Skip to comments.Political meltdown in Pennsylvania
Posted on 11/15/2005 5:48:00 AM PST by oldtimer2
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Political Meltdown in Pennsylvania By Ralph R. Reiland Published 11/15/2005 12:05:04 AM
PITTSBURGH -- "Politicians should be changed regularly, like diapers, and for the same reason," said Richard Davies, a Welsh Biblical scholar, five centuries ago. On election day in Pennsylvania this year, more of us than ever before agreed with Davies.
On the morning after the election, the front pages of the newspapers told the results of an unprecedented wave of voter anger: "It is the first time in more than 200 years of Pennsylvania history that an incumbent judge has lost his bid for re-election to the bench."
The defeated judge, state Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro, said the electorate that turned him out was "blinded by rage." The "rage," hardly blind, was initiated four months earlier in a post-midnight, no-debate, no-public-input vote in Pennsylvania's General Assembly that awarded pay hikes of 16 percent to 54 percent to the state's legislators, the governor's Cabinet, and more than 1,000 judges across the state (and that was on top of a 5.2 percent cost-of-living raise the legislators received in January, a pay increase that was nearly double the rate of inflation).
The raises made the Legislature in Pennsylvania the most expensive in the country and the state's judges the nation's most highly compensated. In terms of just the number of politicians we're paying for in Pennsylvania, for instance, the state Legislature is nearly double the size of Ohio's state Legislature, with a total of 253 state Senators and House members in Pennsylvania compared to a total of 132 in Ohio.
With a population in Pennsylvania that's only 10 percent larger than Ohio's, it turns out that Pennsylvania's legislators in Harrisburg are representing, on average, far fewer citizens than Ohio's legislators --- nearly 40,000 fewer constituents per legislator than is the case in Ohio.
Additionally, Pennsylvania's taxpayers are paying a base salary to their state legislators that's approximately $40,000 higher, on average, than what state legislators are receiving in Ohio.
For Pennsylvania's legislators, in short, it's a gravy train of less work and more money -- 40,000 fewer constituents and $40,000 more in base pay. And it's a job, at least until this year, where those of us who are picking up the tab weren't paying much attention to how much work was getting done or how much money was being pocketed.
The definition of politics by Robin Williams applies especially to Pennsylvania: "Politics: 'Poli,' a Latin word meaning 'many'; and 'tics,' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures.'" In other words, too many leeches in our wallets.
WHAT GOT THE PUBLIC'S attention this year is that the leeches got too greedy. The pay hike that the politicians voted to themselves set off an unprecedented explosion of protest that's now blown a hole in the political climate of the state.
Explained Tony Phyrillas, an editor and columnist at the Mercury newspaper in Pottstown, outside Philadelphia: "The Legislature made sure everybody enjoys the spoils of the July 7 raid on the public treasury, including Gov. Ed Rendell and state judges, who are now the highest paid in the country. Ralph Cappy, Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, saw his salary rise from $152,448 to $176,800. This is the same Ralph Cappy who billed taxpayers $36,894 in expenses over the past year. Does he buy a new robe every day?"
Cappy said the pay-jackers showed "enormous and significant courage" in voting to inflate their own paychecks, and his. Rendell said the legislators had "a reasonable right to expect periodic raises, which they deserve" -- raises of up to 54 percent, paid for by people who are lucky to get raises of 2 percent.
Republican State House Speaker John Perzel defended the money grab by explaining that Pennsylvania's legislators aren't doing much better than the guys who milk cows for a living. "The people who are milking the cows in Lancaster county are making between $50,000 and $55,000 a year," explained Perzel. "They are immigrant workers."
In response, Larry Breech, president of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he knows farmers who "work their tails to the bone" and are losing their houses. Few farmers in Pennsylvania, he said, let alone their workers, earn $55,000.
Pedro Martinez Cruz milks cows for a living. The Inquirer reported that Cruz, 43, "works 60 hours a week, takes home about $8 an hour, and sends every dime he can spare back to his wife in Chiapas, Mexico."
In contrast, Mr. Perzel, following the July 7th pay grab, was milking the state's taxpayers to the tune of $145,553, plus the free car, money for a bloated staff, free gas, a no-receipt expense account, free prescriptions, a large stack of "walking around money" to hand out in his district, an overly generous pension, free parking, an extra $128 per day for no-receipt expenses for every day the Legislature is in session, and free health insurance, free dental and vision coverage, and a free policy for long-term nursing home care.
