We are facing huge long-term problems: a real unemployment rate of 18%, dysfunctional banks that are "too big to fail", a regressive tax structure that's stifling economic growth, prisons that are bursting at the seams, urban schools that are struggling, a health care system that still needs major reform, the lack of a coherent national energy policy that will protect our economy and the environment, and a government that has been encroaching on our civil liberties. For decades we have lived with irresponsible public policies from career politicians in Congress who care more about increasing their party’s power and getting re-elected than they care about solving long-term problems. They haven’t been honest with us, and they have been lousy public servants.

I’m different. I do not want to be a career politician. I am not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m a Problem Solver. I want to force members of Congress to be responsible, and implement sustainable solutions to real problems. Please read the positions I present on this website, and spread the word to friends and family.

Please email me at John@Mertens2010.com, and become a supporter on Twitter at @mertens4senate or Facebook: John's FB

Friday, August 21, 2009

Press Release

West Hartford Resident John Mertens Announces Candidacy for 2010 U.S. Senate Race

Press Conference/Campaign Kick-Off Event:
Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 6:30 PM, 2071 Park St., Hartford

West Hartford Resident John Mertens will publicly announce his candidacy for the 2010 U.S. Senate Race during a campaign kick-off event & press conference scheduled for September 9, 2009, 6:30 PM, at 2071 Park Road, Hartford (the outdoor stage at Lena’s Pizzeria). The event will be followed by music and food.

Dr. Mertens is seeking the nominations of four political parties: the Independent Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and the Connecticut for Lieberman Party. Dr. Mertens was the Independent Party candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006. Dr. Mertens has been the chair of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party since March, 2008. (http://www.ctforlieberman.org/)

Accompanying Dr. Mertens at the event will be Mike Telesca, State Agent of the Independent Party, Stephen Fournier, State Co-Chair of the Green Party, and Richard Lion, State Chair of the Libertarian Party.

A tenured Professor of Engineering at Trinity College in Hartford, Dr. Mertens also teaches environmental science and public policy, and conducts research in combustion and air pollution. He earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from California State University, Chico, graduating summa cum laude, and earned a Masters and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. He began teaching at Trinity College in 1990. He has done volunteer work with Hartford public schools for over eighteen years, and is well informed about public school and urban issues. He has lived in West Hartford since 1996, where he has raised four children. They will join him on the stage on September 9th.

Dr. Mertens’ campaign will focus on solutions to long-term problems, using non-partisan, analysis-based public policies. According to Dr. Mertens, “The country is facing huge long-term problems: an $11 trillion national debt, a giant budget deficit, a $12 trillion social security shortfall this century, prisons that are bursting at the seams, urban schools that are struggling, a wounded economy with rising unemployment, a health care system that needs major reform, the lack of a coherent national energy policy that will protect our economy and the environment, and a government that has been encroaching on our civil liberties. The solutions exist. But we need to elect non-partisan problem-solvers who will fight for them. For decades we have lived with irresponsible public policies from career politicians in Congress who care more about increasing their party’s power and getting re-elected than they care about solving long-term problems. They haven’t been honest with us, and they have been lousy public servants.”

The Sept. 9th Press Conference/Campaign Kick-Off event at Lena’s Outdoor Stage in Hartford is free and open to the public. Dr. Mertens is holding the event in Connecticut’s capital city and New England’s ‘Rising Star’ to emphasize the need for coordination of federal and state policies to address issues such as education, health care, urban revitalization, and economic recovery.

Press photos and campaign materials can be requested in advance: john@mertens2010.com

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eminent Domain Abuse

Eminent Domain Abuse should be prevented. No government entity should be able to force someone to give up their home for private development. A number of states have passed laws that prevent this abuse as a result of what has happened in New London (see below). Connecticut has failed to do so. I strongly believe that we need to pass a federal law that prevents eminent domain abuse.

From Wikipedia:
The Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) affirmed New London’s authority to take non-blighted private property by eminent domain, and then sell the property to a private developer. This 5-4 decision received heavy press because the Court sided with the city in recognizing the public benefit of the new development. It also inspired a public outcry that eminent domain powers were too broad. This resulted in several states enacting or considering state legislation that would further define and restrict the state's own power of eminent domain. The Supreme Courts of Illinois, Michigan (County of Wayne v. Hathcock(2004)), and Ohio (Norwood, Ohio v. Horney(2006)) have recently ruled to disallow such takings under their state constitutions.

