Posts Tagged politician

Eye of the Storm


By Lowman S. Henry

As August melts into September the halls of the state capitol building are relatively quiet. This is a marked contrast to a year ago when state government was in what turned out to be the early phases of the longest budget stalemate in state history.  This year the budget, or at least the spending part of it, was done reasonably close to the constitutionally-mandated June 30th deadline, the revenue component followed several weeks later.

But is this just the eye of the storm?

In capitulating to too many of Governor Tom Wolf’s spending demands the state legislature larded up the budget with nearly $1.4 billion in new expenditures.  This despite claims of a $1.5 billion dollar “structural deficit” the governor claimed needed to be addressed.  Even those using Common Core math can calculate that left the state nearly $3 billion in the hole.

To pay for this spending orgy some $650 million in new taxes were cobbled together, and accounting gimmicks employed, to produce a “balanced” budget.  But the budget isn’t really balanced and even that $650 million contains projected revenue that will never actually materialize.  For example, lawmakers planned to charge the state’s casinos $1 million each to purchase 24-hour liquor licenses.  Apparently nobody thought to ask if the casinos wanted such licenses, as there now appears to be no takers.

The budget also includes revenue from on-line gambling.  The problem is legislation has yet to be passed authorizing on-line gambling.  After adopting the budget, the General Assembly adjourned for a two month recess delaying any possible revenue from that source deep into the fiscal year.

And, predictably, the taxes that were hiked on existing businesses are having a dramatic negative impact.  A 40% tax imposed on vaping supplies is driving many vaping stores – almost all of which are small businesses – out of business.  That means not only will projected revenue from the tax fall short, but the state will also lose out on sales tax revenue as the stores shutter their doors.

That Republicans in the legislature caved into $1.4 billion in new spending defied logic.  The GOP had fought an epic budget battle with the governor the previous fiscal year and won. Not only did they win, but not a single lawmaker seeking re-election was denied by voters due to the budget fight.  After posting a historic win, Republicans essentially forfeited the next game.

All of these elements are coming together to produce the perfect fiscal storm as budget talks begin for next year.  Don’t forget that “structural deficit” of $1.4 billion hasn’t been addressed.  A significant portion of the new taxes enacted this year will fail to materialize.  And, Governor Wolf continues to demand a lengthy menu of spending hikes – and the taxes to pay for them.

Making matters worse the governor and the legislature have not been able to agree on how to deal with cost drivers, particularly the skyrocketing cost of public employee pensions.  Pension costs are gobbling up the lion’s share of any new revenue produced by a still slow-growing state economy.  Republicans have passed pension reform only to see it vetoed by Governor Wolf. There are new legislative proposals on the drawing board, but they fall woefully short of resolving the problem.  Even if some reform is enacted it will likely have minimal impact on the upcoming 2017-18 state budget.

Given all of this, will Republicans stick to their pledge that without addressing cost drivers they will not enact broad-based tax hikes – such as raising the personal income tax, expanding and/or raising sales taxes – or  will they again cave into the governor’s tax and spending demands?  Much rides on the outcome of this looming budget fight, primarily the fiscal health of the commonwealth.

But, 2018 is a gubernatorial election year and this budget will be enacted as the campaign heats up.  Governor Wolf, if he seeks re-election, will want to show his base voters that he delivered the goods of higher spending.  Republican voters will judge the GOP-controlled legislature by their ability to resist higher spending and more taxes.  Add these competing political imperatives to the state’s perilous fiscal circumstances and we should brace ourselves for the second wave of the hurricane.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitue.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

Advertisements

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Get a Grip: Congress must return to an orderly budget process


Millions of Americans, likely you are one of them, have sent a tax return off to the Internal Revenue Service over the past couple of weeks having been given little choice but to follow the Biblical admonition to “render under Caesar” a significant portion of your earnings.  Neither religious fervor, nor patriotic sentiment prompted the paying of our taxes – financial penalties and even a jail cell await those who fail to comply.

