Amid the economic aftermath of last week’s debt debate and downgrade, two groups at opposite ends of the political spectrum will converge in Scotch Plains on Wednesday night to focus on fiscal and monetary policy.
Inside the clubhouse of , the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Tea Party will host a town hall-style meeting with U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon County), starting at 7 p.m. Outside the building, members of MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group, will hold a demonstration.
“This is our signature issue. This is what the Tea Party is built on: fiscal responsibility,” Scotch Plains-Fanwood Tea Party executive member Al Smith said.
Lance, elected to the House of Representatives in 2008 after serving six years in the New Jersey Senate, voted for the last-minute debt compromise that President Barack Obama signed into law last Tuesday, Aug. 2. Titled, “The Budget Control Act of 2011,” the measure:
- Raised the amount the United States may borrow by about $400 billion, and established procedures that would allow Obama to raise the debt ceiling further to between $2.1 and $2.4 trillion total;
- Cut spending by about $900 billion over 10 years;
- Created a 12-person, bipartisan committee comprised of members from both the House and Senate, and charged that committee to identify further cuts by Nov. 23 (Thanksgiving);
- Instituted a provision that will automatically cut $1.2 trillion from the budget if Congress does not approve the special committee’s recommendations, or if the committee fails to produce a plan by the Nov. 23 deadline;
- And did not include tax increases, which was and remains the source of some of the most heated debate regarding the Budget Control Act.
Lance adamantly opposes any tax increase. He joined six New Jersey congressman – five Republicans and one Democrat – in signing a pledge vowing to oppose all tax hikes. A total of 236 representatives and 41 senators have signed the pledge, according to Americans for Tax Reform, the conservative advocacy group that devised the document.
“It would be extremely poor policy to raise tax rates,” Lance said in an interview Tuesday. “I think that would lead to greater uncertainty.”
Since the 2010 election, “certainty” has become when discussing economic policy. A tax hike, he has argued — even one limited to high-income earners and corporations — would cause wider uncertainty among small-business owners unsure whether and how the increase would affect them, and could then cause them to layoff employees.
“If we were to raise taxes now, it’s highly unlikely that the unemployment rate would go down,” Lance said. “Presumably, the president agrees with that, because he has signed legislation that does not raise taxes through the end of 2012.”
Members of MoveOn.org, by contrast, said they strongly disagree. Michael Rothmel, regional organizer for New Jersey and an attorney in Mount Holly, argued that a tax hike on wealthy Americans and corporations could fund infrastructure projects that would put Americans to work.
“If the government takes part of the money for…rebuilding aging waterways, building solar and wind power, green energy, you can employ people, and the more people who are employed, the money is circulated around the economy, and it has a multiplier effect,” Rothmel said, making comparisons to the public works projects initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.
Lance on March 21, the organization’s inaugural meeting. At that event, Lance delivered remarks on healthcare reform and the federal deficit.
Wednesday night’s town hall-style meeting attracted the attention of MoveOn.org because it coincides with a nationwide, one-day event titled “Jobs Not Cuts,” Rothmel said. As legislators return to their districts for August recess, members of MoveOn.org are meeting with congressmen or demonstrating outside their offices, Rothmel said. Lance, in fact, is meeting with members of a MoveOn.org chapter at his Flemington office on Wednesday afternoon.
Initially, MoveOn.org had planned to attend the town hall-style meeting – organizers had thought the event was being hosted by Lance, himself, not the Tea Party. Instead, the organization’s members will likely remain outside.
“We’re not into creating that type of confrontation,” Rothmel said. “We’re not going to crash their party.”