Author Archive: deciminyan

Support the Troops

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi Efthim

Cross posted at deciminyan

Every day of the year, our uniformed military sacrifices life and limb to fulfill the missions that we assign to them. Yet on only one day per year, Memorial Day, do we formally recognize these sacrifices. We do so with parades, flags, speeches, and barbecues. During the rest of the year, we may send care packages and drive around with magnetic yellow ersatz ribbons on our cars, but for the most part unless we have a loved one serving in the war zones, we go about our business and the soldiers are largely forgotten. Despite the fact that we are in the longest war in American history, news from the front is relegated to the back pages – after the headlines about Dancing with the Stars or the sexual proclivities of a politician.

While we say we “support the troops”, do we really? We send them to an ill-conceived war without adequate body armor. We put them unnecessarily in harm’s way by spending millions of dollars on corrupt or incompetent contractors who provide unsafe facilities that electrocute our servicemen and women. We go through eight years of Bush Reaganomics which wrecks the economy, making service in the military not “voluntary” but rather the “employer of last resort” for some. We stretch our troops so thin that they are cruelly redeployed for three, four, and five tours after they have bravely served our nation. We kick out motivated, well-trained, and well-qualified troops simply because of their sexual orientation.

So how can we support the troops this Memorial Day? Certainly we should continue sending care packages and displaying ribbons on our automobiles, whether or not these activities are symbolic or meaningful. More importantly, we need to realize that the nation is at war, and the justification for that war is subject to debate. If it weren’t for vigorous debate and endless protest, the war in Vietnam might have stretched out several more years, killed more Americans, and had the same outcome. It would be a fitting tribute to our troops if, by next Memorial Day, they were all home and the billions of dollars that we are throwing into overseas wars were spent here in America on deficit reduction, jobs, health care, and education for our veterans and for all Americans.

Debating the Void

Tonight, I attended the “debate” in Willingboro among the candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District.  I put the word “debate” in quotes because the sanctioned candidates from each party (Jon Runyan for the GOP and John Adler for the Democrats) were conspicuously absent1.

The challengers to the establishment candidates were Barry Bendar for the Democrats and Justin Murphy for the Republicans.  There were about 100 people in attendance, and the program was moderated by Ersula Cosby, an attorney from Bucks County who did an excellent job of running the debate.  The atmosphere was collegial with a cooperative audience and no fireworks.  Questions had to be submitted in advance, and no follow-up questions from the audience were permitted.

Both candidates presented themselves as the anti-establishment choice, decrying the political bosses of their respective parties.  Murphy proudly proclaimed himself a “right-wing Republican” and Bendar explained his disappointment with Adler, for whom he campaigned in 2008.

I won’t repeat their stance on many of the issues – the reader can learn about these at the candidates’ web site, or from the “mainstream media” (Burlington County Times, Courier Post, and Asbury Park Press were there) or they can pretty much figure out where a “Progressive Democrat” and a “Right Wing Republican” stand on the major concerns of the day.  Rather, I’ll give my take on where the two agree (sometimes surprisingly), provide some highlights, and mention where they may differ from their party’s dogma.

On Health Care, both candidates agreed that everyone should have health insurance and that preventative care should be a priority.  Bendar asserts that health care is a right, and supports “single payer.”  Murphy contends that health care is not a right, and was not clear on how everyone could be insured without a government-run single payer system.  Both agreed that “bureaucrats” should not get between a doctor and a patient, but Bendar’s assumption was that the bureaucrats were insurance company personnel and Murphy’s was that the bureaucrats were government workers.  Bendar said, “You shouldn’t have to make a [medical] decision based on money.”  Interestingly, Murphy asserted that (despite being an attorney and successful small businessman) he has spent most of his adult life without health insurance.  He pledged to forfeit any Federal health insurance benefit if elected.

On the lightning rod issue of abortion, Murphy is fiercely anti-choice, stating that he firmly believes that life begins at conception.  Bendar follows the Progressive line of contending that the Federal government should not intervene in what is a personal decision, although to me he seemed uncomfortable discussing this issue.

On Energy, both candidates agreed that nuclear energy needs to be part of the solution.  Murphy wants to double the number of nuclear reactors in the next 10 years.  I was disappointed in Bendar’s response that nuclear energy in the short term is acceptable, especially given the proximity of the Oyster Creek facility in his home town.  Neither candidate addressed the problem of disposal of nuclear waste.  Unsurprisingly, both agreed that we need more wind and solar power, but Murphy downplayed the effectiveness of renewable energy in reducing our dependence on foreign oil.  He also favors offshore drilling, stating “we have to be tougher than one oil spill.”  He would like to drill off New Jersey and have the royalties go directly to fund education.  (Like most Tea Partiers, he favors abolishing the Department of Education.)  Disappointingly, neither candidate mentioned conservation or CAFE standards as a part of the energy solution.

