fact, 535 Members of Congress could not agree on how to get spending under control and failed to meet their Constitutional responsibility, shirking this obligation and delegating it to a small supercommittee of six to do what they couldn’t do.  This supercommittee came up on its deadline, and also failed.  Meanwhile, our families and businesses are suffering at their hand.

How did we get here?

The Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, a.k.a. the “supercommittee,” was formed as a result of a congressional battle over whether or not to pay our current obligations.  The compromise to raise the debt ceiling included the creation of the supercommittee to identify ways to reduce the deficit.   It was signed by President Obama on August 2nd.  Failure to raise the debt ceiling would have had dire consequences to the American economy, including default on our treasury obligations.

In an effort to get something passed and avoid default, the legislation punted spending reductions to the supercommittee composed of twelve legislators whose goal was to find specific cuts to make up $1.2 trillion of the $2.1 trillion in deficit reductions by November 23. If Congress did not approve the agreement, the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts will automatically be divided equally against defense and non-defense spending, excluding Social Security, Medicaid and some low-income programs.  

On September 8, the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction had its first official meeting.  I remained hopeful that this select group could have moved beyond partisan politics and come to an agreement, but unfortunately they failed again.

It’s important to put the current debt crisis into historical perspective.  When George W. Bush took over the responsibility of the budget from Bill Clinton, the budget was running a surplus.  The deficit crisis we face now is the result of the failed policies of the Bush Administration, and I am afraid this new Congress is trying to take us back to those broken policies.

In 2008, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated the total cost of the Iraq war at $3 trillion, including both direct expenses and the war’s detrimental effect on the economy.  It’s worth noting that, at the beginning of the war, George Bush estimated the cost at between $50 billion and $60 billion.  In 2010 Stiglitz called his own estimate too low.  Some of his additions included ongoing medical care for our troops, the war-generated increase in oil prices, and the neglect and lengthening of our commitment in Afghanistan.  Let’s not quibble about the details and call it an even $3 trillion.  That’s still a lot of money to have spent in order to deal with imaginary weapons of mass destruction, as compared to the $2.1 trillion that the supercommittee needs to cut.

When President Obama signed the agreement forming the supercommittee, the Republicans immediately declared victory.  And as is all too often in Washington, politics as usual began, and the political rhetoric from both sides was hurling across the Capitol.                                                

An important factor in understanding our economic crisis is to know just how much financial damage the current recession has done.  According to the Pew Economic Policy Group, real estate wealth decreased $3.4 trillion in the United States during the period from July 2008 through March 2009.  During this time, stock wealth decreased by $7.4 trillion, wages lost amounted to $360 billion, and the Gross Domestic Product was reduced by $650 billion.  Add to it the cost of the stimulus packages, the cost to the FDIC to bail out failed banks, the cost of bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and so on. In human terms, 5.5 million workers lost their jobs early in the crisis, and the vast majority of those jobs have not come back.  Lost jobs result in lost wages, which means the loss of tax revenues for the government.

The bottom line is that we need to get people back to work.  The best way to address the debt is through a strong economy with full employment.  I will create jobs.  As a small business owner, and teacher, I understand the challenges our families and businesses face, and I will work everyday I am in Congress to implement solutions to our problems and get people back to work.

If it weren’t for Bush’s war in Iraq and the Republican generated financial meltdown, the current deficit and unemployment problems would not exist. The Republicans who caused these problems are less

extreme than the Tea Party that has a stranglehold on our country, and are standing in the way of sensible policies to spur job creation and improve the economy.  Hopefully, the election in November of 20

12 will reverse this trend and usher in a Congress that can get the job done.

Thousands of NJ-7 Seniors at Risk Under GOP Plan

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A new analysis by the House Commerce Committee provides District by District information on the impact of Republican Medicare Plan and Medicaid cuts, illuminating the disastrous impact of the Ryan Budget supported by my opponent right here in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District.

Congressman Leonard Lance supported the Ryan budget, which ends Medicare as we know it, turning Medicare into a voucher program.

Here is the impact, by the numbers on NJ-7’s CD directly from the analysis:

  • Reduce coverage for 8,400-dual eligible seniors and individuals with disabilities.

