"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Monday, February 21, 2005

Let’s Hope The “Thing” We Stop Is Jon Corzine

Apparently Jon Corzine has come around to our evaluation of his performance as Senator. Admitting he has accomplished nothing during his time in the Senate, he has decided to redefine success. Corzine says, "Sometimes the things you stop are more important than the things you do". Okay, so how did the Senator do at “stopping things”? According to the Star-Ledger, even by this measure Corzine’s a failure.

Most of Corzine’s efforts have “been spent opposing President Bush on economic, social and foreign policy. He voted against the administration's tax cuts, the war in Iraq, the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, the ban on partial birth abortion and the Medicare prescription drug bill.” So, we can safely say Corzine is not very effective at “stopping things.”

Corzine has said he’s been against Bush's tax cuts, preferring smaller, more targeted tax reductions for the middle class and the poor. That’s interesting because the “poor” aren’t paying any federal income taxes. The most recent Bush tax cuts increased the number of tax filers paying zero federal income tax by 3.8 million, to a record 40 million.

Nearly 10 million tax filers have been taken off the tax rolls because of the last three Bush tax cuts. Nearly 30 percent of the roughly 133 million tax filers this year will pay no income tax. In addition to these income tax filers that pay no tax, 14 million individuals or households do not earn enough to file a tax return. Overall, some 58 million households pay no federal income tax.

In fact, low-income families not only pay no federal income tax, they receive checks back from the government as a result of the "refundable" portion of the child credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). While most Americans think of a "refund" as getting money back because you overpaid your taxes to the IRS, in the case of low-income families, it means you get a check back because you don’t owe any tax.

We also wonder about Corzine’s identification of the middle class requiring “targeted tax reductions.” What income level places a person or family in the middle class in the mind of Senator Corzine? An income starting at $68,000 places you in the top 20% of all federal income taxpayers in the United States. In New Jersey, $68,000 doesn’t go very far given the state’s high cost of living, the state’s gross income tax and of course the highest property taxes in the nation.

As we have written before, Jon Corzine’s federal income tax philosophy hurts New Jersey taxpayers more than those in any other state. Thankfully, Senator Corzine was a failure at “stopping things” or the taxpayers in New Jersey would really be in a world of hurt.

Do the citizens of New Jersey really want a man with Jon Corzine’s tax and spend voting record and philosophy as Governor? Imagine the plans a Governor Corzine might implement to “solve” New Jersey’s budget gap and property tax woes. Hopefully voters will learn the facts before they vote for another disaster in the making.

There is hope. In a recent survey, 20 % of New Jerseyans believe Corzine has no major accomplishments and 45 % credited the Senator with minor ones. Survey’s have also shown New Jersey voters give Corzine a 59 % approval rating, apparently thankful that he has not accomplished anything on his agenda in the U.S. Senate.

The following is a summary of the Star-Ledger report referred to above. The entire article may be read here.

During four years in the U.S. Senate, New Jersey Democrat Jon Corzine has compiled a voting record that places him firmly in his party's liberal wing. The National Journal, a respected weekly magazine that covers Washington politics, recently rated Corzine's voting record as the fourth most liberal in the Senate.

But the liberal label may not be a major handicap in a state that in recent years elected Jim McGreevey Governor returned Frank Lautenberg to the Senate and voted for John Kerry for President.

Corzine received 100 percent rankings from NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Conference on Civil Rights, the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence and the AFL-CIO. He also received an 84 percent ranking from League of Conservation Voters and 95 percent from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Corzine's positions have brought him low ratings from conservative and business-oriented interest groups. In 2003, he received zero ratings from the Christian Coalition and the National Federation of Independent Business. He received a 27 percent score from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 17 percent from the National Taxpayers Union and 15 percent from the American Conservative Union.

But the liberal label may not be a major handicap in a state that in recent years elected Jim McGreevey governor, returned Frank Lautenberg to the Senate and voted for John Kerry for President.

Much of Corzine's energy since January 2001 also has been spent opposing President Bush on economic, social and foreign policy. He voted against the administration's tax cuts, the war in Iraq, the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, the ban on partial birth abortion and the Medicare prescription drug bill. He is now a leading critic of Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security.

"There are very few senators who have voted more consistently against President Bush. He is in very select company with Sens. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California -- people who are on the party's left wing," said Rutgers political science professor Ross Baker, an expert on the Senate.

Corzine said he has been "consistent in trying to work for the state" on a variety of issues including housing, education, transportation and health care by "taking a thoughtful approach" and "not trying to demagogue things."

The senator said he is "most proud" of his vote against the Iraq war, and many of his other votes against Bush policies he believes were not good for the country. Sometimes the things you stop are more important than the things you do," he said.

Throughout his tenure, Corzine has been a vocal opponent of Bush's tax cuts, saying he would prefer smaller, more targeted tax reductions for the middle class and the poor while putting money into increased aid for state governments and shoring up Medicare and Social Security.

However, only 16 percent of those surveyed credited Corzine with major accomplishments as a Senator, while 45 percent said he had minor ones and 20 percent said he had no real accomplishments.

Corzine, in fact, devoted considerable time during 2003 and 2004 to an unsuccessful effort to win back Democratic control of the Senate. He recruited candidates and raised $86 million as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, but the Republicans ended up increasing their majority from 51 seats to 55 in the November elections.

While state issues such as the budget gap, rising property taxes and calls for government reform may dominate this year's gubernatorial race, Corzine's record in Washington likely will become campaign fodder, New Jersey Republican Party Chairman Tom Wilson said.

"I am hard-pressed to find anything he has done in Washington to improve the life of the average New Jerseyan," Wilson said.



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