Senatorial Battle

The Senatorial Battle

Booker vs. Bell

On November 4, New Jersey residents will go to the polls to elect a Senator from New Jersey. The candidates are Democratic incumbent Cory Booker, who won his seat last year in a special election, and Republican challenger Jeffrey Bell, who last ran for US Senate in the Garden State back in 1978 and 1982. As expected, both men hold different views in a variety of areas including healthcare reform, immigration, economic policy and certain social issues. However, they both believe in, and strive to create, a strong economy for New Jersey and the nation.

New Jersey Business magazine Editor-in-Chief Anthony Birritteri had the opportunity to sit down with both candidates, on two separate occasions, to obtain their responses to questions on key business issues. The purpose of these interviews is to inform our businesses readers so that they can make educated decisions when they go to the polls. 

We begin this special feature with profiles on Booker and Bell. An in-depth question and answer section follows.

Jeffery Bell Profile
Cory Booker Profile
Cory Booker Interview
Jeffery Bell Interview

Jeffery Bell

A Profile
Back to Top

Jeffrey Bell says he is running for US Senate because of the “frustration in Washington.” He spent the last four years as policy director of the American Principles Project, a public policy organization he co-founded that is dedicated to advancing conservative principles and ideas. There, he worked on monetary reform which included reverting to the gold-backed dollar. This is one of Bell’s major campaign issues today, as well as getting the Federal Reserve to stop its near 0 percent interest rate policy so that, in his view, community banks can open the lending spigot to small businesses and get the economy growing.

He tells New Jersey Business, “I just couldn’t get members of Congress and presidential candidates to take on the issue of monetary reform. So, rather suddenly, this past January, I decided to come back and do it myself.”

The comeback the 70-year-old candidate talks about is his return to elected politics and campaigning. It has been 30 years since he last lived in New Jersey. In 1978, at age 34, Bell became the New Jersey Republican Party nominee for US Senate when he defeated four-term incumbent Clifford Case. In the general election, he ran against Democrat Bill Bradley, but lost by margin of 55 percent to 43 percent.

Four years later, he ran again for Senate in a special election, but was defeated in the Republican primary by Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick.

Bell’s life before and after these races has been eventful. After graduating from Columbia University, he served in the US Army as an intelligence advisor to the South Vietnamese infantry during the Tet Offensive. Upon returning home from Vietnam in 1968, he joined Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign staff and wrote speeches for the candidate. He went to work for Ronald Reagan in 1974 and would develop Reagan’s first proposals for federal tax and spending reduction for Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign. During Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, Bell was elected from New Jersey as a delegate to the Republican National Convention. He also worked on Republican Jack Kemp’s presidential campaign in 1998.

From 1988-2000, Bell served as president of Lehrman Bell Mueller Cannon, Inc., an economic forecasting and consulting firm. As a principle of Capital City Partners from 2000-2010, he worked on promoting comprehensive immigration reform, President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiatives, combatting human trafficking and other issues. He has also served as a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy Institute of Politics, visiting professor at the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University and the DeWitt Wallace Fellow in Communications at the American Enterprise Institute. From 1978 to 1980, he served as president of the Manhattan Institute.

He is the author of two books, “The Case for Polarized Politics: Why America Needs Social Conservatism” (2012) and “Populism and Elitism: Politics in the Age of Equality” (1992).

Bell and his wife Rosalie have been married since 1983 and have three sons and one daughter ranging in ages from 19 to 28. He currently resides in Leonia.

Cory Booker 

A Profile

Back to Top
US Senator Cory A. Booker remembers two things his father once told him regarding the family’s move from poverty to living in Harrington Park, Bergen County. The first concerned the idea of equality in this country … “This is a country where you can have free and equal access to make the best of yourself,” the first African-American Senator from New Jersey remembers his father saying. The second was that a booming economy helped the family climb the economic ladder. For the 45-year-old Senator and former two-term Newark mayor, the later item is what this country needs to get back to; a booming economy.

