I Have a Gripe

June 17, 2011

Christie and Sweeney: Shame on You Both

As Governor Christie and NJ State Senator Sweeney made a deal with the Devil, I submitted yet another letter to both of them. I wanted to share it with my readers…

June 16, 2011

In regards to: Subject: Teacher’s Pension & Health Benefit Legislation

Governor Chris Christie

State Senate President Sweeney

Gentlemen:

I have contacted your office via email and phone several times in the past to express my frustration regarding this constant assault on teachers and their pension and health benefits. I am writing again to voice my outrage.

I am the proud wife of a 24-year band director. He became a teacher for all the right reasons – to give back, to influence the lives of youngsters, and to share his love of music with others. He has successfully taught thousands of students not just how to play an instrument and appreciate music, but what it takes to be a good citizen and adult. It is also worth noting he is not one of those “80K a year teachers” you hear about on the news.

This constant barrage “on union leadership” as I often hear you say Governor, has certainly trickled down and has turned into an “us vs. them” argument. Many people already have a negative opinion of teachers. You have certainly added to that negativity. And for the record, I voted for you. I believed you when I thought you were going to make positive changes on the state’s school system. In my opinion, your changes are far from positive. You should really try reading the bully legislation you signed into law, because that is exactly what you have become.

Today, teachers are much more than teachers. They are counselors, pastors, and sadly, all too often, parents. Add to that list since Columbine, police, hostage negotiators, and body guards. When I was a child, I was told the three safest places I could be were home, school and church. Now, that is far from reality.

You want the best and brightest to be teachers in order to continue the high performance of New Jersey’s students. With your constant barrage, why would anyone want to become a teacher? Being a teacher is not the easy job many believe it is. The teachers I know spend a sizable amount of their own money on school supplies, endless hours preparing lessons, tutoring students and being active participants in their communities. This battle of yours has put neighbor against neighbor.

What I would like to see is the state government acknowledge that the reason the pension system is having financial trouble is because politicians have been using that system as their own personal piggy bank. That would be a good place to start. Next, I would like to see those politicians fix this without hurting those who had nothing to do with the problem being affected.

I would also like to know why there is such outrage about limiting healthcare options on the federal level through “Obamacare” by the GOP (my party, by the way), when you, Governor Christie, are trying to do the exact same thing to teachers? According to what I have read, there is even a limitation in the proposed legislation that you will limit the ability to seek medical treatment outside New Jersey. We live across the river from some of the finest medical institutions in the world and we wouldn’t be able to do whatever would be necessary if my husband or I was ill? I wonder how Senator Lautenberg would feel about that, given his insistence on going to New York for his cancer treatment.

I would like to know if either of you have ever gone to a school and watched first-hand what teachers do everyday. No cameras, no entourage, nothing. Just you, teachers and students. I would like to see you really understand what a teacher does on a day-to-day basis. My hope is that you would have more respect for what they do and change this from an assault to a conversation.

Shame on you both.

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February 24, 2011

Christie’s Proposed Budget Pits Neighbor Against Neighbor

Filed under: Economy,government,Healthcare,New Jersey,Politics — alvb1227 @ 7:02 pm

So earlier this week Governor Christie released his proposed budget. Now that my headache has dulled and my eye has stopped twitching, I can now give my opinion. In two words: it stinks.

The Governor has successfully pitted neighbor against neighbor by tying tax cuts to more give-backs by state employees. Now, regardless of which side of the fence you are on, I think I can make some solid arguments, so I ask you hear me out.

First, I believe most reasonable teachers, police officers, EMTs, fire fighters and the like understand that they need to make contributions for their long-term healthcare. However, what Gov. Christie is asking for is completely unreasonable. Thirty percent? In one year? I’m sorry, but that is not realistic. Just like other “non-union” families, the economy has hit union families hard and many are barely hanging on. This would certainly put them over the edge of financial stability.