Corruption in Congress

There are 35,000 registered lobbyists in Washington D.C. Members of Congress take huge donations from companies the lobbyists represent. This is a conflict of interest, plain and simple. For example, Senator Dodd has received over $13 million dollars of donations from financial, industry, and real-estate related firms since 2000, during which time he was a member of the Senate banking committee, and chair of the committee since January 2007 (Hartford Courant, 9/29/08). This is legal, but it shouldn't be. (See my entry "Campaign Finance Reform".)

Look at these numbers:

-In 1991, 546 pork barrel projects passed in Congress, costing us taxpayers $3 billion.
-In 2005, 14,000(!) pork barrel projects passed in Congress, costing us taxpayers $27 billion!

This explosion of waste and corruption helped Democrats take Congress in 2006. They pledged to rein in pork barrel spending.

-In 2007 there were 11,000 pork barrel projects, costing us taxpayers $15 billion.

Those are pretty slack reins.

This explosion of waste and greed in the last 15 years is a result of Congress giving lobbyists the keys to the bank. Pork barrel riders have been attached to bills at 2:00 AM the night before votes, and passed without anyone but the lobbyist and the member of Congress knowing what had happened. This is corruption, pure and simple, and it must be stopped. The current rules of Congress must be strengthened and enforced.

How can any member of Congress acknowledge these facts and not hang their head in shame? Why haven’t some members of Congress spoken out loudly about this? I will.

Supporting Small Businesses

I know many people who own a small business. They complain to me about how much paperwork they need to complete for the government.

One of the results of the irresponsible behavior of corporations that were "too big to fail" is an increase in regulations governing their fiscal behavior. We need to make sure that this does not increase the onerous, time-consuming, and sometimes expensive paperwork requirements for "small enough to fail" companies.

I support creating a task force to examine if current regulatory requirements are reasonable for small and medium size companies, and to see if there are ways that bureaucratic paperwork can be streamlined and unnecessary licenses and fees eliminated.

I also propose a job creation plan that will benefit small businesses tremendously. Please read about it here:


I strongly opposed violations of our right to privacy that were contained in the Patriot Act. Fortunately, many of them have been struck down by the courts, or modified in the 2005 reauthorizations. However, we need to continue to be vigilant.

I am strongly opposed to the use of RFID chips in government issued I.D. cards. In addition, we need legislation that requires manufacturers to post clear notices to consumers when RFID chips are contained in products or their packaging.

My general philosophy is that government (and corporations) should stay out of our personal lives.

Wall Street Compensation

In 2007, CEOs of major corporations were paid on average 344 times the average worker's pay. In the 1970's the ratio was only 40. This is outrageous. Some of this results from the fact that many CEOs sit on each other's corporate boards. A classic case of "You scratch my back and I'll scratch your's." This huge increase in compensation relative to the average worker's pay has occured for all other officers in corporations as well. See Table 6 in the following research paper:
I strongly support regulations that require corporate boards to allow their stockholders to vote on whether or not they support the proposed compensation packages before they go into effect. The stockholders' vote would simply be a recommendation, but if the board goes against the wishes of the stockholders, the stockholders can remove the board members if they wish. Congress has been considering just such a bill:
Unfortunately, from what I've read most recently in the press, it seems that Congress is going to make it optional for corporations to allow stockholders this privilege! What kind of regulation is that? It sounds to me like the 35,000 lobbyists in Washington have been busy. If I were in Congress, I would publicize this attempt to turn this legislation into something nearly worthless, in the hopes that legislators would stand firm if their consitutuents were aware of what they were doing.

Shame on Congress if they allow this change in the Executive Compensation Bill.

Stimulus Package

To be honest, I was very disappointed in the $787 billion stimulus package passed in February 2009 (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009). Here is a good description of it:
It was too large, and most of it was giveaways that had little to do with reducing unemployment.

I supported the State and Local Fiscal Relief ($144B), Core Infrastructure ($51B), and Smart Electricity Grid components ($11B).

State and Local Fiscal Relief: This was necessary to prevent massive layoffs and cuts in education and basic services. States have a requirement to balance their budgets (unlike the federal government). During the worst economic downturn since the great depression, it was appropriate for the federal government to prevent disastrous cuts in basic services provided by the states.

Core Infrastructure: There is an estimated $2 trillion(!) of deferred infrastructure maintenance in the United States. Bridges, overpasses, highways, harbors, etc. This was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone! Solve a huge long-term infrastructure problem, and create jobs. The Core Infrastructure allocation should have been significantly higher.

Smart Electricity Grid: This is an extremely important part of our future energy security and economy (read my "Energy Policy and the Environment" posting on this website). To be honest, it won't provide significant stimulus in the short term, but in the long term it will provide a huge payback.

In conclusion, the Stimulus Package hasn't had much of an effect on unemployment, and it won't. We didn't get very much bang for the buck.


