New Jersey Lawmakers Should Take Notes on California’s Economic Growth

Written by N. James Brago; Photo Courtesy of Neon Tommy

Individual states play a significant role in testing the success of economic and political ideologies. States are sometimes referred to as the laboratories of democracy. This gives governors an important role in how the rest of the country approaches economic obstacles. The successful policies in states act as templates for other governors or the federal government. The failed policies in states should serve as examples for what not to do.

California’s economy:

The prime example of success is California’s economy under governor Jerry Brown. When Brown took office in 2011 for his fourth overall term, California’s economy was growing at a mere 1.4 percent. Fast forward to 2015 and that percentage rate grew to 3.8 percent. Brown also took office when household median income was at its lowest point in ten years at $60,374. The household median income grew to to $64,500 in 2015.

Not only is California’s economy growing, but the new wealth generated from this growth is being shared more equally amongst Californians. California’s job numbers and unemployment rate decline also entail healthy economic growth in 2015. Within a year California gained 450,200 jobs between April 2014 and April 2015. During which time California’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.5 percent to 5.3 percent.

After balancing the budget through budget cuts, Brown turned his attention to increasing revenue to pay for more government spending. Brown pushed for Proposition 30 which was a ballot initiative to increase taxes on the wealthy with a modest increase in the sales tax.

To reverse budget cuts, Brown started off by accepting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare that covers about 1.4 million low income Californians. The California insurance exchange also has allowed 5 million more Californians access to health insurance. Brown’s education policy has restored school district funding to pre-recession levels and increases per-pupil spending in disadvantaged areas.

Brown has also utilized the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBANK) to create jobs. This bank finances public infrastructure projects and private development infrastructure.

IBANK gives out loans to small businesses to create more jobs and stabilize the economy. This includes $32 billion dollars in economic development and infrastructure. Investments into jobs, education, and healthcare have fostered a healthy long term economy for the state of California.

New Jersey’s economy:

Now our home state of New Jersey has come across tough economic times recently. New Jersey household income, between 2014 and 2015, increased from $71,994 to $72,222. That is a measly 0.3 percent. Meanwhile, the median household income increased 5.2 percent nationwide. Household income growth for New Jersey has stagnated over the past six years.

New Jersey is a state with a lot of economic diversity. Tourism on the coasts, research and development on college campuses, agriculture production, and seemingly endless suburban neighborhoods with small business.

However, under Governor Chris Christie, the investments pale in comparison to Jerry Brown’s California. In 2010, Christie cut education spending by $1 billion dollars. Additionally, Christie is on track to hand out $2.3 billion dollars in tax benefits for businesses. This is more than the $1.2 billion given out in the previous decade before Christie was in office.

To be fair, the effectiveness of these tax benefits to businesses may be playing a factor in New Jersey’s unemployment rate. In December 2016, the New Jersey unemployment rate stood at 4.7 percent. This is similar to the overall United States unemployment rate, which has been decreasing since former President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

At what cost are these very big tax benefits to companies? Median household income has not seen its fair share of increase, and the New Jersey unemployment rate has not returned to pre-recession levels. In New Jersey, job numbers are still struggling to close the gap to pre-recession levels.

The job market of New Jersey still had not recovered all the jobs lost in the recession by 2015. Coming into 2015, New Jersey recovered only 62 percent of jobs lost in the recession, while the United States had recovered 132 percent of jobs lost.

What can be made from all these numbers? It’s easy to say that California is doing a lot better than New Jersey. Although the respective economies and populations of New Jersey and California differ, the philosophies used by Governor Jerry Brown can be applied to any state. Those philosophies revolve around using state money to promote public services and fostering a healthy economic environment for businesses and workers.


You can follow N. James Brago on Twitter and his book titled This Nation can be purchased on Amazon.


