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My impression of Paul Mango, candidate for PA Guv

Three weeks ago I spent half an hour on the phone with Paul Mango, newly declared candidate for Pennsylvania governor.

We talked about his candidacy, his background, political issues, economics, hopes and challenges, etc. We then followed up with several back and forth emails, each one of his expressing specific appreciation and thanks for how the exchange had benefited him in a certain way. He is a new candidate, new to politics (other than as a very generous donor to Republican candidates), and he is digesting a lot of new information and ideas, new ways of thinking.

Last week I met Mango at his formal campaign announcement at the Twin Ponds sports and fitness center in Camp Hill\Mechanicsburg.

Twin Ponds previously served as the region’s HQ for primary and general election candidate Donald Trump, who won Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes by a margin probably accounted for just by the simple dedication of Central PA’s “normal Americans” in both political parties. The big facility is run by a pretty, petite firebrand of a woman, Mrs. Patton aka General Patton.

Here are my impressions of Mango (and yes, I know, he’s just getting started):

He is impressive in several key ways: His family background and values, his education and military service, and his high level professional work experience.

Paul Mango is a very smart, confident, and empathetic man, who comes across as a reserved, reflective, nice person, and a responsive, good listener.  He is positive and genuine.

I questioned him in person about how he will compete against candidate Scott Wagner, who has spent years battling in the trenches with a lot of conservative voters and activists, against entrenched establishment political hacks in politics for personal financial gain, and who has thereby built up credibility with many politically active citizens who value bravery and honesty.

When I pointed out that Wagner has also alienated a lot of people (including many of his former supporters) in that process (because Wagner seems selfish, arrogant, and unappreciative), Mango responded that he will not say anything negative because he has never seen valuable leadership succeed except through “inspiring people.”

That is a very high bar to set for one’s self, much less one’s political competitors, but it is worthy because it says Mango has integrity. The Wagner campaign has already criticized Mango for supporting Cruz first, and then Trump later, though I got the impression that is what Scott Wagner did, too, like a lot of us did in last year’s Republican primary. Here we go, the mud is already flying!

Well, to start, if Mango is going to inspire voters, then he needs to increase his positive speaking energy, his intensity, his passion. The other night he came across as a little nervous, and definitely way too deliberative, almost plodding, at his formal announcement. His prepared speech was long and the delivery was very, very slow.

Recall that Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg is so hard hitting because it was not long and plodding, but brief and hard hitting.

Despite serving in the 82nd Airborne and actually being a warrior, Mango’s even-keeled demeanor does not seem warrior-like, while his main competitor, Wagner, did not do military service and yet is a proven culture and fiscal political warrior.

Though he wore jeans, work boots, and an Oxford shirt, Mango is the very definition and personification of “corporate,” which will probably look or smell like moderate RINO to the trench warfare grass roots conservatives. Time will tell if that first impression is accurate.

His approach to fixing government is his approach to fixing businesses, about which it is best to just quote my activist friend Ron:

The problem with these guys [corporate/business/ Chamber of Commerce GOP candidates who compare running government to running business] is they all have plans to fix government by running it like a business. This is not a unique viewpoint and it has never worked. This is politics, not business. Took me a while to accept that.  He can have the greatest plan ever but it won’t matter because politicians don’t care [about people, policy, economy etc.].  They care about themselves and getting re-elected.”

It is a fact that careerist politicians in BOTH PARTIES do not act like corporate employees, because there is almost no accountability in politics. The old quip about the only accountability in politics resulting from being “found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy” probably doesn’t even apply today.

Like him or not, candidate Scott Wagner goes right to the key policy battles: Corrupt blood-sucking unions, ridiculous regulations that violate our federal and state constitutions, wasted and stolen taxpayer money.

That is where the rubber meets the road in the culture war for America’s soul and the war for a middle-income economy.

This is the battle front between America as it was founded and as we knew it, and America as a bastion of totalitarian socialism and politically correct thought police, envisioned by the Left.

Candidate Mango will probably arrive here at the same battle front, eventually, because the leftists’ violent street battles across America tell us that nice words alone don’t work, and Trump’s improbable win says it all (JEB! was also the quintessential corporate nice guy, and GOP voters utterly rejected him).

