2017 Editorials

Dec 29, 2017
New York Times
Donald Trump and the Limits of the Reality TV Presidency

As with most politicians, Franklin D. Roosevelt loved attention and approval in equal measure. Once, after watching himself in a newsreel, he remarked, “That was the Garbo in me.” On meeting Orson Welles, the president said, “You know, Orson, you and I are the two best actors in America!”

Reflecting on Roosevelt’s determination to seek a third and then a fourth term as president, Harry Truman observed, “I guess that was his principal defect, that growing ego of his, which probably wasn’t too minuscule to start with, though perhaps it was his only flaw.”

And yet Roosevelt had the gifts of self-knowledge and a compassion for the plight of others, saving graces that enabled him to become one of a handful of truly great and transformative presidents. As important as he believed popular leadership to be — the Fireside Chats, the careful cultivation of public opinion, the weekly press briefings — he understood, too, that less was sometimes more.

“I know,” he wrote in a 1935 letter, “that the public psychology and, for that matter, individual psychology cannot, because of human weakness, be attuned for long periods of time to a constant repetition of the highest note in the scale.”

Roosevelt’s first two years in office had been tumultuous as he launched assault after assault on the Great Depression. Now he thought the public needed something of a breather. “There is another thought which is involved in continuous leadership,” he said. “Whereas in this country there is a free and sensational press, people tire of seeing the same name day after day in the important headlines of the papers, and the same voice night after night over the radio.” A leader’s balancing act was to educate and shape public opinion without becoming overly familiar or exhausting.

As in so many other things, we are living through a new test of that old truth as 2017 becomes 2018. President Trump is ubiquitous — a leader who seems devoted to not only political but also cultural domination. Yes, his bottomless thirst for attention is abetted by broadcast and social media; many Americans are locked in a codependent relationship with a president who’s able to set new highs in lows on nearly a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. This month, The Times reported that before taking office, Mr. Trump told aides “to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals.”

The presidency-as-production has been a good starter — Mr. Trump is, after all, the president of the United States — but history suggests that the means of his rise could be the means of his undoing. His understanding of the presidency is more informed by the values and folkways of show business (specifically, reality-based entertainment, from “The Apprentice” to professional wrestling) than by any larger sense of duty or dignity. And no show lasts forever.

Theatricality, it is true, is an essential element of power. Whether onstage or on a throne, whether in the Oval Office or the House of Commons, great leaders are often great performers, able to embody national purposes and hopes, projecting strength and resolve in moments that threaten to give way to weakness and despair. In the night before the Battle of Agincourt, Shakespeare’s Henry V is racked by doubt and anxiety and fear, only to emerge in the sunlight to transform his men into a fabled “band of brothers.”

Roosevelt’s point in his observation about the need to ration his exposure was that Agincourts should be the exception, not the rule. Dwight Eisenhower, who served in the years of the rise of television, used to make the same point. “I keep telling you fellows I don’t like to do this sort of thing,” he told advisers who urged him to go on the air more often. “I can think of nothing more boring, for the American public, than to have to sit in their living rooms for a whole half-hour looking at my face on their television screens.”

Presidents, as John F. Kennedy once observed, are subject to “clamorous counsel” — everyone, it can seem, has thoughts on how they could do the job better. When he was being told what to do and how to do it, Eisenhower — who, beneath his serene surface, had more than a bit of a temper — once replied: “Now, look, I happen to know a little about leadership. I’ve had to work with a lot of nations, for that matter, at odds with each other. And I tell you this: You do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it’s usually called ‘assault’ — not ‘leadership.’” He went on: “I’ll tell you what leadership is. It’s persuasion, and conciliation, and education, and patience. It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know, or believe in, or will practice.”

If Mr. Trump is averse to heeding counsel from President Eisenhower — who, as a general with a fondness for businessmen, should be a congenial voice — perhaps he might learn from his own late lawyer. One of Mr. Trump’s mentors from his New York days was Roy Cohn, who as a young man was chief counsel to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose Communist-hunting from 1950 to 1954 transfixed the nation.

The conventional view of Senator McCarthy’s ultimate fall turns on the Army-McCarthy hearings, when he showed himself to be dark and bullying. The iconic moment came when an opposing lawyer, Joseph N. Welch, asked, brilliantly: “You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

In the popular mind, that question brought McCarthy down. But Cohn believed something deeper was also at work. “Undoubtedly the hearings were a setback,” he recalled in a 1968 memoir about McCarthy. “But there were other more fundamental reasons for his decline. By the time the hearings ended, McCarthy had been the center of the national and world spotlight for three and a half years. He had an urgent universal message, and people, whether they idolized or hated him, listened. Almost everything he said or did was chronicled.”

And that surfeit of attention, Cohn argued, itself contributed to McCarthy’s decline. “Human nature being what it is, any outstanding actor on the stage of public affairs — and especially a holder of high office — cannot remain indefinitely at the center of controversy,” Cohn observed. “The public must eventually lose interest in him and his cause. And Joe McCarthy had nothing to offer but more of the same. The public sought new thrills,” but “the surprise, the drama, were gone.”

To everything, in other words, there is a season, and McCarthy’s hubris hastened the end of his hour upon the stage. “I was fully aware of McCarthy’s faults, which were neither few nor minor,” Cohn said. “He was impatient, overly aggressive, overly dramatic. He acted on impulse. He tended to sensationalize the evidence he had in order to draw attention to the rock-bottom seriousness of the situation. He would neglect to do important homework and consequently would, on occasion, make challengeable statements.”

The urge to overstate, to overdramatize, to dominate the news, was costly. McCarthy, Cohn said, was essentially a salesman. “He was selling the story of America’s peril,” Cohn recalled. “He knew that he could never hope to convince anybody by delivering a dry, general-accounting-office type of presentation. In consequence, he stepped up circumstances a notch or two,” and in so doing he opened himself to attacks that proved fatal. He oversold, and the customers — the public — tired of the pitch, and the pitchman. For Mr. Trump, that’s a New Year’s lesson worth pondering.   Source

Dec 29, 2017
Pat Toomey Is the Quiet Face of Republican Radicalism

Pat Toomey is the Milford Man of the U.S. Senate. (He even hails, coincidentally, from Upper Milford Township.) Senator Toomey has all the vigor of a can of beige paint. If the Koch brothers had ever discovered an ideologically sympathetic sea cucumber, that sea cucumber could easily have followed the same career path as Pat Toomey.

Unlike many of his pals in the G.O.P., Pat Toomey knows how to keeps his head down. He doesn’t showboat on the Senate floor. He hides from his constituents. He only goes on the Sunday talk shows when need be. And all the while, he continues to quietly wage class war on behalf of his party and its corporate benefactors.

It wasn’t Donald Trump or Paul Ryan who carried the Republicans’ loathsome tax bill into the end zone, but Pat Toomey:

The final tax bill signed by President Trump lowers the top individual rate to 37 percent from 39.6 percent, reflecting one of many triumphs for the “supply-side” economic doctrine Toomey has relentlessly promoted through more than two decades in politics over the more populist ideology of Trump’s campaign.

Behind the scenes, according to aides, lobbyists and fellow lawmakers, Toomey played a major role in shaping the Republican tax overhaul — pushing not only for a cut in the top individual rate but also helping slash rates for corporations and repeal a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.

Because of the simple fact that he is a total bore, Toomey sometimes passes for a Moderate Republican. The beltway press has branded Toomey a “fiscal hawk,” because apparently “investment banker-turned-Club For Growth stooge who looks like one of the anti-mutant senators in a 2000s X-Men movie” is too long an honorific. Of course, as a fiscal hawk, whose purported main concern is getting the federal deficit in line, Toomey was instrumental in crafting a tax reform bill that explodes the deficit through massive tax breaks aimed squarely at rich people and corporations.

In a way, you have to admire Toomey. While his showboating colleagues were reading Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor, Toomey was lying in wait, biding his time until the next Republican president took office. He never took his eye off the prize: quietly, politely stripping away social protections for vulnerable Americans while further enriching himself, his peers and the donor class.

And let’s give him some credit. He knows exactly what the result of his tax policy will be:

It’s easy to get outraged at the Donald Trumps and the Ted Cruzes of the Republican Party, because people like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have a desperate, unfillable pit in their souls that makes them seek out negative attention at every turn. They are cartoonish villains, who use intentionally inflammatory and at times radically authoritarian rhetoric. But the real face of Republican policy radicalism is Pat Toomey. Quiet, polite Pat Toomey.

Voters aren’t outraged by Toomey, and his radicalism isn’t labeled as such by most of the press, because at the surface level, he is an utterly inoffensive human being. And if Pat Toomey has his way, he’ll keep his nose down, hiding from his constituents, not making any waves, not offending anyone. He doesn’t want you to get angry at him because he wants to keep his job. He wants to keep helping his friends, and he certainly doesn’t want you to notice him doing it.

Hey Pat Toomey: retire bitch.   Source

Dec 20, 2017
GOP Congressman laud tax bill, Democrats decry ‘gift’ for wealthy, donors

The U.S. Senate last night passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — a sweeping revision of U.S. Tax code, that depending on who is talking is either a spark for job and wage growth or a massive, deficit busting giveaway to the rich, political donors and corporate America.

The House voted Tuesday to approve the package, but will have to revote Wednesday because of three provisions in the original bill that would not pass muster for a Senate reconciliation vote. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill this week, with the new tax rules taking effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

The Chester County Congressman who all voted for the package — U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-6), U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-7) and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-16) — said they see it as a job and economy booster in comments immediately after initial passage of the legislation.

“Every American deserves the opportunity to pursue his or her own version of the American Dream, Smucker said in a statement. “Today, our complex and outdated federal tax code leaves families feeling like they’re doing everything right, but still struggling to make ends meet. The status quo on taxes is failing the middle class.

“Throughout this past year, I have been hearing from constituents about what tax reform should do for them and their families. They want a simpler, more honest federal tax code that lets them keep more of their paycheck and restores American competitiveness – and that’s what this bill does.

“I have also had conversations with constituents about specific provisions in our tax bill that have been good for our community. Our older population has been able to reduce its tax liability because of the deduction for medical expenses. Cities like Lancaster, Reading, and Coatesville have taken advantage of the New Market and Historic Tax Credits to jumpstart economic activity and put people back to work. I fought to retain these important provisions to help ensure this tax plan works for our district.”

One of Smucker’s would-be Democratic opponents — Christina Hartman — said she saw the bill in a different light.

“With overwhelming evidence and independent analyses showing that this tax bill will leave America’s middle class out in the cold, the GOP and Rep. Lloyd Smucker have redoubled their efforts to enrich the top 1% and huge corporations,” Hartman said in a statement. “Here in the 16th District, middle-class families will get tax hikes so that Rep. Smucker can shower his donors with massive tax cuts.

“This misguided adventure would be amusing if it didn’t impact the life and livelihood of nearly every American. From the beginning, Democrats have called for transparent, thoughtful legislation that simplifies the tax code, doesn’t further increase the national debt, and gives tax cuts to those who need it most—the middle class and small businesses, not corporations and the 1%.

“Unfortunately, Republicans in Washington have other priorities, and putting money back into the pockets of hard-working Pennsylvanians isn’t one of them. As we move closer to the GOP endgame, it’s clear that Rep. Smucker isn’t concerned with this tax cut scheme’s long-term negative consequences for Pennsylvania.

“Rep. Smucker, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – your vote for this travesty is unacceptable. The people of PA-16 deserve better, and those who sent you to Washington know that the blame will rest squarely on your shoulders.”

Meehan, though, strongly defended the bill.

“This bill brings needed tax relief to middle-class families,” said Meehan. “It doubles the standard deduction, meaning the first $24,000 a married couple earns will be tax free. It lowers rates overall and it doubles the size of the child tax credit. The end result will be a lower tax bill for the vast majority of middle-class taxpayers.”

“Importantly, the compromise reached between the House and Senate preserves deductions for state and local property or income taxes, mortgage interest, and charitable contributions. I’m particularly pleased that this bill preserves and makes more generous the deduction for medical expenses – so important to many Pennsylvania seniors with expensive medical bills. It also repeals Obamacare’s harmful ‘individual mandate’ tax, which disproportionally hits working families. In Pennsylvania, 83% of taxpayers hit by the individual mandate penalty earned less than $50,000 a year.”

“This legislation doesn’t just mean more money in the pockets of middle class families. It means more jobs, too. It’s the most significant revamp of our broken business tax code in decades, and it will bring thousands of jobs back to our shores from overseas. It also gives small businesses a tax cut. One study, by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, indicates the bill will generate more than 13,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.”

One of Meehan’s potential 2018 opponents, Drew McGinty, strongly disagreed with that argument.

“Patrick Meehan’s continued support for the tax bill is an early Christmas present for corporations and the wealthy at the expense of middle-class families in Pennsylvania and our children and grandchildren’s future,” McGinty said. “I support simplifying our tax system and decreasing the burden on families in the Commonwealth, but this scam accomplishes the opposite and is the perfect example of gross fiscal negligence. As the author of this bill, Patrick Meehan owns the repercussions of this bill and come November 2018, Patrick Meehan should be held accountable for his ‘YEA’ vote. When I defeat Patrick Meehan, I promise to work tirelessly on behalf of middle-class families for a fairer tax system.”

Costello argued that the bill had been unfairly characterized in the media and that working people will see the benefit of the plan.

“American workers are the lynchpin of a healthy economy,” he said in a statement. “Employers provide the capital and take the risk to create value in services and products. Families are the backbone of our society. For all of them, we need an economy that invests in people and rewards hard work. To start, and to be clear, this tax bill cuts taxes for low income Americans, and it does so by doubling the standard deduction. Middle income families will benefit from lower rates and doubling the child tax credit to name just a few policies. And for those itemizing on their tax return, up to $10,000 is still able to be deducted from property and income taxes, along with the mortgage interest deduction; when you combine this with lower income tax brackets and higher income thresholds, the overwhelming majority of my constituents will get a tax cut. This means hard earned money back in your wallet to be saved, invested, and spent at businesses in Southeastern Pennsylvania. I believe hardworking taxpayers deserve a tax cut and that is why I’m proud to support this tax relief bill.

