e-News September 10, 2010

The Week Just Past:  Time for a New Approach
Checked your Healthcare Premiums Lately?  Going up?
Observing Progress in Afghanistan
Don’t Distract from a solemn Anniversary
Picatinny Arsenal: Marking History, Building for the Future

The Week Just Past: Time for a New Approach

“As children returned to school this week, Congress is preparing to head back to Washington for a fall session. 

“Believe me, there is plenty of work to be done on a range of important issues, but I hope Congress will focus on these undeniable facts:

  • 14.9 million Americans are out of work.
    • Half of these Americans have been out of work for over one year.
  • Another 8.9 million Americans are employed part time because they can't find full-time jobs.
  • New Jersey’s “official” unemployment is 9.7%.

“There is no doubt that job creation and employment opportunities should be what Congress focuses on this month!

“And yet, the President confirmed this week that he will support a major tax increase in January on those in our economy who create jobs – small businessmen and women. 

“But make no mistake, in just over 100 days, Washington will put in motion an unprecedented $3.8 trillion tax increase, affecting every American who pays income taxes.  New Jersey families are set to face significantly higher taxes next year:

• Marginal tax rates will climb from 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent to 15, 28, 31, 36 and 39.6 percent. 

• The marriage penalty tax is making a comeback.  The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that 35 million married couples will face an average of $595 in higher taxes as a result.

• The child tax credit will be cut in half, from $1,000 per child to $500 per child. 
“The Administration says these tax hikes have to happen, because we cannot afford to continue today’s tax rates. 

“I cannot think of a worse time to hike taxes than in the middle of a sluggish recovery.  It will kill jobs, choke off potential employment opportunities, dampen consumer confidence and put even more stress on New Jersey household budgets!

“It’s clear to me that our government does not tax too little!  It spends too much! 

“This month, both parties should work together and pass a bill that cuts non-security related government spending for the next year back to FY 2008 levels – the last year before all the bailouts, government takeovers, and ‘stimulus’ spending sprees began.  Exceptions should be made for programs affecting seniors, veterans, and national security.

“I listen to my constituents in New Jersey and know that they think that current economic policies are not working.  It’s time for Congress to work together to impose fiscal discipline and freeze current tax rates!”

Quote of the Week:  President Barack Obama on extending current income tax rates beyond their December 31 expiration:

"What I am saying is that if we are going to add to our deficit by $35 billion, $95 billion, $100 billion, $700 billion, if that's the Republican agenda, then I've got a whole bunch of better ways to spend that money."  

Note to President Obama: During the first 19 months of your administration, the federal debt held by the public increased by $2.5260 trillion, which is more than the cumulative total of the national debt held by the public amassed by all U.S. presidents from George Washington through Ronald Reagan.  

Here’s a novel idea: let’s allow American families and small businessmen and women to keep more of THEIR OWN MONEY and NOT increase government spending after raising taxes!

Recommended Reading: Even the most prominent member of President Obama’s own cabinet recognizes the danger of our exploding national debt.  Read Wednesday’s Reuters story: “Clinton says US deficit sends message of weakness.”

Recommended Reading II: An interesting perspective by Tom Friedman in Saturday’s New York Times, “Superbroke Superfrugal Superpower.”

Checked your Healthcare Premiums Lately?  Going up?

In coming weeks, many health insurers say they plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the new health care law.  Aetna, some BlueCross BlueShield plans and other smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of between 1% and 9% to pay for extra benefits required under the law.  These and other insurers say Congress' overhaul of health care is causing them to pass on more costs to consumers. 

Observing Progress in Afghanistan

In the first week of September, Rodney traveled to Afghanistan with colleagues of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.  He met with soldiers, key leaders in the military, political and intelligence communities, and reviewed unit readiness, rotation of forces, equipment and logistical support, and ongoing operations in the theater.

While “in country”, he traveled to Kabul, Bagram and the important Panjshir Valley.  His report:

“Much has happened in Afghanistan since my last visit in November of 2009.