The following wikipedia entry does a good job of describing the Troubled Asset Relief Program. I especially encourage you to read the "Controversies" section in particular, as it relates directly to what I write below.

I do not question the motives of most of the major players involved in creating TARP. Then Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, and essentially every member of Congress genuinely believed that we were facing a catastrophic economic meltdown that required massive federal intervention. I especially commend Mr. Bernanke for working extremely hard to do what he thought was best for us. I believe he is a patriotic, smart, honest, hard-working gentleman.

Having said this, I was very disappointed in the TARP legislation when I read what was finally passed in 2008. In late 2008 I publicly identified three failings:

1. The goal was to prevent a frozen economy that would spiral downward by providing hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations and banks to free up lending. However, TARP had no safeguards to ensure that the money would be used as intended! And if you read the "Controversies" section of the above wikipedia entry, we have since learned that very little of the money was actually used to increase lending:

"A review of investor presentations and conference calls by executives of some two dozen US-based banks by the New York Times found that 'few [banks] cited lending as a priority. An overwhelming majority saw the program as a no-strings-attached windfall that could be used to pay down debt, acquire other businesses or invest for the future.' The article cited several bank chairmen as stating that they had no intention of changing their lending practices to 'accommodate the needs of the public sector' and that they viewed the money as available for strategic acquisitions in the future. Moreover, while TARP funds have been provided to bank holding companies, those holding companies have only used a fraction of such funds to recapitalize their bank subsidiaries. The Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the TARP concluded on January 9, 2009: 'In particular, the Panel sees no evidence that the U.S. Treasury has used TARP funds to support the housing market by avoiding preventable foreclosures'. The panel also concluded that 'Although half the money has not yet been received by the banks, hundreds of billions of dollars have been injected into the marketplace with no demonstrable effects on lending.'"

2. There was essentially no oversight of companies that received the money. While a "Congressional Oversight Panel" was created to oversee TARP, it had no power or influence on what the bailed-out companies could do with the money once they received it.

3. I was also upset that there were no provisions for preventing large compensation packages for executives of the bailed out companies who were largely responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place. Ironically, it was Chris Dodd who failed to stand firm and maintain the needed protection in the bill:

"Initially, Senator Chris Dodd was identified by Treasury Department spokesmen as being responsible for the inclusion of the provision exempting such bonuses from the executive pay limits clause of the TARP. However, on February 14, 2009, the Wall Street Journal published an article, Bankers Face Strict New Pay Cap, discussing a retroactive limit to bonus compensation inserted by Chris Dodd into the TARP bill that passed in the Senate. The same article went on to mention that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers 'had called Sen. Dodd and asked him to reconsider'. When the bill left conference, Dodd's provison had been removed and replaced with the explicit exemptions lobbied for by Geithner and Summers. As Dodd explained in his March 18 interview on CNN, at Geithner and the Obama Administration's 'insistence' he removed the language he had himself inserted and replaced it with Geithner and Summers' loophole, which thus allowed the bonuses which formed the basis for the AIG scandal. Dodd retreated from his original statement that he did not know how the bill was changed. Dodd was criticised by many in the Connecticut media for the apparent flip-flop. In a March 20, 2009 editorial the New Haven Register called Dodd 'a lying weasel'. The same day, Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green called on Dodd not to seek re-election in 2010."

So, despite the best of intentions, this is a long, sad story of incompetence in crafting important legislation that we see far too often in Congress. It lead to the giveaway of billions and billions of dollars of taxpayers' money to greedy people who got us into this mess in the first place.

We need to elect people who define the problems, state clear goals, and implement responsible solutions for the people. I will fight tooth-and-nail to make Congress do this for all of us.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Water and the Environment

We need to reform federal policies on water usage in the United States. I urge you to read the book "Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water" by Marc Reisner. It is a very complex issue; the bottom line is that we need to prepare for a water crisis in the Western United States, from South Dakota to Texas to California and most of the states in between. We shouldn't wait until the crisis hits to do something about it. Gross over-use of ground and surface water, and over-population of desert areas are the largest problems; we need to reduce frivolous use of water in desert areas, employ technologies that will enable our communities to recycle and reuse their water, and rely on efficient and sensible use of surface water in an environmentally friendly way. Western states will be forced to do much of this within a few decades through market forces, but current federal subsidies and policies are retarding progress.

Drug Law Reform

Our drug policies are not working. Remember, prohibition of alcohol in the 1920's didn't work either, and it caused great harm by creating organized crime in the United States. We need to adopt "harm reduction" policies that will reduce drug use, save a lot of money, greatly reduce urban violence, and improve our national security.