“On the business side, small businesses will have more capital to invest – in their workers – through higher wages and with more job creation – and in their equipment and machinery, which will also have a positive economic impact. This bill will create jobs. And a tighter labor market means companies compete for workers and wages rise. We are losing jobs and investment to other countries. Today, the U.S. corporate tax rate remains at 35 percent while the worldwide average corporate tax rate is 22.5 percent. Did you know that the average rate among U.S. trading partners, the vast majority of which have converted to territorial tax systems, is 24.6 percent? This tax bill makes us competitive for future investment and growth in the global economy.

“There are so many myths that persist, and I would like to clear up a few of them. The teacher supplies deduction remains. The child tax credit has been expanded. The charitable deduction continues and expands. We have maintained the earned income tax credit. We have improved savings accounts for education. Tuition waivers for graduate students will remain untaxed. We have preserved the medical expense deduction and even expanded it for two years. We have lowered individual tax rates across the board to zero, ten, 12, 22, 24, 32, 35, and 37 percent respectively, which benefits all Americans. A typical family of four earning the median family income of $73,000 will receive a tax cut of $2,059. The average single mom in America makes around $41,000. Under this legislation, she will receive a tax cut of over $1,300.”

But Chrissy Houlahan, the Democrat who appears likely to take on Costello for his seat next year, both disagreed and said that a number of things that the Congressman said were inaccurate or disingenuous.

“Representative Ryan Costello and this dysfunctional Congress just passed a historic tax scam that is wrong for our nation and wrong for our constituents,” said Houlahan. “Costello’s vote will hike taxes on many middle-class families and add trillions to our deficit all to give tax breaks to the super wealthy who need it least.”

“I have helped grow businesses and non-profits here in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and I know we need a simplified tax code that eases the burden on the middle-class and small businesses. This bill was not the solution, and Costello needs to explain why he voted for this bill to help his donors and hurt his district.”

Houlahan disputed a number of items in Costello’s statement on the tax bill including the following bullet points as issued by her campaign:

1 . Costello said “this tax bill cuts taxes for low income Americans […] middle income families will benefit.”

Houlahan’s campaign replied: The non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that by 2023, the average taxpayer at every income level under $30,000 sees a tax increase; by 2027, the average taxpayer at every income level under $75,000 sees a tax increase [Joint Committee on Taxation, 12/18/17]

Costello said “There are many myths that persist, and I would like to clear up a few of them. The teacher supplies deduction remains […] Tuition waivers for graduate students will remain untaxed. We have preserved the medical expense deduction and even expanded it for two years.”

Houlahan’s campaign replied: These are all provisions that Costello previously voted to eliminate – hurting teachers, students, and people with medical expenses – when he voted for the House version of this tax bill.

Costello said “I have listened to everyone”

Houlahan’s campaign replied: The Daily Local News reported Monday that Costello’s West Chester office is now closed to the public: “The door was locked and demonstrators were not allowed to enter Costello’s office, which recently was closed to the public, except by appointment only. Demonstrators were asked to sign a log at a table outside the office. Kori Walter, district director, told protesters that the door was locked because demonstrators had become a distraction and were a security risk.” [Daily Local News, 12/19/17]

A similar divide exists between the state’s two U.S. Senators, Pat Toomey (R) and Bob Casey Jr. (D).

Toomey expressed satisfaction after the Tuesday night Senate vote:

“Tonight the Senate passed the most historic reform to our tax code in over three decades,” Toomey said in a statement. “In doing so, we’ve achieved two major accomplishments for the American people.

“First, we lowered the tax burden on hardworking individuals and families. The vast majority of lower and middle-income taxpayers will pay less in federal taxes. Second, we fundamentally restructured the business tax code which will enable American workers and businesses to compete globally, encourage a surge in economic growth, and create better paying jobs. This bill fundamentally shows that we believe in the capacity of the American people to restore the vibrant economic growth that we used to take for granted.

“I thank Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, Chairman Hatch, and Chairman Brady for their leadership throughout this process and my colleagues in the Senate for their hard work and perseverance. I am excited the President will soon sign this bill into law, making good on the promise we made to the American people.”

Casey, on the other hand, was not so charitable.

“This is an insult to the many middle class families in Pennsylvania who will pay more in taxes under this scheme while the super-rich and big corporations get a windfall,” Casey said. “Congress should be working in a bipartisan way to make our tax system simpler and fairer, but the Senate Republican plan does just the opposite. In 2019, the country’s 572,000 richest households will see $34 billion worth of tax cuts, while the 90 million Americans making under $50,000 a year will see a fraction of that. That is both obscene and grossly unfair.

“The bill rewards companies who outsourced jobs by giving them a big tax cut and may actually encourage more outsourcing in the future. What’s worse is that this tax plan will trigger $25 billion in automatic cuts to Medicare unless Congress acts. Now, after creating a huge hole in the deficit by giving tax cuts to the super-rich, top Republicans are saying they are planning to go after Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Adding insult to injury, the bill also includes a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which will result in 13 million Americans losing their health care while premiums increase for families across Pennsylvania by an additional 10% per year. That’s wrong and I will fight against it.

“The Republican tax plan that just passed the Senate rewards companies who outsource jobs and ends tax deductions that help the middle class. I will continue to fight for real bipartisan tax reform that helps the middle class. What passed today is a big Republican giveaway to corporations and Republican corporate donors.”  Source

Dec 19, 2017
Bob Casey and Tom Ridge: Don’t disempower fellow citizens
Americans with disabilities deserve a chance to work and live in their communities


We are two Pennsylvanians, members of two different political parties, but with a number of principles we whole-heartedly agree upon. Among them: Government should empower its citizens; political leaders should be servants to those who elect them; those who govern must be responsible stewards of public monies; and government should expand people’s freedom and enhance their right to self-determination, providing the means to take advantage of the great opportunities our state and country provide.

All of these principles are true and necessary for the trust and confidence of Pennsylvanians and Americans, but the last one is especially true for those with disabilities. Whether they are born with a disability or acquire it from disease, accident, age, or service to our country, our government should ensure that supports and services are in place so that citizens who have a disability are able to go to school, earn a living, live independently, and be full contributors to our communities.

That is why the two of us are concerned about the tax bill that was reported out of the congressional conference committeeon Friday and will now work its way to a final vote in the Senate and House of Representatives.

We both believe in a reasonable tax burden for all Americans and for American business. We also believe that the tax code, like budgets and spending plans, is a document that communicates the values and priorities of our country.

The tax bill being considered for final passage does not value people with disabilities and certainly does not prioritize them. The most worrisome aspects for those with disabilities is the plan to raise the budget deficit by at least $1 trillion, triggering required reductions in spending that will gut or eliminate critical programs that allow people with disabilities to gain or maintain jobs.

These include programs such as Vocational Rehabilitation and Medicaid, the latter of which is the largest funder of employment supports for people with disabilities, 80 percent of whom currently are not in the workforce. These important programs help people with disabilities work — both to contribute to and take advantage of the great opportunities our country provides.

The cuts will mean great pressure to reduce spending at the national, state and local levels, reductions that will further jeopardize employment prospects, health care and quality of life for people with disabilities. In fact, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other political leaders already have said they are planning to cut the primary programs that support people with disabilities: Medicaid and Medicare. For Americans with disabilities, these programs enable them to work, earn, save and live in their communities — and to pay the very taxes that are being cut.

By cutting funding to those programs, not only is health care for people with disabilities put at risk, but also the ability for people with disabilities to live in their own homes and work in their communities.

As a current and a former elected public official, we take seriously the stewardship of public funds. In our view, the current tax plans are not responsible to those with disabilities and they are not fiscally responsible either.

It is dramatically more expensive for individuals with disabilities to live in institutions than in their own communities. According to the University of Minnesota Residential Information Systems Project, the average cost of supporting persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities in community settings was just over $44,000 a year, compared to more than $134,000 a year in institutional settings, which rob them of opportunities to work, earn, live and contribute to their communities. Yet the cuts being proposed to Medicaid and Medicare are more likely to push people with disabilities back into institutional living. No one benefits from this scenario, least of all Americans with disabilities.

The two of us don’t always agree on the role of government, but on this issue we stand united. As the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives consider what could soon be the law of the land, we urge them to consider the negative impact these policies will have on the opportunities for Americans with disabilities to work and be active members of our communities.

Bob Casey is a Democratic U.S. senator representing Pennsylvania. Tom Ridge is a Republican former Pennsylvania governor and was the first U.S. secretary of homeland security. He chairs the National Organization on Disability.    Source

Dec 6, 2017
MainLine Suburban Life
Henry Briggs: Five questions and four answers

The country is struggling with some very basic questions today.

“Who are we?”

From the Revolution until WWII our culture was primarily white and Christian. We valued individualism and integrity. That includes immigrants from mostly white European countries, who assimilated into the American culture, and not vice versa. It was unique and effective.

“How did we get here?”

We got here through our culture and capitalism, an equally unique economic model rooted in the idea of individual effort and private ownership (although living in a land abundant in natural resources also didn’t hurt).

We won WWII, our first leadership test on the world stage, as much because of our industrial capabilities (capitalism) as our courage and sense of right and wrong (culture).

After WWII we were, effectively, the last industrial nation standing. So, while Europe and Asia started on the long road to rebuilding, we simply flipped the industrial war machine into industrial products mode.

That took us through the ’50s and ’60s as leaders in just about everything, from cars to housing to medicine, military might, and, especially, making money.

By the ’70s, the Japanese started making better cars, and electronics. Europeans did the same. Later the Chinese made things better and cheaper — well, nearly everything but movies and football. The rest of the world is catching up and in many cases passing us.

“Where are we now?”

Today we face obstacles to success where we once had a clear field. The formula of a White Christian culture and capitalism is less effective. One stark example: in terms of real spending, American wages haven’t increased since the ’70s.

Along with our rise on the world stage has been a rise in immigration and, thus, ethnic and cultural diversity. In 40 years, whites will no longer be a majority. No one will be.

While our rural culture hasn’t changed a lot, in urban areas White Christians now ride the same subways, eat in the same restaurants, work in the same offices, etc, as non-white, non-Christian products of different cultures. New York is a major melting pot, as is Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities.

But this isn’t just in cities. Competition for college placement, once the realm of white Christian males, is now open to everyone. More women than men enter college now. Just last week Harvard was accused of having a quota for Asians.

Starting even before WWII, there was a major challenge to at least one aspect of capitalism. Roosevelt established the Social Security system. For the first time, the government said it would take care of the elderly. After WWII, Truman proposed universal health care. Republicans, already furious at Social Security, became apoplectic. The American Medical Association squashed it by calling it Socialism, which, in those days, was considered Communism. In many places and for many people, it still is.

The difference between the two, basically, is a matter of oversight. Communism is a system in which nobody owns anything but everybody has access to everything. ”From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” No oversight. An intriguing idea, but it never really existed.

Each time it was tried, there was a vacuum of leadership into which stepped dictators. So, what the world got was a bunch of dictatorships, about as far removed from Karl Marx’s original concept as possible. Too much oversight.

Socialism has a similar notion of sharing according to one’s needs, but under a government structure, usually elected democratically. Better oversight.

Today, most Americans want some version of universal health care. They like Social Security, public schools, and unemployment insurance.

“Where are we going?”

The best answer is: Change, as in “like it or not, we’re going to change”.

“What kind of change?”

Conservatives think Capitalism creates wealth, whereas Socialism fritters it away. They want a return to a purer culture, smaller government, and less regulated Capitalism. They have just reduced taxes (well, for some) and plan to cut regulation and spending. They call it “starve the beast.”

Liberals think Socialism improves life, whereas Capitalism devalues it. They want to strengthen our culture with diversity, regulate Capitalism to insure fairness, infuse some Socialism to provide a safety net and shared needs, and create a strong central government to oversee it all.

Two sides at loggerheads.

But the final answer is not up to them. It is up to you and me. In the voting booth. Source

Dec 5, 2017
The Inquirer
Of women’s rights in the Pa. legislature | John Baer

The Pennsylvania Legislature, basically a man cave along the Susquehanna, isn’t known for championing women’s rights.

That might well be because of its makeup.

It’s the manliest (if only in the numerical sense) of legislatures in the Northeastern states.

It’s 39th among all states in percentage of women lawmakers (18.6 percent), lower than neighbors Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, according to 2017 data from the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics.

It’s right down there with Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, and such.

So, no real surprise that even at a time when politics seems to favor women, the Pennsylvania Legislature, run by Republicans, is moving to restrict women’s rights.

The House Health Committee Monday evening, on short notice, voted to send a strict anti-abortion bill to the full House for passage.

The bill bans abortions at 20 weeks (current law is 24) and criminalizes physicians performing a second-trimester abortion procedure, “dilation and evacuation,” which the bill calls “dismemberment abortions.”

The committee vote was 16-10. No Republican voted against it. No Democrat voted for it.

Opponents made a few observations.

Rep. Kevin Boyle (D., Phila.) said it’s “striking” there’s no exemption for rape, especially given current national attention to sexual assault against women.

There are no exemptions for fetal anomaly or incest, either.

Rep. Pam DeLissio (D., Phila.) said, “We’re tying the hands of health-care practitioners.”

Unless they’re saving the mother’s life.

Rep. Mary Jo Daley (D., Montgomery) said, “I’m always just appalled at how easily we make these votes.”

Yet, so it goes.

The House easily passed a similar bill last year, 132-65, but the Senate did not take it up. This year is different.

The Senate passed the bill now in question (S.B. 3) back in February by a 32-18 margin. The full House is expected to vote “within the next week,” says Health Committee Chairman Rep. Matt Baker (R., Tioga).

It’s likely to pass.

This is despite Democratic Gov. Wolf vowing to veto any such legislation. In a statement, Wolf called the bill “the most extreme anti-choice legislation in the country,” adding, “Women’s health care decisions should be left up to women and their doctors, not politicians in Harrisburg.”

A view clearly not shared by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

In fact, said Legislature works hard to pass such measures.

For example, after the Senate acted earlier this year, the House Health Committee, let’s just say, upgraded its anti-abortion cred.

Two of its GOP members who voted against passage of last year’s bill – Rep. Frank Farry (R., Bucks); Rep. Todd Stephens (R., Montgomery) – “resigned” (or were tossed) from the committee. They were replaced by Rep. Jim Cox (R., Berks) and Rep. John Lawrence (R., Chester), who voted for last year’s bill.

This, according to a report from the House Committee on Committees (yes, there is such a thing) in this year’s April 5 Legislative Journal.


I suppose it’s possible. But I also suppose the committee wanted to pad anti-abortion votes just in case.

And I suppose GOP leadership wants to give its anti-abortion members a win headed into the 2018 Primary Election season — for most, the only season that counts.

