The crime-comedy American Hustle was about an FBI sting operation that caught many corrupt South Jersey politicians in the 1970s.
Today in South Jersey it’s a whole ‘nother animal.
There is patronage to the party boss George Norcross regardless of how terrible everything under his umbrella is. No matter how poor the quality of life is in Camden, the nation’s most dangerous city, residents of South Jersey continue to re-elect the machine into office.
Researchers analyzing why these “leaders” have not been able to change the city or the rest of the area under their control think there is a method to their madness.
“Keeping the city poor brings federal dollars down for all of their special projects, for all of their special friends and acquaintances they need to control to keep the dollars coming and allocated where they want it.”
“It’s a very profitable model, as long as the population in this area remains uneducated. If they are kept uninformed and there are no real threats to the machine it will continue to work.” -an anonymous resident researcher at The Rand.
Why you may ask?
There have not been any serious candidates running against the machine until this year.
Alex Law, 24, from Collingswood, NJ, has transformed his grassroots campaign into a viable campaign. He is running in the Democratic primary against a freshmen congressional candidate who has baggage from his stint as state senator and most recently voting in step with the Republicans in the 114th Congress.
Alex Law is an NYU Stern Business School graduate, while his opponent holds an associates degree from Camden County College.
We contacted Alex Law to ask him about his most recent Huffington Post article on Bernie Sanders and to catch up with him and his campaign:
New Theory: Why are you running for Congress?
Alex Law: I’ve always been interested in politics because I was taught by my grandfather, a small town mayor in New Jersey, that public service is one of the best ways there is to help your community. After college, I decided to turn down banking opportunities to return home and fight for my community. What I realized was that our home is dominated by an oppressive political machine that takes advantage of people through their power and influence. I had to do something. I had to run for Congress because that takes the machine on directly and when we win we will deal a fatal blow to the veil of invincibility that sustains their grip on the region. My campaign is bringing a new brand of exciting, progressive, passionate politics to South Jersey. We are a grassroots campaign for real people and I am so excited about the work we are doing to give the people of the 1st Congressional District the first real choice aside from the machine in almost 30 years.
New Theory: Why Bernie Sanders?
Alex Law: Hillary Clinton is a wonderful candidate, and to be clear, if she wins the nomination I would be happy to support her. However, right now, I think Bernie Sanders is the best candidate. If the election was today, I would vote for him. I have confidence that he would act to address important issues to me like campaign finance reform, raising the minimum wage, Wall Street reform, student loans reform, net neutrality, and LGBTQ rights in the workplace. I am inspired by the way people travel for miles to listen to him speak about progressive ideas. His campaign is driven by an unshakable vision to help the middle class, and that is something I truly believe in.
New Theory: How are you the millennial voice?
Alex Law: There are over 100 million millennials in the United States. We are the biggest generation in history, yet we do not have a voice in Washington. In fact, Congress is the oldest and least productive legislature in our nation’s history. Of course, my campaign is working to represent the voice of people of the 1st Congressional District, something that hasn’t actually happened in my lifetime as not a single bill written by a machine representative of this district has become law since 1991, but we are also looking to connect with millennials all across the country. As we have launched this campaign, young people all across the country have written to me expressing how they have enjoyed the content and ideas that we have online. What I tell them is, whether you live in California or New York or anywhere in between, even if I might not technically be your representative, follow my campaign. Let my voice speak for the concerns of our generation. Join the conversation on our Facebook page—facebook.com/alexlawnj—and help carry our message forward.
When we win this election, I will be the youngest Congressman in the United States of America. With that comes a magnification of our voice and our ideas. An interesting thing to note is that as we have begun campaigning, we have found that rank-in-file older Democrats believe in the ideas and the message we are carrying just as much as young people. I am speaking not only for millennial progressives, but progressives from every generation that want to see common sense reform.
New Theory: How will you fix the current issue we are having with student loans?
Alex Law: The student loan crisis is an incredibly important issue for me. Along with raising the minimum wage, it is an issue that can immediately improve the lives of millions of Americans nearly overnight with a single piece of legislation.
We allow banks to borrow at 1% or less, meanwhile, the government makes students pay 9-10%. We are turning our banks into charity cases and our future leaders, our students, into profit centers. I fundamentally believe that students should never have to borrow at a higher rate than Wall Street. Good policy would be to allow refinancing of student loans on a federal level to whatever rate banks are currently borrowing at. Overnight, this lessens the burden of millions of Americans that are having their back broken by the 1.2 trillion dollars of student loan debt. I believe we should also look into exactly what we can do in terms of loan forgiveness plans and subsidizing certain forms of education such as community college.
New Theory: One of the biggest problems in the district you are running in is the high number of foreclosures throughout CD1 and abandoned homes in Camden. What will you do to fix these issues?
Alex Law: One of the biggest policy differences I have with my opponent and his brother, machine boss George Norcross—and we have many differences—is around economic development. They have given almost a billion dollars to huge corporations that are going to build new structures in Camden, but realistically not create very many new jobs. To me, economic development starts with small business. I’d have given that money to small businesses either through subsidized loans or grants. They would have created a huge amount of jobs and the economic infrastructure that would have attracted big companies because of the vibrant economic growth. Home-grown economic growth like that would make a significant difference in our foreclosure problem.
I would also advocate for new homestead legislation to promote home ownership in Camden. This policy would work to eliminate tax burdens on abandoned properties that currently make development prohibitive. It would also subsidize home ownership over classic Section-8 housing because when people own their homes, they take better care of them and the blocks that the homes sit on. So much federal and state money is being brought into Camden, but the machine and my opponent have seemingly directed it the wrong way every single time. If I can earn the voters of my community’s trust and win this election, this is one of the very first issues I will address.