As he seeks to be elected for what would be his first full-term in the US Senate, and ever since he won a special election last October to fill the seat left vacant due to Senator Frank Lautenberg’s death, Booker says he has been and will continue to work with colleagues on both sides of the isle to grow the nation’s economy.

Booker’s path in public service can be traced back to his college days when he served as senior class president at Stanford University. There, he received a bachelor’s degree in political science (1991) and a master’s degree in sociology (1992). He then attended The Queen’s College, University of Oxford in England, as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving a graduate degree in 1994. In 1997, he earned his Juris Doctor from Yale Law School, where he operated free legal clinics for low-income residents in New Haven.

He served on the Newark City Council from 1998-2002. In January of 2002, he announced his candidacy for Newark Mayor, but lost the election to longtime incumbent, Sharpe James. In early 2006, he again announced his candidacy for mayor. James initially filed papers to run, but then dropped out of the race. Newark Deputy Mayor Ronald Rice was James’ replacement. Booker defeated him by garnering more than 72 percent of the vote … the largest landslide in Newark history.

Since his rise in Newark politics, Booker has been dubbed a “Rock Star Mayor” by Oprah Winfrey. He has earned this nomenclature by, among other things: being a social media wizard (he has 1.48 million twitter followers); persuading Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million to Newark’s school system in 2010; raising money in Silicon Valley, New York City and Los Angeles; and giving speeches at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Others call him “Superhero Mayor” as he once: ran into a burning building in Newark to save a woman (obtaining second degree burns to his hands); went on a 10-day hunger strike (as a Newark councilman in 1999) as a crusade against drug dealing; and, during his 2006 campaign for mayor, was the target of an assassination plot by Bloods gang leaders.

Today in the Senate, Booker serves on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and Environment and Public Works Committee. As he looks to retain his seat, the 45-year-old Senator says he is focused on making New Jersey “a better environment for entrepreneurs … for people who have ideas, want to start businesses and see them grow.”

Senator Cory Booker Responds to Questions on Key Business Issues

Back to Top

Q: What are the top concerns of most small businesses in the state and across the nation? What needs to be done to help companies with these issues?

A: As Mayor of Newark, we did a lot to pull small businesses together and hear directly from them. We saw the significant patterns and challenges they faced. One was the cost of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, two was tax issues and three, access to capital.

What we did then and what we are doing now is helping businesses gain access to capital. There are many more levels and avenues [to access capital] than people realize.

I have been in office for just 10 months, but I have already [been to] five different forums attended by hundreds of New Jersey businesses to talk about finding capital. This includes going to the Small Business Administration and talking about available funding, especially for women-run and non-traditional businesses that don’t normally get their share [of financing] that they should.

There are also new creative ways of gaining access to capital, like online platforms such as Kiva.

Regarding tax reform, it is unconscionable that we have a 35 percent corporate tax rate in our country. It doesn’t compare against peer [countries]. It is driving unfortunate realities like the number of corporate inversions. I am one of the voices in Washington who is fighting to drive the corporate tax rate down dramatically and create a predictable tax environment, which businesses now don’t have and makes them hold onto cash and not make investments.

Finally, the cost of FTEs is hurting our economy as a whole as more and more businesses are not hiring. This is why I am leading a lot of Democrats and Republicans to look at fixes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA, as a whole, is going to drive down healthcare costs. Even the Congressional Budget Office is saying the ACA will help the country’s deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars. Still, small businesses over the (50 FTE) employment threshold see this as an added expense. (A company with 50 FTE employees must adhere to the employer mandate of the ACA and offer “affordable minimal essential coverage” to full-time workers or pay a penalty). So, we are looking at fixes for that … it’s anything we can do to start driving down the cost of hiring people.

Q: Employers are facing a shortage of workers with a proper combination of technical and employability skills. How can we better align today’s K-12 education system with available jobs in the workforce?

