Gasbag’s at it again!

As I haven’t written often but always in conjunction with education/school taxes, I really felt the need to write on this. I am on Gov. Gasbags email list from the days of the former governor.  Today I received an email tying the sale of the liquor stores to education.  The Gov. is saying he will “Invest in education by getting Pennsylvania out of the Liquor Business”  He unveiled a plan yesterday to invest $1 Billion in education. No where in the email does it say “Public” education.  So what are we talking about Gov.?  It does say a four year grant program would be enacted for PA schools.  Which schools, Gov.?  The ones that the owners are also going to be contributors to your re-election bid?  He is also going to do away with more PA middle income jobs! I have included the email for you to read.

From the Governor:

Investing in Education by Getting Pennsylvania out of the Liquor Business

Yesterday, Governor Corbett unveiled his plan to invest $1 billion dollars in education by getting Pennsylvania out of the liquor business. Here are the six things you need to know:

1. Under the Governor’s plan, the entire Pennsylvania liquor retail and wholesale system will be run by private entrepreneurs.

2. Once the Governor’s plan is enacted, privatization proceeds will fund a four year, $1 billion grant program for PA schools.

3. The plan expands convenience and choice for Pennsylvanians.

4. The Governor’s plan makes it possible for the creation of a one stop retail shop where Pennsylvanians can buy wine, beer, and liquor.

5. You will be able to purchase six packs of beer and bottles of wine in the same place you purchase groceries.

6. The Governor’s plan enhances enforcement of liquor laws by significantly increasing fines for selling to minors and visibly intoxicated patrons, and proposes a 75 percent funding increase for alcohol treatment and prevention efforts.

The liquor store system provides an on going income source for Pennsylvania that would disappear if the Gov privatizes the system.  If the other items are things he and other want, like different purchase abilities etc. those things can be done without selling this income producing entity. In addition what happens to the school grant funding after that?  Are we selling the PUBLIC a bill of goods again as well as the children in the schools that will be getting these grants?  What funding options will there be after the money runs out, that was produced by the sale of the liquor stores? The people in NJ that are in the government have also said the sale of their system years ago caused other income issues because they had to wait for the taxes to be paid.  With the state owned system the taxes that are collected from the customers are paid to the state on a daily basis as the proceeds get deposit from each store everyday!  Let us not be so SHORT SIGHTED.  It is about more than choices. It is about the financial future of Pennsylvania!!!!

News & Notes January 30, 2013

I was watching CNN this morning as host Carol Costello interviewed guests about gun control.  The head of GeorgiaCarry said that background checks are ineffective because only .08% of those checked are prohibited from purchasing guns.  This was a false argument because those who can’t pass the background check are smart enough to buy at gun shows where no background checks are necessary.  Costello never challenged him on his claim and I promptly turned her off.

Gov. Gasbag seems ready to break his “no new taxes” pledge by increasing gas taxes to repair our decrepit roads and bridges.   Now that he’s gone back on the central promise of his campaign can we now begin taxing natural gas extraction?

The Guv’s approval numbers continue sinking halfway through his term.  Tom Wolf, former Revenue Secretary from York is ready to announce his candidacy.  He’ll be a formidable opponent who has been lining up significant support and staff.  I also expect Admiral Joe Sestak to run.

Jerry Sandusky’s request for a new trial was denied this morning.  I was in the dentist chair when the email came in.  Getting a new trial has been worse than pulling teeth for the child molester.

Justice Joan Orie Melvin is on trial in Pittsburgh.  Her defense is that since all work got done there was no harm because she forced her staff to campaign on state time.  That’s her best defense?  No wonder she tried getting her colleagues on the state Supreme Court to declare her above the law.  The Orie sisters Achilles heel was their hubris and attitudes that they were above the law.  They’ll be able to discuss it among themselves in their prison cells.

Dick Cheney was on Faux News talking about guns.  This is the same guy who shot a friend in the face.  Yes, if I want an expert on gun safety Darth Cheney would be my choice too.

John Kerry was approved as Secretary of State and Gov. Deval Patrick announced that William Cowan will fill the seat until June’s special election to replace Kerry.  It took John Kerry 25 years to become the senior Senator from Massachusetts.  It took Elizabeth Warren three weeks.

