Redditors! Really enjoyed our previous AMA conversations discussing everything from social media to the War on Drugs. This time, in addition to answering any questions you may have, I’m also hoping to use this AMA as an opportunity to have a discussion around an important issue affecting millions of Americans today – college affordability and student debt.

Earlier today I released my new policy paper about renewing our commitment to quality and affordable higher education for all Americans. If you agree with my proposal, please don’t forget to add your name.

Looking forward to answering your questions. I will start responding to questions at 3:15pm ET


EDIT: Answering your questions now.

EDIT: Thank you for all of your questions! Taking a break but I plan on revisiting the thread later to check on new comments.

Comments: 361 • Responses: 13  • Date: 

maroth4224 karma

Hi Mayor Booker,

This is clearly a turbulent time for our Congress. What do you think needs to be changed in congress to prevent situations like this current government shutdown from happening again in the future?

corybooker22 karma

Our success in Newark - the biggest economic development boom since the 1960s, shootings down 27%, tax cut this year for our residents, growing tax base, doubling the production of affordable housing, raising about 250 million dollars in philanthropy for our public schools - all of these things came because we created uncommon coalitions to produce uncommon results.

Even across the aisle - from working with the right-leaning think tank, The Manhattan Institute, to regularly working with Governor Chris Christie, our progress and results came from building coalitions. We didn't focus on differences but on where we could agree. We didn't focus on right or left, but on moving our city and state forward.

The current reality in Congress is unacceptable and it doesn't reflect the majority of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. It is extremist Tea Party Republicans who are not willing to compromise on anything and relentlessly press forward with their agenda at a high cost to our nation. These are folks who are forcing our government to move from crisis to crisis -- exactly what our economy and businesses don't need.

That is why our election for Senate in New Jersey is so important. My opponent Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party organization in New Jersey. He is a big fan and supporter of Ted Cruz and his all-or-nothing type of politics. He says clearly that "he has no reason to compromise."

I believe that with a population of almost 9 million in New Jersey, I have almost 9 million reasons to compromise and find a way to bring people together to make progress for our nation. I hope on Oct. 16th that New Jersey will reject the extremist Tea Party politics we see in Washington and allow me to represent our state. My opponent will make what is wrong with congress worse. I believe I can help make our Nation better and stronger for New Jersey families.

ac9122 karma

Mayor, why do you think you can make a more positive impact on NJ as a Senator than as Governor in a few years?

corybooker16 karma

There is a new generation of elected leaders coming forward who are not only good at traditional means of communication but are also technology natives. I am blown away by the democratizing force of technology. Think about this: now, more people than ever before have access to capital without having to supplicate themselves before big banks – all through technology platforms like Kiva and Kickstarter. People also have more access to learning through tech platforms like Khan Academy and online classes and universities across the globe. Technology is even allowing people to better access latent productivity through collaborative consumption platforms like AirBnB and Uber. It’s time that the democratizing force of technology helps to democratize our democracy.

I’ve found as Mayor of Newark that social media platforms have enabled me to engage with thousands more people in a partnership to improve my city. For example: I crowdsource thousands of Newark residents to identify problems and expedite their fixing. I now often find out about traffic lights that are out faster than my traffic engineers. Water main breaks faster than my water department. Social media has thus helped us increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government.

I believe that leaders in Washington can also use these technology to increase accessibility, transparency and partnerships to help make America better. I hope to be part of that next generation of elected leaders – Republican, Democrat, or independent – who innovates using technology in creative ways.

I still might deliver hot pockets to a hungry constituent like I’ve done in the past

phroogal21 karma

I recently moved back from Silicon Valley to Elizabeth, NJ to build my tech startup focused on financial capability. I found it difficult to find capital, resources and programs in NJ to support technology startups and may considering moving back to SV. Being so close to NYC why hasn't there been more growth in tech startup scene?

corybooker18 karma

I have proposed a number of policies to help startups get off the ground. In my policy paper on business competitiveness, I called for quadrupling the startup tax deduction to $20,000. I have also called for increasing investment in science parks and making permanent the R&D tax credit. I also think we need to make the tax code simpler so that entrepreneurs aren't wasting time filling out forms when they could be growing their business. That's why I proposed eliminating wasteful loopholes and lowering the corporate tax rate to near 28 percent. Here in Newark, our Department of Economic and Housing Development and the Brick City Development Corporation is working through loans and other incentives to attract tech startups and other new businesses, and strengthen the ones that are already here. Companies have recognized that Newark is a great place to start a business and, despite having only three percent of the state's population, a third of commercial and multifamily development measured in square footage is happening in Newark. On top of that, companies ranging from to Manischewitz have relocated their headquarters to Newark.

cimcr8zee18 karma

Could you talk a little about the Newark School Breakfast Program? How would you respond to someone who says that serving everyone breakfast at school won't work?

corybooker26 karma

Child poverty is a national epidemic that affects kids in almost every town across America. In New Jersey, some rural and suburban towns have seen child poverty rates increase more than 100 percent since 2007.