“President Obama has increased the number of U.S. troops on the ground from 60,000 to over 100,000 with a corresponding increase in American civilian workforce from 250 to 1,300.

“While his decision to increase or ‘surge’ troop strength was controversial, I believe it was the proper course. People may question our goal to ‘disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda’ and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but that goal is the right one, however unpopular.

“I went to Afghanistan to talk with our military and civilian leaders firsthand, gauge our progress and most importantly, meet with our soldiers, Marines, sailors, Air Force personnel and deployed civilians to measure their morale and listen to their views of progress so far under the President’s new strategy.

“There exists a civilian and military ‘unity of effort’ that I did not see on my last trip.  All around the country, there are all sorts of military commands paired with civilian teams at the highest echelons and down at the local level – Provincial Reconstruction Teams and District Support Teams.

“The size of Texas, Afghanistan is hugely mountainous and inhospitable. It has one of the lowest per capita incomes ($656) and highest poverty rates (122 out of 128 nations) in the world.

“Unfortunately, corruption is rampant.  Their ‘rule of law’ is very weak.  Illiteracy is very high. The infrastructure –roads, bridges, etc – is poor.  (The considerable improvements that have been made are due to the efforts of our Army Corps of Engineers!)

“Much of our focus is to strengthen the hand of the Afghan government and security forces – Army and police – so that they can take responsibility for their own future and, frankly, speed our departure. 

“I sensed a much higher level of optimism this time around, in stark contrast to my November visit.  Contrary to what the U.S. media portrays, the government of Hamid Karzai, our troops and international forces are making progress in rooting out the Taliban, the prime insurgent group that seeks to reestablish an Islamic state anchored in Sharia law, terror and barbarism.

“I was impressed at how diverse resources and organizations, ranging from our Special Forces, the Department of State, USAID, the DEA, the FBI and many non-governmental agencies, are working together.

“President Obama’s ‘surge’ has made a difference. And whatever our feelings, media reports and the like, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the volunteers for these assignments, both military and civilian.  Many are in remote areas, sustained by an impressive support system and resources brought into the country in vast overland convoys.

“A major concern continues to be the impact of civilian deaths.  Of course, any loss of life is tragic and in war, mistakes occur. 

“But the Taliban have developed an incredible capability to instantaneously transmit horrific scenes and disinformation. It is a fact of this modern battlefield that the Taliban and other insurgent groups routinely beat us to the headlines via the internet and electronic communication not used in previous conflicts.  Indeed, they are experts at using the ‘rumor mill.’  As a result, their disinformation is everywhere and has real impact at home and abroad.

“General David Petraeus has designed his ‘counterinsurgency guidelines’ for our troops to ‘turn our enemy’s extremist ideologies, repressive practices and indiscriminate, brutal violence against them.’  He intends to hang their barbaric actions ‘around their necks like millstones.’

“As a consequence, our troops are taking extraordinary steps to minimize civilian casualties.  Yes, at times they endanger themselves, and I have urged military leaders to work to strike a proper balance between protecting civilians and providing our troops appropriate ‘rules of engagement’ to defend themselves.

“Of course, the highlight of each trip is the opportunity to visit with the troops, especially those from New Jersey.  I met the best of America.

“For example, I met in Kabul with two Air Force captains from Lawrenceville.  Both are young.  One is female.  The young man’s father lives in Denville. 

“At Bagram Air Base, a former Soviet installation which is now home to the legendary 101st Airborne, I shared lunch with New Jersey’s finest.  One was a retired career officer now volunteering as a civilian and another soldier from south of Trenton. All were reservists.  One soldier was a member of the Morris Plains VFW Post 3401 and has served our nation for more than twenty years.

“These meetings are bittersweet.  Of course, I admire their service and appreciate the burden their families face every day.  On the other hand, you wish you could pack them up and bring them home to their family and friends.

“This was my fourth trip to Afghanistan. And unlike last November to Kabul, EVERYONE I spoke with had a sense of optimism and greater focus.  Gone were artificial lines between the military and civilian missions.

