Category Archives: The Record

The Record: A small step

The following editorial ran in The Record today. It highlights Governor Corzine’s plan to help those who have run out or will be running out of unemployment benefits by encouraging state businesses to hire people whose unemployment benefits have run out, by using money from federal discretionary funds and the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development:

For 79 weeks, laid-off workers can collect unemployment benefits. That means the government will offer some financial help while day after day, week after week, people make cold calls, network, send out résumés, go to job interviews and then start the process over again.

The benefits won’t make anyone rich, but they help — 60 percent of a person’s average wage, not to exceed $584 a week. Then, after more than a year, after all that searching for work and still no job, unemployment insurance comes to an end.

It has stopped for more than 45,000 workers in New Jersey, at least 3,500 each week. That is scary.

On Tuesday, Governor Corzine announced a plan meant to encourage state businesses to hire people whose unemployment benefits have run out. Using money from federal discretionary funds, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development will give $2,400 to employers who hire those workers for jobs paying at least $15 an hour. The funds are to help cover the cost of training.

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people will benefit.

This is a creative and worthwhile course of action. It lets people in desperate circumstances know that state government is aware of their predicament, and is trying to help. It offers hope during an especially bleak period. And it allows companies a cushion with which to take a risk.

“Whatever the governor is doing today is literally a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie said Tuesday. “This is not going to create sustainable jobs for the people of the state of New Jersey.”

Christie called the plan an “election-year photo op.”

He may be right that Corzine’s effort will not provide jobs to everyone in the same boat, but that is almost beside the point. It will provide jobs for some. And for those people, however many, it will make all the difference. Better to employ several thousand then do nothing at all.

The measure stipulates that the newly hired workers cannot replace other workers, and they must be employed for at least six months. So even if, for some reason, an employee loses the job after half a year, that will have been half a year of earning an income, of going to work each day and of learning a new skill or keeping up with skills. It also means another job to put on the resume.

As for this being an election-year stunt, that seems rather dramatic. Corzine will not win reelection because 3,000 to 4,000 newly employed voters pull the Democratic lever in appreciation.

The federal government has extended unemployment insurance payments twice, and then paid for another stretch, prolonging the state’s 26 weeks to the current 79. Yet people still can’t find work. Bills go unpaid. A health problem or unforeseen car repair can upset whatever delicate financial equilibrium there was. Families lose homes.

Recent census data reveals that last year citizens in deep poverty — people whose income dropped below half the federal poverty line — reached the highest level in 14 years. That means a family of four earned $11,013 or less. The number of poor was the highest since 1960.

If Christie has a better idea, if he has a way to scoop up even half the workers in New Jersey who have exhausted unemployment benefits and plunk them into new jobs, we are eager to hear it.

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Filed under Chris Christie, Gov. Jon Corzine, New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, The Record, unemployment, unemployment benefits

Doblin: The New Jersey catechism of politics

By ALFRED DOBLIN -RECORD EDITORIAL COLUMNIST

TRAVEL BACK to Sunday school with me. Somewhere, back in the Sixties, a catechetical instructor explained to me the difference between a sin of commission and a sin of omission.

As I recall, the difference may affect whether you go to hell. Applied to early 21st century New Jersey politics, it may affect who goes to Trenton in January, a place many believe is hell on Earth.

This week, the public learned that Chris Christie, Republican gubernatorial candidate and all-around protector of ethics, failed to disclose a loan made to personal friend and former subordinate in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Michele Brown. The $46,000 loan was not reported on Christie’s federal and state disclosure forms or his tax returns.

Christie has been apologizing all week. He said he and his wife were helping a friend in need. He just forgot to disclose the loan or list the interest on the loan in his tax returns. It was a sin of omission.

He said he made a mistake. It’s a big mistake for a former U.S. attorney to make.

I can accept that people with large incomes and/or cash reserves may think little of lending out $46,000. And Christie Savings and Loan is small potatoes compared to the House of Corzine. Governor Corzine lent former romantic interest Carla Katz nearly $500,000. He eventually forgave that loan.

But there are some differences between the two transactions: Corzine reported the gift and Katz was his girlfriend, not his employee.

I cannot think of any managers believing it is good policy to lend money to persons, friend or not, who work for them. Add to that where both Christie and Brown worked: the U.S. Attorney’s Office. And then do some more math and add on the probability that the boss was going to run for governor while the subordinate would rise in authority as a federal prosecutor.

Sin of omission or sin of commission?

Christie has been thinking about running for governor for some time. He had to know that the loan would be problematic, at best. That would be a sin of commission – knowing you were doing something wrong. If he didn’t intend to do wrong, it’s a sin of omission. Either way, according to my Sunday school teacher, there are consequences for the action taken.

Realistically, this is not the stuff that most New Jerseyans really care about. Unless Christie and Corzine want to start making personal loans to all New Jerseyans in financial straits, most folks who don’t work in politics or live on a diet of politics don’t give a hoot.

But the gubernatorial campaigns have not been centered on the economy, but rather on ethics and choices. Christie says he’s not Corzine and that he will fight corruption tooth and nail. Corzine is running a campaign that says he’s not Karl Rove and Christie really is.

Democrats have long said Christie used his position as a U.S. attorney as a stepping stone for a gubernatorial run. And that politics played too much a part in the decisions of who was targeted for investigation.

Now there is a question of whether Christie is still receiving information on ongoing investigations while a candidate. He can deny it. But it is hard to overlook the fact that one of the top officials in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey owes him money. It is a self-inflicted political wound.

It also is hard to overlook the fact that he gave a personal loan to someone who reported up to him while U.S. attorney. This is the same murky water Democrats swim in. Money, friendship and employment are the absinthe, sugar and water of Jersey political life. It’s cloudy. It’s potent. And it leads to self-delusion.

How could Christie not realize that giving a loan to Brown was more than a financial liability; it was a huge political mistake? It also was ethically wrong. He was her boss.

How could Christie not realize the loan had to be reported? His entire brilliant career as U.S. attorney was constructed on the foundation that money transactions, particularly between people working in government, have to be transparent and reported.

White Knight Christie has fallen off his horse. There are no seat belts on saddles.

But New Jersey doesn’t need a white knight. It needs an honest broker. Among the field of candidates, who is who they say they really are? Not easy to figure out when the answers are not always complete, by chance or design.

Sin of omission? Sin of commission? Either way, the truth is compromised.

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Filed under Alfred Doblin, catechism, Chris Christie, Gov. Jon Corzine, Karla Katz, Michele Brown, New Jersey, Sunday school, The Record