Harrisburg is paralyzed.
The budget stalemate between Governor Tom Wolf and the GOP- controlled legislature is heading into an unconscionable fourth month with no end in sight, surpassing the spectacle of Republican-engineered federal government shutdowns aimed at damaging the Clinton and Obama administrations.
Unlike the federal shutdowns, our local variety has no one clear villain but two: the governor and the legislature. To his credit, Wolf wants to restore education funding cut by former Gov. Tom Corbett and company; to his discredit, he wants to do it largely through regressive taxation. The Republicans score points by opposing these new taxes, as well as any talk of taxing someone who can afford to be taxed. They needn’t worry about that second point when it comes to Wolf, despite all of the overblown hype about his modest proposal to tax frackers. And he’d offset that tax by lowering the overall corporate income tax rate.
Wolf loses more points by vetoing emergency spending bills while Republican members of state’s congressional delegation — the big brothers and sisters of the people who slashed our education budget in the first place — appear reasonable by urging him to at least release federal funds already appropriated by Congress and dispensed to the state.
In the mean time, Meals on Wheels workers take voluntary pay cuts, pre-school and after-school programs for disadvantaged children are closing, payments for foster children are being held up, our less well-off schools and human service organizations are pushed to the brink . . . There’s no end to the suffering and the worst awaits us, as there is no sign that an agreement on how to screw the poor and working people is imminent.
Why don’t they care? Our political class are cheapskates when it comes to social spending, but both parties are now borrowing money to keep their legislative caucuses functioning. Borrowed money has to be repaid with interest — the trap that many strapped school districts and nonprofits are falling into — but those profits will go into the coffers of the worthy wealthy — the bankers — who are , after all, just providing an honest if unchristian service.
So, why don’t they care? Maybe it’s because the pain is being felt by the people who are supposed to feel it. And why aren’t local news stations using this occasion to loudly publicize and track the debacle in Harrisburg? Maybe it’s because the right people — the beautiful people, the ones who can afford to be polite and “reasonable” — aren’t feeling a thing.
Harrisburg is paralyzed but so are we. There is no cry of outrage.
Western Beaver County school superintendent Rob Postupac noted that if there was suddenly no high school football on Friday nights, “you’d hear a cry so loud” that “something would happen pretty quick.” He’s probably right.
Rather than ask why they don’t care, perhaps the proper question is this: why should they care if we don’t care?
— Jim Collins