Military Spending

F-35 Fighter Jet Program

“I’m Rush Holt, and as a physicist, I’m pretty sure time travel is impossible –so the Cold War really is over. There’s no reason to waste 400 billion dollar on a new F-35 fighter jet. Let’s end the military spending of the Cold War. We can do this.” -­Rush Holt

We aren’t in the Cold War anymore, but that hasn’t stopped us from plans to buy nearly 2,500 next-generation fighter jets for nearly $400 billion. (1)  Instead of fulfilling its promise to deliver a “three-in-one jet that would save taxpayers money and be delivered speedily,(2)” the Pentagon has given us a massive boondoggle. 

The program has been full of delays and structural flaws.  Just this February, the program was set back again due to a cracked engine blade.  Although the program is 10 years into production, testing is only 30% complete.  These mistakes have raised the cost per plane from $81 million to $161 million. (3)  At this rate there is no doubt the program will end up with even higher costs. (4)

Even worse, planners assumed that we could subsidize the plan by selling to our NATO allies, but due to the delays and price increases, orders have been dwindling.

In the past year alone, Italy has reduced its order by 30%, dropping its order from 131 to 90 planes. There is also hesitation from Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands .  Denmark recently cut its order from 48 to 30, and the U.S. will struggle to find additional support outside of Europe .  Another major blow to the project happened when Canada announced that it would reconsider its order of 65 F-35 fighter jets. Without support from countries abroad, the program will be highly expensive and unsustainable.

“Pentagon Returns New F-35 Jets to Service After Investigation,” Christopher Dew, The New York Times, 2/28/2013

“Pentagon Order F-35 Jets Grounded,” Christopher Dew, The New York Times, 2/22/2013

:F-35 fighter jet program reached milestone with vertical takeoff,” W.J. Hennigan, The LA Times, 5/20/2013

“US ground F-35 fighter jets over cracked engine blade,” The Guardian, 2/23/2013

“Costliest Jet, Years in Making, Sees the Enemy: Budget Cuts” Christopher Dew, The New York Times,

“Drone Sales Flourish in a Time of Austerity,” Daniel Solon, The New York Times 6/16/2013

“Canada Reviews Plans to Buy F-35 Fighter Jets, Christopher Dew, The New York Times, 1/12/2012

Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Climate Change

Climate Change

 “The evidence is overwhelming:  Climate change is real, and humans are to blame.  Humans have dumped so much carbon dioxide into the air that concentrations are up 39 percent worldwide.(1)And the consequences are exactly what physics predicts.  Every single month since 1985 has been warmer than the historic average.(2)  All 12 of the warmest years on record have come in the last 15 years. (3)

We have to stop treating climate change like there’s doubt about the science. We must cap greenhouse gas emissions and end the assault that corporate interests are waging on our planet.” -- Rush Holt

Undeniable Science
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 2001–2010 was the warmest decade on record.(4) In 2007, 552 billion tons of ice melted from the Greenland ice sheet, and at the current rate of warming, such melting would imperil the Eastern United States with massive sea level rise.(5)

Conditions in part of the Southwest and parts of the Midwest are reminiscent of dust bowl conditions.(6) Over the coming decades, climate change will disrupt global ecosystems, endanger the world’s food supply, and harm the international economy.(7)

Climate change not only poses a major challenge we must confront as an international community but also a problem the residents of each state, including New Jersey, must confront. Superstorm Sandy is among the latest in a series of extreme weather events that have hit the United States – including devastating wildfires in Colorado, severe tornadoes across the Midwest, and record-breaking temperatures that triggered massive droughts in 2011-2012.

The effects of climate change are already here – and they will only get worse if we fail to act.(8)

The Solution: A Carbon Tax
According to a recent IPCC report “most of the observed increase in…temperature since the mid-20th century is…due to the observed increase in anthropogenic concentrations [of greenhouse gases].” Of these greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide is the most significant, accounting for 75% of GHG emissions over the past 40 years.(9)

By imposing a tax upon carbon dioxide emissions, we could discourage release of this destructive greenhouse gas.  Over the course of the next two decades, a carbon tax could prevent the emission of 9.2 billion metric tons of CO2.  By mid-century, it could reduce U.S. emissions by a third.(10) According to the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office, implementation of a carbon tax would reduce the incidence of asthma and premature death in the US and also help prevent the acidification of the ocean.(11) (12)

Such a tax would allow the US to encourage developing nations to cut back on their emissions as they continue to grow into a major force in the global economy. (13)

Revenue to Help the Middle Class and Expand Green Technology
The CBO estimates that a tax of $20 per metric ton on GHG emissions raised at 5.6% per year would yield $1.2 trillion in revenue within a decade. Such revenue would exceed the amount the government currently receives from taxes on gasoline, tobacco and alcohol. (14)

Shoring Up the Middle Class
If deployed properly, such a carbon tax will help the middle class. The revenue raised from the tax could be used to avoid cuts to social programs such as Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicare and Medicaid. Alternatively, the money raised could go toward revenue-neutral relief on personal income taxes. (15) Estimates reveal that if only 18% of the carbon tax’s projected revenue were devoted to preventing its effect on low-income groups, the bottom 30% of earners would be unaffected by the program. (16)

A Green Energy Nudge
A carbon tax not only would help convince investors to move towards alternative energy but also would provide America with the jobs it needs. It would reduce the economy’s dependence on foreign oil obtained from volatile regions of the globe and create better market incentives for the use of renewable resources. (17) While the transition to an economy based entirely on renewable resources may seem far off, a carbon tax would encourage automobile consumers to buy more efficient vehicles instead of gas-guzzling SUVs in the short term. (18) According to Alan Binder, former Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve, an investment in renewable energy spurred by a carbon tax would provide America with the jobs it needs because “jobs follow investment.” Furthermore, the jobs produce by the program “will be good jobs with good wages” that will provide the foundation for an advanced green economy. (19)

