Author Archive: brendanod

Speaker Prieto, Democrat or Stack Stooge?

     I don’t know much about Speaker Prieto.  When he became the Speaker I had mixed feelings.  

    I certainly wasn’t sad to see Sheila Oliver leave the post as I felt she was not that effective.  I’m willing to cut her some slack.  No speaker has has had the type of pressure that she had to tolerate with the  corrupt thuggery of the Christie gang leaning on her.

    I have to admit that I automatically assumed that coming from Hudson County and given the horse trading that goes on behind the scenes to become Assembly Speaker, that Prieto would be a Stack stooge with affiliation to the Adubato, DiVincenzo, and Norcross gang.  It’s hard to gauge character from the outside looking in.  Prieto was one of the few democrats to vote no on the 2011 Pen/Ben bill.

    For me, his first test came when he allowed the Transportation Committee to retain their subpoena power.  He could of exercised his authority and stopped that committee and its investigation in its tracks.  I wonder what type of pressure he received to kill that committee?  That would be an interesting discussion to have.  Maybe he has some value as a witness in the GWB scandal?

    The arbitration bill that the assembly left on the floor is another interesting example.  Christie is back to preaching things that made him popular in the first place, which mostly has to do with bashing public employees.  When the original arbitration bill was scheduled to sunset, Christie seized that opportunity to bash public employees and embarrass the legislature into voting his way with a new arbitration bill. It ended up with Christie line item vetoing nearly the whole bill.  The Senate voted so fast on the LIV bill that I doubt they had time to read it.  The assembly stayed in session late into the afternoon and left the LIV bill on the floor, allowing the original arbitration bill to sunset.  Maybe the whole thing was scripted theatre.  Regardless of your opinion of the arbitration bill,  I’d like to think it was the assembly and Prieto being defiant and not letting the governor roll over them like he had in the past.  

    So far, I like what I see.  Christie is weakened by scandal and maybe that has something to do with it.  It doesn’t matter.  It seems the assembly is acting like a independent body that is not hooked by umbilical to the governor’s office.

What Has Christie Accomplished?

I can’t think of any solid initiative or law that Christie has produced or supported that has had a generally positive outcome for the majority of New Jerseyans.  Isn’t that what governing is about?

When Christie first came into office it was the cap law that he and his buddy Corey Booker ran around the state endorsing.  It became law but taxes continue to rise faster than 2%.  I attribute this to the many exemptions in the law and the fact that Christie has issued many waivers to republican leaning municipalities.

The pension & benefit laws are another feather I suppose Christie would put in his cap.  This law effects mostly police and fire because of the higher salaries.  The law has had the effect of freezing or lowering salaries due to the mandated healthcare contribution amounts.  I suppose this could be viewed as a victory but I view it more as an ideological victory as the desired effect was to drive down salaries and reduce medical benefits.  The law also divided the democratic party and gave Christie the ability to brag about his ability to be bipartisan.  This alone may be his single biggest political victory, but has the law produced a positive outcome for the majority of New Jerseyans?

Super-storm Sandy is the another issue I sometimes hear Christie receive praise for. During the crisis he certainly gave the appearance of being out in front of it with his bravado filled pressers but the reality is that recovery phase has left many still waiting for assistance and to say there is controversy surrounding Mary Jo’s relief fund maybe an understatement.

Christie is certainly popular.  For what I don’t know.  He is a rock star without a song.  He apparently has carte blanche to go on any news or late night program he chooses to bolster his own persona, ignore the issues important to New Jersey, and position himself to be a candidate for POTUS.

If not for the rock star persona he would be easily beatable.  The economy is still poor.  Crime is worse.  Foreclosures are still prevalent.  Sandy victims are still suffering.  All this while he stands in the way of gay marriage, medical marijuana, women’s health, healthcare exchanges, and a new Hudson River crossing.

Have I missed something?  Is there a credible issue that has improved the lives of New Jerseyans?

   

NJ Would Be A Better Place Without George Norcross

I think Tom Moran and the Star Ledger have officially gone crazy.  I know Moran hates teachers and public employees in general, but the editorial in today’s Star Ledger was over the top.

http://blog.nj.com/njv_editori…

The fact that NJ’s largest newspaper is giving a political thug kudos is beyond comprehension.  “The only real hope to stop the bloodshed” in Camden is to abolish the existing police force and their collective bargaining agreement?  Really??  

Certainly our gun laws need to be stricter, but the real problem is the culture of violence that exists.  It is a massive social failure.  That social failure combined with years of mismanagement is what ails Camden.

People like Norcross who gerrymander elections for all the wrong reasons is the real reason why Camden suffers today. Selling private insurance to government that should be using insurance on public contract in order to wield influence and grease the rails of politics is what is wrong with Camden.

Who can rally the Dems for victory in 2013?

The writer makes the case for a vigorous 2013 primary – promoted by Rosi

I recently attended a public sector union rally where Senator Lautenberg was the headline speaker.

