Thursday, September 1, 2011

Middle class fights back in New Jersey

state unions are fighting back against the anti- collective bargaining legislation passed earlier this year. The unions filed a class action yesterday seeking an injunction against the anti-union legislation as well as monetary damages, attorney's fees and costs associated with the lawsuit. Democratic State Senators and Assemblymen voted for the legislation. They are now presumably fair game in the upcoming election as well as the lawsuit.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Revolution of the Middle Class in America

Read: Revolution OF the Middle Class in America, NOT a middle class revolution. I note the difference because the middle class is not revolting. Although personally, I think it should. And should do it soon or perhaps should have done it yesterday or last month or better yet, last year.

I am referring to the most recent vote by the New Jersey Senate and Assembly which legislated collective bargaining rights of New Jersey's public unions. In particular, the effect of this legislation will be the hardest on the lower - paid workers in the New Jersey public unions. The legislation as we all now know, cut health care benefits and revised pension benefits. But the revolution of the middle class that is occurring is occurring against all middle class Americans, union or non-union.

Typically, a public union worker's family received better than average benefits. At some point, they will have to review the new plans available as to their particular costs. While they will still have health care benefits, the particular cost to each worker and the worker's family will increase up to several thousands of dollars. This is particularly upsetting for workers who earn less than $60,000 per year. An increase in health care premiums will invariably decrease their ability to spend money in other areas of their budget such as food, clothing, entertainment, etc.

This will likely have a negative impact on our local New Jersey enconomies. The less money workers have to spend, the less our consumer confidence is generally and the less local businesses will profit. It becomes a cycle of economic destruction.

The legislators who voted for this legislation came from both parties. And while I do not see a poll out yet, it appears to have come from both parties because of some measure of support from the public. The dog-eat-dog attitude has gotten the best of us.

Since Governor Chris Christie took office, he has engaged in warfare on public unions. First, with his attacks on teachers, and then on the rest of the public workers including police and firefighters.

What is shocking is the lack of outrage out there in the general public from non-union citizens. The reason I focus on the lack of outrage is because when you attack a particular segment of society, essentially scapegoating them for a particular set of ills in society, you let the powers that be crucify, justifiably or not, the scapegoated segment. The scapegoated segment then exponentially grows as it did in New Jersey since Governor Christie took over. Like I said, first, it was the teachers. Now it is all public workers. Soon it will be any middle class American.

The real problem is that the spread of ill toward toward public workers will grow to other members of the middle class in New Jersey. Remember, this "reform" that shut down collective bargaining for union members, will really only effect the middle class workers. We are not talking about reform of the high-end political appointees getting their benefits slashed. The impact is high on the middle class worker.

The backdrop is the national poor economy we have had since at least 2008. Analysts can point to many factors that can be seen as the cause of the economic downturn, but the biggest factor appears to be corporate greed. All figures for the corporate CEO's and Wall Street executives are rosy. They are raking in record profits. They have no worries.

But the middle class continues to suffer. And that is why the middle class needs to worry and start wondering how to dig themselves out. The revolution has occurred just without the participation of the middle class. The middle class has let this happen over the past few decades. According to MSNBC, the wages of middle class workers has dropped while the profits of the corporate world have grown over the last 30 years.

It has now culminated in the shameless attacks against collective bargaining rights. Next? What will be next? Will it be the end of unions? Private and public?

If so, the middle class will be powerless. Indeed, if there continues to even be a middle class. With no collective bargaining, middle class workers will fade. They will work longer hours, for less pay, with less benefits. Iindeed, the middle class has been working longer hours for less pay for the last 30 years. Even though the top executives have seen an increase in their bottom dollar, the middle class workers have not.

And so, that is the revolution of the middle class. Less pay and less benefits for longer hours. The recent New Jersey legislation will add to the revolution of the middle class by allowing unions to have less power to advocate for their workers' pay and benefits. The spread of economic decline of the middle class will grow to the private sector unions and the private sector workers who are not unionized.