Simple and Clean
Best of all, a carbon tax is simple and would have an immediate effect on America’s carbon emissions. The recent cap and trade legislation in congress was over three hundred pages long and gave a pass to big business. In contrast, the most recent proposed carbon tax was only 17 pages in length and wouldn’t allow any industry to opt out. ( 20)

Heavy Weather: How Climate Destruction Harms Middle- and Lower-Income Americans,” Daniel J. Weiss, Director of Climate Strategy, American Progress, November 2012

Combating Global Climate Change: Why A Carbon Tax Is A Better Response To Global Warming Than Cap And Trade,” David M. Uhlmann, Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Program, University of Michigan Law School, Stanford Envir. Law Journal, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2009

Heavy Weather: How Climate Destruction Harms Middle- and Lower-Income Americans,” Daniel J. Weiss, Director of Climate Strategy, American Progress, November 2012

Proposal 11: The Many Benefits of a Carbon Tax,” Adele C. Morris, Policy Director for Climate and Energy Economics, Brookings Institution, The Hamilton Project, February 26th 2013

Heavy Weather: How Climate Destruction Harms Middle- and Lower-Income Americans,” Daniel J. Weiss, Director of Climate Strategy, American Progress, November 2012

Combating Global Climate Change: Why A Carbon Tax Is A Better Response To Global Warming Than Cap And Trade,” David M. Uhlmann, Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Program, University of Michigan Law School, Stanford Envir. Law Journal, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2009

Proposal 11: The Many Benefits of a Carbon Tax,” Adele C. Morris, Policy Director for Climate and Energy Economics, Brookings Institution, The Hamilton Project, February 26th 2013

Effects of a Carbon Tax on the Economy and the Environment,” CBO Report, Pub. No. 4532, May 22nd 2013

Carbon Tax: Deficit Reduction and Other Considerations,” Jonathan L. Ramseur et al., Specialist in Environmental Policy, Congressional Research Service, September 17th 2012

Proposal 11: The Many Benefits of a Carbon Tax,” Adele C. Morris, Policy Director for Climate and Energy Economics, Brookings Institution, The Hamilton Project, February 26th 2013

Effects of a Carbon Tax on the Economy and the Environment,” CBO Report, Pub. No. 4532, May 22nd 2013

Carbon Tax Revenue and the Budget Deficit: A Win-Win-Win Solution?,” Sebastian Rausch and John Reilly, Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Report No. 228, August 2012

Proposal 11: The Many Benefits of a Carbon Tax,” Adele C. Morris, Policy Director for Climate and Energy Economics, Brookings Institution, The Hamilton Project, February 26th 2013

Carbon Taxes as Part of the Fiscal Solution,” William G. Gale, Chair in Federal Economic Policy, Brookings Institution, March 2013

Carbon Tax Revenue and the Budget Deficit: A Win-Win-Win Solution?,” Sebastian Rausch and John Reilly, Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Report No. 228, August 2012

The Carbon Tax Miracle Cure,” Alan Binder, Professor of Economics & Public Affairs, Princeton University, Former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve, January 31st 2011

Combating Global Climate Change: Why A Carbon Tax Is A Better Response To Global Warming Than Cap And Trade,” David M. Uhlmann, Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Program, University of Michigan Law School, Stanford Envir. Law Journal, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2009

 

Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Social Security

Social Security

“Congress has given millionaires and billionaires a free pass: an absolute cap on their Social Security taxes.  No matter how high their income, they don’t pay a penny more.” -- Rush Holt

Social Security has been one of the most successful government programs in U.S. history.  Today more than 44 million seniors benefit from the program (1), and without it, 21 million of them would be in poverty. (2)  In New Jersey alone, it is estimated that 357,000 seniors are kept out of poverty by the program.

After Wall Street blew up the economy, Social Security became even more important.  Nearly half of all households have savings significantly below what they need. (3)  We should expand this successful program, not cut it.  Yet it’s become bipartisan to talk about cutting Social Security – especially since major cuts were proposed by the Simpson-Bowles commission – and that’s wrong.  If everyone paid the same rate into Social Security, we’d have more than enough money to make the program solvent and expand it.

A Simple Solution

Most people think everyone pays the same rate on payroll taxes.  In fact, the taxes are only collected on the first $113,700 an individual makes.  The result is a middle-class worker making $50,000 a year pays the full 6.2% rate while someone making a million pays less than a single percentage point.  This has effectively increased the burden on the vast majority of workers while giving the top one percent a pass. (4)

As income inequality has worsened in recent years, a smaller and smaller fraction of overall income has been covered by Social Security taxes.  In fact, the amount of income not taxed for Social Security has increased 88% since the 1983 tax reform. (5)  Simply returning the fraction of wages subject to the tax back up to the 1983 level (90%) would make Social Security solvent for another generation.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this step alone would allow the Social Security trust fund to be fully funded through 2082. (6)  Covering all income would allow us to actually expand Social Security.

Social Security is a program that everyone participates in and everyone should have to pay the same rate.  It’s simply unfair that millionaires pay a LOWER rate than average Americans.

Despite the fact lifting the payroll tax cap is such a popular idea, with 68% of Americans supporting elimination of the cap, Congress refuses to take any action.(7) This isn’t rocket science.  It isn’t even fifth-grade math.  To save Social Security, make the wealthy pay their fair share.  End of story.

