Category Archives: working poor

October 2011; Stop the Machine! Create a New World!

This may be a little far-left for some people but I support the basic premise of what October 2011 is trying to do; End the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, support human rights, commitment to a healthly, green environment and ensuring that the middle class and poor do not become the victims of corporate greed. So I feel it’s worth informing people about October2011 and their cause.

Unfortunately, I can’t take the pledge because I wont be going to Washington DC anytime soon, let alone in October, but that doesn’t mean others that support these causes couldn’t sign the pledge and lend a hand in a nonviolent protest rally on October 6,2011.

I’ll be there in spirit.

A Call to Action – Oct. 6, 2011 and onward

October 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and the beginning of the 2012 federal austerity budget. It is time to light the spark that sets off a true democratic, nonviolent transition to a world in which people are freed to create just and sustainable solutions.

We call on people of conscience and courage—all who seek peace, economic justice, human rights and a healthy environment—to join together in Washington, D.C., beginning on Oct. 6, 2011, in nonviolent resistance similar to the Arab Spring and the Midwest awakening.

A concert, rally and protest will kick off a powerful and sustained nonviolent resistance to the corporate criminals that dominate our government.

Forty-seven years ago, Mario Savio, an activist student at Berkeley, said, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

Those words have an even greater urgency today. We face ongoing wars and massive socio-economic and environmental destruction perpetrated by a corporate empire which is oppressing, occupying and exploiting the world. We are on a fast track to making the planet unlivable while the middle class and poor people of our country are undergoing the most wrenching and profound economic crisis in 80 years.

“Stop the Machine! • Create a New World!” is a clarion call for all who are deeply concerned with injustice, militarism and environmental destruction to join in ending concentrated corporate power and taking direct control of a real participatory democracy. We will encourage a culture of resistance—using music, art, theater and direct nonviolent action—to take control of our country and our lives. It is about courageously resisting and stopping the corporate state from destroying not only our inherent rights and freedoms, but also our children’s chance to live, breathe clean air, drink pure water, grow edible natural food and live in peace.

As Mother Jones said, “Someday the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit!”

We are the ones who can create a new and just world. Our issues are connected. We are connected. Join us in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 6, 2011, to Stop the Machine.

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Take the pledge and sign up to attend here. Let America know you are coming to make history and a new world!

I pledge that if any U.S. troops, contractors, or mercenaries remain in Afghanistan on Thursday, October 6, 2011, as that criminal occupation goes into its 11th year, I will commit to being in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with others on that day with the intention of making it our Tahrir Square, Cairo, our Madison, Wisconsin, where we will NONVIOLENTLY resist the corporate machine to demand that our resources are invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation. We can do this together. We will be the beginning .”




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Filed under Afghanistan War, arab spring, Freedom Plaza, Iraq War, Middle Class, Mother Jones, nonviolent resistance, October 2011, protest rally, Stop the Machine, Washington DC, working poor

As A Matter Of Fact…1 in 6 New Jerseyans hit By Governor’s vetoes


From July 11th, 2011 | Published in NJPP Blog: As a Matter of Fact …

By Raymond J. Castro, Senior Policy Analyst

One in six New Jerseyans will be adversely affected by line-item vetoes of two critical programs in the budget Governor Christie signed last week.

Today, the state Senate is expected to vote on restoring funding for those programs – the state Earned Income Tax Credit and NJ Family Care. Doing so, however, will require bipartisan support in order to achieve two-thirds majority.

The governor’s vetoes represented unprecedented cutbacks in state services and will affect more than 1.5 million residents, mostly low-income working families with children. Without these supports many parents will be unable to continue to work in low and moderate wage jobs that support their children in a state with one of the highest costs of living in the nation.

Last week the Legislature passed a state budget that fully funded these program. However the governor in New Jersey has considerably more power than governors in many states and has the discretion to delete any funds proposed for specific programs – or any “line item” in the budget. The only way that those funds can be restored is for the Legislature to vote to overturn each veto with a two-thirds vote.

When voting on each line-item, it will be important that legislators know what the impact is on people in their districts. New Jersey Policy Perspective has created an analysis to show the number of people, county by county, who will be affected by these two line item vetos, which were among dozens of vetoes by the governor.