Many who do not do these jobs complain how “easy” they have it by either not working the summer, writing tickets unnecessarily, or my personal favorite comment I have ever read, “he never pulled his weapon,” have no idea what is involved in serving and protecting New Jersey communities.

What politicians have done successfully is create a civil-war-like atmosphere across the state, and now, across the nation.

In a previous post, I discussed what unions have done for the working public at large. Now, unions have added to the trouble, but right now, I believe it is Gov. Christie who is creating the large majority of animosity.

Now, in the interest of fairness, I supported and voted for Christie after Steve Lonegan lost in the primary. I agreed with a number of the plans Christie had for the state at the time of his candidacy. Since then, he has turned into a one-trick-pony in my opinion – beating up on state workers, and more specifically, teachers.

Some may say, “he has never specifically gone after teachers; just their union,” and that is true. However, his constant barrage has trickled down into general hostility towards teachers. If this keeps up, people will not want to do these jobs. Where will that leave our state then?

Ultimately, I think everyone needs to take a deep breath, go back to their corners and regroup. Come back with some realistic and sensible solutions that can work for everyone. Because in my opinion, this budget surely isn’t it.

February 16, 2011

My Perspective on the Budget

So the President released his budget plan this week and of course the GOP has their own plans. Of course, this lead me to want to jot down my thoughts on how to handle the budget.

Now first and foremost, I am far from a financial genius. I do, however, have a brain and on occasion, have been known to use common sense. To me, this is a common sense approach to spending.

First, can someone explain why the budget is still printed…on paper and ink? Anyone ever hear of a secure sharepoint? They definitely need to look at Congressional/Presidential printing. I would think that could save a nice chunk of change.

Next, look at all the places around the world where we have military bases. Do we really need all these different bases? Close some of those bases and reassign those troops stateside. That would both save money and bring home our wonderful military so we aren’t spread so thin.

Third, address illegal immigration. Now, before you go off the deep end on me, hear me out. Illegal immigration goes beyond an immigration policy or national security. It sucks up valuable resources, such as public education, ER care and other social resources. This all costs money. If we get our act together by resolving our illegal immigration policy, it will solve multiple problems at once.

Now, let’s address Congress. First, they should stop automatic pay increases. Whether or not they vote on the increase, they get it. Additionally, in order for Congress and the President to get what we “common folk” have been dealing with, they should each take a five percent paycut. Additionally, everyone is complaining about public employees, their benefits and other so-called perks. In order for a member of Congress to be vested FOR LIFE, they must serve for five years. New Jersey teachers must teach for 25 consecutive years to be vested. How about some outrage on that? Five years? Seriously? Also, upon retirement, they receive 80 percent of their salary as a pension. For starters, drop it to 70 percent. Finally, they should contribute three percent annually to their healthcare coverage both while in Congress and when they “retire.”

Moving on to the Department of Education. Cut it out completely. It isn’t needed and all it does it use its funding to stick its nose into local affairs. It just makes things more complicated.

Next up, Social Security. Let’s face it, more people my age believe that Area 51 exists than they believe that they will get what they have paid into Social Security. And to be clear, Social Security, like unemployment, is not an entitlement. An entitlement is a gift from the government. Welfare and Medicaid are entitlements. Our taxes go to social security, therefore, it is not an entitlement. The President should follow the recommendation from his debt own commission and raise the retirement age. Additionally, you should be allowed to “opt out” of Social Security. I would rather have that money in my check and decide how to invest it than leave it to the government.

Finally, move to a flat tax system. This way there are no loopholes, everyone pays in, regardless of their income level and has a vested interest in what happens to our nation. Currently, two percent of the wealthiest individuals pay over 40 percent of the taxes and will never use any of the services they support. Everyone, regardless of income level, should pay taxes. Otherwise, it is just a handout, which prevents people from feeling the pride of providing for their well-being. Additionally, just think of how many jobs could be cut. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see a smaller IRS?

Well, that’s where I would start. I think these cuts would provide a solid start in getting federal spending on a real cost-cutting plan.

