Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

Sam Brownback became governor of Kansas in 2010 just as Tom Corbett became governor of Pennsylvania. Brownback and Corbett, with the help of Republican majorities in their legislatures, embarked on an extremist Wizard of Oz economic agenda of cutting taxes, especially for large businesses, and reducing spending on education and human services. Spending as a share of the state’s economy dropped by 10% in our state. Faced with slow economic growth, stark budget deficits, and citizens who were demanding better public services, a bi-partisan majority in the legislature in Kansas this week stood up for common sense against Wizard of Oz extremism and, over Brownback’s veto, rolled back many of those tax cuts. Is this the year that state legislators in Pennsylvania also embrace common sense and reject extremism?   Continue reading

Pennsylvania’s Budget Choices This Year

As we head into what everyone hopes will be the last month of the Pennsylvania budget season, this is a good moment to take stock of where we are and what’s at stake in the decisions the governor and General Assembly will make this year. Doing so will also explain why the Pennsylvania’s Choice campaign is urging people to attend a tele-town hall on the budget at 7:15 on June 1, a budget rally at noon on June 5 in Harrisburg, and lobbying days later in the month. (More information and registration for these events can be found here.) Continue reading

It’s Not Just a Number

Originally published at ThirdandState. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the Republican health care plan, the ACHA, released today shows the danger of Congressional action in advance of a serious analysis of the impact of legislation. Though it was touted as a new and improved version of the bill that failed in March, the CBO analysis shows the bill that passed the House is no better, and in some ways, far worse. The CBO estimates that, at the end of ten years, 23 million fewer Americans will have health insurance because of the legislation, which is one million less than the estimate of their earlier bill. Most of the lost health insurance created by the AHCA is the result of the slow repeal of the Medicaid expansion and the replacement of the federal entitlement to traditional Medicaid by a per-capita cap on federal funding of the program. These devastating … Continue reading

Terrorism Will Get Nowhere in Great Britain

I’m listening to the BBC and marveling at the resolve and sensibility of the folks in Manchester. Young women are saying, “Some things we can’t control. So we just go about our lives.” If there are any people who history shows can’t be terrorized it is the English, Welsh, and Scots. They have stood guard at the gates of our civilization before and never given up. Continue reading

The Trump Budget

Originally published at Third and State.   President Trump’s budget is a triple betrayal of his campaign promises, of working people in Pennsylvania and around the country, and of a uniquely-American economic order that has created the shared prosperity that America once enjoyed and should enjoy again. The President is, first, betraying his promise not to cut Medicaid, Social Security, and the social safety net, that is, programs relied on by those left behind in a changing economy. In doing so he is, second, betraying the promise that America has made to working people to ensure that they have the important assistance to meet basic living standards: food on the table, a roof over their heads, and access to health care that millions of Pennsylvanians rely on. The budget proposal calls for a huge reduction in these vital programs in order to give massive tax breaks to the wealthy and … Continue reading

Another Term for Alan Butkovitz

In all excitement about the DA’s race, a lot of Philadelphians have not paid much attention to the Controller’s race, also on the ballot. My choice in that race, as it was four years ago, is Alan Butkovtiz. Four years ago I wrote this in support of him against an opponent who had a strong record as an independent thinker on budget matters: “If you actually read the reports of our Controllers, as I have for many years, you will see that under Alan Butkovitz, the office of the Controller has done some exemplary work. His report on emergency medical response and the follow up reports are fabulous (and address an issue I care a great deal about and campaigned on in 2007.) He’s revelations of corruption in the Sherriff’s office has led to criminal investigations and civil action to recover millions of dollars. He’s issued many other reports pointing to wasteful spending and sources … Continue reading

About That Letter About Larry

  There is a letter from 12 “former Assistant DAs” calling on voters not to vote for Larry Krasner on the grounds that he has never been a prosecutor, that he has been misleading in criticizing the culture of the District Attorney’s office, and that our safety will be at risk. Not only do I not find the letter plausible, for a number of reasons, large and small, the more I read it and learn about those who signed it the more appalled by it I get. To start with the big reasons. First, we don’t need to take Larry Krasner’s word for the problems in the DA’s office. There is plenty of independent evidence. We know that mass incarceration, especially of black men, is a serious problem across America and the rate of incarceration in Philadelphia is among the highest in the country. We know that the Philadelphia DA’s … Continue reading

Health Care Again

Originally published at Third and State April 21, 2017.  News reports indicate that, as many of us had feared, the Republicans in Congress and President Trump have not given up on their effort on health care, not only to repeal and replace the ACA but to institute a per capita cap on Medicaid spending. The new plan, as we will explain in a moment, is even worse than the last one. But before we get to the details, we need to stop and ask, “why are we here again?” Knowing the answer to that question is critical to understanding what the Republicans propose. Why Health Care: Avoiding the Loser Label There are basically two reasons the Republicans are seeking a mulligan on health care. The first is that Trump and the Republicans promised to repeal the ACA and don’t want to look like losers to their hard-core, right-wing voters and … Continue reading

Larry Krasner for DA

I generally don’t get involved in electoral politics now. But I’m going to make one exception this year and tell you that I plan to vote for Larry Krasner for DA. And the reason I’m making the exception is that I’m not just a little with him. I feel the same way about him that I did about Helen Gym two years ago and a really special candidate for city council at large in 2007. He is the only candidate I see who can look at the DA’s office with fresh eyes and stop and think about how it can contribute to the well being of the city as opposed to tinkering around the edges of an on-going operation. He’s the only candidate who understands the rot in the PPD and who is willing to do the hard work (and absorb the punishment he will receive for doing it) in … Continue reading

Facts, Not Hysteria, About the Soda Tax

Originally published by the Philadelphia Business Journal on April 20, 2017. Also at Third and State.  Co-authored by Diana Polson. The reaction of the beverage industry to the Philadelphia soda tax continues to be self-centered, hysterical, and dubious. Before looking at their claims, let’s keep in mind something very important: every tax has some negative consequences for some businesses. And, yes, it is a shame if some business absorbs some costs and a few people lose jobs as a result. But public policy has to be driven by the consequences for all of us. So, the question is not whether an individual business is hurt by the Philadelphia soda tax, but whether the city and its citizens benefit on the whole. We think the answer is clearly yes, not just because of the investment in Pre-K education and community recreation centers made possible by this tax, but because of the … Continue reading