Camelot Global Services doubled the price of lottery tickets in Britain.  People are upset both with the firm Gov. gasbag outsourced to and the manner in which he did it bypassing the legislature.  This Governor continues failing to work with others.  He has alienated his own fellow Republicans because he doesn’t seem to think he has to work with the House and Senate.  The way privatization of government services works the unionized workforce gets fired and the new workers, far fewer than before, are overworked and underpaid.

Pennsylvania’s charter schools are not performing well.  Only one had annual yearly progress.  Why are we siphoning needed funds from our public schools to these private, for profit entities when they’re failing and dishonest?

Another Republican legislator started a firestorm over rape.  New Mexico Rep. Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad introduced a bill requiring rape victims to keep their pregnancies because the fetuses were evidence in criminal cases.  If they got an abortion they would be guilty of a felony.  The outcry was so bad she had her office telephone disconnected.  Her home number was then posted on facebook so those outraged by her callousness could call and complain.  She quickly amended her bill.

Hillary Clinton has turned over her partial ownership of the family’s Lake Winola vacation cabin to her brothers.

Rep. Rosita Youngblood is trying to get the name of Negro Mountain changed.  It is south of Somerset and straddles the state line with Maryland.  It was named for an African American who was involved in a French and Indian War battle on the site.  Youngblood, along with a colleague in Annapolis, wants to rename it for the slave Nemesis.  Good idea.

Right to Work For Less legislation has been introduced in Harrisburg.  If you enjoy the 40 hour work week, vacations, health care, sick days, overtime, safe work conditions and all the other blessings brought to you by organized labor oppose this bill.

Tomorrow evening I’ll be on BCTV (Berks County) on a panel discussing the book “The New Jim Crow.”

Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

There is growing bipartisan agreement that the optional expansion of Medicaid provided by the Affordable Care Act is too good an opportunity to pass up.

This month, the Governors of Arizona and North Dakota, both Republicans, announced their intention to opt-in to the Medicaid expansion, joining their counterparts in Nevada and New Mexico. To date, 14 states have decided to expand Medicaid in 2014, and another seven are leaning toward expansion. Pennsylvania remains among the 21 undecided states.

Support for Medicaid Expansion Growing

Here’s what Arizona Governor Jan Brewer had to say about Medicaid:

By agreeing to expand our Medicaid program just slightly beyond what Arizona voters have twice mandated, we will:

• Protect rural and safety-net hospitals from being pushed to the brink by their
   growing costs in caring for the uninsured;
• Take advantage of the enormous economic benefits – inject $2 billion into our
   economy – save and create thousands of jobs; and,
• Provide health care to hundreds of thousands of low-income Arizonans.

Saying ‘no’ to this plan would not save these federal dollars from being spent or direct them to deficit reduction. No, Arizona’s tax dollars would simply be passed to another state – generating jobs and providing health care for citizens in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico or any other expansion state … With this move, we will secure a federal revenue stream to cover the costs of the uninsured who already show up in our doctor’s offices and emergency rooms … Weigh the evidence and do the math. With the realities facing us, taking advantage of this federal assistance is the strategic way to reduce Medicaid pressure on the State budget. We can prevent health care expenses from eroding core services such as education and public safety, and improve Arizona’s ability to compete in the years ahead. I’m committed to doing this, and I want you on my side. Let’s work together in an atmosphere of respect and do what is BEST for Arizona.

For Pennsylvania, the expansion of Medicaid is projected to bring in $17 billion in new federal investments by 2019, while expanding coverage to between 482,000 and 683,000 uninsured adults.

When Governor Corbett gives his budget address on February 5, he will offer a glimpse into the state’s plans to take advantage of this opportunity. Opting-in will create jobs, strengthen our health care system and provide health coverage to working parents, veterans, and seniors.

Governor Corbett and the Pennsylvania General Assembly should consider the benefits and savings that come with a Pennsylvania Medicaid expansion as well as the price of forgoing this opportunity – fewer jobs, a weakened health care delivery system and hardworking people without affordable insurance.

The No News News Media

by Walter Brasch

There was a lot of news this past week.

Some of it was even reported by the news media.

First, there was a football player from Notre Dame who either did or didn’t know that his girlfriend was or wasn’t real, but died sometime during the season. Six column headlines for several days announced the fraud. Network news and talk show hosts rehashed it almost daily.

