This letter to the editor was submitted by Garwood Councilman and 2013 election incumbent Jim Mathieu.
To the editor:
Should it be permissible for a Borough Councilman to vote against increasing debt, taxes, and unnecessary spending? On its face, that question seems pretty foolish. I’m sure you’re thinking: “A politician should vote whatever way he thinks best! If he makes the wrong call, he’ll answer to his voters.” If that’s your thought, Garwood’s political class has a bone to pick with you. These elites feel it is unseemly for me to vote for tax relief if it comes in the form a no vote. According to them, it is proof I’m not a team player and can’t get along with others. To them, increasing debt, taxes, and spending by 5-1 votes is heavenly, but increasing them unanimously is divine.
Let me offer an alternative view: I believe government is just as likely, if not more so, to do harm as well as good. Many times, the good intentions of politicians have resulted in unintended consequences where the cure is much worse than the disease it seeks to remedy. (See Obamacare, Implementation of). Therefore, a firm no vote in response to government’s ham-handed endeavors is just the act of leadership necessary. With all due respect to the political elites of both parties, I represent the interests and beliefs of Garwood’s citizens. I’m not there to be the darling of the tax-and-spend lobby that, unfortunately, also resides within the leadership of my own party. I have yet to meet the citizen who has told me to be sure to increase taxes, spending and debt every opportunity I have.
Are my no votes a threat to civilization? Or, are they just gauche--the governmental equivalent of drinking from the finger bowl or wearing black dress socks with my shorts and sneakers? I suspect the real reason the government class is so discomfited by my no votes is that it shines a light on their endless herd of yes votes. Their real fear is that I’m showing by my actions that their yes vote was not a foregone conclusion and that they indeed had a choice.
That fear owes itself to the thing politicians hate most—accountability. If we all vote yes like a bunch of lemmings, then the political class can tell their voters they had no other choice. The blame for their yes votes can be pinned on the lawyers, the accountants, the bureaucrats, the federal, state or county governments, or any other of the myriad bogeymen politicians use to dodge responsibility. You may have elected us to lead Garwood, but we have chosen to follow others instead.
For us Republicans, unanimous yes votes give us the political cover to tell conservative voters, if we had our choice, we’d fight the good fight of tax and spending reform, take on the unions, and live up to the rhetoric we spew at you every October. However, we just can’t do it because the game is rigged. The Democrats have created a system where we must vote yes and, although we’re going to vote like Democrats, you should elect us because at least we’re doing it reluctantly.
For Democrats, Republican affirmations of tax, debt and spending increases provide them political cover to say theirs is the only reasonable path. They can truthfully state: “Even the Republicans know there’s no other way.” All the while, they’re chuckling their way to one election victory after another because people naturally tend to vote for people who actually believe in what they’re doing—whether they agree with them or not-- rather than those who say one thing and do another.
I guess it is not enough for these elites that we are doubling Garwood’s outstanding municipal debt in the span of three years and have increased the Borough’s taxes by 9.4% since Mayor Quattrocchi took office in 2011. Rather, we must unanimously jump off the bridge into government’s endless maw of taxes, spending and debt. I refuse to join in this self-destructive act of unity. Garwood’s voters don’t need another yes man. Our Borough may lack some things, but politicians who increase your taxes year-after-year, run up the municipal credit card, and endlessly spend your money are in abundant supply. As for me, I reserve the right to offer a polite, but firm, no.
James A. Mathieu (R)
Councilman, Borough of Garwood