Higher Tuition, More Foreclosures: Just Some of the Ways We Are Paying the Price of Service Cuts

Price of Service CutsLast week, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center launched a new series about the impact of five years of state service cuts on the citizens of Pennsylvania. Check out the first three installments below, and keep up with all the stories in the days and weeks ahead by liking our Facebook Page or bookmarking our Price of Service Cuts web page.

End to Mortgage Aid Nearly Cost Pennsylvania Woman Her Home

Judy earned a modest income from her clerical job until an unexpected health problem hit. She needed to work to pay her mortgage, but her doctor and physical therapist told her she had to take time off to recover. Judy, who lives in Allegheny County, went five months without income and fell behind on her mortgage payments. She faced the awful prospect of losing her home. …

When Judy turned to the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) for help, she hit a wall. Funding for HEMAP was cut so deeply in the 2011-12 state budget (by $8.5 million or over 80% from the previous year) that the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency had no choice but to shut HEMAP down in July 2011. Read the full story.

Fewer Places to Turn for Victims of Domestic Violence

After suffering abuse, Michelle went with her two young girls (2 and 6 years) to SafeNet, a domestic violence program in Erie. SafeNet’s emergency shelter was over capacity but made room for Michelle and her children. SafeNet offered Michelle and her children a safe place to stay and counseling. Staff and volunteers put in extra effort working with the children, unwitting victims who are often confused and traumatized by the violence they have witnessed, to assure their physical and emotional well-being.

Domestic violence shelters can only provide 30 days of shelter for victims, but Michelle needed more time to find permanent housing and get back on her feet. SafeNet continued to work with Michelle, but could no longer provide shelter because of limited funding. …

Funding for domestic violence services in the commonwealth has been stagnant or decreasing over the last 11 years, while the operational costs of providing shelter and counseling have skyrocketed. The recession and high rate of unemployment, while not causes of domestic violence, are tied to an increase in both the frequency and severity of reported cases. With less funding, fewer victims are getting the help they need. Read the full story.

Drowning in Debt: Budget Cuts Raise Cost of College

Brittany graduated from Shippensburg University last year with $60,000 in student loans. She is thankful, however, because her communications degree did land her a job in New York where she commutes every day from Bucks County. Others are not so fortunate. Zachary invested in a five-year architecture/landscape program at Pennsylvania State University, and it has yet to pay off. After graduating, Zachary settled for a manual-labor landscaping job that has since ended. He is eager to work and has a career of academic achievement but simply cannot find a job.

These stories are not unique. Today, many young graduates are left holding a diploma but not a job after pouring time and money into a college education. As a result, more graduates are defaulting on their student loan payments each year. …

State support of higher education has been cut dramatically in the past few years. …

Behind the mortgage, the cost of college is often a family’s largest investment, and it is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Read the full story.

Corbett, GOP Endorse Welch

The Pennsylvania Republican Party met this weekend to do annual endorsements and Gov. Corbett is firmly in control of his GOP.  Traditionally a sitting Governor, as with a sitting President, controls his Party as Ed Rendell did for eight years with Dems.  Tom Corbett is exercising his influence quickly as he felled Sen. Rafferty from the AG primary and now backs Steve Welch for the U.S. Senate nomination.

Interestingly the Guv ticked off major donor Bob Asher, a convicted felon, by erasing Rafferty from that field.  Now he’s angered Tea Party activists by supporting Welch.  The Chester County businessman supported both Barack Obama and Joe Sestak which makes his Republican bona fides suspicious among many in the Party’s right wing.  OK, so the extreme right wing is all that’s left of the GOP, I get that.  All of which makes Corbett’s tactics interesting.  The tea baggers supported Sam Rohrer in the gubernatorial primary and are behind him again to challenge Bob Casey in the fall.  The fact Rohrer is wholly unelectable statewide (we’ll have more on him closer to April) doesn’t sit well with the Governor who wants to show his influence remains (or exists).