  • Jeopardize nursing home care for 1,800

  • Impair the healthcare of 13,000 children (including 400 newborns)

  • Cut payments for Emergency Room visits for 5,000 patients

  • Cut payments to hospitals for 1,500 inpatient visits

Medicaid assistance under the Ryan Plan cuts an average of $13,000 per enrollee over the next decade, putting seniors and persons with disabilities at risk.

This analysis is aligned with the report from May by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), which estimated that a typical 65-year-old Medicare beneficiary in 2022 would see their out-of-pocket health care costs increase from $6,154 to $12,513 under the Republican budget.

If the Ryan plan to turn Medicare into an inadequate voucher program, for which Congressman Lance voted, were to be signed into law, seniors across America would face bleak economic prospects. But with the exception of Florida, there is no state more disastrously impacted than right here in New Jersey. Congressman Lance has seen these numbers and well knows that by 2022 out of pocket expenses for the typical 65-year old enrollee in New Jersey would jump from $6,832.43 to $13,892.47, the second biggest increase in America ($7,060.03).

I’ll fight against that ever being enacted every day I’m in office.

Please help me in fighting for our Seniors and standing up to the GOP’s Budget by joining Congressman Barney Frank at an event supporting my 2012 campaign for Congress on June 18th in Warren, Somerset County, NJ.  RSVP Today.

The GOP War on Women

I’ve met Joan Potosnak. She’s pretty awesome. – promoted by Rosi

Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate our Moms and all the women in our life who provide support.

My Mom is very special to me. When I needed healthcare, she took on a second job, working nights at UPS because her full-time day job did not offer health benefits. That year I had two surgeries.  Who knows how we would have survived the mountain of medical bills without access to health insurance. She sacrificed so I could be healthy, focus on my studies and become the man I am today.

Thank you Mom.  I love you.

And thank you to all the Moms in our lives-bosses, colleagues, family, and friends for re-shaping America.  more below…

I’m Sorry Mother Earth

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Today is Earth Day.  While I’d like to be able to say “Happy Earth Day” I can’t in good conscience.

I am extremely concerned at the lack of headway to protect our environment and ensure our future generations have access to clean air and water.

In just under 3 months, the new GOP led House of Representatives have undone years of progress taking us in the wrong direction and setting a course for unprecedented misuse, abuse, destruction, and peril.

House Republicans illustrated their disregard for the environment when they canceled a recycling and composting program in the Capitol. The program employed the best practices in sustainability.

After switching from paper to plastic, the GOP passed legislation to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate green house gases and gut its budget.  These efforts will undermine the agency’s ability to enforce our environmental laws to keep our air and water clean.

The Republican Majority puts corporate profits ahead of protecting American families from toxic chemicals.

The GOP is taking its cues from special interests representing the logging, mining, oil, gas, and nuclear industries and protecting the profits of these corporations instead of protecting our natural resources.

A fracking drill in Wyoming Via the Examiner (Credit: Western Citizen)

Hydraulic fracking is a drilling process used to extract natural gas from shale by injecting large volumes of water laden with hazardous and carcinogenic chemicals.

SOTU Presents Stark Choice: Innovate to Stay Competitive or be Left Behind

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I was extremely pleased the President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night focused on our future.  While the GOP’s rhetoric is focused on the past and stoking fears about our debt, the President took on the difficult task of outlining a vision for America’s future that includes encouraging American innovation AND debt reduction. President Obama hit the nail on the head when he said, “the future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still,” we need to move our country forward in order to stay ahead of other nations in an increasingly competitive global economy.

America can no longer rest on the successes of the past to ensure prosperity for the future; we must take an aggressive approach to catalyzing innovation through strategic investments in physical, technological, and human capital. It is a matter of national and economic security that we step up our efforts to maintain our leadership and unleash American ingenuity at every level to create new industries and new jobs.

In order to meet the President’s challenge to spur innovation, create clean energy, expand high-speed rail, and reduce the debt, we must recognize:

1. Innovation is the Key to Economic Growth

2. Strategic Investments Can Promote Innovation

3. Today’s Education Will Shape the Future

This past March I wrote a piece I wanted to re-share, Innovation is the Key to Economic Growth.

It’s after the jump …

I’m committed. Are you?

