Lance Offers Dross, No Real Help For Mentally Ill

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Leonard Lance has toed the line in Washington DC, allowing the Tea Party to determine his vote on most of the most pressing issues.  He voted for John Boehner as Speaker of the House, for Paul Ryan’s repeated budgetary plans the gut Social Security and Medicare, to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, to deny a debt ceiling on debts he’d already voted to accrue.

In short, the former Trenton maverick who sued his own party has gone to DC and been little more than a party hack voting in ways his own constituents disagree with.

So what he needs to do is find small things that will look good in the papers.  Like holding a press conference about supporting for a bi-partisan bill providing an extra $2 million in mental health support to each state.

The only problem is Lance held his press conference at the Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center in Bridgewater with a group of Republicans who just cut funding for the facility by $1 million.

Lance Goes Up on TV With Generic GOP Ad — With EXTRA CHRISTIE!

Here’s an ad full of stock images, stock messages, standard evasions and boring platitudes.  It’s a perfect metaphor for Representative Leonard Lance’s career in the House where he has done nothing of note, pretended at independence, and voted the way the Tea Party told John Boehner they wanted Leonard to vote.

It’s really kind of sad because Lance was once a fairly independent guy in the NJ State Senate, which is one of the reasons they ran him for the NJ7 seat — to get him out and free up space for young bucks who would be better at toeing the party line.

NJ-7: A Congressional Race that North Jerseyans Can Be Excited About

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I know, I know.  NJ’s 7th Congressional District isn’t really what you’d call a “northern New Jersey District”.  And yeah, there are at least 5 other districts that cover more of Northern New Jersey (the 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th) than the 7th.

But taking a look at the races in those other districts (without mentioning any issues related to campaigns that I may or may not agree with), the 7th is really one of the NJ races to watch – and really the only one other than the 3rd which is hotly contested.  Sadly, looking at the other five districts (as Bill Orr did a few weeks back), while it is nice to see very strong leads for the Democrats in the 8th, 9th and 10th, the 5th and 11th are pretty much lost causes.

Take that with a growing lead for both President Obama and Senator Menendez (although you never want to be too confident), what’s a dedicated activist to do with their time and efforts on the Congressional level?  This may sound harsh, but if a candidate isn’t interested enough in their own campaign to raise the requisite funds to be taken the least bit seriously, why should activists waste their own precious time, money and effort?

And that brings me to the 7th.  Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula is running against “formerly moderate NJ Assemblyman turned right wing lackey” Congressman Leonard Lance.  This was a race that Assemblyman Chivukula entered late due to Ed Potosnak’s dropping out, but has been tagged as an “emerging race” by the DCCC.

For those who are in the 5th, especially the western part of the District, the 7th stretches into Warren County.  For those who are in the 11th, the 7th also stretches into Morris County.  And the 7th also touches on Essex County (Millburn).  Suffice to say, it is a massively large District, and progressives, liberals, Democrats, activists, door knockers, phonebankers, donors and anyone I missed who is disillusioned by the races in the 5th and 11th, or want to put their time and efforts towards something that isn’t as “in the bank” as the 8th, 9th and 10th can certainly help make a difference in the 7th.

Here is Chivukula’s first TV ad and here is his campaign website if you want more information.  As someone who lives in one of the other 5 Districts noted above, I’m going to focus some time writing about the 7th over the next few weeks as well and I know some other Blue Jerseyans are involved in the campaign on a deeper level.

Just because most races have already been decided for the most part doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to help out if you are so inclined.  The 7th is one really good way.

Water Companies Need to Rehabilitate Infrastructure

Recently, I was at New Jersey American Water’s Canal Road Water Treatment Plant to discuss New Jersey’s Water infrastructure organized by the Somerset County Business Partnership and New Jersey American Water. I was thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts as an engineer who worked in the industry for 30 years and became a policymaker and chairman of the Assemblyman Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.

One of the important outcomes of the session was the need to accelerate the replacement and rehabilitation of this critical infrastructure using a BPU program that can be used by water companies to address aging infrastructure in a way that is both accelerated and financially prudent to rate payers.

Ask Rep. Lance About His Tea Party Love

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Leonard Lance has a Town Hall tonight in Bridgewater. The Somerset Tea Party has sent out emails asking their members to come out and show their support for him. 

The last two congressional primaries Lance has faced significant Tea Party challenges. In 2010, no less than 3 Tea Partiers challenged him from the right. In 2012, the Tea Party coalesced behind one challenger, Hunterdon businessman David Larsen. In his years in the NJ legislature Lance was moderate Republican, one that even sometimes bucked his own party. 

But in Congress, Lance has shown a significant bend to the right-wing, as the House Republicans have become dominated by the far-right. Leonard Lance supports the Paul Ryan budget. And he should be asked about that budget, and about the Medicare cuts, and the impact on seniors, on the middle-class, on veterans – all of it. 

The Somerset Tea Party plans to pack the room tonight – they’ve been sending emails for hours. The Chivukula campaign is asking supporters to attend, and to ask Lance on the record why he supports the Ryan budget. Lance used to be an enemy of the Tea Party; now they embrace him. Is this the congressman you want? 

What: Town Hall with Congressman Lance

When: Wednesday, August 15th, 6-8pm – arrive before 5, if you can

Where: Bridgewater Township Municipal Building – 100 Commons Way, Bridgewater, NJ 08807

Event: Free & open to the public

Ask: Ask questions of Lance if you can. Bring handmade signs, if you can

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.

Will the Congressional Redistricting Commission give Joe Cryan a golden parachute to Washington?

Unless a miracle takes place this Tuesday and Republicans in LD1, LD3, and LD4 pull off major upsets, South Jersey party boss, George Norcross, will have more than enough votes to replace his primary adversary in the Assembly, Majority Leader Joe Cryan, with his top ally in the legislative body, Louis Greenwald, sending Cryan to the back bench.

What remains to be seen, however, is what Cryan will do once he is sent there.  Will he unite with his fellow back bencher in the Senate, Dick Codey, to build an opposition movement that will contend not only for the Governor’s office in 2013, but also all 120 legislative seats?  As much as I would love to see this, I do not expect that this will happen.  It is very possible that Dick Codey will run for Governor in 2013, but it is also possible that Cory Booker, Barbara Buono, and Steve Sweeney will run as well and it is unlikely that any of them will run opposition slates against the party lines that they do not win, which means that regardless of who wins the gubernatorial primary, there will not be much change in the legislative roster or its leadership.

If I am right about this, then Cryan will most likely remain on the back bench for most of the next decade.  That is, unless he finds a new office for which to run or that office finds him.  There have been times in the past decade when Cryan expressed an interest in running for Congress in the 7th district, but admitted that the current configuration of the district made it extremely difficult for a Democrat to win.

This is very true.  Our best chance to win this district came in 2006 when a very popular Assemblywoman, Linda Stender, challenged a very unpopular Congressman Mike Ferguson in a year that Democrats were trending up and Republicans were trending down.  However, despite these trends, Stender came a few thousand votes short of victory.  Two years later, Stender did not run as strong of a campaign as she did in 2006 and faced a very popular State Senator, Leonard Lance.  Despite huge turnout increases inspired by Barack Obama’s candidacy, it was not enough for a Democrat to win the 7th and Lance defeated Stender by a much wider margin than Ferguson did two years earlier.