Mango’s steady personality seems to avoid conflict, which though commendable and reassuring in so many other settings, can send the message to some voters that he may be like a zillion other mainstream RINOs who are unwilling to dive into the bar room brawl that needs to happen for America to be set right. These careerist RINOs don’t want to get their hands dirty waging political war, which tells voters that they really just don’t care very much about political or cultural outcomes.

Mango is smart enough to see these facts and voter trends. Whether he arrives at that messy policy battle front sooner or later is the question. If he finds a way to comfortably voice his quiet intensity, his passion, his compassion for working Pennsylvanians, then he will overcome the potential impression that he is another empty GOP suit (I was told that PA GOP kingmaker Bob Asher has NOT supported Mango, which appeals to the conservative, independent-minded base).

I like the guy and I am looking forward to seeing him develop over the next six months, because, again, he is new to politics and just getting started.

Tyranny by Ten

This Tuesday, two and a half days ago, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals created a new law about guns and gun ownership in America out of thin air and completely contradicting recent US Supreme Court decisions the lower courts are bound to follow

If you want to see why citizens’ faith in the judiciary branch has declined, this bizarre decision is the best latest example.

It is gross over-reach far exceeding the court’s authority, and nullifying all of the judicial precedent litigated and decided before by the highest court.

Recall that judges cannot make up law.

They are fully bound by precedent.

They cannot make up policies.

They cannot come to a conclusion that is outside the subject of what has been litigated in front of them.

They cannot second-guess Congress.

They cannot ask what personal motives were behind a president’s executive order.

It does not matter what a judge personally thinks. None of this is supposed to enter into a judge’s ruling. When it does, the ruling is meaningless garbage.

Judges can only interpret the laws that are passed by Congress and signed by the President, or the state equivalent. That is it. That is their sole scope and ability.

At their most precise and honest moment, judges simply determine if a law is Constitutional, or not, or if it needs to go back to the state or federal legislative branch for re-work.

Brazen activism like this week’s decision serves only to undermine the judiciary, not strengthen it, because people will either utterly ignore these wayward judges, or they will seek to have them removed from their office, for good cause. Or both.

I myself do not feel bound by this illegal decision, and I will not comply with it no matter who says I must. These ten judges-gone-wild do not outweigh the collective decisions of the populace. If this court wants my guns, the authors of this decision can come to my home and try to take them away.

Come and (try to) take them!

In this particular instance of judicial malfeasance, ten of the court’s fourteen judges decided on their own that a new legal test was needed, a test that had never been used before by Congress, by the framers, the Constitution, or prior courts.

These ten judges decided to call it the “weapons of war” test, and they simply state that the Second Amendment never intended for American citizens to possess “weapons of war,” which according to these judges include the basic AR-15 rifles that are commonly used to hunt coyotes every week across the nation. Never mind that this new test would have eliminated from their personal possession the very military grade guns the American Patriots used to defeat the British.

But obviously logic is not of concern to these judges. The language of the majority decision and supporting decision is florid, full of political and emotional hyperbole, uses sophomoric logic and impolitic language (“the American people deserve a break”), and is simply disconnected from Constitutional text or legal precedent.

It is the equivalent of my kids saying “So, there!” in an argument.

But wait, there’s more!

Beyond being merely political, the majority bizarrely state that the decision is consistent with the US Supreme Court’s Heller decision, when it is in fact completely contradictory. Talk about shades of Orwell’s “1884,” where up is down, black is white, etc.

This is not a legal decision, it is a political decision.  It is a bold, defiant “I dare ya!” act by ten radical politicians wearing sombre black robes. And it is not just about guns. This decision is about rogue, out-of-control judges destroying the fabric of our Republic, which was not designed to turn over all issues to the judiciary, as if they make our every decision for us. This court throws the whole delicate machine of democracy out of kilter.

These judges are anti-democracy, plain and simple. They want a certain policy outcome, and because they cannot get it legitimately, legally, through the established legislative process, they simply want to wave a magic wand and make it so.

As much as this illegal decision shocks me, I do have to thank these judges, because they have outed themselves. By engaging in such egregious over-reach, illegally reaching deep into the realms of policy and law, they have willingly exposed themselves as frauds deserving of the most serious correction our system of government allows for – removal from the bench.

Now it is up to those American citizens who want to ‘drain the swamp’ and reclaim American government so that it serves We The People, to remove these anti-democracy activists from their sacred judicial roles. We can push to have them impeached or removed administratively.

Either way will do. Tyranny by ten cannot stand. We the People demand our rights.

 

How nice are you?