“Understandably, many here at home are wishing for a quick departure, or in some cases, more drastic military action, I think we have made some tremendous strides and some progress. 
“But abandoning Afghanistan in haste, without crushing al Qaeda and their extremist, oppressive partners in the region is a recipe for a long-term disaster for America.

“On the eve of the ninth anniversary of September 11, 2001, we would be wise to remember that the Taliban hosted and partnered with al Qaeda terrorists who murdered thousands of innocent people.

“However, there is real danger in all the loose talk about a premature withdrawal. There is evidence that Taliban is rallying its forces by telling them that they can just ‘wait us out.’ 

“Clearly, no one wants our brave warfighters to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely.  But a firm deadline for complete withdrawal would jeopardize the gains I sensed, both military and humanitarian.

“My best advice to President Obama: listen to Secretary of Defense Gates, stop all the talk about bailing out of this important mission and make sure General David Petraeus has all the troops, funding and resources he needs to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan, a critical site in an incredibly dangerous region of the globe.”

Don’t Distract from a solemn Anniversary

This weekend, Rodney will be participating in ceremonies and services marking the anniversary of the attacks nine years ago on the World Trade Center, the fields of Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon.

He will tell audiences all around his Congressional District, “Since that time, we’ve mourned our losses, learned many lessons, and become stronger as a nation.  

“And we made a promise that morning; we would never forget.

“That’s why we remember those lost – 3000 Americans, 700 from New Jersey.  Too many of our friends and neighbors left for work in Lower Manhattan that day and never returned. 

“And we honor the sacrifice of those who serve us today in Afghanistan and Iraq and in other corners of the globe - all volunteers!” 

All Americans must do their part this weekend to make sure other events, like the outrageous and provocative burning of the Koran in Florida and the controversial proposal to build an Islamic center near “Ground Zero” in Lower Manhattan, do not overshadow the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. 

On the “Ground Zero Mosque,” Rodney has said: “The siting of religious structures is protected by the Constitution and I deeply respect that principle. However, I believe the builders of the mosque in Lower Manhattan knew beforehand that their choice of this site would be controversial. In a television interview, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's wife stated that there had been only limited community outreach during the project’s planning process.

“With that said, I believe this site - so close to ‘Ground Zero’ - to be inappropriate and insensitive to the survivors the 9-11 attacks and the families of the victims. Just because they have the ‘right’ to build the Mosque on this site does not mean it is right to do it!”

Undoubtedly, this debate will continue.  However, so must our memories of those who died on the September 11, 2001.

Picatinny Arsenal: Marking History, Building for the Future

The New Jersey Herald said it all: “Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11th Dist., stood before a room filled with Picatinny Arsenal leaders and employees and exclaimed, ‘Happy Birthday, Picatinny!’"

With a ceremonial cake-cutting on Tuesday, Picatinny marked its 130 “birthday” and celebrated the many contributions the Arsenal has made to our national security. 

The next day, Rodney was back on the historic post to participate in the dedication of the newly constructed Pyrotechnics Laboratory and Engineering Facility.  The $18 million complex was named after Marine Lieutenant John Thomas Wroblewski.  “JT” was the first Morris County resident to fall in combat in Iraq.  He died in April 2004 helping his men after they were ambushed in Ramadi, Anbar Province. 

Rodney helped secure the funding for the Pyrotechnics facility. The 27,000 square foot complex will pay significant dividends for the deployed warfighters – the Army soldier, the Navy sailor, the Marine and the Air Force airmen – who use pyrotechnics every day. 

Pyrotechnic technologies developed at the facility include counter-measure flares, illuminating candles for mortars and artillery, primers, tracers, delay mechanisms for hand grenades and fuzes, expulsion charges for payload munitions, soldier signaling devices, and training simulators.
“Our experts here at Picatinny now have the tools to get these critical items and systems to our warfighters more quickly and more efficiently,” Rodney said.

Since 2000, Rodney has secured over $77 million to modernize research and development and public safety facilities at Picatinny Arsenal.