A: It is interesting that we have, in our country right now, a high unemployment rate, while there are actually millions of jobs in America that are open because we don’t have the skilled people to fill them. That shows a gap not in the quality and competency of our workers, but in the training they are receiving to plug them into the high-skilled jobs.

I am a huge booster of the Perkins program, because it gives high schools and K-12 educators some of the resources they need to invest in technical training. I was in Bergen County visiting one of its technical training high schools and saw what the Perkins funding went towards: everything from automotive training to other skills-based training. They were creating great linkages with industry, in this case BMW, to create pathways for jobs, while receiving the needed in-school training.

Finally, the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act, which I introduced with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), is creating incentives for businesses to take on apprentices. If you look at our peer countries that are doing much better than us in filling the skills gap, one of the most dramatic differences you see is that they have robust apprenticeship programs. America needs to shift to that.

Q: The manufacturing industry is not as large as it once was in New Jersey, but manufacturers provide good jobs, high wages and generous benefits. What initiatives are you leading to support and expand the manufacturing industry?

A: This goes back to the core of what I was doing as a mayor. We brought all the manufacturers in Newark, together. There were hundreds of manufacturers employing thousands of people. Again, we asked them about their needs and what can we be helping them with. A lot of it was not having a pipeline of highly skilled people. Again, I am working with a team of senators who are working on the manufacturing issue and looking at tax credit programs that can support the training and hiring of people.

Another issue is exports. It is unconscionable that the Senate is going to debate the renewal of the Export-Import Bank of the Unites States, which is something that is so obvious to me. There are a lot of folks trying to stop it, but here is a government agency that actually made money for the US; over a billion dollars last year alone. We have been doing things that incentivize businesses to move their manufacturing operations overseas. We need to create the investment here. A good example of that is having a tax policy that benefits domestic manufacturing and doesn’t incentivize and give advantages to foreign competitors.

Q: What is your position on federal paid sick leave policy as described in the Health Families Act? Would or wouldn’t this add an extra cost to small business growth and expansion?

A: When I talk to business leaders who have paid family leave already, they talk about the benefit it does for their companies in retaining employees, lowering turnover and creating a more competitive place to attract employees. So I am definitely one of those people who want to explore having a paid family leave system.

Q: What are your thoughts on how to create jobs and spur economic growth? 

A: We need to be a nation that starts to invest and grow our economy and cut investment in things that zap our tax dollars away. One of the things I am fighting for is criminal justice reform. This is important because New Jersey taxpayers spend billions of dollars per year in locking up non-violent drug offenders and others at a great cost to taxpayers. This also undermines non-violent offenders’ long-term economic growth. They then usually fall back [in prison] and that starts costing us money.

We can be investing in infrastructure. You take a state like ours, which has one of the nation’s greatest transportation superstructures … ports, rail, etc. Every dollar invested in infrastructure here creates $1.44 in economic growth and job opportunities.

I also support things like the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and flood insurance, which can help with property values and keep a lot of small businesses running. And let’s not forget about one of the long-term drivers of economic growth: tax reform as a whole.

Q: Should job growth initiatives focus solely on growth sectors in New Jersey or all types of industries for all types of jobs?

A: In a time of limited economic resources, we have to be prudent with how we are investing those resources. So for me, focusing on growth industries is critical. At the same time, there are a lot of things, across the board, promoting growth for all businesses. Those things range from tax policy [reform], infrastructure investment and workforce training.

We should continue to create tax incentives, like research and development tax credits and medical research tax credits for the state’s growth industries.

Additionally, in Washington, one of my main themes is to build bridges with Republican friends to get real legislation done. Senator Mark Rubio (R-FL) and I are saying that government is hording too much [wireless broadband] spectrum and we need to move more spectrum into the private marketplace. It is important to me that we begin to have a bipartisan coalition around pro-growth strategies.