All in all 2012 is shaping up to be a fascinating year to follow politics in Pennsylvania.  There won’t be many dull moments.

Ron Paul The Anarchist

Presidential candidate Ron Paul exposed his anarchist beliefs in a simple response in the latest debate when Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney argued over health care.  Paul said the fallacy of both arguments was in the premise that the two men were arguing about which government program was best.  According to Paul’s answer no government is best.  That’s an anarchist view and it underlines ALL of the Congressman’s beliefs.  It is a fallacy because good government is a powerful force for good in people’s lives.

Do you enjoy traveling from place to place.  Going to work means driving on good roads and stable bridges, buying gas and knowing you’re actually getting a gallon of fuel for your money instead of being cheated.  It means being able to travel safely knowing not everyone can run red lights, drive 90 mph, swerve and tailgate because police on patrol insuring that every driver follow established rules of the road set by government.

Good government means you can go to the market and be relatively safe about the safety of the food you’re consuming, that your water won’t make you ill or the air you breathe won’t give you cancer.  Good government means you know your neighbor can’t build some monstrosity right on your property line or take in 50 noisy tenants.  It means being able to buy a home where you know the plumbing and electrical systems are up to a safe standard.  It means if your neighbor’s house goes up in flames or a burglar is poaching in your area firemen and police are there to keep you safe.

Good government means that when you go to work standards of safety are enforced so your coal mine doesn’t blow up, your tools are safe along with all of your working conditions and that your boss cannot sexually harass you.  It means if there’s a child predator in your neighborhood or a rapist on the prowl officers of the law are on the job.  It means a free public education for every person, higher education of a distinct quality respected around the world, medicines that won’t kill you and a Center for Disease Control ready to responding an outbreak and exhaustive medical research extending our lives.

Ron Paul, if he had his way, would eliminate all government save for defense.  He doesn’t care that for fifty cents you can send a letter clear across the country, that we have an energy infrastructure bringing power to your doorstep, water to your tap and sewage into treatment plants.  The ultimate conservative ideology is that it’s all for one instead of one for all.  It would take civilization back to a time before civilized society, to a time of anarchy when only the rich and powerful were safe.  That isn’t America and it disqualifies him for any public office.  If one doesn’t believe in government they shouldn’t be part of it.

A Death In the Family

I tried keeping my eyes dry watching yesterday’s memorial service but found it was impossible.  We had a death in the family this week, the Penn State Family.  It’s been a tough week.  It shouldn’t have ended this way for Joe Paterno but no one has the power to change events, even the legendary coach.  What we did see yesterday though was everything which is good about Penn State.  I sat there thinking that, perhaps, this might change the attitudes of many people whose sole opinion of us is the controversy surrounding a former coach.

I really enjoyed Jimmy Cefalo’s touching remembrance.  Maybe it was because he represented my era or perhaps because he reminded us how Joe took the sons of small town Pennsylvania, sons of coal miners (my father, class of ’42, was the son of a coal miner) and molded them into men.  The Paterno legacy, as was said, is not 409 victories, 2 national championships, 5 undefeated seasons, 50 consecutive non losing seasons, or a 106,000 seat stadium.  His legacy was the thousand former lettermen sitting on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center.  It was how he touched the lives of millions of people, of hundreds of thousands of alumni.  He lives on in all of us.

There’s an old saying that no one really dies until the last person who knew and remembers them breathes their last.  I like to believe in that and in such a case Joe Paterno will live forever.

I was disappointed any mention of the scandal engulfing the University and which led to Joe’s dismissal was even mentioned.  His life transcended one moral lapse.  I’d have rather listened to all the remembrances and stories shared about his life, his passions and his ideals and they were abundant.  Unfortunately Nike Chairman Phil Knight couldn’t resist and reminded all of the painful final chapter of Joe’s life:

“There is a villain in this tragedy, and it lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno’s response,” Knight boomed.

