Politics As Usual – Alex Giannattasio

As Of Yet Untitled

Corruption in New Jersey politics is not a new phenomenon. Rather, it is a part of everyday political life in New Jersey, the lard that keeps the densely packed population from grating against each other. The topic has even been touched upon in the Johnsonville Press in months past. Even so, never in my time in New Jersey have I seen the hailstorm that is Jersey politics reign down so openly and violently as it has in July, 2009. Rallies, races and arrests are converging on our tiny state, making for a near perfect political storm. The weather, at least, seems to be in agreement; is it coincidence that we’ve had two tornados in two weeks this month in the Jers, or are there dark forces at work here…

I was driving home to Johnsonville last night, lightning flashing all around me. I was enjoying a particularly relevant NPR piece on the recent arrests of five New Jersey politicians among 39 other community and religious leaders throughout New Jersey and New York. These included the Mayors of three major New Jersey metropolises: Secaucus, Hoboken, and Jersey City. The commentator, with a slightly smug tone, was discussing the implications of these arrests for upcoming gubernatorial race between incumbent Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie of the State Attorney General’s office. He did not fail to note that nearly all of the politicians arrested are in fact, Democratic Party members, and speculated that this would have a negative effect on Corzine’s campaign.

“Thanks, tell me something I don’t know, you smug bastard”, I said to my radio, as I am prone to do.To date, Chris Christie still leads in the polls, demonstrating New Jersey’s skepticism with Jon Corzine, and their willingness to support a new candidate, even (gasp!) a republican! But what I find really interesting is not so much that New Jersey is fed up with Corzine (he’s so easy to hate) but that his strategy for reclaiming office has seemed so impotent. He came out in the primary days with the decision not to involve himself in Republican infighting that would inevitably occur in the grab for the nomination. This gave Christie the chance to get his face and name out there as an alternative to the norm (that is, to corruption) uncontested and unchallenged by the Dems. And now, Corzine finds himself in the awkward position of trying to reinstate himself at the top of the polls with a late start.

Perhaps the most surprising piece of the puzzle is that Corzine’s trump card, President Barack Obama’s visit to PNC Arts Center to rally for Corzine, has had little effect on the voting population. In fact, the forty minute unorganized rally in the sweltering heat seemed more to concern health care reform than Corzine’s reelection. It’s as if the Corzine people just figured that bringing Barack to Jersey would spell an automatic win, reenergizing the grassroots and solidifying the association between Corzine and Obama. Forget the fact that Corzine was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton for President; for all we should care, these two are longtime buddies.

Of course, that is not the case; but what fascinates me is that this sort of standard political hypocrisy failed to have the desired effect on this occasion. Perhaps it’s the fact that Corzine is one of the most disingenuous public speakers I’ve ever had the distaste to listen to. Perhaps it’s that Celebrity in Chief’s slipping popularity just doesn’t have the same pull it did six months ago. Perhaps it’s the fact that Obama chose to talk more forcefully about Healthcare reform than about Corzine’s positive characteristics (are there any?). Or perhaps it is simply that this new corruption scandal has drowned out any excitement over seeing the President step onto Jersey soil. One question I have: in light of this new scandal, shouldn’t Obama keep Jersey at arm’s length? Truly, he can hardly afford further attachment to the state. One thing is for sure, demonstrated by his very visit to an old rival: Democrats are loath to give up New Jersey, an old stronghold of the Democratic Party.

About halfway home to New Brunswick, it started to rain enormous drops on my windshield, just a few massive splashes here and there. The sky was bright with sun AND lightning, and other drivers were beginning to nervously slow down. At that moment, my radio switched over to the obnoxious cascade of static and beeps that is the Emergency Broadcast Station. Steven Hawking’s computer interrupted the beeping to inform me that I was driving directly into a tornado area and that for my safety I should proceed to the nearest basement. My third story attic-apartment would have to do.

