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April  29

Talking Points

Two separate "tipsters" altered us to this article on the "whacking" of New Jersey from City Journal.

But today Jersey is a cautionary example of how to cripple a thriving state. Increasingly muscular public-sector unions have won billions in outlandish benefits and wages from compliant officeholders. A powerful public education cartel has driven school spending skyward, making Jersey among the nation’s biggest education spenders, even as student achievement lags. Inept, often corrupt, politicians have squandered yet more billions wrung from suburban taxpayers, supposedly to uplift the poor in the state’s troubled cities, which have nevertheless continued to crumble despite the record spending. To fund this extravagance, the state has relentlessly raised taxes on both residents and businesses, while localities have jacked up property taxes furiously. Jersey’s cost advantage over its free-spending neighbors has vanished: it is now among the nation’s most heavily taxed places. And despite the extra levies, new governor Jon Corzine faces a $4.5 billion deficit and a stagnant economy during a national boom.

Montclair also gets a mention. Check it out and weigh in here. Chat is open...

April 29, 2006 in The Daily Chat | Permalink


Whew. That's a long article to scroll through on a computer screen (why are these things so much easier to absorb when they're in print, on paper?), but it's worth it. There's a lot of stuff here that will make you think.

I do have to wonder, though, with the lengthy, detailed hammering of McGreevey, as opposed to a one-sentence mention of Whitman which implies that her administration was somehow a Golden Age without really saying anything, whether we're getting the full story. I smell partisanship even here & that makes me wonder if I'm being scammed by this writer too.

I really hate it when somebody seems to make a lot of important points but pulls his punches like that. It undermines the credibility of the whole effort. People on both sides do it, I'm not blind to that. But in the end, I'm left singing with John Lennon: "Just gimme some truth."

Still, here are three quotes that caught my eye -- maybe they will whet your appetite for more -- I still think this is worth reading:

>> Unless Garden State leaders can stand up to entrenched interests—and the signs aren’t promising—the state may find itself permanently relegated to second-class economic status. New Jersey “could become the next California, with budget problems too big to solve without a lot of pain,” warns former Jersey City mayor Bret Schundler. “The old way of raising taxes to solve budget problems has been tried, and it’s done nothing but make things worse.” <<

>> Meanwhile, Democratic legislative leaders installed as heads of the assembly and senate labor committees two lawmakers who also are union officials—thereby putting labor legislation into the hands of union bosses. Since then, the legislature has passed draconian new laws that require companies on public projects to pay union wages and that subject violators to criminal charges, not just civil fines. Jersey solons have also passed an “instant unionization” bill that lets union locals organize workplaces simply by getting a majority of workers to sign cards—no need for a secret ballot anymore. “It seems Trenton looks for ways to discourage firms from moving here or expanding here,” corporate CEO Fred Barré told a gathering of the state’s manufacturers last fall. <<

>> The higher taxes and tangle of new regulations have nearly halted what was once a regional jobs locomotive. Though the state’s economy easily outperformed the rest of its region for the past 50 years (and occasionally even outpaced the nation), it has grown at only one-half its 1990s rate, and only one-third the rate of its 1980s boom, during the current robust national expansion. In a report issued late last year, Rutgers economists James Hughes and Joseph Seneca identified as a chief culprit in Jersey’s economic decline the state’s “recent intense focus on income redistribution.” <<

Posted by: crank | Apr 29, 2006 1:34:08 PM

This is a neo-conservative article that provides little factual substantiation for it's many politically and socially charged statements.

The City Journal is a quartely publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research a New York City based "think tank" established in 1978 by British multi-millionaire Anthony Fischer and William Casey (later to become CIA director). It is currently headed by Myron Magnet.

The MIPR has attempted from it's beginnings to apply the principles of the market economy to social problems. It provided the neo-conservative underpinings of Regan economics, and Rudy Giuliani's zero tolerance doctrine.

There are many important and valid issues raised here relating to the quality of life in New Jersey, and the increasing financial burden felt by most New Jersey residents. However, to see these issues only through the myopic, economically elitist lenses of groups like the Manhatan Institute for Policy Research severely limits the comprehensive vision needed to solve such complex social problems.

Posted by: tuna | Apr 29, 2006 2:28:20 PM

Tuna thanks for the insight about the City Journal.

It should also be noted that (as cited on the Journal's website)..."During the Giuliani Administration, the magazine served as an idea factory as the then-mayor revivified New York City, quickly becoming, in the words of the New York Post, “the place where Rudy gets his ideas.”...."

Need one say anything more about the ideological spin of the City Journal?