It is the end of the middle class coming up. And that is why the revolution is late. Very late.

It has now been accepted by even Democratic elected leaders in our blue state. The general public should wake up to this problem instead of feeding off the anti-union pablum being fed to them. Because, unless you are one of the wealthy class taking helicopter flights on the taxpayer dime, you too will end up feeling left out. It is only a matter of time.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Commentary from readers on NJ police salaries, etc. Part 4

I promised to do a blog on commentary I requested from readers of forums. I posted my blog theme on several of the local forums, and statewide forums managed by I have been able to review most of them. For the most part, most of you believed that New Jersey pays very high salaries to the local police throughout the state. But some knew that New Jersey was not the home of the highest salaried police department in the nation. As you recall from my previous posts, the highest paid are in Long Island.
In any event, here are some of the comments......paraphrased for the most part....

Ramparts: Police, fire, teachers, clerks all deserve more. But what they deserve is irrelevant because taxpayers are tapped out.

ofda1: just to compare the average salaries of patrolmen, sergeants, etc. only tells a partial story. some towns are top heavy and total salaries are high although average salaries are not.

candid: they are way over paid and will eventually bankrupt the municipalities.

Ramparts: the current system is not sustainable. we cannot afford to pay pensions to those who retire at age 46.

jefflib: it doesn't matter if people retire at 46, it is if they collect at 46. Make them wait til whatever the SS collection age is.

TREEeditor2: stay away from average salaries. whatever the results NJ is still #1 highest in taxes.

lager150: whenever I look at my tax bill I see the highest portion of it going to the schools. and the smallest percentage of it goes to the municipality (for police, firemen, etc).

From the JUSTJERSEY Forum:
Studies: Nassau and Suffolk County PDS are the highest paid than any in NJ. And the NY system allows overtime to be calculated into the pension.

Jailerco: NJ police are not the highest paid but taxes are highest.

Wantageradi0: Probably NY, MA OR CA are the highest paid.

Really comments all in all.
Next part will be on property taxes as a whole. Why is New Jersey known as having the highest property taxes? Is it the way NJ funds schools?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The emphasis on regionalization of New Jersey's local police departments. Part Three

