While legislators and candidates across New Jersey are debating the merits of lowering other taxes in order to compensate residents for a projected increase in the gasoline tax, two Democrats in Northwest New Jersey have come up with a new tax to impose on residents. The details change depending on when you hear them talk about it or read what they say about it, but it is essentially a "renters tax" which would work like the property tax but instead of being imposed on real property, it would be imposed on families and individuals as a kind of luxury tax. That is, the "luxury" of having a roof over your head.
In theory, it would mark up the cost of living for some of the most economically marginal in New Jersey -- and could force many out onto the streets. Apparently, property owners who rent units would not be required to reduce their rates to compensate for the windfall they would receive under this plan. Nevertheless, the Democrats -- Michael Grace and Jacky Stapel -- have received kudos for their effort and an endorsement from the Morris County Daily Record for at least coming up with a novel idea.
The Democrats' renters tax is supposed to reduce property taxes -- like the income tax was supposed to do when it was imposed four decades ago. But of course, all these many years later and New Jersey still has the highest property taxes in America AND an income tax that is prohibitively high for many. Can this new tax hope to do more than make the lives of the economically marginal worse?
According to his ballotpedia.org webpage, Michael Grace worked on Wall Street for 25 years as a licensed trader and investment banker. According to the website, Grace was the "Vice President and Executive Committee member of Deutsche Bank's NDB Group Division." Deutsche Bank was one of the banking giants fingered in the global economic crash of 2008. Wikipedia notes:
Deutsche Bank was one of the major drivers of the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) market during the housing credit bubble from 2004–2008, creating ~$32,000,000,000 worth. The 2011 US Senate Permanent Select Committee on Investigations report on Wall Street and the Financial Crisis analyzed Deutsche Bank as a 'case study' of investment banking involvement in the mortgage bubble, CDO market, credit crunch, and recession. It concluded that even as the market was collapsing in 2007, and its top global CDO trader was deriding the CDO market and betting against some of the mortgage bonds in its CDOs, Deutsche bank continued to churn out bad CDO products to investors.
After the crash, Michael Grace appears to have gone back to school. Ballotpedia reports that he earned his Associate degree from Sussex County Community College in 2012 and his B.A. in Political Theory and International Relations from Columbia University in December 2014.
Jacky Stapel has a somewhat murky background. She calls herself a "diplomat" and her biography at Project Vote Smart doesn't provide details on her education background or her current occupation, but does list the following:
· Senior Sales Executive, Electrospec, Incorporated, 2012-2013
· Campaign Manager, Williams4Assembly, 2013
· Sales Executive, Lantek Corporation, 2006-2012
· Life Insurance/Fixed Annuity Sales, Allstate, 2002-2006
And it lists that she has been a member of the Sussex County Democratic Committee since 2002.
On a whim, we decided to search their names on the New Jersey Court's public records database -- ACMS -- and we were a bit surprised to find a number of open judgments on these "fiscal experts".
The address of the creditor is the same as the address used by candidate Michael Grace and by the Grace-Stapel campaign.
942 Maple Avenue
Newton, NJ 07860
All the judgments are from the past five years and the amounts are not insignificant:
Running mate Jacky Stapel appears to have two open judgments:
One appears to be a contract dispute, possibly landlord/tenant:
The other appears to be a services dispute:
Of course, these records are generated and maintained by the Judiciary of the State of New Jersey -- the State's first branch of government (the Executive being a close second, with the Legislature -- the "representatives of the people" -- a distant third). While we have every hope that these records are correct, the unelected judiciary is a notoriously corrupt and venial bunch. On top of this, they are not particularly competent, preferring to hire political hacks and lovers of various flavors instead of actual employees who do a job worthy of the taxpayers who pay them.
If we got something wrong or if any candidate mentioned here would like to give an alternative opinion -- or correct, refute, or expand upon anything written here -- we invite them to and will be happy to print what they send us. We enjoy a conversation.