Posted by: Franklin | Apr 29, 2006 2:44:06 PM

Spin Schmin. The radicals(called liberals today) immediately attack the provenance of the writers using the epithet neo conservative(used to be called liberals) Numbers are numbers, are any of the numbers untrue or neo conservatively biased? The increases and there effects, the radlib left wing do gooder judges appointed by union owned governors and legislators have transferred massive amounts of wealth to the corrupt and appropriately named Sharpe James types so the money just disappears with no results. Is that fact neo-conservative? Is Sharpe's latest 80 megabuck attempted swindle a fantasy of spin? So I guess as long as the Franklin Tuna types use the Clinton inspired tactic of attacking the messenger to defile the truth of what is messaged then NJ deserves what it gets. Califonia indeed.

Posted by: theproblem | Apr 29, 2006 5:24:32 PM

The problem? Nothing in your post but namecalling & partisan hype.

The writer gave us a bunch of #s about McGreevey & not a single one from the Whitman years. What happened during those years?

And now attacks on the critics begin.

Smells more & more like spin to me.

Posted by: crank | Apr 29, 2006 5:35:17 PM

I agree the name calling and partisan bickering don't get you very far.

But it looks like NJ has a problem. Isn't the right question "What is going to be done about this going forward?" The present administration says "raise taxes some more" at least for now.

When I attended the University of New Jersey, uh, er, Rutgers, in the mid 1970s, I took a great class called "New Jersey History" taught by the late Richard McCormick, father of the current President of Rutgers. He made an interesting comment that I haven't forgotten in 30 years--New Jersey has traditionally been a low tax, low services state. Now it seems like it may be morphing into a high tax, low services state.

At least that's my perspective from currently living in a low tax, low services state like Arizona where the current legislative fight involves what to do about the state budget surplus. If you folks in Baristaville saw my property tax bill, you would probably be very envious. At the same time, life in Arizona isn't for everyone.

Posted by: Former Ridger | Apr 29, 2006 6:56:30 PM

Let's Go Devils!!!!! Forget about all of your political arguments & cheer for New Jersey's team!

Posted by: Devilsgirl | Apr 29, 2006 7:05:14 PM

There isn't any process for evaluating how the money is being spent. Bonds are issued, favored law firms get a fee, favored underwriters get a slice, money is collected, and then it dribbles away.

How many billions were dumped into new urban school construction? Other than new Hoboken High and one school in Jersey City, where did the $30bn go? Lots of overpriced real estate was purchased by the districts, much of it from insiders.

Lifetime medical benefits for part time municipal and state employees if they cap it off with a year of full time work. Retire at age 50 with 25 years in, and you're golden. It's not just a union thing, the managers have the same arrangement.

Posted by: Paul from OB | Apr 29, 2006 7:15:12 PM

You guys remember Hamlet:
There's something rotten in the State of...(substitute New Jersey here).

The problem starts at the local government level: let's make a budget - hey we need Sylvia to pay another 1000 Dollars more this year. Never mind, she and all those other busy Baristaville working parents are not going to bother to elect a new Baristaville government. So, let's make up a number and charge her 14,000 the first year, and then up 1000 each year to 20,OOO now after six years here. That's 55 Dollars per day or 1644 Dollars per month now. And if she doesn't want to pay, she looses the right to live in her own home. We sell her home and keep the money she "owes" us for taxes. Great system!!! And by the way: while we are at it: let's have her take out the garbage cans every week and pick up all the leaves in bags. Low service, high taxes. Nice!

Then the state government comes and charges income taxes and sales taxes and then -what a bummer- you file your federal taxes and oops: now there's the Alternative Minimum Tax, where you can't deduct property taxes anymore. So remember 55 Dollars a day is really about 80 Dollars a day, because it's post-income tax money. Now I don't care if you are left or right or in the middle. The fundamental idea of a democracy is that there is one governing party and one party in the opposition. The opposition is supposed to watch the government and not let them get away with murder (...or treating their citizens as easily available ATMs.)

I am really wondering: where is the opposition in Baristaville, or NJ for that matter?

Posted by: Sylvia | Apr 29, 2006 7:39:04 PM

Interesting article. Clearly a conservative viewpoint however.

Money Magazine recently ranked 2 (or 3?) NJ towns as the best places to live in the top 10 of the entire listing, including the #1 spot.

As expensive as it may have become, NYC has become even more so, and so relatively speaking NJ remains a far cheaper living option than NYC (with plush, beautiful suburbs that NYC executives still enjoy living in).

That, however, does not justify the corruption and increase in taxes in recent years. Dramatic changes are needed in the governing of this state, both on the local and statewide level. One way to start, I think, would be an independently elected state attorney general (a la NY). You then have someone who, since he/she is elected by the people, better have something to show for 4 years of service - and what more appropriately suited task could there be than tackling political corruption in the state?