People don’t know this, but when I was mayor of Newark, we could not find any of the state’s 566 municipalities that cut government more than we did. We cut our workforce 25 percent. I have demonstrated the effort to cut and trim government where necessary. But we never pulled back on the types of things we could invest in … that could create a boom in our economy. Newark represents three percent of the state’s population, but, when I was mayor, we accounted for about one-third of all economic growth in New Jersey as measured by commercial and multifamily square footage growth.

Q: What do you think about the way Washington has been handling immigration reform? Where do you stand on the issue?

A: I think it is horrific that a country this great, built on immigration, has not moved on comprehensive immigration reform. This is something that is hurting us. It’s a self-inflicted wound. What immigration reform can do for long-term economic and GDP growth is incredible. The Senate, right before I arrived, came together and passed a bi-partisan compromise. We have to get that through the House for obvious reasons. Take H-1B visas for example; there is a startling shortage of H-1B visas in our country. The legislation in the Senate would increase this significantly – not necessarily enough for me – allowing foreigners with high-tech skills to come to our country and contribute to our economy. In addition to that, people like the Dreamers – those who have been here since they were six-months old, one-year or two-years old – have gone through our schools, gone through our colleges and, in many cases, are ready to contribute … these are the kinds of folks for which we need to have a good, comprehensive policy. You can say there are a lot of reasons for this … humanitarian, moral and historical, but perhaps the most compelling one is the economic growth that will come about by having a sound immigration policy.

Right now, we have many workers coming into our state to do menial jobs who live off of the books. We are not gaining tax revenues from them. Having a sound, sensible policy that will take these people from the underground and allow them to live lawful lives, where they are contributing everything from taxes to other areas, is a significant boon to our economy as a whole.

Q: What are your plans to help reduce healthcare costs for employers and employees?

A: The fact that hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans are now getting health insurance will drop the cost to all taxpayers supporting a system, that is too costly right now, in a significant way.

Preventative care for people is a big fix, so people aren’t getting their medical care in emergency rooms. We have to figure out other ways to drop the costs to small businesses. If they are below the [employer mandate] threshold number, they can participate in a competitive marketplace for health insurance. That will help to drive down costs.

There are a lot of fixes to the ACA that I am looking at. I am meeting and talking with some of my Democratic colleagues about tweaking the hourly wage numbers that are forcing people into 30 hour part-time jobs. As mentioned, it’s an unintended consequence in the number of employees hired.

Another initiative is removing the medical device tax, so that we can eliminate a cost to medical device businesses in our state.

Q: What are your thoughts about US energy policy? How would you help deliver more affordable energy to US homes and businesses?

A: We have to pursue what is America’s modern day goal … to become energy independent, especially with our natural gas finds. We must create an energy policy that is environmentally cautious, but, at the same time, avails us to the abundance of energy resources.

Energy costs can be an advantage in the long run in lowering the cost of manufacturing and making this country more competitive. There are certain things we have to do: No. 1, since New Jersey still has a large reliance on nuclear power, we need a sensible federal policy that helps to stabilize [nuclear energy] and incentivizes what I think is a good form of alternative energy that doesn’t use traditional fossil fuels; No. 2, New Jersey is one of the nation’s solar leaders. We need to make sure we have a solar policy that continues to incentivize what I believe is a very strong play for the state. I also think we need to continue to be on the cutting edge of other types of renewables, and New Jersey has everything from biofuel players all the way to folks conducting R&D in battery life as well as solar cells.

So it’s a balanced energy policy that, right now, our federal government doesn’t have.

Q: What is your view on the safety of fracking?

A: I have great concerns and those concerns come from the evidence. I have a saying, “In God We Trust … but everybody else, bring me data.” When I look at the data around fracking, I see a lot of very bad practices, from the slurry that goes into the ground and comes out, and what is done with that slurry, to the methane that is being released into the air. We should find better ways of capturing that so it doesn’t pollute our atmosphere. This is something to which we have to pay lot of attention. We have to make sure fracking is properly regulated so it doesn’t do long-term harm. At the same time, it is something we should be pursuing aggressively. Done the right way and holding players accountable, I think it can create a true boom for the American economy.