It was a pretty good anti-Christie program, as I expected it to be given the malevolent relationship between Lautenberg & Christie.  The Rally was focused on the recently released NJPP report that details the dreadful effects of Christie’s public sector labor cuts have had on NJ’s economy and unemployment rate.

Many of the speakers were public sector union representatives.  The ones represented I can remember off hand were, AFL-CIO, NJEA, AFT, SEIU, & IAFF.   Members of the legislature that attended and spoke were Greenstein, Watson-Coleman, and Benson.  The message was clear.  Christie’s anti-union ideology has been bad for NJ, bad for our middle class, bad for our economy and thanks to the NJPP report, scientifically proven to be bad policy.

I found Bonnie Watson-Coleman to be particularly engaging.  She  led with the chant, “fired up, ready to go!”, referring to 2013 .  During her speech she reinforced the fact that on November 7th, 2012 it shall be time to begin the process to get rid of Christie.

There was energy in the room.  It is apparent to me that the energy cannot (and will not) be spent on a half-assed democratic,machine driven, Christiecrat candidates like Sweeney, Greenwald, or Booker.  

A Booker candidacy has been debated on Blue Jersey ad nauseum, leading to the conclusion that a Christiecrat candidacy is just what Christie would like…a divided democratic party that lacks the enthusiasm to propel the base and the machines to a coherent strategy to victory.

Party Boss Politics & 2013

As speculation grows as to which democrats will actually toss their hats in the ring for 2013 and as I read the debate on Blue Jersey about a Booker candidacy, a few scenarios and a few questions ran through my mind.

I am pretty sure there can be little debate that the party bosses (Norcross, Adubato, et. al.) sat on their hands in 2009 to springboard Christie to the Governor’s Office.  It certainly seems to me that Christie has danced well with the bosses.  They have helped Christie achieve moderate legislative success and Christie in turn has thrown them a few favors thus enabling them to keep their political power.

A big question for me is why the bosses would want to get rid of Christie?  They seem to have a good relationship and are able to share power and influence.  It seems almost like a bromance.  From the outside looking in, I don’t see a need for a breakup.  I used to have a boss who would tell me all the time, “don’t fuck with a good thing”.  It is not a good thing for me or the vast majority of New Jerseyans, however for Christie and the bosses it seems like a pretty good relationship.

Keeping my theory in mind, how could the party bosses enthusiastically endorse a democratic candidate when they really don’t need one?  They don’t give a shit about democratic or progressive ideology.  Their only concern is maintaining power and privilege.  They have that now.

Why would candidates who have played nice with the bosses (Sweeney,Greenwald,Booker) want to run as a candidate when they know their machines are happy with the current arrangement?

Can candidates who are not boss affiliated (Buono,Codey,Bollwage) win an election without the support of the party bosses?   Are there enough disenfranchised ex Christie voters out there to tilt the scales enough to overcome the suppression by the bosses?  My feeling is yes, however it would have to be the campaign of a lifetime.  

Christie is beatable.  He is a fraud.  My fear is that he can overcome an election if challenged by a lackluster campaign or a campaign run by party bosses.

Pay to Play Trumps SHBP

promoted by Rosi

As aggravating as The Star Ledger’s editorial page has been lately (in regards to its general animus towards the NJEA and public sector unions in general) , I was happy to see today’s editorial, N.J. municipalities waste millions when buying insurance.

The reason I was glad to see the editorial is two fold. One, I concur with the editorial.  The health insurance industry is extremely complex, most cannot grasp it (which is one reason mayors get away with flim flam pay to play broker business).  The reality is that there are power in numbers especially when it comes to a self insured plan, like the SHBP.   Towns that go out and purchase private, fully insured health benefits for small to medium groups cannot realistically compete with a self insured health and prescription plan that has hundreds of thousands of members in it.  Unless these small groups are purchasing benefits with drastically less value (which is not the case) than the SHBP, the argument that they are being prudent is ridiculous.

More below the fold …

A Tale of two Cartoons

I typically like (mostly because I usually agree) Drew Sheneman.  This week’s post election cartoon of the NJ Dems giving Christie a wedgy struck me as odd.  

http://blog.nj.com/njv_shenema…  

As much as I wished it was true that NJ Democrats were now in a position to actually be considered an opposition party, I know it not to be true.  Furthermore, it seemed to me that The Star Ledger was pathetically trying to appear “fair and balanced” after 2 years of doting over Christie.  I don’t know what other conclusion can be reached. The election turned out pretty must just as predicted, the same players (for the most part) will be playing the same positions, and The Star Ledger will continue to support Christie’s agenda no matter how much collateral damage is inflicted.  I will rate that cartoon “mostly false”.

Rob Tornoe’s cartoon on the matter I found to be far more accurate.

http://robtornoe.com/wp-conten…

I will rate it as “true”.

