My favorite writer from PolitickerNJ, Jay Lassiter, recently wrote an extremely interesting article about the top four things that bother him most about Trenton politicians. Given that New Jersey has one of the most volatile political climates where citizen voices are often not heard, I figure that we should all do the same, and we should make our gripes very, very public. So, here are my top four grievances with Trenton politicians:
1. They all act like they care about the poor: It is every single politician’s battle cry during election season. “This election is about good paying jobs for our residents and reducing poverty!”. The thing is, though, that it’s as if it’s always election season in New Jersey, yet the poverty rate grows and grows despite the number of elections that finish. New Jersey has been consistently rated to be one of three states in the entire United States of America that has increased it’s unemployment and poverty rate. Why? Because our state legislators do not know how to begin addressing poverty. They continue to insist on believing that an initiative such as the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act is a good approach to reducing poverty. However, The Economic Opportunity Act is a lie within it’s own title, since it did not provide any economic opportunities to any sort of entities that needed such an opportunity. Instead, our lawmakers pledged billions of our tax dollars to the relocation of already-profiting multi-million dollar entities such as the Philadelphia 76ers and WebiMax. This initiative was sold to be the biggest and best thing to happen to Camden in six decades, but it has been well documented by numerous academics, and Camden residents, that there will be essentially no economic opportunities in the form of “good paying jobs” for Camden residents, since the overwhelming majority of jobs that will be coming to Camden by way of the EOA are simply relocating from one town to another.
2. Legislative offices are actually campaign offices: There is a time and a place for everything, and this is a big ethics no-no. When you dive deep into news articles and put together the pieces of conflicting phone numbers between a legislative office and fundraiser, you can see a few instances where legislators have organized private events on state time, by using state resources, and state paid employees. That is one example of how the New Jersey legislative office has become the newly disguised campaign office. Another is by looking at how often legislators/candidates suddenly want to, “pass all of the bills” around the months of August through November. Where are they all at during the other 8 months? Well, they are actually still passing bills, but the lights, camera, and action from the press conferences are dulled significantly. But before we move on here, let’s think about Camden again for a moment. Where is that Observation Tower that was supposed to be going up at the Adventure Aquarium? What happened to the air-tram between Camden and Philadelphia? The foundations were cemented. I can see them collecting seagull droppings everyday from the Camden Waterfront. What happened to all of the decrepit Camden buildings that pose dangers to residents? Are they being demolished? Or were all of these examples just a bunch of November promises? Hmm… Also, do Camden’s state representatives even exist anymore after this past election season? I have not heard of any legislative initiatives since the congressional election ended.
3. Properly interpreting a law can be IMPOSSIBLE: Let’s start with an example that I’ve already touched on; the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act. The Act was supposedly designed, by the words within the law itself, to offer tax incentives to companies that were in danger of leaving the State of New Jersey in order to seek to do business in another. Therefore, I must beg the question, “Since when were the Philadelphia 76ers even in New Jersey in order for them to be in danger of leaving?”. Also, let’s talk in detail about the minimum wage referendum from two years ago. The referendum passed based upon the following language: “Do you approve amending the State Constitution to set a State minimum wage rate of at least $8.25 per hour? The amendment also requires annual increases in that rate if there are annual increases in the cost of living”. One would think that the minimum wage would then be adjusted to a cost of living methodology. However, New Jersey lawmakers wrote a constitutional amendment that adjusts our minimum wage to increases in the consumer price index. This is troublesome on a constitutional level because 1) it simply is not what the people voted for. 2) The United States Federal Government distinguishes a clear difference between the cost of living and the consumer price index. I’ve tried to have lawmakers fix this error, but clearly they either don’t understand the issue, or they simply do not want to look bad by admitting that there is a constitutional conflict that needs to be resolved:
However, some simply make themselves look bad by not even knowing what 2015’s minimum wage has been adjusted to under the faulty calculation:
(New Jersey’s minimum wage as of January 1, 2015 is $8.38, not $8.37…)
4. A sheer lack of modernity: New Jersey is facing several fiscal challenges at the moment. Like, honestly, take your pick between the pension fund or the transportation trust fund, or more than 7 urban cities which annually need more than $300 million in legislative aid in order to function. But among all of these crushing issues, I’m bothered by our legislators’ inabilities to come up with any creative measure that would perhaps go as far as, oh I don’t know, prevent the need for further creative measures in the future. Let’s take a look at the crisis with funding the transportation trust fund. It’s broke, so the answer to the problem was to raise the gas tax. Seems easy, and that is because it is easy. But just because something is easy does not mean that it is what is best. Raising the gas tax may fund it for the time being, but it would also put a burden on the wallets of every motorist in New Jersey during a time when low gas prices are equally as needed for a commercially stimulated economic boom. Also, as a nation, we are supposed to be moving away from fossil fuels, and that is gradually happening. As more and more residents buy more fuel efficient cars and heat their homes with solar energy, less gas will be consumed, thus eventually resulting in another scramble to fund the transportation trust fund that we just scrambled to fund. I reference a sense of modernity because there are tons of modern approaches to solving this problem that are regularly shot down quickly by much of Trenton’s dead wood. A marijuana economy, for one example, would be a brand new source of revenue that would do more than simply increase the state’s tax base. It would also serve as the revitalization of American industrialization, but in agrarian form. New Jersey would be producing something again! Our state would also have an East Coast monopoly on the marijuana industry. Our criminal justice system could relax a bit, and thus decrease the rate of annual incarceration. Such an economy would also, most importantly, actually create tons of, “good paying jobs” for people of all skill and educational levels! Not just the already wealthy and successful.
Don’t let Jay or myself do all of the talking, New Jersey. Raise your voices too! Get Heard!