“I do not follow conventional wisdom. Joe Paterno was my hero for 12 of the last 12 years. My question is, who was the real trustee of this university?”

This was not the time to excoriate Tom Corbett, there will more appropriate times for that.  Knight’s question however, was poignant in that it reminded us that Joe Paterno was really the one person, “the Trustee,” who really ran Penn State and that was the problem and the source of his downfall.  We could have done without that reminder.  That was the culture which nurtured Jerry Sandusky and resulted in tragedy, not for Joe Paterno, but for young boys raped inside the Lasch Football Building.

This week wasn’t, and shouldn’t, have been about the Sandusky scandal, it was about Joe Paterno and his real legacy.  Other than Knight it was a beautiful day beginning with the Glee Club singing the alma mater and ending with a lone Blue Band trumpeter playing “Hail to the Lion” (not those songs cited erroneously in The Morning Call).

Today the Lion is at rest, hail to the Lion.

New Bain Attack Ad against Romney to Air in Florida

One of the key issues framing the Republican primary race and one that will certainly be highlighted during the general election if Romney were to get that far is his role in Bain Capital.

The media lesson to be learned is that you must get out in front of issues that can hurt your reputation before your enemies, opponents, and in the world of business, your competitors frame the issue and you are left playing defense instead of offense.

Bain Capital has been discussed ever since Mitt Romney first entered politics in 1994. Many people believe that Bain Capital has done so many nefarious things in a complex manner and this in turn has left most voters confused by Romney’s Bain connection.

The danger that the Romney camp is now faced with is that the media and his opponents have framed the issue in the following way:

1. Bain Capital would plunge a company into massive debt.

2. Bain would pull out massive fees.

3. The company would be pushed into bankruptcy.

4. Bain would then purge the company of hundreds or even thousands of workers.

Romney is basing his entire presidential claim on his ability to “create jobs” and his record at Bain Capital. He’s not running on his record as Governor of Massachusetts. So if voters view Romney’s Bain record in exclusively negative terms, then Romney’s rationale for running for President is completely destroyed.

News & Notes January 26, 2012

Confusion is reigning over the Commonwealth today as many candidates are discovering they no longer live in legislative districts redrawn and rejected by the state Supreme Court.  This entire operation has been a debacle for Republicans.  They delayed and squandered time and resources gerrymandering the state House and Senate districts until very late in the game then watched it all fall apart late yesterday.

Candidates had no idea in which district they resided until late last year and began announcing, organizing and gathering nominating petition signatures this week and now many no longer are eligible to run.  What a massive waste of time, money and effort because the Reapportionment Commission was too lazy to do its job properly.  Instead of performing an intelligent map they got tied up in partisan politics and so the people got screwed.  I’m not blaming Republicans entirely for all of this because Democrats share equally.  Rep. Frank Dermody, a Democrat, voted for the plan as a member of the Commission and Rep. Babette Josephs, then Chair of the State Government Committee, killed a bill which would have required a nonpartisan citizen’s commission to draw the maps.  Had Democrats been in control they would have gerrymandered too.  If ever there was a time to rejuvenate support for a new system this is it.

Matt Cartwright officially announced his primary challenge to Congressman Tim Holden Tuesday.  This is the second consecutive election the corporate Blue Dog Democrat has been primaried.  How many Cartwright supporters will have their jobs threatened by Holden?  That was his ruthless tactic against Sheila Dow Ford two years ago and told us much about his lack of character.  I’ve gone from having Holden as my Congressman to Joe Pitts and, frankly, don’t see much difference.

If you enjoyed the teddy bears explaining quantitative easing last week they’re back talking about bank bailouts:

Reading is turning into the Wild West thanks to the Castle Doctrine.  A store owner opened fire and a bicycle rider shot two attackers on a trail just outside the city killing one of them.  Since when does a citizen have the right to be judge, jury and executioner all at once?  The use of deadly force in a robbery is a travesty.  What if some of these bullets had hit innocent bystanders?