Children can't be expected to achieve in school if they are hungry or malnourished.

Numerous studies have clearly demonstrated that breakfast improves student's memory and retention. When kids do better in school we all do better and benefit from the development of their full potential and genius. Their success helps drive our economy. To lose their potential is to severely hamper our Nation's potential and growth. My dad was born very poor, his mother couldn't take care of him. If people weren't there to help him, putting a roof over his head and food in his stomach, my brother and I wouldn't be here or be the people we are today.

That's why I am proud that Newark's school breakfast program is being seen as a national model for success. We have been able to increase the number of low-income children receiving breakfast by 21 percent through our efforts. We can't afford to let our children fail. Like my father, every child has incredible potential and I will do everything I can to address the issue of hunger in our country. School breakfast is a key part of that.

costado10 karma

why are you late to your own AMA?

corybooker20 karma

Sorry, redditors. I was speaking to the Fairleigh Dickinson students about my college affordability plan, and in my enthusiasm, we ran over. Thanks for waiting for me. I'm looking forward to answering more questions.

maroth429 karma

Hi Mayor Booker, thanks for doing this AMA,

If you could enact one major policy change in federal government, what would you choose? (eg. Health Care, Immigration, Education Reform, etc) How would you go about it?

corybooker14 karma

I feel very strongly that we must begin to invest in economic growth again in our country. There are so many common sense things that would help drive longterm economic and job growth in our nation. From investing in infrastructure to increasing support for American innovation through research and development investments and tax credits. Letting longterm job growth be your focus helps make other issues much clearer. For example, immigration reform helps grow our economy - it allows students who are educated in our schools to remain in our country to contribute and even allows more high skilled workers and business innovators come to our country and start economic endeavors that will help drive growth.

Things like Criminal Justice Reform become critical because as a nation we imprison about 25% of the world's prisoners, we spend billions and billions of our scarce tax dollars locking up non-violent drug offenders and fail to provide the majority of drug and alcohol addicted inmates with treatment. With changing our drug policy and reforming criminal justice we can help make our streets safer, save taxpayer dollars and increase the productivity of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Finally, my first policy paper was about child poverty. If you can read the full paper here you will see that focusing on child poverty will help us dramatically increase the productivity of our citizens, it will dramatically lower taxpayer expenses (in health care costs, criminal justice costs, and the cost of the social social safety net). When you empower people to succeed, it drives our economy. My focus, should I be elected Senator, will be to work on major policy initiatives that drive growth.

mpjeno7 karma

I've been following your career since you spoke at the YP Summit in Omaha a few years back. I don't have a question, but just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for giving me hope that there are still good, strong, innovative leaders out there. Keep up the good fight. I believe in you and what you can accomplish for our country.

corybooker7 karma

thank you so much for your kind words.

ADoug6 karma

Mayor Booker, what are your concerns about the state of our infrastructure and do you have anything in mind to help mitigate current issues? I am a structural engineer and a resident of New Jersey (in fact, I did some work on the Jackson Street bridge a few months ago). How would you like to address issues of degrading bridges and failing water mains? What do you think are key factors in the success of infrastructure development?

Also, thank you for being so available and willing to help people. You're an honorable public servant.

corybooker11 karma

Across the country, our infrastructure is crumbling. Here in New Jersey, something like 1 in 4 bridges are classified as functionally obsolete and 2 in 3 roads are in disrepair. Fixing our ground infrastructure can help create good-paying jobs right away, and is necessary to keep our country economically competitive long into the future - further now is the time to do it because the cost of capital is so low. It's why I would have pushed for the passage of the President's American Jobs Act, which would have put thousands to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and airports. Check out the paper my campaign released last week — it talks about how we can improve business competitiveness. As you know, this goes beyond bridges and roads. We should also invest in things like broadband, Next Gen GPS air traffic technology, and smart grid.

Remember it was a Republican president that pushed one of the then greatest investments in building roads in America - Eisenhower. This isn't a partisan issue, this is about investing in long term economic growth for our country. We need to be bold again and - together, through public private partnerships - build the globes best infrastructure.