And I suppose two top Republican lawmakers, Sen. Scott Wagner of York County and House Speaker Mike Turzai of Pittsburgh, want polished pro-life badges headed into their primary fight for the GOP nomination for governor.

The immediate question is whether there are enough votes in both chambers to override a Wolf veto. Opponents of the bill say probably not. Baker says “time will tell.”

It will indeed. And it will tell whether women, who are standing up in droves to men in power on a range of issues related to women’s bodies, look kindly on people in power (or seeking power) when it comes to this issue in 2018 elections.
Read more

Nov 27, 2017
Senator Daylin Leach/Times Guest Columnist

Recently, Gov. Tom Wolf sent a letter to Representative Pat Meehan urging him to oppose the federal tax overhaul proposed by Congressional Republicans.

In rejecting this advice, Mr. Meehan’s office said that the “average middle-class” taxpayer in the 7th district would see a $5,100 tax cut under the bill. This would be a compelling argument if it were in any sense true. Sadly, it’s not.

Mr. Meehan cited no source for his $5,100 figure, an unfortunate omission given that I could find no source for it. There is no support for this assertion from any reputable, historically neutral source.

The non-partisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) says that the plan would give the top 1 percent a tax cut of $207,000, but a middle-class family would receive an average cut of $300, about 92 percent less than what Mr. Meehan claims.

Congress’s non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation says the average tax cut for a family earning $60,000 would be $720, while a family earning $10,000,000 each year would get a cut of over $260,000. On average, the after-tax incomes of the 95 percent poorest taxpayers would increase between 0.5 percent to 1.2 percent, according to TPC. But the incomes of the richest 1 percent would increase an average of 8.5 percent, meaning they would receive half of all the tax cuts in the new tax plan.

There are many similar sources of analysis, and all of them show that the average working family receives only a tiny percentage of the cut Mr. Meehan claims. But that’s not the end of the story. It’s actually far worse.

The key word in all of these estimates is “average.” The average is calculated by dividing the total amount saved nationally by the number of people in the category being analyzed. So, if the “average” middle class family is saving $300, that means many of those families are actually saving less, and in some cases, far less.

Because the GOP plan eliminates deductions for state and local taxes, medical expenses, and student loan payments, some taxpayers actually wind up paying more under the GOP plan than they do now. A New York Times analysis finds that almost a quarter of middle-class taxpayers will pay more within the next eight years. Both Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell have admitted that “some” middle-class taxpayers will pay more under their proposal.

And again, as bad as these numbers are, the story continues to get worse. The tax plan ends certain tax deductions that are particularly helpful to those of us living in Pennsylvania. Northern industrial states like ours will be slammed by the loss of state and local tax deductions. And the relatively high value of property in southeastern Pennsylvania will make the new cap on the mortgage interest deduction very painful for our area.

The bottom line is that the plan Mr. Meehan defends will benefit a few of his wealthiest constituents a lot. But most Americans, and most of us in southeastern Pennsylvania, will receive either negligible savings or dramatic tax increases.

And in service of what?

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill will add $1.7 trillion to our national debt over a decade, in addition to making it harder to afford college or pay for health care. All to drastically cut taxes, one more time, for big corporations and the richest Americans.

America currently has the highest level of income and wealth inequality in almost a century. The three wealthiest Americans are now wealthier than the bottom half of our entire population. Is eliminating deductions that working families rely on in order to give the richest people yet another massive tax cut really our highest priority?

There are many better alternatives. It’s probably not a good idea to add $1.7 trillion dollars to the national debt. But if we are going to do that, why not use that money to invest in repairing our infrastructure, which would help our economy grow and create millions of good-paying jobs? We could also use the money to make higher education more affordable or close tax loopholes that pay corporations to move jobs overseas. Is giving more money to the Koch brothers the best use of national resources?

This is a bad deal for the people of Pennsylvania. That’s why many of our federal representatives, including Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-13, and Rep. Dwight Evans, D-2, have rejected the plan. Rep. Meehan should follow the governor’s advice.

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17, covers parts of Montgomery and Delaware counties. He also is seeking the Democratic nod to face U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, in the 2018 mid-term election.


Nov 27, 2017
Daily Local
Editorial: Pa. legislators suffering from gas (tax) pain

Now that we have completed our annual day of thanks, we can go back to our normal routine, in other words the things we are not thankful for.

Here in Pennsylvania, that usually starts at the top, in this case the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

In case you did not notice, that funding plan our elected representatives cobbled together a few weeks back did not exactly have the financial experts who review Pennsylvania’s bleak fiscal condition doing cartwheels.

The House plans a huge boost in legalizing gambling and a big boost in borrowing to cover the $2 billion – and growing – state deficit included in that $32 billion spending plan. The House will dip into the fund set aside for the money derived from that huge settlement with tobacco companies.

But nothing the House did really addresses the state’s basic need for a solid, recurring source of income.

Not that they did not have the opportunity.

But the House Republican leadership continues to avoid anything that smells of a tax hike.

That, of course, would include a severance tax on the state’s natural gas industry. Lots of people point out the fact that Pennsylvania is the only large, gas-producing state in the nation that does not feature such a tax. Instead, natural gas drillers pay an “impact fee,” put in place back when Gov. Tom Corbett was running for re-election on a “no new taxes pledge,” thus the “fee.”

Only one problem. Most experts believe Pennsylvania is squandering an opportunity for a major new revenue source by failing to enact such a tax.

That would include Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who has been pushing such a measure since he took office.

And this year he actually had allies in the state Senate, including Delaware County Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, of Springfield. McGarrigle was among a group of southeastern Pennsylvania senators who pushed a severance tax through the state Senate. No, it was not as steep a levy as Wolf had pushed for, but it would have been a solid revenue stream.

But House leadership turned up its nose at the new tax. Hey, at least these guys are consistent. They equate anything resembling a tax hike to anathema. Then again, with every member of the state House up for re-election in November 2018, it’s easy to see why new taxes are not all that popular.

But even within the House, there was support for a natural gas tax from the southeastern Pennsylvania reps, including Republicans. Some actually tried to force a measure out of committee and onto the floor for a vote by the full House a month ago, only to see their moves blocked by their own leadership.

Last week it was more of the same.

The Republican-controlled House adjourned for the Thanksgiving holiday without taking up the tax on Marcellus Shale. Two days of debate failed to move the issue to a vote. Any possible action on the measure now is off until at least Dec. 4. The process is being bogged down by literally hundreds of amendments that have been tacked onto the plan.

As with everything that happens in Harrisburg, expect the shadow of politics to quickly cover this debate.

House members are not the only ones who will be running for re-election next November.

Wolf and the governor’s mansion also will be on the ballot. Two big-name Republicans are already in the running to challenge him – York County Sen. Scott Wagner and House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. Turzai is dead set against any new tax; Wagner already has been caught on camera urging a group to block any new tax on Marcellus Shale as a way to block Wolf’s re-election.

Neither is likely all that enthused about giving Wolf a key victory on something he ran on four years ago when he beat the incumbent Corbett.

Pennsylvania currently sits as the No. 2 gas-producing state in the nation, trailing only Texas.

The Republican plan – both in the Senate and House – already has been watered down. It will not raise as much revenue as Wolf has consistently pushed for.

Most studies indicate broad public support for such a measure.

But then the public does not have to run for office every two years.

The Pa. House does.

Forget indigestion. In Pennsylvania, our elected leaders have been suffering from severe gas pains.

Don’t expect that to get any better when they take up the plan again next week.

Nov 21, 2017
Some stuff Pa. pols should be grateful for this Thanksgiving | John Baer


No shortage of turkeys in Pa. politics. (Dreamstime)

Ah, Thanksgiving, a day to reflect upon blessings. A day to, well, give thanks.

In honor of the annual holiday, I surveyed a bunch of Pa. political consultants for thoughts on what our state politicians, collectively or individually, should be most grateful for.

My favorite response? A prominent GOP strategist said our pols should give thanks for “overcrowded prisons.”

This is clearly a person who knows Pennsylvania well.

Other blessings our pols should acknowledge? Voters have short memories. And, for legislators, the annual June 30 budget deadline is seven months away.

Speaking of legislators, a Democratic consultant from western Pa. suggests lawmakers give thanks for all those lobbyists providing meals, sports tickets and campaign funds.

And, of course, they should thank taxpayers for their annual automatic pay raises, soon to take effect.

But what about individuals?

A central Pa. GOP consultant says Gov. Wolf and all incumbent Democratic governors, maybe even all Democrats, should give thanks for President Trump.

Another says Wolf should, while passing the gravy, “give thanks for his second term.”

But who knows what 2018 brings, eh?

For now, there also are Republicans giving thanks.

I’m betting, for example, gubernatorial contender and York State Sen. Scott Wagner is grateful for the GOP lay of the land.

Currently, his three May primary opponents are from Pittsburgh. Western Pa. has a penchant for backing its own in statewide elections. So, if announced candidates Paul Mango, Laura Ellsworth and the latest entrant, Mike Turzai, stay in the race, there’s a good chance they all carve up the west, mostly leaving Wagner the rest.

The current Republican field should make Wagner yuk-yuk over his yams.

Oh, and House Speaker Turzai has something to be grateful for as well.

He can give thanks that whoever wrote and circulated a letter to his fellow House Republicans — allegedly from “Concerned Members” – didn’t have the cojones to sign it.

The letter asks that Turzai step down as Speaker. It argues that running for governor takes time and money, and that Turzai instead should be raising money for the reelection of other GOP House members (not an entirely empty argument). But it caused little stir, and seems to have no legs.

Turzai’s also running again for his House seat, thank you very much.

I’m thinking if his turkey day includes no legs, it might mean two pieces of pie.

Speaking of overreaching, Democrat Mike Stack has reason to give thanks.

The long-time Philly pol and Wolf’s current lieutenant governor Tuesday announcedhe’s seeking reelection despite a personal scandal and zero relationship with Wolf.

You’ll recall Stack and his wife were stripped of their security and household staff after charges of verbal abuse that led to a Wolf-ordered Inspector General’s investigation, findings of which since vanished like invitations to Stack to do anything, ever with Wolf.

Still, the Democratic primary for LG is shaping up as a multi-candidate event (three others have announced and one’s seriously considering). The larger the field the better for Stack, thanks to his Philly base and name ID, such as it is.

I see him giving thanks for a full field while enjoying his holiday stuffing.

And what of others who face voters next year?

Well, since 2017 election results in Virginia and, especially in the Philly `burbs, turned out so well for Democrats and women, suburban GOP Congressmen Pat Meehan, Ryan Costello and Brian Fitzpatrick are likely giving big thanks that their reelection race wasn’t this year.

Finally, every male in elective office is probably grateful he’s not Al Franken. And privately whispering a per-dinner prayer that no evidence shows to suggest otherwise.

So, bon appetit, Pennsylvania, where politics has no shortage of turkeys.

Nov 21, 2017
The Intelligencer
Don’t fall for Wagner’s ‘bullying’

State Sen. Scott Wagner’s recent claim that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is losing money really does beg the question if his “private sector business experience” translates into smart public policy.

The PLCB contributed more than $765 million last fiscal year to help fund our state services, with a record cash transfer of $217 million deposited directly into our state’s treasury. The PLCB was able to meet this request from Gov. Wolf due to the PLCB having hundreds of millions of dollars in cash reserves because of their business success year after year.

In fact, in the last five years, the PLCB has averaged almost $109 million per year in net profits, which does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars the PLCB has poured into state police enforcement, alcohol education grants and funding for drug and alcohol programs over that time period. Just last year, the PLCB posted a 5.2 percent profit margin, which some of Sen. Wagner’s corporate donors could only dream of achieving.

Yet, his unwillingness to understand the issue results in rambling letters such as the one he submitted attacking the governor.

And since obstructionists like Scott Wagner have failed to meet their constitutional requirement to fund our human services and public schools, Gov. Wolf actually made the responsible business decision of utilizing a strong state public asset like the PLCB to help with our state’s finances.

But Sen. Scott Wagner is more worried about seeing the governor fail for his own political gain rather than what is sound public policy. Why else would Sen. Wagner be on record as telling House Republican leaders to oppose a fair and reasonable tax on natural gas drillers, by stating “if that happens the governor is going to get re-elected”? The answer is easy, and it’s political, rather than what is right for our schools, our children and our fellow Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvanians shouldn’t fall for Sen. Wagner’s bullying mentality and they should reject his inaccurate claims about the governor and the PLCB. A simple review of the PLCB’s finances shows Gov. Wolf has a firm grasp on how to manage a revenue-producing asset to benefit all Pennsylvanians.

You don’t need Sen. Wagner’s “credentials” to figure that out.

Wendell W. Young is president of the Retail Clerks Union.

Nov 17, 2017
Mike Turzai is running for governor. But why? | John L. Micek

Conversations with two candidates this week drove home for me the choices that Pennsylvania voters will have to make during next year’s very important campaign for the Governor’s office.

We’ll start with Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, who, this week, finally stopped talking to the bleached skull, dropped the Hamlet act, and jumped into a now four-way race for the Republican nomination to the top spot.

So there’s this: Turzai is holding himself out as the reform candidate in the race.

Yes, that Mike Turzai.

He’s the same one who’s been serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 2001; the one who stood athwart Budget Debacle 2017 hollering “No!” even as he kited off (briefly) to Atlanta for a conference; the one who more than occasionally drives Senate Republicans bonkers during negotiations on the big-ticket issues.

Putting aside the sheer ludicrousness of casting yourself as the reformist outsider when you’re the senior Republican in the state House and have spent years raising geysers of largely unregulated cash for yourself and other Republicans, Turzai is doing the least reform-y thing that any reformer can do.

Namely, hedging his bets to the absolute max by running for both the GOP guv nomination and his 28th House District House seat at the same time.

Yes, he says, he’ll give up the latter “when” he wins the former. But in the next breath, he admits that, “I just want the opportunity to able to have the House seat filed in case I don’t get the Republican nomination. But I feel very good about it [winning].”

What would a reformer do?

Not that. Even GOP hopeful Scott Wagner, who has pockets deep enough to write himself six-figure checks, is going all in. He’s not running for re-election to his York County Senate seat.

In a conversation with a trio of PennLive staffers, Turzai recited the pro forma Republican litany of smaller government, lower taxes and school reform.

He accused Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who’s running for re-election to as second-term, of being missing in action during this year’s budget debate, even as Turzai became the public face of GOP obstruction.

