When N.J. Senate Democrats quietly rammed through legislation this week awarding a VERY small group of elected officials reentry into New Jersey’s weakest-in-the-country pension system, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) offered little more than a verbal shrug.
“If you tell me you’re adding four or five or maybe 25 people to a pension system that has 800,000 people involved in it and that’s going to hurt the pension system, it’s not true,” Sweeney told reporters.
Not the point, Senator! Not even close.
What is? First: At a time when things ARE so awful for taxpayers in this state, to the point where Trenton needs to conduct a study to figure out why millennials don’t want to stay here, politicians bending over backwards to pad one another’s bottom lines is grossly immoral and a bad look for those souls searching for signs of positive change before giving up, packing up, and leaving the Garden State for good.
Secondly: this is hardly an isolated, forgivable incident as these Senators would have you believe. Their behavior is merely symptomatic of a larger culture of a institutional corruption, one which has made New Jersey infamous and provided enough material for a New York Times bestselling book, veteran APP columnist Bob Ingle’s Soprano State.
In terms of scale? The ruling elite in Trenton is worse than the mob, folks, because even at its height of power, the real life inspirations for Don Corleone and Tony Soprano were never able to steal (and waste) TENS OF BILLIONS of private citizens’ and businesses’ dollars in a single legal jurisdiction as the destruction of our pension system demonstrates, and as U.S. Senator Bob Menendez’s recent mistrial demonstrated, most of the stomach-churning stuff contained in the pages of Bob Ingle’s aforementioned catalog of public sector villainy was perfectly legal! And still is today.
When someone DOES take a stand, at least by all outward appearances? As evidenced by Chris Christie’s 2009 campaign or, more recently, Steve Sweeney’s defensive war with the NJEA? The purported good guys’ motivations ultimately prove something less than noble. In the end, the political carnage is little more than what you’d expect to see when one rival gang transgresses upon the territory of another. Christie never really cared about turning Trenton upside down; he was powering his way to the big table and promptly cut deals with most of the people he once promised to jail in order to build a narrative for a presidential campaign. And Sweeney, who once accused the NJEA of ‘extortion’ over a pension legislation fight, clearly didn’t give that much of a damn about the system’s integrity since he was just willing to change the rules to benefit a handful of political allies.
There are no good guys in this game, Save Jerseyans. Just political “gangsters” differentiated only by a “D” or “R” and the end of their names, only we don’t call them gangsters because the voters of this state – by their votes or their abstentions (only a third of registered voters participated in November’s gubernatorial election) – have given these guys a completely valid license to rob us all blind.
Knowing how things would shake out? I’m convinced the fictional Hyman Roth would’ve chosen New Jersey over Cuba. In a heartbeat. He’d have been crazy not to. What these politicians are doing to us is untouchable by even the most capable U.S. attorney or state prosecutor because, again, it’s LEGAL; only the voters themselves can put an end to it all.
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