It is interesting then that while we the taxpayers ponied up, Congress – the body that established the income tax – failed to meet its own first fiscal deadline of this year.  This, of course, is nothing unusual as Congress has missed virtually every deadline in the budgetary process for well over a decade.  It should be noted that not a single member of Congress has paid a penalty – financially or electorally – for their inability to execute the most basic of legislative duties.

By April 15th of each year Congress is required to establish the parameters of the federal budget.  This budget blueprint allows the various committees of the House and Senate to then debate and pass spending bills.  The impact of congressional failure to pass the budget blueprint by April 15th is that the committees will automatically assume a higher level of spending for the upcoming fiscal year.

That was precisely the goal of Democrats and Republican moderates. The budget blueprint did not happen because conservatives pushed for adoption of a more fiscally austere budget blueprint and could not come to agreement with their more moderate colleagues.  This failure is widely viewed as a serious setback for new House Speaker Paul Ryan who has made a return to the regular order of the budget process a top priority.

What will happen over the coming months is that the various committees will debate and pass spending bills the total of which will exceed both the nation’s ability to pay and congressional will to approve.  As has happened regularly over the past decade the September 31st deadline for passing a new federal budget will arrive without congressional consensus.

This is why we typically hear late summer rumblings over a pending budget crisis and threats of a government shut-down in October.  To prevent such a shut-down Congress will then pass a continuing resolution.  The continuing resolution – or CR in government parlance – will allow spending to continue for a set period of time at the previous year’s spending level.

All of this is bad news for fiscal conservatives in that the end result is that instead of an orderly passing of each component of the budget by category one gigantic spending bill – known as an omnibus – ends up being passed, usually sometime in December, that allows federal government spending to continue growing virtually unchecked.  To make matters worse usually unrelated, must pass items are tossed into the omnibus making it politically difficult for any member to vote against the package.

The ultimate impact of this is that the tax burden on the average American continues to grow. According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day – the day we stop working to pay federal taxes – will fall on April 24th.  That is 114 days into the year (excluding Leap Day).  But, wait – it’s worse: “If you include annual federal borrowing, which represents future taxes owed, Tax Freedom Day would occur 16 days later, on May 10.”

As if that isn’t bad enough, it doesn’t include your state, county, school district and local taxes which push your personal Tax Freedom Day into June.  Overall, according to the Tax Foundation, we Americans will pay $3.3 trillion in federal taxes, another $1.6 trillion in state and local taxes all adding up to about 31% of your income.

This growing tax burden is the reason why it is so important that Congress re-establish an orderly budget process.  The current method of governing by crisis only leads to bigger government.  Without an agreed to blueprint that establishes spending limits, hearings and debate that set clear priorities, and passage of a budget in a non-crisis atmosphere, it is next to impossible to get a grip on out-of-control government spending.  Congress’ failure to do so means we will continue working deeper and deeper into the year to pay the tab.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Governor Wolf PERCs Up


After just one year in office it is clear Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is the most spendthrift governor in the nation.  After all, his proposed and still unresolved 2015-16 state budget called for a tax hike greater than that of all other 49 states combined.  It was a bit startling to see this ultra-big government advocate actually announce he was going to shutter a state agency.

You might think fiscal conservatives would applaud his move to close the Public Employees Retirement Commission (PERC) an obscure state agency that most Pennsylvanians don’t know even exists.  But, any time a politician acts out of character it is a good idea to dig deeper into his or her motives.  Such is the case with Governor Wolf’s proposed elimination of PERC.

According to its website, the Public Employees Retirement Commission is responsible for “monitoring public retirement plans in Pennsylvania, studying the retirement needs of public employees … develop objectives and recommend legislation to the Pennsylvania legislature.”  PERC further administers various mandated reporting on the health of public employee pensions and funnels state funding to municipal pension systems throughout the state.

