Yes, Lincoln Steffens found corruption in all of the cities that he had researched for his 1904 masterpiece, The Shame of the Cities. But only in Philadelphia did he find that the politicians were corrupt, and the citizens contented.
Incarnations of corruption in the City can still be seen today in the embodiment of the School Reform Commission – but an outraged citizenry is calling for its abolishment – and as of this writing, it appears to be succeeding.
Yet in the state where Philadelphia resides, Steffens’ admonition appears to be alive and well. The Republican dominated State legislature had violated the State constitution by recessing for a six week vacation while a State revenue plan for the recent budget languished in limbo. Although PA watched its credit rating tank, the Republican dominated House benefitted in two ways: Its members received a well, undeserved rest, and, its brinkmanship assured that its gambling, banking, and oil industry sponsors would benefit from this budget. A balanced budget, however, is a zero sum game. If there are winners, there have to be losers, and unfortunately, average Pennsylvanians will foot the bill. Here are just some of the budget’s problems.
The State will need to borrow about $1.5 to keep this budget afloat. This is like paying your bills with a credit card.
Expanded sales taxes will be collected on certain online purchases – so much for Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.
Fireworks will be taxed at 18% (20% in Philadelphia). This might not be so bad were it not for the fact that almost every conceivable type of firework will become legal in PA.
And what will these taxes buy us?
$40 million in grants will be made available to underperforming casinos. Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in underperforming schools than underperforming casinos?
The highest paid State legislature in the country will be spending an additional $12 million on “legislative operations.” Given the damage that it has already caused, think of what it could accomplish with an additional $12 million.
If the borrowing is against the 1998 tobacco settlement funds, a number of programs that help fund seniors, the disabled, and a variety of health initiatives might be in jeopardy.
While there should be a sense of outrage among Pennsylvanians against this legislature, we hear hardly a peep. Hopefully, activists will use this information during the coming year to convince voters in Southeastern PA that our legislators represent us – not Texas, Nevada, or those large corporations whose mission is to suck money out of the State and into their pockets.