Beware Tom the Tax Wolf in sheep’s clothing!

2013-01-30-wolf1Had a great idea for a Tom Corbett campaign commercial that highlighted the Tax & Spend philosophy of Tom Wolf, the Democrat’s candidate in the Pennsylvania Governor’s race.  Wolf looks to unseat Corbett in this November’s election that is chock full of Republican opportunities locally, state-wide, and across the country.

The setting for the commercial is some nondescript social event … a party, fund-raiser, art exhibit, etc.  Men and women are socializing – shown on camera from the neck down – in relaxed conversation, distracted somewhat from the goings-on around them.

The female narrator describes the plans Mr. Wolf has for Pennsylvania’s fiscal and economic future under a potential Wolf administration.  As she does, a man in a business suit, haphazardly cloaked in the pelt of a woolly sheep, circulates among the distracted party-goers.

As the announcer intones …

“Tom Wolf wants to fully fund the poorly managed Philadelphia School District.”

The man in sheep’s clothing slips a hand into a woman’s pocketbook and pulls out a wad of cash.

“Tom Wolf defines the taxable rich as any individual who earns more than $90,000 per year, and he targets them for significant income tax increases!”

The sheep-Wolf adroitly slips a wallet from a male patron’s back pocket.

“Tom Wolf wants to add severance tax for natural gas job creators who already pay Impact Fees.  But guess who will really pay that tax in higher retail prices?!?”

And the Wolf extracts a money clip from a man’s jacket pocket.

Tom Wolf's economic plan for Pennsylvania

Tom Wolf’s economic plan for Pennsylvania

Then the camera pans up, to reveal a smiling sheepskin-clad Tom Wolf, gloating over a thick wad of cash.

The wolf-in-sheepskin concept is particularly apropos, given Tom Wolf’s repeated attempts to portray himself as one of us; caring about our jobs and home finances; and fretting over property taxes and pensions, when in fact, he’s more a 1%’er than even Allyson Schwartz!

Certainly you can slip a few more warnings into this message, such as Wolf’s plans for significant increases in personal income tax rates, or what higher taxes might mean in fewer employment opportunities (i.e. jobs), or how Wolf’s failure to acknowledge the Public Pension problem will continue to exert upward pressure on local Property Taxes.

By the time the commercial fades to ” … and I endorse this message”, you have a political crime spree to challenge the legends of Bonnie & Clyde and Henry Hill’s buddies from Goodfellas!

Unfortunately, this Wolf commercial never made it from Cranky Man-conception to Tom Corbett’s campaign, but they created several good Wolf-themed ads of their own.  Their most effective ad portrayed Pennsylvania citizens “longing” to pay more in taxes.  Effective because it focuses on working people. who scrimp to make every dollar last just a bit longer, and highlighting what a Tom Wolf-led State administration would cost them.

Getting Tom Wolf to give details on his taxing and economic plans for Pennsylvania is like trying to nail down smoke.  He claims that only after a detailed look at Pennsylvania’s financial books will he be able to tell you how high he will raise your taxes!

10600602_10152686691675862_3330359001644274492_nBut wait!  Didn’t Tom Wolf serve as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Revenue?!?  Has he not kept abreast of State financial conditions before he decided to run for Governor on a higher-taxes-are-fundamental platform?  How believable is it really that Tom Wolf has insufficient information to form a rudimentary picture of Pennsylvania’s economic health?

What exactly is Tom Wolf afraid of???

He’s afraid that Pennsylvanians will get a look at the real Tax Wolf under all that fluffy Professor Middle Class sheepskin!

