Author Archive: rmfretz

An Open Letter To Rep. Scott Garrett

Dear Scott,

While I would never assign blame to you for the tragedy yesterday, you and every member of Congress have a responsibility in the tone with which our nation discusses its business.  The more I’ve read conservative commentators explaining away the connections between words and consequence, the more frustrated I’ve become.  

Not standing up and strongly denouncing content calling for violence, such as that hosted on popular Conservative websites, enables those sick individuals out there to legitimize their thoughts based on the fact they appear alongside articles written by Members of Congress.  

Back in the summer of 2007, when I was blogging regularly and your staff was reading, I took you to task for contributing to Townhall.com.  It wasn’t necessarily for what you were writing, but it was the fact your contribution helped provide advertising revenue to pay for the hosting of a 21 part murder fantasy, called Juliet Smith’s Diary, in which “Patriots” kill liberal Senators, Representatives, US Attorneys, talk show hosts, etc.  

After the shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in 2008, where the gunman felt he should do good for the country by killing Democrats, I again mentioned that the Diary should be taken down.  At the time, this is what I wrote:

We’re a better nation than this, and one sick individual doesn’t change that. At the same time, we have to expect those making and shaping public policy not to legitimize this sort of illness by providing it a forum.

As of this writing, Juliet Smith’s Diary is still there.

On behalf of your constituents, I ask you use your leadership position to put an end to this tacit approval of calls for violence within our political process.  And maybe, finally, get that blog series taken down.

Sincerely,

Matt

Are the Democrats Punting?

Good question. – – Promoted from the diaries by Rosi

Cross-posted from Blog the Fifth:

A comment over on Blue Jersey about the state of our Congressional District really raised an eyebrow and got me thinking. The comment was this:

I’ll give you another example – I live in NJ-5, Scott Garrett is my congressman. It is looking more and more like the county parties aren’t going to put ANYONE up – at a time where republican turnout will be higher and more motivated than the past 5+ years.

This is a sad statement on our politics in their current state. Gerrymandering has gotten to a point where folks like Garrett can serve until they are redistricted out or retire. His only threat real and perceived is in the primary, when the smallest fraction of the electorate makes all the decisions. Democrats won’t run anyone because they don’t want to spend the money. Politics is a business.

This reality undermines the entire intent of a Representative being accountable to their constituents. Forget the fact that the Democrats can’t get someone who believes enough in their values to step up. With the Democrats punting, there’s no one to bring up relevant questions for voters to ponder at the ballot box. Why vote against small business tax cuts repeatedly? Why vote against balancing the budget repeatedly? Why vote against extending unemployment benefits repeatedly? Why vote to hasten Medicare’s insolvency?

Granted, Garrett is by all accounts safe in this seat. In fact it hasn’t really been close on election day in a very long time. That said, Democrats failure to supply voters with any kind of alternative abdicates their fundamental responsibility in our already flawed two party system.  

Garrett vs. 1.4 million Home Buyers

Live in the 5th congressional district? You can get reporting at Blog the Fifth you won’t find in your newspaper, plus context on some of the nutty, nutty things your congressman does, plus opportunities to join up with efforts to make a change there. – – – Promoted from the diaries by Rosi.

Cross posted from Blog the Fifth

Representative Scott Garrett finally explained why he voted against extending unemployment benefits and the first time home buyer tax credit:

So, in sum, we have a program rampant with fraud, which gives taxpayer dollars to people who don’t legitimately qualify, and fails to appropriately credit the individuals that do qualify. It’s clear that employees of the IRS were aware of the problems with claims process for this program, as the inspector general found 53 cases of IRS employees filing “illegal or inappropriate” claims for the credit. In its current form, this program costs taxpayer about $1 billion a month and is expected to cost $15 billion for the year. Rather than terminate this program, Congress voted on November 5 to expand the program to homeowners looking to buy a replacement principle residence. How many more four-year olds will fraudulently receive taxpayer money under this program before Congress realizes this is a terrible idea?

Voting to expand this program would have been irresponsible of me, and an abdication of my responsibility as a guardian of taxpayer dollars. The Homebuyer Tax Credit Program was a poison pill to otherwise well-intended legislation.

It bears repeating that Garrett was one of 2.7% of the House to vote no on this bill, so it hardly was a poison pill.

Garrett Talks Health Care

Promoted by Jason Springer: An interesting exchange with Congressman Garrett talking healthcare and more great work by rmfretz keeping an eye on the Congressman at Blog the Fifth.

Cross-posted at Blog the Fifth.

Representative Scott Garrett chats with Fox 5 about his vote against the health care bill. Garrett talks almost exclusively about Medicare Advantage as his reason, which as I’ve written before can currently charge taxpayers up to a 40% mark up on services.

It’s good to see Garrett using the full term, as opposed to earlier, but I still can’t understand how someone who claims he is a fiscal conservative can defend taxpayers paying up to 40% more than something actually costs for anything.