Out of curiosity, ask yourself: How nice am I?

Then answer it this way: No matter what media and university people are telling you, the fact is that in this political combat, Nice People Finish Last.

On the one hand, we are told that anyone who is not politically correct and partisan Left is a racist, and an extremist.

The people daily planting this message are themselves politically and culturally extreme, by traditional standards. You know, the traditional standards that founded the very civilization they enjoy so much, but which they have turned against. The people carrying this message have an agenda, to shut down all opposition, whether by shouting it down or making it illegal.

On the other hand, we have a bunch of generally comfortable, nice, thoughtful, considerate Americans, educated at liberal colleges. They voted for Obama, thinking doing so would prove once and for all that they are not “racist.” They work hard, pay their taxes, dutifully invest in college for their children, and follow the flawed but prevalent 1960s maxim “let your kids find their way and discover who they are.” Their kids do not find their way, but are usually led astray by leftist professors and activists.

The material comfort we middle income Americans enjoy is putting us to sleep. And when we are confronted with accusations that we are racist, or mean spirited, or sexist, or whatever, we naturally cringe, and do what we can to prove that we are not as accused.

And thus are the Nice People manipulated and bullied into handing over what little power they have left. Giving to those who will never relinquish it.

This election is not about Republican versus Democrat, or about liberal versus conservative.

It is about the American voter waking the hell up and realizing now, at the last second, that the Left has been on a ruthless warpath for fascist control for decades, and the “right” has been cowed into protecting only its material comforts, at the cost of the Republic. The cost of our liberties. Your liberties. Our Constitutional rights.

When American professors are permitted to openly state that debate is not welcome in their classroom, you had better take notice.

When the American media openly allows itself to proudly act as an arm of one political party, for one highly corrupt political candidate, you had better take notice.

When racist extremists are marching through your kids’ college campus, accusing “white” kids of being “racist” because of the color of their skin, you had better take notice.

When racist extremists are marching through public streets, destroying everything around them and assassinating police officers, and then elected political officials give them legal cover, you had better take notice.

When our highly armed US Navy vessels are dodging tiny boats threatening them in international waters, instead of incinerating them, you had better wake up.

When our military service men are captured by a hostile nation (Iran), and ransomed for over a billion American dollars — your tax money, instead of being returned unharmed under threat of American retaliation, you had better wake up.

Hello there, Mister and Missus Middle America….your nation as you knew it is coming to an end. Everything has changed under your feet. You think that because there is food in the fridge and gas in the car that all is fine. That is materialism putting you to sleep.

If you do not vote in a stop-gap candidate like Donald Trump, then your civilization is over. By the time you realize it is gone, it will be too late. Many of you will later accept being cowed into submission by Hillary and her political descendants, but many of us will not. What happens after that is the kind of conflict that has always happened in every human society preceding us when irreconcilable forces clash. No sane person wants that, and your vote this election can either postpone it, or create the conditions necessary to turn the tide altogether.

Want to be really nice? Help get America back on track, or at least keep it from jumping the tracks. Vote for Donald Trump.

Orlando shooting = immigration policy overhaul

The Muslim shooter of 49 innocent Americans in Orlando made his political and personal positions clear for a long time, in tweets, videos, facebook posts, and then recorded telephone 911 calls from the bloody floor of the bar he shot up.

Omar Mateen stated up front for months that he was a follower of ISIS, and he was following the plain dictates of Islam.

The Koran explicitly lists the cruel punishments for gays and infidels, and Omar Mateen followed through like a good Muslim.

The mainstream media is doing everything they can to digress, ignore, avoid, and pretend that the cause of this horrendous event is anything but what it is: Another Islamic attack on Americans.

Islam is a philosophy incompatible with Western civilization. Oh, Americans have big hearts, and we are always trying to find ways to make everyone under the sun feel welcome. But that should not involve committing national suicide. That is the very definition of political correctness.

Trying to punish law-abiding Americans for the actions of insane immigrants and followers of insane belief systems makes no sense, and we will not abide efforts by liberals like US Senator Bob Casey to strip Americans of their Constitutional rights.

The irony is that the Left wants to strip us of our rights for committing thought crimes, ie “hate crimes,” while the actual haters are allowed to roam freely among us, committing crimes in the name of their inhuman belief system.

