e-News February 13, 2009

1. Frelinghuysen Opposes Massive Economic Stimulus Plan
2. Still No Plan for TARP
3. Frelinghuysen Introduces Legislation to Suspend 2008 Withdrawal Requirements
4. Politicizing the Census
5. New Jersey Representatives on Guantanamo Bay Closing
6. Valentines for Veterans
7. Spread the eNews

Frelinghuysen Opposes Massive Economic Stimulus Plan
Calling it a missed opportunity to ‘jump-start’ the economy, Rep. Frelinghuysen today opposed the H.R. 1, the $791 billion stimulus package.

“People back home in New Jersey want Congress to do something to save their jobs, put people back to work, make up their lost savings, and restore confidence in our financial markets.”

“Americans are asking for help, but today’s bill does not do enough to create jobs or prevent layoffs.  It is ineffective, inefficient, and not an intelligent way to use taxpayer dollars.  Hiring 600,000 new government workers will not help families and small businesses survive.  Quite the contrary, it will choke off what remains of our private enterprises.”

The $791 billion stimulus package, all borrowed money, is sold as an infrastructure investment plan, but only $46 billion, or 6 percent, will go to ‘shovel-ready’ road, bridge, and tunnel projects.  In addition, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has determined that less than half of the money can actually be spent in the next two years. And, the infrastructure will cost more because each project nationwide under the bill will be subject to the Davis-Bacon Act, meaning only union contractors need apply!

Sixty percent of the spending in H.R. 1 is non-stimulative.  The bill was drafted behind closed doors by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Congressional Democrats. The package was created without public hearings, advice from expert witnesses, or input from minority members.

The stimulus includes:

  • $53.6 billion for a State Stabilization Fund to bail out some states that have done little or nothing to control their own spending or debt;
  • $500 billion for weatherization programs, 25 times the $200 million budgeted last year;
  • $95 billion to create 33 new government programs;
  • $8 billion for a High Speed Passenger Rail Program, including funding for travel between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in Senator Reid’s state of Nevada;
  • $5.5 billion for renovation of government buildings;
  • $4 billion for broadband and wireless services;
  • $1 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Fund, which includes funding for sexually transmitted disease education and prevention programs;
  • $400 million for global warming research;
  • $300 million for new cars for government workers;
  • $142 million for the Coast Guard to alter or remove four bridges;
  • $10 million for the inspection of canals in urban areas;

The House “stimulus” plan also undermines Welfare Reform’s key “work requirement.”  Under current law, states must ensure at least half of adults on welfare are in work, education, training, job search, or other productive activities.  The House bill directly weakens this work requirement, which will further increase the welfare rolls. The mechanics of this change are complicated, but the outcome is clear – to reduce or eliminate the current work requirement for recipients.

The final bill also stripped out a provision that required anyone receiving a contract paid for with funding from the bill to use the government's E-Verify program in order to ensure taxpayer money is not used to hire illegal workers. E-Verify is the only reliable tool for employers who want to do the right thing and hire only workers who are in the United States legally.

On January 28, Frelinghuysen supported an alternative plan eliminating over $150 billion in wasteful, non-emergency spending and redirecting some of that funding to verifiably ‘shovel-ready’ civil construction and bridge projects at the Army Corps of Engineers.

Still No Plan for TARP
On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner outlined the Administration’s plan for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) for banks, which, by his account, may cost as much as $2 trillion.

On January 22, Rep. Frelinghuysen voted for House Joint Resolution 3, which disapproves the use of additional TARP funds, noting that there is no clear plan in place for spending taxpayer money.  This week, Secretary Geithner failed to give specific details on where the money will go, how he intends to limit risk to taxpayers, or how the government will ultimately remove itself from the financial markets.  Frankly, it was a dismal performance and little wonder it hurt markets around the world.

The conditions under which funding will be released were not outlined, and an explanation as to how his plans will improve our economic crisis was not provided.  Most importantly, no plan was announced to increase accountability in the TARP program or punish those who attempt to ‘game the system.’

“We cannot simply ignore the lessons we have already learned from the earlier economic rescue plan passed last October,” said Frelinghuysen.  “The American people were promised transparency, accountability, and proper management.  They have yet to receive it.”

Frelinghuysen Introduces Legislation to Suspend 2008 IRA and 401(k) Withdrawal Requirements
On Tuesday, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) and House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Spencer Bachus (AL-6) introduced legislation to protect the retirement savings of older Americans affected by the nation’s economic crisis and asked President Barack Obama to include it in the stimulus plan now moving through Congress.

The Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Equity for Seniors Act (H.R. 939), retroactively suspends mandatory IRA and 401(k) drawdown requirements for 2008.  Older Americans will not be forced to pay taxes on the withdrawals made in 2008 if the funds are recontributed into their retirement account.

Under current law, Americans 70 ½ years and older are required to withdraw a minimum amount of money each year from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401(k) plans.