He even took an admittedly gratuitous whack at former Gov. Tom Corbett, complaing that Corbett was too “passive” during his four years in the top spot.

And maybe there’s some degree of truth that. And maybe that was one of the factors that ultimately cost Corbett his job.

The last to get into the Governor's race, Mike Turzai says he's right on time

The last to get into the Governor’s race, Mike Turzai says he’s right on time

The state House Speaker held forth for an hour to a PennLive crew. Watch the interview

But, as was the case with Corbett, it was tough to discern any compelling narrative for Turzai’s candidacy; any real reason he was getting in the race, apart from the fact that he’d been batting it around in his head for so long he felt he had to do it.

The conversation I had with Turzai stood in pretty stark contrast with another I had this week with yet another political aspirant: John Fetterman.  Source

Sept 25, 2017  (Excellent article on protesting social injustice)
Eric Reid: Why Colin Kaepernick and I Decided to Take a Kneww

In early 2016, I began paying attention to reports about the incredible number of unarmed black people being killed by the police. The posts on social media deeply disturbed me, but one in particular brought me to tears: the killing of Alton Sterling in my hometown Baton Rouge, La. This could have happened to any of my family members who still live in the area. I felt furious, hurt and hopeless. I wanted to do something, but didn’t know what or how to do it. All I knew for sure is that I wanted it to be as respectful as possible.

A few weeks later, during preseason, my teammate Colin Kaepernick chose to sit on the bench during the national anthem to protest police brutality. To be honest, I didn’t notice at the time, and neither did the news media. It wasn’t until after our third preseason game on Aug. 26, 2016, that his protest gained national attention, and the backlash against him began.

That’s when my faith moved me to take action. I looked to James 2:17, which states, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” I knew I needed to stand up for what is right.

I approached Colin the Saturday before our next game to discuss how I could get involved with the cause but also how we could make a more powerful and positive impact on the social justice movement. We spoke at length about many of the issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the N.F.L., to speak for those who are voiceless.

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.

It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.

It should go without saying that I love my country and I’m proud to be an American. But, to quote James Baldwin, “exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

I can’t find words that appropriately express how heartbroken I am to see the constant smears against Colin, a person who helped start the movement with only the very best of intentions. We are talking about a man who helped to orchestrate a commercial planeful of food and supplies for famine-stricken Somalia. A man who has invested his time and money into needy communities here at home. A man I am proud to call my brother, who should be celebrated for his courage to seek change on important issues. Instead, to this day, he is unemployed and portrayed as a radical un-American who wants to divide our country.

Anybody who has a basic knowledge of football knows that his unemployment has nothing to do with his performance on the field. It’s a shame that the league has turned its back on a man who has done only good. I am aware that my involvement in this movement means that my career may face the same outcome as Colin’s. But to quote the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And I choose not to betray those who are being oppressed.

I have too often seen our efforts belittled with statements like “He should have listened to the officer,” after watching an unarmed black person get shot, or “There is no such thing as white privilege” and “Racism ended years ago.” We know that racism and white privilege are both very much alive today.

And it’s disheartening and infuriating that President Trump has referred to us with slurs but the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., as “very fine people.” His remarks are a clear attempt to deepen the rift that we’ve tried so hard to mend.

I am nevertheless encouraged to see my colleagues and other public figures respond to the president’s remarks with solidarity with us. It is paramount that we take control of the story behind our movement, which is that we seek equality for all Americans, no matter their race or gender.

What we need now is numbers. Some people acknowledge the issues we face yet remain silent bystanders. Not only do we need more of our fellow black and brown Americans to stand with us, but also people of other races.

I refuse to be one of those people who watches injustices yet does nothing. I want to be a man my children and children’s children can be proud of, someone who faced adversity and tried to make a positive impact on the world, a person who, 50 years from now, is remembered for standing for what was right, even though it was not the popular or easy choice.

Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) is a safety for the San Francisco 49ers.


Nov 11, 2017
Tuesday’s election results were not all about Trump

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Not to mince words, but Tuesday was a bit of a stunner.

With the county’s Democrats sweeping the county row office races and making pickups in virtually every category from township supervisor to District Justice, it is clear that Chester County is no longer a one-party county.

And yes, to be sure, it was a bit of a referendum on President Donald Trump, as we saw in neighboring states and counties. But don’t assume that’s all it was, because you’d be missing a lot of the story.

Is it shocking that Democrats in Delaware County broke through, won row seats and two County Council seats? Nope. The Delaware County Republican Party has been akin to an old, rotted pier waiting quietly for the right storm to come in and completely tear it down. Democrats already had an edge in voter registration and have been making inroads for more than a decade, winning legislative seats and even a Congressional seat.

Truth be told, many us around politics have felt that the Delco GOP would just collapse one day and cease to be relevant — that day was Tuesday. Once voters see that the world won’t end — and their trash still gets picked up — Democrats will keep winning with regularity and likely become the permanent controlling party there.

The Chesco GOP is a whole different story. This has been, until we started to see some cracks at the seams in 2016, a smoothly operating machine. It always seemed likely that the Chesco Democrats would have to gain a foothold, maybe by winning one row office seat, and then slowly work to get to parity over the space of a number of election cycles.

Tuesday changed all of that.

I think two major issues took what should have been a gradual process and turned it into a sudden one.

First, like it or not, the Chester County Democratic Party has its stuff together.

Really has it’s stuff together.

Under Chair Brian McGinnis fundraising is way up, the party has filled many of its empty committee person slots and built up new — and effective — Get Out The Vote and candidate marketing efforts.

2017 was a testbed for a lot of what the county Democrats expect to use in 2018. Obviously, much of what they tried worked well, boosting turnout and participation to record levels on Democratic side. While every party has its internal tensions, Trump has served as a great unifier for the local party organization and McGinnis’ efforts over the last few years are paying dividends.

The Democrats were confident that they would win — even though pundits, including myself — thought it would still be tough sledding. Personally, I figured that Patricia Maisano was the party’s best bet to win a Row Office, running against Jack London (a head scratcher of a pick, to be honest) for Treasurer. She had a lot of Republican support in the southern part of the county, raised a lot of money and was one of the strongest candidates the Democrats had put forward in years. I did think — and wrote in this space earlier this year — that the entire slate was really strong, really impressive and would show well.

But a sweep? I didn’t think it was possible — the numbers in terms of registered voters, still solidly in favor of the GOP, made the math tough. Apparently, though, the new math has a lot of those registered Republicans voting for Democrats, at least in this cycle.

So not only was it possible to win, but Democrats won some of these races by nine points — and the closest was five. The ripple effect was enormous around the county, impacting municipal and school board elections.

Yes, the Democrats are going to have to show they can repeat it, not to mention handling governance — but consider this: winning means more money from donors (especially as traditional GOP donors start to hedge their bets) and better candidates (who also tend to raise more money). Not only will party leaders no longer have to arm twist to get candidates to run in some legislative races, we’re already seeing multiple candidates line up in some districts, a number of whom would appear to be formidable candidates.

One other benefit: while typically Democratic enthusiasm for an incumbent governor — such as Gov. Tom Wolf — might be tempered, the state’s Republicans might be poised to do them a big favor by nominating state Sen. Scott Wagner, who is kind of the Trump of York County.

Wagner is all in with Trump and even has the official blessing of Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist. By essentially tagging Wagner as the Trump of Pennsylvania — undoubtedly the President will come to tout him in campaign season, deepening the link in voters’ minds — Democrats will be able to boost their turnout in the collar counties, including Chester County and depress turnout of old-school moderate Republicans.

So…it’s clear the Democrats should have the wind at their backs in 2018.

But it’s not just that reason that 2018 looks like a wave in Chester County.

The Chester County Republican Committee has issues.

Although the party chair — and also the state GOP chair — Val DiGiorgio attempted Wednesday to spin the loss as being from external factors (read, Donald J. Trump), the numbers tell a different story.

Republicans under performed the region — yes, Democrats won in places such as Delaware County (where, by the way, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans), but the margins were tighter and in line with trends that have been building in the county for years.

So while it might be easy to blame the Trump factor, there was more to the story or Republicans wouldn’t have seen row offices lose by nine points or lose Township Supervisor races in places such as East Marlborough.

Internally, the party is divided — an issue many local Republican parties are struggling with — as Tea Party/Trumpers battle the old-school and more moderate establishment members of the party. But there seems to be a leadership vacuum at the top of the party. When DiGiorgio won the state chairmanship, he took the entire Chesco GOP staff with him — but didn’t step aside locally to allow new blood to grow into their new roles.

In five years, we’ve seen a party that ran like clockwork and over performed — Mitt Romney’s 2012 win in the county over President Barack Obama was a testament to excellence in a county party — and become a dysfunctional, disorganized group that now is just not getting the job done.

To be sure, it is not all the fault of DiGiorgio, a gifted, if overly bombastic political operator. The slow process of weeding out the old-school GOP committee members, the capable, moderate and experienced ones who got things done, and replacing them with erratic true believers has taken its toll.

But mix that with DiGiorgio being locked in on statewide races — managing to win the state Supreme Court race and get the ballot property tax initiative passed show he was laser focused on the statewide races — no one seemed to be home, locally.

As I write this, it’s clear that a number of state house seats are going to be in peril — and that’s assuming we don’t see retirements from some of the long-standing members and I think we will. Peril is the best case scenario, assuming the county GOP rights the ship and gets new, local leadership. Losing four or five is probably the worst case scenario and looking more likely by the day.

Meet the new tax bill, same as the old tax bill.

I read through the U.S. Senate version of the tax bill and it is a little less awful than the one in the house in terms of my personal finance. In the Senate plan, we get the medical expense exemption back — that was more than $30,000 for us in 2016 — but lose the property tax exemption.

As small business owners, we own two properties, one residential, one commercial. We pay property taxes to two townships, Pocopson (which also has an Earned Income Tax) and Valley, two school districts (Unionville-Chadds Ford and Coatesville Area School District) and pay twice to good old Chester County.

Under either plan, based on our 2016 taxes, we will see a net tax increase, albeit larger under the House plan. I suspect those of you who are in the entrepreneurial class and have kids will experience similar numbers.

A number of Republicans — including U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan (R-7) — seem to be arguing that anyone claiming such a terrible thing is merely using Democratic talking points. I’m just using numbers — numbers that should shake out similarly for a lot of Meehan’s Chadds Ford neighbors.

Both versions of the bill appear to shift tax burden from the wealthiest to middle and upper middle class families. In my case, I’ve done the math with real-life numbers, it’s not a talking point, it’s reality. But, hey don’t believe me. Pull out your 2016 returns and see how the numbers fall for you before passing judgment. If you’ve been relatively healthy and have employer-based health insurance, the house plan might work better for you.

As I noted previously, there are a lot of folks in Chester County who won’t get a tax cut and may see a tax increase from this plan. With 2018 Congressional elections already looking shaky, this may well be the final deal breaker for a lot of voters, many of whom usually vote Republican.

The Roy Moore story is a giant headache for Republicans — the U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama is alleged to have had inappropriate sexual contact with a minor female in 1979, according to a story in The Washington Post. Moore categorically denied the allegations.

Prior to Thursday’s allegations, Moore was a trainwreck — albeit one favored to win in Alabama — with claims he diverted money from a charity to his personal use and having been removed from the bench twice for ignoring the rulings of higher courts, plus his propensity for bigotry when it comes to gays and lesbians.

You’d think this story would be enough, but it doesn’t appear to be.

As concerning as the story is — and it is another carefully crafted, highly detailed, exceptionally reported story from The Washington Post — two things stand out for me.

First, this story from The Toronto Star suggests at least three Alabama GOP county chairs would still support Moore if the allegations are true. When partisan politics entirely overwhelms morality we have a serious problem.

Second, Moore’s denial of The Post’s story reads almost exactly word for word like the denial by other Republicans in Congress of late when confronted by a deeply reported, meticulous story that puts them in a negative light in The Post.

To further claim that The Post or other media entities are collaborating with the Democratic National Committee — hilarious on the surface of it, but kind of sad when one sees the level of critical reporting on that body and other party organizations, such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (which, by the way, I have essentially used as a piñata in this column for the epically poor way it ruins — I mean runs — local Congressional campaigns).

It’s almost reached a point that any reporting that is not fawning over certain elected officials is labelled “fake news.”

It’s deeply insulting to those of us who do this for a living and an exceptionally poor tactical decision because it just makes the media work even harder to get their story.

And not for nothing, how crass is it to send out fund raising emails on the Alabama story as Moore has done?

One more migraine-sized headache for our three local Congressman: you know those slightly gerrymandered districts they get to run in? The state’s Supreme Court said this week, essentially, “not so fast.”

The state Supreme Court ruled this week that the Commonwealth Court must hear a case challenging the current districts and rule before Dec. 31 — allowing a redrawing of the Congressional district lines before the 2018 elections, should the courts (and appeals, which will likely run all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court) find that the districts are illegal.

The centerpiece of the suit is the now legendary 7th District (the district that I currently happen to be disenfranchised in) — considered by many to be the most gerrymandered district in the entire U.S.

At least of two our local Congressmen — Meehan and U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello may be in serious trouble in the current districts, based on what we saw Tuesday.

Putting them in fairer districts might be too much for either to overcome. Source

Nov 11, 2017
Daily Local News
Editorial: Local election echoes haunt Republicans

The echoes are still reverberating from the Hills of Virginia.

And out of the statehouse in Trenton.

And across the Philadelphia suburbs, where voters made history in Delaware, Chester and Montgomery counties.

The echoes are voices of voters who used their constitutional franchise to send a message – to the White House, to Congress and even their local county and municipal governments.


Enough of the divisive talk.

Enough of the partisan bickering.

Enough of the ugly politics that has been in overdrive since Donald Trump ascended to the White House one year ago.

Voters across the country went to their polling places and elected Democrats in startling numbers, a clear repudiation of the ugly tenor set by Trump during his campaign and first nine months in the White House.

The first election since Trump took the oath of office can only be seen as a stinging repudiation of Trump World.

In Virginia, Republican Ed Gillespie, who adopted Trump’s hard-line rhetoric on immigration and other issues, was rejected by voters. Democrat Ralph Northam was elected the state’s new governor.

Outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, did not shy away from taking aim at the president.

“Fear and division and hatred do not work,” McAuliffe said.

It wasn’t just the governor’s race. Democrats also erased a GOP majority in the Virginia House of Delegates.