The failure of the Left in its response to the Orlando shooting is overwhelming. America is being split into citizens who see plainly what is wrong, ie anti-gay violence by religiously correct Muslims, and those who ignore the obvious outcomes of their defective immigration policies.

Garden as metaphor, Part 3…or 4

Can anyone think of a better metaphor for life as a human than a garden?

All the planning, selecting, planting, nurturing, stoking, prodding, coaxing, frustration, re-planting, and finally, after all the work and with some luck, the harvesting of fresh food…this is all just like the bigger things in our lives.

Lately it has been difficult to ignore some generational changes afoot that simply cannot bode well for our nation, now or in the future.

Where debate historically involved logic, facts, and reasoning, a great deal of what is represented as debate is simple ridicule, mockery, dismissiveness.

Few things demonstrate the weakness of an argument more than the use of ridicule and mockery, or name-calling. Yet the Internet is full of this waste of time. Because of my own passion for and involvement in tough policy issues, I am really interested to hear separate points of view from people, and spirited debate, give-and-take, is part of that process. This process is what makes Western Civilization so unique and so precious.

Dismissiveness assumes all will be well, no matter what, irrespective of actions or behaviors across the landscape.

In my observation, the younger generations are much more inclined to forgo logic and facts, and are more inclined to leap into name calling and ridicule in their online debates. This just cannot bode well for American democracy, which is based on the use of logic, reason, and facts. How our citizens expect to hold on to their Constitutional rights and liberties, and yet allow debate to be dominated by juvenile behavior is not wild speculation. Already we have witnessed the erosion of individual liberties at the hands of judges who don’t care what the US Constitution says, or what their particular state constitution says; their basis for decisions making is purely personal, or political.

So go grow a garden, fellow citizens. Tending even a small garden helps us work physical and mental muscles that atrophy easily. It builds small but important personal traits that are needed on a much bigger scale. Tending, cultivating, and nurturing all build basic skills necessary for us to function well as individuals and for our civilization to succeed on the whole.

The alternative – relying on everyone else for everything else we need, and ridiculing the rest – is a recipe for disaster.

Exercise the power of the People to impeach and remove bad judges

Both the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution make plain that American and Pennsylvania state governments derive their power from the People.

But my, oh my, have we not seen a tremendous erosion of privacy and basic individual rights and liberties over the years as government power to regulate and surveil expands. Much of this starts with local law enforcement.

Over and over again we read with amazement how some official government regulatory or law enforcement arm commits another over-reach deep into some poor citizen’s life. And then with even greater amazement we read how some judge, especially federal judges, uphold what would appear on its face to violate the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.  Here are some headlines:

“Ohio Court upholds police forced entry into private home over failure to signal at traffic light…”

“New Jersey Federal Court Upholds The FTC’s Authority To Regulate Data Security”

 

“Judge Upholds Police ‘Code of Silence’ Ruling…U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve decided Thursday decided not to toss out part of a jury’s decision that found Chicago police operated under a “code of silence,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Last month, a jury found the police department obstructed the investigation into the beating death of bartender Karolina Obrycka at the hands of off-duty police officer Anthony Abbate in 2007.

U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve decided Thursday decided not to toss out part of a jury’s decision that found Chicago police operated under a “code of silence,” according to the Chicago Tribune.”

“Police can forcibly take DNA samples during arrests, judge rules”

 

“Federal Judge Upholds Warrantless Hidden Surveillance Cameras On Private Property”

 

“Court upholds dismissal of ticket quota lawsuit”

 

“Utah Cops Arrest Teen for Recording, Judge then Orders Teen to Admit Guilt before Trial”

 

“Law-Breaking Judges Took Cases That Could Make Them Even Richer

Federal judges aren’t supposed to hear cases in which they have a financial stake. Dozens do it anyway.”

And the granddaddy of them all, a truly unbelievable case in which a federal judge recently decided the police can simply take over your home and eat your food without any reason whatsoever:

“The Nevada case of Mitchell v. City of Henderson still slogs through the Nevada Federal District Court. This case has one unusual feature. It accuses police in two cities of quartering themselves in two private houses without the consent of their owners. This would breach the Third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which deals with quartering of soldiers. The defendant city officials say police officers are not soldiers. But the Mitchells actually have a thirty-two-year-old precedent on their side. That case says one need not be an active-duty U.S. armed service member to be a “soldier” under the Constitution………………….the police in Henderson wanted to “stake out” the Mitchells’ neighbor. They forced the Mitchells (and Anthony Mitchell’s parents) out of their homes, moved in for the time of their stakeout, and helped themselves to whatever was in their refrigerators and pantries. They even arrested Anthony and Michael for obstructing the police. Those charges could not possibly stick, so the city dropped them. But the Mitchells are still suing, on every ground they could possibly cite.
The Third Amendment portion of the Mitchell complaint has been dismissed as of February 2015. The judge held that police officers are not soldiers for the purposes of the Third Amendment; he also expressed doubt that occupying the property for less than 24 hours would constitute ‘quartering’, although he did not specifically rule on that aspect.”

