A View into the Future: Post Script to June-November 2012

Using the previous 4 years experience as guide we may expect:

The national economy will continue to languish with low growth and high unemployment. I do not believe we will enter another recession during the next four years but we will be becalmed. Some states – New Jersey under Christie/Sweeney among them – will continue to apply the brakes on the nations’s economic growth. Neither Obama nor Romney, and certainly not the U.S. Congress, will address the factors in the U.S. tax code which encourage capital export.  Accordingly, regardless of who wins, Wall Street will remain disconnected from Main Street.

Needless to say, the national debt will continue to grow with either one.

Even if president Obama wins in November 2012, we already know his capability for abdicating postulates made while campaigning. We should expect that there will be negative effects on Social Security and Medicare, two social programs which candidate Romney has on his hit list, even if Obama is victorious. Obama will adopt some of Romney’s proposals. Such effects would most likely be cuts in both programs, perhaps somewhat smaller under Obama than those which would be implemented by a hypothetical President Romney.

We should also expect a re-elected President Obama to slightly reduce other social programs that he is now, during the campaign, defending with vigor. Either Obama or Romney will sweeten draconian cuts by phasing them onto the younger generations.

I would also expect that a re-elected President Obama would abandon at least some of his tax positions in support of the lower and middle classes, all for the sake of compromise. Similarly, there will be retreats in issues such as the environment and Wall Street regulatory statutes.

As a rule of thumb, President Obama will cede ground wherever big money is involved. He will hold out better in social issues such as birth control and same sex marriage.

President Romney would be very negative on the social issues mentioned above and similarly or even more accommodating toward big money.

Income gap would grow more under Romney than under Obama although the difference between the two will not be large.

We should expect that either President Obama or Romney will continue making inroads into our civil liberties using terrorism as excuse, even after Al Qaeda is wiped out.

A President Romney would be more likely to get the United States involved in another major foreign war.

With either president, New Jersey should expect very little help from Washington and that is why our own gubernatorial election of 2013 is so important: We will be basically on our own. We can hardly afford irresponsibility, demagoguery, and incompetence any longer.

June-November 2012

This is my last article until after the U.S. Presidential election. I shall not endorse any of the candidates although I believe Romney will be far worse than Obama has been.

After two years of fighting almost alone, it is also time for me to rest and regroup before the big push of 2013. My entire program is posted in this blog and I have presented it in other sites. I can be considered the wrecking ball candidate because I intend to bring down the entire rotten structure of abuse and irresponsibility that the two dominant political parties have erected in New Jersey.

Former Governor Whitman advised newly elected Governor Christie in January 2010 “to above all have fun.” Governor Christie himself said last week that he loves the job 11 months of the year.

I take a much less sunny view of  governing: It is a burden – if one feels responsible for the well being of millions. It is when one does not give a damn that then it can be fun.

I will campaign as vigorously as I can from November 2012 on. By early Summer 2013, I will carry out an objective evaluation of my campaign and the degree of support I am receiving. If there is a fighting chance, I shall get on the ballot. If not, I will close the chapter.

I wish all very nice Summer and Autumn seasons.

Banning Fracking: New Jersey Should Follow Vermont

At a time when the economy of New Jersey seems to be heading south, it is very important that we do not succumb to the temptation of dismantling environmental protections in a futile attempt to reverse the tide of economic bad news. Trampling on our own natural habitat is not good economic policy.

While the conservative (?) government of Canada is revising (see diluting) all environmental laws to favor the oil and gas industries in Canada, the State of Vermont has given us an example of what is essentially the right course of action: Sustainable growth.

Vermont first state to ban fracking – CNN.com.

I can not imagine a government that calls itself conservative (Ottawa) failing to conserve the pristine quality of the Canadian land. I presume conservative means different things to different people.

Hydraulic fracturing – I have written about this before – is the threat of our time against underground water sources. Water – potable water that is – will be among the priciest commodities in one or two decades. We already buy huge amounts of bottled water because we do not trust our tap water.

If elected governor of New Jersey in 2013, I will not rest until hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling are banned from New Jersey.

Victory for Liberty: NDAA Struck Down by Manhattan Federal Judge

The National Defense Authorization Act 2012 had been signed into law by President Obama on December 31, 2011 and it included, buried amid the defense appropriations, a section 1021 which authorized the President of the United States to have any American citizen arrested and detained indefinitely, without cause, charges, or trial, and conveyed the same powers – more absolute than those enjoyed by King George III over his royal subjects in 1776 – to any future president.

Federal judge: Terror law violates 1st Amendment – Yahoo! News.

The immense majority of the current U.S. Congress supported the Tyranny Law – that is how I called it.