But_Wait_Theres_More6 karma

Hi Mayor Booker,

What the first thing you read in the morning? Newspapers? Online news sites?

corybooker13 karma

First thing I read is emails from my city staff, on a blackberry (I refuse to give it up -- my staff is still trying to pry it out of my hands with an iPhone).

blueocean19995 karma

I have 100K in debt, with about 60K of that being interest/ fines from default. I was in over my head and an trying to get out.

  1. would you support federal refi of private loans to become income based repayment?

  2. Can we move to a national pay it forward program? Why should bankers get to profit from the need and right to an education?

  3. College is less than prison. (But you know that)

corybooker6 karma

The cost of college continues to rise in our nation. Between 1964 and 2010, the unsubsidized cost of attending a public college or university increased by 144 percent. Today the average New Jersey student borrower at a four-year institution graduates with $27,610 of debt.

My opponent in a recent interview said, "Hit up your parents for money before you borrow it from the government" - this not only shows a crass and ridiculous understanding of the reality for so many Newark and New Jersey youth but it also reflects his belief that the government should have limited or no role in helping to make college more affordable. I strongly disagree - from the GI Bill to current Pell Grants, government investments in college education have produced great growth for America.

That said, we must do more to control costs. We can't pour government money into colleges just to have those colleges continue to raise tuition and add little to improving their education/instruction. I have a lot of thoughts on this and more in my policy paper on college affordability. Some points in that paper add in detail responses to your three questions but in short:

  1. Yes. this is a great idea to empower more kids to attend and complete college.
  2. I am a big fan of pay it forward programs, like oregon's, and am interested in exploring at a federal level.
  3. You know one of my big issues is the stoping school to prison pipeline. If people think education is expensive they should see how much ignorance costs (by looking at prisons, as well as health care costs and the cost of our social safety net).

upyourass15 karma

I live in California , why would I want to visit your state?

corybooker20 karma

As a New Jerseyan who spent five years in California, I can tell you that California is one of the greatest states in all of America. But after five years there, I can tell you this too: New Jersey is the best. If you don't believe me ask The Boss, and for you Californians that's not Governor Brown. That's Bruce Springsteen.

remijp2 karma

Hi Mr. Booker, thanks for doing this! I recently had the pleasure of watching Best Kept Secret a great film that featured one of Newark's amazing educators and her students who are all young adults with significant disabilities. Given that many of the students in that film may never be able to attend college, do you have thoughts on how we can better help young adults with disabilities have a high quality of life after they graduate from high school?

corybooker6 karma

I agree with you - it is critical to help all of our young people with disabilities have a high quality of life, including graduating from high school and having the same opportunities for post-secondary education as are available to other students. This requires encouraging schools to integrate career and higher education conversations into IEPs early in a child's junior high and high school curricula to help them to build the necessary life and educational skills and to prioritize transition supports. We must also encourage community integration through Olmstead enforcement and Employment First initiatives, both in the federal government and around the country.

Sweetcmb1 karma

I am thinking about moving to New Jersey but love NYC. Can you give me reason why I should move to the Garden State and not return to the Big Apple?

corybooker9 karma

Let’s be clear: I love New York. In fact, it was a New York politician, Bloomberg, who gave me some of the best political advice I didn’t follow: before you become a mayor, become a billionaire. The Big Apple as a city is truly one of the more extraordinary locations on the earth. But let’s be honest – so much of what’s celebrated as great about New York, is really in New Jersey: The Jets and Giants play where? In Jersey. The very guy who sang “New York, New York,” Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, is from New Jersey. Even New York’s tall buildings came from New Jersey inventions: malleable iron and the I-beam, both invented in New Jersey.

New Jersey in fact, can take most states’ other mottos and make them our own. For example, North Carolina says they’re first in flight. But the first recorded flight was a balloon flight – in New Jersey. Virginia claims that they are for lovers. But New Jersey invented the drive-in movie theater, which most definitely was for lovers. I could go on, but please know in this time of great divisiveness it is New Jersey who are the true uniters. When the trans-continental railroad needed to be built, the engine that connected our country was built in New Jersey. And when the nation needed light – including the Sunshine State of Florida – amidst the darkness they turned to New Jersey for Thomas Edison’s greatest invention.

New Jersey, it’s time to take our pride back. When Washington’s armies were in retreat from the British and the new nation’s back was against the wall, the very idea that America is a land of impossible dreams was ignited when the underdogs of Washington’s army crossed the Delaware and won the first truly decisive victory of the American Revolution. Where? In Trenton. (What Trenton makes, the world takes.)