To figure out the high cost of a Tom Wolf Pennsylvania start by adding up the Democrat’s Wish List:

  • Raise the Personal Income tax rate for everyone from the current 3.07% to potentially 5% since Pennsylvania’s constitution prohibits charging one group – i.e. The Rich (i.e. anyone making over just $90,000 a year) – more than anyone else.
    • This means, if your Employer withholds State Income Taxes and you fit under the anticipated $90,000 Rich Bracket, you might have the “pleasure” of watching The State earn interest on YOUR money while you wait until Tax Season to recoup what you can through the refund process!
  • Replacing $1 billion in “education cuts” the Democrats disingenuously claim Governor Corbett imposed on Pennsylvania schools.
    • You must – of course – ignore The Big Lie of the Democrat’s campaign vs. the truth of the loss of federal stimulus funding.
    • Also turn a blind eye to the fact that Governor Corbett has increased Education funding by $1 billion since taking office in 2011.
  • Accepting the Affordable Care Act “deal” to expand Medicaid, despite the fact that the federal government will only fund the added obligation to 90% of costs after 2016.
    • No doubt Tom Wolf will break a hip jumping onto the Obamacare Medicaid-expansion wagon!
    • Projected cost: $1 billion in FY15-16; climbing to $4.1 billion by 2021.
  • Fully fund the poorly managed School District of Philadelphia:  Despite the approval of a cigarette tax increase and changes (Finally!) to the financing of the teacher’s union healthcare program, the SPD still faces an $8 million deficit that remains from the 2014 fiscal year and $70 million shortfall for fiscal year 2015.
    • All this after SDP borrowed $300 million over the past 2 years.
    • What are the chances this problem goes away even if the SDP is “fully funded”?
  • State-pensionsRefusing to address the Public Pension crisis, which currently consumes 63% of all State revenues to cover EXISTING State and local pension obligations!
    • Wolf says he will make up the $50-65 Billion in pension shortfall by “rearranging budget priorities” (i.e. less money for things the State really needs, then raising taxes again in the future to cover any shortfall in services funding)
    • Cost of bridging the Pension Gap: $1300. per Pennsylvanian!

So what is Tom Wolf’s plan for paying for this Wish List?  Higher taxes, of course!  As early as 2007, Wolf – as Rendell’s Secretary of Revenue – testified about the need to raise State Income Taxes.

Tax increases seem to be a constant Tom Wolf theme.  Yet aside from raising severance taxes for the Natural Gas Industry (NGI), Wolf is actually committed to reducing Corporate Tax Rates.

Huh?

That’s right!  While Wolf is raising Income Taxes on you, he will look to reduce the tax burden of Corporations!

Consider then who will actually pay for that natural gas Severance Tax!  (Hint: It won’t be the NGI!)  The NGI will simply pass those costs on to you – the Consumer – in the prices you pay for natural gas in your home and for those products that rely on natural gas for their manufacture!

Taxes, taxes, taxes … More paid by you and less paid by most Pennsylvania corporations!

Tom Wolf as Governor?  Not exactly Pennsylvania’s Middle Class Dream now, is it?!?

TomC_000

About these ads

Jefferson Station and the thing about Healthcare Reform

20140905_jeff_1024The acquisition has become quite commonplace in recent years, from sports stadiums and entertainment venues to infrastructure basics like roadways and railway stations.  Naming rights, long reserved for notable philanthropists placing a family name on hospitals, university halls, museums and libraries, are now a convenient – though costly – method to promote brand recognition and consumer confidence.

Earlier this month SEPTA announced the naming of Market East Station to Jefferson Station in a deal between the regional transportation provider and the Jefferson Health SystemThomas Jefferson University Hospital is only two blocks south of Market East.

The naming deal follows an earlier arrangement to rename the Broad Street Subway station at Pattison Avenue “AT&T Station” and previews a future naming rights deal with their Verizon or Comcast for Suburban Station.

http-planphilly-com-sites-planphilly-com-files-dsc_0027_2-jpg.752.502.sFacility naming deals are an easy way for cash-strapped or opportunistic entities to raise funding from wealthier, healthier corporations.  In the overall scheme of things, it’s a no-brainer for a constantly short-funded regional utility, like SEPTA, to use its captive commuter audience as a way to raise needed capital.

SEPTA’s five-year deal with AT&T cost the communications company $5.4 million, although SEPTA only received $3.4 million.  It’s advertising agent made out very nicely, pocketing $2 million in the deal.

But what of a hospital spending $4 million to buy branding rights all in the name of product recognition?  To me, it speaks to several interesting questions and one Big Duh observation.