You can view the episode of my monthly television show that examined U.S. Drug Policy, in three installments:
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

Our current drug laws hurt us in many ways:
-Socially. The United States has many more people behind bars than any other country in the world. More than 1% of our population is in prison, and more than 3% of our population is either behind bars, on parole, or on probation. A disproportionate percentage are black or hispanic.
-Economically. We spend billions of dollars a year on ineffective interdiction, and more billions for the aforementioned prisons. And, if intelligent drug law reform is instituted, we can generate a great deal of tax revenue that can pay for much needed treatment and education.
-National Security. Users spend between $50 and $100 billion(!) dollars a year on illegal drugs in the U.S., and that money goes to terrorists (including the Taliban and Al-Qaeda) and international criminals.
-Crime and Violence. The criminalization of drugs is responsible for tremendous violence in our cities. And drug users who are put into prison learn how to be hardened criminals from their fellow inmates.

This website is a great source of information:
I would especially like you to look at this table:
Here is a list of incarceration rates of countries around the world:
Here is a very good discussion of the problems and solutions with Cliff Thornton:

Many people across the political spectrum agree that criminilization of substance abuse has been a terrible failure. I try to talk to every police officer I meet about this issue, and I've yet to meet one who thinks that drug users should be put in prison. I urge you to visit the website of "Law Enforcement Against Prohibition" (LEAP):

I recommend an excellent book, "Ending the War on Drugs", written by Dirk Chase Eldredge, a conservative Republican who worked with Ronald Reagan. He dispels myths, provides a lot of facts, and presents excellent solutions. From his preface:

"My solution for America offers help to all: first, the creation of a state government-sponsored and -enforced policy of distribution and sale of drugs; thus re-directing the profits from the pockets of the cartels into state governments, where, by law, they would be used to combat drug use and abuse. The crime and violence currently accompanying illegal drug use and sales would cease. With more funds for professional treatment of the addicted, and most of all, a unified American effort to expand drug education and research, our country could concentrate on prevention instead of prohibition. I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to point out the counterproductiveness of America's present drug policies, but the truth and logic of my position encourage me that my proposal will eventually prevail."

I also recommend "Legalize This! The case for decriminalizing drugs" by Douglas Husak.

I also urge you to read this by the late William F. Buckley:

I welcome the opportunity to speak with you about this issue on the campaign trail.

You can also watch the below youtube video of a speech I delivered at the state capital building. I address the drug policy issue in the second half of the speech:
(Note: I was invited to speak at this event. While I am not a "Tea Party person", I will speak to any and every group, find common ground where possible, and challenge people with facts on issues when we do not agree. Watch the speech to the end and you will see what I'm talking about. If we are going to succeed in solving the long-term problems that we face, all Americans need to be able to discuss things in a civil and respectful way with people that we disagree with. We all love the United States, and we need to work together.)

National Debt/Budget Deficit

Please watch this video of a speech I delivered on fiscal issues, in two installments:
Part 1:
Part 2:

We are in big trouble. Our elected officials have been irresponsible for decades, running up $11 trillion(!) dollars of national debt. It has doubled since 2000, and is projected to double again in the next five to ten years. This is insane, and must be dealt with, the sooner the better. It will require significant sacrifices, but if we don't get our debt under control, we will eventually be faced with hyper-inflation and extremely high interest rates, resulting in an economic disaster worse than anything we've seen. We need to cut spending, and increase revenue. Please watch the below youtube video of a speech I delivered at the state capital building. I address this issue in the first half of the speech, and I talk about loopholes in specific legislation that need to be closed. However, that will only begin to address the problem. We need to change the mind-set of our elected officials, and get them to think about long-term ramifications of programs and legislation. I will be relentless in demanding that members of Congress confront these kinds of huge problems, every day, until they are addressed.


Note: I was invited to speak at this event. While I am not a "Tea Party person", I will speak to any and every group, find common ground where possible, and challenge people with facts on issues when we do not agree. Watch the speech to the end and you will see what I'm talking about. If we are going to succeed in solving the long-term problems that we face, all Americans need to be able to discuss things in a civil and respectful way with people that we disagree with. We all love the United States, and we need to work together.

Campaign Finance Reform

The below is what I wrote in August, 2009. Things have changed a lot in Connecticut since then! (The law has been declared unconstitutional twice, for different reasons each time.) The recent "fix" passed by the CT legislature, vetoed by Gov. Rell, then overriden by the legislature, is not a "fix". It does allow Gov. candidate Dannel Malloy to continue to participate in the program as it was originally devised. But it does not fix the Catch-22 in the law that literally makes it impossible for third-party and unaffiliated candidates to participate in the program for statewide offices. We need to pressure the CT legislature to really fix this law! And, we need to work to implement a well written federal version of Campaign Finance Reform.

