Pa. Rep. Zabel’s resignation highlights need for systemic change in Harrisburg

We need reparative and restorative justice instead of just punitive justice Originally published in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star on March 13, 2023 We are heartened to hear that Mike Zabel has resigned from his position as state representative. His resignation is necessary at this moment for many reasons, including that we have no other way to continue challenging the patriarchal culture in Pennsylvania politics—and most other spheres of life—that makes sexual harassment a common experience.   But we fear that his resignation, like those of other men in politics who have harassed or abused women, will do little to change the systematic harassment of women that plays too large a role in the politics of this state.  So, we want to take this moment to think about how to replace the repetitive cycle of far belated discovery of the bad things done by a political leader, followed by public condemnation, followed by… Continue reading

Back travails, part ?

The short version: After truly excruciating pain last weekend, a course of steroids and pain killers has started to get things under control this weekend. I’m hoping that in another week or so and I’ll be ok again. The long version: Two weeks ago I was recovering from surgery really well. One day I told my wife at the end of the day that I hadn’t thought about my neck or back at all and hadn’t taken a pain killer in three days. All the various aches and pains had pretty much dissipated. Then two days later something happened. And last Thursday something else happened. The pain was in all the same places I had it before surgery—under my right arm, in my right shoulder blade and shoulder, shooting down by triceps, at my elbow and in my hand. But qualitatively it was very different. Instead of occasional burning, shooting… Continue reading

Marc Stier: We Need a Budget for All Pennsylvanians

Originally published at the on July 6, 2022. The last few weeks of public debate in Harrisburg have been deeply revealing of the different approaches of the two parties. One of those parties has been trying to bring people in our state together. The other has been trying to divide us. One party has seriously addressed real issues we all care about. The other has been making issues up so they can turn Pennsylvanian against Pennsylvanian. All Pennsylvanians share some common interests; no matter where we live in the state, what we look like, how rich or poor we are, or what work we do, we want jobs to be created and wages to grow. We want to be able to afford the necessities of life — food, clothing, shelter, health care and transportation to get to work, do errands, and see family and friends. Our well-being doesn’t just… Continue reading

Remembering my Teacher Jeremy Zwelling

 I was very sorry to hear of the recent death of one my teachers, Jeremy Zwellng. I took a great books course with him my first semester at Wesleyan. He was a rigorous teacher who also had tremendous rapport with the small class of students he lead in intense discussions. At the same time he was charming and truly humorous. He had a big laugh. He was a keen critic of our papers and the comments he gave me (and a couple of early Cs), taught me to work harder, think more deeply, pay closer attention to the texts, and write more clearly. (To this day I have some memory of papers I wrote for him and of how much I struggled to go deeper when re-writing them for him.) Most importantly, he taught great books not as pieces of history but as brilliant literature from which we might be… Continue reading

This budget we have the chance to move Pa. forward. We can’t miss it

Originally published by the PA Capital-Star on June 16, 2022 For more than a decade, the Republican majority in the General Assembly has called for austerity. And it appears that a huge state budget surplus — without counting one-time American Rescue Plan funds — of more than $5 billion isn’t stopping them from doing so again. So, the question Pennsylvanians need to ask themselves is this: If not now, when? The results of a decade of austerity are easy to see. We are not a poor state. Our economy ranks sixth in the nation in total gross domestic product. And yet: We rank in the bottom seven states for support for higher education. We rank in the bottom seven in state funding of K-12 education and thus have the most inequitably funded schools in the country. We are falling behind neighboring states in the percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds in pre-K… Continue reading

Good to Have a Plan

Spent most of the day seeking medical care for my back / neck / arm issue. No solutions yet but we are making progress. Last week my sports med doc suggested I should consult my orthopedic surgeon. And then after a really difficult episode on our trip, when I had excruciating pain and couldn’t even straighten out enough to get into bed, I called him. He suggested some short term meds and said I should come in. Yesterday my symptoms got worse—the hand weakness I had last year returned. I’m having trouble open doors, picking stuff up and, worst of all, playing my trumpet. Today I saw him and he did some tests that revealed the weakness. He said I should have an immediate MRI of my spine. The MRI didn’t show anything likely to be causing the nerve pain and muscle spasms in my back, or the shooting or… Continue reading

Guest Commentary: Is This Really Taxadelphia?

The director of a state budget and policy organization has an answer that may surprise you BY MARC STIER Originally published in The Philadelphia Citizen, April  21, 2022 “Philadelphia is one of the highest-taxed cities in the United States.” But you knew that, right? It’s common knowledge. Everyone knows it. Everyone also knows that Philadelphia has been growing slowly because of its high taxes.Beware of what “everyone knows.” Sometimes ideas get repeated so often, they become common knowledge that turns out to be wrong.The truth is that of the 30 largest cities in the United States, Philadelphia ranks 13th in tax revenue per person per year. The falsehood that Philadelphia has one of the highest tax rates in the country is not a neutral fact. It has political implications. It reinforces the narrative that blames Philadelphia’s high taxes for its anemic job growth. At $4,302, Philadelphia’s per person revenue is… Continue reading

Every kid deserves a chance; Republicans don’t agree

Originally published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on February 25, 2022 Before he became the great liberator, Sen. Thaddeus Stevens was, as state Representative, the author of the first Pennsylvania legislation to provide public funds to ensure that all children, no matter how rich or poor, could secure a good education. Stevens’ support for universal education grew out of the same fundamental commitment to equality that animated his opposition to slavery. Stevens, like Abraham Lincoln, believed that America must give everyone the opportunity to use their talents and abilities, to the best of their ability. Slavery blocked this opportunity, and so he opposed it. Lack of access to education blocked opportunity for every child of the working class, and so he supported universal education. Sadly, Republicans no longer seem to support that ideal. Four years ago, the Republican Chair of the Senate Education Committee, John Eichelberger, said that “inner city” education… Continue reading

We The People PA Backs Governor Wolf’s Censure of Premature Business Openings

Originally published by KRC-PBPC here. Pennsylvanians know that it is up to all of us to work together to protect ourselves from COVID-19. Thus, the We The People campaign supports Governor Wolf’s insistence that all of Pennsylvania follow the best medical and scientific data in determining how fast businesses re-open and the stay-at-home order ends. There is no conflict between health and the economy: we need to protect our health in order to restore our economy in the long term. We deplore the efforts of politicians who have been encouraging businesses to reopen prematurely in violation of the governor’s orders and at great risk to the public at large without proper safety precautions for their employees and consumers, and without sufficient testing and contact tracing in place to protect everyone. Working people and their children—especially the Black and brown people who are overrepresented among frontline workers—should not be put at greater risk… Continue reading

Considering Vulnerability

Originally published in the Jewish Exponent, May 31, 2019 I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability since I hurt my back last summer. Since then, aside from three-week periods after I got two spinal injections a few months apart, I’ve stood and walked with pain and have had trouble moving around. And that’s left me feeling vulnerable. Feeling vulnerable in ways I never have before has made me think more about the role the sense of vulnerability and invulnerability plays in our lives. I’ve especially thought about those who are a lot more vulnerable than I was either because of physical limitations or because they face more challenges than I do — women, people of color, those who are disabled, those whose sexual identity and presentation is not traditional. It has occurred to me that my current sense of vulnerability, like the confidence I once had, is a bit of… Continue reading