This trip takes us through the tall weeds of Pennsylvania’s arcane and convoluted public employee pension system, but the bottom line is PERC is responsible for monitoring the health of municipal pension systems and in the process of performing that duty raises a red flag when such plans are headed into financial trouble.  As such it performs an important watchdog function especially at a time when a significant number of municipal pension systems, especially in cities, are under fiscal stress.

In addition to providing independent oversight of municipal pension systems, PERC is required to administer the process of distributing some $250 million annually to municipalities.  According to a news release from State Representatives Stephen Bloom, Seth Grove and Keith Greiner, that amounts to 20% of the contributions that are made annually to municipal pension funds.  The representatives, Republicans all, voiced concern that without those funds many municipalities would be forced to raise property taxes.

Concern over the potential demise of PERC has produced something rare in Harrisburg, bi-partisan agreement.  State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, said: “If people think there’s a (municipal) pension problem now, wait until municipalities don’t get their (Act 205) payments.”   That DePasquale, who has been one of the more rational voices on fiscal matters would sound such a warning speaks to the seriousness of the issue.

To complicate matters further Governor Wolf plans to shut down PERC without seeking legislative approval.  Using the “pen and phone” approach popularized by President Obama, the governor says the agency is simply going to cease to exist.  Republican lawmakers are crying foul pointing out the governor has no authority to close an agency authorized by an act of the General Assembly.  So not only does Governor Wolf’s plan to sunset PERC put public pension plans at risk and likely trigger municipal tax increases, but it creates a constitutional crisis as well.

Pension reform has been a major component of the ongoing budget battle between Governor Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, among others, has vowed not to consider any of the governor’s proposed broad-based tax hikes until the state’s pension crisis is resolved.  Why then would Wolf want to complicate matters by tossing PERC under the bus?

Perhaps because Governor Wolf simply refuses to admit there actually is a pension crisis. In his view, pension systems across Penn’s Woods are just fine – all they need is more money.  As a captive of big labor the governor is committed to blocking any and all attempts at pension reform instead favoring throwing billions more in taxpayer dollars into systems at all levels that are simply no longer viable.

While many municipal pension funds, especially those administered by townships, are financially secure, state employee funds and those in larger cities must either be reformed or taxpayers will see historic tax increases.  That Governor Wolf would open a new front in the pension battle by moving to shutter PERC shows not only is he not serious about pension reform, but he will do everything in his power to prevent it from happening.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address islhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Governor Wolf Posts 82% Disapproval Rating


Malaise: Business Owners Turn Deeply Negative

Governor Wolf posts 82% disapproval rating

Governor Tom Wolf, who owned and operated a mid-sized business before running for office, has become enormously unpopular with his former peers posting the second highest negative rating for a governor in the 20-year history of the Keystone Business Climate Survey.  The September poll of business owners and chief executive officers found 82% hold a negative view of the governor’s job performance while 12% say he is doing a good job.

The governor’s budget proposals lie at the heart of the business community’s disapproval. Eight-one percent say the Wolf tax and spending plans would harm Pennsylvania’s business climate, 64% say they would do significant harm.  Further, Wolf gets the lion’s share of the blame for the budget impasse.  Fifty-eight percent say the budget stalemate is the governor’s fault, just 6% blame legislative Republicans.  Another 32% say both the governor and the legislature are to blame for the lack of a state budget.

Business Climate

One year ago, for the first time since the Fall of 2004, more of the business owners/CEOs participating in the survey said that business conditions in Pennsylvania had gotten better (20%) during the preceding six months that felt it had gotten worse (19%).  By last Spring those number had slipped significantly into negative territory with 13% saying business conditions had improved and 33% saying the state’s business climate had gotten worse.  In the current (September 2015) survey, 42% say the business climate in Penn’s Woods got worse over the past six months, 6% say it has improved.

Optimism for improvement of the state’s business climate in the coming six months has faded since last Spring.  Only 6% expect business conditions to improve headed into the new year, down from the 12% who expressed optimism last Spring.  Those who expect the business climate to get worse rose from 44% in March to 49% in the September survey.

