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Carl Zeitz.

Opinion: A Letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell

By Carl Zeitz, April 24 2020 4:29 pm


Dear Mitch,

Please don’t mind my calling you Mitch but from President Obama’s first day in office when you said your main objective was to destroy his presidency, I’ve felt I know everything there is to know about you.

You never disappoint. You are indeed a nasty, arrogant man with the mindset and beliefs of a 19th Century plantation owner.

But now, in the worst public health crises in World History since 1347 or at least since 1918, with an evil, dangerous, incompetent fool in the White House, you declare that to get past the gravest crisis for the United States since Pearl Harbor the states should go bankrupt.

First, I remind you of the arrangement made by the progenitor of your Republican Party, the first, the greatest of the Federalists, Alexander Hamilton.

That the new American nation verged on collapse in 1787 under the Articles of Confederation owed to there being no federal fiscal and monetary authority. In its absence every state could and did coin and borrow money and lay tariffs for general revenue.

Hamilton, newly installed by President Washington as first Treasury Secretary, presented the first Congress a deal. In return for authority to establish a national bank as a keystone to ordering and organizing federal finances, the United States of America would assume all state debts, recognizing that states could no longer issue their own currency or borrow for general purposes.

Today every state has a fiscal year generally starting July and requires a balanced budget with ability to borrow only for specific purposes backed. But borrowing to meet the regular, general expenses of  a state? Like paying for public hospitals saving lives right now?? No, not permitted.

So, the states and their progeny, cities, towns and counties, are looking to Congress to make a fourth borrowing to close the massive state revenue shortfalls caused by the coronavirus economic upheaval.

And Mitch, true to form, you say no. You say, let them declare bankruptcy.

Here is an example of why that is so wrong, so nearsighted from a man from Kentucky, a state that lives on the largess of other states like mine, New Jersey.

Let’s compare New Jersey and Kentucky.

Population, New Jersey 9 million, 11th largest, Kentucky 4.4 million, 26th.

Gross State Domestic Product 2019, New Jersey, $652 million – 8th largest of 50 states, Kentucky, $217 million, 28th largest.

Ranking for college degrees in state population, New Jersey 6, Kentucky 45.

Ranking for advanced degrees in state population, New Jersey 8, Kentucky 38.

Per Capita Gross Domestic Product 2018, New Jersey $57,084, Kentucky $38,985.

Per Capita Income, New Jersey, $70,979, Kentucky, $44,017.

Household Income 2018, New Jersey, $81,740, 2nd among 50 states, Kentucky, 50,270, 44th.

Donor State is a term describing 10 U.S. states that send more federal revenue than they get back. New Jersey is one of them as are New York and Connecticut.

Your Kentucky, Mitch? One of six states that get back the most from Washington. Indeed, Kentucky ranks 5th in all the nation for getting back more federal dollars than it sends to Washington.

How does that work out?

Well, Kentucky gets back $2.35 for every dollar it sends to the federal government. New Jersey, not so good, it’s a losing proposition for our well-educated, hardworking, diverse, welcoming Garden State. New Jersey gets back just 83 cents for its federal dollar.

The other 17 cents? Goes to Kentucky and other states that don’t carry their own weight, never have, never will because they send people like you Mitch to Washington.

In Washington, you’ve done everything you could to destroy Obamacare even though it provides health coverage to 470,000 Kentuckians, one in ten in your state and reduced Kentucky’s uninsured 63 percent.

So, you see Mitch, as usual, you are off base, out of line and headed to richly deserved obloquy for a lifetime record of political iniquity.

No, senator, states are not going to declare bankruptcy. You and your Republican Senate majority better get busy borrowing $500 billion for the states.

Otherwise, how is New Jersey going to keep sending its money to Kentucky?

Carl Zeitz served on the New Jersey Casino Control Commission from 1980 to 1988, first appointed by Governor Brendan T. Byrne and then named to a second term by Governor Thomas H. Kean. Prior to service on the commission, he was a reporter for several daily newspapers in the Northeast, including serving as State House Bureau Chief for The Associated Press in Trenton and as editorial page editor for the Bergen Record. Though retired, Mr. Zeitz remains a keen observer of public and political life and affairs.

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