Just as breezily as they played chicken with the lives and livelihoods of so many men, women and children in Pennsylvania, our Democratic governor and Republican-run general assembly have decided that they can reach a budget compromise after all — and just in time for Thanksgiving. How serendipitous!
Wolf and GOP leaders say they have the outlines of a deal and expect to seal it by the holiday. But Thanksgiving will be too late for lots of people. While the politicians dilly-dallied, many Pennsylvanians suffered cuts or interruption of their much-needed services. I’ll just give two examples:
- The Community Progress Council, serving some 16,000 people annually in York County, announced it will close three weeks in November and December, laying off 250 employees. Services affected include early childhood education programs, a women and infants supplemental nutrition program, a work-ready program for people on public assistance, rent assistance for homeless and near-homeless people, and a foster grandparent program.
- Domestic violence centers across the state were forced to reduce services this past October: it was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
It was fortunate for the politicians that they suffered no interruption in pay or benefits, just as those with deep pockets won’t feel the pinch from this budget. It’s interesting to note that the two sides paved the way for their cooperation by ganging up on organized labor, just like politicians of old. No kidding. Just a few days before making his budget agreement announcement, Wolf signed a GOP bill that makes it illegal for unions to stalk, use harassment or “[threaten] to use a weapon of mass destruction”– just in case they didn’t already know.
This budget’s best feature is that it will restore to education funding most, if not all, of the crazy Corbett administration’s cuts. But everything is to be paid for by the common people. Get ready for a hike in your income tax rate and an 8.25 percent sales tax in Allegheny County (9.25 percent in Philly and 7.25 percent most other places). Property tax relief is in sight (disproportionately benefiting you-know-who), and why bother taxing those gas drilling operations that aren’t making any real money anyway? Say what you want, but these guys really care a lot about the people who are kind of like them.
So Now What?
Suffice it to say, neither party represents the needs and interests of the broad majority of Pennsylvanians. To some people, this is not news but it is to others. Well, now that we all know, what should we do about it? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have one big suggestion, the logic of which should factor into any and all future political plans: Let’s start acting like we know.
Now that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt how little they value us, when we lobby (those of us that belong to organizations that lobby) let’s not act like either party is our friend, and therefore deserving of our support in money or people power. When they do the right thing, they’re just doing their jobs; we don’t owe them anything for that except the promise to keep an eye on them to make sure they do the right thing on the next issue.
Obviously, we should support third parties like our statewide Green Party and independent candidates who represent the interests of people (and not things like guns or outdated pieces of paper). When it makes sense to vote for a Democrat or Republican — when there really is no other option — we still vote with our eyes wide open, with the clear understanding of who owes whom what.
And we should get angry, mad angry. This budget will serve the interests of the wealthy, the greedy, the stingy, the corrupt and the hypocrite. As will future budgets, from now unto eternity — unless we do something. Or do lots of things.
The happy coincidence of a budget agreement and the holiday is no cause for giving thanks, unless you happen to be a politician or one of their wealthy masters.
— Jim Collins