Budgets reflect a state’s priorities. The public does not always know where individual legislators stand on those priorities because the budget is usually voted on in its entirety. That will all change today, and we hope that each lawmaker, regardless of party, recognizes just how devastating these cuts can be to wide numbers of New Jerseyans.

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Filed under As a Matter of Fact, budget cuts, children, Earned Income Tax Credit, Gov. Chris Christie, line item veto, low income families, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ FamilyCare, working poor

As A Matter Of Fact…Budget vetoes: The scorpion and the frog

July 6th, 2011 | Published in NJPP Blog: As a Matter of Fact …

By Mary E. Forsberg, Research Director

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”

Replies the scorpion: “It’s my nature…”

This parable has many variations: the scorpion and turtle; the snake and dog; the viper and farmer. What each variation has in common is a bad actor, a character who can’t play fair, even if it means he might perish.

Those who are reading the press these days may recognize certain similarities with the current state of politics in New Jersey. And the Democratic leadership surely is croaking now.

It wasn’t a surprise that the governor wielded his ax against the Millionaires’ tax and women’s health programs. He did it before. He said he would do it again and he did it.

What was surprising, though, were the other cuts that had nothing to do with policy and everything to do with the very nature of his leadership. The cuts are unprecedented and go beyond any reasonable policy and fiscal considerations.

The Legislature

The budgets of the Executive office, the Legislature and the Judiciary have always been sacrosanct; a “gentleman’s agreement” has traditionally given each responsibility for its own budget and spending.

No governor before has chopped 41 percent from the Legislature’s staff salary accounts, but that’s exactly what the governor did. And he did it with a dose of venom, saying:

“The budget as adopted by the Legislature relied upon exaggerated revenue estimates, flawed assumptions concerning fund balances and ignored the harsh reality of its spending decisions. This reduction, among many others enumerated herein necessitated reductions of known surpluses, imprudent spending and other excesses.”

People who have noticed this salary cut haven’t made much of it. But the fact is, it has the potential to shift the balance of power in the legislative branch. Here’s how that works.

The salary accounts that the governor cut will not affect the salaries of legislators or those of their district office staff. The ones cut supported the Democratic and Republican legislative committee aides and the people who run the partisan staff offices in Trenton. Money for those salaries is appropriated to the Senate and Assembly in a lump sum and is divided based on which party is in the majority – the majority party (currently the Democrats) gets more of the money, has a bigger staff and has the larger suite of offices.

Unless the Legislature overrides this veto with a 2/3 vote (which would require the support of both parties), the staff of those offices will be significantly reduced. How these cuts are shared will be up to the majority Democrats in the Senate and Assembly. And as Assembly Speaker Oliver, a Democrat, was quoted as saying, “I’m certainly not going to shoot myself in the foot.”

Whether the governor understands this or not, a greatly reduced Republican partisan staff in Trenton is certainly a possible outcome of this line item veto.

Higher Education

Students and institutions of higher education felt the sting of the governor’s veto, which cut full-time and part-time Tuition Aid Grants (TAG) below even his own budget recommendation in March. He reduced the Democrats’ appropriation by $48.5 million, even though the amount in the Democrat’s budget was only $21.3 million more than his budget recommended.

In another unusual veto, the governor reduced the number of state-funded positions at each college by nearly 1,200 positions overall. This veto is an easy one to overlook and understanding it isn’t straightforward. What it means, however, is that the governor is reducing the state’s obligation to pay fringe benefits costs for these positions and is transferring those costs to the colleges – all without prior consultation and at the last minute. It is a backhanded way of again reducing the state’s responsibility for its higher education system. For Rutgers University and the Agricultural Experiment Station, this represents a 6 percent loss; for the other colleges, a 5 percent loss.

The veto message was again venomous. He blames the Legislature for this cost shift, saying:

“The Legislature’s failure to appropriately fund health benefit costs for all state employees necessitated a reduction in the state’s support of employee fringe benefits at all public institutions of higher education.”

Legal Services to the Poor

If you are poor in New Jersey and have a legal problem, save it until next year – maybe. Like the TAG scholarship, legal services will be significantly less than even what the governor proposed in his March budget.

His veto eliminated all state funding ($600,000) for the legal clinics at Seton Hall University Law School, Rutgers Newark Law School and Rutgers Camden Law School. In March he budgeted each of them for $200,000 apiece.