First off, the obvious question … Is it prudent, necessary or progressive for a medical provider to seek publicity of this sort at what most would consider a sizable chunk of cash?  Arguments could be made that such attempts at name recognition promote Jefferson as a top-class service provider, educational institution, and research facility.

Yet, I would think that’s a tough nut to crack since Jefferson is already a renown regional name.  Once you get outside the Philadelphia region it’s hard to figure exactly what naming a railway station adds to the Jefferson brand.   How many prospective medical students or established medical professionals would actually be swayed by a name on a subway marquee?

artmax_178They might even look at such largesse as a needless and wasteful expenditure in a research-heavy profession where funding often determines how much a dedicated research professional can accomplish.

On another level, it’s difficult to ignore what equipment, expansion of service, or community involvement could be financed with that $4 million marquee grab.

Jefferson’s argument might be that all testing, diagnostic and treatment equipment is sufficiently updated and in top-level performance condition.  Yet I would be willing to bet you can find a few areas of their network that might very well be begging for additional investment, updating, and manpower.  From that point-of-view, buying a railway station would seem like an unnecessarily extravagant expense to anyone who consumes Jefferson medical services.

Which brings me to my real reason for making so much more out of a relatively small ball approach to the Naming Rights Game …

Healthcare reform … REAL healthcare reform … The kind of healthcare reform we did not get in the Affordable Care Act.  The kind of healthcare reform that would make a difference to those who consume and those who are forced to pay big premiums, big deductibles, and large shares of those Usual, Customary, and Reasonable costs.

Affordable was supposed to be the key word ...

Affordable was supposed to be the key word …

My Big Aha Moment was in the realization that if the Jefferson Health System has $4 million to spend on a subway station, they certainly have a lot of other money available for a lot of other non-medical investments!

This is not an attack on JHS alone though.  This I’m certain is the same financial truth that can be found in any large, successful medical system, be it in Philadelphia or Dallas or Nashville.  I have never hidden my contempt of the ACA, mostly because of the way it was birthed … forced in hurried fashion through a brow-beat Congress.  And as “healthcare reform” it wasn’t real reform at all … Not even close in any way, shape, or form.

Real healthcare reform would have addressed the REAL problem with healthcare … The Cost!  All the SEPTA-JHS deal did was highlight the crux of the healthcare problem … Medical services that are so expensive that a hospital has a few million lying around to buy a subway station name.

All the ACA did was dump more people into a system that costs way too much.  Logic would dictate that if you want to provide medical coverage to more people the trade-off should be reducing the costs – if at all possible – of the services to be provided.

Can anyone imagine saying that medical costs in this country were affordable prior to the passing of the ACA?  Obviously not, since “Affordable” was the first word they thought of when they created the Affordable care Act!  Yet no significant action was taken to make healthcare more affordable prior to adding millions to the Well-Care portion of U.S. healthcare (i.e. that segment of healthcare that the uninsured COULD NOT AFFORD to use, resorting to Emergency Rooms as their sole source of healthcare once they became sick).

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to take a long, deep look into the cost structure and profit margins of American healthcare BEFORE adding a significant new market for services that would only see demand and usage skyrocket with the passage of the ACA?  Would it not have seemed a reasonable approach to restructure medical costs in a way that potential savings might have paid for many new ACA subscribers?

The SEPTA-Jefferson Health System deal suggests that it would have been on both counts.  Not that we were ever given the chance to find out …

 

Well, health and maybe a good game of railroad Monopoly ...

Well, health and maybe a good game of railroad Monopoly …

 

 

Why Pennsylvania needs Public Sector pension reform

Governor Corbett discusses pension reform in Dresher

Governor Corbett discusses pension reform in Dresher

Last week I had an opportunity to attend one of Governor Tom Corbett‘s mini-town hall meetings on Pennsylvania‘s precarious public pension situation.

The Governor is spending a lot of time this Summer pushing the need for public sector pension reform to improve the State’s financial health and put a lid on spiraling property taxes.  The problem he is facing is that the Pennsylvanians who pay taxes do not view Pension Reform as a problem let alone a problem-with-high-priority.

Much of this disconnect comes from the plain fact that most voters do not understand how State pensions work; how much they cost; or how they affect the other real problems with which my fellow Pennsylvanians can readily identify.