And it was not just Virginia.

In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy swamped Republican Kim Guadagno, who had served as lieutenant governor under Chris Christie. It’s hard to tell who voters liked less, Christie or Trump.

Murphy, who had never run for public office, called it a repudiation of Trump policies on health care and immigration.

Across the river in the Philly suburbs, local races were capturing national headlines.

In both Delaware and Chester counties, Democrats made history by doing something they had never been able to do.

In Delco, Democrats won two seats up for grabs on the Delaware County Council, where no Democrat has had a seat at the table of power since 1980, when the Home Rule Charter ended the mandated minority party representative. Dems also captured all four row offices, something else that has never happened before.

One of the GOP’s most reliable strongholds, Chester County, saw startling change with Democrats winning historic firsts in races for county row offices. No Democrat had ever been elected to a row office in Chester County.

Unlike other suburban areas, where voter registration has been changing and Republicans have seen their long dominant position in voter registration slip away as Democrats gained the edge, Chester County has remained solidly GOP. Yet for the first time in county history, more Democrats cast their ballots Tuesday than Republicans.

You have to go back to the post-Watergate election of 1974 to see such a seismic erosion of Republican power in the suburbs.

While Delaware County Democratic party leader David Landau stressed his candidates, an army of campaign volunteers, and more money for local races, the party also did not shy away from making the off-year election in part a referendum on Trump.

“In the Nov. 7 county elections, it’s payback time,” their political flyers pointed out.

Signs dotted Delaware County streets declaring, “Vote Nov. 7 against Trump.”

Similar sentiment was voiced in Chester County.

“Donald Trump was on the ballot,” said Brian McGinnis, chairman of the county’s Democratic Committee. “Whether or not his name was there, he was on the ballot.”

Now all eyes are turning to the 2018 mid-term elections.

Once again the suburbs will be part of the national spotlight. Moderate Republican U.S. Reps. Pat Meehan, R-7, of Chadds Ford, and Ryan Costello, R-6 of West Goshen, will face the minefield that has become Trump politics.

Bet on Dems linking them to the president at every turn, no doubt starting with reminders that while they eventually rejected the GOP health care plan, both initially passed it out of their committees.

It will be a huge election in Pennsylvania, where incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, both Democrats, will be seeking another term.

Franklin and Marshall College pollster and public affairs professor Terry Madonna summed up the dilemma for GOP candidates in the wake of Tuesday’s onslaught of Democratic voters at the polls.

“The Republicans have a major challenge in front of them,” Madonna said. “What do they do with President Trump?”

And what do they do with those echoes from every corner of the country that have been ringing in their ears since Tuesday?  Source

Opinion — Will Bunch
Nov 9, 2017
Dead (Congress)Men Walking: Are Philly’s suburban GOPers totally doomed? | Will Bunch

Meet U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan’s worst nightmare: An angry anti-Trump female Delaware County suburbanite with some worn shoe leather.

Kristin Seale, who works for an energy non-profit and lives in Media, had already been thinking about getting involved in local politics after she was elected as a Bernie Sanders delegate to 2016’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, but she said the shock of President Trump’s victory last November “sealed the deal.” She went through a training program for first-time candidates, filed to run for a seat on the Rose Tree Media school board, a longtime GOP bastion, and with her volunteers this fall rang about 3,000 doorbells.

“I had some longer conversations where I tried convincing voters who said they were disgusted (with politics in the Trump era) about why they should not wash their hands of it, how local elections can impact people,” Seale said — and that must have worked. On Tuesday, Seale and the three other Democrats on her slate won an upset victory — one small part of a Democratic tidal wave in the Philadelphia suburbs that elected scores of newcomers and ousted GOP incumbents throughout Delaware, Bucks and Chester counties.

The terrible news for Republican Meehan — whose bizarrely gerrymandered district centers on Delco — and his suburban GOP colleagues Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Ryan Costello is that Tuesday’s results now have Democratic activists like Seale jacked up to do this all over again next fall, when the three congressman will be fighting for their political lives in the same upscale suburbs where Democrats rampaged on Tuesday.

They are — politically speaking, after Tuesday’s tidal wave — Dead (Congress)Men Walking.

Even the much ballyhooed luck of the Irish may not be enough for Meehan, Costello and Fitzpatrick when it’s their turn to face the same angry and energized suburban electorate in 2018, barring the completely unexpected (like an upsurge in Trump’s currently anemic popularity or his sudden resignation … don’t hold your breath for either). Is it too late to free the Suburban Philly 3 and see them join the Trump resistance, not just by verbally criticizing the president but by fighting to block his worst policies? Or are they fated to go down with the USS Donald this time next year?

Any Republican — but especially those in affluent districts with a high rate of college grads — must feel shell-shocked after Election Night 2017. Despite the still decrepit and divided state of the national Democratic leadership, the party exceeded every expectation thanks largely to bottom-up grassroots energy sparked by those most angry or most marginalized by a Trump presidency. Each headline on Tuesday night seemed more remarkable than the next: The historic wins by transgender candidates, including the woman in Virginia who ousted a self-proclaimed “homophobe” lawmaker, the Liberian refugee who won in Montana, the Sikhs and Asian-Americanswho battled racist flyers and other prejudice to score big victories, the woman in New Jersey so offended by a county freeholder’s sexist joke that she ran against him and won. All this while hundreds of first-timers like Seale were winning under the radar.

Beneath the frothing surface, the center of this tsunami was women — especially more affluent and college-educated women — who’ve been seething since November 8, 2016 that a self-described p-word grabber and serial liar is in the Oval Office after an often misogynistic and racist campaign stymied a highly qualified woman and also put the lie to everything that many had taught their children about honesty, decency, and the American way.

In Virginia, the day’s bellwether race, the win by Gov.-elect Ralph Northam and a string of surprising legislative upsets were centered in the wealthier suburbs just west of Washington, D.C., while closer to home the Democratic near-sweep against Delaware County’s entrenched Republican machine was anchored in high-income Zip codes around Radnor, Newtown Square and Media. Yes, local issues still mattered — but an unexpectedly high turnout in an off-year seemed proof that nothing mattered more than sending a message to Trump, and any of his allies.

That’s bleak news for Meehan, the former prosecutor (and hockey ref) who’s won the 7th District with relative ease since 2010, even more so after the district’s ink-blotter gerrymandering in 2012 to make it a can’t-lose district for Republicans. Since last summer, Meehan — more so than most Republicans — has struggled with how to handle a problem like Donald. He stayed home from Trump’s coronation in Cleveland and wrote-in “Mike Pence” on his presidential ballot — only to turn around and vote with the new president some 88 percent of the time, according to a tracker on the FiveThirtyEight.com website which projected Meehan would follow Trump far less, considering that Hillary Clinton narrowly carried his district in 2016. His pro-Trump votes have already brought scores of protesters to his district office in Springfield even as the ex-hockey ref mightily ducks any town halls.

And that was before Tuesday. Larry Sabato, the University of Virginia history professor and election pundit who watched the Democratic wave wash through his home state, told me that GOP reps in competitive districts like the Pennsylvania 3 now face a kind of Catch-22.with Trump.  “In a sense, they can’t live with Trump and can’t live without him,” he said. “Without [the president’s] backing, the Trump base won’t show up — or will vote for a primary challenger. With Trump’s backing, they energize Democrats and NeverTrump Republicans to oppose them.”


Rep. Ryan Costello.

Costello told my Inquirer colleague Jonathan Tamarithat “[c]learly Democrats have probably a historic intensity behind that vote [Tuesday] as being the first chance to vote against the president.” Ya think? And Costello acknowledged that many independents and some Republicans joined in. That’s first week Poly-Sci 101 stuff — but what are Costello and his allegedly moderate colleagues going to do about it?

Will the endangered Pennsylvanians will take a page from the playbook of Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (who, interestingly, is resigning rather than face a perilous primary challenge on his right flank) and step up their verbal criticism of Trump’s style and rhetoric? It seems like most voters would see right through that as long as they and other House Republican continue to vote with Trump on the issues.

No, the most dramatic thing that Meehan, Costello and Fitzpatrick can do would be to vote to kill the ill-conceived tax-reform scheme cooked up by congressional GOP leaders and backed by Trump, who is desperate to sign any piece of paper that Congress can get to his desk. The tax plan seems largely a con job that would actually hurt taxpayers in Pennsylvania’s middle-class communities while funneling billions of dollars to corporations (who will pocket the dough instead of hiring more U.S. workers) and the wealthiest 0.1 percent. What’s more, the GOP financial wizards crafted the bill to take away benefits in the anti-Trump coastal areas, especially the deductability of state and local taxes, which are higher in Pennsylvania than most states. For the Pennsylvania GOPers, a vote for the tax boondoggle — or any new push to roll back Obamacare, for that matter — would be political suicide.

Meanwhile, there are other, positive things that would win back middle-of-the-road suburban women — nothing more so than supporting commonsense gun-safety measures, including the background-check bill backed by their Senate colleague Pat Toomey and maybe even bring back the ban on assault weapons that were used in Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Orlando, etc., etc., etc. Or, the congressman could prove their anti-Trump bona fides by joining the growing movement, which has some GOP support, to restrict the president’s ability to launch a nuclear first strike.

Or, they could march with Trump like lemmings toward the great sea of 2018.

Here’s the thing: Too many voters in places like Kristin Seale’s Media may already be too mad for the likes of Rep. Meehan to do one blessed thing to prevent their defeat next November. My unsolicited and possibly unwelcome advice to them would be to resist the worst of Trumpism, no matter what. It may not save their jobs on Capitol Hill, but it could save the country. And, facing unemployment, wouldn’t you want that on your resume?  Source

Nov 8, 2017
Bucks County Courier Times
The erosion of the middle

It doesn’ttake a close observer of Washington DC to notice the erosion of the middle. This is especially clear when one takes a close look at Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation. Long gone are the days of senators like Arlen Specter, the consummate deal-broker who sat on both sides of the aisle. Now, faced with the departure of a moderate GOP veteran legislator like Charlie Dent, one can only wonder what comes next for the cadre of centrist Republicans he is leaving behind.

A number of Pennsylvanian congressmen are taking a stab at bipartisanship. These are members of the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of about 40 (no comprehensive list exists online, so one must rely on their proclamations of membership) divided equally between both parties who have agreed to work together to fix our fractured legislative branch. While they have committed to a worthy goal, the tangible results of this caucus have been negligible. Now some of retiring Representative Dent’s younger party/caucus members are using the opportunity afforded by his departure to jockey for position.

In mid-October, Rep. Ryan Costello, 6th District, gave an interview in which he opined, “People don’t want to see their member of Congress be silent all the time. If you don’t speak up, you are not going to be counted and your constituents are not going to know where you stand.”

The actual target of this comment was Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick. This first-term Republican is notoriously close-mouthed about his opinions. Flouting the standard procedure for law-makers, Mr. Fitzpatrick refuses to lay out short position statements on important issues on his website. Instead, he offers an “Issues” page that only contains press releases on the scant few topics he chooses to address, staying mum on anything that smacks of controversy.

Lest this be perceived as a subtle one-sided slap, a rift has grown between these suburban legislators as well. An incisive and revealing report from the Washington Post and CBS News on a hamstrung DEA trying to fight the opioid epidemic as Congress passed the pharmaceutical-sponsored legislation that worsened the situation, has left DC in turmoil. As this devastating bill had passed unanimously last year, every lawmaker who went into the 2016 election as an incumbent is flailing to find a way to protect themselves from the blowback.

Costello’s strategy is to question if anything is amiss at all, saying that Congress shouldn’t necessarily deal with this situation, and he is only “for fixing it if there is a problem.” Freshman Rep. Fitzpatrick, who wasn’t in Congress for the vote on the controversial bill, has aimed a blinking legislative arrow at his more-tenured colleagues. On Oct. 19, he authored The Restore Act — a move to repeal the Pharma-friendly law that hindered the DEA’s ability to stop suspicious opioid shipments. While Fitzpatrick’s legislative efforts have garnered praise and co-sponsors from both parties, none of his fellow Pennsylvanian Republican Problem Solvers has joined on to support him.

The problems between this pair of GOP Problem Solvers appear to be giving us a preview of things to come as the 2018 election season heats up. If they can’t keep the peace in their own tiny wing of the Republican Party, how can we expect them to heal the wider rift between traditional conservatives and Trump-supporting populists, let alone the chasm between the GOP and the Democrats?

Washington’s dwindling middle is quickly crumbling away, and this should be a major concern to moderate voters looking for solutions from 2018′s Republican congressional incumbents.

Kierstyn Zolfo is a resident of Newtown.  Source

Oct 25, 2017
Puerto Ricans coming to Lancaster need help

Thank you to LNP for a timely editorial: “We cannot abandon Puerto Rico, now or in the future,” (Oct. 13, LancasterOnline). I agree. I also appreciate Congressman Lloyd Smucker’s words: “It’s going to take long-term funding from Congress, and long-term aid. … We’re going to have to stay committed to doing that.”

You urged Smucker to lead this effort in Congress, and I concur.

You reported that he has encouraged his constituents to support organizations aiding those devastated by hurricanes. I know many organizations and individuals in Lancaster have already been doing this. There is no doubt that we will continue rallying to support our fellow Americans.

While doing the urgent work of sending aid to Puerto Rico, we need to know that many Puerto Rican Americans have been arriving in Lancaster ever since Maria — a hurricane beefed up by climate change — devastated their homes and communities. Understandably, they are fleeing a place with little clean water, power, security, medical services, etc. Most arrive with the clothes on their back and little else. Winter is coming. They need warm clothing. They need affordable housing. The children need to be educated. At least 25 have already enrolled in our local schools.

These are not refugees. They are displaced Americans, and many more will come.

Congregations may need to open their buildings for temporary housing.

The School District of Lancaster employs a coordinator for families in transition. Her name is Jasmyne King-Smith. Reach her at jskingsmith@lancaster.k12.pa.us. If you, your congregation or other organizations want to discuss how you can help, please contact her.

Jerry Lee Miller
Manheim Township


October 2017
Opinion: Harvey Weinstein’s Hollywood is everywhere

The allegation that the Hollywood mogul sexually assaulted numerous women should come as no surprise, says feminist Anne Wizorek. And yet, the fact that it does testifies to the silent prevalence of everyday sexism.

The cat is out of the bag: Harvey Weinstein, prominent Hollywood producer and titan of the film industry, has been accused of systematically blackmailing, harassing and sexually assaulting countless women over dozens of years.