And so on.  You can do your own Internet search on this subject and read the stories behind these headlines and many more.  The purpose here is to call attention to the problem of judges who clearly allow unconstitutional government behavior to proceed.

And what is to be done with US Supreme Court justices who lie under oath in their nomination and confirmation hearings, in order to be confirmed, and then begin ruling exactly the opposite of what they testified to in the US Senate?

In all these instances, the People – us, the voters, taxpayers, and citizens of America – should take the necessary steps to legally remove these failed public servants from their benches.  These are no longer judges in the essential sense of the term, and they certainly no longer look out for the basic rights and liberties of the People. 

So they must be impeached or recalled.

On Being a Dinosaur

I am a dinosaur.

In so many ways, my beliefs, ideals, values, education, outlook, hobbies, lifestyle, and behavior seem as outdated and as uncommon as the dinosaurs that died out long ago.

Put another way, I am one of the Last of the Mohicans, certainly not THE last, but one of a dwindling group that sees the world differently than the corrosive pop culture fed daily to Americans by Hollywood.

And I am proud to be this way, to be a patriot, to exalt individual citizen rights and liberties above government intervention, to take risks and make sacrifices in a free market capitalist society that rewards hard work and penalizes laziness.  American Sniper, Act of Valor, and Lone Survivor are the only movies that moved me in many years because I believe in military heroes, although the Lord of the Rings productions are highly entertaining.

Meanwhile, pop culture would have every American equally unhappy, equally deprived of their rights and liberties, equally planted on a couch eating junk food and watching mindless TV shows that are at war with the underpinnings of Western Civilization.

(A short, hard-hitting article about Hollywood’s destructiveness by one of its most famous writers is here.)

And I am also an old-fashioned “Hook-and-Bullet” conservationist, a hunter, life-long gun owner and fisherman, an NRA member and even more so, a FOAC member who means it when I say “You can have my guns when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.”

But did I mention that conservation is a huge part of my identity? You know, farmland preservation, wildlife habitat protection, forest land acquisition for public ownership, and wilderness areas where I can hunt, fish, camp, and hike without seeing or hearing another human being for as long as I am out there.

And why is it so hard for so many traditionalists to see that traditional American values are directly tied to, and derive from, rural landscapes? And that our remaining rural landscapes are precious fragments of the great American frontier, on which our national identity and Constitution were forged?

So why wouldn’t a conservative want to conserve those rural landscapes that gave birth to his identity and values, that enshrine Constitutional rights and self-reliance?

For some strange reason, an increasing number of gun owners are not hunters, and do not really show that they care about wildlife populations or wildlife habitat, or about land and water conservation.  When I attend meetings at different sportsmen’s clubs, like Duncannon Sportsmen, and I hear the Conservationist’s Pledge, my heart wells up and I nearly get as teary-eyed as when I hear the national anthem, or the Pledge of Allegiance.  It doesn’t help that most of us in the room are sporting lots of white in our beards and on our heads.  The next generation seems to have taken a lot for granted, because all of the battles we fought decades ago bore such abundant fruit.

All this makes me a dinosaur, and although I recognize it, I am not happy about it.  I feel like I am watching the greatest nation on Planet Earth disintegrate under my feet, and it scares me, makes me sad, and makes me want to do what I can to try to prevent it from happening.

I do not want traditional American values to go extinct, like the dinosaurs, because although those values may not be in vogue right now, America was founded on them and the nation cannot successfully continue on without them.

Tests of America’s endurance; we shall overcome

Barack Hussein Obama declared a law singlehandedly last night.

Not that it’s legal or constitutional for any president to impose so much change on American citizens by himself.

American checks and balances of power between the three branches of government require debate and approvals across the board to achieve law or the effects of law.