As the AM kicked back on, I was drawn sharply away from my weather-worries at the mention of a landmark I’ve known well for the past several years: Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. Among those arrested in the NJ-FBI sting were some Rabbis who had been using the black market sale of organs to facilitate their money laundering ring. Apparently, some of these transplants had been taking place in New Brunswick! To date, we do not know anymore about how this was allowed, and so speculation as to who if anyone was involved will have to wait. But, for me at least, it came as a shock to find out that this massive piece of national news was unfolding, in part, just blocks from my residence. What effect, if any, this will have on the upcoming Mayoral race in New Brunswick in 2010 remains to be seen. But we can rest assured that the FBI will push the probe as far as it will reach.

Rounding a turn in the road, my mind was violently forced back to the weather. Before me, about 50 yards down the road, I faced a massive wall of water. It was as if the cloud had very specific boundaries; I could have stood one foot in the rain one foot out…had it not been for the hail the size of grapes pounding along with the rain. I smashed into the wall at 60 miles per hour and immediately began to skid. Pumping my breaks and slowing to 15, I corrected the slip and turned on my hazards. On the other side of the wall, seeing more than 10 feet in front of me was impossible, causing most cars to pull over to the side of the road, next to bikers hiding under bridges. Not being most drivers, I continued, though in serious fear that I would soon hit some nervous driver in front of me, or perhaps that a well placed tree would take me out from above. The carnage was brutal and frightening….and short-lived. Minutes later, I was on the other side of the storm, speeding onwards towards my goal at a revived 70 mph. Having weathered the storm, I was rewarded with a clean and empty road, all for the taking.

The perfect storm of New Jersey politics is forming now. As the economy continues to falter, the bacon fat that has always greased the gears of power in the most densely populated state in the country will start to burn up. I expect to see much more political reorganization in the near future. The question is, after the storm is over, who will step up to grab the reigns? Certainly not those with connections to the old, defamed guard…Young blossoming politicians should be at the ready; weather the storm, and you may well meet an open road in front of you. It will be entertaining to watch the changing of the guard in NJ over the next few years

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Fatherly Governance – Carl Peter Klapper

The Popular Capitalist View

“Like as a father pities his children”, says the Psalmist, “so the Lord has mercy on those that fear him.” In this scripture and other sacred texts from a variety of faiths, we have a favorable image of fatherly governance as represented in a fatherly image of God. Yet with that image comes a distortion of its fatherliness. The omnipotence of God offers the potential of escape from every calamity Man can contrive and thus the prospect of remaining forever immature. An earthly and far less powerful father cannot offer this same assurance of relief from distress or even relief from any distress past his limited lifetime, so he must instead guide his children towards independence and maturity. Of course, there are still dangers not of his children’s doing that a father will shield them from, and nurturing care that a father will provide so that his children can grow up to be healthy and strong as well as mature. But the earthly father’s role is primarily leading his children to greater responsibility.

What then are we to make of definitions of fatherly governance, of paternalism, such as that provided by Answers.com: “A policy or practice of treating or governing people in a fatherly manner, especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities.” Clearly, the father model in this definition is rooted in the immature image of the deity as I described; even the Psalmist’s caveat of “fearing”, or respecting, the Lord is ignored. In a government, this translates into the promotion of immaturity and the enabling of destructive behaviors by its citizens. By contrast, a truly paternal government would give more rights and responsibilities to citizens in accordance to their mature handling of lesser rights and responsibilities. It is only after your son or daughter show that they can weed and prune and can carefully handle lesser power tools that you let them mow the lawn with a power lawnmower.