How Economists Have Assessed The Trump Tax Plan

Written by N. James Brago; Photo Courtesy of Mary Pahlke

With the electoral election of Donald Trump, the progress of our economy for the past eight years may be in jeopardy. Under President Obama, we have seen the unemployment rate drop to 4.9 percent from its height during the recession of 10 percent. By November 2015, the Obama economy created a gain of 8.7 million jobs. So far, we have avoided recessions for the past 8 years. Our economy was looking to return to normal under a President Hillary Clinton, but that was thrown out the window on Nov. 8. Now, we are looking at a president who promises to undo the economic and social progress we have made in the past eight years, and maybe even the past 50.

Just one of his many potentially damaging policies would be his tax plan.


Facing the Facts Post-Election: How Do We Move Forward with a President Pushing Us Back?

Written by Morgan Jenkins; Photo Courtesy of Pete Linforth

I wish there was an easy way for us to be positive about the future of America. After Tuesday’s election results, though, I’m not completely sure what the next step really is. I’m convinced that no one really saw this coming. No one thought it was actually possible. 

Some have taken to the streets, some have been led to tears and some have gathered in support of one another through these trying times. There has to be something we can do to move forward, right? We know what we face now, but how do we face it?

Well, we can start with the facts to ensure that we are all on the same page.


Life After the Election: What’s Next?

Written by Assane Drame; Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

2016 is a lot of things right?

It has been littered with strange, fascinating, interesting and disheartening news all at the same time; the average American might need some time to process and reflect upon the year once it’s (finally) over, whether it’s from a personal or collaborative perspective.

When we’re not discussing, David Bowie, Prince, Ryan Lochte, police brutality, Brock Turner, Muhammed Ali, Russians making Hydra impressions, Mars or even Harambe, we’re likely debating people (sometimes total strangers) over Hillary Rodham Clinton or Donald J. Trump.


Don’t Bet On NJ Casino Openings

Written by N. James Brago; Photo Courtesy of Andras Barta

On the ballot for New Jersey voters is a constitutional amendment regarding casinos. The referendum calls for two new casinos to be constructed in North Jersey. The bill comes as New Jersey has been struggling with economic growth which has taken its toll on the amount of money the state has to fund public schools. The two new casinos must be 72 miles away from Atlantic City and in two separate counties. A few questions arise with this proposal. Certain questions (Where will the casinos be built? How will it be built?) beg to halt the amendment.


Get Out the (Local) Vote!

Written by N. James Brago; Photo Courtesy of Pete Linforth

With the ongoing and increasingly controversial presidential election dwindling down (only two weeks left!), it is important for New Jersey citizens to turn their attention to the local election ballots; congressional elections in New Jersey seem to be following a precedent that ensures an incumbent win.

In District 1, for example, Rep. Donald Norcross (D) will have no trouble defending his title as congressman in a district where he won by almost 30,000 votes in 2014. This tale of congressional district dominance will not be tested in District 1. Yet, if we take a look at District 2, newcomer Dave Cole (D) is challenging longtime politician and incumbent Frank Lobiondo (R) in the predominantly red district.


A Political Matchmaker the Youth Vote Has Been Waiting For

Written by Anthony Petronzio, Photo Courtesy of Hunter Scarborough

In our smartphone-dominated society, there seems to be an app for every aspect of our lives. Whether it be for news (Twitter), gossip (Yik Yak), or even love (Tinder), we have found ways to connect everything to the phones in our hand.

Tinder especially has shown to be heavily influential; not just for the way it has changed modern hookups, but for its creative “swipe” model as a means of sifting through information. Hunter Scarborough, an aspiring entrepreneur, noticed how efficient Tinder’s model was and decided to apply it to a significantly different aspect of society: politics.


Bernie Sanders’ Tax Plan for the Masses

Written by N. James Brago; Photo Courtesy of Marc Nozell

Unless you’ve been residing beneath a rock the last few months, you’ve most likely come across the campaign slogan, “Feel the Bern”. This, of course, is the motto of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. You may see the catchy phrase written in chalk on the street, etched on the side of highway bypasses, or across the bumper of a car, but what does it stand for? What does Bernie Sanders stand for?