Interesting and sensitive questions from some well-informed students at Westfield High School. Parents should be proud. – promoted by Rosi

Two weeks ago, I posted on Blue Jersey about the need to protect our young people from the bullying and harassment that leads many teens to depression or suicide.  This week, I had an interesting exchange with teenagers at Westfield High School about what we can do to make things better, both on a government level and on a personal level.

This past Thursday, I visited Westfield High School to speak to a group of nearly 300 students about the political process and the issues facing our county.  

continue reading below the fold

National Coming Out Day- Come out against Bullying and Homophobia

I didn’t know until today that Ed was once the Residence Counselor at Davidson, the dorm Tyler Clementi lived in. A few years earlier, and it might have been Ed that Tyler came to for help. Breaks my heart. – promoted by Rosi

As you may know, Monday October 11 is National Coming Out Day.  The annual day encourages young people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or questioning to feel comfortable being open about who they are.  Sadly, we know all too well that for many, coming out isn’t easy or safe.  Last week, the senseless death of Tyler Clementi was an unfortunate reminder that too many GLBTQ young people do not feel safe or welcome in this world.  It breaks my heart that he was made to feel unwelcome at Rutgers, my own alma mater.  It has been heartening to see the gay and straight communities come together in the wake of Tyler’s suicide to condemn the bullying and violence that makes our young people feel alone and unsafe.  But we must continue working together to ensure that the coming out process for our young people is more accepting.  Thousands of teens and young adults like Tyler face bullying and violence every day simply because of who they are.  This has to end.

Teenagers are dying because they are gay.  Tyler was not the only life lost this month because of gay related bullying or violence. This is unacceptable.  

National Coming Out Day is a call to arms for both the gay and straight communities.  We must commit to making the world safe for all of our children.  We have to make sure that children and young adults grow up knowing that they are loved and welcome for who they are.  And we must repudiate intolerance from the start, so that more children grow up knowing that homophobia, hatred and bullying are unacceptable.  As Harvey Milk once said, “all young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”  Milk said this over thirty years ago, but the sentiment is timeless, and we are clearly not there yet.  We still have work to do make this a reality.

Earlier this week, I filmed a video for Dan Savage’s “It gets better” project.  I’d like to share it with you:  

We all have to work together to ensure that for those who are preparing to come out and those who are already out, it WILL get better.

Leonard Lance Prefers Subsidies for Big Banks At College Students’ Expense

Like many in New Jersey, I couldn’t afford to go to college without help.  In addition to work-study, part time jobs, and scholarships, I took out student loans to help pay my tuition at Rutgers.  I am still paying for those loans today.  Paying for college is difficult for many students and families in our communities and these tough economic times have only made it harder.  New Jersey high schools graduate about 100,000 students every year. Most of them want to go on to college, but many families cannot afford the high cost of higher education.  Here in New Jersey, the rising cost of higher education is outpacing inflation.  I’m not sure how Congressman Lance paid for his education at Lehigh, but he certainly hasn’t shown any empathy in Congress for the struggling middle class families trying to help their children go to college.

I’ve spoken about Congressman Lance’s disastrous vote on the Education Jobs Fund Bill earlier this summer, when he opposed rehiring 4,000 New Jersey teachers to teach in public schools K-12, where they are vital in preparing our students for higher education and giving them the tools they need to succeed in the workplace.  On Wednesday, on the two year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, I called out Congressman Lance’s vote against financial reform legislation.  Mr. Lance’s only committee assignment is the Financial Services Committee, where he and his colleagues are tasked with regulating the financial and insurance industries.  Congressman Lance accepted more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from the finance and insurance industries- the very companies he’s supposed to be regulating!  So, it should come as no surprise that he voted against legislation that will protect the life savings, retirement funds, and college funds of New Jersey families.

What I find truly egregious is his vote on student loan reform.  In March, student loan reform legislation sought to remove Big Banks as the middle men for lending federal dollars to students.  The economic crisis has compounded the rising costs of higher education, putting college out of reach for too many hard working students.  Meanwhile, these banks were pocketing $68 billion in profits on student loans, just for moving the money – dollars that could have helped make college more affordable for more students.  The reform legislation that Mr. Lance voted against changed all of that.  Now, billions of dollars that were going to Big Banks fund additional Pell Grants, which will help make college more accessible for many students.