Posted by: Stan | Apr 29, 2006 7:40:56 PM

Franklin and Tuna above are merely full of, in Franklin's usual case, insubstantial hot air. They didn't want to deal with the philosophical issues. So Franklin, for example, tosses out the phrase "ideological spin" as if that somehow justifies his own (consistent) lack of comprehensional heft. This therefore, in his view, nullifies the thrust of the article. (And if that won't work, he'll simply issue another of his "mad grandpa urges everyone else to the barricades" type pronounciamientos.

But the truth is that commentators have viewed New Jersey in exactly the same vein as this article from at least the late 60's. This is nothing new, in other words. Most eloquently, this dissection of NJ politics was done circa 1972 by Ms. Christopher Norwood (a she, yes) in "About Paterson," a book I might recommend to many posters here but also to Mayor Remsen.

It was also semi-shameful that someone above attempts to link City Journal's characterization of itself as the laboratory for the ideas that drove the Giuliani adminsitration to, of necessity, political bias. Even if the identification was self-offered, the fact is that City Journal (which I've read for several years) is read and studied all over this country and in Europe for its analyses and assessments. One of the things that impresses outsiders about the Giuliani years, after all, is that the Mayor of those times did not despair about the issue of crime, and how crime affects the social fabric. By contrast, Democratic mayor after Democratic mayor in Camden does exactly, and thus sees as his sole genuine recourse a plea for the legislature for increased monies, via taxation. Rudy Giuliani never, ever gave in so cravenly to the idea of self-imposed political impotence.

NJ politicians lack vision. (Does that even surprise anyone?) What they usually substitute in our cities is an unfocused, free-booting (and often looting) Democratic urban machine that has both serious talent issues and an inability to look beyond anything other than taxation. Indeed, they lack even the basic curiosity to ask each other if increased, and increased, taxation is ever even the only way to go. There is no "second team" in NJ's Democratic ranks. There isn't even much of a first one. It has been ever thus since probably the state's last good governor, William Cahill. By the time that Brendan Byrne ascended to the office in a sort of well-meaning know-nothingish fog, the die of taxation upopn taxation was cast.

The only thing that differentiates Christie Whitman as a bad governor with an aversion to the truth (and she was a very bad governor) from McGreevey or Florio is that when either of them failed (and they failed most of the time too), they retained a large Democratic support network to reassure them that it was okay to get back up on the taxation horse. Whitman did not have that dubious luxury. But the fact remains that the governorship of NJ is a political dead end, a last stop at which governors can cast off their remaining shreds of fiscally responsible idealism and push for new taxes. (Corzine is doing this rather quickly with his dumb-dumb suggestion that self-service gas can help ease pump shock, when NJ has previously maintained low gas prices without self-service, but perhaps he's been hanging with Chuck Schumer whose blowhard madness is surely infectious.) No NJ governor can ever run for national office, however, without all the baggage of the taxes he or she has approved in this state. But candidates from other states also lack NJ's "pure" faith in taxation as an instrument of a policy of social justice. This kills their subsequent hopes of the Presidency, and with good reason.

It's also amusing that posters shy from any real discussion of the philosophical import of the City Journal article by reassuring themselves that, well, after all, it's just conservative "spin." This way they don't have to ask themselves what the real effects of the fat public employee contracts are 25 years from now, whether the stranglehold the NEA has on local school budgets is all that great an idea in the first place here and whether so many of our expensive social programs are even worth retaining.

Conservatism, however, isn't on "trial" here. Rather, NJ's continued viability as a self-governing state is. That local school and policing systems have been taken over by the state here, for example, quite properly horrifies other states and countries.

So I'd have thought Baristanet posters might enjoy the opportunity for some serious verbal engagement on the overriding issues of governance in New Jersey. And on what the last 40 years or so have actually done to life in this state. Disappointingly, they don't seem to so far.

Posted by: cathar | Apr 29, 2006 9:02:25 PM

>> It's also amusing that posters shy from any real discussion of the philosophical import of the City Journal article by reassuring themselves that, well, after all, it's just conservative "spin." This way they don't have to ask themselves what the real effects of the fat public employee contracts are 25 years from now, whether the stranglehold the NEA has on local school budgets is all that great an idea in the first place here and whether so many of our expensive social programs are even worth retaining. <<

Oh, I'm asking myself questions like that all right. I was asking them a couple of weeks ago when I read about the Rutherford school budget.

But the spin is nonetheless there, and it does piss me off. I wish we could all get beyond that.

Posted by: crank | Apr 29, 2006 9:11:54 PM

Lagging education system? Last I checked, NJ has the highest percentage of college entrants in all fifty states.

Posted by: President of the Universe | Apr 30, 2006 2:46:38 AM

NJ has a huge percentage of high school grads admitted to colleges. However, many of them must leave the state to go to school. Compare that to NY or Pennsylvania, where lower cost state schools are able to accept a high % of local high school grads.