In December, Congress waived mandatory withdrawal requirements for 2009 due to the economic crisis and drop in financial markets.  However, the same suspension was not extended to required withdrawals in 2008.  Last November, Rep. Frelinghuysen urged government officials and introduced legislation to suspend the withdrawal requirements for both 2008 and 2009.  However, Congress only acted for 2009.

“With the recent financial downturn, many Americans have seen significant decreases in the value of their investments, particularly their IRAs and 401(k)s,” said Frelinghuysen.  “I have heard from many older Americans forced to make mandatory withdrawals from their retirement accounts at the end of 2008.  Because of the state of the economy, they were required to take financial losses.”

“In December, Congress unanimously passed legislation waiving the retirement account mandatory withdrawals in 2009.  It was certainly a good step but did nothing to immediately help older Americans in coping with the current economic crisis.

“My legislation will allow those hurt by mandatory requirements to reinvest their money into their retirement accounts without tax penalty or economic loss.  This will allow seniors to hopefully see their accounts appreciate when the financial markets get back on track.”

Rep. Frelinghuysen, Rep. Bachus, and 18 members of the House have written President Obama and requested that the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Equity for Seniors Act be included in the final economic stimulus plan.

Politicizing the Census
This week, the White House announced that it would be taking control of the Census away from the Census Bureau with the Department of Commerce and giving oversight responsibilities to operatives within the West Wing.

The Census is mandated by the Constitution to determine population, and its results are used to decide federal funding and Congressional representation.

“Control of the Census by the White House is unprecedented and could undermine efforts to fairly and accurately conduct a Census,” said Frelinghuysen.  “The American people expect fair process free from politics.  Moving the Census from the Commerce Department to the White House is a bad decision.”

Last year, former Census directors serving every president since Richard Nixon called for turning the Census Bureau into an independent agency after 2010.  They noted the urgency to have a Census that is independent, non-partisan, and scientific.

In recent days, former Census Director Bruce Chapman discussed the unprecedented nature of this move, “I don't know of any cases where the conduct of the Bureau was directly under White House supervision.  That includes Clinton in 2000, Bush 41 in 1990 and Carter in 1980.”

Frelinghuysen Collects Valentines for Veterans
On Monday, Rep. Frelinghuysen visited area schools to collect “Valentines for Veterans” made by area students.  Each year, Frelinghuysen invites elementary schools from across the area to create hand-made Valentines Day cards for hospitalized veterans.  Over 25 elementary schools participated.

Frelinghuysen was joined by decorated Vietnam veteran Jim Smith.  Smith is the Commander of American Legions Post 342 in Chester and Post 344 in Rockaway Township.  They visited students at Vanderveer Elementary School in Somerville, Troy Hills Elementary School in Parsippany, and Catherine A. Dwyer School in Wharton.

“The messages from students lift the spirits of veterans confined to a hospital on Valentine’s Day,” said Frelinghuysen, a veteran of the Vietnam War.  “It is an important way for young people to learn more the sacrifices made by those who have served our nation.  Veterans are a symbol of what makes America great, and we must never forget all they have done to ensure our freedom.”

Tomorrow, Frelinghuysen will deliver the valentines to veterans at Lyons Veterans Campus in Bernards Township.

New JerseyRepresentatives on Guantanamo Bay Closing
On Tuesday, Rep. Frelinghuysen joined a number of New Jersey Congressmen in sending at a letter to President Barack Obama regarding his intentions to close the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.  Rep. Frelinghuysen, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, Rep. Chris Smith, Rep. Scott Garrett, and Rep. Leonard Lance called on President Obama to not send any of the Guantanamo Bay detainees to the State of New Jersey.

The full text of the letter to President Obama:

February 10, 2009

Dear President Obama:

We are writing in regard to your recent Executive Order closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base within one year and its lack of any provision for a definite disposition of those detainees who are not releasable to their own or other countries.  We are concerned this could result in the detainment of the terrorists at facilities within the United States.  As such, we request you not send any of the Guantanamo Bay detainees to the State of New Jersey.

In addition to the enormous legal problem issues which will arise from bringing the Guantanamo detainees into New Jersey, we are very concerned about potential security issues related to the detainees.  The federal prison system in New Jersey is already severely understaffed and underfunded.  Adding several hundred special prisoners of any kind would be a severe risk to the safety and security of the staff and other federal prisoners.  Further, our constituents who live near the prisons could be placed in danger to the presence of the detainees.

We are also strongly opposed to any Guantanamo detainees being transferred or housed on any military base in New Jersey.  Housing the detainees on military bases would create an unnecessary and egregious threat to the men and women of the Armed Services who serve the United States on New Jersey military bases.  Fort Dix has already been the target of a terrorist plot; the presence of detainees at any military base would certainly increase the probably of a future attack on the base or the surrounding population.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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