Weinstein maintained a progressive outward appearance, but internally, he had built an entire system that protected him and his alleged crimes. New voices are joining the chorus of concerned actresses every day. Talk is of an “open secret” in Hollywood. Those who wanted to defend themselves against Weinstein say they found themselves existentially threatened by an abuse of power.

Just the tip of the iceberg

The debate’s eruption shows that only the tip of the iceberg had been exposed until now. That’s not just because other men, such as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon or Quentin Tarantino, apparently covered up for Weinstein, but because indications of more perpetrators inside the film and TV industry are surfacing. In addition, more and more affected men have been speaking out, including actors James van der Beek, Terry Crews and Rob Schneider.

Harvey Weinstein (Imago/Future Image/D. Van Tine)Weinstein was expelled from the Motion Picture Academy after allegations of sexual assault

Weinstein’s ability to remain unchecked for so long is in no way, shape or form a problem that is specific to Hollywood alone. His case just shows how sexism works to not only spawn acts of sexualized violence but to perpetuate them. Relationships of dependency are exploited to cement one’s own position of power through forced sexual activity. In essence it’s an abuse of power; it’s not flirting and definitely not consensual sex, which occurs between people of equal standing.

From Hollywood to Hamburg to Hong Kong, sexism and sexualized violence are a worldwide epidemic that spares no social class — not even the “rich and the beautiful.”

Read more: Egypt’s women find their voice against sexual harassment

Every third woman in Germany affected

In Germany alone, every third woman has reportedly been affected by sexualized and/or physical violence. Sexual harassment, as a form of sexualized violence, has in turn affected 58.2 percent. It takes place in public, in the workplace or at the site of professional training, and in the personal sphere. There is simply no place where sexual harassment does not occur. Young women, women with disabilities, women of color and transgender women are disproportionately affected.

Read more: Sexual abuse experienced by one-in-seven young Germans, researchers find

Despite the extensive nature of this social problem and how severely it cuts into the freedom of women and girls, it continues to be shockingly invisible. Harvey Weinstein’s case is not a one-off but rather the umpteenth example of “Women have been telling you this for a long time.”

Anne Wizorek (Picture-Alliance/dpa/S. Pilick)Wizorek has called for a modern form of feminism using the hashtag ‘aufschrei’ (‘outcry’)

For feminists, the debate about sexism is like the movie “Groundhog day.” Every time, we wake up thinking it will be a new day, only to be forced to realize that general knowledge about sexism and its consequences has barely evolved.

“Sexism? Does that even still exist?” This is clearly frustrating and far removed from the humor of the Bill Murray movie — in particular since Bill Murray himself is alleged to have beaten his ex-wife.

Sexism is like air pollution
Read more


Oct 21, 2017
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sen. Pat Toomey needs to weigh in on the president’s behavior

Michael Gerson’s Oct. 14 column (“America Urgently Needs Republican Vertebrates”) should be read daily in the halls of Congress.

I call our Sen. Pat Toomey almost twice a week. I want my senator to say or do something about the daily lies, threats, inappropriate comments and insults: “Liddle’ Bob Corker,” “Rocketman,” other nasty names, mention of blood or bleeding almost always about women, references to low IQ, lies about Barack Obama not recognizing Gold Star families — the list of unhinged comments and lies goes on ad nauseam.

Whenever I send an email to Mr. Toomey, I get the standard response: Mr. Obama has ruined everything, tax breaks will stimulate the economy and benefit everyone, etc. (I’m still waiting for my trickle-down benefits from Reaganomics!)

When I get to actually speak with someone at Mr. Toomey’s office, they say that he has not made a comment or has not made a statement at this time. Why not? What is he waiting for? Mr. Toomey is in denial about this incompetent president, and his complicit silence is condoning this behavior. Mr. Toomey won by only 1.7 percentage points. His mandate is to cooperate and compromise!

People are saying that a sitting senator can be unseated for not being responsive to his constituents. Vertebrate up, Mr. Toomey!


Oct 21, 2017
Unionville Times
Ryan Costello’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week

Donald J. Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are trying really, really hard to make sure U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello doesn’t get re-elected in 2018 — although it may be his own history that ultimately proves his undoing.

Oh, sure, the President and the Speaker of the House — as fellow Republicans — will swear until the cows come home that they back the two-term Congressman from northern Chester County. But their actions of late — amount to fitting Costello with cement boots and tossing him into the lake at Marsh Creek State Park.

Costello — already under fire for co-sponsoring the bill that gutted the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ability to stop distributors from flooding the market with opioids and then getting enough drug industry donations to fund a small country, which we get to in deeper detail shortly — has been aggressively moving to be seen as moderate and bipartisan, as he anticipates a scary race against well-funded Democrat Chrissy Houlahan looming in 2018.

So when Trump (who was for it before he was against it) trashed the compromise deal reached by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to solve the short term and then Ryan suggested it would never see the U.S. House floor, Costello, already having a lousy week, had to be smarting. While the bill remains alive, with 24 bi-partisan sponsors, if Trump is not on board, the bill seems unlikely to get to the floor in the House.

While I can’t speak or anyone else, it seems people won’t be thrilled with this, if the health care insurance market blows up.

In my case, the state already announced what was expected to be an 8% increase will now be 30%. In terms of dollars and cents, that means going from a $2,000 to a $7,000 increase this coming year for me and my family. Without some sort of fix, the individual marketplace is going to be ugly — and we’re already seeing hikes in the group health insurance market as well.

And despite the fact that Costello supported a similar, moderate compromise package in the House, voters typically won’t care — more than likely blaming him for the loss of benefits.

Late Thursday, the U.S. Senate created another poison pill for Costello: the budget resolution. The non-binding resolution is needed to move tax cuts — but, it calls for $1.5 billion in cuts to Social Security and Medicaid, which basically makes itself into a campaign commercial if Costello votes “yes.”

So voters will hear that Costello gutted Social Security and Medicaid and caused their health insurance premiums to spike — at least that’s what any Democratic campaign commercial will say, repeatedly — and then offer the coup d’grace: the opioid mess.

Okay — let’s be entirely fair: the bill Costello co-sponsored was passed by unanimous consent (meaning all Republicans and Democrats said yes) and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The law made it much harder for the DEA to stop unscrupulous distributors from flooding the market with opioids — some were selling unexplainable amounts of drugs to retailers (one example cited a small town where previously 10,000 oxycodone pills were typically sold in a month, suddenly spiking to 100,000).

The rather lame defense of most legislators has been “they didn’t read” the seven-page bill, which is crappy if true.

That’s an argument that Costello — who did not respond to The Washington Post (but as he subsequently pointed out, made his defense in local media), which broke the story working with CBS’ 60 Minutes — can’t make as a co-sponsor.

Additionally, as a trained attorney, he had to know what the bill would do.

Which is bad.

Now, here’s the worse part: the drug industry has poured money into Costello’s campaign coffers for years. Just this year — and using generous definitions (there’s a lot of contributions from drug retailers and wholesalers I didn’t count) — Costello has gotten $40,000 this year from big Pharma. Go back through his entire federal elective career and that number soars into the six digits.

While it is certainly a cautionary tale on the corrosive impact of money in politics, the politics of it are even worse.

Imagine this commercial:

Announcer: (over various images of news paper headlines about overdoses and deaths): As Pennsylvania battles a growing and deadly opioid crisis, Ryan Costello cashed in big to make sure that drugs kept on flowing into our communities….

Cut to shot of grieving mother, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Mother: “My son Brandon died this past year from an overdose. He was just 19, he had his whole life ahead of him. And now I hear Mr. Costello might have helped put those drugs on the street. How could you, Mr. Costello, how could you….?

Announcer: (over shots of wanly smiling Costello): Indeed, Mr. Costello, how could you take the drug companies money and put our kids at risk? How. Could. You?

Pennsylvania needs better leadership…

Combine that with ads touting Costello’s expected vote for cuts to Social Security and Medicaid and, well, you can see where this is going.

Costello is a gifted politician — a guy with brains and usually something like a moral compass — so it is possible he will overcome all of this and win reelection in 2018. But the odds of that got a lot worse in just one week.

Usually, local District Justice races are low-key elections. Not so in 15-3-04 in the Kennett Square/Unionville area. This race has seemed more like a combination of the movies Election and Mean Girls, with a lot of vitriol being thrown out by mostly one side.

Obviously, it’s disappointing. But it underlines a problem with electing judges (and school boards). These need to be non-partisan elections and shouldn’t be run like a Philly ward leader brawl.

The absentee management of the Chester County Republican Party doesn’t seem to be going very well, as chaos seems to be enveloping the Grand Old Party on the local level — as message discipline and basic understanding of election law used to be staples of the party’s operation.

With County Chair Val DiGiorgio busy as state chair, let’s just say that details are becoming a problem.

Let’s start with Phoenixville Mayoral Candidate Dave Gautreau calling for the borough to use “drug sniffing bunnies” to help battle the growing opioid crisis (one might argue that using “campaign-cash corrupted elective official sniffing bunnies” might prove more effective) at a mayoral forum.

Of course, there’s no such thing — the bunnies were a parody story published on the “People of Lancaster” site — but there seems to have been no one to counsel Gautreau on the facts before the forum. Now, he’s an national (international) Internet meme, which tends not to help one’s political fortunes.

Less funny, but a better indication that no one is at home over on Church Street (the GOP’s county HQ), are allegations that Caln Commissioner John Contento used his township business card (with his township email) for a county-party run literature drop.

Yes, it’s illegal if as claimed — the campaign law violation equivalent of a parking ticket, granted — but the kind of sloppy, mindless error that the county GOP didn’t used to make. For $25 (oh, the joys of using VistaPrint or some such, if you don’t need to have union indicia), Contento could have had his own cards printed up and used a Google email address. Someone should have questioned using township materials, especially the email address in light of the GOP harping on inappropriate email use last year — a rookie mistake — and spiked it before it ever happened.

With DiGiorgio focused on Harrisburg and the whole state — as he should be as state chair — along with most of what had been an exceptionally efficient and effective staff that had run the county party (there’s no way county party solicitor Joel Frank lets this pass if he knows about it), there’s a clear lack of anyone being in charge of the county party.

At a time when the Chester County Republican Committee faces some of the toughest challenges in its history — between the changing demographics of the county, a better managed and vigorous county Democratic Party and the current national environment — it seems clear that the party needs a full-time, on the ground chair, which DiGiorgio cannot do while serving a state chair.

There are numerous smart people ready to take up the mantle, starting with current party Secretary Shannon Royer, and build a new leadership team.

The time has come for DiGiorgio to step aside.  Source

Oct 17, 2017
Daily Local News

Oct 13, 2017
Trump’s tax plan won’t help Pa.’s working families – here’s why | Robert P. Casey Jr.

During the last year I have traveled to each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to meet with workers, middle class families, seniors and small businesses.

While Pennsylvania has cities that are large and small, urban, suburban and rural, I heard one consistent message no matter where I was: that too many families are struggling to get ahead.

For too many families, their costs keep going up but their wages are not keeping pace. The central economic challenge of our time is to rebuild the middle class by raising wages and creating good-paying jobs. Read more

Oct 12, 2017
Berks & Beyond
Letter: Costello must do more to hear constituents


Some have questioned why U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello’s constituents continue to pressure him after he held a town hall in Berks County, even suggesting that we are pawns of the Democratic Party. As one of those outspoken constituents, let me point out that one measly public event in nine months, with less than a week’s notice, is not “listening to his community.”
We have a lot to discuss with our congressman because every day since January, the Trump administration – with which Costello votes 93 percent of the time – has taken rights and protections away from women, children and marginalized communities.

Every week, we attempt to speak with Costello and his staff about various issues, including the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a move that deprives 800,000 immigrants of a chance to live, work and serve in the military; the lapse of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which strips health insurance from 9 million children; the abject failure to support Puerto Rico, where 3.4 million Americans face unimaginable suffering; and the systematic deprivation of women and girls of the right to control their own bodies.

What do we get, we mild-mannered voters with zero connection to the Democratic Party? We get ignored by staff, blocked on social media and misrepresented as threatening – all while the congressman votes in line with the president and in sharp contradiction to the wishes of his constituents. Perhaps Costello is the pawn here.

Jane Palmer


Oct 9, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf did what he had to do on state budget


Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday that he is tired of waiting for Republican lawmakers to produce a plan to wipe out a projected $2.2 billion deficit and will look to borrow $1.2 billion against profits from the state-controlled liquor system to help patch it, The Associated Press reported. The state Legislature has failed to produce a spending plan to pay for the new $32 billion budget passed in June. Wolf said his moves will be immediate.

By his own admission, Gov. Wolf is not a patient man. He is, after all, a businessman, unaccustomed to having to machete his way through a bureaucratic jungle to accomplish what should be routine tasks.

In state government, there should be nothing more basic than coming up with a plan to pay for the budget you’ve already passed.

So, we’d say Wolf was justified when he finally blew his cork.

“Too many Republicans in the Legislature are more focused on the 2018 elections than on helping Pennsylvania succeed,” Wolf said at a press conference last week. “They’d rather see me fail than Pennsylvania succeed. They’d rather protect special interests, they’d rather protect lobbyists and campaign donors than do the right thing. I’m not going to play their games anymore, so I’m drawing a line in the sand.”

Before you dismiss Wolf’s tirade as partisan posturing — for him, this qualifies as bona fide brimstone — consider what he told us during a conference call Thursday.

Wolf said that before his press conference Wednesday he met with Republican leaders in the Senate and told them what he was going to do. Wolf said they “had a few questions” but their reaction was not, “Why are you doing this?”

In other words, they went along with it, without resistance, because even they realized something had to give. Wolf said the Senate leaders seemed to share his frustration about the House’s inability to get its act together and, in fact, seemed relieved at the prospect of finally moving forward.

The GOP Senate had voted down the House budget 43-7, a budget that called for the transfer of funds from environmental and other programs to help fill the deficit. Republicans were divided and nothing was happening.

House Republicans were not able to come to an agreement on imposing a new tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production, applying the sales tax on commercial warehousing and nearly doubling the state hotel tax rate.

The House and Senate adjourned Wednesday without plans to return before Oct. 16, and Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board members said in a statement they had not discussed a proposal to borrow money but would cooperate with the governor’s office to explore it, AP reported.

Wolf said he feels like he is on firm ground.

“I think the Senate was patient for three months. It was liberating to do what I did (Wednesday),” Wolf said.

Regardless of your political leanings, or whether you think the governor was right, we can agree that a stalemate was helping no one. Pennsylvania’s credit rating had already taken a hit. Payments to schools and insurers were delayed. There was no perfect solution, so Wolf did what he thought was right.

House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said Wolf is covering for Democrats’ “inability to get anything done,” while House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said Wolf is refusing to lead and only capable of blaming others, AP reported.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have shown much of an ability or willingness to work together on much of anything, though it should be noted that Wolf and the Democrats did work with Republicans to pass the Senate version of a budget plan in the summer.

Something else on which we can agree is that this is no way to do business. And it’s a far cry from the budding spirit of cooperation we saw — or at least wanted to see — back in February when Wolf announced his budget. At the time, we wrote, “The scolding tone of his second budget address gave way to the language of conciliation and unity.”

So much for that.

So much for compromise, cooperation and partnership, which now seem like distant memories in a foreign land.

It took eight months, but we’ve now officially returned to discord, rancor and deadlock.

At least we recognize the neighborhood. Source

Oct 8, 2017
As GOP leaders fiddle, Wolf resorts to a payday loan | Editorial

Pennsylvania’s three-month-old budget crisis has slipped from the ridiculous to the absurd — a farce written and staged by the Republican House leadership. Move over, Beckett. Sit down and shut up, Ionesco.

Oh, that this were fiction, not a drama impacting the lives and livelihoods of every Pennsylvanian.

Last week, in an effort to plug a $2.2 billion deficit in a state running on fumes, two things happened. Two acts in an absurdist play, if you will.

First, having rejected a revenue bill adopted by the Senate two months ago, the House — meaning the select group of Republicans who control it — rolled out a tax on commercial warehouses. It would have had a big impact on the Lehigh Valley, the Northeast’s nexus of distribution centers. But it was scrapped before anyone got too serious about it.

The House floated a hike in the state hotel tax, from 6 to 11 percent, which sent tourism officials and hoteliers through the roof. That, too, would have hurt the Lehigh Valley, where the two counties already levy a 4 percent room tax to support tourism and community development incentives. Coupled with the state’s existing tax, it would have raised the local add-on to 15 percent, and made Pennsylvania one of the most expensive stay-over states in the U.S.  Read more

Sept 29, 2017
Unionville Times
Maybe I’m paranoid, but it seems like local Congress members are out to get me

By nature, I’m not really a paranoid guy, but it is starting to look like U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, U.S. Reps. Ryan Costello (R-6), Pat Meehan (R-7) and Lloyd Smucker (R-16) have it out personally for me and my family.

Okay maybe not personally — I’ve had cordial, even friendly relationships with some of them, and certainly interesting and insightful interviews with Costello, Smucker and Toomey, all three of whom I see as intelligent and thoughtful, even if I often disagree with them.

Meehan and his staff treat me like a leper (while Chester County Republicans seem to see me as annoying but mostly harmless in light of my past political activities, Delaware County Republicans seem to keep me on some sort of political terrorist watch list after I dared run against one of their own 13 years ago), so it is difficult for me to personally evaluate whether the former NHL official and U.S. Attorney is either intelligent or thoughtful. It may not help that I’ve often suggested Meehan needs to be on the back of a milk carton due to the lack of his visibility and involvement in Chester County (and yes, he’s actually my Congressional representative).

But, professionally, I kind of feel like they all have it out for me, my wife and two kids.

First there were the various versions of “Kill the Affordable Care Act, Ask Questions later,” bill.

Sure, it didn’t pass, but the chaos caused by them (and the uncertainly) mean that the renewal for our family health insurance is going to go way up this year (a year after rates went up and our deductibles did, also). I will note for those of you who love to trash the ACA (or Obamacare), it took until this year for our premiums to return to pre-ACA rates, so even with all of its imperfections, the ACA improved our care and reduced premiums.

Without question, it needs work (not to mention having an administration and Congress not trying to murder it) but for many millions of people, including me and my family, it’s been an improvement.

So while we ducked that hurricane (but still have to live with the storm surge it prompted), now we’re looking at this proposed tax plan.

Allegedly, it will cut taxes for everyone — at least according to U.S. House Ways & Means Chair Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who positively gushed about the bill Wednesday.

Toomey is a little more circumspect, but seems to have a Christmas morning attitude about the proposal:

“I see this as an amazing opportunity and responsibility. Enacting legislation consistent with this framework will allow us to achieve the growth that we’ve been waiting so long to achieve,” Toomey said in a statement issued Wednesday.

He then went into a full-throated defense of “supply-side” economics as motivations for being excited about the bill.

“There’s nothing normal about two percent growth for the United States of America,” he said. “We’re capable of so much more. When we get this right, I am confident that we will achieve robust growth. What that means for the hardworking families that I represent all across Pennsylvania is a direct pay raise when we lower their direct tax burden. It also means an indirect pay raise as more jobs are created and more businesses are launched. Upward pressure on wages allows people to have a higher standard of living.”

And, yup, more optimism:

“I am really excited about this opportunity and I am confident that we are going to seize the moment.”

Smucker, too, can hardly contain his excitement:

“Today Republicans released a vision to improve people’s lives and put more money back in the pockets of hardworking American families,” smucker said in a statement, Wednesday. “Our current federal tax code is broken, but we have the fix: give American families the opportunity to improve their lives through a simplified tax code.

“The plan cuts taxes for all Americans. This means bigger paychecks and more financial stability for millions of families that too often must tighten their household budgets because of stagnant wages. It means mothers and fathers can more easily save for their children’s college fund and plan for retirement. And it means it will be easier for young people graduating from high school and college to get a job, buy a home, and start a family.

“I went to Washington to improve the lives of the people I represent. These are exactly the types of reforms I wanted to see in a tax reform plan, and now is our best opportunity to reignite the American Dream. I’m proud of the effort that went into this framework, and I look forward to the work that lies ahead.”

Meehan was a bit lower in tone, noting that many details are still to be worked out:

“Our tax code is a mess,” Meehan said. “It’s riddled with overlapping and conflicting provisions that leave taxpayers frustrated and confused. Its rates are too high, and too many loopholes enable the elites to avoid them. It’s holding us back in the modern economy. Too much of a middle class family’s paycheck is going to Washington. A top-to-bottom rewrite is long overdue.”

“The tax reform framework released today is the work of months of effort. It will be a shot in the arm for job growth. It will help our workers and our businesses compete and win in the global marketplace. It unwinds the web of carve-outs and special interest loopholes. And it cuts taxes on small businesses, the drivers of our economy, empowering them to invest and hire.

“We lower the rates families pay, and we reduce the number of brackets by more than half. Enhancing the child tax credit puts more money into the pockets of working families. For some, it will be the difference between getting ahead or falling behind. We reduce the tax burden for many and enable more taxpayers to file with far less paperwork. All of these changes will mean Americans will keep more of what they earn – and paying what they owe will be less of a headache.”

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Meehan continued. “Like the product of any compromise, it isn’t perfect. There are ways we can improve it, and I think we will. This isn’t reform for reform’s sake – it has the potential to improve the lives of millions of American families. We need to get it right. The framework released today is a serious, thoughtful path to revamping a broken tax code. I’m looking forward to working alongside Chairman Brady and my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee to get big things done for American taxpayers.”

No word from Costello, so it’s unclear where he stands, but hopefully it’s not with his foot on my throat.

Not surprisingly, the state GOP Chair and Chester County’s own, Val DiGiorgio, loves the proposal.

“President Trump and Congressional Republicans are putting forward a tax reform plan that will provide much needed relief for Pennsylvanians,” he said in a statement, Thursday. “This pro-growth plan is focused on putting the middle-class first, cutting taxes, and increasing take-home pay, while simplifying the tax code. Just like President Trump, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe our tax code is broken and needs to be revamped.”

Plus, for fun, an obligatory shot at U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr.

“Senator Bob Casey’s obstructionism must end,” DiGiorgio said. “Bob Casey must come to the table to work with his Republican colleagues to make our tax code work for middle class taxpayers. I urge him to support this plan and put Pennsylvanians before politics.”

Here’s the problem: in looking at the proposal — and yes, it’s in rough form and may well change massively before it is approved, if it is approved — but in doing back of the envelope calculations, it actually raises my taxes and worse, will probably lower my already meager income.


The structural changes may well cut taxes for Donald Trump and wealthy, deeply-connected attorneys like Val DiGiorgio — and maybe, for those at the lower ends of the income scale, especially those without kids — but it seems like it puts a hurting on those of us with families in the middle to upper middle class. While I haven’t gotten a full report from my accountant, it looks like a lot of deductions we take will go away and will not be made up for by the increase in the personal exemption.

Worse, from my standpoint, would be removing the tax-deductible status for advertising. As you may know, we subsist entirely on ad revenue and you the readers get this content for free. If companies cut back on advertising because of the change of status, we’ll either have to look at closing up shop or charging you, the readers (essentially, a pass along tax).

The wider issue of essentially using the tax code to attack the media is a whole different discussion.

We can argue the impact on the federal deficit and whether “supply side” (history suggests not) works in all cases, but that’s for another day, too…I am understandably focused on the impact on my own family.

So, you can understand why it’s beginning to feel a little….personal.

Now, obviously, this isn’t the intent, hosing over countless families such as mine — there are great arguments for tax reform, the tax code is mess — but I suspect not enough people are running the numbers on how this might play out. Maybe this would work great for you and your family, but I’d advise running the numbers first before getting too excited.

If enough folks start to take it, well, personally, you might just see some hasty backtracking. Source

Sept 7, 2017
The Daily Item
Today’s Editorial: Governor issues freeze warning

Gov. Tom Wolf said this week that state lawmakers will have just a few days to pass a revenue package to balance the state’s $32 billion budget before the state will begin to “get hurt” by the financial crisis.

During an interview in Pittsburgh, Wolf said he will have to start freezing some spending by Sept. 15 to prevent the state’s main bank account from dipping into red ink. Freezing spending could affect roads, schools, emergency response systems and volunteer fire companies, the governor warned.

Meanwhile, a group of rank-and-file House Republicans presented a plan to fill the state’s $2.2 billion projected deficit by diverting cash from off-budget programs.

Their plan leans heavily on siphoning money from a public transportation system fund and programs aimed at environmental cleanups and improvements. House Republican supporters insisted the money could be diverted from surpluses without affecting the programs, but the Wolf administration disputes that.

The Republican efforts to comb through budgetary accounts in search of dormant funds are noble, but mistimed.

State lawmakers have about four months from the time the governor presents a budget proposal in February until the June 30 deadline for adopting a new state budget. That would seem to be the appropriate time to identify and debate spending allocations. Doing so on the brink of a financial crisis resulting from indecision and inaction is not.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, questioned the legality of “raiding” accounts that, he said, are restricted by law. The Wolf administration also questioned the plan’s reliance on $400 million in unused program cash leftover from last year while the House GOP plan raised the prospect that it would include nearly $200 million in cuts to spending already approved, some of it for hospitals, public health programs and job training.

Wolf supports the state Senate’s revenue package, which relies on a new tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production and prospective licensing fees by authorizing another expansion of casino gambling across Pennsylvania.

No votes are scheduled for this week, and the Republican-controlled House is scheduled to return to Harrisburg on Monday for the first time since July 22.

It is well past time for state House members to finish their primary duty — sewing up the state budget before anyone else gets hurt. Source

August 19, 2017
Times of Chester County
Nobody asked me, but…

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

To be clear, the small number of misguided souls who call themselves Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and the like should have no serious place in our public discourse (I’ll make the same argument for anyone, left, right, middle or otherwise who would use violence or intimidation to further their political aims).

And aside from the small group of vocal, angry folks who would equate Neo-Nazis and those who oppose them, most across the political spectrum would agree with the above statement. I’m not here to debate that issue — from cable TV to the Web, it’s been argued, over and over.

To wander off into a different take on this, I’ve been asking myself how I would advise Republicans and Democrats, were I back in my old gig of running races and managing messaging for candidates.

For Democrats, it’s fairly straight forward — with one or two pitfalls — and I’ll address that later on along with a calculated misdirection by Republicans that could leave Democratic candidates in jeopardy of hurting themselves.

Understand that none of the following is a policy endorsement, but rather a discussion of tactics and options.

But if I were advising Republicans….well, I’m not entirely sure what I’d say. I was ruminating over this with another former political operative the other day and it quickly became clear that good advice for one person might fail spectacularly for another, because of the complicated dynamics.

Obviously, as a Republican, you have to denounce the Nazi and Klan types and the like. They’re bad. Electorally, those who support them are a small number, so it’s not a big hit and it’s not like they’re going to vote for Democrats if you turn them off. The tricky group is the next and much bigger slice — white voters with racial and economic grievances, a hunk of which is in the Trump Coalition.

How you craft your message to suggest Nazis are bad but allowing that some folks have legitimate concerns about feeling marginalized, is tricky. You have to do so while convincing educated voters you’re not racist or pandering, a difficult task.

Although the go-to for the last three decades has been for Republicans to play the cultural issue, it might be a major mistake in this environment (you may get support among the aggrieved, but come across as too extreme to the moderates in the party and independent voters). Obviously, if you go too far in the opposite direction, you may face an ugly and costly primary.

Better to focus on economic opportunity, I think; make an argument for a more inclusive economy, tax credits for manufacturing and promote a fiscally sustainable infrastructure program. Tax cuts — unless they happen deep into the cycle of 2018 — might prove counterproductive. Most folks in the lower and middle classes don’t pay a ton of taxes and may not notice small increases in their take home pay — and it is likely that much of the media focus will talk about the seemingly giant cuts for the wealthy. And while we can argue the merits of such a plan, that’s not my point here, it is managing the messaging — what does the end voter hear at the end of the day?

A lot of folks are angry, with some reason, about the lack of upward mobility or even the ability to stay even. GOP candidates need to talk about opening up economic opportunity and growing the economy, and helping workers evolve into their next career. Folks need hope of a better life.

Coal mines aren’t coming back — not for regulatory reasons, but because of market-driven forces — and eventually voters will figure that out and be even angrier at those who led them on. While American manufacturing is never going to come back the way it was, there are strong economic and national security reasons for working to make sure some segments (high tech stuff for defense) return to U.S. shores. Here, a program of targeted tax credits, worker training incentives — and yes, the likelihood of federal defense contracts would spark growth, both in terms of good paying jobs and economic growth.

