Representative Tom MalinowskiD-7, took the stage in person on the evening of Friday, March 25 at the Trailside Nature & Science Center on the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside, to speak with approximately 100 of his constituents from the 7th Congressional District about the War in Ukraine, economics and other subjects.
Malinowksi is running for re-election again this fall, his Republican opponent likely being Tom Kean Jr. with whom he is currently tied, according to most state polls. The June 7 GOP primary will be the deciding factor on who he faces.
Unsurprisingly, most of the talk has centered on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which hits close for the congressman, who grew up in Soviet-era communist-controlled Poland until he moved to Princeton with his mother when he was six years old.
Rep. Malinowski started talking about “that horrible war in Ukraine.
“The main thing I want to tell you up front is that these brave people in Ukraine are not just fighting to defend their homes and their families. Of course they are. They are fighting to defend ideals, the principles, the rules that protect each country.
He said the principles decided upon at the end of World War II included the idea that large countries cannot simply gobble up smaller countries using missiles, tanks and armies.
“Every international border in the world is in some way a story of past invasions and empires rising and falling,” he said. “At some point in our history, we thought we had decided that we weren’t going to change them by killing thousands of people. But that’s what Putin does.
He said the whole world is watching and worrying China may have its own designs similar to Taiwan.
“It’s a fight between democracy and dictatorship and authoritarianism,” he said.
He noted that the United States might have its own arguments, but we can get together and discuss things.
Regarding the war, he noted that in just over three weeks, the Russians have lost more generals in battle than the United States has lost in nearly 20 years of fighting in Iraq and in Afghanistan – not a great record of success.
He said he was in favor of no-fly zones in other contexts and that he tended to be aggressive in how we should deal with these kinds of global issues, but in this case NATO , the European Union and the United States are suddenly terrified of what Putin might do, including escalating to chemical or nuclear war.
Malinowksi said he would like to get the Patriot missile systems to Ukraine, but the training needed to integrate them into their national defense could be difficult and take months. Instead, he hopes to find old Russian systems like the S-300 surface-to-air missiles that Eastern European countries are already familiar with.
“I don’t want this to escalate into a war between the United States, NATO and Russia,” Malinowski said. “When (Putin) wields his nuclear saber (leaders) sometimes find themselves doing things they didn’t intend to do. We know this from history, and sometimes leaders try to shape events, but then events… get out of hand. Mistakes and miscalculations are made.
A man in the audience seemed to partly believe Russian propaganda that claimed to want to “denazify” Ukraine. Malinowski said Russia saying it wants to demilitarize Ukraine to get rid of the army it built to protect it from Russian invasion is like a burglar saying he’s going to steal your home unless you get rid of your burglar alarm.
“(Ukraine) is a sovereign country that has every right to ask us to help its army. They have every right to join alliances to be part of global organizations. And it is absolutely unacceptable to me that a great power – Russia, China or the United States – says you try to make your own choices, and we will kill your children.
“If we allow that to happen here, if we don’t take reasonable and legal steps to put a price on that kind of behavior, that’s the kind of world we’re going to get.”
Malinowski said that when the government doesn’t fix things, the government builds things, taking care of the most basic needs such as fixing the streets.
He noted that Congress has finally passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill which, among other things, will build the Gateway Tunnel Project which will improve the overall transportation landscape of New Jersey and New York and also invest in more flood control in the 7th arrondissement.
The MP talked about the Covid period when cities managed to get through the crisis when everything was at a standstill.
But he said the dark side of having the lowest unemployment rate, around 3.9%, with the fewest unemployed since around 1971, is that the supply chain issues, the supply of goods, have not yet recovered, leading to inflation and rising prices. .
“It’s basic economics,” he says. “When there is too much money for too few goods.”
“I’m proud that people spend money like gangbusters,” Malinowski said. ” It’s a good sign. But in the long run, solving this problem means starting to make the goods we need, especially those that are essential to our economy.
He mentioned the shortage of cars and the related shortage of computer chips, as well as computers, smart phones and just about every electrical device that we use. This country used to manufacture these microchips in large quantities, but now we supply almost “zero percent” to the world market.
He said the House’s America Competes Act is investing in America and bringing that manufacturing back to our shores, including many cutting-edge companies right here in the 7th District.
Asked about gas prices, Malinowski noted that Russian oil disappeared from the world market almost overnight, with an immediate impact on prices. He said we need to replace that oil and gas with our own production as well as imports from countries like Saudi Arabia.
“One of the problems is that our oil companies have cut production drastically in 2020, because people have stopped driving and they’ve been very slow to get production going again. I think it’s because they like high prices, right? And they made record profits in 2021. That’s capitalism. It’s okay. It’s their right to try to get rich.
But he said the rules on about 9,000 existing government leases for gas and oil need to be tightened so that oil companies start drilling on existing concessions, rather than start authorizing new leases on land protected by the federal government or offshore where environmental damage may be severe.
“I say they should use them or lose them,” Malinowski said. “We have rules that basically allow them to sit on these leases for 10 to 15 years. These rules should be strengthened. They pay about a dollar fifty per acre for these oil leases, true with rates set in the 1920s. It should be higher.
He said scrapping the federal gas tax is unlikely to bring relief to consumers because oil companies are unlikely to pass on the savings. He would rather see windfall profits than redirect money to consumers.
Malinowski said the global health crisis is making him “very, very nervous.”
“The amount the United States of America spends per person on health care is about double that of almost any other wealthy country,” he said. “They have equally good health care and some have longer life expectancies than us.”
“If we could reduce that cost, which is a complicated discussion, it requires more competition (and) negotiation on prescription drugs. If we spent as much per person on health care as Germany, Canada, France, where they have very good health care, that would be a huge, huge reduction in spending and in the deficit.
“I don’t demonize (drug companies) like some people do,” Malinowski said. “But I represent far more pharmaceutical company consumers than pharmaceutical company executives. They get exclusivity for the drugs they invented. Makes sense, because they (spent) a lot of research money in developing these things. But at the same time, they have this unique privilege because they can set the price.
Malinowski said that seemed unfair to him and that Congress was working to resolve that issue with the negotiation of Medicare drug prices.
A voter asked about the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas texting White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows during the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising, and talking about sending Americans to Guantanamo and steal a free and fair election. He asked why Congress wasn’t doing more.
In response, Malinowski said Congress was doing something about it, and that’s how the man first heard about it.
“Because Congress created the January 6 Commission that gets to the bottom of what happened that day,” he said.
“This Jan. 6 commission establishes top-down accountability for what happened that day, the movement that drove it, the idea behind it all.”
The congressman said the first bill introduced in the last two sessions of Congress aimed to make it easier for people to vote while protecting the integrity of early voting.
“It has very strict provisions against partisan gerrymandering, which both parties are shamelessly doing to ensure their candidates have safe constituencies, it has campaign finance provisions to try and get some of the money out black of our politics. I will not stop fighting for these bills until we pass them.
“I have seen (democracy) being made all over the world. I have seen people fail and succeed at everything. It’s not quite rocket science, but it’s almost a full-time job to be a citizen in a democracy.
“It’s good for activists and citizens to get involved and run for office, people who volunteer and engage,” he said. “We have what the Russians are trying to take (from Ukraine). Look how these people are fighting.”
“I also have to tell you that some of my supporters in my party may differ from me on this, but given the world he is in today, at the moment, how dangerous he is, how depends on the United States of America to keep the world from exploding, I don’t see too many responsible ways to fundamentally, significantly, and surgically cut the defense budget.
He said it was a privilege to serve as a district representative in Washington and he looked forward to hearing more of his constituents’ thoughts and concerns.