But we have just witnessed our first rogue, imperial president, whose disgust with everything about America means he has no time or respect for its laws, history, and Constitution.

Obama’s unilateral “amnesty” for millions of illegal aliens is a test of our nation’s endurance, just as we have experienced in the past. Say, the Civil War…….

We have overcome all of those tests and we shall overcome this test, too.

America’s dalliance with this false messiah Obama has resulted in an unprecedented assault on individual rights. Using the IRS and other federal agencies to aggressively “investigate” opponents of the Obama Administration has opened the flood gates among the citizens. Sure, a bunch of innocent citizens will go to jail to satisfy this one man’s hunger for power, but the citizenry increasingly takes notice.

Yes, Obama is making an effort to take over the internet, and thereby suppress citizen dissent in that space. He may very well try another unilateral “executive action” that assumes the bureaucracy will go along with him.

“Tyrants beware!” was a common motto among our founding citizenry. That tyrant, King George, also was arrogant and also believed that the iron fist of armed government coercion would put down the rebellion.

This tyrant, Obama, is well down that old path. What disturbs me is that so many Americans would rather see our democracy fail, or be sorely tested, than to be honest about Obama’s failure. What does that say about our neighbors and friends, upon whom we rely for so much and yet who would see the nation descend into chaos and rebellion.

Answers are tough to come by on this stuff. The questions alone are terrifying.

I love America. That is why I fight for her

I don’t doubt that the people on the left “love” America.

What I also know is true is that their definition of “love” of America is 100% the opposite of mine.

My love of country is frequently called “jingoistic” in online debates, a term once used by America’s arch-foe, the Soviet Union, and their treasonous allies planted on American soil.

The left’s “love” for America is for its rich opportunity to be turned into a fantasy utopia, the likes of which Marxists have been pursuing one way or another for over 100 years.

Leftists would take all of our material success until now, and convert it into state-controlled property, to be doled out sparingly to everyone equally.  That policy failed awfully in the Soviet Union, but as someone once close to me used to say, “Communism failed only because the Soviets did not implement it correctly.  It is otherwise a great thing and still ought to be pursued.”

The Soviets failed, and the Berlin Wall fell (25 years ago), because a tidal wave of individual hope for freedom and liberty continually corroded state power; eventually, the system just leaked throughout its faulty pipes.

The left would ignore all that and return us to those dark days.  Oh sure, they don’t say the days will be dark.  Neither did the Soviets, and neither do the Chinese or the North Koreans – they all say things are just rosy.

I love the America that was founded in 1776 and 1787 and 1794 and 1812 and 1867 and 1922 and 1948 and 1954 and 1964 and…….Yes, America as it was founded had the tools built into it to overcome the many challenges the young nation inherited (slavery and abolition) and later worked through (women’s suffrage, Negro voting rights, etc.).

America is not perfect – what nation is? – but America is perfectly designed and built to successfully process all challenges.

The challenge we face now is the same we faced when the Soviets had their agents working to damage us on the home front.  We face domestic political opponents who really do not believe in the America as it was founded.  They do not really love America, as it was created.  They are like little Benedict Arnolds, riding through the countryside at night, doing their utmost to un-do all the goodness.

I and tens of millions like me, however, we do love America as it was founded and as it has progressed since its founding.  And we will not sit idly by as our great nation is “transformed” into something unrecognizable.  Our fight is as much with liberals in the Democratic Party as it is with liberals in the Republican Party, and there are plenty there, too.

Speaking of the traitor Benedict Arnold, he was caught by two ragamuffin Patriot soldiers, more militiamen than regulars, and he offered them huge sums of money if they would but let him go to his British handlers waiting for him not far away.  Our two boys were destitute of money, but not of spirit, and in their ragged clothing they held him at the end of their loaded barrels and marched him back to patriot lines.

Today, people like me, no matter how much money is thrown at us, for or against us in supportive politics or opposition politics, we are going to keep on fighting to bring back the America we once knew – The America that offers full and equal prosperity to all who are willing to work hard and contribute to a society bound by Constitutional obligations and opportunities, and nothing more, or less.

PA Senator Mike Folmer on our pension crisis

Pennsylvania’s Pension Crises

by Mike Folmer, PA State Senator

August 21, 2014

President Kennedy said: “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

Pennsylvania’s failure to address its public pension problems recently resulted in another downgrade of its bond rating: from Aa2 to Aa3. According to the rating agency Moody’s, “. . . the expectation that large and growing pension liabilities coupled with modest economic growth will limit Pennsylvania’s ability to regain structural balance in the near term.”