“Social Security Beneficiary Statistics,” Social Security Administration, 2011 data “Social Security Keeps 21 Million Americans Out of Poverty: A State-by-State Analysis,” Water, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 10/16/2012Don’t Cut Social Security, Expand It,” Josh Barro, Lead Writer, The Ticker, Bloomberg Politics Blog, March 8th 2013 “Social Security is not going broke,” David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Reuters, May 4th 2012 “A Summary of Saving Social Security: A Balanced Approach,” Peter Diamond, Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute, Peter Orszag, Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at The Brookings Institution, 2004 “Social Security Policy Options,” Congressional Budget Office, 2010 “5 Ways To Fix Social Security,” Emily Brandon, US News & World Report, February 18th 2013

Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Student Loans

Student Loans

“A few years ago, Wall Street blew up our economy - and we still haven’t recovered. For recent college grads, the unemployment rate is above 13 percent. (1) The average starting wage is lower in real terms than in 1998.(2) And the average student loan debt is nearly 27,000 dollars. (3)

So if students are still reeling from Wall Street’s blunders, why on Earth would the government charge them an interest rate nine times higher than it charges Wall Street banks? (4) It’s absurd, and there’s a better solution. We should charge students the same interest rate that the Federal Reserve charges Wall Street banks: 0.75 percent, and not a penny more.

The idea was Elizabeth Warren’s, but Elizabeth can’t pass it alone. In the Senate, I’ll fight by her side to make it the law of the land. Wall Street broke our economy. Students shouldn’t have to pay to put it back together again.”

- Rush Holt

Gridlock in Washington Costs Grads

College degrees are still the best way into the middle class in this country. The employment rate for young adults who graduated college is 36% higher than for those who just graduated high school. (5) Yet college has become harder and harder to afford. Total costs have risen 440% over the last twenty five years.(6)

Instead of looking for ways to make college more affordable Congress let rates double. That effectively raised the cost of college by $2,600 for the average barrower.(7)

Record Debt and Record Profits

The massive increase in the cost of college has become a massive increase in debt for 37 million Americans. In just the last five years the amount of student loan debt has almost doubled to nearly a trillion dollars. (8) Since 2003 the number of people who are 90 days or more behind on their student loan payments has nearly doubled to 11%.(9)

At the same time, the government is set to make $50 billion on student loans this year.(10) This is more than Exxon or Apple made last year. With recent changes to the program and a doubling of rates permitted by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, these profits could go even higher. All of these “profits” come from Americans just trying to pay for college – and the income allows Republicans to raise government revenue without appearing to raise taxes.

Wall Street Pays Nine Times Less Than Students

The Federal Reserve has been lending to banks at 0.75%,(11) nine times less than the rate the Treasury is issuing student loans at. Banks have been using this access to generate some $13 billion in profits by barrowing at such a low rate.(12)

The Warren Plan

Elizabeth Warren’s plan would let Wall Street and Main Street borrow money at the same costs. For the next year, subsidized student loans would be charged the same interest rate Wall Street pays, currently 0.75%. More than 1,000 college professors have endorsed the plan(13), as have the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers.(14)

By charging a lower rate but not raising the borrowing cap, we could make college more affordable without adding more fuel to the fire of rising tuition costs. Students wouldn’t be borrowing more money, which in the past has led colleges to raise tuition; they would simply be paying less for the money they already are borrowing.

In order to keep college as affordable as possible, Rush Holt would build on the Elizabeth Warren plan and extend these low interest rates into future years.

Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Wall Street

Wall Street

These days, most stock trades aren’t made by human beings. They’re made by supercomputers that flip stocks in fractions of a second.(1)  That isn’t investment.  It’s speculation, helping Wall Street bankers get rich quick. And every dollar the computers win is a dollar you lose.  Even worse, high-speed trading is destabilizing our financial system.  It helped cause the “flash crash” that once destroyed a trillion dollars of wealth in minutes. (2)

 So let’s fix the problem.  Let’s create a small speculation tax:  a fraction of a penny on every share of stock bought or sold.  Those of us who invest for the long term will never notice the cost.  But from Wall Street speculators, we’ll raise hundreds of billions of dollars(3) – money we can invest in our roads, bridges, schools, energy research, our social safety net, and more. Most Democrats are afraid to support a transaction tax.  But the computers on Wall Street are beating the rest of us up – so I say, let’s fight back.

-Rush Holt

Zombie Computers Have Taken Over Wall Street

More than half of all stocks traded today are done by computers without any human oversight.(4)  Once a trader flips the switch, the computer buys and sells without any oversight, swapping thousands of shares -- mainly with other computers doing exactly the same thing.  Each successful trade may net the computers only a few pennies, but by trading many times a second, speculators can turn billions of dollars in profits.

The problem is that, when computers do battle against other computers without any human oversight, the result can be chaotic and unpredictable – causing massive volatility.  If and when something goes wrong, almost nothing can be done to fix it.