In this economy, no one should be standing in the way of making college more affordable.  The priorities of my opponent are way off.  In New Jersey, we value higher education.  We cannot afford to send a man back to Congress who wants to help the big banks make college more expensive for New Jersey students.

Hey NJ-7, is your job negligible?

Hey, Blue Jerseyans – This was posted Friday, but I’m going to pull it up top again because breaking Schundler news was posted right on top of it then. Ed’s the Dem running for Congress against the GOP’s Leonard Lance. – promoted by Rosi

Two weeks ago, Congress was called back to Washington for a special session to vote on the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act (also known as the Education Jobs Bill).  The legislation, which will allow New Jersey schools to retain nearly 4,000 teachers, passed and was signed into law.  As many of you know, Congressman Leonard Lance voted against the bill, voting against our teachers, our schools, our students, and the future of our nation.  Many constituents have questioned Mr. Lance directly about his vote, which he has attempted to justify.  According to Mr. Lance, “the bill would have a negligible impact” on his district, NJ-7.  According to NJEA estimates, it would help retain or rehire 56 teachers across the 54 municipalities that make up NJ-7.  

When we’re all struggling, how can he tell anyone in our community that their job is negligible?

As a teacher, I know that my fellow educators are not negligible.  I know that the children in our schools are not negligible.  During the eight years I spent teaching science at Bridgewater-Raritan High School, I saw the difference one teacher can make in the life of a student. As a science teacher and advisor to the drama club, I taught and worked with nearly 200 students each year.  The loss of 56 teachers in my district would have a detrimental effect on the lives of thousands of students. The 7th district has long prided itself on having some of the best public schools in the state: this year we had five of the top 25 according to New Jersey Magazine.  Governor Christie and Congressman Lance may take these schools and their staffs for granted, but I don’t.

In these difficult times, only a career politician like Congressman Lance would call a job “negligible” to pitifully defend an inexcusable vote against his constituents’ interests. Since going to Washington, my opponent has been more concerned with keeping his own job than saving and creating jobs in our district.  He has had opportunities to vote to help small business owners, to help teachers, to help police officers and firefighters, to help nurses, and to help the unemployed.  With each opportunity, he has voted no.  Mr. Lance is out of touch with the needs of the people struggling in our communities and come November – with your help – he’ll be the one out of a job.  I’m looking forward to engaging with the Blue Jersey community throughout the next two months and beyond November 2.

NJ-7: Summer’s Ending: Retire the Flip Flops

I’m pleased to share a campaign update with Blue Jersey’s readers today.  Rosi has been after me for a while to write here and I’m happy to finally get the opportunity.  As many of you know, my name is Ed Potosnak and I’m the Democratic candidate for New Jersey’s 7th district.  I am a science teacher and a small business owner determined to take my real world experience to Washington to get the job done for our communities.  I’m running because I am concerned that America is losing its edge and my opponent Congressman Leonard Lance is more concerned with keeping his own job in Washington than with the job creation, industry development, and improvements in educational opportunities needed to make sure America remains competitive in the increasingly global economy.  

This past week, I’ve been taking Mr. Lance to task on his conflicting statements and actions regarding the appropriations process since his 2008 campaign.  When State Senator Lance was campaigning for Congress, he signed a pledge stating that he would not request federal earmarks. Once in Washington, he quickly sought to obtain earmarks (nearly $21 million in requests).  Mr. Lance changed his stance on earmarks again this year, under coercion of the conservative Republican leadership.  This led a conservative watchdog group to give Leonard Lance the “Jekyll and Hyde” award this April.  

Just last week, Mr. Lance complained to a constituent that New Jersey was a ‘donor state’ in terms of paying federal taxes and getting little in return.  I agree: it is a major concern that we in the 7th district have the 13th highest tax burden of the 435 congressional districts and we receive a fraction of that money back from the federal government.  Of course, when we have a representative like Mr. Lance who doesn’t ask for the funding, we’re certainly not going see an increase in tax revenues invested here.  I’m tired of career politicians like Mr. Lance who act one way in Washington and then say what they think voters want to hear back at home.  What the voters want to hear is an honest answer.  I called out Mr. Lance on his earmark hypocrisy, and his office issued a weak denial, claiming he didn’t flip flop on the issue.

Follow me to the jump, for the timeline of this.