In the past two years, New Jersey has undergone some radical changes. In the name of lowering local property taxes, once elected, Governor Chris Christie sought to implement a series of reforms which was touted as the beginning of the end of New Jersey's high property taxes of which school taxes are the largest percentage.
In 2010, to begin his term as Governor, Christie lashed out at New Jersey's public school teachers. He campaigned for residents to vote against their school budgets. By doing so, Governor Christie created the opportunity to lower school taxes. Because school taxes in New Jersey are high, the rejection of school budgets created the opportunity to slash thousands of dollars. The end result was the cutting of services and programs that serve New Jersey's school children. Many teachers were also laid off. The school taxes though, did not go down. For the most part, the school taxes remained the same, even increasing in many situations as a result of Governor Christie withholding typical "aid" to the local school districts.
In 2011, Governor Christie took on other public workers. Part of this grouping invariably included New Jersey's local police officers. Because police costs are the largest portion of any municipality's budget (separate from school taxes), the police were the obvious focus. The pressure on municipality's could not be ignored. Governor Christie had the Legistlature pass a 2% cap on municipalities. Meaning, they could not raise property taxes over 2% of last year's budget. But, at the same time, Governor Christie, continued to withhold municipal "aid". Municipal "aid" in New Jersey is actually tax money paid from the municipality to the state. In years prior, this money was re-apportioned, and returned to the municipalities based on need assessments. This and last year, "aid" was severely cut. This has left a hole in many municipalities' budgets.
As a result, municipal workers are being laid off like never before. Police have seen lay offs amounting to an 11% loss in police officers throughout the state from 2009 to 2010. This year, the number has continued to increase.
The push is on. Taxpayers want relief. The question remains, relief at what cost?
Police are typically shielded by their unions, the PBA and FOP. But this year, the unions have not been successful in keeping their officers employed. In the largest municipality in New Jersey, Hamilton Township, Atlantic County, 13 police officers received pink slips. Protests ensued. Allegedly talks between the union and the municipality were ongoing with an eye toward keeping some of the officers who had received pink slips.
While most of the public is aware that New Jersey police officers earn high salaries, although not the highest in the nation, the public was not ready for the loss of police services. Seemingly shocked to learn that many police services would be lost, and were, the public in Hamilton Township is now left to deal with their loss.
With public safety ranking as one of the most serious responsibilities of the government, the current economic climate is creating a new source of uncertainty among police officers, the general public as well as municipal officials.
As a result, some creative ideas have been coming forth. One councilman from Roxbury Township in affluent Morris County has proposed regionalized police departments. He has founded the "Government Efficiency Movement" to streamline government services with lower taxes being the end in mind. To learn more about this move particular movement visit
Police regionalization would abandon the model we currently have in most of New Jersey. The municipal police departments would be dissolved and in their place a new model of a county-wide police department would take their place. Emphasizing far fewer police executives and supervisors, the model sponsored by the Government Efficiency Movement would divide counties into precincts with one police chief, and several captains in charge of each precinct. The model would eliminate many high level officers, through attrition rather than lay offs, which, in turn, would provide a savings to taxpayers. Additionally, the model would provide the sharing of other police services, such as fingerprinting equipment and criminal investigations. The savings that would be in Morris County has been said to be $50 million per year. While that is quite a chunk of money, would the taxpayers really be saving or would it amount to a very small reduction, if any, in their tax bills at the expense of the peace of mind and efficiency of service they have become accustomed to?
Unless and until a county actually takes over their municipalities' police functions, the outcomes will not truly be known.
Until then, the speculation is high. The political will on the part of many municipal elected officials is low. And the tax bills continue to rise. Collective bargaining needs to be revisited by the unions and the municipalities. They need to work harder. Otherwise, everyone may lose with regionalization. Or would they win? The thought can cause anxiety in residents who question the effectiveness of regionalizized department as compared to a local department.
The question I ask is, why have we begun regionalization with police services rather than with school districts? After all, school taxes are the largest chunk of a homeowner's property tax bill. Another question for another day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where is the highest paid police department in the USA? Part Two

The highest paid police department in the USA is not in New Jersey. It is in New York. More specifically, Long Island. Suffolk County Police earn the highest salaries in the USA.
They are followed closely by Nassau County Police, also on Long Island.
Notice the pension contributions in both the Suffolk County and Nassau County police departments. They are both NON-contributory.
New Jersey police are paid well. But the fact remains, the highest paid police departments are in New York.
The old saying that goes, "numbers don't lie, people do" may be applicable here. But I suspect the numbers are used by people to garner support for a particular agenda. Also, the people who claim New Jersey police are the highest paid in the nation, may also have been looking at the numbers a certain way. A way which doesn't tell the whole story. For instance, the average salaries of police in New Jersey were reported by the Newark Star Ledger,

The numbers are clear but why is it the reporter did not take into account the Suffolk County and Nassau County salaries? My assumption is that the reporter was basing the "average" salaries across the state. The average police salary across New York State is lower than the average salary of the across New Jersey. But the point is, New York State, not New Jersey, is home to the highest paid police in the nation. The point of this blog post is that the law of averages, doesn't necessarily add up.
Part Three tomorrow.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Highest Paid Police in the USA? Part One

Most of us Jerseyans have heard that New Jersey has the highest paid police in the USA. I first read that sometime last year in a column written by George Will. I was pretty much amazed. My surprise was not at the thought that local New Jersey police were the highest paid in the USA (although I did find myself wondering how and why that was). But my surprise was that it was a conservative pundit putting this information out. And in his column, George Will also made mention that Governor Chris Christie was agreeing that NJ local police were the highest paid in the nation. And, the column noted Governor Christie was going to do battle with the local police to change that statistic. My surprise was based on the fact that most law enforcement officers in New Jersey are pretty much Republican and/or conservative when it comes to politics. I know that not all police are on the right wing of the political spectrum, but it is pretty much a given that most are.