Consider where Pennsylvania’s Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) was prior to 2001 changes enhancing benefits: $9.5 Billion surplus and a 123.8% funded ratio (100% is an appropriate ratio). Using the most recent actuarial valuations, the funded ratio for the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and PSERS (using an optimistic 7.5% annual asset return assumption) was 59.2% and 63.8% respectively. Further declines are expected.

Pennsylvania’s private sector has predictable and affordable pension costs while providing employees with competitive retirement benefit packages. Over 70% of these firms have defined contribution plans for new hires with average employer costs ranging from 4% to 7% of payroll. (All private sector defined benefit plans must eliminate any deficits over time – often as short as seven years).

Ignoring such facts has resulted in unsustainable plans in states from New Jersey to California. Cities like Chicago and Detroit face bankruptcy because of public pension costs.

Courts have said public pension benefits once earned are protected by Pennsylvania’s Constitution: Article I, Section 17, “Impairment of Contracts.”

I’m not part of the legislative pension system as I believe Article II, Section 8 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution doesn’t provide for elected officials’ pensions: “The members of the General Assembly shall receive such salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever, whether for service upon committee or otherwise.”

This same provision is why I also return my legislative cost of living adjustment: “No member of either House shall during the term for which he may have been elected, receive any increase of salary, or mileage, under any law passed during such term.”

Nonetheless, I’m regularly asked why Pennsylvania underfunds its public pension plans. Taxpayers fear proper funding policies will result in districts increasing property taxes to pay pension contributions. Schools say the alternative is cutting programs or increasing class sizes.

Failure to contribute at least the actuarially recommended contribution transfers ever-mounting debt to future generations. The combined liabilities of SERS and the PSERS are over $50 Billion – and growing. These costs are the fastest growing state budget line item.

Separate from proper plan funding are new GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board) accounting and reporting standards to assess current and future pension obligations. Unfunded liabilities will now be reflected on school districts’ balance sheets and the underfunding issue will be further highlighted. Increasing numbers of municipal and school audits will be flagged due to GASB 67 (“Financial Reporting for Pension Plans”) and GASB 68 (“Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions”) standards.

In 2009, legislation (which I opposed) was enacted attempting to address Philadelphia’s public pension problems: a temporary 1% Sales and Use Tax increase. This “temporary” tax was subsequently extended. Purchases in Philadelphia include an 8% Sales Tax. However, Philadelphia’s pension liabilities have continued to grow. Like Pennsylvania’s infamous “temporary” 1936 Johnstown Flood Tax, this tax continues to exist and continues to grow. Ironically, Philadelphia is being flooded with pension liabilities.

In 2010, another law was passed to address Pennsylvania’s pension issues. Act 120 made some benefit changes for new employees, including: raising the vesting period to 10 years from five, reducing the multiplier to calculate retirement benefits (to 2.0% from 2.5%), increasing the retirement age for new employees to age 65, eliminating lump sum payouts of employees’ contributions and interest upon retirement, and limiting maximum retirement benefits to 100% of final actual salary.

But, Act 120 also continued the practice of underfunding, which further deferred state and local pension contributions to future years through “collars:” below recommended actuarial levels, which reduce public pension funding by about $1 Billion to $2 Billion annually. Such sustained underfunding has resulted in numerous credit downgrades. This is why I also opposed this measure.

Supporters of the status quo urge the General Assembly to allow Act 120 “time to work.” However, since passage of Act 120, pension liabilities have grown to $50 Billion from $41 Billion; the original assumptions of Act 120 have shown Act 120 has failed to attain its goals.

This $50 Billion deficit is growing by over $10 Million a day – over $3 Billion a year. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth, municipalities, and schools are allowed by law to underfund these plans by about $1 Billion to $2 Billion a year. Every 0.5% reduction in SERS and PSERS assumed investment returns adds approximately $7 Billion to their combined unfunded liabilities. If PSERS would compute its unfunded liability using market value of assets, this change alone would immediately add about $8 Billion to the deficit.

Failure to both properly fund these plans or move new hires to a defined contribution plan will only make matters worse (the claims of unaffordable transition costs are vastly overstated). Taxpayers should fear higher taxes to continue to fund public pensions. Public employees should fear their continued solvency.

There is a cost for inaction.