Faux News has been creating outrage about light bulbs for months.  Angry about losing their “liberty” to buy the most polluting lighting possible so as to accelerate global warming (hasn’t Texas suffered enough?  Well, it’s Texas so perhaps not) the propaganda artists at Faux have been telling people they won’t have the freedom to buy their incandescent bulbs.  Media Matters went light bulb shopping to debunk the BS:

Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer is off to a rocky start.  City Council won’t reopen his budget to hire his new staff including a Communications Director through whom all media contact must pass.  This means I can no longer chat with my neighbor who works for the Mayor.  Heaven help someone suspect he’s telling me something…  I keep remembering Spencer’s ownership by the Mascaro Brothers and wondering if the mob mentality of omerta is at work here.

The interesting revisionist history being conducted by the four remaining GOP presidential contenders has been fascinating.  Now Rick Santorum is saying he never called for Congressional intervention in Terri Schiavo’s medical care.  I distinctly recall those events because they effected the life of my oldest sister.  In fact Sen. Santorum rushed back to Washington after doing a fund raiser hosted by Outback Steakhouse to push through a resolution to that effect.  Liar, liar pants on fire Rick.

Poor old Mitt Romney, demonized for being the candidate of the 1%!  He finally released some tax returns and it turns out he doesn’t have a job.  Instead he earns $21 million/year from investments.  He has bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and pays about 14% in taxes.  That’s a lower rate than everyone actually working for a living.  He’s afraid Obama will use it against him.  Conservatives killed the estate tax and lowered the capital gains tax (paid on investment income) so much they’ve created this huge gap between the rich and poor.  Complain though and they’ll accuse you of class warfare.

PA Tax Loophole Bill a First Step, More to Be Done

(This bill would close the “Delaware Loophole.” – promoted by John Morgan)

A blog post by Chris Lilienthal, originally published at Third and State.

Pennsylvania Representatives Dave Reed and Eugene DePasquale rolled out legislation today that would take an important first step towards closing corporate tax loopholes in Pennsylvania.

Corporate tax loopholes have been a problem for a long time in Pennsylvania. They don’t create jobs but do drain needed resources from good schools, health care and infrastructure.

Representatives Reed, a Republican, and DePasquale, a Democrat, deserve credit for recognizing this is a problem and taking steps to address it.

The bill, however, takes a limited approach and leaves many loopholes open for companies to exploit. It should be strengthened to ensure that big profitable corporations cannot use other artificial means to shift profits out of state and dodge taxes.

Matthew Gardner of Citizens for Tax Justice tells Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Joe DiStefano that combined reporting would be a better approach to closing loopholes. Under combined reporting, corporate net income tax would be assessed against income earned in Pennsylvania from a parent company and all of its related businesses.

As Gardner says:

Even if you’re successful in closing one [loophole], you’re doing nothing to stop the emergence of additional loopholes. Combined reporting ends the Whack-a-Mole game by taking away the incentive for companies to artificially shift income from one state to another.

Pennsylvania businesses are at a competitive disadvantage when multistate corporations are able to game the tax system. The Reed/DePasquale bill takes a step toward leveling the playing field for all businesses in the commonwealth, but more needs to be done.

PA Tax Loophole Bill a First Step, More to Be Done

A blog post by Chris Lilienthal, originally published at Third and State.

Pennsylvania Representatives Dave Reed and Eugene DePasquale rolled out legislation today that would take an important first step towards closing corporate tax loopholes in Pennsylvania.

Corporate tax loopholes have been a problem for a long time in Pennsylvania. They don’t create jobs but do drain needed resources from good schools, health care and infrastructure.

Representatives Reed, a Republican, and DePasquale, a Democrat, deserve credit for recognizing this is a problem and taking steps to fix it.