(5)

As this chart from Nanex shows, trading volume has exploded since 2006, when the zombie computers started to take over.  These high speed trades serve no positive purpose, and as one columnist noted, “Inevitably, at some point in the future, significant losses will end up being borne by investors with no direct connection to the [High Frequency Trading] world.”(6)

While some people are trying to fight back, “the firms are trying to stave off the regulators who are proposing to curb their activities.”(7)

$1 Trillion Wiped Out in Minutes

These computer programs have real-world consequences.  In the spring of 2010 automated trading caused the largest single day plunge in history.(8)  The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 600 points in five minutes, and even as markets plunged, no one fully understood what happened because the computers were trading so fast.  The SEC conducted a full investigation and, the New York Times noted, found that a computer “was programmed to execute the trade ‘without regard to price or time,’”(9) and sold off billions in securities.  This caused all of the other automated systems to respond which led to an automated feeding frenzy where “contracts changed hands 27,000 times in 14 seconds.” (10)

All it took to stop the crash was a five second pause in trading. (11)

Even a Pioneer Thinks Wall Street Has Gone Too Far

But you don’t have to take Rush Holt’s word that we need to slow down.  Thomas Peterffy, who helped pioneer the practice of computer trading in the 1980s, says that such trading has gotten out of control.  He recently told NPR, "We are competing at milliseconds," he says. "And whether you can shave three milliseconds off an order has absolutely no social value."(12)

Computers, in other words, not only add instability; lightning trading takes us away from the very purpose of the market.  Traders argue that the purpose of a stock market is to allocate capital efficiently and establish fair prices of goods and services.  But high-frequency trading isn’t doing that.  It’s just gaming the system.

A Transaction Tax Would Bring Back Stability

There’s a simple solution:  a small speculation tax applied to each share of stock bought or sold.  Because high-frequency traders typically earn only pennies in profit on each trade, a speculation tax of a fraction of a cent would be enough to dissuade speculators – but such a tiny tax would go almost completely unnoticed by average Americans who invest for the long term.  Even better, the speculation tax could generate $43 billion a year we could invest here at home, helping to support our our roads, bridges, schools, energy research, our social safety net, and more.(13)

Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Preventing Gun Violence

Preventing Gun Violence

Every day, more than 80 people are killed by guns.  Some of these are murders; some are suicides; some are accidents.  Each death is a tragedy, and each death stains our national conscience because we as Americans have failed to take the steps necessary to end gun violence.

We must finally require universal background checks before any purchase of a firearm.  We must ban military-style assault rifles, which are weapons of mass murder that have no use in sport or self-defense.  We must establish national gun registration laws, similar to the law already in place in New Jersey.  We must mandate smart trigger locks that ensure that a gun can be fired only by its rightful owner.  We must invest in the security necessary to ensure that our schools are sanctuaries from gun violence.  We must invest in mental health care to fight the kind of despair that leads a human being to use a gun to end a life.

We must, most of all, fight the lies and the venomous political tactics of the gun lobby, which has for many years stood with gun manufacturers rather than with law-abiding gun owners and ordinary citizens.

As New Jerseyans, we are already protected by relatively strong gun laws at the state level – but our safety is undermined by lax gun laws in the rest of the nation.  As a United States senator, I will seek to bring New Jersey’s high standards for gun safety to the rest of the nation.

Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Protecting LGBT Rights

Protecting LGBT Rights

I believe in equality under the law – period.  In today’s America, protecting LGBT rights is the frontier in our struggle for civil rights for all.

Here’s where I stand.  You should never fear harassment at work or school because of your sexuality.  You should never lose your job because of who you love or how you express your gender.  You should be able to marry the person you choose, and your marriage should be recognized by the federal government and by every state in the nation.

“Whenever issues affect the LGBT community in Washington, (Rush Holt) has always voted with clear cut and forthright values due to his belief in equality for everyone - with no exceptions.”  

- Out in Jersey Magazine

I am proud to be a founding member of the Equality Caucus and have worked with them to advance the rights of LBGT individuals in the United States and around the globe.

Past Accomplishments on Civil Rights

  • Helped end “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
  • Original co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, H.R. 3567, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure respect for State regulation of marriage.
  • Co-sponsor and strong supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that provides employment protections for sexual orientation as well as gender identity.
  • Original co-sponsor of Uniting American Families Act.
  • Has and will continue to oppose such attempts to amend the Constitution to prevent LGBT couples from marrying.
  • With Sen. Frank Lautenberg, wrote the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act to require colleges and universities to protect students from harassment.
  • Original co-sponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act.
  • Original co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act which is about restoring balance to the employer-employee relationship.
  • Wrote legislation to ban the use of federal funds for ethnic or religious profiling.
  • Proud member of Garden State Equality’s Equality Hall of Fame.
Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Health Care

Health Care

America’s health care system is one of our greatest strengths and one of our greatest liabilities.  Our doctors are capable of providing the very best care in the world.  Our pharmaceutical companies have created miracle drugs that no other nation could have conceived.  Yet we pay far more for health care than any other nation on the planet, with no measurable payoff in lives prolonged or health improved.  Worse, we leave millions of our citizens uninsured – an appalling situation that is only partially addressed by the Affordable Care Act.

This state of affairs is nonsensical, morally reprehensible, and financially wasteful.  The fact is, there is a proven, effective way to hold down the cost of health care – a method embraced by many nations throughout the world, and a method that the United States has already implemented successfully for our senior citizens through Medicare.  That method is simple:  single-payer, universal health care.

I have long supported Medicare for all, and I will fight in the Senate to advance the day when America has truly universal access to health care.

Protecting Medicare for Future Generations

Until we reach the day when every American has access to Medicare-style health coverage, we must at least protect Medicare for our senior citizens who already depend upon it.

In the Senate, I will fight to strengthen Medicare.  Today’s Medicare does too little to coordinate care for patients, and it fails to help doctors and seniors make the decisions required to ensure dignity as health fails.

Yet let’s be clear:  Medicare is a resounding success story.  It has done a better job of restraining health care costs than private insurers, and it has done so while providing decent, affordable health care to every senior in America.

I will always oppose the plans of extremists such as Paul Ryan who would abolish traditional Medicare and replace it with a voucher program.