Recent polls (Quinnipiac University 2013, Franklin & Marshall 2014) found that Pennsylvanians recognized Unemployment, the Economy, Education, and Taxes as the biggest problems being faced in the Keystone State. These opinions are even more disconcerting from a taxpayer’s point-of-view, because it illustrates a very basic fact about the magnitude of the pension problem …

Few appreciate how the State’s pension mess plays into the perceived problems in Education, Taxes and the Economic Health of Pennsylvania.

For that you must look at the numbers.

  • $47,000,000,000. (billion with a capital “B”) … The current pension funding gap in Pennsylvania
  • $65,000,000,000. (also with a “B”) … The projected pension gap by 2019.
  • 63 cents of every $1 in revenue … 63% of PA State revenue currently goes to cover State pension responsibilities
    • That is, $2 Billion per year, all covered by PA tax payers
  • $13,000. … The amount each Pennsylvanian would have to pay to cover the current pension fund gap.

State-pensionsForty-one percent (41%) of the annual State budget goes to Education funding.  Another 40% goes to support Health and Human Services (and yes, that’s BEFORE you factor in the potential of accepting ObamaCare’s proposed Medicaid expansion, which will be funded by the Federal Government to only 90% of costs after 2016) …

The budget percentages for Education and HHS are equally important in understanding the overall picture.  Why?

For one, they illustrate the impact both Education and Social Services have on the State budget.  When you spend 81-82% of your budget in two specific areas, it does not leave much room for the other good things State government can do.  These huge obligations place the State in a financial straight jacket.  Pension costs make up a significant burden to school districts and public healthcare providers insofar as those costs are a subset of whatever funding is provided by the State.

As an example, when a School District receives its annual budgeted funding, they must – each and every year – immediately set aside a significant portion of that funding to be applied towards that school district’s allotment of pension coverage.  As pensions costs grow, school districts are forced to pay more and more for their pension service; meaning they will have less and less to spend on actual education.

pension-reformSo when you speak of those “real problems” facing Pennsylvania … Education, Unemployment, the Economy and Taxes … there is a genuine, behind-the-scenes connection between pension costs obligations and all those REAL problems.  And more importantly, to financing any solutions to those REAL problems.

So what’s State and local Government to do?  What tough choices do you make now?  Do you raise Property Taxes again?  Do you raise Corporate Taxes in a state which is already has the HIGHEST corporate tax rate in the country?  Or do you do something about the most easily identifiable and underlying problem?

As a taxpayer, this is a chilling reality.  If you subscribe to the theory that high taxes kill Economic Growth, raising Corporate Taxes is not the BEST alternative.  (And yes, that also goes for a Job Creator like the Natural Gas Industry.)  Neither is raising Property Taxes, which is what school districts must do to meet the growing pension budget hole.

Pension reform won’t lower current property taxes however.  Replacing pension plans does nothing to alleviate the pension obligations already facing the State and local school districts.  It’s a solution for the future, by putting a lid on rising property taxes by replacing an unsustainable pension structure with one that lessens the future burden on taxpayers!

If you are not yet convinced, take a look at recent examples in countries like Greece and Italy, where excessive pension costs drove cataclysmic threats to economic stability.  Or take a look closer to home …

CT Emanuel_Method_04.JPG

Chicago Mayor – and former White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel

When uber-Liberal Rahm Emanuel left the cozy confines of The White House as President Obama’s Chief-of-Staff to become the Mayor of Chicago, the first major initiative he undertook was to tackle Chicago’s financially threatening pension problem.  To take a peek at what could happen to cities in Pennsylvania if leaders do nothing, look at what has happened in Detroit!

The Rahm Emanuel story is critically important for one reason many people might overlook.  It illustrates that this is not a problem restricted to one political party or the other.  Pension costs with all its ramifications – from taxes to education to health services to economic vitality – is a Democrat and Republican problem.