Written August 19, 2009:
Members of Congress spend way too much time raising money for their campaigns. And under the current system, there is no question that money buys access (see my entry "Corruption in Congress" on this website).

Connecticut has instituted a cutting-edge campaign finance system that removes a great deal of the influence that lobbyists have with state legislators. Take a look:


Congress should adopt the same kind of Campaign Finance Reform. I will fight for it.

Term Limits

We need term limits for members of Congress. Career politicians who worry about getting re-elected every two or six years simply do not address long-term problems whose solutions require sacrifice. As a result, we are facing huge long-term problems (see the top of this page) that threaten the future quality of life of our children and their children.

A government run by short-sighted people is by nature irrational, selfish, and cowardly. Our founding fathers never envisioned serving in Congress to be a career.

If we institute term limits of eight years for the House of Representatives, and twelve years for the Senate, we might get elected officials who are true public servants, and who are willing to address long-term problems with courage and sanity.

Mortgage Defaults

Here is something I posted April 2, 2008. It's unfortunate that Senator Dodd did not include this in the Housing Bill, as I recommended. It would have significantly reduced the number of mortgage defaults that resulted from sub-prime mortgages.


"At this moment (April 2, 2008) Senator Dodd is working on a compromise with Republicans on a plan to deal with the housing crisis that has resulted from the sub-prime debacle. Republicans oppose a portion of the bill that would enable bankruptcy judges to cut interest rates on troubled subprime mortgages written in recent years. Judges are currently prohibited from doing so for a person's principal residence. President Bush and other Republicans argue that giving judges this power would prompt lenders to tighten their standards and raise interest rates. (The above is paraphrased from a Washington Post article by Lori Montgomery.)

The CFL would like to urge Senator Dodd to work towards a compromise that would grant judges this power on a temporary basis, perhaps for one year. This would accomplish the goal of allowing judges to help alleviate the current foreclosure crisis, and should remove the fears of the long term effects the GOP are using to argue against it."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I would have supported the compromise bill on immigration proposed by President Bush and Senator Kennedy that was defeated in 2007. I think it’s the best we can do in the current political climate, and I will work hard to get Congress to address this. Read the article below for more information:


Contact us:

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I support a ban on the mistreating of prisoners in U.S. custody. This was originally proposed by Senator John McCain. As he put it: “I don't see how you could possibly agree to legitimizing an agent of the government engaging in torture.” Unfortunately, Senator McCain did not follow through, allowing loopholes to be inserted into his bill. I am outraged that our policies have given the impression around the world that the United States of America engages in torture, and does not respect the Geneva Convention. We must hold ourselves to the highest of standards! The United States of America should be the example that all other countries try to emulate. We need to pass real legislation that bans torture.

Monday, August 17, 2009


We need legislation that removes all tax breaks from any company that outsources U.S. jobs overseas. This legislation needs to be carefully crafted so that it does not penalize companies for selling their goods and services in overseas markets. In other words, the removal of tax breaks would not be triggered by economic activity in another country that is directly related to sales in that country.

Health Care

Please view the episode of my monthly television show that examines Health Care, in three installments:
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

Social Security

Please view the episode of my monthly television show that discusses how to solve the huge problems we face with Social Security, in two installments:
Part 1:
Part 2:

Social Security is a huge fiscal issue that Congress should have addressed a long time ago. The longer we wait, the more painful the solution will be. Members of Congress haven’t addressed it because they care more about the power struggle between the two parties and getting re-elected than they care about doing what is right for the American people. They’re afraid that if they talk about the hard choices that must be made to keep Social Security solvent in the long term, they may lose votes in the next election. The end result: they ignore the problem, and they don’t develop solutions.

Here are the facts about Social Security:
69% of benefits go to retirement payments
17% of benefits go to disability payments
14% of benefits go to survivor payments (mostly widows)

Social Security provides 100% of the income of 20% of all retirees.
Social Security provides 90%+ of the income of 33% of all retirees.
Social Security provides 50%+ of the income of 65% of all retirees.
These numbers show that social security is critical to the well-being of our elderly.

In 1960, there were 5 workers for each social security beneficiary. At present, there are 3.3 workers for each social security beneficiary. This number will drop to 2.1 workers per social security beneficiary by the year 2031. After 2031 it will remain around 2.1 for the rest of this century. This is the crux of the problem, and is a result of the "baby boomers" entering retirement age, and increases in life expectancy. As a result, somewhere between the years 2017 and 2019 social security will begin running an annual deficit, and if no changes are made, we will have a TWELVE TRILLION DOLLAR debt in the social security fund in this century. (These numbers were calculated by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2005.)

