By Dick Miller
WE.CONNECT.DOTS: Pennsylvania residents, taxpayers, and constituents.
Condolences to almost all of you. (A distinctive, conservative minority may like what is going on, even if they don’t understand it.)
Harrisburg or Washington, Republican or Democrat, the disingenuous label applies.
How we are getting shortchanged in Washington is more obvious than at our state capitol. Intense competition among 24-hour news cable channels keeps us informed. You can choose between a channel that reports and comments on everything you agree with, or another station that almost never seems to get it right.
What is common about the legislative branches of our federal and state governments?
In Washington, the Republicans still cannot climb their way out of the “Obamacare” hole they themselves created. After seven years of pounding the evils of adequate health care for all, they now cannot package a new version that hides its true purpose — tax cuts for the wealthy.
More voters realize neither Trump nor Republican legislators ever had more in mind than tax cuts for their rich friends. As version after version of their plan for better, cheaper health care rolled out of secret Senate meetings, Trump endorsed without bothering to read same.
Senators were responding to an incomplete version passed by the House of Representatives without a single Democrat vote several weeks ago. The national media duly reported every moment (but one) of Trump’s most tumultuous week.
The under-reporting had to do with the only version that could pass the Senate now. Senate Republicans have been unable to get a pledge from House Republicans that they would reject a Senate version.
Rejection is needed to get more time to work out of the holes they have created. First, ultra conservatives in both Houses can claim they supported a replacement for Obamacare. Second, they would secure more time — not to develop their version of a brand of healthcare, but for Obamacare to continue to destruct.
Even Sen. John McCain is not the hero he was portrayed in last week’s decisive vote that killed the GOP’s latest health care version. Before McCain voted he called House Speaker Paul Ryan, and reportedly was denied a commitment to “not” vote for the Senate version and, thus, eliminate the need for a conference committee. That tidbit received scant attention from the media.
In Harrisburg, Republican legislators continue to deny Democrat Governor Tom Wolf a major tax increase. Primarily to boost public education, a large tax increase was the mainstay of his 2014 campaign for election.
Wolf needs a budget for his third year and efforts to adopt a balanced version are now four weeks past a July 1 constitutional deadline. The legislature adopted the spending version of the 2017-18 budget which Gov. Wolf allowed to become law without his signature.
Now they must determine how to fund the budget and are about $2 billion short in revenues. Wolf would like a “major” tax increase, or at least the imposition of a new tax on natural gas.
Pennsylvania is one of four states without a budget, the state with the second highest natural gas deposits and the only state without an extraction tax on drilling. State Treasurer Joe Torsella forecasts cash-flow problems by the end of August. Already, state appropriations to higher education need approval.
Gov. Wolf insists budget talks are not at an impasse, even though he is “not sure where we will end up.” Speaker of the House, Mike Turzai, without whose efforts a budget will never pass, spent four days last week at a conference in Atlanta. His major opponent for next year’s GOP nomination for governor, Sen. Scott Wagner, spent some part of the week campaigning in the hinterlands.
Democrat lawmakers in both Washington and Harrisburg played the game they are best at, which is “hunkering down.”
If we had the equivalent of Fox News or MSNBC covering state government, the similarities would be more apparent.
Even print journalism does a better job in Washington than Harrisburg. Reportedly, the Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon and is America’s richest man) has assigned 30 experienced journalists to pound on President Trump.
Conversely, the New York Post, America’s 13th oldest newspaper, touts itself as “conservative populist.” Along with the Washington Examiner (a weekly magazine and extended website), both publications are strong supporters of Trump and the Republican majorities in Congress. Neither seldom had a positive report of President Obama’s governance.
In addition to these enterprises, the internet has spawned a plethora of national news coverage operations Huffington Post, Breitbart, DrudgeReport, Red State, Politico, RealClearPolitics. Occasionally, these sites scoop mainstream media.
Not the same in Harrisburg.
The state’s two largest newspapers, Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, share staffers to keep expenses down. Of approximately 50 television stations that cater to state residents and businesses, just a handful post a reporter in Harrisburg.
Most of the TV stations stand in line for their “pot of gold” every four years. In the past two or three decades, presidential candidates have abandoned newspapers as a place to spend advertising dollars. Instead, they pour funds into television advertising.
There are exceptions.
John Finnerty is based in Harrisburg and reports for a half-dozen newspapers owned by Community Newspapers Holdings, Inc. Robert B. Swift sends dispatches from Harrisburg to the Scranton Times Tribune and a dozen or so other publications in the central and eastern areas of the state owned by Time-Shamrock Communications.
And there are limited, countering “think tanks,” with small bases of influence. Commonwealth Foundation, led by Loman Henry, founder of the Lincoln Institute, speaks for the right. Keystone Research Center, with Stephen Herzenberg as executive director, is heavily funded by the AFL-CIO.
Bottom Line: The word “disingenuous” is mostly defined as “lacking organization or cohesion.” Webster’s dictionary also includes these definitions — dishonest, deceitful, insincere, untruthful, hypocritical.
They also apply here.