Senate President Steve Sweeney has been waging a little noticed campaign over the last few weeks to get Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr to commit not to accept campaign contributions from Ashbritt and other contractors who cleaned up New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.
This morning, Sweeney ramped up the campaign with a video parody of the viral Harlem Shake.
Harlem Shake is owned by songwriter Harry Bauer Rodrigues, who records under the name “Baauer”and the record label Mad Decent.
The song’s viral popularity in recents weeks has spurred claims of copyright infringement on the part of artists whose voices are in the song who have not been credited or compensated by Baauer or Mad Decent, according to the New York Times On the flip side, Mad Decent and Baauer stand to collect millions of dollars from people, like Sweeney, who “steal” their song, according to Hollywood Reporter. YouTube and a company called INDMusic have created a program, ContentID, to track copyright piracy and collect from the offenders.
MMM wondered if Sweeney’s video was funded by New Jersey taxpayers and if the Senate President had obtained a license from Mad Decent for the use of the song. The YouTube channel that hosts the song is called NJSenDemsMajority, a similar name to the state funded website, njsendems.com.
MMM called Sweeney’s West Deptford and Trenton offices to find out. Within a half hour, a well known political hired gun who asked not to be named in this story called back.
To hear the Governor’s critics tell it, New Jersey’s high income tax rates have no effect on our economic health. To them, the income tax can be raised without consequence to our economy, while reducing rates yields little or no benefit.
New Jersey’s business leaders- the entities responsible for employing the vast majority of the state’s workforce- disagree, however.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association, representing 21, 500 businesses of all types in the Garden State, lauds the Governor’s proposed 10% reduction in the income tax as “the best thing you can do for taxes”. Noting that the majority of businesses file under the personal income tax rather than the corporate income tax, NJBIA says the proposal will give savings to “80% of the business community”.
More telling, however, is what individual small business owners and operators are saying upon learning of the Governor’s proposal.
“It signals your government is working with you, and that you’ve got government at your side at a tough time,” says a proprietor of a Hoboken print shop.
“I believe it to be a proposal that, in fact, could significantly alter New Jersey’s favorability rating, in terms of being a destination of choice,” said the president of a Linden-based manufacturing outfit.
Republican legislators join the Governor’s call for an income tax reduction because we trust the real world experience of job creators. Who better to help guide New Jersey on a path toward sustainable, good paying jobs than the people who do the hiring?
Democratic critics are putting their faith in higher taxes, more spending and bigger government as the solution to the problem. If history is any indication their trust is misplaced, given that the exponential increase in state spending, taxes, and debt we saw from 2002 through 2009 coincided with the loss of 150, 000 jobs.
Coincidentally, these are the same Democrats who raised taxes on middle class families repeatedly during those years, taxing everything from utility bills and car tires to gym memberships and home ownership. Their credibility on helping the middle class is suspect at best.
Smart income tax policy is good jobs policy, and New Jersey is currently at a severe disadvantage in a competition for jobs with neighboring states.
Pennsylvania’s 3.07% income tax rate is far more attractive than the 6.37% rate many middle income families and small business owners pay in New Jersey, and certainly preferable for businesses that file at the state’s 8.97% top rate.
New Jersey lost more residents to Pennsylvania- over 20, 000- than any other state in 2010. That figure is roughly one-third of the total population loss New Jersey experienced that year. The economic and cultural impacts of these moves are real.
The engines of job creation and population growth in America, states like Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas, have tax rates that either are far lower than New Jersey’s or no income tax altogether.
It cannot be sheer coincidence that the states experiencing economic success are ones that have favorable tax climates as compared with the rest of the nation. Income tax levies are a substantial factor in a state’s overall business climate and economic growth.
Opponents of the Governor’s tax cut plan in the Legislature are trying to confuse the issue by changing the subject to property taxes. I agree that New Jersey’s highest in the nation property taxes are the shame of our state and must not only be contained, but lowered. Unfortunately, the Democrats’ plan to use state tax revenues to offset local levies is unlikely to reduce a single county, municipal, or school tax rate.
Their plan is a state incentive for property tax increases, not a solution for reducing them. Permanently lowering property taxes requires us to help local governments control labor costs, share services, and live within their means so that fewer tax dollars are needed to operate.
The effort to reduce property tax bills need not, and should not, come at the expense of job creation and economic growth in New Jersey.
Income taxes do matter to our economic health and jobs climate. Businesses, and the experiences of states that have successfully attracted job growth, show this to be the case. It is time that New Jersey start listening to them in order to strengthen our economic future.
State Sen. Tom Kean, Jr., R- Union, serves as the Senate’s Republican leader.
By Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, as delivered at the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Giving credit where it is do, The Asbury Park Press Editorial Board got one right in their recent editorial lamenting the closure of Fort Monmouth’s commissary. They give a quick summary of the disaster the closure of Fort Monmouth is and how the entire BRAC decision to close the fort was based on faulting economic and home security data.