Many young people I talk to during the campaign say “I don’t care about social security. I’m not going to get it anyway.” But ignoring the problem does not solve a $12 trillion debt that will occur if we don’t make some changes.

What is the SOLUTION?
We can keep social security in the black FOREVER with the least amount of pain if we make changes NOW. This requires increases in revenue, and decreases in expenditures. There's no question it's going to be very painful, but the sooner we make changes that will save social security, the less painful it will be.

Here are two articles that discuss different combinations of options that will solve the problem:



Note that the latter was written by the late Senator from Illinois, Paul Simon, in 2002. That was seven years ago, and Congress still hasn't made a serious attempt to address this issue. I favor the solution that Paul Simon suggested then: removing the cap on the amount of income subject to the payroll tax that funds Social Security. Currently, social security tax is paid only on the first $106,800 of annual income. Why should someone who makes $1,000,000 a year pay the same social security tax as someone who makes $106,800? This would close a large portion of the $12 trillion gap. However, the increased revenue must be saved, not spent on other things, by the federal government.

I also agree that a reform package should include changes on the expenditures side:
-a small change in the formula by which growth in benefits is calculated for current workers, and how the annual cost-of-living adjustments are made to benefits (as discussed in the first article above).
-reduce benefits for some new eligible beneficiaries through a 30 year, phased-in, progressive system. The reductions would be means-tested: this means retirees with high annual incomes would experience the cuts in social security benefits.
These two changes would result in a reduction in social security expenditures of about 10% by the end of this century, and in combination with removing the cap on the amount of income subject to the payroll tax, would solve the problem.

More details of these options can be viewed here:

None of these components are particularly attractive, but hard choices have to be made. If this combination of sacrifices were implemented, Social Security would remain in the black forever, and the security of our loved ones would be guaranteed for their retirement years.

One note: A few years ago, President Bush discussed a privatization plan for social security. It would have done nothing to solve the $12 trillion dollar problem. It would only have allowed younger people to opt out of a significant amount of their participation in social security without changing the revenue/outlay balance. We still would have ended up with a $12 trillion dollar problem. And, the terrible losses of the stock market in the last year illustrate the pitfalls of allowing people to opt out of social security and rely on their own investments for their retirement. I do not support a privatization plan.


Please view my most recent statement on Afghanistan, from my monthly television show, taped in January 2010:

Here's what I wrote in August 2009:
I supported the invasion of Afghanistan, as long as we also commited the resources necessary to build the infrastructure that a new government would need to be successful, and to win the hearts and minds of the people. Unfortunately, we did not do so. Please read what I posted in 2006 for more details:


I strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq. Please read what I posted in 2006 for more details:


What about the present? Given the situation now in Iraq, I think our military commandeers are following a prudent course of action. We should continue to withdraw troops and allow the Iraq military and police to take over security in the country, with a goal of extracting a large majority of our troops from Iraq as soon as we can. I believe the military has done an excellent job in an extremely difficult situation that was created by incompetent politicians and appointees.

It is extremely important that we work with Pakistan to have an effective regional strategy for fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. We also need to provide an economic alternative for Afghanistan's population. Many enemy combatants are fighting only because they are being paid (we learned this lesson in Iraq). It is important to help develop an economy in Afghanistan that provides a way to make a living without fighting for a terrorist organization. One way we can do this is by purchasing the poppy crops that Afghanis grow. (The U.S. currently purchases poppies from China to manufacture medication.) This would also remove a source of income from the Taliban.

The recent NATO counterinsurgency (COIN) report to the Pentagon makes it clear to me that military action in the remote parts of Afghanistan is not the answer. We should change to a strategy of economic development, training Afghani security forces, and providing security for major population centers, while beginning to reduce the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

No Child Left Behind/Education

The No Child Left Behind program needs to be changed significantly, with appropriate input from teachers. There is too much standardized testing going on in schools.

I also feel strongly that we need to change the way we teach science to our children. Over the past eighteen years I have been teaching math, science, and general life skills in volunteer programs in Hartford, and for the last twelve years I have also visited my children’s classes in West Hartford to teach science. I have spent time in classrooms at grade levels 1-11. I’ve concluded that we need to change the science curriculum in grades 4 and 5; kids need to be taught about the basic nature of the universe. They need to understand the big picture, in qualitative terms, starting with the fundamental building blocks of matter, up to galaxies. They also need to be taught HOW to solve problems, and the scientific method. Kids are smart! They can understand fundamental things on a general, qualitative level, before they have the math skills necessary to do real analysis. In order to do this, we need teachers that are trained as science generalists, and do nothing but teach science to kids in grades 4 and 5. If No Child Left Behind is correctly modified and funded, resources for this kind of teaching could be available for schools that opt for it.

On a separate note, I am a big fan of Charter Schools in urban areas. The federal government doesn't have much to do with this kind of policy-making (states and towns rightfully decide school issues). However, the federal government does provide 8.3% of all K-12 funding. I would support increasing funding in federal education bills for Charter Schools.

Here are some statistics on where our K-12 funding comes from:


Abortion is a deeply personal and important issue. My position on abortion is complex, and requires significant explanation.

I support education and aid programs that would reduce teen pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, and abortions. It is very important to help women avoid the difficult and sad situations that result in abortions, and to help them if they choose adoption.

I support Roe vs. Wade, and I support federal legislation that would make it the law of the land regardless of who is on the Supreme Court.

I support a federal ban of abortion of fetuses that could survive outside the womb.

These are not contradictory positions. It is important to understand that the ruling of Roe vs. Wade was to balance the right to privacy of a woman with the rights of a fetus. Women should have the right to choose, but at some point a fetus has the right to life. Does this make me “pro-choice” or “pro-life”? The answer is: Labels are dangerous. As Americans, we have to be able to talk about issues on which we disagree.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Farm Subsidies

I wrote this in 2006, but the problem still exists:

Under a farm subsidy program approved by Congress, over a five year period $1.3 billion dollars of our tax money has been given to individuals who do no farming at all. This is from an analysis performed by the Washington Post:
Overall, $172 billion dollars of our tax money have been given out as farm subsidies in the last decade. In 2005 alone, the federal government handed out more than $25 billion in aid (very little of this aid goes to small farmers), despite the fact that pre-tax farm profits were a near record $72 billion. This is almost 50% more tax dollars than the total amount paid to families receiving welfare!

If you read the above article all the way through, you'll see that this is actually a result of an attempt to negotiate an end to bad farm subsidies in a way that would help farmers in the long run, but due to lobbyists, the new law actually increased subsidies!

It is time to end this program. I will stand up and force the rest of Congress to admit that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

About John

You can view John on "Face the State" talking about why he's running for U.S. Senate here:
And you can hear John talk about his background here:
You can view many other videos of John talking about his positions on different issues by searching for his name on http://www.youtube.com/

In John's own words:

I am a tenured Professor of Engineering at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. I also teach environmental science and public policy. My research is in the field of combustion and air pollution.

I grew up on a farm in northern California, and I learned what hard physical labor is first hand. My life on the farm was interrupted for two years from the ages of 9 to 11 when my parents joined the Peace Corps from 1972-1974. We lived in Zaire, Africa while my father volunteered as an agricultural consultant. Those two years had a profound impact on my personal development, and instilled in me a deep love for the United States, and for all the people of the world.

I was a member of the first generation of my family to graduate from college. I earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from California State University, Chico, graduating summa cum laude, and earned a Master's and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. I began teaching at Trinity College in 1990. I have done volunteer work with Hartford public schools for over eighteen years, and I am well informed about public school and urban issues. I have a passion for teaching, helping people, and improving society and the world. I have lived in the Hartford area since 1990, where I have raised four children.

I am a problem-solver. A good policy maker will define the problems, state clear goals, present honest information about the options that are available and an accurate analysis of the benefits and costs of each option, and articulate clearly why a particular solution should be implemented. This is how a public servant looks out for the interests of all of the people. I will do this.

I believe that government can, and in fact has the responsibility to help people help themselves. I believe that government should stay out of people’s personal lives. I believe that intelligent, efficient, and effective public policy is necessary to preserve our quality of life for our children and our children’s children. I believe that we need to work together to implement solutions to problems, instead of playing partisan games.

One of my heroes is Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former Democratic senator from New York. He stood up and spoke the truth, and embarrassed his fellow senators into acknowledging issues that both sides of the aisle knew existed, but had silent agreements not to talk about them publicly. He was one person who made a difference. We need more Senators like him. I will be one of them.

Gay Rights

I support gay rights, including same-sex marriage. I have witnessed the difficulties that the survivor of a same-sex couple with a civil union had to face when their partner passed away. There is a significant difference in legal rights between a civil union and a marriage, and all people should be allowed to form the legal contract of marriage with a partner. I support the Connecticut Supreme Court decision that same-sex marriage is legal.

Energy Policy and the Environment

The United States has never had a comprehensive and well-articulated energy policy. It’s time.

