Sunday, September 18, 2011

An Autumn Crystal Ball

The state House returns to Harrisburg next week. And since it recessed for the summer, our kids have returned to schools with fewer teachers and larger class sizes, the number of unemployed Pennsylvanians has grown and through a series of weather-related events, flood waters pounded every corner of the Commonwealth causing property damage and needless deaths.

Coincidently (or not) public education funding was slashed, job training programs were cut and money for flood control projects was eliminated in this year’s state budget.  All while hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars were left unspent, waiting for some other “rainy day”.

The GOP-led state House has repeatedly proclaimed its focus as “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” yet there is little evidence that any of the “meaningful” measures they claim to have passed since taking control in January have gained any traction in the continued effort to produce jobs.

It shouldn’t come of much of a surprise that a group focused on passing legislation to root out near non-existent voter fraud, expanding the Castle Doctrine, and shuttering women’s health centers hasn’t found much success on the job creation front.

So when the House returns to Harrisburg on Sept. 26, what has the Majority Leader touted as his top priority?
•             Lowering the tax burden on Pennsylvanian small businesses by closing the Delaware loophole –no;
•             Ensuring more working Pennsylvanians have access to health care – nope;
•             Protecting our state’s water supply – guess again;
•             Finding solutions to cure our state’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure -- not right now.

GOP Leader Mike Turzai announced in July that his top priority for this autumn is liquor privatization. A plan that would immediately kill 5,000 family sustaining jobs, more than double the number of liquor stores, and do nothing to guarantee lower prices, but would almost definitely drive up public safety costs across the state.

Only time will tell if Republican leadership will pick up the pace in passing legislation that favors Pennsylvanians over private interests, that values transparency over backroom bargaining, and deals with the Commonwealth’s most pressing problems instead of political preferences.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PA GOP launching a war on words

Despite their frequent and fruitless efforts, with the GOP at the helm I think little threat exists that English will be declared the official language of Pennsylvania. If it were, it would be more challenging for Republican lawmakers themselves to misrepresent the rhetoric they’ve embraced since January.

The GOP has made distorting definitions an art form.

For instance House leaders wouldn't be able to characterize the expiration of federal stimulus dollars as a "federal cut" anymore. ARRA was a one-time grant for states to use, not money states could count on forever. So GOP claims of “cuts” from the feds are misleading and disingenuous.

For a time it was trendy in GOP circles to congratulate one another for restoring education funding -- which left everyone else in PA scratching their heads because everyone knows the GOP supported a $1 BILLION CUT in education. Only in the GOP alternate universe can you claim a massive reduction is actually a restoration.

More GOP-speak is the use of the word "gimmick." By House and Gov. Corbett’s standards “gimmick” easily translates into whatever tactic the opposition (be it Senate Republicans, Democrats, or the federal government) is using to make their point, no matter how logical and sound, it’s a gimmick.

Also in the world of Republican rule, there is no such thing as a surplus (except when one of your leaders slips up and calls it a surplus). New lingo: “revenue over estimate” made its appearance last spring in order to describe the excess taxpayer funds now sitting in a government bank account waiting for a rainy day while our kids endure larger class sizes, people can’t afford health care, and entire communities have literally been underwater.

Also in the gun toting, papers-checking, rights-denying Pennsylvania imagined by some lawmakers, the GOP used some "fuzzy math." You can call a $27.6 Billion budget a $27.1 Billion budget; and you can characterize an $800 million bonus depreciation giveaway to big business as only $200 million. In their minds, it all adds up.

Speaking of adding up, under Gov. Corbett the Harrisburg colloquialism formerly known as "WAMS," has been renamed and redistributed. Under new management WAMS have become the Liberty Loan Fund (synonym: slush fund).

With an obvious flair for deceptive communications in their first year, I can barely wait to see how many new words and phrases crop up in 2012. One thing is clear, while Republicans rewrite the dictionary and Senor Metcalfe tries to score an appearance on Fox News, both are distractions from solving the Commonwealth’s actual challenges.