Employment levels are also slipping.  Fifteen percent of the owners/CEOs said they have increased the number of employees in their business over the past six months, 21% said they now employ fewer people.  Looking ahead, 14% plan to add employees in the coming six months, 16% expect to have fewer employees.

Sales are also down.  Twenty-eight percent of the businesses participating in the survey say their sales have decreased over the past six months, 27% say sales are up.  There is a bit of optimism for the future, however, as 25% project an increase in sale over the upcoming six months while 18% are bracing for a decrease.

State Issues

The ongoing state budget impasse remains a top issue. Governor Wolf has put the biggest proposed tax hike in the nation on the table, the Republican-controlled legislature refuses to go along. Owners/CEOs participating in the Fall 2015 Keystone Business Climate Survey are not willing to see a resolution of the budget stalemate at any cost. Ninety percent said they do not want a new state budget if it will result in a significant increase in their taxes.  Nine percent say they are willing to pay significantly higher taxes if it would result in an immediate budget resolution.

Education spending is one of the sticking points in the budget.  Governor Wolf is demanding significantly higher spending.  But the poll found business owners disagree with the need to spend more on K-12 public education.  Forty-four percent say the state already spends too much on public education and another 30% feel current spending levels are about right.  Twenty-two percent agree with the governor that too little money is spent on education.

There is strong agreement with the Republican legislative position that the public education pension system must be reformed before any increase in spending is approved. Eighty-seven percent see pension reform as a prerequisite to spending more on education, 10% disagree.

Looking at the budget generally, 69% agree that any resolution to the state budget impasse must include a plan to privatize Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor store system.  Twenty-two percent do not link liquor privatization to a budget resolution.

Asked which statement most closely describes Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal 45% said it is a significant increase in spending, 21% identified it as the biggest spending increase in state history and 15% correctly identified it as a tax and spending increase greater than that proposed by all 49 other states combined.  Two percent termed the budget a “modest increase” in state spending.

By some estimates Pennsylvania spends about $700 million a year on individual grants or tax breaks to certain companies or industries. Such grants are viewed by some as “economic development,” by others as “corporate welfare.”  Thirty-two percent of the business owners/CEOs said such grants should be eliminated entirely and taxes reduced on all businesses.  Eleven percent favor the elimination of such grants with the savings used to balance the state budget.  Forty percent would reduce, but not eliminate economic development grants, and 4% think more money should be spent on such projects.

Job Approval Ratings

Eighty-two percent disapprove of the job being done by Governor Wolf, up from the 70% who held a negative view of the governor in the March 2015 poll.  That number is the second highest disapproval rating for a governor in the 20-year history of the Keystone Business Climate Survey surpassed only by the 86% negative rating received by Governor Ed Rendell in September of 2009. The only elected official with a lower job approval rating that Governor Wolf is President Barack Obama. Eighty-eight percent of those participating have a negative view of the President’s job performance, 10% view him in a positive light.  U.S. Senator Pat Toomey received a 47% positive job approval against a 28% negative rating.  U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. didn’t fare as well, 64% disapprove of the job the senior senator from Pennsylvania is doing, 15% approve.  The business leaders are also not pleased with the job being done by federal fiscal officials.  Forty-four percent disapprove of the job being done by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Janet Yellen, 21% approve.  U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is viewed negatively by 42%, while 11% approve of his job performance.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is under indictment for allegedly leaking secret grand jury information.  Sixty-eight percent disapprove of her performance in office, 8% approve.  However, 43% say she should not resign from office and is innocent until proven guilty.  Forty percent think she should resign and 10% want her to be impeached.

Legislative chambers continue to be viewed negatively by the business owners/CEOs.  Only ten percent have a positive opinion of the job being done by the United States Senate, 15% approve of the job being done by the U.S. House of Representatives.  The state legislature fared better: 31% approve of the job being done by the Pennsylvania Senate, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives earned a 34% job approval rating.

