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Why Is New Jersey the Nation's Problem?

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- It's been seven years since I've called New Jersey home and six years since I paid it any tax money. It's been nearly two years since I lived within 2,800 miles of that state.

So why does it still dominate headlines, feature prominently on the sports page and dot the television listings?

What have I done so wrong that I have to be subjected to a live feed of Gov. Chris Christie's State of the State address about lane closures on the George Washington Bridge -- which I haven't had to cross in roughly half a decade -- on an Oregon network affiliate? What did I ever say to a columnist from the Oregonian to make him turn Christie, the Super Bowl and a stadium 10 minutes from my parents' house into a clumsy metaphor for this state's own governor?

Why has the transformation of Carlo's City Hall bakery in Hoboken from tiny neighborhood shop to camera-crowded den of TLC's Cake Boss extended into a sixth season?

I should know better than to ask these idiot questions about my former home state. New Jersey is a loudmouthed mess that gets really irate when it's ignored for too long. Allegations that Christie had his aides prod connections at the New York/New Jersey Port Authority into closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge and backing up traffic as a rebuke to the mayor of Fort Lee -- also known as that cluster of high rises surrounding the bridge's New Jersey side -- are damning, but mostly to Christie's New Jersey constituents and the New York commuters (as NBC's Late Night host Jimmy Fallon and Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen illustrated in song).



As former Lawrenceville, N.J., kid and Daily Show host Jon Stewart noted about a week ago, this scandal that Christie's denied direct involvement in would be lucky to crack New Jersey's Top 10 political scandals of all time. Keep in mind, the state is only five years removed from Operation Bid Rig that not only resulted in more than a half dozen of the state's sitting mayors being arrested for corruption, but in a group of Orthodox rabbis being arrested, charged and sentenced for organ trafficking.

Even that's pretty low-stakes poker for the portions of New Jersey that produced many of those arrested -- Hudson and Bergen counties, surrounding the site of the upcoming Super Bowl. Former Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague, whose political machine held the area in his grip for roughly 40 years, used to have a desk in his office with a two-way drawer just for accepting bribes. The Roosevelt administration gave him funding for a medical center in return for Hague's help getting him elected. Long before Judge Dredd uttered "I am the law" in comic books, Hague did so to his opponents. Seem familiar?

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