What would you do?

January 26, 2011

2011 State of the Union Address

So last night was the 2011 State of the Union Address. I will admit that my eye wasn’t twitching quite as much as last year, but I still have issues with a number of the items that were discussed.

I think the President started out well by acknowledging the empty chair for Gabby Giffords. The ribbons everyone wore I thought was a nice touch. He also discussed a new level of civility in light of the shooting in Arizona. Call it the Jersey cynic in me, but the “date night” and new bipartisan effort just felt fake to me. I still get the feeling of a “hand slap” by the left and blaming the Tea Party movement, even though the nut job in Arizona didn’t appear to have a political affiliation. I find it funny that now the President wants to not think about winning an election, but doing what is necessary to pull the nation together.

I liked what the President said about simplifying the tax code, but fell short of calling for a flat tax, which would ultimately save billions by either cutting or completely eliminating the IRS. I really believe that moving away from the current complicated tax code will both save money on the federal level while making sure everyone pays their fair share.

He cited a quote from President Kennedy that “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Well, I disagree with that sentiment. The future is a responsibility; first and foremost. I think we as a nation have really lost the concept of personal responsibility. Should we take care of those who need assistance? Yes. Should there be a level of personal responsibility associated along with that? Absolutely!

I found his more business-friendly tone encouraging. Again, I hope it isn’t just rhetoric and real action will follow. This means getting the government out of the way of private industry and let them do what they do best; innovate and create jobs. Remember, it is not the job of the federal government to create jobs. It is the job of the federal government to create conditions that are favorable for private industry to create jobs.

The President is still pushing green technologies, which is certainly laudable, however, I again wonder if this should be the business of the federal government. I point to California’s recent light bulb issue as the exact type of government intervention that while positive in concept can be negative in the long run.

From an education standpoint, I was very encouraged to finally hear someone (and I mean anyone) acknowledge that parents need to take a more positive role in the education of our nation’s children. For far too long, schools have been trying to be both educator and parent. Ultimately, they will fail as both. I also ask that while math and science are incredibly important, that the arts and music are not left on the side of the road. There has been study after study citing the importance of music and the arts in fostering a child’s creativity and improving math, science and language skills. I am the adult I am because of my involvement in the music program in my public school system.

It was also nice to hear there should be more respect for teachers. As someone who is married to a public school teacher, I say it is not as easy as many may think. We should be encouraging our teachers, not putting them down. Otherwise, no young individual will want to become a teacher. And that will be truly sad and detrimental to our future.

I almost fell off the couch when the President actually used the term “illegal immigrant” and not “undocumented” or other term. Whether the individual is a child or an adult, they are here illegally and thus breaking the law. They shouldn’t be here sucking up resources like locusts they have no right to access. And these aren’t all the wonderful young individuals looking to better themselves the President mentioned. They are often gang members trying to sneak people and drugs into our country. This is the single issue that will kill us as a nation if it is not dealt with, and I mean NOW.

Infrastructure “investments.” OK, moving on…

Social Security? Well, let’s just say I believe that Area 51 exists. I don’t believe the money I have been paying, and will continue to pay, into Social Security will ever come back to me. My eye is starting to twitch, so moving on…

I also agree the federal government should reorganize and streamline, however, again, call me a cynic, I really don’t see this happening. I hope I am wrong.

I found it interesting that the President is open to make some of the very healthcare bill changes the GOP suggested originally and he wouldn’t he even consider. Amazing what a shellacking can do for bipartisanship. And by the way, I hadn’t heard that word since I was a kid and my Uncle Sonny would threaten us with a shellacking that would never appear. If anything, he was the one to protect us all from the shellacking.

Of course, no State of the Union would be complete without a discussion of our military. Again, I refer back to my previous thoughts about illegal immigration. These two issues go hand-in-hand in my opinion. Illegal immigration is a serious national security issue.