Q: The state and the nation are having its transportation funding problems. What are your plans to create a long-term solution to help maintain our roads, bridges and transit systems?

A: We just did a patch for the [federal] Highway Trust Fund. That is no way to run a government or business. One of the things we need is predictability. Businesses thrive on that. Our transportation policy should be based on predictability as well. We should make a commitment to a long-term transportation policy that plays to one of our strongest advantages as a nation for growth. America used to be one of the top countries in regards to infrastructure. We have fallen dramatically. In the last 10 years, we have fallen out of the top 10 to about number 18 in globally ranked infrastructure. That wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t related to long-term economic growth. As I stated earlier, for every dollar you invest in infrastructure, you get $1.44 back.

I am a big fighter and going to be a big champion on the two committees on which I sit. One is Commerce, Science and Transportation and the other is Environment and Public Works. We should be pushing our country towards a common-sense, fiscally prudent transportation policy, one where our country can get the biggest returns on its investments. Infrastructure is one of the best investments we can make, and infrastructure policy was pushed by Republicans like presidents Eisenhower and Reagan.

On this issue, I’m not going back to Washington as a partisan. As a mayor, you learn that there is no Republican or Democratic way to fix a pot hole … but the pot hole needs to be fixed. My conversation with Republicans is “Let’s work together on figuring out a way to be fiscally prudent, but to obtain economic benefits. I think Washington is fractured right now and it needs more people not to be partisan, but to be problem solvers … to be pragmatic. So, that is one of the long-term goals that I have; building relationships that are necessary to get some of these things over the finish line.

Q: According to a report from the Northeast Midwest Institute, New Jersey ranked 48th in the nation in terms of getting money back from the federal government for every tax dollar we send to Washington. Do you have any thoughts on how to fix this?

A: This is something that should have every New Jerseyan up in arms because we are a state that sends so much money down to DC, but we are just not getting what I believe is our fair share back. The reason why I make that argument is not just because we want more money or more toys for our state. My argument down in Washington is, “If we were running this country as ‘America Inc.,’ where would we want to make investments to create the most growth for our country?”

If we look at ways of creating long-term economic growth, we would see New Jersey as one of the more economically productive regions. Remember, we have the busiest port on the East Coast, we have the third busiest port in America and our transportation superstructure can reach about a third of our population in a matter of hours. The port region alone represents hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. So bringing money back to New Jersey – to invest in that kind of infrastructure – creates job growth throughout our region. So New Jersey has got to get back to being one of those larger recipients because we have that competitive advantage as a state.

Q: What do you want the business community to think or know about you as it heads to the polls in November?

A: Down in Washington right now, I am one of the growing and bigger voices for creating jobs and being pro economic growth in every way possible.

As I travel around the state, whether it’s holding business forums or visiting college campuses, what we are doing is figuring out ways to remove obstacles and support our businesses. That is one of the main things I want New Jersey to know. We need to have a state that is focused fundamentally on economic growth because that helps everyone. I know we are starting to see some good economic signs and the state’s unemployment rate is coming down, but it is not satisfactory to me … it’s not necessarily the kind of jobs we want to see grow. We need to have more growth in middle income and high income jobs.

Jeffery Bell Responds to Questions on Key Business Issues

MAG-SenatorialBattle-BellBack to Top

Q: What are the top concerns of most small businesses in the state and across the nation? What needs to be done to help companies with these issues?

A: You just asked the single most important question about the economy. The Federal Reserve’s [near] 0 percent interest rate policy has deeply wounded small business’ ability to access lines of credit. A professor at Stanford University, Ronald McKinnon, has been warning us about this for years. I don’t think it is fully understood how the 0 percent interest rate policy puts community banks on the sidelines for small businesses. They provide lines of credit to small businesses. This is the main way in which small businesses are able to expand. At near 0 percent interest rates, or a little above that for lines of credit, these banks are on the sidelines. Many are in trouble because they can’t make that much money for taking on the risk. Even profitable small businesses have seen great declines in their ability to access lines of credit. But accessing lines of credit is how they expand, this is how they buy machines and hire workers.