All in all, the politicians tried to take the public to the cleaners and now they've set off a backlash that has them all shaking in their boots.
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. Kenneth Simon Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University and a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Voting against every incumbent will probably give us a Democrat legislature, but only for 2 years, and we will have given everyone a powerful lesson.
I bet. Sure. One judge ousted and they're "shaking in their boots?"
We should have a branch of governement that is drafted by lottery from among the common people.
An anti incumbent mood is probably one reason why Santorum is lagging in the polls.
"Politicians should be changed regularly, like diapers, and for the same reason,"
This is a Ronald Reagan quote.
"We should have a branch of governement that is drafted by lottery from among the common people." - Fester Chugabrew
And the "common people" chosen wouldn't steal as much? Get real.
Journalists know absolutely nothing of history.
Well, I reckon the whole world is open for anyone to steal.
It's apparent that not only are we PA-ians being ripped off by their salaries and other perks, but also by the NUMBER of leaches currently attached to our veins.
How do we go about reducing the size of the legislature? Petitions for a state referendum? Are there any groups already working on this? How can us common people help with this or get such a movement going?
"Well, I reckon the whole world is open for anyone to steal." - Fester Chugabrew
I apologize for my previous curt comment.
The problem is not so much who's in government as it is the size of government. Consistent with your response, there are two types of theft: governmental and private. We tolerate government to protect us from private theft, but the government itself can grow so large that it becomes the greater threat to its citizens property. The correct size of government would minimize total thievery, i.e., the sum of governmental and private theft.
Right now, as I type, I am listening to Rep. Veon, of Beaver County, on the Mike Pintek Show, (KDKA-AM) in Pittsburgh. He was the only no vote to the repeal.
Paraphrasing...he represents 60,000 people...Pintek mentions to Veon that Beaver county overwhelming voted NO to the two judges...Veon stands he 'stands by his convictions.' 'His parents taught him to stand by his convictions.' 'He (Veon) has been in office for 21 years...he sees no irony in his constituents voting against the raise.' This guy is unreal!!!
We have the largest, most expensive legislature in the US. The question that needs to be asked over, and over, is what do we (PA) get for this money? My opinion...not much.
I will keep listening and add follow up posts...
No need for a constitutional convention to reduce the size of the legislature...He (Veon) would not support a bill to reorganize the size of our state government. Pintek is pointing out that Ohio and Illinios (similar rural/metro area states) have smaller/less expensive governments...Veon is standing firm that NO REFORM IS NEEDED IN PA!!!
Hmmm, do you suppose this is the "Courage!" Dan Rather was always talking about?
Progress in Pennsylvania...slot machines that we don't yet have.
Well, I for one feel better...I think I'll phone my college age kids and tell them to forget the education...cocktail waitressing will be their future.
Get mad and stay mad PA...we deserve better!
My point is that those who currently occupy legislative offices are in a position to feed their own greed "legally." No one in those positions is immune to acting out of a desire 1.) to hold power, and 2.) do "favors" as a means of doing so. Guess I am disillusioned by, for example, the mafia's hold on politics. Would like to see people drafted to serve, and given a base pay rate not subject to change, or perhaps based upon the median income.
But, the process of drafting a legislative body would also be tainted. I just don't see much hope for honest government.
Veon is a died in the wool socialist. I listen to him on WHP in H'burg, and some of the things he says just reeks with arrogance.
You'd better believe this isn't going to go away....
How dare a group of people, elected by WE THE PEOPLE, think they can raise their pay without our ok????
I would rather vote for a RAT for two years, just to get rid of the RINO that was elected to do WHAT WE THE PEOPLE WANTED THEM TO DO...at least for two years, we know what we get from a RAT...
They should be shaking in their boots, we aren't thru yet...
Mr. Perzel, although he might not realize it, has something in common with immigrant workers ... and that is, like immigrant workers, his job is a temporary one. I will vote against every incumbent, regardless of party ... and as a previously poster said, he or she will only be around for two years if things don't change.
Now they're trying to raise the real estate transfer tax as well. What is all this money for (here comes the sarcasm) if we don't have the most expensive and corrupt legislature in the country ?
We need all incumbents out of the legislature, Fast Eddie out of the governor's office, and a smaller, part-time legislature like other states.
Reagan plagiarized a lot, nearly as much as MLK or Biden.
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