Philip Murphy, the former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. ambassador to Germany, on Monday held a star-studded affair to launch his new nonprofit — New Start New Jersey — and possibly his bid to be New Jersey’s next Democratic governor.
More than 200 people attended the two-hour presentation at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, including two former governors, one congressman, one congresswoman-elect, a half-dozen state legislators, and what seemed at least a dozen Democratic operatives.
And while Murphy was the star of the day, there was a rock star on stage as well — singer Jon Bon Jovi, a fellow Monmouth County resident and apparent supporter.
The theme was New Jersey’s middle class, both its demise and its promise of renewal — a theme that looks to be the centerpiece of Murphy’s expected campaign. Featured was a poll conducted by Murphy and his wife, Tammy, to explore the middle class’s struggles in the state. The precise role of the nonprofit is unclear, beyond bringing the issues to the fore — and raising Murphy’s profile.
The following are excerpts from Murphy’s opening remarks:
I’m a firm believer that New Jersey’s economy is only as strong as our middle class. And that’s why when I look at New Jersey today, I believe the formula for getting our economy back on track is clear: start with the middle class, and build out.
I know this works because I’ve lived it. I’ve been fortunate in my life. I worked hard and I got lucky. And when I look back on where I started, as a working-class kid in Massachusetts, I know I didn’t get here by myself. I didn’t have the advantages my children do. But I had the great fortune to grow up in a community that judged itself on whether families like mine could make ends meet and give their kids a fair shot at a better life. There were people fighting for middle-class families. That willingness to fight for middle-class families is what once made New Jersey great … America great. And it’s exactly what we’re missing today.
New Start New Jersey was created to lead the search for the kind of policy solutions that can restore the middle class to its rightful place at the center of New Jersey life. To make the middle class stronger so people at the bottom can work their way in, and those in the middle class can be rewarded with greater stability and security.
The first thing that’s critical to say is that our poll confirms that New Jersey is a middle-class state. 76 percent identify as within the middle class. Some identity as lower middle; others, upper-middle class. But three out of every four people identify with the middle class in our state. And they are struggling.
Among those who identify as middle class, 67 percent say they are just getting by, while another 9 percent say they are falling behind. Only 21 percent say they are getting ahead. Forty-eight percent say it’s harder to make ends meet than it was just a year ago. And 53 percent say they’re making serious lifestyle changes or at least small sacrifices to make ends meet.
For some time, people have discussed how this generation of parents could be the first to see its children fare worse than they have. But the pain isn’t a generation away. It’s happening now. A majority of New Jerseyans already believe that their generation’s quality of life is worse than that of their parents.
There is positive news in this poll. For me, the most encouraging numbers come from the consensus for how our state can move forward. Sixty-seven percent agree that ‘a strong middle class is the key to a growing economy.’
Ninety-one percent of New Jerseyans agree that ‘without a strong middle class, there’s no way that New Jersey can have a strong economy in the years ahead.’ And 83% agree that ‘we need to build an economy from the middle class out.’
That work can begin here. By no means do we have all of the answers, but thanks to all of you, we have the collective will to begin addressing the problems.
We all recognize that despite our struggles, New Jersey houses extraordinary resources and holds remarkable advantages. We have institutions like NJIT. We have dynamic industries. Above all, we have tremendous citizens. It is time to maximize these assets. It is time for a new start.