Ensuring Women’s Access to Health Care

I have never understood the notion that I, as a man or as a lawmaker, should have the right to deny women control of their own bodies.  To the contrary, I believe that women have the intelligence, the integrity, and the decency to make health care decisions without government interference. 

I believe that all women should have access to preventative health care, including birth control – and that their employers should not have the right to deny them such care.

In the Senate, I will fight to ensure that women have the support they need in moments of crisis.  I will work to guarantee that victims of rape and sexual assault have access to emergency contraception, and I will work to increase the Victims of Crime Act fund, which provides federal support to many state and local programs that assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes.

Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Workers’ Rights

Workers’ Rights

America was built by workers.  Every family home, every country store, every county courthouse, every interstate and rural road was built by an American worker who put in an honest day’s work in pursuit of the American Dream.

If we are to keep the American Dream alive in our time, we must protect the rights of workers to organize for safe working conditions and a secure future.  We must finally pass the Employee Free Choice Act to ensure that collective bargaining remains a fundamental American right.  We must build on New Jersey’s success and guarantee every worker paid medical leave – both as a matter of basic decency and of public health.

And it is long past time to raise the minimum wage.  We must ensure that every worker gets paid a living wage, and we must ensure that the minimum wage rises with inflation.

Ensuring a Secure Retirement

America is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world.  There is no reason why, after a lifetime of hard work, our workers should have to worry about making ends meet in retirement.  We can and should afford to guarantee Social Security benefits for every American.

Despite the claims of alarmists, Social Security remains in fairly good shape:  it can afford to pay out full benefits until about 2033, and even after that, the system will be able to pay out about three-quarters of promised benefits.  With some relatively minor tweaking, such as expanding the Social Security wage base – and without slashing promised benefits to seniors – we can secure Social Security for generations to come.

Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Homeland Security

Homeland Security

To protect our homeland in the 21st century, we must have with a deep understanding of the science and technology underlying nuclear, chemical, biological, and cyber attacks.  Too often, though, Congress seems to write laws to protect us from the imagined threats we see in Hollywood movies – leading to a policy response that is mismatched to real-world dangers and that imposes serious costs in dollars, lives, and lost civil liberties.

As a former nuclear weapons intelligence analyst for our government, I understand the real threats posed by nuclear weapons.  That’s why I repeatedly voted for robust funding for programs designed to collect “loose nukes” and keep them out of the hands the likes of al Qaeda. 

I have also been a strong proponent of a real, independent investigation of the government’s flawed response to the 2001 anthrax attacks.  My Congressional office was shut down by the anthrax attacks, so I saw firsthand how federal investigators bungled the early stages of the investigation.  As a scientist, I remain troubled that the FBI has not conclusively tied these biological attacks back to their sources.  If we are to prevent future attacks, we must invest in better investigative tools, and we must hold law enforcement accountable for past mistakes.

Also, as former chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, I brought greater oversight and fiscal accountability to the intelligence community, and forced both the Bush and Obama administrations to trim or reform programs and activities to make sure they keep America safe and spend taxpayer dollars wisely.  In the Senate, I will demand an end to the NSA’s abuse of technology to conduct mass-scale surveillance of innocent Americans, which has violated our Constitutional rights but done little or nothing to keep us safe.

Refocus the “War on Terror”

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, Congress passed a series of emergency bills to provide wide-ranging, near-unilateral authorities to the executive branch.  Most notably, Congress dramatically expanded the surveillance authorities of law enforcement through the PATRIOT Act, and it enacted an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against those involved in carrying out the terrorist attacks.

Congress’s intent was to provide the short-term authorities required to respond to a national crisis.  Yet now, 12 years later, few of these authorities have been revoked, and some have been expanded.  The result is that America has entered a state of endless war against ill-defined adversaries, with federal authorities claiming ever-greater authorities in the name of uncertain goals.

These laws have been abused and must be changed.   In the Senate, I will fight to repeal the PATRIOT Act and to end the Authorization for Use of Military Force – replacing them, if necessary, with far narrower authorizations that fit today’s real threats.  To further draw a sharp break with the mistakes of our past and to reestablish America’s moral credibility in the world, I will work to finally close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

America is a stronger nation than some of our leaders give us credit for.  We need not sacrifice our most fundamental values in order to keep ourselves safe.  To the contrary, part of being the strongest nation on earth is standing by our values. 

Creating Prosperity Around the Globe

To ensure the safety of America’s homeland, we must create the conditions for prosperity around the globe.  A wealthier world is a more stable and less violent world – a world where human beings can put their efforts into building up themselves and their families rather than into tearing down their adversaries.

To build global prosperity, we must continue to support foreign assistance, including environmental assistance and the development of water resources.  We must also help nations develop the technological infrastructure required to participate in the modern economy.

We also must embrace new forms of foreign aid, including microcredit – a tool pioneered by the Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, who was recently awarded a Congressional Gold Medal under legislation that I wrote in Congress.  Dr. Yunus discovered that, by lending just a few dollars to impoverished families around the world, he could enable these families to build the foundation of a better life.  So far, Dr. Yunus’s organization has helped 9.4 million families around the world, providing ample proof that microcredit is an effective way of eliminating the scourge of poverty.  The United States government should learn from these millions of examples.

Supporting the Veterans Who Protected Our Homeland

I firmly believe that we have a moral obligation to guarantee that our veterans receive the health care, disability compensation, readjustment counseling, and job training and placement services that they have earned through their service to our nation.  We also have a further obligation to help veterans cope with the mental strains of their service – an obligation that, right now, we are failing to meet.  In fact, on an average day, more than 20 veterans die by suicide.

After being contacted by a constituent whose son committed suicide following two tours of duty in Iraq and bureaucratic neglect by the Army, I wrote legislation to provide a total of $80 million in additional funding for suicide prevention to the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.  In the Senate, I will fight to ensure that these funds are a permanent fixture of America’s budget.

Past Accomplishments on Homeland Security

  • Introduced the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act to create a 9/11 style commission to fully investigate the attacks and ensure and that federal agencies have made the changes necessary to help prevent future bioterror attacks. Persistently pushed the FBI to be forthcoming about its anthrax investigation.
  • Hosted fire grants workshops where first responders learned about how to apply for grant opportunities from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  
  • Worked successfully with the New Jersey Congressional delegation to ensure that Department of Homeland Security funds are allocated based on risk and to ensure that New Jersey receive sufficient funding under the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant program.   
  • Part of an effort to properly fund the World Trade Center Monitoring and Treatment Program.
  • Consistently pushed for higher funding levels for the federal rail and transit security grant programs in the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Since 2007, have secured over a billion dollars for improved rail security measures nation-wide.
  • Vastly increased funding for foreign language programs, especially for languages spoken in the Middle East. 
Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Education

Education

As a teacher, I’ve seen firsthand the power of education to transform lives.  As a lawmaker, I understand the potential for education to provide the foundation for lasting economic growth.

We must make the necessary investments in education – from pre-kindergarten through college and beyond – and we must sustain these investments for the long haul.  We must also staunchly oppose those who would take money out of our public schools in the form of vouchers.

Early Childhood Education Is a Right

In the 19th and 20th centuries, America’s commitment to free, public education for all of its citizens helped us grow into the world’s most prosperous and successful nation.

Now, in the 21st century, we are discovering that it is not enough to guarantee students access to schools when they reach kindergarten.  By that age, many students – especially those from poor or underprivileged families – are already behind, and they have little chance of catching up.

If we are to ensure every child a fair shot in life, we must provide free public education beginning with pre-kindergarten.  This is the right thing to do for our children, and it is the right thing to do for our economy.

Strengthening Math and Science Education

Math and science should be part of everyone’s education.  This is true in part because the jobs of the future will demand high-level skills in math and science – but just as importantly, the ability to “think like a scientist” is vital to workers in any field.  Our nation and our economy is stronger when more people can pose questions so that they can be answered by experiments, can work comfortably with statistics, can employ statistical reasoning, and can draw conclusions from uncertain data.

More than a decade ago, I served on the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century – better known as the John Glenn Commission, after our chairman.  The Commission made numerous recommendations, including increasing the number of math and science teachers and creating new opportunities for professional development.  We called our final report “Before It’s Too Late” – which makes it ironic and troubling that, 12 years later, Congress still has not fully embraced our recommendations.

The good news is, it’s still not too late.  In the U.S. Senate, I’ll fight to implement the Glenn Commission’s recommendations and to strengthen math and science education in public schools.

Making College More Affordable

A few years ago, I helped write the College Cost Reduction Act, which cut in half the interest rate on federal Stafford loans from 6.8 to 3.4 percent.

This was a major step in the right direction, one that saved the typical student borrower more than a thousand dollars over the life of his or her loan.  But as college costs continue to skyrocket, it’s clear that the College Cost Reduction Act was not enough.  Students who are forced to borrow $20,000 or $40,000 or more to get through college will face an enormous financial burden – no matter how low the interest rate they are charged.

To make college more affordable, we must take more dramatic action.  We must double the maximum Pell Grant from $5,550 to $11,100.  This will restore the Pell Grant to its historic place as a major contributor to the cost of college, it will place a college degree within the reach of many more American students, and it will ensure that America’s workforce remains the most educated and innovative in the world.

Past Accomplishments in Education

  • Helped write the law that made a landmark investment in college aid, investing $36 billion to increase the maximum annual Pell Grant scholarship and cut banks out of the process
  • Wrote the law that provides upfront tuition assistance — up to $16,000 ($4,000 per year) — for math, science and foreign-language teachers.
  • Helped enact the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act to provide emergency funding to keep teachers in the classroom and provide states with funding to reduce budget shortfalls and which will help keep 3,900 teachers in their classrooms in New Jersey including 160 in Central New Jersey.
  • Helped establish the “American Opportunity” tax credit, a tax credit of up to $2,500 per student to make college more affordable for millions of low- and moderate-income students. 
  • Successfully defended funding for the Department of Education’s Mathematics and Science Partnerships program
  • Advocated for increased attention and funding to special education programs.
  • Voted for the establishment of the Early Learning Challenge Fund to ensure that all children reach kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed. 
Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Energy

Energy

Before I was elected to Congress, I was a research physicist – which meant, more than anything else, that I studied energy:  how it is created, how it is transported, and how we as humans can harness it to run our world.

I served as assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, New Jersey’s largest alternate energy research facility, which is studying how to create clean and near-limitless fusion power.  I also designed and patented a “solar pond” that efficiently captures sunlight and stores heat.

No one serving in the Senate today has this kind of nuts-and-bolts expertise in energy science – and it shows.  America’s energy policy is broken.  We’re giving tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the Big Oil companies that are destroying the air we breathe and the water we drink, even as we’re failing to invest in next-generation energy technologies that could create jobs and build the foundation of future prosperity.

Build a Smart National Energy Grid

America’s power grid – the infrastructure of power generators, transmission lines, and distribution lines that connects each household to electricity – is an outdated relic of the last century.  It was designed at a time when power was generated at huge, isolated, and dirty power plants, most of which burned coal, and then transmitted across dozens or hundreds of miles to distant households.