The goals of my energy policy are:

  • Increase GDP energy efficiency (reduce the amount of energy used per dollar of GDP)
  • Maintain long-term energy availability and reduce reliance on foreign countries
  • Minimize human health costs from energy use
  • Minimize environmental costs from energy use
    -ecosystems, natural beauty
    -agriculture, infrastructure
  • Keep economic cost as low as possible, and maintain price stability

These will be significant challenges. We (the U.S.) currently get about 85% of our energy from fossil fuels. About 63% comes from oil and natural gas, and 22% from coal. In the next 50 years, prices of oil and natural gas will increase significantly as reserves are consumed. We need to help shift our reliance on fossil fuels to other sources in economical ways. Shifting from fossil fuel use will also reduce human health and environmental costs.

Major components of my energy policy:

  • Reduce reliance on petroleum by increasing transportation efficiency using CAFE standards.
  • Greatly reduce sulfur- and nitrogen-oxide emissions from coal power plants by closing a loophole in the 1990 Clean Air Act. A study by the GAO has shown that the benefit/cost ratio from this action would be greater than 10!
  • Reduce natural gas and coal consumption, and reduce the need for new power plants, by promoting efficiency with tiered pricing structures for electricity. We need to encourage people to live efficiently. We learned during the California energy crisis in 1999 that electricity consumption can be drastically reduced through personal choices.
  • Promote wind power by increasing and making permanent the tax credit for renewable power. Wind power has been growing 30-50% per year. We should set a goal of annual growth of wind power of 100%.
  • Continue to promote solar-thermal power plants in the southwest, and passive solar systems for homes, with tax credits.
  • Streamline the process for licensing and building safe non-breeder nuclear reactors with fuel reprocessing. I support nuclear power because it produces no air pollution and no greenhouse gases. Current designs are extremely safe and efficient. Yes, nuclear power produces waste that must be stored safely for a very long time, and that is a significant negative. But it is a lesser evil when compared to the costs of using fossil fuels. And in many regions of the country, solar and wind are not feasible.
  • Increase research funding for electric cars. Electric cars are much more efficient than liquid-fuel cars, and in the long term (2050?) most of our cars should be electric or primary-electric hybrids.
  • Increase research funding for CO2-sequestration. It is also important to understand that efforts to reduce CO2 emissions should be emissions related, not fuel related. In other words, a carbon tax on fuels would not promote CO2-sequestration. A CO2 emission tax would. But CO2-sequestration technology must be proven to be safe and effective first.
  • Promote trash-to-energy plants with advanced scrubber systems. Connecticut has a fantastic trash-to-energy system, and it should be adopted by other states.
  • Increase research into the production of non-corn-based ethanol. Corn ethanol does not make sense economically or environmentally, and government mandates for its production should be reduced. It takes nearly as much energy to create corn-based ethanol as we get from burning the ethanol. And it is ruining our farmlands, and driving up the price of food.
  • Upgrade our electric power grid so that it can accomodate renewable sources of electricity in an efficient way. This is extremely important, and will require a great deal of organized effort. We should appoint a "Power Grid Czar", who has engineering experience, who can help with this process.

There are many more details that I can discuss in person.

Nutrition and the FDA

What’s the problem? The problem is obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Look at these statistics:

Percent of Overweight People in the U.S.
1970: 16% of adults
2000: 33% of adults

1980: 6% of children and teens
2000: 15% of children and teens

And it's getting worse every year. People in the United States have increased the amount of food they eat in every category (proteins, carbs, fruits and vegetables, etc.) since 1970. Total consumption has increased from 1497 lbs to 1775 lbs per person per year. (Source: National Geographic, August 2004)

How is government involved? The FDA created a new food pyramid, after years of unnecessary delays, and at a cost of $2.4 million of taxpayers' money. The delays and the poor end-result was a result of influence by lobbyists from the food industry. The new pyramid is inaccurate, difficult to read, and a huge rip-off of the American people. Take a look for yourself:
Scientists at Harvard University have performed a comprehensive study of essentially every nutritional study that has ever been done, and reached some extremely valuable conclusions. They have created a fantastic food pyramid that, if followed, would greatly increase the health of the American people, and reduce the cost of healthcare. Take a look:
I will fight to replace the current FDA food pyramid with the Harvard food pyramid. Science should not be trumped by lobbyist dollars.

Please support our efforts! We will gladly take any amount. You can donate here, or send a check made out to "John Mertens for U.S. Senate" to the address below. The maximum contribution per individual is $2,400. For donations of more than $50, federal law requires that you provide your name and address. For contributions above $200, you must also provide your profession and employer name. Thank you!

John Mertens for U.S. Senate
P.O. Box 330452
West Hartford, CT 06133-0452