Additionally, small businesses are the job creators, not big businesses. When big businesses increase their profits, it is often by cutbacks, laying off personnel and just becoming more efficient per worker.

I’m not being critical of big businesses, but that’s their nature. That is what they do. Small businesses get an idea in the garage and they need people to execute the idea. They usually do that by means of lines of credit.

This has put an enormous crimp in the recovery. I feel it is the single biggest reason why we have had a jobless recovery.

Q: If elected, what would your plan of action be to see the Fed increase the rate?

A: The five-and-a-half years of 0 percent interest rates, which started even before President Obama took office in January of 2009, have run their course. However, people in Washington don’t want to talk about it. They are afraid about what would happen if you simply deregulated the interest rates and let them return to market levels.

There are pictures of the stock market losing its comparative advantage vis-à-vis bonds, and there could even be a liquidity crisis if interest rates went up too fast. So they are gridlocked. Even Congress has a vested interest in maintaining a low interest rate policy because it lessens the pressure to reduce federal spending because debts … the deficit … can be refinanced with low interest rates. If they return to market levels, $800 billion would immediately be added to the deficit. That is why they are scared to act on this. Given that degree of gridlock, I think it is time to take a big step that might be less dangerous than an incremental step. That big step is returning to a gold-backed dollar. This is one of those times when the big idea can work better than the small, limited move.

The most important thing about a gold-backed dollar is that it creates a level playing field. Everybody knows where they are at. Everybody knows gold holds its value and if gold is the final money of the country and of the world, everybody knows what the rules are. It is not insignificant that since President Nixon took the country off the last version of the gold standard in 1971, inequality has greatly increased in this country. Wage growth has been stagnant for 40-some years. Big players – very wealthy people – know how to play the constant changes in the currency and interest rates. They are able to, with this 0 percent interest rate policy, make leveraged investments with easy money. For the average person, the middle class, even though interest rates are low, it isn’t easy for them to get a loan. It is harder to get a mortgage now than it was five years ago. Some of that is because of post 2008 regulations to try to prevent another [economic] collapse.

If elected, I would introduce a bill that would give a 30-month lead time to return to a dollar backed by gold. I am not smart enough to say what the parity should be, so give the market 30 months to come to a dollar-gold ratio and at the end of the 30 months, pick the London gold price and say, “This is our gold price. From now on the dollar will be convertible not just to foreign central banks, but to any American … anybody who comes to the gold window.” In that way, the American people will be able to control their own money supply. I recognize that if elected just introducing this bill is only a first step. It is going to take a lot of debate and a lot of persuasion. If I am elected and the bill is introduced, it will come in the 2016 presidential race. Without something like this – a comprehensive solution of the type Ronald Reagan pushed for on the tax side – the Republican party is not going to have a sufficient alternative to the Democrats in the presidential election year. I think we will do fine in 2014, because people are voting for or against the president.

Q: Employers are facing a shortage of workers with a proper combination of technical and employability skills. How can we better align today’s K-12 education system with available jobs in the workforce?

A: I think that is the stated purpose of the Common Core Curriculum. I don’t think that is the way to do it. I think most new skills for new technologies are learned on the job and I don’t think it is possible to, by dumbing down education (which I really do believe Common Core is), magically transforms high school students into qualified workers.

The big problem is the lack of job growth, particularly entry level positions. In this economy, with the downward pressure on wages and the inactivity of small businesses to expand, you have kids working very hard, going through four years of college, getting their degrees, going into debt in order to do that (and getting their parents into debt), but then they have the equivalent of a piece of wallpaper because the entry level jobs for people with degrees are not available the way they were 10 to 15 years ago. That is stifling, and depriving a whole generation of high school and college graduates the ability to enter the workforce in a smooth way. That is the single biggest problem. Yes, we need more workers who are qualified, but you become qualified by doing. You get the job and learn by doing, but the jobs are not there.