The bill, however, takes a limited approach and leaves many loopholes open for companies to exploit. It should be strengthened to ensure that big profitable corporations cannot use other artificial means to shift profits out of state and dodge taxes.

Matthew Gardner of Citizens for Tax Justice tells Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Joe DiStefano that combined reporting would be a better approach to closing loopholes. Under combined reporting, corporate net income tax would be assessed against income earned in Pennsylvania from a parent company and all of its related businesses.

As Gardner says:

Even if you’re successful in closing one [loophole], you’re doing nothing to stop the emergence of additional loopholes. Combined reporting ends the Whack-a-Mole game by taking away the incentive for companies to artificially shift income from one state to another.

Pennsylvania businesses are at a competitive disadvantage when multistate corporations are able to game the tax system. The Reed/DePasquale bill takes a step toward leveling the playing field for all businesses in the commonwealth, but more needs to be done.

PA Supreme Court Rejects Legislative Reapportionment Plan

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court acted today to reject the legislative maps drawn up to redistrict House and Senate districts.  Because candidates have already begun circulating petitions this is throwing a huge haymaker into the year’s political process.

In presidential election years our primary election is conducted in April rather than May.  That backed up the nominating petition process to this week and those running for office have about thre weeks to gather signatures on petitions from within their legislative districts.  Now no one knows the boundaries of those districts.

The reapportionment commission split up numerous municipalities and gerrymandered others resulting in today’s decision.  Eleven appeals were heard Monday and a Republican Court overturned the plan when Chief Justice Ronald Castille voted with Democrats.

What will this mean?   Absent the new maps the old ones revert back to force.  This means candidates must gather their signatures based on the old legislative districts.  The commission cannot map new ones in time for the April primary.  Any redrawn maps will go into effect in 2014 instead.

Sanctimonious Hypocrites Can’t Diminish the Warmth for Joe Paterno

by WALTER BRASCH

Gov. Tom Corbett (R-Pa.) praised Joe Paterno and ordered flags on all state buildings to fly at half-staff for four days.

That would be the same Tom Corbett who had said he was “personally disappointed” in Joe Paterno for not doing more to alert authorities in the Jerry Sandusky case, while acknowledging that Paterno did nothing illegal and followed university rules for conduct.

That would be the same Tom Corbett who, as attorney general, assigned only one investigator to the case in 2009, while devoting almost innumerable personnel and financial resources to prosecute high-profile cases that could help lead him to the governor’s office.

That would be the same Tom Corbett who had the authority to order the arrest of Jerry Sandusky as soon as the claims were made, but who allowed the investigation to drag two years.

That would be the same Tom Corbett who stepped up the investigation only in the third year, after he was elected governor.

That would be the same Tom Corbett who accepted about $200,000 in campaign donations from trustees of Sandusky’s Second Mile foundation and then danced around questions of why, as governor, he authorized a $3 million grant to the Second Mile.

That would be the same Tom Corbett who as an ex-officio member of the Penn State Board of Trustees, with the power to increase or decrease state appropriations to the university, big-footed his presence to demand that the Trustees do something to Joe Paterno.

Now, let’s look at the Board of Trustees. On Jan. 22, the day that Joe Paterno died from lung cancer, the Board issued a honey-dripped PR-laden written commemoration.

That, of course, would be the same Board that, influenced by the harpies of the media and a horde of the public who knew everything about everything, except people and football, had wanted to terminate Joe Paterno’s contract after his teams had losing seasons in 2003 and 2004. He was too old, they said. He was getting senile, they claimed. His coaching strategy was too conservative, they cried with the shrill cry of a wounded hyena. But, an 11-1 season in 2005 quieted their panic. And so they stewed, knowing that a football coach, educator, philanthropist, and humanitarian had a greater reputation than all of them combined.