When asked what their top priority would be if elected, unsurprisingly both mentioned jobs.  Bendar wants to penalize companies for sending jobs overseas, and Murphy believes that corporate regulation and taxes are impeding the economy and job creation.  He wants the IRS abolished and capital gains taxes eliminated.

On gun control, Murphy would not support the bill currently before the House that would require background checks before a private gun sale could be consummated.  He argues that criminals will have guns, anyway.  Bendar supports the Second Amendment but finds no reason for private citizens to own assault weapons.

Oddly, there was a question about the Separatist movement.  I was relieved to hear that both candidates agreed that this issue was settled in 1865.

On immigration, Murphy contends that the Federal government has failed miserably, and that profiling in some cases is acceptable because “we are a nation at war with radical Islamic terrorists.”  Again, Bendar seemed uncomfortable or unprepared on this topic with a response that was wishy-washy at best.

On “too big to fail“, both agreed that companies should be allowed to fail, if necessary, but Bendar supports a plan for a “soft landing” for the affected workforce.

Besides Adler and Runyan, something else was conspicuous by its absence.  There was absolutely no mention of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and their toll on the lives of our soldiers and our national budget.  Apparently, these wars have faded into the background and neither party is willing to bring them to a close.

1After the debate was over, the organizers said that although Adler and Runyan were invited, Adler had to be in Washington for a vote and that Runyan never responded to their invitation.  I asked the moderator whether or not the candidates were permitted to send a proxy, but she was unable to answer that question.  

Where To From Here?

What do you think the next step is, Blue Jersey? – promoted by Rosi Efthim

OK.  So we had a rally in Trenton with record turnout.  It makes us feel good.  And it will be ignored by Christie and his Tea Bagger friends.

There’s recall.  That’s a bad idea – not only because it will be unsuccessful, but will invigorate the Tea Baggers and cause Christie to dig in his heels even further.  The most promising approach is to keep the pressure on the Legislature – both Republicans and Democrats.  A well-crafted campaign to override Christie’s veto of the millionaire’s tax could take the wind out of his sails.

We also need to revector the message from supporting teachers and kids to a more general audience.  There’s a large unenlightened constituency out there who simply look at school costs as a burden on their overstreteched income.  We need to show them the severity of the other harm Christie’s policies are causing.  And we need the teachers’ union to realize that by matching Christie’s intransigence, they are only hurting themselves.

Christie basks in publicity, so it is counterproductive to attack him personally.  The right thing to do is to mount a PR campaign to alert the voters on the short-term and long-term harm he is bringing to New Jersey, and concurrently suggest realistic progressive alternatives.  And we gotta find a credible loyal opposition focal point.

Ramblings on the Assembly Debate on the Millionaire’s Tax

I’m not as up to speed on New Jersey politics as I should be.  So I had some free time today and spent over an hour listening to the Assembly debate on the Millionaire’s tax.  As far as I can tell, the Republicans are putting forward two arguments:

1. Taxes destroy jobs

2. The rich will move away

These are well-established unproven Republican talking points.  As far as the first point is concerned, we have seen that under the Bush tax cuts, jobs have disappeared.  On the second point, I suspect that the uber-rich already declare their homes to be in places like the Cayman Islands or Wyoming.  No one has presented any solid evidence that this would have a significant impact.

It seems like the Republicans’ mantra of no taxes is more of a religion than anything else.

Anyway, it just passed.  Will watch the next steps with great interest.

Perhaps We Should Send Justin Murphy to Louisiana

On the oil disaster in the Gulf, Justin Murphy is quoted in today’s Inky stating “If we have one accident in 40 years, I think that’s a pretty good track record”.

Forty years from now, the Gulf Coast (and who knows how far this spill will expand) will still be recovering from BP’s criminality.  But his opponent Runyan is just as cavalier and uncaring.  

Where is John Adler on this?  Is he defending New Jersey’s coastline vigorously enough?

Another Christie Tax on the non-wealthy

Despite his mantra of being a tax cutter, Governor Christie continues raising taxes.  The most egregious example is the increase in fares for New Jersey Transit.  This not only hits those who can least afford it, but discourages use of a more environment-friendly mode of transportation.

Now his actions will result in an increase in fees for beach tags.

Probably not a big difference to most people, but just another example of GOP hypocrisy.  They are raising taxes – but just on those who are not wealthy.  And another blow to New Jersey tourism.