When I was reading the George Will article, Governor Christie was in the middle of taking down the teachers of New Jersey. He was having his way with them. He was smearing the profession while trying to kill off the largest teachers union in the state, the NJEA.

It was Governor Christie's campaign promise after all....he was going to reduce New Jersey's property taxes. So of course, all those who work for the local governments in New Jersey were fair game. Alright, but who would of thought he would go after the local police?

I have to admit, they do get paid well. And the benefits are quite handsome. If you want to know how many times I had thought about their salaries and wondered why they get paid so much, you would need more than 2 hands to count. On the other hand, these days many local police departments do require a college degree. And local police are expected to be professional. They also deal with dangerous and mentally unstable people every day. They view horrific sites. They face the possibility of great harm and, possibly, death each day. Their jobs are like the game of russian just never know when you may meet the crazy murderous criminal that will end your life.

If some of you are wondering about the dangers, just think of what happened in Lakewood in January. Officer Matlosz lost his life on a day and in a situation I am sure he never expected to.

But then again, I am no bleeding heart when it comes to police. There are many fine, dedicated and professional officers. Unfortunately, there are many dirty, lying, poorly trained and plain unprofessional officers (I am being kind in my wording). I know it for a fact. The problem comes in when we as the general public don't see both sides.

The bad side is usually hidden. Occasionally we will get a glimpse of the "bad cop". But typically, the badness, is not shown by the press or the rest of the law enforcement community. The law enforcement community generally back each other up. I think it is called the "thin blue line". They stick together, if for nothing else, their own personal job security and professional safety. If a cop goes bad, who is to blame? Is it the entire profession or just the one cop. Or is it the department or supervisors? Or all of the above? That is another question for another day.

The real focus here is the salary issue. The prior discussion is relevant because pay must be based on the question of job responsibilities and requirements. For instance, for many years, the Mexican police were readily known as being corrupt. The stated reason was that they were paid very poorly and they had to make money some how. So they abused their power. In the United States, I am hoping it never comes to that level. Paying New Jersey police a decent salary is necessary because it is an extremely dangerous and stressful job. But what makes New Jersey so special that it requires our local police to earn the highest salaries in the nation? After all, if they are the highest paid in the nation, New York City police do not earn as much as New Jersey police. And, I am sure you will agree, New York City is generally thought of as more dangerous than most of New Jersey. Well, except for maybe Camden, Newark, Jersey City, Atlantic City, etc. I would place those New Jersey cities on par with New York City.

And then, if we accept that New Jersey police are the highest paid in the nation, we are also saying that police in Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, .....well, you get the picture...are underpaid. Or is it that their jobs are easier than New Jersey police?
It is confusing. I am not going to get into statistics too much. Because it is not necessary. I FOUND THE HIGHEST PAID POLICE DEPARTMENT IN NEW JERSEY AND IT IS NOT IN NEW JERSEY. WHERE DO YOU THINK IT IS?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lazy me

I sincerely apologize for not writing a blog.  Personal issues took over for a little while.  I am on the trail to writing some interesting stuff soon.  One is a discussion of whether or not, in the post-Wisconsin world of anti public unions, are New Jersey's local police truly the highest paid in the nation or ..... not.  Well, if you would like, comment here....put your thoughts out there because I would like to hear from you. 

Another future blog post will focus on our municipal property taxes.  I include in this analysis the dreaded school property taxes.  Granted, it is a complex issue, but I believe we Jerseyans need to know what on earth we, of all people, are doing ....are we paying the highest property taxes in the nation?  Isn't this the claim by all, or at least most of us?  New Jersey does have high property taxes but why? WHY?  Any interesting and/or intelligent comments on this topic are welcome. 
Thanks.  And I hope to have some good stuff written next week.