Fort Monmouth’s closure and the move of its operations to Aberdeen Maryland was a huge waste of money that compromised national security. An investigative series by Asbury Park Press reporters Bill Bowman and Keith Brown (which is no longer linkable) documented the waste and fraudulent numbers that BRAC gave Congress to justify the closure.
In their editorial, The Asbury Park Press accurately lays the blame:
The closing of the base was based on faulty economic and security research in the first place, and yet even with the facts on their side, Reps Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, along with Sens. Lautenberg and Menendez could not carry the day.
That is largely due to the fact that the faulty economic and security data was uncovered by Bowman and Brown after Congress had already voted to close the fort. Pallone, Holt, Lautenberg and Menendez didn’t have the juice to uncover that data before or during the BRAC hearings when it might have made a difference. Worse, the didn’t have the juice needed with their congressional colleagues to keep the fort in New Jersey. Maryland’s delegation had the juice.
This latest insulting failure is just one in a decades, maybe centuries, long example of ineffective congressional representation from New Jersey. Not just Pallone, Holt, Lautenberg and Menendez, but most of the delegation. Every two years during congressional elections challengers complain that New Jersey only gets a fraction of the money we send to Washington sent back, but it never changes. Has there ever been a House Speaker from New Jersey? Name on U.S. Senator from New Jersey who could be considered a historic figure.
As Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray indicated during his interview on the LaRossa and Gallagher Radio Showtwo weeks ago, New Jersey Congressmen have little incentive to represent the interests or philosophies of their constituents. They vote how ever they want and work on, or don’t work on, whatever they want without regard for the good of their constituents because no matter what they do, their jobs are safe. Historically, gerrymandering as assured that an incumbent member of congress will be reelected time after time except in the rarest or circumstances.
A competitive congressional district map could go a long way to improving the quality of representation New Jersey gets from the people we send to Washington. Currently, Congressmen face no consequences for failures like the BRACing of Fort Monmouth. Despite the rants of congressional challengers every two years about the about of money that New Jersey sends to Washington vs the amount of money that comes back, that situation never changes and our representitives have little incentive to work to change it.
If competitive congressional elections were the norm, rather than a rare exception, New Jersey would get better representation and better results.
New Jersey’s Redistricting Commission has a huge opportunity to create an environment that could lead to an major improvement in the quality of our representation in Washington over the next decade. If past is prelude, the Democrats and Republicans on the commission will spend the process jockeying for influence with the “13th tie breaking” member. The commission will predictably produce a winning map for one party which will be a losing map for the other party.
For New Jersey to have a “winning map” would require at least one party to propose a competitive map based upon population and geography only without regard for the residency of incumbents or the historical voting trends of residents, and for the “13th member,” former Attorney General and Acting Governor for ninety minutes, John Farmer Jr, to do the right thing.
Otherwise, it won’t really matter much which party “wins” the redistricting battle. New Jersey’s representation in Washington will not likely improve if the people will send there have little incentive to work for it.
By the way, Lautenberg and Pallone are scheduled to make a “surprise announcement” in Belmar tomorrow.
Pray for rain.
Maybe Lautenberg is announcing his retirement and endorsing Pallone to replace him. Not likely, but one can hope.
More likely they will announce some legislation they are sponsoring that will probably never become law or some appropriation they are proposing or maybe even secured that will not have nearly postive impact on New Jersey that the negative impact that the closure of Fort Monmouth will have.
“Anna Little understands that medical decisions are the most personal decisions in our lives, and should be kept between doctors and patients,” said Dr. Alieta Eck, President-elect of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), who announced the endorsement on behalf of the AAPS. “Anna understands that the government takeover of health care will be damaging to our citizens’ abilities to choose their own doctors, make their own medical decisions, and receive the quality care of their choice.
“Government bureaucrats simply don’t know what’s best for patients,” continued Eck. “They cannot. Only patients and their doctors should make those decisions. Ann Little understands that, and Frank Pallone clearly does not. That’s why endorsing Anna Little was an easy decision.”
“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons,” said Little. “They’re battling on the front lines of health care every day, and they know better than most just how destructive ‘PalloneCare’ is going to be.
“We need to repeal this bill as soon as possible – that’s why I’ve signed the Independent Women’s Voice ObamaCare Repeal Pledge, and that’s why I’m committed to fighting with everything I’ve got to get this law overturned once I get to Washington.
“If you think we’re headed in the right direction, then Frank Pallone is your man,” said Little. “But if you think we’re moving in the wrong direction, then I need your vote – because you cannot change Washington without changing the people we send to Washington!”
New Jersey Senator Tom Kean, Jr was on hand to introduce Little.