But nowadays, households are no longer passive consumers of electricity.  Many thousands of Americans have solar panels on their rooftops, generating enough electricity to power their homes and even to share with their neighbors; the energy grid must be able to accept their contributions.  Many forms of renewable energy, including wind and solar power, deliver wildly variable amounts of energy depending upon the weather, requiring a more flexible power grid that can store excess energy or bring new power online as needed.  Moreover, today’s aging power grid is fragile, as we’ve seen when minor electrical glitches have caused region-wide blackouts.

In the U.S. House, I helped to establish ARPA-E, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, modeled after a Defense Department research agency that played a key role in developing the Internet.  To jump-start its research, I helped authorize a doubling of ARPA-E’s budget to explore energy breakthroughs, including the creation of a smarter energy grid.

This was only a first step.  We must renew this investment in the years ahead.  21st century America cannot succeed on the back of a 20th century power grid.

End Taxpayer Giveaways to Big Oil

In 2012, the five largest oil companies pocketed $118 billion in profits.  Clearly, these companies are not small, struggling businesses that need a handout from Uncle Sam; they are massively profitable international conglomerates.  So it makes no sense that these same oil companies receive tens of billions of dollars in special tax breaks that are not available to any other business in America.

These Big Oil subsidies are a waste of taxpayer dollars, but even worse, they give oil a competitive advantage over the kinds of next-generation energy technologies – such as wind, solar, and biofuel – that we should be supporting.

In Congress, I have fought for legislation that would save taxpayers $40 billion by ending Big Oil giveaways.  We should instead devote that money to research and development of alternative energy technologies.

Although Big Oil’s tax subsidies are the most obvious way these companies benefit from American taxpayers, Big Oil also enjoys a range of other special protections and benefits.  For instance, Big Oil receives special legal immunity that caps their liability at just $75 million in the event of an offshore oil spill – a fraction of a percent of the real cost of a major spill.  I have introduced legislation to repeal the offshore oil spill liability cap once and for all.

Past Accomplishments in Energy

  • Introduced the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act to hold oil companies — not taxpayers — liable for the full economic and environmental costs caused by oil spills.  
  • Support legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rate of global warming.
  • Co-sponsor of the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act to provide permanent protections for ANWR from oil and gas drilling.
  • Opposed to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas development. 
Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Economy

Economy

As an educator and a scientist, I know that investing in education, research, and infrastructure are the keys to a stronger, more secure middle class.  These are the investments that kept the American Dream alive in the 20th century – investments such as the GI Bill, which made it possible for a young Frank Lautenberg to go to college, build a business, and join the United States Senate.

But the American Dream, and Sen. Lautenberg’s vision for our country, are under attack in Washington today.  They are threatened by a worldview that gives ever-greater privilege to the already fortunate:  a dogma that demands lower taxes on the wealthy and fewer protections for consumers while letting Wall Street, Big Oil, and insurance companies run free.

In my 14 years in the U.S. Congress, I have fought back against this destructive ideology and built a record of accomplishment on issues that matter to New Jerseyans.  As your United States senator, I will work to recommit our nation to these progressive values and to make the investments needed to keep the American Dream alive in the 21st century.

Reinvesting in Research and Development

When America invests in science and technology, the payoffs are extraordinary.  One study of the Apollo program, for instance, found that it transformed $25 billion in government investments into $181 billion of economic output – a 7 to 1 return on investment!  A study of the Human Genome Project found that $3.6 billion in federal support enabled nearly $800 billion in economic output.

Yet despite these enormous payoffs, the federal government has slashed its investments in R&D in recent decades.  In 1964, as America’s space program was taking off, federal investments in research and development reached a peak of nearly 2 percent of our economy.  Today, we’re investing far less than one percent.  As a scientist, I’ve seen firsthand how these cuts have hurt promising research and hobbled America in the race for discovery.

President Obama has said that we are facing a “Sputnik moment” – an occasion when, in order to remain a global leader, America must invest heavily in breakthrough research.  Yet how can we hope to replicate the successes of the Apollo years if we fail to make Apollo-scale investments?

In the Senate, I’ll push to restore federal support for R&D to its historic levels to strengthen our economy, create jobs, and spark revolutions in biomedicine, information technology, renewable energy, our energy infrastructure, and more.

Tax Relief for the Middle Class – Not the 1%

I voted for the largest middle class tax cut in history and wrote a law in 2008 that provided property tax relief to homeowners who do not itemize on their taxes.   I also steadfastly opposed extending the Bush tax cuts, which worsened inequality by giving hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthiest families while doing little to help the middle class.

The theory of trickle-down economics was disproven long ago.  It doesn’t work, and I will fight against those who try to reinstate it as government policy.

