Part 1 – UNIVERSAL PAIN
In these tough economic times there are daily gloom and doom headlines about a recession or that we may be heading into a depression. A common phrase that politicians and newsreaders like to use is something like “we are facing an economy that may be as bad as the Great Depression.”
Be very careful when politicians and newsreaders agree on a storyline. It usually means that you will lose some freedom or at least some money.
As a resident of Pennsylvania, I am “lucky” to be governed by Gov. Ed Rendell. Like many states, Pennsylvania is facing a dire economy. Virtually every day we are treated to headlines about how the state deficit is growing and growing. We are approaching a crisis and drastic measures need to be taken.
Another thing to be careful about is when politicians use the word crisis. It usually means that you will lose some freedom or at least some money.
This past Thursday my local paper featured this headline; “Pa. Layoffs, higher taxes likely.” The article was on the front page, but below the fold. Gov. Rendell was quoted “There will be some layoffs, and there will be some universal pain. I don’t want to hear whining…I think everyone has to tighten their belts.”
I am currently one of those state workers who may be furloughed. I face an unpleasant future, but I have started to think about how to restructure debt and cut costs in case I am laid off. I do not expect to be bailed out.
Getting back to government and the way it “works.” That recent article was typical for this climate. It did not surprise me when two days later I saw another headline about our budget; “Vehicle fleet savings pressed.” Pennsylvania owns more than 16,600 vehicles that its employees use. The article was about the Pa. auditor general wanting better oversight of the $75.5 million annual costs.
That’s all good. A question that you may have is why they waited until a “crisis” to be concerned about oversight? A suspicious person might think of it as a way to justify your employee’s jobs so that are not laid off. “We need more oversight, do not lay my folks off.”
The good news is that Government is here to help. Also in Saturday’s paper was an article (inside one of the sections) with the headline; “State to give away nicotine patches.” It seems that while we will be raising taxes and laying off workers, Pennsylvania has enough money to give away nicotine patches. Does this not blow your mind?
I would guess that the patches are being paid out of some special fund, but I say maybe that can be the smoker’s contribution to Universal Pain. They can skip the patch and go through withdrawals. Gov. Rendell will, however, have to figure out how to replace the $1.35 per pack it makes (takes) on cigarette taxes.
Gov. Rendell seems to be doing his part on shouldering his part of the Universal Pain. He only has one state police trooper assigned to drive him around in his 2008 Cadillac DTS. The price of a new Cadillac DTS starts at just over $46,000. Of course his is a year old. He does, however, have a 2007 model as his backup. At least he buys American.
Also in keeping up his part of Universal Pain, he seems to have created a job for a colleague who was defeated and is no longer in the state legislature. Democrat Dan Surra was recently hired to promote tourism in his former district. Mr. Surra was given the $93,000 a year job even though Gov. Rendell had instituted a hiring freeze on all state jobs for the last several months.
The Pennsylvania governor did defend his hiring of a former supporter for a job that never existed before and where no one else was interviewed. It seems Gov. Rendell always reserved the right to make exceptions to the hiring freeze for critical positions. You know like for a job that never existed or was needed in his first six years in office.
Maybe the earlier article misquoted Gov. Rendell; and it should have read…