NDAA (section 1021) was deemed unconstitutional by a U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan yesterday. The judge said that the Act had a chilling impact on the First Amendment. She cited testimony by journalists that they feared their professional association with certain individuals overseas could result in their arrest because a provision of the law subjects to indefinite detention anyone who “substantially” or “directly” provides “support” to forces such as al-Qaida or the Taliban. She said the wording was too vague and encouraged Congress to change it.

She said the law also gave the government authority to move against individuals who engage in political speech with views that “may be extreme and unpopular as measured against views of an average individual.

“That, however, is precisely what the First Amendment protects,” Forrest wrote.

Attorney Carl Mayer, speaking for plaintiffs at oral arguments earlier this year, had noted that “even President Barack Obama expressed reservations about certain aspects of the bill when he signed it into law.”

Nonetheless, he signed and shame on him for that. However, I do not doubt for a minute that a potential President Romney would have signed it too. I fear that the endless war on terrorism is being used to build a police state here at home.

After the ruling, Mayer called on the Obama administration to drop its decision to enforce the law. He also called on Congress to change it “to make it the law of the land that U.S. citizens are entitled to trial by jury. They are not subject to military detention, policing and tribunals, all the things we fought a revolution to make sure would never happen in this land.”

The government had argued that the law did not change the practices of the United States since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to sue.

This ruling should have made front lines in every newspaper in the nation however I have not seen it in either the New York Times or the Washington Post online versions today. Neither does CNN make any mention of it.

I do hope that the Obama administration does not appeal this decision.

Student Debt Crisis Aggravated by Anemic Economy: My Views

Student debt has surpassed credit card debt in the U.S. and it now amounts to $ 1 trillion. Both political parties are exchanging barbs in Washington on this issue and, like everything else, it has become a political football. Both appear inclined to maintain the current interest rate of 3.4% but such move would benefit a small percentage of students; only those subsidized loans disbursed to undergraduates since July 1, 2011 qualify for the 3.4 percent rate. The loans made before are all at significant higher rates and the difference hovers around 3 percentage points, depending on the year when the loans were taken. My youngest son has all his loans at around 6.25% interest because he graduated in May 2011.

N.J. students hoping, praying for relief from soaring college loan rates | NJ.com.

Student Loan Debate Becomes Election-Year Fight – NYTimes.com

Of course, the sputtering economy aggravates the problem. Even though college graduates have better chances of finding employment than non-college job-seekers, they are often forced to take un-paid internships or menial jobs, notably in the services industry.

Governor Christie increased the aid to higher education by a bit in his budget proposal for 2012-2013 FY although his motivation seems to be more to sweeten the Rutgers-Camden/Rowan merger than any concern for students, or higher education for that matter. The budget is being currently debated in the Legislature and the center of the attention rests not of the students but on what kind of tax cut is included in the final budget.  Personally, the democrats’ plan, which involves cutting property taxes, benefits me more than the income tax proposed by Christie but neither proposal is likely to bring sustainable economic growth and put more fiscal stain on New Jersey: That means paying for the tax cut in the future.

Fiscally speaking, the State of New Jersey runs from crisis to crisis. Every budget year, the governor has to take from Peter to pay Paul. Often, budgets are balanced by sacrificing the future. That is not a responsible form of governing and I would not even call it government. It is irresponsible and in the particular case of governor Christie, it all appears geared toward building a political resume to seek higher office.

New Jersey already has the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority: http://www.hesaa.org/. Why we have a political authority – with the customary political patronage and unnecessary administrative expenses – to grant financial aid to college students when the DOE could pass the funds in block grants directly to our public colleges, earmarked for aid to students only, is a mystery to me. Whether the existence of this independent authority is required will be reviewed if I become governor. But the issues of lowering tuition cost and student financial aid rest on the health of the New Jersey economy.

In turn, economic growth in New Jersey will only happen if we implement the structural reforms I propose. There is no doubt that the state must play a very substantial role in supporting higher education. Perhaps the most important part of that support is making college affordable to students without mortgaging their future. Whether it is done through lower tuition, or aid, or both is relatively unimportant but it must be done because these young men and women are the future.

Public universities are not businesses and students are not consumers or products.

Finally, graduating students must encounter a lively job market when they graduate. But that is not likely to occur under the current tax and political structures we have in New Jersey today.

New Wave of Foreclosures/Auctions Could Drop Home Prices 10%

After more than a year of relative calm due to the review of lenders practices, the wheels of attrition in the hosing market are beginning to turn again. As many as 1.25 million of America’s abandoned or neglected homes are headed for sheriffs’ sales and auctions.

Home Prices Seen Dropping 10% in U.S. on Foreclosures: Mortgages – Bloomberg.

“Sales of repossessed properties probably will rise 25 percent this year from 1 million in 2011, according to Moody’s Analytics Inc. Prices for the homes could drop as much as 10 percent because they deteriorated as they were held in reserve during investigations by state officials resolved in February, according to RealtyTrac Inc.”

Even though New Jersey law allows municipal appraisers to disqualify these homes when it comes to a tax appeal, the flood of distressed sales has an effect on the market and on the value of all houses. Homeowners who are still holding on to their properties are the losers in this picture.

Simultaneously, lenders may begin to move faster to foreclose on delinquent homeowners. Since the delinquent homeowner is typically one who has little money, those houses have for the most part been neglected too. Occupants may resort to short-cuts or temporary repairs when problems arise or do nothing at all. Some homeowners, feeling victimized by the banking system, have actually vandalized their own homes prior to eviction.

“The best measure of the influence foreclosures have on the broader market is the 20-city S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index that tracks deeds, including homes sold directly by banks and deals that don’t use mortgages, said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. The index probably will fall 5 percent to 10 percent this year, a range that depends on the condition of the mothballed homes, he said. ”

Some of the abandoned homes are in such a state of dilapidation that they may have to be bulldozed.

Although the situation involves the entire country, New Jersey may be affected more than average due to the fact that unemployment is the highest in the Northeast (with the exception of Rhode Island) and property taxes are the highest in the nation and can certainly add to the misery of homeowners almost the same as if they had a second mortgage.

My proposal of abolishing property taxes for primary residences of New Jersey taxpayers would have a soothing effect on the housing crisis. People would truly own their homes after their mortgages are paid off. But for that to occur, I have to be elected governor first and that, if you decide that it will happen, will not be until the end of 2013. For some homeowners, it will be too late.

The current administration of governor Christie has little sympathy for property tax relief. We already know that his 2% property tax cap is full of loopholes. The democrats in the Legislature have proposed a modest property tax cut but it would not be sufficient to reverse the tide of bad news. New Jersey needs shock therapy; bold measures, and these will not come from either political party. They are just too comfortable with the status quo and basically don’t care.

Report Shows Increase in Number of U.S. High School Graduations

Nonetheless, 1 out of every 4 American teens drop out of high school before finishing. That is the finding of a report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University on March 19.

The report is titled  Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic and the portion published today is the 2012 update.

Main findings were:

a) The national graduation rate increased by 3.5 percentage points between 2001 and 2009 from 72 percent to 75.5 percent in 2009.

b) The South and the suburbs saw the largest declines in the number of “dropout factory” schools with 410 and 171, respectively, between 2002 and 2009.

c) Contrary to 2008-09, progress in towns and rural areas stalled in 2009-2010.

d) Despite, and probably because of, all the upheaval in the state public schools under the Christie administration, New Jersey is among the states that lost ground.

High school graduation rate rises in U.S. – The Washington Post.

The WP writes:  “One of the success stories highlighted in the report is Washington County, Md., which increased its high school graduation rate from 78 percent in 2000 to 92 percent in 2010.

Recognizing that it faced a problem, Washington County devised a strategy in 2001 to turn around its sagging graduation rates. Teachers adept at working with struggling students were assigned to those most at risk of dropping out. Intervention specialists were hired. Support was offered to at-risk students before, during and after school. Summer classes and evening high school were expanded to help students complete graduation requirements.Designated staff at a special learning center focused on teen parents.”

Some of the above are among the steps I propose, notably the lengthening of in-school time. One point that I do not find – although it is probably somewhere in the report – is the issue of when we start with the enhanced program. I gather from the report that the expanded school year is only used where the lagging students are detected. Stressing on the fact that I am not an educator, I am fairly sure that the fate of a student is sealed as early as 3rd or 4th grade if a deficit in knowledge begins to build up with respect to class level. Such deficit accumulates and prevents further progress particularly in subjects where advance builds upon previous lessons.

Mathematics is possibly the best example of the above.

The part of working with the parents appears fundamental although it is not something that I had identified. At the very least, parents must send their children to school regularly. Absenteeism is certainly a factor in falling behind. Addressing cases where students are in danger of falling behind on an individual basis also seems to make a great deal of sense.

I have no doubt that we must start as early as 1st grade to see the benefits at the end of high school. But then there must be, as I have said before, a point where career paths separate. Not everyone is college material and there are great opportunities in non-college fields.

Trade-school grads in hot demand for manufacturing jobs – Mar. 14, 2012.

All developed and most if not all developing economies have such dual approach to education. We had it and seemed to abandon it as manufacturing moved overseas. It is time to undo the damage.

It is clear to me that one of the main factors in governor Christie’s drive against teacher tenure is motivated by revenge for the attacks the NJEA launched against him during the gubernatorial campaign of 2009. The problem with Christie’s agenda is that it robs a great deal of time and resources from the measures that really work. The governor and his accomplices in the education reform business have the potential to do a great deal of harm to an entire generation of children.