So, as usual, I am hopeful, but not betting the house on it. The only reason the President has moved to the middle, I believe, is because he got beat and I mean seriously beat. I would like to see him not spend on infrastructure and instead let private industry develop tomorrow’s high speed railways. Again, just allow for private industry to do what they do best and get out of their way.

Only time will tell…

January 4, 2011

I’m Sorry Mr. Steyn, You’re Wrong

Filed under: Healthcare,Terrorism — alvb1227 @ 1:47 pm
Tags: , ,

Yesterday I was listening to Mark Steyn who was subbing for Rush Limbaugh and I feel I need to verbalize my objection to some comments he made yesterday regarding the 9-11 health care bill passed during the lame duck session of Congress.

Mr. Steyn is claiming that because these 9-11 first responders, emergency personnel and construction workers who are part of this coverage shouldn’t get more money from the government. Why you ask? Well, according to Mr. Steyn, since they are more than likely part of a union, they already have a great union-negotiated health plan, so we as tax payers shouldn’t have to give them more money. I’m sorry Mr. Steyn, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

This really burned me. First of all, I believe these heroes should be taken care of like our soldiers and get whatever is needed to care for their health issues that are a result of working on the pile, looking for survivors, recovering those who were killed and clearing debris. They were there on Thanksgiving. They were there on Christmas. They took this job seriously and were both determined and respectful of their duties.

I am guessing you, Mr. Steyn, have never lost someone due to catastrophic illness. It can financially and emotionally devastate a family, often ending in the loss of homes or the need to declare bankruptcy. There are often lifetime limits that are paid and benefits can quickly run out when individuals so young are struck with illnesses like lung cancer, mesothelioma,  thyroid cancer and other horrible illnesses that often end in death.

I know it is fashionable right now to “union-bash,” and trust me, there are a number of things unions do that I do not agree with, however, this shouldn’t be labeled as a “union issue.” As I have said in a previous post about the need to pass the 9-11 health care bill, it is simply the right thing to do. Period. I do not appreciate your attempt to turn this into another way to “union-bash.”

As I said earlier, I’m sorry Mr. Steyn, but you are wrong.

December 10, 2010

The Dream Act, 9-11 Responders and Common Sense

There are a lot of different pieces of legislation working through Congress in this lame duck session. They include extending the Bush-era tax cuts, the Dream Act, extending unemployment benefits and more. While these are all important, to one degree or another, there is one that was voted down yesterday that is absolutely shameful. I am talking about medical care for the 9-11 first responders.

From what I have read, this important legislation was voted down by three votes. There is obvious political posturing on both sides, but this piece of legislation should not have anything to do with politics. It is simply the right thing to do.

These responders put their lives on the line to work to save as many as possible and recover those who lost their lives. As a result, they have developed terrible health issues and in some cases, they have already passed away.

To me, these heroes should be treated just like the military. We should do whatever is necessary to help them. Period.

Now, depending on who you listen to, the Dems claim the GOP won’t entertain anything until the tax cuts are addressed. The GOP says the Dems are just trying to make them look bad. Whatever the so-called reasons, everyone should put their big boy pants on and do what is right for these heroes.

I urge all my readers to reach out to their Senators and Representatives and urge them to get this done so these heroes can have peace of mind that their health-related issues from working on the pile will be handled.

April 29, 2010

When is the Federal Government too Big to Fail?

So this week we’ve seen the Congress pull Goldman Sachs in for a public spanking. A Californian government body is trying to outlaw the toy in the McDonald’s Happy Meal in an effort to avoid childhood obesity. Last year the federal government “purchased” controlling interests in GM and Chrysler. Last month, they passed sweeping “healthcare reform.” It seems that the federal government has figured out to involve themselves into every corner of our personal lives. However, I ask you this…when is the federal government “too big to fail?”

The more the government attempts to control our lives in an effort to “help” us, the more they do is limit our options and opportunities to only what the government feels we should have. When do we as American citizens have the right to say to the government “enough?”

I would like to know what has happened to personal responsibility? You want to eat McDonald’s everyday and turn into a heart attack waiting to happen? Fine. However, don’t expect me to feel sorry for you and cover your healthcare expenses and have the government attempt to legislate to protect people from themselves.

Did Goldman Sachs do incredibly horrible things? Absolutely. However, who, in my opinion, is really to blame? The federal government. What was the SEC doing while they were supposed to be “protecting us?” Watching porn online! And what about the House Financial Services Committee? The House Financial Services Committee contingency lead by Barney Frank forced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lend to those who certainly couldn’t afford their own homes. However, how is it every time a company is spanked by the government under the guise of “protecting” us, Fannie and Freddie are nowhere to be found?

I say we should work to take back our nation and live by personal responsibility. A simple solution to many complex problems facing our country.

March 27, 2010

A Physician’s Letter on Healthcare Reform

Recently, a letter to the president written by an Emergency Room physician was published and is now making its way around the internet. When I first read it, I wanted to stand up and applaud. However, I did what I normally do when I receive one of these email messages…I checked it out. And guess what? It is true! So, I wanted to print it here. I think it really sums up what a lot of people are thinking. You decide…

Dear Mr.  President:
During my shift in  the Emergency Room last night, I had the pleasure of evaluating a  patient whose smile revealed an expensive shiny gold tooth, whose body  was adorned with a wide assortment of elaborate and costly
tattoos, who wore a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and who chatted on a  new cellular telephone equipped with a popular R&B ringtone.

While  glancing over her patient chart, I happened to notice that  her payer status was listed as ” Me dicaid”! During my examination of her,  the patient informed me that she smokes more than one costly pack of  cigarettes every day and somehow still has money to buy pretzels and  beer.

And, you and our Congress expect  me to pay for this woman’s health care? I contend that our nation’s  “health care crisis” is not the result of a shortage of quality  hospitals, doctors or nurses. Rather, it is the result of a “crisis of  culture”, a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money  on luxuries and vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. It is a culture based in the irresponsible credo that “I can do whatever I want to because someone  else will always take care of me”.

Once you fix this “culture crisis” that rewards irresponsibility and dependency, you’ll be amazed at how quickly our nation’s health care difficulties will disappear.

Respectfully,
STARNER JONES, MD

March 23, 2010

Healthcare Passes…God Help Us All

Filed under: Healthcare,Laws,Politics,Uncategorized,United States government — alvb1227 @ 1:11 am

Well, last night the greatest travesty has been perpetuated on the American people. The Democrats in the House passed the so-called healthcare (and don’t forget education loans) reform legislation.

There are multiple issues here. First and foremost, it is completely unconstitutional to force someone to purchase something. I know the Dems are arguing that the federal government has the right to regulate healthcare through the Interstate Commerce Clause. Throughout the last few decades, this has been one of the most frequently-used sources of Congress’ power. However, the Tenth Amendment says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Last time I checked, entitlements, like healthcare, aren’t in the Constitution.

What I really want to know is what has happened to personal responsibility? Are there people who need help that don’t have health insurance? Absolutely. What is happening here is the uber-rich can afford whatever they need, the poor will be taken care of by the government, and as usual, the middle-class will get squeezed.

People need to have a personal investment in their lives. If all people get are entitlements, handouts from the government, they will never take a vested interest in their potential personal success. It is too easy to just accept what is given to you.

On the other hand, if all that happens to the rich is to be penalized and over-taxed by the government, those innovators and small business owners (who create jobs mind you) will loose the want to succeed. Ultimately, this will increase the sea of mediocrity that is overcoming our great country.

By passing this bill, the federal government now has the keys to the front door of all our homes. Healthcare is the key to everything else – what we eat, if we choose to smoke, how much we exercise, and so on. This is the beginning of wide-spread socialization of America.

Right now, 35 Attorneys General are preparing lawsuits in an effort to block the implementation of this unlawful bill. I hope they succeed. The future of our country, our freedom, depends on it.

March 21, 2010

A Cliff-Notes Version of the Healthcare Bill

I just received my weekly newsletter from my Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen. I am proud to say he is voting against the healthcare bill that is going to the floor tomorrow.

In his newsletter, he listed what I consider a “cliff notes” version of the new taxes and what the IRS will be up to if this little gem passes. I have posted it here. I think you will find it interesting.

Here is a partial list of the tax increases in the Pelosi health care bill:

  • If you don’t buy health insurance (as dictated acceptable by a new federal czar), you will be fined up to 2.5% of your income even if you pay all of your medical expenses yourself. If your company does not provide “acceptable” health insurance to all workers, the company will be fined up to $2,000 per employee. (This proposal alone may require the hiring of 1,600 new IRS employees.  See attached data sheet from the House Committee on Ways and Means);
  • An additional Medicare tax on self-employment income and wages.  This removes the current cap on wages subject to this tax and it will effectively move the top income tax rate from 35% to 43.4% within a couple of years;
  • For certain taxpayers, the bill increases the Medicare FICA tax from 2.9 percent to 3.8 percent and for the first time, this tax will be extended beyond wages to include interest, dividends, capital gains, annuities, royalties, home sales and rents.  This new tax will be particularly damaging to New Jersey’s seniors, many of whom depend on their interest, dividends and annuities to cover their monthly expenses and potential nursing home costs;
  • There is a 2.9% tax on all medical “devices”, which basically means everything used in a doctor’s office or hospital. Including gowns, syringes, wheelchairs and the like.  This will increase health care costs for everyone who does not get free government insurance;
  • The deduction for medical expenses is currently limited to those expenses that exceed 7.5% or your income. This will be raised to a threshold of 10% of your income. This means that fewer people will get any tax relief from medical expenses they pay for themselves;
  • There are various taxes on anything a person might do to pay for their own medical expenses. Things like Health Savings Accounts, Cafeteria Plans, and Flexible Savings Accounts are ways for people to save their OWN money for their OWN medical care on a pre-tax basis. Under the bill, they will be limited and taxed;
  • A 10% tax on tanning services;
  • A tax on self-insured health plans. This is another penalty on those who try to pay for their own health care;
  • A new tax on pharmaceutical manufacturers, an important employer in New Jersey. This will raise the price of medicines for everyone who does not get them from the government for free;
  • A new tax on “Cadillac” health plans. This is a tax of up to 55% on any health insurance that costs over about $800 per month including employee and employer contributions. This tax does not apply if you are a union member or your plan is from AARP or Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan;
  • There is a new tax on all “for-profit” health insurance companies (except for a few favored ones).  This will also raise the costs of premiums for everyone not getting free care from the government.

Combined, these new taxes will cause medical costs to go up and private sector job creation to go down, increase budget deficits and national debt, and force physicians to stop seeing Medicare and Medicaid patients. It will cause fewer people to pay for their own care, and more to seek government care.

In the end, the Pelosi health care proposal adds up to more taxes, more spending, and more deficits.  This is a bill American cannot afford.

Highlights of New IRS Authority

Under H.R. 3590 – the Senate-passed health bill
(Source: House Ways and Means Committee Minority)

  • IRS agents verify if you have “acceptable” health care coverage;
  • IRS has the authority to fine you up to $2,250 or 2 percent of your income (whichever is greater) for failure to prove that you have purchased “minimum essential coverage”;
  • IRS can confiscate your tax refund;
  • IRS audits are likely to increase;
  • IRS will need up to $10 billion to administer the new health care program this decade;
  • IRS may need to hire as many as 16,500 additional auditors, agents and other employees to investigate and collect billions in new taxes from Americans;
  • Nearly half of all these new individual mandate taxes will be paid by Americans earning less than 300 percent of poverty ($66,150 for a family of four).

SPECIAL EXEMPTION: The Senate-passed bill prohibits the IRS from imposing these taxes and penalties on illegal immigrants.

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