Assemblyman Jay Webber, born February 1972. First eligible to vote in 1990.
For many, Ronald Reagan is only remembered as "The President" -- never as the conservative outsider who was a royal pain-in-the-butt to the GOP establishment. It might be forgotten now, but even after 1980, New Jersey was a hot bed of GOP resistance to the Reaganization of the party. It could be argued that the Reagan Revolution -- at least as far as the Republican Party was concerned -- never took hold in New Jersey.
What did take hold in New Jersey was the Darwinian vision of Charles & Donald Koch -- that screw-the-poor, devil-take-the-hindmost brand of economic libertarianism which holds that if you have enough money, your will should trump all. And that goes for electing members of Congress, as well as destroying the traditional folkways of communities to suit your business model or personal preference.
But that wasn't Reaganism. Ronald Reagan stood for the traditional conservative values of the small community. One of those values is paying your own way. Like most good conservatives of that period, Ronald Reagan supported user taxes over broader tax schemes.
Of the gas tax, Reagan said: "Good tax policy decrees that wherever possible a fee for a service should be assessed against those who directly benefit from that service. Our highways were built largely with such a user fee - the gasoline tax. I think it makes sense to follow that principle in restoring them to the condition we all want them to be in."
The Koch Brothers have never believed in paying their own way. The Kochs' lobbying operation -- of which Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a part -- have been successful in steering $10.5 billion of taxpayers' money their way. NJ AFP recently put out a press release calling the gas tax "regressive" and claiming that it hurt the poor. That's the same argument the Left uses against the Flat Tax and in support of our complicated, corrupt "progressive" income tax.
As late as October 2014, Assemblyman Jay Webber stood with Reagan when he wrote:
"New Jersey leaders are grappling with three major problems: New Jersey has the worst tax burden in the nation, our economy suffers from sluggish growth, and our state's Transportation Trust Fund is out of money. There is a potential principled compromise that can help solve all of them.
Of the three problems, the Transportation Trust Fund has been getting the most attention lately, and for good reason — it's broke. There is just no money in it to maintain and improve our vital infrastructure. Without finding a solution, we risk watching our roads and bridges grow unsafe and unusable and hinder movement of people and goods throughout the state. That, of course, will exacerbate our state's slow economic growth.
Proposals to fix the trust fund have included a mix of cost cutting, reallocation of current spending, borrowing and increasing taxes. While I prefer some combination of the first three options if done smartly, more and more it sounds as if that last option, in the form of an increased gas tax, is a popular choice for many legislators on both sides of the aisle.
But increasing the gas tax in isolation will only worsen New Jersey's biggest problem — an already-too-high tax burden. So any gas-tax increase should only be accompanied by measures that will help alleviate, or at least not increase, the overall tax burden on New Jerseyans. To that end, we should insist that if any tax is raised to restore the trust fund, it be coupled with the elimination of a tax that is one of our state's biggest obstacles to economic growth: the death tax. By any measure, New Jersey is the most extreme outlier on the death tax, with worst-in-the-nation status.
... The good news is that New Jersey's leaders finally are realizing that our confiscatory death tax is a big deal. A bipartisan coalition of legislators has shown its support for reforming New Jersey's death tax, and Gov. Christie has pledged to sign a proposal to reform the death tax if the Legislature sends it to him.
Which brings us back to the Transportation Trust Fund. Given the recent public statements by bipartisan leaders on both the death tax and the trust fund, there is a very real opportunity to forge a consensus that can address all three of the problems outlined above. We can replenish the trust fund and achieve a net tax reduction for New Jersey. (Taxpayer savings from the elimination of the death tax would eclipse the gas-tax increases currently proposed.) Doing both, in turn, would help improve our economic competitiveness and stimulate job creation."
Now it appears that some conservatives, like Webber, might be shifting their allegiance to Koch. Why? Maybe it's just that they don't remember when Donald Koch ran for Vice President on the libertine ticket against conservative Republicans Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Koch ran on a party platform that called for the "elimination of all restrictions on immigration, the abolition of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol, and a declaration of full amnesty for those people who have entered the country illegally."
The Koch platform supported abortion at all stages of pregnancy, the legalization of narcotics, legalized prostitution, and allowing children the same legal rights as adults in these and other matters. Donald Koch despised Ronald Reagan and everything he stood for.
Ronald Reagan was a social as well as an economic conservative. He believed in an America built on Judeo-Christian values and the Western tradition of free speech and free markets.
If Donald Koch had been elected in 1980, instead of Ronald Reagan, that famous "It's Morning in America" ad (1984, re-election) would have featured chirpy abortionists, hard-working drug dealers, and child prostitutes. So why are conservatives like Webber bending low to Koch now?
Once Ronald Reagan was safely out of office, the Kochs stepped in to start a project that changed the nature of conservatism in America. From using their wealth to dominate libertarian think tanks -- like the Reason Foundation -- their money opened doors into more traditionally conservative venues. While it might seem as though it's been around forever, the Kochs' political flagship, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) was founded in 2004 -- twenty years after Ronald Reagan last appeared on a ballot.
AFP is not a grassroots organization. Its so-called "members" do not have a vote on electing who runs AFP -- either at the state or national levels. AFP gets its money from Koch Industries and Koch Industry apparatchiks hire coordinators for each state, whose job it is to "motivate" and "activate" the "members." In short, it is a very effective astroturf lobbying model.
And what do they lobby for? Koch Industries is owned by the Koch brothers, Charles and Donald Koch. It is the second-largest privately held business in America. Its core business is petroleum. Koch Industries owns and operates oil refineries across America and overseas. They control enough pipeline to crisscross our nation. The petroleum lobby adamantly opposes a tax on the products they sell, whether that tax is at the retail or wholesale level.
The question that conservatives should now ponder is whether or not they will follow the Koch brothers in undermining the candidacy of presumptive Republican nominee for President Donald Trump. One Koch brother has already suggested that liberal Democrat Hillary Clinton would be preferable to Trump, and now the other has announced that he will donate to the GOP but not to the Trump campaign.
The continuing metamorphosis of the Republican Party into a pro-amnesty for illegals, pro-tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas, pro-crony capitalism, pro-corporate welfare, pro-LGBT everything, anti-American worker, anti-Middle Class, anti-Christian, anti-traditional values, anti-Bill of Rights, and increasingly open to repealing the Second Amendment , was achieved in a great part through the hostile takeover of the conservative movement by big money.
It is time we found our roots again.