So what is the real problem with Pennsylvania’s nightmare pension scenario?  It’s reliance upon Defined-Benefit public pensions …

This is not a new problem, not in the pubic sector, not in the private sector, not in the manufacturing sector, not in the financial industry.  Individual companies, whole industries, other States, even the Federal Government have recognized the threat to financial stability presented by growing defined-benefit pension obligations.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am employed in the Public Sector by the Federal Government since 1980.  In 1986 the federal government introduced a two-tier retirement system under the Federal Employees Retirement System Act of 1986.  The Act essentially grand-fathered all existing employees under the existing Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), while requiring all new employees – hired after the laws effective date – to participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).  The reasoning behind the switch from a Defined-Benefit CSRS to a hybrid Defined-Benefit/Defined-Contribution plan was much the same in 1986 as it is now for Pennsylvania in 2014.

This is pretty solid framework for changing Pennsylvania’s Pension Problem.  Allow those already vested in current defined-benefit pensions alone.  Address a change in pension structure only towards new employees at all levels of government!

In the Federal Government, FERS provides its own two-tiered approach, consisting of a Defined-Benefit where a minimum government contribution is mandated.  Then the federal government fully matches any employee contributions up to 5% of salary (the percentage matched drops on additional employee contributions) made to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which acts essentially like a 401(k) with employees able to choose investment options of differing risk and return.

That the Federal Government is out in front of Pennsylvania on anything – by nearly three decades no less – should be more than a little troubling to Pennsylvania tax payers!  And this again is a problem whose responsibility falls squarely on BOTH political parties.

Former Gov Tom Ridge, not exactly the brightest light on pension sanity

Former Gov Tom Ridge, not exactly the brightest light on pension sanity

In 2001 it was the Tom Ridge Republican administration that cut a foggy-headed deal with the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where both Democrats and Republicans agreed to significantly increase the pension benefits of Legislators, state workers, and teachers.  (Not surprisingly, those same Legislators all got fat pay increases as part of the deal!)  Then they compounded their stupidity by slashing the taxpayer contribution to service that very same pension obligation. 

It’s a case of an entire government turning a blind eye towards its very own economic future!

Changes to the way employee pensions are managed and financed have been rippling through the entire U.S. economy, most drastically of course in the private sector, where change depends not on the consensus of 250 State Legislators, who are so intimately tied to the very benefits economic reality demands must change.  It is virtually impossible – in this day and age – to find an employer who will provide an employee with a defined-benefit pension plan.

It’s a Republican-Democrat problem that will need both parties in the State Legislator to step up to the plate and get fixed.

Now, I’m not sure Governor Corbett’s approach is necessarily the best alternative for Pennsylvania’s particular pension situation. The devil is always in the details.  However, you must admire Corbett’s tenacity in pushing for pubic awareness of a problem very difficult to fully understand and always controversial … And for doing so during an election year!

That – my friends – is Leadership with all its risks and political exposures.  Like the national bi-annual conniption over Social Security insolvency, it’s always the first person who goes through the door that gets bloodied. 

Yet this is a problem to which even tax & spend liberal Tom Wolf has begun to awaken.  Oh wait a minute … That was for his furniture company, not necessarily the tax-paying citizens of Pennsylvania!

All politics aside, the message is clear.

If you live in Pennsylvania and believe that the REAL problems we face are Education, Taxes, and Economic Growth, you simply must recognize the threat that growing pension costs pose to the economic health of The Keystone State.  Tell this story to your Pennsylvania neighbors.  Let your voice be heard by demanding your State Representatives and Senators act together with Governor Corbett to address pension reform NOW!

Reflections on the Spirit of Independence

Declaration_independenceI admit it.  I’m a bit of a history nerd.

Make that an American history nerd.  It’s difficult for me to get interested in the ancient history of Old Europe or the Greeks or the Roman Empire.  For me, it’s a matter of direct effect.  Although American society has its foundation atop the successful and advanced societies that preceded, it’s difficult for those ancient predecessors to elicit an excitement in me that overshadows the more recent authors of purely American success.

But that’s just me …

What really holds my fascination whenever I take the opportunity to reflect on our earliest American history is the foresight and fortitude demonstrated by our Founding Fathers, and the difficult and sordid compromises they made to bring to fruition a tenuous but entirely necessary experiment in Independence from tyranny.