Past Accomplishments on the Economy

  • Wrote the law in 2008 that provides property tax relief to homeowners who do not currently itemize on their taxes.
  • Introduced the Create Jobs by Expanding the R&D Tax Credit Act to increase the R&D tax credit for two years to encourage business innovation.
  • Introduced the Creating Jobs from Innovative Small Businesses Act which would encourage small business investment by establishing a temporary 20 percent tax credit for investments in research-intensive small businesses.
  • Co-sponsor of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act to shut down tax loopholes that allow corporations to evade paying their fair share of taxes by setting up off-shore corporate headquarters. 
  • Voted to limit expansion of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which affects more families in Central Jersey than anywhere in the country
  • Voted for the “American Opportunity” tax credit, now law, which established a tax credit of up to $2,500 per student to make college more affordable for millions of low- and moderate-income students.
  • Cosponsored the Commuter Benefits Equity Act to provide tax benefits for commuters who use public transportation.
  • Strengthened the research and development (R&D) tax credit, which allows businesses to invest in innovation and, in the process, expand and hire new workers. 
  • Introduced the Creating Jobs from Innovative Small Businesses Act, H.R. 4769, would encourage small business investment by establishing a temporary 20 percent tax credit for investments in research-intensive small businesses.
  • Supported the HIRE Act, which gave businesses a tax break for hiring previously unemployed workers and doubled the amount small businesses can write off their taxes for investing in their businesses.
  • Voted for the Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act, which rewards investing in small businesses and incentivizes starting new businesses.
  • Co-sponsor of the National Science Education Tax Incentive for Businesses Act, which allows businesses to qualify for a tax credit for contributions of property or services to elementary and secondary schools and for teacher training to promote instruction in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM contributions). 
Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Environment

Environment

As one of the only research scientists in the U.S. Congress, I have fought to advance the overwhelming consensus of my fellow scientists:  that global warming is real, that it is caused by humans, and that it demands immediate action from lawmakers. We can no longer allow Republicans to deny obvious phenomena.  Doing so is hurting our future. 

In 2009, I fought to add strict new limits on greenhouse gases to the House-passed cap-and-trade bill.  As your senator, I will keep fighting every day to see that these limits become law.

Protecting the Air We Breathe and the Water We Drink

New Jersey and America face many challenges today, from the rising cost of health care to the fragile recovery of our economy.  But as dire as these problems can seem, all become moot points if we do not have clean air to breathe and safe water to drink.

In New Jersey, our most pressing conservation priority is ensuring the safety of our natural coastline, which is responsible for 200,000 state jobs and $12 billion in revenue. To protect our coastal economy, I will fight against any off-shore oil drilling off the Jersey Coast.

We must also safeguard lands in New Jersey and elsewhere from the headlong rush into fracking – the injection of massive quantities of water, sand, and toxic chemicals into the ground to extract natural gas.  The corporate embrace of fracking has surpassed our understanding of its consequences.  We must use caution until our scientific understanding catches up with the drilling companies’ enthusiasm.

Beyond New Jersey, we must also protect fragile wilderness areas and national treasures throughout the rest of the country, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Utah’s Red Rock wilderness.  The League of Conservation Voters has recognized my career-long effort to protect our land, water, and air with a 100 percent lifetime voting record. 

End the Politicization of Disaster Relief

Our world is being reshaped by climate change, and the inevitable result will be stronger superstorms, worse floods, more withering droughts, and more intense wildfires.  These natural disasters will impose horrific costs in dollars and lives.

Even as America seeks to limit the severity of climate change, we must also stand by our fellow citizens who – through no fault of their own – fall victim to natural disasters.  This means providing federal support to states, towns, and individuals who suffer severe and uninsurable damage in major disasters.

In past decades, emergency disaster relief has been a widely accepted responsibility of the federal government, and disaster relief bills have passed with broad bipartisan support.  Yet in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, most Republicans refused to provide help to New Jerseyans who fell victim to the storm, and the disaster relief package passed only by a narrow margin after months of delays.

In the Senate, I will fight to put emergency disaster relief on more stable footing by providing greater annual funding and flexibility to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  As natural disasters become more common, we cannot afford to allow disaster relief to be held hostage to partisan demands.

Past Accomplishments on the Environment

  • Co-sponsor of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Act
  • Co-sponsor of OCEANS-21 comprehensive legislation that would develop a national policy to ensure the health of our nation’s oceans for future generations.
  • Long supported the “polluter pays” principle that the financial burden to clean up toxic pollution -Support legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rate of global warming.
  • Won additional funding for federal efforts to preserve open space, such as $453 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help states and municipalities preserve open space and recreation areas.  
Rush Holt for U.S. Senate | Civil Rights & Civil Liberties

Civil Rights & Civil Liberties

Stopping Surveillance of Innocent Americans

If you are innocent of wrongdoing, the United States government should not spy on your phone calls and e-mails. This is a simple belief, rooted in the clear language of the Fourth Amendment:  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

Yet through the misguided PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments Act, the NSA has reportedly been gathering the phone records of millions of innocent Americans – including deeply private details such as what numbers you dialed, where you were when you placed a call, and more.  This is wrong-headed and unconstitutional, and it wastes resources spying on innocent Americans rather than pursuing the guilty.  

As former chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, I know that these surveillance programs have compromised Americans’ rights while providing only the illusion of security.  As a scientist who understands how these massive databases can be used and abused, I am frightened by what this near-universal surveillance suggests for the future of our democracy.

I will lead the fight in the Senate to repeal the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act and to end these abuses.

Ending Warrantless Spying on Religious Communities

The evidence is clear.  For years, the NYPD spied on communities of American citizens – including those gathered for dinner, for worship, and for recreation – without a warrant and without any suspicion of wrongdoing.  The NYPD targeted these places for surveillance simply because some of the people in attendance were, or were believed to be, Muslim.

This behavior is repugnant to American values.  Just as importantly, law enforcement officers waste their limit resources when they spy on the innocent multitudes rather than focusing on the guilty few.

If law enforcement has reasonable suspicion that someone is guilty of a crime, then they should, of course, monitor that person – regardless of his or her religion.  But if law enforcement has no reason whatsoever to suspect someone, then it is unlawful, ineffective, and un-American to subject that person to surveillance simply because of his or her religious affiliation.

I will fight to ban any federal funds from being used for ethnic or religious profiling.