Presidential Race

Business community support for presidential candidates closely mirrored current nationwide polls. Donald Trump leads the pack at 26% followed by Dr. Ben Carson at 23%.  Carly Fiorina registered 7% followed by Ted Cruz at 7% and Scott Walker (who has since exited the race) at 6%.  The rest of the field, including all of the Democratic candidates, scored at 5% or less.

Methodology

The Fall 2015 Keystone Business Climate Survey was conducted electronically between September 14, 2015 and September 21, 2015.  A total of 324 business leaders responded.  Of those 80% are the owner of a business; 14% are the CEO/COO/CFO; 2% a local manager and 1% a state manager.   Twenty-nine percent of the respondents have businesses based in southeastern Pennsylvania, 21% in southcentral Pennsylvania, 17% in southwestern Pennsylvania, 9% in northwestern Pennsylvania, 7% in northeastern Pennsylvania, 5% in the Lehigh Valley, and 5% each in north central Pennsylvania and the Johnstown/Altoona area.  Complete numeric results of the poll are available at www.lincolninstitute.org.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Parties: Mainstream media bias evident in U.S. Senate appointment coverage


Given the portrait the mainstream news media has painted of the two major political parties, please identify which of the following actions were taken by the Democrat and which by the Republican:

Scenario One: A United States Senator resigns from office just two years into a six year term. The state’s governor, whose parents immigrated to the United States from India, appoints to the office the first African-American from the South to sit in the upper chamber since the Civil War.

Scenario Two: A long-serving U.S. Senator, a war hero and an individual of Japanese-American heritage, on his death bed asks his state’s governor to appoint to fill the remainder of his term a woman of similar ethnic background. The governor, a male Caucasian, spurns the request and appoints a political ally, his Lt. Governor, who also happens to be white.

If you attributed the first set of circumstances to Democrats and the second to Republicans you would fulfill the media stereotype of the two parties.

You would also be wrong.

U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) recently announced his resignation from the Senate to assume the presidency of the Heritage Foundation, one of the nation’s leading conservative think tanks. Governor Nikki Haley, herself a rising star on the national Republican scene, appointed Congressman Tim Scott to represent the Palmetto State in the Senate. Congressman Scott, will be the first African-American from the South to serve in the U.S. Senate since the Civil War and the first Republican to do so since 1979 when Democrat Paul Tsongas defeated incumbent U.S. Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, in the nation’s 50th state, Governor Neil Abercrombie named Lt. Governor Brian Schatz to fill the seat vacated by the death of long-serving U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye. On his death bed Inouye, an honored hero of the Second World War, requested the appointment of Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa to represent Hawaii in the Senate. Abercrombie ignored the request.

Imagine if you will if the party identities of these two casts of characters had been reversed. What sort of fire storm would have ensued if a Republican governor had ignored the dying wish of a revered U.S. Senator of minority ethnicity to appoint a white party loyalist to the position?

Conversely, little mention has been made in the media about the historic nature of the Tim Scott appointment, largely because Mr. Scott is a conservative Republican. The ascendance of black conservatives does not fit the media narrative, so it was conveniently ignored.

The recent history of the Democratic Party when it comes to appointing minorities to open U.S. Senate seats is as abysmal as the current instance. Of the last seven vacancies, going back five years, only one has been a minority. That would be the 2008 appointment of Roland Burris of Illinois to replace Barack Obama who resigned to become President. That turned out to be a dubious honor. Burris immediately became mired in an ethics scandal that resulted in the seat being lost to Republican Mark Kirk in 2010. Further, the appointing governor, Rod Blagojevich, ended up jailed because of the maneuvering that took place over the appointment.

Since then, Democrats have had the opportunity to fill six unexpired U.S.
Senate terms. Five went to white men: Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Carte Goodwin of West Virginia, Paul Kirk of Massachusetts, Michael Bennett of Colorado and Edward Kaufman of Delaware. One woman was appointed, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York who replaced Hillary Rodham Clinton when she resigned to become Secretary of State. Another white male, Congressman Ed Markey is the likely replacement for U.S. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts when he is confirmed as the new Secretary of State.