Q: The manufacturing industry is not as large as it once was in New Jersey, but manufacturers provide good jobs, high wages and generous benefits. What initiatives are you leading to support and expand the manufacturing industry?

A: The weak dollar, vis-á-vis other currencies, is constantly being justified as an attempt – in terms of [foreign] trade – to help manufacturers. However, if you look at the time in which the dollar has been deteriorating against the yen and euro, manufacturing has been strangled. A weak dollar does not help manufacturing in the long run. In fact, the currency system anchored by the paper dollar is the single biggest problem American manufacturing has in comparison to other leading manufacturing countries. Our manufacturing workers have never been more productive, but because it is so hard to profit from the terms of trade due to the weak dollar, I think that, over time, there are less and less manufacturing companies and less manufacturing jobs. I do think that monetary reform and free trade are the single biggest things we can do to help manufacturing.

Q: What is your position on a federal paid sick leave policy as described in the Health Families Act? Would or wouldn’t this add an extra cost to small business growth and expansion?

A: I am opposed to paid sick leave. I think the premise of that question is absolutely right. It is the last thing small businesses need at a time of difficulty. I think we have to stop placing new burdens onto small businesses. Having a new burden placed on them, with the burdens they already have in terms of the healthcare changes and everything else, would be a mistake.

Q: Should job growth initiatives focus solely on growth sectors in New Jersey or all types of industries for all types of jobs?

A: We already know what the growth sectors are … let them grow. Why should the government help them along, or retard them by trying to give aid to other industries in decline? It’s just a natural process in the economy, and the last thing government knows how to do is figure out how to improve that.

Q: What do you think about the way Washington has been handling immigration reform? Where do you stand on the issue?

A: Washington is not handling immigration reform. It’s a disaster. For instance, President Obama giving that partial non-enforcement order two years ago for [young] children brought into this country without their consent seems reasonable on the surface, but now we are reaping the harvest of that with desperate parents sending Central American children over the border. The problem has been that we haven’t been able to address the problem comprehensively. Some people come here because they want to be Americans. Some people come here just for seasonal work and want to return to their countries of origin. We need a legal immigration system that allows both of those things … that is transparent. I’m a contrarian on this. It is also insane to let somebody go through an American graduate school, get a doctorate of engineering degree, and then not let that person stay if he or she wants to have a job in this country.

I think the efforts that have been made – and President Obama and my own Republican Party deserve a lot of blame – seem as if we are unwelcoming to minorities who have come to New Jersey. I think that immigrants are contributing a lot to the state’s economy at a time when people who were born here have been moving out … particularly young people.

One of the first things I would do in the Senate is push for a comprehensive reform bill. Last year’s Senate immigration bill had some good things in it, but it did not have an adequate guest worker program. We need to have an expanded guest worker program so that people who want to return to their countries of origin, but need money in the short term, can make themselves available to American businesses without a lot of bureaucratic red tape. That is the biggest thing lacking in the legislation that has been passed.

Q: What are your plans to help reduce healthcare costs for employers and employees?

A: I think the single biggest thing we can do is to get the free market more activated in the setting of healthcare prices. I favor the repeal of Obamacare, but there are two things we need to do instead: One, there has to be a universal credit that everyone has available; getting it through your employer would certainly be legal, but it would no longer be the tremendous tax advantage that it is now. The government should make a tax advantage available up to the level of a reasonable catastrophic program … that is true insurance: Two, the government should allow people who want to pay for more of their healthcare through insurance to have medical savings accounts. MSAs work very well for federal workers and work very well in the Medicare and Medicare Advantage program.

Regarding the Affordable Care Act, I think it is a net minus. I understand attempts are made to limit costs, but I think the quasi-rationing of the ACA is the wrong way to do it. This is a country of abundance. We have an abundance of doctors, we have an abundance of hospitals and healthcare professionals and we need to expand the availability, not contract it just in order to save. I think the market is the natural controller of healthcare cost escalation – not the rationing or quasi-rationing of the ACA.

Q: What are your thoughts about US energy policy? How would you help deliver more affordable energy to US homes and businesses?

A: We have explosive growth with the fracking revolution and domestic production. I am completely in favor of that. The president should open more federal lands to that kind of exploration. We do need pipelines, because they are much safer than train transportation for petroleum and natural gas. I do favor the [Keystone XL] pipeline that is so controversial. We need to do everything to encourage the exploration boom that this country has seen in the last 10 years and become energy self-sufficient.

I think renewable energy should be on its own. It’s a big mistake for government to try to decide what the energies of the future will be. There are plenty of things you can do to make traditional energy safer and less environmentally hazardous. I think you have to hunt where the ducks are, and the ducks right now are in petroleum and natural gas. I have nothing against atomic energy or dams or any other form of energy production, but they just need to be on their own in terms of what the market wants and what is accessible and utilitarian right now.

Q: What is your view on the safety of fracking?

A: The concerns I have right now are not so much about water contamination. I don’t think that point has been proven. However, I think the amount of water you need to do fracking is a concern and needs to be looked at. As far as I am concerned, the burden is on people who say fracking should not happen. Far from what has been discovered so far [in terms of dangers], I think fracking should be open and it should also be expanded on federal lands where there is much less of a safety issue.

Q: The state and the nation are having its transportation funding problems. What are your plans to create a long-term solution to help maintain our roads, bridges and transit systems?

A: The federal government does have an interest in the highway system. It is interstate commerce and it is needed for military reasons, which was one of the big reasons why [the interstate system] was originally established under President Eisenhower. Beyond that, I think that new roads should pay for themselves by tolls, by E-Z Pass, by new methods being discovered. I don’t favor a lot of federal money getting mixed up with state money that is already being spent. I’d like to see, with the exception of the interstate highway system, each state take care of its own [transportation] needs with its own tax money, to the extent possible.

I see no need for raising the federal or state [gas] tax. The problem with some gasoline taxes is that they have been diverted to other purposes like short-term deficit reductions. I don’t favor that. Until we get the diversion out of the way, I would not be in favor of changing the federal or state gas tax.

Q: According to a report from the Northeast Midwest Institute, New Jersey ranked 48th in the nation in terms of getting money back from the federal government for every tax dollar we send to Washington. Do you have any thoughts on how to fix this?

A: Decentralization. The current federal agency system is a mess. As many programs as possible should be handled by the states themselves. Inevitably, if the purpose of federal intervention is redistribution, the wealthier states – the high-income states that create a climate where there are high-income incentives for people to move in – are going to be the losers. So, you get penalized for creating the opportunity for wealth production. That is not a good incentive system for our states.

Q: What do you want the business community to think or know about you as it heads to the polls in November?

A: I am pro business and pro worker. I think the most dangerous trend in the American economy is the trend toward crony capitalism. The Democratic Party has now become the party of big money. They dominate most of the areas of big business that are big political players; by that I mean Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Wall Street. However, whether it’s Democrats or Republicans, there are perks [received] in exchange for that amount of money.

I favor deregulation and the federal government getting out of the business of deciding what are and are not the businesses of the future. I favor going back to the gold standard.

I think there is a lot of pessimism about the ability of American businesses and American workers to produce. I heard the same things in the 1970s when I was working with Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan to try to produce an answer to the stagflation we had then. People were saying we had to get used to a lesser standard of living. I don’t believe that for a moment. I believe that American workers are the most persistent, the most productive and the most creative in the world, but government has gotten in the way of the workers’ and individual businesses’ ability to grow our economy. I am very optimistic, just as Ronald Reagan was in the 1970s and 1980s, about the ability of American businesses and workers to respond to new incentives if they are put into the economy. The best incentive of all is a level playing field, and I believe the American people and American businesses will thrive under that condition.

Back to Top

Related Articles: