Monday, March 23, 2009

Senator Menendez Resonds To My Stimulus Concerns; 2 1/2 Months Later

I wrote my Representative and my two Senators in late January regarding reckless spending in the $800 Billion CRAPulus Spending Bill. I noted the following disgusting government waste with respect to Federal funding for digital cable converter boxes for the nearly 6.5 million people still using "rabbit ears" for television reception.

We've already spent $1,340,000,000 on these "coupons"? The Democrats want to add $650 million more bringing the total to nearly $2 billion? That's about $300 per converter box. But the boxes only cost between $40 and $80 right? Still with me? $300 per viewer for something that even on the high end costs $80. So, even assuming no one will go out and purchase the boxes with their own money and assuming that there is an extra $120 per viewer that is "missing" or "misused"... where is the other $780 Million? No, really? Where is it?

My Republican Representative sent me a ridiculous form letter response which had absolutely nothing to do with the question I had asked.

In haste and frustration, I deleted it from my In Box.

Senator Lautenberg responded a little over a week ago.

Here's another BS response from my other Senator. Yup, it only took 2 1/2 months to respond. What a joke.

Thank you for contacting me regarding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Your opinion is very important to me, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to you on this critical issue.

It is clear that we are in the midst of the worst economic recession in generations. In today's tough economic times, far too many Americans are facing lower wages, fewer employment opportunities, increased consumer debt and higher costs for basic necessities. Last year 2.3 million homes were foreclosed and 3.6 million Americans lost their jobs, including 63,000 in New Jersey alone. Unemployment has skyrocketed to 8.1%, the highest level in over 16 years. To make matters worse, the collapse of the stock market has drained pension accounts and personal savings, leaving millions of Americans uncertain about their retirements, and in some cases, one step away from financial disaster.

If ever there were a time for government action, it's now. Struggling families and businesses on the brink of bankruptcy simply cannot afford anything less. That's why I supported ARRA to put our economy back on track, create jobs by investing in projects critical to our nation's future, and provide tax relief for millions of Americans. Combined with unprecedented accountability and transparency, this recovery package will restore desperately-needed stability and usher in a new era of economic prosperity.

As middle class families get squeezed tighter and tighter, it is vital to provide tax relief to alleviate pressure and allow people to keep more money in their pockets. The recovery package recognizes this and includes approximately $230 billion in tax relief for hard working Americans. Specifically, it includes an amendment I introduced to patch the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which, if left unaddressed, would have unexpectedly hit more than one million New Jerseyans costing them up to $5,600 each.

In addition to protecting families from a sudden tax increase, the recovery package provides 95 percent of families with a tax break through the Making Work Pay credit. This credit on payroll taxes will provide the average working family up to $800, putting money back into people's pockets so that they can pay their bills and support their families. The ARRA also includes expansions to the earned income and the child tax credits to help low income working families get through these difficult times. Additionally, this package includes tax incentives for businesses to make new investments, hire new employees, and create jobs to get Americans back to work.

While it is important to provide working families with tax relief, it is equally important that we make a committed investment in our nation's future while creating jobs in the process. On this front, the recovery package will create millions of new jobs by investing in necessary projects to repair and modernize our crumbling roads, bridges, and buildings for the 21st century. It includes investments in building efficiency, renewable fuels, clean vehicles, mass transit and home weatherization. These upgrades will be energy efficient and environmentally friendly, as well as create jobs that can never be outsourced. These investments will not only better prepare our nation to compete in the 21st century, but they will also provide an immediate boost to our struggling economy.

As a result of this economic crisis, millions of Americans have already fallen upon hard times, and it seems like more and more join them daily. We need to make a bold investment to allow workers who have lost their jobs to keep their families afloat and develop skills necessary to find and maintain long-term employment. The recovery bill includes immediate relief to these individuals who cannot wait even another day for help. It incentivizes states to develop innovative reforms and provides benefits for more than half a million workers who have fallen through the cracks of unemployment programs. New Jersey, in particular, will receive more than $208 million for unemployment benefits, which will mitigate the need to raise state taxes. Additionally, the recovery bill suspends federal income taxes on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits, easing the pressure on families where one or more members have lost their jobs. Unemployment insurance not only helps families navigate the stormy seas of economic uncertainty, it also makes good economic sense as every dollar put in the hands of a temporarily displaced worker generates $1.64 in immediate economic growth.

As more and more people lose their jobs, it is more critical now than ever to invest in job training programs so people can leave the unemployment rolls and become gainfully employed. That is why the recovery bill includes $4 billion for worker training and employment services so our workers can adapt and remain competitive in the cutting edge industries of the 21st century. These investments will create jobs that cannot be outsourced and will help revitalize the American industrial workforce, which has struggled over the last eight years.

In addition to helping adults retrain for new jobs, we must also commit ourselves to the future of our nation by investing in our schools. Far too many children in New Jersey are studying in crumbling classrooms that were built over a hundred years ago, putting their future in jeopardy. That is why the recovery bill provides important investments for education, particularly in school construction. The ARRA will provide funds to modernize at least 205 New Jersey schools, providing safe and healthy learning environments for our children, as well as bringing modern technology to classrooms. Our students deserve nothing less than the best science labs, computer technology and classroom apparatus so they may reach their fullest potential.

Once students graduate from high school, they need to have the resources to attend higher education and reach their full potential. The recovery bill does just that by increasing Pell grants by $500, and creating a new $2,500 tax credit for college students and their families. As the first member of my family to attend college, I have deep appreciation for the benefits of a quality college education. I wouldn't have been able to go from the small tenement apartment I grew up in to the halls of the United States Senate if it weren't for federal assistance programs. As your United States Senator, I am dedicated to ensuring all students have access to a quality, affordable education and rest assured, I will work until it is a birthright for all children.

While we needed to act swiftly to get our economy back on track, it was just as important to include strong oversight and transparency provisions in order to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse. As such, the entire recovery bill is available online for public review, with every provision clearly laid out. The new law also requires the President to report quarterly on the plan's progress, which will be carefully reviewed by a newly established oversight panel.

Our economic turmoil did not appear overnight, and it certainly will not be fixed quickly either. It is important that we provide thoughtful and comprehensive strategies to not only weather the current storm, but also strengthen the foundations of our economy and avoid future disasters. While not perfect, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is truly an investment in the resolve and resiliency of the American people. I am confident that with the right investments and a great amount of hard work, we can jumpstart innovation, increase our global competitiveness and get the world's strongest economy back on track.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of more assistance. I invite you to visit my website to learn of other important issues to New Jersey.

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