The case against Lonegan

Last Friday, May 15th, would have been my father's 95th birthday. During World War II Abraham Sabrin was a partisan commander in his native Poland where he led 231 men and women in combat against the Nazis. He and his comrades-in-arms were finally liberated by the Russians in July 1944. After the war my parents decided to immigrate to America, and on August 6, 1949 our family arrived in New Yorkin order to live a free and peaceful society.

Dad provided invaluable advice while I was growing up in Manhattan and the Bronx: "Get an education; there is a right way and wrong way…always go the right way." And when I told him, in 1997, I was running for governor, Dad did not hesitate to offer this gem: "Remember, politics is dirty." Although Dad did not have a Ph.D. in political science, he understood human nature and American politics very, very well.

After the 1997 election, I was urged by members of the Republican Liberty Caucus at their annual meeting to rejoin the Republican Party and seek the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in 2000. For more than two decades I had been a political independent.

Since 1969 I have been an unapologetic advocate of free markets and limited government, a position I thought Republicans believed in unequivocally, only to be disappointed by Nixon, Ford and occasionally Reagan, who deviated from free market principles during his presidency. And both Bush presidencies were more than disappointments. They were outright disasters.

In seeking the U.S. Senate nomination in 2000, I knew there were several elected officials in New Jersey who had expressed strong free market ideas and therefore would rally around my candidacy. I was wrong. Jersey City mayor Bret Schundler supported Jim Treffinger, who was later convicted and served time for illegal activities as Essex County Executive, and Steve Lonegan, the mayor of Bogota, endorsed former congressman Bob Franks.

(For the record, Bret did write a letter supporting my U.S. Senate campaign last year.)

After Bob won the U. S. Senate nomination I supported him enthusiastically. And when Bret ran for governor in 2001 I supported him wholeheartedly, even though he did not support me a year earlier. And when Steve Lonegan ran for governor in 2005 I supported him unequivocally and donated $1,500 to his campaign, making me one of his top contributors, even though he did not support me in 2000.

When Steve Lonegan was appointed executive director of Americans for Prosperity's New Jersey chapter he asked me to participate in a couple of town hall meetings to discuss the state's economy. I did not hesitate.

In December 2007 I invited Steve and several other analysts from around the state to participate at the annual Business and Financial Outlook Roundtable I moderate at Ramapo College. It was a lively discussion of the state's economy and the policies that would get New Jersey on the right track, and it gave Steve an opportunity to speak before my colleagues and scores of students.

After I announced I was seeking the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in January 2008 I called Steve and asked for his support and endorsement. He said he would not make an endorsement because of his involvement with Americans for Prosperity.

Steve told me during our chat he had met with Joe Pennacchio, who announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2007 while he was also running for the state senate. Political gluttony has no bounds in New Jersey. In our conversation Steve told me Joe supports SCHIP, the joint federal state program to subsidize health insurance for low income families. Joe also was touting "energy independence," one of the worst anti-free market programs ever conceived. Steve said "Jersey Joe" is a "liberal."

Joe didn't disappoint during the primary campaign last year. For example, during one of many candidate forums last spring, I criticized Joe's call for energy independence, he then said, "There goes Murray again calling for the free market." With Republicans like Joe Pennacchio who needs Democrats?

After Steve finally agreed to speak-but not endorse me–at a fundraiser for my campaign at the home of one of his major supporters, he pulled out of the event at the last minute. Apparently, Steve was advised to distance himself from my candidacy because I opposed the Bush-Cheney policy of preemptive war and was a vocal critic of their destructive foreign policies.

So instead of staying neutral in the U.S. Senate race Steve Lonegan planted a political French kiss on Joe Pennacchio and endorsed him, a big government Republican who disparages the free market and touts welfarism and government boondoggles, even though he said he would not endorse a candidate.

In the spring of 2008 did "free market" Steve Lonegan become a big government Republican because he did endorse the big government Republican candidate in the U.S. Senate primary? If Steve Lonegan still believed in free markets last year why did he support and make robo-calls for the one candidate he called a liberal months earlier? And how did Lonegan's support for Joe Pennacchio advance the free market movement? And why did Lonegan make any endorsement if as he claimed his work for AFP precluded him from supporting anyone?

Moreover, why didn't "free market" Steve Lonegan support the greatest defender of free markets who ever ran for president, Ron Paul? The answer is simple; Steve Lonegan is a Steve Lonegan Republican. Steve will do what he believes is in his political interests to advance his political career. In fact, although Ron Paul endorsed Steve Lonegan last week and sent an email to his New Jersey supporters asking them to contribute to the Lonegan campaign, Ron's endorsement is nowhere to be found on http://www.lonegan.com/.

And Art Laffer, the guru of supply side economics, endorsed Lonegan's tax plan last week. We should take Laffer's economic "expertise" with a grain of salt. In a famous confrontation with Peter Schiff several years ago, Laffer said the economy was in great shape, there was no housing bubble, there would be no recession, etc. In short, Laffer was 100% wrong about the U.S. economy.

A further analysis of Lonegan's 2.9% flat tax plan reveals that it will raise taxes on approximately 90% of New Jerseyans. All you have to do is examine the Treasury report (page 8) on the state income tax for the latest available year. Lonegan's 2.9% flat tax would become the effective tax rate on personal incomes, and the rate would then decline over the next two years.

Currently, the effective tax rate for taxpayers under the state's progressive income tax structure is 2.7% on incomes up to $150,000. Thus, inasmuch as Lonegan's flat tax applies to all incomes without deductions or exemptions, taxes would increase substantially for most taxpayers. Only upper income families and the very wealthy get a tax cut under Lonegan's plan.

In addition, retirees with incomes below $100,000 would presumably see their $20,000 exclusion eliminated under the Lonegan flat tax, raising their income taxes by as much $600. In sum, Lonegan's tax plan is similar to the Hoover/FDR tax policies of the 1930s, hiking taxes during an economic downturn. Their tax policies, among other anti-free market program, caused the economic correction to develop into a decade long depression.

All New Jerseyans need income tax relief, not just the top 10% of income earners.

Lonegan's current TV ad criticizes the progressive income tax. However, if a candidate proposes a steep progressive income tax, say from .1% to 2%, would Lonegan oppose it because the top rate is 20 times greater than the lowest rate? But clearly these rates are much lower than what Lonegan is now touting as the panacea to New Jersey's economic ills, even though they are very progressive. In short, Lonegan's plan sounds appealing, but in reality is a tax hike for virtually all New Jerseyans.

As Noah Webster said: "In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate–look to his character…."

Steve Lonegan has shown little character in the past year, and as my late father would say, "He is not a mensch." In addition, his personal income tax plan raises taxes for all low and middle income families. That's why I am not supporting Steve Lonegan for governor. Instead, I have endorsed Chris Christie for governor who I will work with to restore limited government in Trenton.

The case against Lonegan