The simultaneous playing out of these two appointments dramatically underscores the hypocrisy and the double standard that exists when it comes to media coverage of the two political parties, especially when those of the conservative bent are involved.

Since the defeat of Mitt Romney on November 6th the narrative spun by the Left has been that the GOP cannot win because it fails to reach out to women and to minorities. Yet, in South Carolina you have a female governor making a historic appointment of an African-American and little note is made of the development. Meanwhile, white Democrats spurn the dying wish of a Senator of ethnic heritage and the decision, rather than being criticized, is ignored.

Clearly a double standard, but advantage to Governor Haley and to the GOP for picking Tim Scott, not because it was politically correct, but because it was the right thing to do. Perhaps someday Republicans will actually get credit for their diversity.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Voter ID Madness


A couple of months ago, suffering from a sore throat, I walked into a local chain pharmacy to buy some cough syrup.   The young lady at the check-out counter asked to see my driver’s license or some other form of photo ID. Since I was quite certain she wasn’t making sure I was “of age,” I asked the reason why? She said it was store policy that you had to show a photo ID in order to purchase certain over the counter medications, including cough syrup.

This is clearly discriminatory and is a violation of the civil right of each and every American without a photo ID to purchase cough syrup. Obviously this pharmacy is attempting to suppress participation in the use of cough syrup by putting up unconscionable barriers to use of the product. This amounts to nothing less than class warfare, as pharmacies are catering to the rich and trampling on the poor and disadvantaged, none of whom possess a photo ID.

State government tells us that less than one percent of Pennsylvanians are without a photo ID, and those individuals can easily go to their local PennDOT office and get an identification card with their picture on it free of charge so that they too can purchase cough syrup. But why should they be forced to do that? Why should that 1% be required to act like the other 99% of society and get a photo ID so they can remedy their colds?

This is an outrage! Clearly the big pharmacies and the brutal regime of Governor Tom Corbett are conspiring to disenfranchise thousands of their fellow Pennsylvanians. They are erecting artificial barriers to the purchase of cough syrup which will depress turn-out at the check-out counter during cough and cold season. Worse, this could result in long lines as clerks check for ID and explain to the poor and dispossessed that they cannot exercise their right to buy cough syrup.

It is high time somebody contact the ACLU and demands they sue in state courts to prevent the implementation of photo ID policies at pharmacies. Why haven’t Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others staged protests at drug stores throughout Penn’s Woods? Why is Chris Matthews not getting a tingle up his leg over this issue? Why hasn’t the Justice Department intervened, a White House czar been appointed or Homeland Security been notified?

Sound a bit ridiculous? Well, that’s because it is. Just like the current uproar over Pennsylvania’s new photo voter ID law. Given that voting is a more serious function than the purchase of cough syrup – or the dozens of other mundane tasks that require a photo voter ID – why would we not require proper ID before allowing a person to vote?

The Left in general, and Democrats in particular are wailing, moaning, renting garments and predicting the end of the Republic as we know it because Pennsylvania has enacted a law requiring voters to present a photo ID when showing up to vote on election day. They call it a “barrier” to voting. But then, being required to register to vote could also be considered a barrier. Sometimes a few barriers are necessary to ensure the integrity of the process.

The caterwauling includes loud claims that photo voter ID is a solution in search of a problem. There is, they claim, no election fraud in Pennsylvania. But then along came Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt who turned up evidence of irregularities in last spring’s primary election. That alone is worrisome in that the primary election was a low key, low turn-out event. If there were irregularities in a relatively insignificant election, imagine what the impact could be this November when the Presidency itself could hinge on Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.

Governor Corbett and a majority in both houses of the General Assembly are simply trying to ensure the integrity of Pennsylvania’s electoral process. A fair election doesn’t advantage or disadvantage one party over the other, but it does give citizens confidence in the results.

