Taxes – New Jersey Style


A couple of weeks ago the radio station 101.5 decided to flex its muscles when it threw a rally in front of the statehouse in Trenton. The station’s intention, it seemed, was to show its leadership and character as a protector of the middle class from supposed taxing tyrants like our Governor Corzine. People were to bring with them their empty wallets and dump them into a casket which in turn would be brought into the statehouse through the front door. Radio whiz kids denounced the Governor, and what was an anti tax rally by the radio station became a partisan gathering. They had a good time roundly denouncing the Democratic Party and urged people to register to vote in the party’s primary against Governor Corzine. The festivities lasted for an hour or so, and then people left. The aging bikers left, the man dressed as death left, the angry white suburban women left. And then it was over. The radio station promptly announced that despite views to the contrary, the rally was a success. It had drawn nearly 1000 people—so said their morning pseudo-intellectual to listeners. Indeed, a testament to the public’s feeling was this large turnout.

If this is so, I did not see it. I watched from my office across the street from where I witnessed about 150 people shuffling back and forth in front of 130 West State Street: not anywhere near 1000.

The rally was a real bust. Despite the feelings we all have about taxes in New Jersey, this rally did not make a good case for popular outrage. Maybe Corzine is not all that unpopular after all, especially when people are really more concerned about jobs and the economy.

Considering the last rally the radio station had, this was a sad imitation. The disc jockeys previously had organized a huge gathering of strippers to protest the passing of a bill which enacted the smoking ban. Back then, thousands did indeed turn out and they chanted deliciously against the ban on our civil liberties. Buses imported strippers from Pennsylvania to indicate their solidarity. It was a feat to behold. The bill did pass, though the detriment for business never did reach the level so feared by bartenders. We are living rather well with it, and employees (including strippers and waitresses) are not choking on the fumes.

The radio station that organized both parades is really impressed with its own power. 101.5’s estimation of its own ability is based on the memory of a time when it helped organize a movement against Governor Florio’s tax increases decades. They long to repeat that victory, though times have changed. We are worried about the economy and the future of our families. We have hated taxes, but we recognize that we need concerted government action to deal with our problems. Leaving life to the forces of the market place is just not the way to go. Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand are dead as prophets of social action. Because we are facing some of the same problems with declining stock prices, bad banks, foreign trade, and high unemployment we have again rediscovered the New Deal. And just as those New Dealers in our past once taxed and regulated, so too must we now.

So the middle class needs help, and it is not the demagogic rallies of news men who make $200k a year that are going to help. We need a new community life with programs that will indeed help us weather the storm.

And while we have animosity toward our politicians it is hard to imagine what we would do if we did not have some of the safety nets they have put in place over the years.

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