Also the scores usually omit the people who dropped out prior to HS graduation, same as they do for HS SAT scores. So, your test results are only for those who TOOK the test.

Posted by: Paul from OB | Apr 30, 2006 9:50:33 AM


Note the following claim/statement appeared on the City Journals website...it is there self-description....

"It was also semi-shameful that someone above attempts to link City Journal's characterization of itself as the laboratory for the ideas that drove the Giuliani adminsitration to, of necessity, political bias."

Posted by: Franklin | Apr 30, 2006 8:47:23 PM

Crank writes: The problem? Nothing in your post but namecalling & partisan hype.

And now attacks on the critics begin.

Smells more & more like spin to me.


So Crank I see when one responds in kind to Franklin using the phrase "to see these issues only through the myopic, economically elitist lenses of groups like the Manhatan Institute" that's ok, That's non partisan non name calling non hype? Right?

Criticising the critics if they are as one sided as you is hardly criticism. It's simple statement of fact.

Posted by: theproblem | Apr 30, 2006 8:57:44 PM

Responding in kind is why these discussions tend to degenerate.

Ad hominem arguments are such a waste of time that I usually don't bother to respond to them. Doesn't matter which side they're coming from. But when you start bringing Clinton into it for the umpteenth time, jeez, the focus is already gone.

The writer of the piece pulls together some interesting numbers with others that make me think he's just trying to dazzle me with smoke & mirrors.

He also takes a swipe at McG for having a gay lover &, as I noted, completely glosses over Whitman. That's enough to make me suspicious of his arguments. Nothing to do with the publication or the institute that funds it.

Posted by: crank | Apr 30, 2006 10:04:57 PM

Forget about responding in kind, I simply expected to find some intelligent responses. Et tu, Franklin? You saw no reason, or even a way, to respond intelligently? Therefore you tossed up the issue of "conservative spin" as if that somehow cancels out the need for a real response? Smugness without some intellectual underpinnings, so to speak?

Posted by: cathar | May 1, 2006 8:50:18 AM

Where's ROC? Must be on vacation, I thought he'd be all over this thread.

cathar, intelligent responses take time, which is in short supply these days (speaking only for myself), particularly since, in a nice bit of irony, I've been busy trying to ascertain whether my own property tax reassessment was reasonable before the deadline to file an appeal (today) passed. (I decided that we are not out of line with similar properties.)

To those about to be reassessed, we salute you. Here is a website that you will find helpful. Click on the "Login" link to register. It is free, and trust me, this is an extremely useful website.

Sorry, off on a tangent there. Here's one question:

The writer of the CJ piece seems to imply that a constitutional convention would be the answer to all our woes, without ever explaining what it's supposed to accomplish. Does anyone know what he's talking about there? Is part of it the establishment of an elected Attorney General's office, as suggested by Stan above? That seems like a pretty good idea to me.

Posted by: crank | May 1, 2006 12:44:23 PM


Tossing up the issue of "conservative spin" re: the City Journal's ideological perpectives was done as a public service in order to inform the uninformed Barista reader.

After all note everyone has run across the learned publication before.

Posted by: Franklin | May 1, 2006 3:44:57 PM

A greater "public service" on your part, Franklin, might have been to remain silent on how you interpret City Journal's prevailing ideology. Or were you afraid then that no one would agree with you?

It isn't so much whether one has or has not seen a publication before, after all. It's what one makes of the current issue.

Posted by: cathar | May 1, 2006 5:55:53 PM


Issues aside -- it is important to know the source, the philosophy, the ideology, the agenda, etc. of the City Journal and the think tank it supports.

Posted by: Franklin | May 1, 2006 10:31:39 PM

Even in a case of "issues aside," Franklin, I've seen little in your posts that would show to me that, even if you were reading, say, "Veterinary Journal" or "The Blood Horse," you'd recognize a story about horses' asses.

So I simply suggest that you allow others to determine the "ideology" of a publication, that your version si superfluous to say the least. I'm even fairly sure they'll all do a better job at figuring this stuff out than you would.

Posted by: cathar | May 1, 2006 10:46:14 PM


I stand by my statement. It was a statement of FACT regarding the perspective of the City Jounral.

"Issues" aside - do you dispute the FACT that the City Jounral presents a conservative perspective?

Posted by: Franklin | May 2, 2006 6:16:13 AM

Do you, Franklin, dispute my contention that readers here can decide for themselves the ideological thrust of a publication, don't really need your pointless, nannygoatish harummphing here?

My own opinion is that City Journal is no more "conservative" or even "liberal" thab newspapers like the late, lamented Herald Tribune, the Boston Herald and the Philadelphia Inquirer were in, say, the late 60's in America. But again, you're utterly unqualified to play arbiter, that was the issue, which shall now be buried since you've gone on long enough trying to get me to assuage your damaged pride.

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