Two weeks ago, Lance Armstrong admitted he was a dope. Or maybe he just took dope. The news media kept sending urgent flashes all week of what he was going to tell Oprah. And then he told Oprah, and now we’ll be reading stories about it until Schwinn adds a jet engine to a 3-speed.

Subway is accused of making foot-long hoagies that are 11 inches, a problem that the executives wisely didn’t say was due to shrinkage in cold weather. The media seized this major fraud and, ignoring anything Congress or Wall Street was doing, slathered layers of hype on a story that should have died with three paragraphs in one day.

Of course, there was the inauguration. That became another way for bloviators and pretend-journalists to push their own agendas. They told us how unpopular this President is-attendance was way down from the first inauguration. Only 500,000 attended.  They didn’t tell us that second inaugurations always have much fewer people watching them in person than first inaugurations. And, that figure of 500,000? A little short of the actual number of one million. They said the inauguration was over-long and overpriced, although most of it was paid for by private donations. Something they didn’t mention was that the costs and day’s activities were about the same as for the previous president, and most presidents of the latter 20th century-Democrat or Republican.

Some of these pundits suggested that the President didn’t have a mandate, although he easily won by more than five million votes, and a near landslide in the Electoral College. A few of the more extreme even suggested he had stolen the election-how else could he have won over the nice businessman who bought and sold companies and helped improve the economy of Switzerland and the Canary Islands?

For the rest of the networks, the focus was on a constant blather of what would Michelle Obama be wearing. Whose dress? Whose gloves? This, of course, was mixed into all kinds of gushes and comments about her new ‘do. You know, the one that had bangs. The day after the inauguration, the media was all over the story of the Beyoncé kerfuffle. Did she or didn’t she lip synch the National Anthem? Truly great news coverage there.

Hillary Clinton testified before the Congressional Inquisition of Televised Republicans trying to make their bones to either enhance their own chances for re-election or to block what they think may be her plan to run for the presidency in 2016. This would be some of the same people who thought she was faking a concussion to avoid testifying in the first place.

The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, scheduled for Harrisburg, Pa., Feb. 2-10 was cancelled this past week. The Expo is the largest in North America, but the organizers decided that in the wake of the Newtown murders, they would put a temporary moratorium on the sale of military-style assault weapons because they believed “the presence of MSRs [military style rifles] would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests.” Only a dozen or so of the 1,200 vendors were affected; most were selling clothes, rifles, turkey calls, tents, and anything related to outdoor sports. But, one by one vendors, the media, and dozens of celebrities-all with NRA encouragement and support-decided not to attend, somehow believing that a hunting and fishing exhibition that didn’t allow the purchase of assault weapons was somehow anti-American and gave a message that those who did attend were opposed to the Second Amendment. The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that the cancellation led to a loss of $43 million in the local economy.

More than 32,000 will die from gun violence by the end of the year, according to the Brady Center. This past week, 78 Americans, including four pre-teens, died from gun violence. And, during this past week, as has been the case for hundreds of previous weeks, the NRA leadership, with the egos of a gang of schoolboys who overdosed on testosterone, continue to defy all attempts to reach sensible solutions to allow the purchase of guns, yet reduce the violence.

A 38-year-old sergeant died from wounds received near Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S. had invaded Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden, but he became a lower priority less than a year later. The Bush-Cheney administration almost abandoned the war in Afghanistan and turned to Iraq. More than 7,600 American and allied soldiers were killed, and more than 50,000 wounded in both wars. President Obama, fulfilling a campaign promise, ended the war in Iraq and is months from ending the one in Afghanistan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who numerous times promised to reign in the abuse of the filibuster that blocked any meaningful legislation or presidential appointments, turned wimp this past week. He and minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who once vowed his top priority was solely to prevent Barack Obama from serving a second term, may have been last seen hugging, kissing, and preparing to be married in Massachusetts.

This past week, the stock market hit new records, and it looks President Obama may receive some of the credit for helping to stop the Great Recession, something that upsets Republicans, delights Democrats, and has no meaning to anyone homeless or unemployed.

Yes, there was a lot of news this past week. Some of it may some day actually be reported.

Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster. It is available from www.greeleyandstone.com at a pre-publication discount.]

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The Reports of Unions’ Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

There’s a good deal of crowing in conservative circles this week about the new 2012 numbers on union membership. Union membership nationally fell by about 400,000, to 14.4 million. Union membership in Pennsylvania declined 45,000, including 59,000 in the private sector.

Of course, for anyone who cares about, say, the American Dream, democracy, and rising living standards, the newest numbers are bad news. A simple chart put together by the Center for American Progress shows that unions are vital to the middle class. As unions have weakened, so has the share of income going to middle-income workers – and the gap between the 1% and the 99% has mushroomed.

As this blog has noted, inequality undermines not only economic opportunity, but it also slows economic growth and makes our democracy less responsive to typical families and the public good (and too responsive to rich special interests).

One silver lining in the new numbers is the great variation that exists across states. Unions are growing in some places. Another silver lining is that the weaker unions get, the more evidence we get that this is a bad thing. Evidence such as the fact that the top 1% of the population took home 93% of the increase in income in the United States in the last year for which we have data. And evidence such as the skills shortage in U.S. manufacturing: surprise, surprise, if you pay workers poorly and don’t invest in them, you can’t attract and retain the factory talent you need.

Fifteen years ago, we outlined why America needs “new unions for a new economy” – and noted that we couldn’t see how to restore widely shared prosperity without a revival of unionism. The evidence for our position grows with each day.

But beneath the overall numbers, even in Pennsylvania and even in manufacturing, there are signs of revival. Take, for example, a unionized Schott Glass plant near Scranton, which is pioneering a new labor-management apprenticeship program.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of unions’ death are greatly exaggerated.

News & Notes January 24, 2013

I drove to Harrisburg yesterday to cover the CeasefirePA rally for common sense gun laws but couldn’t get any usable video.  One of the organizers insisted on photobombing some of us trying to cover the event.  She must have stood up directly in front of the podium ten times.  I finally simply gave up.

I did get to visit a few offices of new Representatives.  I also ran into former Rep. Rick Taylor and Andy Hoover of ACLU-PA and Ted Martin of Equality PA.

Are you following the bizarre Mantei Te’o hoax?  The Notre Dame All American claims to have been duped into falling in love with a fake woman.  He claimed this make believe girlfriend until Deadspin.com exposed it all as a scam.  Was Te’o in on it?  Many think so since he continued with the lie after he found out it was a hoax.  I think it was all either a publicity stunt or a modern take on the old “beard” used by closet cases.

Rep. Jim Cox introduced right to work legislation which would eviscerate unions.  Maybe we need laws restricting what businesses can do politically without full agreement of their shareholders.  People have a right to organize.

Another effort by Sen. Pileggi would allocate the state’s electoral votes by congressional district.  Under such a plan Mitt Romney would have gained 13 Pennsylvania electoral votes instead of none.  Barack Obama, for winning the Commonwealth would have been screwed.  This is called election rigging.

Ted Nugent is threatening an armed revolt because President Obama used his constitutional powers as Chief Executive to deliver twenty three Executive Orders concerning gun control.  The head of the Executive branch (the President for those who didn’t have civics) has the power to manage and determine what the Executive Branch of government does.  This is not an impeachable offense, he’s doing his job as the constitution outlined.  Nugent is treading on dangerous ground:  treason remains a serious crime.

Five members of an Albuquerque, NM family were killed this week including three children.  How many children have to die before we agree that anyone buying a firearm, anywhere, must pass a thorough background check?  You have to be clinically insane to oppose such common sense laws.  Fortunately that would deny a lot of gun nuts their weapons.  Citizens have no need for weapons of mass destruction.

Four More Years

I was watching the inaugural festivities yesterday and realized as the President, the Vice President and their wives marched down Pennsylvania Avenue that I’ve seen all four of them in person while in office.  I’ve covered the President four or five times when he’s come to the Keystone State, the VP twice, the First Lady at Shanksville and at Lafayette College and Dr. Biden at Reading Area Community College.

While I didn’t vote for them the alternative agenda for this nation was frightening and I hold hope that the President has learned well from his first term.  The fact is he is no longer allowing Republicans to hold the nation hostage is encouraging.  We did suffer $1.8 trillion in bad budget cuts to important programs and services though.  Tax rates on rich Americans are finally going back to levels where they’re now responsible for some of the debt they drove into the stratosphere under Reagan and the Bushes.  The two wars started by blood thirsty conservatives are finally ending.

I would like to see Gitmo closed, Wall Street bankers sent to prison, real financial reforms get passed and attention paid to the issue of global warming.  Dodd-Frank was so watered down as to be not much more than window dressing.  We need to pass Glass-Steagall again and those who crashed the economy and are doing all the troublesome antics once again, have to be prosecuted for their crimes.

I’m sure the the President will return to Pennsylvania in the next four years and I’ll be there to report on his remarks.

40 Years of Safe, Legal Abortion

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade.  We celebrate the reproductive rights of women today while they are are under a full assault by those who would condemn women to back alley abortions once again.

Let’s be clear on one point:  outlawing abortion doesn’t make it disappear.  There’s no such thing as eradicating abortion.  We have two choices:  enable women to obtain safe, legal procedures or condemn them to back alley butchers.  Too many women died at the hands of those “practitioners” before 1973.  Passing laws against abortion are no more effective than the laws against illegal drugs or prostitution.  You cannot legislate human behavior.  We can either protect women and ensure children keep their moms or we can relegate too many of them to orphanages because their moms died unnecessarily from unsupervised and unsanitary procedures not regulated.  Killing women is not a “pro life” position.

Pennsylvania abortion providers have been under attack in Harrisburg making the legal medical procedure both harder to get and more expensive.  Five abortion clinics have closed since Gov. Corbett signed legislation requiring onerous, expensive and unnecessary regulations.  The modifications required are pricing many women out of the market and forcing poor women to have babies they don’t want.  How will those kids be raised when their parents didn’t want them in the first place?  We wonder where so much juvenile crime comes from…

Perhaps we need to adopt the same strategies against guns which are being used against abortion providers.  Maybe we need laws requiring gun dealers to adopt extensive modifications to their facilities:  have them spend $500,000 to $1,000,000 making their shops safer, adding gun training ranges inside them, force all prospective gun owners to watch videos of people killed by gun violence, take intelligence and psychological tests before being able to own a gun.  If we can require such strict limitations on a woman’s right to obtain a constitutionally protected right then why exempt gun owners?  

Forty years of safe, legal abortion has made us a somewhat civilized nation.  Going backwards, as we have been doing, turns us into nothing more than a banana republic.  Our expanding income inequality is doing that at an alarming rate and the growing ranks of those in poverty should be sending strong signals we are risking troubling instability in America.  The war on women is but one aspect of this all and we ignore it at our risk.

Therefore Be It Resolved

Have you heard about those White House petitions, where if you get 25,000 signatures, they have to respond? Well you should sign this one calling on the President to address clean elections and Citizens United in his State of the Union next month. I think we all know how big money can skew elections at the state level too. Surely we can put these petitions to better use than other recent noteworthy petitions like seceding from the union or building death stars!

Here’s the text of the petition:

Our democracy is broken, flooded by money from corporations, billionaires and SuperPACs that puts their interests over those of the public. From big banks sinking our economy while blocking real reform to the NRA preventing sensible gun safety measures, big money forces are corrupting our politics. Since the US Supreme Court has ruled that corporations and wealthy donors have the right to spend unlimited money in our elections, a growing popular movement is now calling for a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy. Eleven states and nearly 500 cities and towns have joined this call. We petition President Obama to use the State of the Union to call for a constitutional amendment to reduce the influence of money in our political system and restore democracy to the people.

Emphasis added.  Anything we can do to keep it in the news and on folks minds leading up to the State of the Union on Feb 12th, the better. Please sign the petition, and be thinking about which cities and towns in PA might still be able to join the growing chorus of nearly 500 municipalities that already have across the nation.

Here’s a sample resolution that you can take to your local officials.

Surely there are some more cities and towns in PA that can muster a Therefore be it resolved…

Pawlowski Announces For Third Term

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski announced his campaign yesterday for a third term but refused to talk about  a possible bid for Governor in 2014.  Instead the press inquiries were met with the standard “I’m concentrating on this race.”  He didn’t answer my question whether or not he’d serve a full term as Mayor if re-elected amidst many rumors he wants to run against Gov. gasbag next year.  I interviewed him following his speech and asked what Billy Joel might say about his city if he visited it now.  Allentown is building a civic center and the Mayor mused that perhaps the entertainer would come to Allentown.

We also spoke about the scourge of drug violence and guns.