Let’s talk about the Great Garden State money gap. It’s no secret that New Jersey is the second wealthiest state in the nation (Connecticut is first). The fact that more Jersey residents than ever are multimillionaires looks great on paper. But the gap between the state’s very rich and those struggling to make ends meet has become a yawning chasm.
The bigger issue—the one that doesn’t play well in politicians’ speeches or in tourism commercials—has to do with the millions of New Jerseyans who are taking that second and third job just to pay the mortgage or put a few dollars into the college fund.
The suburban middle class is scuffling, and out-of-control property taxes are just part of the problem; it’s also the $4 latte, the $20 parking tab, the $100 dinner for four at the little Italian restaurant with pasta dishes that probably cost just a few bucks to put together. Of course, the restaurant owner needs the markup to help pay the hefty rent or a mortgage bloated by exorbitant property taxes.
Business and civic leaders talk about what a great state we live in, but they can no longer hide behind platitudes. That’s why the state keeps losing people to Pennsylvania, Florida, and the Carolinas. Most people don’t want to go—but are soon consoled by more house for less money, lower taxes, and budgetary breathing room.
Still, some residents here continue to live in towns they can barely afford. Take Mary Dering, a professional colleague who believes living in Westfield makes the best life for her two small sons. “Sure, we can get a lot more house for our money somewhere in Pennsylvania,” she says, “but we hope the sacrifice is worth it for our kids. I have fallen into the Jersey-centric mindset that the grammar school my sons attend will dictate their Ivy League futures.” Like millions of other New Jerseyans, Dering and her husband count their pennies and wish they could fast-forward twenty years to see how this roll of the dice will pay off for their sons.
For now, she and her husband just hope for the best.
Only in New Jersey can our “gay American” former governor, Jim McGreevey, decide that he wants to become an Episcopal priest. He’s kidding, right? After the release of his book, The Confession, McGreevey said he wanted to get out of the spotlight. Since then, the McGreeveys’ divorce has gotten uglier—and more public. Now, in addition to priesthood, he is planning to teach an ethics course at Kean University. After resigning in large part because of countless ethical lapses in his administration, he’ll be pontificating at a taxpayer-funded public college. And getting a boost to his pension, too.
Speaking of governors, Jon Corzine made an amazing recovery, just weeks after a horrific smash-up on the Parkway. To his credit, Corzine has apologized in an effective public-service announcement (“I should be dead”). Now how about fixing the state?
A prediction about the New York Yankees: I refuse to believe they’re out of it, despite overwhelming early-season evidence to the contrary. The Mets? Yeah, they’re pretty good, but who cares? And can someone in South Jersey give me a heads up on the Phillies’ chances?