Although the House bill is dead in the Senate, taking the 40% mark up will be out no matter what bill comes back to the House for reconciliation.

While Garrett claims the program will be taken from those enrolled, nothing in the bill eliminates the program. What it eliminates is the 40% mark up. Now should insurance companies only participate due to their ability to gouge taxpayers, one could see them cease to offer the program, as the Chief Actuary for Medicare and Medicaid noted.

That aside, Garrett’s interview is interesting in that it shows his true feeling on the Bill and overhaul in general.

Jersey’s Fresh Opportunity

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi. Thanks, Matt. And I’ll second your call for people to drop in on the Sunlight Foundation.

This is a post I did for the Sunlight Foundation .  As an organization they are at the forefront of transparency issues and accountability.  Check them out.

People have different reasons to be passionate about transparency; mine is accountability to the taxpayer. To me when elected officials let us know what they are spending our money on then we can keep them accountable and government becomes better. Regardless of whether one is pleased or disgusted with the outcome, the Governor’s race here in New Jersey highlighted just how far transparency has to go.

Chris Christie’s win is rooted in the 130 corruption convictions he rode to victory, which were products of a closed government that encouraged no bid contracts, no show jobs, grants for favors, as well as every form of patronage you can imagine and some you wouldn’t believe were true.  Books have been written about our culture of corruption, and the core of it all is the overall lack of transparency.  Politicians and decision makers have largely been able to operate out of the public and press’s purview for longer than anyone can remember.

Then Christie showed up and started arresting people.

Time to Increase NJ’s Film Tax Credit

With the news that New York State has exhausted their tax credit for film, and projects jumping ship to other states and Canada, it’s time New Jersey increased its film tax credit.  

Currently, New Jersey credits 20% of a production’s qualified expenses.  However, the program is capped at $10 million in credits a year.  This puts our state at a competitive disadvantage to other neighboring states, and fails to recognize that much of the talent and labor that fuels New York’s film industry lives in New Jersey.  New York stopping their tax credit is going to cost New Jersey residents their jobs.

Time to Increase NJ’s Film Tax Credit

With the news that New York State has exhausted their tax credit for film, and projects jumping ship to other states and Canada, it’s time New Jersey increased its film tax credit.  

Currently, New Jersey credits 20% of a production’s qualified expenses.  However, the program is capped at $10 million in credits a year.  This puts our state at a competitive disadvantage to other neighboring states, and fails to recognize that much of the talent and labor that fuels New York’s film industry lives in New Jersey.  New York stopping their tax credit is going to cost New Jersey residents their jobs.

If I Could Sue Garrett I Would

Promoted from the diaries – Thurman

Representative Scott Garrett may have earned some praise from me lately regarding the bailout, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t aggravate me to see him use my party name from 2006 yet again. In the first campaign mailer of his I’ve seen, once again he uses my “An Independent Voice” as his own, albeit, tagging on “For Change” at the end. For both infringement on my brand and false advertising, if I could sue Garrett I would.

Open Questions for Garrett

Cross posted at Blog the Fifth

A while back I wrote about Representative Scott Garrett sending the vast majority of the earmarks he requested out of district. After watching Bill Moyer’s Expose covering investigative reporter David Heath’s efforts to compile the first full accounting of earmarks in a Defense Appropriations bill, I decided to check out Heath’s efforts.

Of course I looked at Garrett’s page. So here are the questions:

  1. Who were the $2.5 million in mystery earmarks of which you were the only sponsor sent to?
  2. What process was used to determine these mystery earmarks were in the best interest of taxpayers in our District?
  3. What projects within the District did you not attempt to fund as a result of going after these two mystery earmarks knowing you were approaching the average amount of earmarks for a Republican House member?

If either Garrett or his staff would like to provide answers for publication you can send me an e-mail or letter.

A Solution to Primary Madness

Back in August I wrote this post about fixing the primary system.  After reading the round up I thought there might be some interest in talking about it.

Here's my solution for 2012 and beyond. However, part of it starts now.

– Iowa and New Hampshire go in mid-January.

– The remaining states are split into four groups of 12, with a geographic distribution so that each region of the nation has 3 representative states in each group.

– Then, the second Tuesday of February, March, April and May one group has a primary.

– This primary rotates every four years, so that the group that goes last one year goes first the next.

(ex. Year 1: 1234 Year 2: 4123 Year 3: 3412 Year 4: 2341)

– The initial order would be determined by overall eligible voter turnout percentage in the GENERAL election of 2008 for the group. The group of states with the top turnout goes first in 2012, with the group coming in second going 4th so they get to go first in 2016.

– Finally, in 2024, after everybody has had the chance to go first, the order is redrawn based on the voter turnout percentage over the last four elections (2012-24), and the process begins again.

It really isn't that hard, and I would think the parties and states could come to some kind of agreement before their conventions in August 2008.