In 1776, an eclectic collection of leaders, renown primarily within their regional communities, met for a second time in Philadelphia.  (The first Continental Congress met in 1774.)  They brought with them the depth and breadth of institutions, economics, religious beliefs, and governing philosophies prominent where they lived to Philadelphia in order to argue and decide the fate of British colonies chafing under the capricious actions of rulers residing a full ocean away.

These men were far from perfect.  Some held some views on women and slavery that many – living now – would characterize as appallingly backward or downright inhumane.  Some of them surely recognized – or at least refused to confront – their conflicted positions on the Equality of all Men, while themselves holding men in slavery.  And in the end, we like to think their better angels had no choice but to kick several very large cans of worms into the future.  These cans or worms required generations to resolve.  The biggest unresolvable issue – Slavery – eventually demanded the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands 85 years later in a civil war that threatened to tear apart a still fragile Union.

These compromises they made because they were blessed with a yearning that rendered one choice paramount to all irreconcilable differences …

Independence from England …. Freedom from oppressive rulers!

What I find most fascinating of all is that this Second Continental Congress was successful at all!

Think of the mindsets that drove a loose collection of men from geographically extended colonies with no standing army or navy; rife with regional differences; and faced with moral shortcomings that differed not just on Equality, but the actual definition of Man to slap the insolent glove of challenge across the face of the largest and strongest empire that existed on Earth at the time!

Battle_of_Guiliford_Courthouse_15_March_1781Yes, they were fallible; and perhaps they were morally weak by today’s standards.  But they were also the social and political elite, who in the end had the most to lose if the insurrection failed.  Many of them would have been hunted down and killed, and their families as well.  Their property scattered among the triumphant British generals, if the miracle of victory was not somehow accomplished.

When I read about those days in the latter stages of the 1700s, I like to think that the stronger minds that were present knew that what they were putting into motion was an imperfect solution to an unavoidable problem.  That their only choice was a somewhat soiled compromise to accomplish a greater good.

They had faith that an initial success, no matter how unlikely to succeed against a well-trained British military, would allow for growth and an abiding strength for future generations to tackle the problems they could not resolve when forming a less perfect Union.  If they did think that way, they were prescient, even if those changes came by way of dramatic sacrifice and untold sufferings.

The image that comes to me this year on Independence Day is a fanciful look back through these 238 years into that hot, stuffy room in Philadelphia.  In that moment those brave men can also see the progress, the obstacles, the conflicts, and the sacrifices that have been experienced and overcome; and what those efforts have wrought.  They can see exactly how far their not-so-little experiment has grown.

At either ends of this fantastic time tunnel, both groups stand 238 years apart and in absolute awe of each other.

Enjoy your 4th of July!

 

Random thoughts for Primary drowsiness

Slow, slow, slow today at the polls …

Saw an interesting blog post from The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Editorial Board that lauds Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett for adding 100,000 jobs in the State since January 2011!  It’s a powerful statement for no other reason than it comes from The Inqy’s Editorial Board …

* * * * * *

Just voted and I was #34 at our polling location.  We might be up to 40 now.

Have I mentioned how slow Primary Days are?

* * * * * *

In our little slice of Horsham heaven I note that the Philadelphia labor and trade unions are nowhere to be found.  The unions have a history for sending union outsiders here to “work” Horsham’s polls as Democrat “volunteers”. Given the almost uniquely Democrat event today’s primary is, it’s obvious the Unions are sitting this one out.

* * * * * *

Geez … Is it really only noon?!?

 

A Primary plan

primary-electionPrimary days … I hate them.

Off year elections can at least be interesting.  The upcoming November ballot will be much more intriguing with Pennsylvania Governor and mid-term Congressional elections to be decided.

That one will be fun.

Primary elections?  bleah …

As a Republican committee representative, it’s always a long day at the polls.  What makes it most interesting however, when the political conditions are right, are the interactions and discussions you can have.  People who make sure they get out to vote are those most likely to be keeping abreast of the political news.

