We predict that our state’s next senator will be a staunch supporter of the State of Israel, and a dear and close friend of Jewish communities in New Jersey and worldwide. He or she will do all that is constitutionally allowable to ease the pressure on the shoulders of day school parents locally, while increasing the pressure on the people of Iran to reverse that country’s rush to build a bomb.
With that out of the way, we can concentrate on other issues, such as how the federal government can help kickstart “the New Jersey comeback” Gov. Chris Christie touted for most of 2012, but has now all but admitted has not yet begun.
New Jersey’s unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, 1.2 percent higher than the national average and higher than those of our three neighbors – Pennsylvania (7.6 percent), New York (7.8 percent), and Connecticut (8 percent). What role, if any, the four Democrats and two Republicans vying for the seat see for themselves in restoring the state’s economy, and what role, if any, do they see for the federal government?
Where do the candidates stand on Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act? Because New Jersey opted out of establishing a health insurance exchange, that task for Garden Staters falls on Washington. As many as 28 percent of New Jerseyans thus may be ineligible for financial aid to buy health insurance – because they do not have checking accounts. Most insurers require payment by check only; no debit or credit cards accepted. (A state-run exchange would have set its own rules.) Other states that opted out face a similar problem, because it is estimated that 27 percent of people nationwide have no checking account. How will the next senator deal with this problem – or will he or she? No one in Washington until now has been willing to do so.
For four years in a row, the state’s poverty rate has gone up. In 2006, 8.8 percent of New Jerseyans lived below the poverty level; it hit 11.4 percent last year. (Numbers for this year are not yet available.)
What about the state’s aging infrastructure? It is said that we have one of the best-protected water systems in the country, but the aging pipes in that system leak away at least one-fifth of our water supply each year. The cost to repair the system: $40 billion plus. Our highways and bridges desperately need upgrading; most notably, the Pulaski Skyway will require a billion-dollar rebuild. It is estimated that to do all the work necessary to repair the state’s bridges and roads will require an infusion of nearly $22 billion over the next five years.
We can go on, but the point is made. There are critical issues facing New Jersey for which the national government may have a role to play. We already know where the next senator stands on Israel, issues of specific Jewish concerns (tax credits), and so forth; all six candidates stand in the exact same place. We need to choose a new senator based on how he or she stands on the issues truly critical to the Garden State.