Popular capitalism takes this earthly father role as its inspiration for its own version of paternalistic government.The needs and dangers that might afflict a peaceful, innocent and responsible citizen would be warded off by a protective, popular capitalist government. However, the failure of business ventures, which any mature business owner would recognize as their own responsibility, would be allowed to proceed by a paternalistic popular capitalist government in its role as disciplinarian. “Spare the rod, spoil the child”, as it is written in Proverbs. Our current government has certainly spared the rod and kept big business from the discipline of the market so that now our economy is spoiled rotten. A popular capitalist administration would, on the contrary, have led us to maturity in business, with greater freedom in that arena for the successful and less freedom for the failures. By these incentives, popular capitalism encourages actions which increase freedom. As Independence Day follows Father’s Day, greater liberty follows the true paternal governance of popular capitalism.

All this is, I hope, fairly straightforward. However, there seems to be much confusion in the application of these concepts of fatherly governance—protection and discipline—to medical care. In any community, health is a public concern, no less than protection from crime and fire. Since time immemorial, from medicine men and women to the modern emergency rooms at even the most crassly mercenary for-profit hospitals, care has been provided to those who are unable to pay. The private practitioner, in the days before health insurance corrupted the profession, would help heal many patients who couldn’t pay or who paid in produce, livestock or services.Doctors have been, in all but name, civil servants, like the police and firefighters. Yet, the health care debate is peppered with comments about financial incentives to stay well and how this will supposedly reduce the cost of health care. What rubbish! Staying healthy and out of the hospital is incentive enough for most people to live healthy. Almost all of the rest have addictions which no financial incentive could hope to sway them from.Further, this ignores the sweep of infectious diseases and the aftermath of disasters from which a healthy lifestyle provides little protection.

Let us be frank. Health care has no business being a business. Health care is an almost exclusively local emergency and preventative service. To require that it meet business objectives is both absurd and cruel. Yet that is precisely what health insurance has done. Health insurance has subjected doctor’s decisions to review by accountants, overturning sound medical decisions to increase profits for the insurance companies. Worse, the health insurance companies support huge staffs and hordes of high-paid executives housed in large office complexes. The money for this has to come from somewhere and it is not a mystery where: premiums, minus what the insurer pays the doctors and hospitals. All the co-pays, deductibles and other dodges add to the insurance company profits. The amount they stiff the doctors and hospitals by rejecting claims and demanding the so-called “customary and usual” prices force the doctors and hospitals to increase their rates across the board. Every facet of the health insurance involvement in medicine has produced and will continue to produce massive increases in health care costs until we come to our senses and abolish health insurance.

But how can we assure health care for all without health insurance “coverage”? Fatherly governance demands that we protect the people in their health, as it demands that we protect them from crime and fire. So our model for true health care reform is staring us in the face. Medical departments should be created in each municipality to provide round-the-clock medical services, just as police and fire departments provide round-the-clock protection from crime and fire. Indeed, the medical departments would be following the example of their firefighting brethren in another respect; the model of providing firefighting through fire insurance was also a dismal failure. When your neighbor’s house is on fire, it is your problem, too, especially if the neighbor is not covered by insurance.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, the costs of these medical departments can be further reduced, after cutting out the insurance middle-man, by training new medical staff locally through the public schools and by establishing local teaching hospitals and medical schools. Tort reform, exempting municipalities from being sued for accidents occurring within their borders and for any inadequacy of a civil servant would help reduce costs still further. For this point, I would invoke the general rule that regulation produces better, more consistent performance at lower costs than litigation. Finally, eliminating the need for employers to provide health insurance will reduce labor costs drastically and generally, as well as specifically in the labor costs of medical department staff. On the other hand, the need for a job, as opposed to starting your own business, becomes less, so that the excuse of saving jobs becomes less acceptable in the propping up of business failures.

Even with the reduced costs, there will be some costs to maintaining minimal standards of care. Since these standards presumably come from the state and federal governments, it is their responsibility to pay for it. This allows the municipalities, themselves, to grow and to prosper without the burden of unfunded mandates.

In summary, popular capitalism protects and prepares the people for successful lives that contribute to the success of their community. In this way, it adopts the fatherly role and becomes representative of a true paternalism.

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