The greater the interest, the more voters show up, the better the day …

Tomorrow, with only one significant Republican race (PA 13th Congressional District) in my district (Horsham 1-3) and a slate of State Republican committee nominees to select, there’s not a lot of sexiness to attract much attention.  I guess I’ll pass the day baiting what Democrats turn out for their primaries for Governor and the PA 13th, which is like trying to pick The Golden Ticket out of a bag of lemons.

For those waiting patiently for my PA 13th Congressional Republican endorsement, you won’t find one.  I am disappointed in what little I have heard – which is nothing – from Beverly Plosa-BowserDee Adcock put me to sleep in 2010.  To win the 13th, you must have the connection and the energy to make inroads into the Northeast Philly chunk of the district.  Neither has convinced me they will have what it takes, so let the voters decide!

I will be at the Horsham firehouse on Meetinghouse Road for most of the day tomorrow.  Stop in and keep me from falling asleep!

Democrats for Governor: Playing Sharks and Jets

West-Side-Story-west-side-story-27587742-461-346The Democrats’ contest to pick a candidate to unseat Tom Corbett in the race for Governor of Pennsylvania is in full swing.  I’m sure I am not the only Pennsylvania Republican who has been enjoying the spectacle of Democrat cannibalism.

The Democrats love eating their own as much as Republicans do.

It’s a real accomplishment for any incumbent challenger to be successful in a general election after surviving a competitive and contentious primary.  The zeal both political parties take in tearing down their own candidates during primary seasons is frankly bizarre.  Whether it’s Allyson Schwartz‘s scorched-earth strategy for defending her 13th District Congressional seat or Republicans playing Whack-a-Mole on their best candidates before challenging a vulnerable President.

It’s hard to win a horse race when your prized steed – “winner” of the preliminary heat – is lame and limping off to the glue factory.

But if you are supporting an incumbent, who enjoys the safety of a challenge-less primary, patiently waiting for the battered primary victor to emerge, it’s a bit more rewarding to grab the popcorn; find a comfy chair; and commit to paper all the great attack lines your primaried opponents will hand you in their attempts to survive the intra-party process.

Whack-a-MoleFor Democrats the home stretch for the May 20 primary is within sight; and the heat has been turned up by the two biggest names in the race; both struggling to keep up with 25-point front-runner, Tom Wolf.  If you have been paying attention during this internecine combat, you have learned much about how for the Democrats will go to unseat Tom Corbett and how they will govern should they win.

For weeks now, I have been waiting for Schwartz to resort to the nuclear option in what must be an extremely frustrating struggle for Schwartz, who had already picked out the Executive Mansion drapes.  Instead, it was Rob McCord who decided to drop the bomb … a race bomb!

Divisiveness has blossomed as a favored tactic of Democrats running for executive offices, seeking to ingratiate themselves with specific – and obvious – voting blocks.  They present their arguments like this …

  • There are two groups.  (Let’s call them the Sharks and the Jets, so I don’t end up being hung at high noon by the Political Correctness Police.)
  • The groups can be split along a few different fault lines … economic (1% vs. 99%), geographic politics (urban vs. rural), corporate/consumer, gender, race, religion, etc.
  • “I am a Jet, just like you!” as opposed to being one of those nasty, selfish Sharks.  (This is aside from the fact that very often those claiming to be Jets are in fact Sharks.  More on that a little later.)
  • “Vote for me and I will level the playing field at the expense of those big, bad Sharks!”

McCord’s tactic was all too obvious.  Appeal to the large concentrations of votes in Pennsylvania’s biggest cities by alleging racism by Tom Wolf.

The incident, a killing during the 1969 race riots in York, Pennsylvania (Wolf’s hometown), returned to haunt the 2001 re-election campaign of then-Mayor Charlie Robertson.  When faced with the 2001 indictment, Robertson was persuaded to resign from the election after having already won the primary.  Wolf was one of several advisers who talked Robertson into resigning.

So really, Tom Wolf was simply standing by a friend,who had not as yet been tried (and was later acquitted) of the charges against him.

Of course that didn’t matter to McCord.  He got what he felt he needed, a wedge with which he could pry votes his way.  But it also gives you an insight into what a McCord Administration of State might look like .. a lot of bodies under a lot of buses.

Divisiveness, then conquer … a recurring theme …

Just ask Nate Kleinman what it's like!

Just ask Nate Kleinman what it’s like!

Schwartz – of course – jumped right on the Railroad Wolf train.  But then again, she doesn’t have much else to fall back on.  Her own Philadelphia connections have not been impressed with her constant harping of support for President Obama and his administration’s stilted, stuttering policies.  Most of all the Affordable Care Act …

Not exactly political genius by the Schwartz campaign, given the abominable handling of the ACA rollout, the Obama Administration’s opaque-ness when it comes to ACA sign-up/payment information, and well, just about everything they do – or don’t do – internationally.

Schwartz’s biggest problem though, when trying to connect to Joe Voter, is that when it comes to playing the 99% Jets off the 1% Sharks, she can’t hide the fact that she is – in fact – a Shark!

Then again, so are all the Democrats running for Governor!

Check out the income tax statements of the Democrat candidates who released their tax returns, keeping in mind that as late as 2012, the standard for being considered a 1% income earner was roughly $380,000.

200397812-001All figures are from 2012 tax returns:

  • Tom Wolf – $2.2 million in total (unadjusted) income (Taxes paid: $263,000 … Secured a loan for $4 million to partially finance campaign.)
  • Allyson Schwartz – $666,000 (unadjusted) income (Taxes paid: $140,000 … $5 million in campaign fund remaining as of April 8)
  • Rob McCord – $333,500 (unadjusted) income (OK … He’s a 1.5%’er!  Loaned campaign $1.7 million.)
  • Katie McGinty – $1.0 million (Taxes paid: $251,000 … Loaned her campaign $535,000.)

Now certainly there’s nothing wrong with being a successful 1%’er as it results from your hard work, highly demanded capabilities, or entrepreneurial spirit.  No, my point is this …

When these candidates look you in the eye and try to tell you they know what you are going through; that they are on your side; and they will help your Jets even the playing field with those richie-rich Sharks, you need to ask yourself the one question that really matters, when your family could live quite comfortably on what these candidates pay in taxes alone …

Wolf may the rue the day his Jeep joined the campaign.

Wolf may the rue the day his Jeep joined the campaign.

Who’s kidding whom?!?

The same story applies to how budgets and taxes will work should one of these esteemed liberals defeat a vulnerable Tom Corbett.

All four Democrat candidates rail against the $1 billion lost to education in the Pennsylvania budget.  They will all restore it.  Cost: $1 billion

By the Way …

The $1 billion cut to education in Pennsylvania was not a Corbett budget cut, as Democrats will lead you to believe.  The cuts were the result of the loss of $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars committed to the education budget by former Governor Ed Rendell and lost when the federal stimulus program ended in 2011. 

The 2013-14 state budget faces a $500 million shortfall, largely the result of overly optimistic projections of tax revenues that have not materialized.  Projections suggest the same could hold true for FY14-15, which begins on July 1.  So the State is really looking at a $1 billion budget gap.

The Democrats running for Governor all want to fix that of course.  Cost:  $1.0 billion over two years ($500K a year)

Total costs of fixing both the education funding gap and the State budget shortfall:  $1.5 billion annually

And how will Democrats fix this problem?  The unanimous answer is RAISE TAXES!  A large chunk of their proposed solution would be extraction taxes on the natural gas industry.

The problem for those of us who identify as middle class?

If you were hoping that Pennsylvania’s huge gas resource would result in cheaper local energy costs, it would be us – as consumers of this Pennsylvania gas – who will end up paying those taxes as increases to the wholesale/retail prices … of the gas itself and the products that rely on that gas for production and transportation.

shark-repellent-sharep-b_2Increased taxes are never paid solely by the businesses that are taxed.  They are simply pushed out to the consumer, who pays those added taxes in increased costs of what they buy and the services they use.  In addition, the fact that Pennsylvania already taxes energy companies with the second highest marginal corporate income tax rates in the country renders further taxation a potential drag on the economy and killer of jobs.

So when a Pennsylvania Democrat candidate for Governor comes calling; looks you in the eye; tells you they are a Jet, just like you; that they have your back; and will work oh-so-very-hard in your interests, make sure you have that Shark repellent handy!