Thursday, July 06, 2006

I told you so.

David W. Chen, "Casinos Are Shut in Atlantic City in Budget Crisis," The New York Times, July 6, 2006, at p. A1.
Laura Masnerus, "Policy and Personalities Behind the Standoff Over Taxes, A Struggle for Party Control," The New York Times, July 6, 2006, at p. B4.

"... Many [legislators] say -- although rarely for attribution -- that the real chess match here is between Mr. Corzine and the Camden Organization, [or "family"?] personified by Mr. Roberts and George E. Norcross III, one of the party's most formidable power brokers." (p. B4.)

Notice what we are told between the lines:

"Mr. Norcross, a former Camden County Democratic Party Chairman, is not only a political ally and former business partner of Mr. Roberts, but the patron [or boss?] of many other South Jersey Democrats. [Has anybody read Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men?] Nor does his influence end there, since the Camden County organization sends money to Democratic candidates all over the state." (p. B4.)

Assemblyman Robert A. Merkt (R), one of the few elected officials or citizens who is not intimidated by the South Jersey machine -- not to mention little old me -- has also been blunt in his criticisms:

"This is a power-struggle by South Jersey political boss George Norcross to display his power over the governor of New Jersey."

Since the Governor is the people's elected official representative, "power" wielded over Corzine -- by any non-elected person -- would amount to lording over the state's residents. Such power would be, or is, extra-Constitutional. The word for that in political science is "dictatorship."

"It's a battle that is long overdue," Mr. Merkt said, "If I have to choose between an elected official and a hidden Cardinal Richelieu-type, I'll take the elected official every time." (p. B4.)

"Mr. Corzine, as the most visible figure in the budget battle, stands to bear the brunt of voters' anger if the shut down continues for long. But, so far, he is receiving favorable reviews for his stubbornness from some legislators in both parties." (p. B4.)

And now consider this "Editorial," in The Daily News, July 6, 2006, at p. 40:

"New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has partially shut down government services in a dramatic bid to impose fiscal order on a state sliding toward bankruptcy. Good for him."

Efforts to place the blame for this crisis on Corzine, on the part of those who are really responsible for it, are not working:

"In his first confrontation with the Trenton gang, Corzine has flatly refused to go along with their irresponsible modus operandi. No more raiding pension funds. No more recklessly running up debt. No more balancing the budget on a wing and a prayer. ... The assembly under Speaker Joseph Roberts must want to [hang on to] the bad old days of [New Jersey] spending cash it doesn't have. As of yesterday, [Robert's, or Norcross's?] house has not put forward a single counter proposal or passed a single piece of budget legislation."


"Corzine is doing his part to resolve the impasse. He's sleeping on a rollaway matress at the statehouse. He called the Legislature into special session on the Fourth of July and again yesterday, pleading for sanity. So far, none has materialized."

The crisis in New Jersey is indicative of a wider conflict in American society concerning national identity. Are we serious about our commitment to the Constitution and rule of law? Or is the U.S. government now the plaything of rich and powerful behind-the-scenes "bosses," who disregard the law of the land for purposes of self-enrichment and the accumulation of personal power? As Geraldo Rivera might say on Fox, "We report, you decide."

In New Jersey, at least, the opening of a vault under the Assembly building is likely to reveal a would-be political Al Capone or two, pulling srings and calling in favors, so as to wield power not in the public's interest, but in satisfaction of his, her or their own greed.

Judges and politicians -- even in New Jersey -- are only "entrusted" (think about that word, "entrusted") with power "on behalf of" the people, so that they may protect the people's interest along with the integrity of the Constitution.

At the center of that foundational document of our society is a view of the dignity of each human being, whose rights -- for example, to unfettered freedom of expression, even in web blogs -- may not be infringed and for whose collective benefit all public funds are to be spent.

I hope that New Jersey's "frozen" (or cowardly?) Supreme Court and Assembly "bloc" will not become an example for the rest of the country.

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