He also apparently took umbrage at the additional $5 million included by the Democrats in their budget for Legal Services of New Jersey, which provides legal services to poor people in civil matters. He cut that budget by $10 million – leaving Legal Services of New Jersey with a smaller budget than he recommended in March.

Cleaning up New Jersey

The Governor’s veto cut $18.8 million or 16 percent of the amount he recommended in March for Department of Environmental Protection programs that safeguard and preserve the state’s environment – for remediation of hazardous waste, underground storage tanks, monitoring water, and dealing with diesel pollution. Funding for these programs comes from a 4 percent constitutional dedication of corporate business tax (CBT) revenues. The effort by the governor and some in the Legislature to ensure that New Jersey is “open for business” by doing away with regulations and reducing corporate taxes means less money is available to protect New Jersey’s environment.

The moral of the budget

No one expected the governor to move away from his ideological position on funding health care for women or to abdicate his protection of the wealthiest in the state from the Millionaire’s tax, which would have added an additional 1.78 percent to their income tax bills this year.

But the veto message this year went beyond negotiation and fair play. There are consequences to every action. The scorpion’s sting meant death to both the scorpion and the frog. The consequences of this veto message are a less prosperous state and an increase in the chasm that separates the state’s wealthy from everyone else.

For a complete list of the governor’s line item vetoes, see the chart


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Filed under As a Matter of Fact, blog, Democrats, Gov. Chris Christie, line item veto, Millionaire'sTax, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ State Budget, veto override, women's health issues, working poor

>NJPP Monday Minute 1/10/11: NJ EITC: Governor’s No Tax Pledge Ignores Poor Working Families

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Amid the celebrating about extending federal income tax cuts to everyone in the year ahead, New Jersey is ringing in the new year with a substantial tax increase. Not to worry, though, the only ones who will be paying more in taxes are those who can least afford to pay more.

The state saved $45 million in the current year budget when it slashed a tax break given to families scratching out a living just above the poverty line. This tax break called the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides a credit to working poor families against the tax they might pay on the income they earn. The New Jersey EITC is calculated as a percentage of the federal EITC. The state reduced that percentage last year to 20 percent from 25 percent of the federal credit (a 20 percent cut), starting January 1, 2011.

This change will result in a $300 loss to a single parent raising two children with a minimum wage job that pays $15,000 a year. That amounts to more than one week’s pay. Even with the extension of federal tax cuts in Washington, working poor families in New Jersey will be less well off in 2011 than they were in 2010.

While the Christie Administration said the state could not afford to sustain the 25 percent credit to the poorest families in the coming year, the Governor and the Legislature have been willing to increase tax credits to major corporations by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Here’s just one example of many. Through the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program, the state approved three 10-year tax breaks that will benefit Wakefern Corporation, which operates the Shop-Rite chain of grocery stores. Wakefern itself received a $29.2 million grant in August and will benefit from another $15.7 million grant to its landlord. In December, it received a third grant for $58 million. Wakefern certainly must have been pleased to get these tax breaks. Especially since all it had to do was locate three warehouses in Newark and Elizabeth, which it might have done anyway. The state, on the other hand, will lose up to $103 million in corporate tax revenues over ten years if Wakefern fulfills the grant requirements.

Tax credits are set up to encourage certain behavior. The governor and legislators choose to believe that offering tax credits to corporations will encourage them to do what they otherwise might not do. They are even willing to give away billions of dollars with little proof that these incentives cost more than they benefit the state.

Evidence does exist that the EITC encourages people to work rather than accept welfare. By leveling the playing field for families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (that’s $36,620 for a family of three in 2011), it encourages them to work. The credit is designed to help offset the high cost of living in New Jersey (which ranks fifth among all states) and compensates them for paying a disproportionate share of their income in regressive taxes, like sales and property taxes.

Gov. Christie pushed for and the Legislature approved a cutback in the EITC despite the opposition of working parents who depend on these funds to support their children and in the face of objections from advocacy organizations representing these families. It was the wrong thing to do at a time when so many poor families are struggling.

New Jersey has become a state that cuts taxes on millionaires and corporations but raises them on the state’s poorest working families. The EITC is a good investment for New Jersey’s workers. In the coming fiscal year, the governor and the legislature should find the $45 million necessary to help people help themselves.

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Filed under Earned Income Tax Credit, Gov. Chris Christie, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Taxes, working poor