That would be the same Board that violated every expectation of due process, listened to the other sanctimonious hypocrites who were quick to condemn someone without knowing the facts, and by a cowardly and impersonal phone call violated four levels of the chain of command and fired Joe Paterno hours after he had announced his retirement. It was their pathetic way to make people believe they, not the most recognizable person in Penn State history, were in control. The reality, of course, is they botched the firing in a feeble attempt to protect themselves, not Penn State and, certainly, not the rights of a tenured full professor, who had given 61 years of service to the university.

That, of course, would be the same Board that should have known for at least six months, and probably longer, of a grand jury investigation into Jerry Sandusky’s conduct, but apparently had no crisis management plan to deal with what would become the greatest scandal in its 156-year history.

That, of course, would be the same Board that had operated in a culture of secrecy that regularly violated the state’s Sunshine law and enjoyed its status as receiving state tax moneys while not having to be under the glare of the public right-to-know law.

That, of course, would be the same board that includes the CEOs of U.S. Steel, Merck, and a major division of the Bank of New York Mellon; and an assortment of senior executives from insurance, investment, and education. Even a retired assistant managing editor of The New York Times is on the Board. And, yet, this Gang of 32, which should have known better, bumbled, stumbled, and proved that malfeasance and incompetence is what it should be best known for. For the most part, they acted like undergraduates struggling to earn a grade of “C” in a course in human relations, having already decided they didn’t need the course in business communications.

Now, let’s turn to the new president. The Board forced the resignation of a respected 17-year president for not doing enough to investigate the Sandusky allegations. By most accounts, the new president, formerly the provost and executive vice-president, is a decent person with a good academic reputation. But, is it credible that if the No. 1 person should have known more and done more, how could the No. 2 person be ignorant of the allegations. Nevertheless, the Board sent the newly-minted president out on nothing less than a belated PR field trip to calm the rising storm against the Board for its incompetence and insensitivity in firing Joe Paterno. At three meetings with hundreds of alumni, the new president, facing alumni wrath, did little to alleviate their anger. But, he promised the university would do something-he didn’t know what-he didn’t know how or when-to honor Joe Paterno.

Of course, since the Board was so inept, secret, and hypocritical in its own actions, it had no idea what it was going to do. The Board statement the day of Joe Paterno’s death merely stated the university “plans to honor him,” and is considering “appropriate ways.”

The greatest honor will not come from the Board, the administration, or even the Legislature, many of whom sought the media spotlight to pander to certain voters by condemning the coach. At the statue by Beaver Stadium, thousands of students, staff, faculty, and community residents are coming to pay their respects. Hundreds had met him, for he was one of the more accessible persons in the community, often walking home alone from practices and games; his phone number was in the book; his home was in a quiet residential area not a mansion on a hill reserved for the wealthy. Most of the mourners had never met him, but they all knew him.

On Tuesday, about 27,000 people from all over the United States stood in line up to three hours to walk past the body of Joe Paterno, guarded by past and present scholar-athletes. NFL super-stars and football fans, academics and those who never went to college, all were there to honor the man who was an outstanding quarterback and cornerback who earned an English literature degree from Brown University, one of the more prestigious in the country; a man who later created the “Great Experiment” to develop and promote a winning football program that would make education and citizenship more important than sports, and would make “success with honor” more than words.

Within ten minutes, mourners grabbed the first 10,000 tickets for a Thursday memorial at the Bryce Jordan Center. The center capacity for the memorial is 12,000.

Sue Paterno need not have worried when she quietly asked some mourners to keep her husband warm. When journalism turns into history, it will be written that Joe Paterno had done more than was expected, in every part of his life. The people, not the governor or the trustees who will quickly be forgotten in the cold, will keep Joe Paterno warm.  

[Dr. Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist, former tenured full professor, and author of 17 books. His current one is Before the First Snow: Tales from the Revolution.

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Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D.

Latest Book: Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution

(www.greeleyandstone.com)

www.walterbrasch.com

www.walterbrasch.blogspot.com

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