PennDOT, the Department of State and other agencies are working hard to make sure each and every Pennsylvanian who wants a photo ID can get one in time to cast their ballot in November. To suggest taking that step is in any way other than the responsible and proper thing to do is, well, ridiculous.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.   His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org)

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Haight-Ashbury Meets Wall Street: A Politically Fueled Woodstock?


It is interesting how a dispirit group of malcontents with nothing better to do than hang out on Wall Street all of a sudden are branded by the media as a “national movement.”

The “Occupy Wall Street” protest is the latest incarnation of the Haight-Ashbury gang transported from San Francisco to New York. Loosely gathering under a mutual disdain for the nation’s financial community, the group appears to be a hybrid between Woodstock and a college political science class. The lawlessness and arrests have it tilting more toward the former.

Since the rise of the Tea party movement two years ago the Leftist news media has been looking for a “spontaneous” citizen movement to counter the conservative wave that has swept the country. Thus, they have seized on “Occupy Wall Street” as a counter to the Tea party. It is nothing of the sort. “Occupy Wall Street” is little more than a group gripe session Astro-turfed by the nation’s labor unions which otherwise have lost their reason for being.

The news media’s handling of “Occupy Wall Street” is vastly different than the coverage given to the Tea party movement during its early days. As public revulsion with the big government policies of the new Obama Administration began to surface, the media at first ignored, and then dismissed, the Tea party movement. When the Tea party became too big to ignore it was attacked as a bunch of racist, Right wing nut cases.

And then, the Tea party lifted Scott Brown – a Republican – into the late Teddy Kennedy’s Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat. That began a string of Tea party-inspired electoral victories that culminated in a wave election last November sweeping Republicans into a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

All along the way the Left-leaning news media kept searching for a counter to the Tea party. There was a glimmer of hope as a “coffee party” tried, but failed to gain traction. Now, with President Obama looking like a cross between Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter, desperation has set in as the liberal agenda faces annihilation in 2012.

Enter a small group of dissidents who decided it would be easier to stage a sit-in on Wall Street than actually go out, get an education and look for jobs. Before long they were joined by the professional protest elements of the Democratic Party’s ultra-Left wing. Dressed as zombies, spouting rhetoric calling for a “change in America’s cosmic consciousness” (don’t ask me what that means), and egged on – in some cases even paid by – union organizers, “Occupy Wall Street” has been built-up by the media as a supposed spontaneous outpouring of Plebian anger aimed at the rich in America.

Now “Occupy Wall Street” protestors are digging in for months of demonstration. Assumedly during those months they won’t be looking for jobs. Tea party activists don’t do that because they actually go to work. And when they aren’t working, the Tea party is busy engaging in the type of political activism – registering voters, learning about the issues, working on campaigns – that actually does bring about real change.

And that is why “Occupy Wall Street” will fail while the Tea party will continue to succeed. This odd-ball collection of anti-war activists, environmental extremists and socialists will never gel because their stock in trade is protest and bluster, not actual work and activism.

Had these protestors approached the situation in a more mature way they might have made a valid point. In fact, they might even have common cause on a number of issues with the Tea party. After all, the Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP) and subsequent Obama “stimulus” – both of which were massive transfers of taxpayer dollars to the special interests “Occupy Wall Street” is protesting – are also reviled by many in the Tea party movement. The lingering economic recession and unacceptably high national unemployment rate concerns all Americans, regardless of their political persuasion.

The difference, however, comes in the solution. “Occupy Wall Street” seeks the soft Socialist “cure” of redistributing wealth. The Tea party wants to empower individuals to create more wealth. A glance over the pond at Greece and many European nations tells us the redistributionist approach will not work. A look back at the history of our own nation demonstrates an economy based on growth and opportunity results in a higher standard of living for all.

While “Occupy Wall Street” fills the media’s need to cover something other than the Tea party, its patchwork collection of economic and political goals can never and will never work. But, the protesters’ efforts have not been in vain. At least they have really good costumes ready for Halloween.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment