Mirror, Mirror on the wall

Posted by By at 4 January, at 13 : 04 PM Print

Scott Paterno

Let me begin by noting something it took almost thirty years to learn: New Year’s Eve is for suckers. It is, far and away, the most overrated “holiday” going – a kind of bacchanalian version of Christmas and Easter in that it is one of the two nights a year some people drink (as the aforementioned days are the two times a year they go to church).

New Year’s Eve is nothing more than the last day I will accurately write the date on a document until at least February, when it finally hits me that it is and will be for around 12 months 2011, not 2010. It is the no big deal holiday – except that it does serve as a useful reflection point.

I must admit I am a victim of this mere coincidence. I cannot but help using this first column of the year as a vehicle to look back on the year that was and suggest to my favorite political figures some resolutions. And of course, where else to start but with the Big Guy himself, the Chosen one.

President Obama: Resolve to read a copy of the US Constitution. I know, I know – he was a con law professor at one of the most prestigious law schools out there (full disclosure – I was rejected from it). In spite of that it would appear that he does, in fact, need to re-read the oldest government-defining document still in use in the world. That is, at least in light of some of his executive overreach.

This past session, with “hu-normous” (my 4 year old’s word I love) advantages in both chambers, the second coming of the Great Communicator could not convince enough of his own party faithful to pass a cap and trade bill or to include ”end of life consultation” – also called “death panels” by the right — in the railroaded version of Obamacare. Yet in the wake of being trounced – and not for failure to do those things – the Obama administration looks to do both absent congressional action.

This is a case of extreme overreach. It is a direct affront to the democratic process and an attempt to think for us even when our will has been clearly expressed on both issues. These are not obscure misunderstood issues upon which the public will is cloudy; right or wrong in the mind of the President, the will of the people on these issues was and is clear and strong.

The President may be able to end run congress by stretching the meaning of statutory language and aggressively expanding executive orders and regulatory regimes; but SHOULD he? The Constitution assigns roles and duties; the President would be wise to respect them — both for now, but also for the precedent it will set when the other side takes power eventually.

Speaker of the House Sam Smith: Resolve to carry a Big Stick. Sam has had one of the best years in Pennsylvania Political history. Recruit strong candidates? Check. Raise enough money to make a difference? Check. Turn a minority Party into a huge majority? Check. And finally, have your biggest headache rendered irrelevant by his constituents? Check.

Now he has a job to do. There is no one left for the GOP to blame if things do not improve – first by building an economy that harnesses the power of the Marcellus for the future and also makes and keeps promises in the present. Sam needs to walk softly, yet he MUST wield a big stick if he is to keep both his caucus and his party on track.

The Senate has been so consolidated for so long in GOP hands that the Majority Caucus has become fractured internally into separate camps. The Governor-elect has been a successful prosecutor but now has an executive position for the first time. Sam alone has been in and out and now back in again – and he knows how fast fortunes can change. He has the stronger relationship with the Corbett Administration as we embark on the post Rendell era, and as such, he has the opportunity to impact the agenda in a way that is both politically savvy and attainable.

That is, if he has a big stick…

Sen. Dave Argall: Resolve to take a year off. I will admit that I thought Dave was the most likely primary winner but also a doomed general election foe for Timmie. Ironically, 9 term incumbent Tim was able to make Dave the insider, hammering him with his pay raise vote and ultimately convincing many that Tim was a “no nonsense conservative” while Dave was the free spending politician.

Dave’s loss did finally put to bed the long held GOP myth about the 17th: that a strong GOP candidate from Schuylkill could split the home county and then win on the strength of Lebanon, Dauphin and Perry. The 12 point thumping in an historic GOP year showed the falsity of the claim.

But mainly I want Dave to rest. 2010 was the 3rd race Dave ran in the last 2 years – not including a contested nomination process for Senate and a primary he almost lost for the 17th. Now that he took his so called “free shot” at the house, maybe he can settle in to the senate before starting to run for re-election in 2012.

Governor Ed Rendell: Resolve to be “Fair and Balanced.” Ed is nothing if not crafty. At a time when he is being actively courted for a number of opportunities, all guaranteed to make him a boatload of cash, he just “happened” to go a little crazy calling the NFL “wussies.” Crazy like a fox – or should I say FOX News.

I have no inside info here, but doesn’t it make perfect sense for the willing-to-say-anything-that-comes-to-his-mind Ed to sit opposite Hannity and start to mess with him the way Alan did? I would love it, because Ed’s practical Philly pol versus Hannity and his “Great American” shtick would be great theatre and almost a guarantee of one fist fight by year three.

Unless he replaces Biden on the 2012 ticket. Then the fist fight happens by week three, at the first reference of Dr. Snow.

Governor-Elect Tom Corbett: Resolve to find a way out. Back in July, when the house and the senate had an agreement in principle to pass a severance tax, Tom made a no new taxes pledge that suited the man’s and the message’s preferences. This pledge, in light of the $4-5 Billion hole in the budget, also looked possible – but only if a severance tax was in place. The deal to tax the extraction of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas fell apart, and with it the sustainability of Tom’s no new tax pledge.

I am not sure what the Administration will do, but I know what it faces: a 4-5 billion dollar shortfall, falling revenues, a federal government that will have no appetite to bail them out, and a pension crisis waiting to making the aforementioned issues look minor in their duration if not their severity.

There is a way out, and one that polling will almost certainly show is acceptable to the vast majority of the electorate: impose a severance tax. The house and the senate, on some level, have already committed to the idea; Tom just needs to meet them halfway.

There is significant risk, but leadership means taking the right risks and being realistic when confronted with obvious truths and no better option. The President, to his credit, has seen that in his extending many of the Bush protocols with regard to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gitmo. The Governor should commission a study before the budget, and then come back and tell the people why he is changing his position and clarify that he will never raise Personal Income Taxes, the sales tax, or property taxes.

The vast majority of the state will understand the wisdom of a severance tax and, done now, it will give Tom the most time to show his seriousness on cutting spending and keeping all other taxes down.

Scott Paterno: Resolve to… The list is too long to list here. Let it suffice that, like those above, they will likely be forgotten at the first convenient opportunity. You know, like the minute Valentine’s candy goes on sale and kills the “no chocolate” pledge.

Happy New Year.

(A new year brings new rules and Rock The Capital has found a way for you to indulge yourself.)

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This post was written by:
- who has written 77 posts for Rock The Capital
Scott Paterno is an accomplished policy analyst and political consultant based in Hershey, PA. Mr. Paterno, never one to sit still, has practiced law, run for a house seat, and worked as lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington. Paterno is Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Fund and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science. He is happily married with three children. - Email scottp

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