by Eric Epstein
Imagine a system that allows you to draw your own political districts, pick your personal voters, steal from taxpayers, raise your pay, vacation in far away places without spending any of your own money – and best of all – provides you with guaranteed lifetime employment, health care and a pension, no matter how worthless and unproductive you are.
Stop dreaming. Your home, comrade. This place is not a far away province stashed away in Russian literature. This is your back yard. Welcome to Pennsylvania.
Remember the old slogan, “America starts here.” Not any more. After the May 18, politburo affirmation exercise, we need to fess up and acknowledge our new tag line, “Political inertia vacation’s here.”
Most of the deadbeats – and quite a few incumbents without heartbeats – coasted to victory without opposition. The rank and file fell into place without a whimper. The vaunted and overrated “reform class of 2006” and the new “greedership” of 2008” won reelection promising to deliver the same crap in a different pile.
Mr. Corbett bullied his way to anointment, and skillfully manipulated all the trappings of his office. Dan Onorato spent his way to a decisive plurality using the Governor’s Rolodex, and convinced voters that raising taxes to pave a road to nowhere is a virtue.
Here we go again! The IPP – Incumbency Protection Program -provided results less competitive than a Syrian primary or a Burmese general election.
It happens every election cycle. The IPP kicks into full gear, and the electorate grins and bears the brunt of a fictional democracy. The symptoms and results are the same: Voters call into radio shows, don’t show up at the polls or develop political amnesia. Politicians spend all their time and your money campaigning to keep their low-performance, bad results job.
What is their job? Duh, getting a budget done on time.
The political reality is devastating: This legislature and this governor – as well as the next Governor and next legislature – do not have the skill sets or calcium in their backbones to lead or govern.
The projected $2.3 billion state revenue shortfall is structural, and based on a $808 million MCARE gap, a transportation funding hole of $450 million, and a $720 million shortfall in tax collections through the first quarter of 2010.
Federal revenue, in the form of more stimulus funding, is an unlikely development during mid-term elections, and in a year when a Governor, with little political capital, is banking on $850 million in federal welfare.
Senate Republican have already advised superintendents to exercise caution when developing budgets, and predicted Gov. Rendell’s proposed $5.9 billion ($354 million increase) in basic education funding to support district operations is unlikely.
Yes, we’re on the cusp of another budget debacle. You may have forgotten last year’s heartfelt call for early engagement, a longer budget season or the Republican PATH to reform. Great campaign slogans; not reality. Don’t fret, the Governor and legislature remembered to forget last year too.
But it gets worse. These guys can’t even work with each other when they’re in town.
The Senate R’s don’t trust the House D’s. The House D’s are led by a retiring Speaker, and a Majority leader who is really a UFC combatant without a caucus. The House R’s don’t get along with the Senate R’s, and will do anything to gain the majority. The Senate D’s are MIA, but looking for WAMs. And the Governor is off auditioning for his next gig as a Fox commentator or Comcast sportscaster.
Confused? Don’t be. Gridlock is assured, and the budget won’t get done on time. The only thing the Republicans agree on is that they are not going to let Rendell break his seven year itch.
It’s time to face the facts. We do not live in a democracy. We don’t live in a republic. We live in a modern-day kleptocracy.
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