Pension-Benefit Realities

I’m not sure where to begin.   I have been thinking about the repercussions of the Christie/Sweeney benefit and pension laws that were recently enacted.  The increased health and pension benefit contributions, combined with cap law and the polarization of PERC will ensure for me, and tens of thousands more, a pay cut for the next 5 years.  My disposable income in 2011 will be more than it will be in 2016.  I know this makes many feel good.  The greedy public worker finally gets what has been coming to him.  It was a good call to arms by Christie to rally those who have suffered from the greed and selfishness from the Wall Street thieves.  A common enemy in a depressed economy is a fabulous way to propagate an ideology to make others feel someone should suffer.  So here we are…..tens of thousands will not see pay increases as the cost of living increases and the value of investments and real estate plummet.

To me the question is, what is the value of this law and union busting to the general economy?  The issue of health insurance and its ever increasing costs is where the answers lie, the real ideological difference between left and right.  Should the ability to see a doctor for a reasonable cost be a human right, or should it be a privilege for those fortunate enough to participate in a for profit health insurance scheme?  The answer is obviously that Christie and Sweeney believe that perpetuating a privileged, for profit health care system is the America they would prefer to see.   The cost of health insurance is where they decided to target, they could have chose a Massachusetts style reform, or expanding the SHBP by making public employers mandatorily participate and increasing the negotiating power of the state.  The governor and legislature chose perpetuating the current broken, privileged, for profit system of delivering health care.

The economy is another ideological difference here.  Any economist will tell you, and history will prove that government should spend during a recession, not curl into a ball and let things fall apart.  Christie and Sweeney took this opportunity to pursue their ideological fantasies to screw public sector unions.  Each public sector employee will now take a multi-thousand dollar pay cut, money that will not be spent on cars, home improvements, and flat screens.  The lack of spending will reduce commission paid to sales people and sales tax paid to the state of NJ.  Some may not be able to afford their homes any longer, adding more stock to available real estate, thus pushing real estate values lower and decreasing the value of real estate taxes.  As day care, fuel, electricity, and food costs continue to rise this will further diminish purchasing power of the middle class.  Increased cost of living combined with legislated pay cuts to the public sector will further decrease sales tax revenues.

The Christie/Sweeney pension and benefit reform may produce some short term relief for municipal budgets as the public sector is now required by law to take a pay cut.  I question if taxes will really go down as government is subject to the same uncontrollable costs as every other citizen.  Real, long lasting reform could have been accomplished by fixing real problems (like our broken health care system).  The pension-benefit law will do more harm than good.  It fulfills an ideological hatred for government and its employees.  The damaging effects of this recession and its impact on those most vulnerable creates a real need for competent government.  Shrinking government when those who need it most is insane.  Perpetuating a broken system on the backs of the middle class is insane.  Legislating a pay cut that will further damage a weak economy is insane.  It may take decades to correct the Christie legacy, if we are lucky enough to make a correction.

With All Due Respect….None Of Your Business

I happened to run across this clip on MSNBC.

http://www.businessinsider.com…  

Another fine example of the governors misogynistic attitude.

The woman asked a legitimate question in a non- confrontational manner and was immediately attacked in a very confrontational, aggressive style…. “What’s your name???? What’s your name???”

Hey Gail!!…..None of your business!!!  

I don’t think the governor even understood her question because his response was so over the top he appears incredibly irrational.

Helicopters and Public Sector Politicians

While I enjoy the media coverage of “coptergate” and the exposing of more Christie hypocrisy, I can’t help think what a foolish political target that helicopter has become over the years.  I realize the main issue with “coptergate” is that Christie used the chopper for purely political and personal reasons, and also for the extremely pompous style it was used (landing and disrupting the school and baseball game).  The chief executive of state should have regular use of a helicopter.  The duties of the office are extreme and there is only so much time in a day.  Really, the schedule of a governor is entirely political, the schedule and appearances are chosen for maximum political benefit.  Limiting it’s use for non-political purpose is silly.  The occasional personal use is also unavoidable…it is not a regular job, the two worlds of the office of governor and ones personal life are bound to intersect.   The helicopter should have never been a target, it has come full circle to shoot both parties in the foot, and in Corzine’s case….nearly cost him his life.

The SL headlined the members of the legislature who have public sector jobs the other day.  I link this story and “coptergate” together because my feeling is that it is another political target that has gone too far.  Does the SL want to ban public sector employees from the legislature?  Sure…some of the jobs are probably plum jobs for the politically connected and some are absolutely legitimate careers, which is why the article annoyed me.  It lumped everyone together leaving the reader to assume a negative connotation.  There can be abuses of a helicopter privilege and there are legislators who have public sector jobs because of who they are.  The governor needs a helicopter and public sector employees have the right to be in the legislature.  Abusers are fair targets,  a governor shouldn’t be afraid to use the helicopter and public sector employees should not be afraid to run for office.