Trancesylvania

You have to admire a man who sticks to his guns, and Gov. Tom Wolf is doing just that.  Speaking last Tuesday before a GOP legislative majority that just doesn’t give a damn, Wolf proposed a budget package for next year that would increase spending on education and human services, tax Marcellus Shale gas extraction, and — get this — raise the minimum wage!  For that, I can almost forgive the flat income tax hike and continued punishing of tobacco users.

But there’s one big problem: we’re more than seven months into this fiscal year without a budget.  And the governor’s proposal for next year looks a lot like the one for this year.  Wolf and his Republican playmates allegedly had a “framework agreement” on a budget back in December, but it soon fell apart.  The GOP majority just won’t agree.

One really has to wonder: what exactly is going on in this man’s head.  After a year in office, doesn’t he know what he’s up against?  Does he really think they’re going to give in?  Finally, at one point in his address, Wolf suggested that if the Republicans can’t agree to a sane budget, they should “find another job.”

Ah ha.  And how, Gov. Wolf, do you intend to see this happen?  By just continually talking and talking and talking?  A little prayer that their callous consciences be ignited?  (I’m sure most of the GOP legislators would strenuously proclaim their Christianity.)  It has never occurred to the governor, and the well-meaning Democrats who support him, to call in the people.

The Great Farce

This whole ordeal has the makings of a great drama, starting out as a farce, moving on quickly to tragedy (it is people, after all, who are paying the price for this situation, and not just “the books”) and ending where?

The scene: The politically impotent governor paces the floor of his Harrisburg office. He has become increasingly isolated over the months, his visitors dwindling to a handful of hapless Democrats from Philadelphia and Allegheny County who try to keep up his morale.

“Why can’t they understand?” he cries. “Why?”

“They” are his GOP rivals, businessmen like himself after all, who are far more venal, heartless and cynical than he found them to be at Chamber of Commerce meetings.  “They” are the people who decry his tax hikes on regular folks and want to see the well-heeled start paying for things.  They utter distasteful words like “fight” and “mobilize.”  Nobody seems to understand the delicate art of compromise anymore.  The governor and President Obama are a dying breed.

Trancelike, he walks to a window to see what’s brewing over at the Capitol.  Holy shit!  What is going on out there?

A huge crowd has gathered outside the building where the legislators are nominally working for their good, and it just keeps growing and growing: Ragged orphans and foster kids, accompanied by their underappreciated wards; abused children, holding hands and clinging to each other for support, knowing their overworked, underpaid case workers can’t help them; battered women and other homeless people, who have nowhere else to go since providing them with safe housing offends the good legislators’ sense of sound economics; people struggling valiantly against the ravages of drug and alcohol addiction; college students from working- and middle-class homes, who are only trying to get ahead (poor naïve fools!); teachers and state workers, who feel that they deserve their pensions.

The governor is an educated man, a man of reflection. In the old days, he muses, these people would be peasants, brandishing pitchforks and torches.  Instead of facing a line of riot police, armed with shields, batons and pepper spray, they’d find themselves face to face with knights on horses, who would soon cut them to pieces.

But this isn’t the Middle Ages and the mass of humanity just keeps swelling and pressing forward.  Soon the police will have to take the offensive, in order to save the hides of the noble legislators inside.  But wait.  The days of pitchforks may be over, but quite a few (hundred!) members of the crowd are holding high other, more lethal weapons: firearms.  Damn that Second Amendment!

Police officers in the rear lob the first canisters of tear gas into the crowd.  It parts itself like the Red Sea to give its own sharpshooters — hundreds of them — a clear line of sight . . .

CURTAIN

— Jim Collins

 

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