For both parties, health care is a landmine. I’ll deal with the perils Democrats face further down the page. Republicans have to walk a very careful line between those angry about the failure of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and those angry about the repeal proposals — and the things that potentially could have been stripped from folks under the bills that failed to pass in the U.S. Senate.

At this point, GOP candidates, particularly those in swing districts, will have to choose their language carefully. While “Repeal and Replace” is red meat for some portions of the Republican base, it is also a reminder of a failure and represents something a lot of moderate Republicans and independents were at best uncomfortable embracing. Republicans painted themselves into something of a rhetorical corner on this issue and there is no easy way out.

New language will help. Repair — there is widespread agreement even among many Democrats that the ACA needs some reworking to be sustainable and workable — is a better, more positive word. Already, we’ve seen Chester County Republicans such as Ryan Costello and Lloyd Smucker move to back such a position. Again — I’m not here to debate the policy, but rather the politics and strategy. This gives Republicans something of a moral high ground — “We tried repeal and it failed, so we’re going to do something to help as many people as possible and work to fix the worst parts of the ACA — especially the job killing provisions.”

It won’t be an easy sell — and may prompt some angry exchanges at public events — but it is one that will bring along some of the anti-ACA folks, most of the middle and some of the left.

Republicans face a tough 15 months. While voter turnout in the local elections tends to be poor — especially for Chester County Democrats — I expect to see a lot more Democratic turnout (aside from the fact that the county party has more GOTV resources than any time in memory) for the fall, 2017 elections. Democrats are angry — and no small number of independent voters are, too. The angry democratic voters will be looking to send a message and this fall’s races may well be a harbinger of things to come.

For Democrats, they must go well beyond Trump trashing if they expect to win. While that argument may pump up the base — and turnout — in the short term, Democrats haven’t done a great job in sharing their vision for economic growth and inclusion. This should be in the wheelhouse of the party, but somehow got dropped out of the playbook in recent years.

There are great opportunities to talk about jobs, fairness and opportunity and to map out a vision to accomplish strides forward. If Democrats can lay out a passionate and optimistic vision for the future, they can make inroads with moderate Republicans.

But….as always, there is a trap: single-payer health care.

I know it is a holy grail item for some on the left. With the behavior of insurance companies and big pharma, it is increasingly more tempting to make the argument.

But don’t. While it might win a few more primary votes, it will be a general election killer. That’s why Republicans are trying to taunt their most formidable Democratic challengers into backing it.

Look, maybe single-payer is a good goal for the distant future, but at this point, it is not something that is sustainable financially. Backing it means allowing Republicans to define the terms of debate, casting you as being in favor of “big new taxes and letting Big Government control healthcare.”

Folks, that’s what called a messaging loser. Yes, I know a lot on the left want you badly to fall on this sword in some sort of nod to liberal purity, but it would be a massive tactical mistake.

My suggestion — as this is really the biggest stumbling block Democrats face in the next 15 months — is to shock people by being honest.

“We didn’t get here overnight, and we’re not going to be able to fix it overnight,” said a wise, theoretical Democratic candidate. “While there are clear issues with the ACA, let’s not forget what it was like before it passed: folks being getting tossed off their coverage when they got sick, lifetime caps and bankruptcies that ruined people’s lives. Clearly, we can’t go back to that.

“The first step must be to stabilize the ACA exchanges and reduce the burdens on small employers and ditch the medical device tax. There’s broad support for that — and those basic fixes will help stabilize things, so we can take some time and figure out what makes sense in the long haul.”

Then said Democrat can make arguments for incremental change: “As older Americans — those over 55, but too young for Medicare — tend to be the most expensive to insure, why not allow them to buy into Medicare? This would offer a real-world test of whether a future “Medicare For All” system would be workable, and reduce price pressure on insurance premiums for everyone else by taking some of the sickest folks out of the pool. With that, though, we must allow Medicare to negotiate with Big Pharma on drug pricing — this is another common sense measure with broad support, if you can negotiate when buying car, why can’t Medicare negotiate drug prices? — and another way to bring down health insurance premiums.”

You can even throw a bone to the left by suggesting: “The day may come when single-payer makes sense — but that is a journey best taken slowly and carefully. There is no return and no easy do over. The smart move is to work toward reforms that will have immediate impact on improving coverage and reducing costs. Steps like Medicare55 would allow us to take evolutionary steps, rather than revolutionary steps — crucial when we’re talking about something as important as healthcare.”

Is that going to please everyone? Obviously not. But it keeps you out of the trap, keeps you from a mountain of scare TV ads (they’ll find something else, as the GOP remains driven by the anger of its base — but healthcare is so personal it tends to resonate beyond the base, while other issues likely won’t) and gives you a reasonable framework, without seeming to duck the issue.

Both parties face serious mine fields in terms of messaging in the next 15 months. Whichever party does a better job of navigating them will win in November of 2018.


There was an outpouring of comment about Charlottesville and President Donald Trump’s reaction to the events there. Not all of it fit in our one straight news story this week on the fallout, so I wanted run it here without comment.

“The repugnant hatred spewed last Saturday in Charlottesville by white supremacists has absolutely no place in our country — it is beyond disturbing and un-American. Bigotry — whether religious or racial — is vile. Let me be very clear: anyone who promotes bigotry is not welcome in the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, and we disavow them in the strongest terms. We do not want or need their support and the cowards that perpetrate violence should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is time for Americans of all backgrounds, races, and creeds to unite as one nation.”

— Val DiGiorgio, Chair, Republican Party of Pennsylvania.

“I am outraged, horrified, and disgusted by the white nationalist rallies, violence, and domestic terrorist attack that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, however, I am not surprised. Violent, racist, hateful white nationalist rhetoric has been on the rise over the past several years. White nationalist ideology has recently attained new prominence having been given a national platform at the presidential level. Several of our President’s top advisors, and the President’s own willingness to incorporate racist rhetoric from the first speech of his campaign have emboldened racists of every kind. Pennsylvania ranks 6th with the number of organized hate groups, with at least one hate group headquartered in Lancaster County. This is unacceptable!

“When leaders remain silent in the presence of racism they in effect give it consent. It is long past time for us to confront racism head on, and ensure events like the violence and attacks in Charlottesville do not become more common, and white nationalist ideology does not become more prevalent. Strongly worded condemnations of white supremacist ideology are a good start, but they are not enough, we need decisive, effective action.

“In 2007, as the superintendent of Warwick School District, I saw with my own eyes the danger of racist ideology and white supremacy. Threats of violence driven by racism began to wreak havoc in our schools and community. At the first manifestation of racism, I immediately spoke out and denounced the violent white supremacist rhetoric as hateful and evil, and made sure that our community understood that it will not be accepted.

“Beyond simply speaking out, I took immediate action to raise awareness and educate our students, staff, parents, and our community about prejudice so that our children and youth would reject all forms of bigotry and respect the dignity and worth of every person. I partnered with the Anti-Defamation League, the U.S Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, and many other organizations to extinguish racism and bigotry from our schools and create a culture in which respect, compassion, and safety of all individuals is assured.”

— Dr. John George, Democratic Candidate, 16th Congressional District.

“You know, one of the locations that we visited in Israel was the Holocaust Museum, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum. If you’ve visited that museum or the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., it’s a really somber experience to visit that memorial, or that type of memorial. But it’s necessary and valuable to do that to better understand the horrors of the Holocaust. And it’s just a really stark reminder of the racism and the hate that drove Hitler and drove the Nazis.

“It was really horrifying to come back to what had happened in Charlottesville, which was absolutely unacceptable. We simply cannot accept that kind of behavior here, and we can’t tolerate what were really horrendous acts of racism, displays of white supremacy, and the idea of Nazi flags being waved. It just simply is unacceptable.”

— U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-16), in a conference call with reporters on Aug. 15 (before President Trump’s impromptu press conference), discussing his recent trip to Israel.

“Those who march under Nazi flags or with KKK-affiliated groups are not ‘fine people.’ “

Smucker, later that same day, on Twitter, reacting to the President’s comments.

“The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, are nothing less than an act of domestic terrorism, and the resulting deaths are an abomination to our country, our people, and our democracy.

“Representative Lloyd Smucker and President Trump have failed to address the severity of the situation, neither clearly denouncing the actions of these hate groups. On Saturday and again yesterday, President Trump said in the clearest terms that he supports these anti-Semitic, Nazi-loving, domestic terrorists.

“Rep. Smucker was late, half-hearted, and on the fence about his stance on these acts of hate. At a moment when Americans and his constituents need a strong voice, he is incredibly weak.

“There is no place in America for the anti-Semetic, Nazi-inspired intimidation and violence on display from these neo-Nazi and white nationalist hate groups. I denounce the actions of the cowards in Charlottesville. I laud those that stood up against them.

“Today, I call on Congressman Lloyd Smucker to denounce the President and his actions in no uncertain terms, through a proper, public, on-the-record statement that lays clear exactly where his loyalties lie. Rep. Smucker’s actions, unfortunately, show a Congressman who shares President Trump’s goals and agenda 97.6% of the time.

“Representative Smucker: you are on notice.”

— Christina Hartman, Democratic Candidate, 16th Congressional District.

“Our entire nation has been deeply affected by the horrible events in Charlottesville. These are times when we cannot remain silent, especially those who hold or seek to hold elected office.

“As the Democratic candidate for Chester County Treasurer, I unequivocally denounce nazis, white nationalists and racist groups of every variety and by any name. These groups should have no home in Chester County or the United States of America.

“Further, I call upon all elected officials and candidates who have not yet done so to join me in repudiating the un-American hatred that we saw in Charlottesville. Although President Trump could not bring himself to acknowledge it, there is only one side here: the side of good, decent Americans and true American values.

“Speaking out is not enough. When standing up to this kind of tragic violence and the hate, bigotry and racism that drives it, we must have the courage to stand behind our convictions and take action to foster equality, acceptance and understanding among all people.

“We may want to believe that our community is immune to this problem, but we all know that it is not. Stamping out racism demands that each of us, especially those elected to serve the public, do all we can, with the power and authority vested in us, to take real and meaningful action to address these problems in our society. As County Treasurer, I will be an advocate and fight to make sure we are investing in the communities and people most in need and do all I can to support programs and policies that recognize that we are all part of the same community and that each of us regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or income should receive equal treatment and dignity as human beings.”

— Patricia Maisano, Democratic candidate for Chester County Treasurer


August 13, 2017
Courier Express 
A Local Opinion
Turzai proving his unsuitability to be governor

The 2018 election of Pennsylvania’s next governor is more than a year away, but one Republican aspirant has just demonstrated why he ought not to hold the office.

State Rep. Mike Turzai leads the House of Representatives as its Speaker.

But on July 18, Turzai walked out on budget negotiations with Senate Republicans and Gov. Tom Wolf, rather than find a solution to the budget crisis that is largely of Turzai’s own making.

Turzai’s Republican caucus agreed in June to pass a spending budget of $32 billion — without also passing the companion bill that would raise the money to pay for that $32 billion.

“No new taxes!” Turzai is screaming.

But, wait.

That $32 billion budget is an increase of about 3 percent over the previous year’s budget. Turzai knew that.

So where is the “governance” in passing a spending bill that increases spending, but refusing to increase taxes to pay for that increase.

“Spend less!” is Turzai’s mantra. Pennsylvania should reduce its spending.

Well, sure.

But Turzai led the House caucus into voting for a budget that includes increased spending. Now, he shrieks, “No new taxes!”

“Governing’ means “getting things done,” and coming to compromises with people who see things differently than you do.

To his credit, Gov. Wolf has grown up in that regard. When he first took office, Democrat Wolf insisted that Legislative Republicans had to enact his budget, or else.

They didn’t. Legislators do not work for the governor. They are independently elected.

So, this year, Wolf compromised. He negotiated the best deal he could get with the GOP on spending, but then allowed its spending bill to become law without his signature.

With Turzai, however, it is “My way or the highway.”

That highway ought to lead Turzai, not into the governor’s mansion next year, but right back to the Pittsburgh suburbs where he lives.

Turzai claims that his budget proposals will pay for the $32 billion spending bill.

They won’t.

Members of his own political party have vetted his figures and they show that Turzai’s plan would still leave the state $800 million short of a balanced budget, even with overly optimistic revenue figures.

Turzai can’t add. It is hypocrisy to pass a spending bill, and then refuse to pay for it.

He is trying to ride his one “no new taxes” pony into the governor’s residence — and hurting every Pennsylvania resident in the process.

Turzai for governor?

The man has demonstrated that he cannot govern.

— Denny Bonavita


June 28, 2017
Pitt News
Editorial: Toomey is either lying or misinformed, and it will hurt Pennsylvanians

Regardless of what Sen. Pat Toomey may say, the new Senate health care bill does cut federal spending to Medicaid, and does so in a significant way.

Medicaid is a federal program designed to provide health insurance to those who otherwise cannot afford it, and as of April 2017 nearly 75 million Americans were enrolled in the program. Currently, the program and those enrolled in it are at risk.

When the Affordable Care Act came into law, it greatly expanded Medicaid, both the number of people that the program covers and what is covered by the program. But both the GOP House and Senate bills as they stand would make significant cuts to a crucial program in our nation’s social safety net as compared to the current law.

However, Toomey is insistent that Medicaid isn’t facing any cuts, explaining his point of view in a CBS interview Sunday.

“I have to strongly disagree with the characterization that we’re somehow ending the Medicaid expansion, in fact, quite the contrary,” he said. “We’re going to continue that eligibility. No one loses coverage.”

However, directly contradicting the Pennsylvania Republican, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that by 2026, Medicaid will face a 26 percent cut compared to the current law with 22 million Americans losing coverage under the bill.

So either Toomey was lying or he’s just doesn’t understand the bill he helped write. Read more

May 6, 2017
The Times of Chester County
The final straw
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Maybe it was when the U.S. House Representatives voted Thursday to blow up the increasingly popular Affordable Health Act and replace it with a non-vetted, closely-held replacement supported by less than 20 percent of voters (the cheering and beer party at the White House didn’t help, either).

Or maybe it was when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents swooped in and arrested about a dozen alleged illegal immigrants working in local mushroom farms, sending shockwaves through the small, yet powerful agriculture community that wields a surprising amount of political clout in Chester County. Enemies — serious enemies — were made that day.

Or maybe it was when the party nominated a handsy reality TV star billionaire for president, only to see him rejected locally in favor an unpopular Democrat in Chester County. Read more

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