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PA senate floor scrap is microcosm of GOP vs Dems nationwide

If you pay attention to politics, and why else would you be one of the three readers here on this blog than you are a political junkie, then you know that one hoax after another has been trotted out against the president since he took office, in an effort to blunt his presidency.

If one hoax doesn’t work, like the “Russia collusion” thing that the chief “investigator” himself (Mueller) torpedoed in public, then another one is tried. Latest and greatest hoax is this Ukraine thing where one political party tries to cover up their corruption in the Ukraine by accusing the president of doing something wrong when he literally calls for an investigation into the corruption.

As ridiculous as this is, there is an arrangement that has taken shape in Washington, DC, and across America. Basically one political party is at war and uses anything available to them to advance that war, at any cost, and the other political party is kind of dumbfounded like a deer in the headlights.

One political party is throwing dust up in the air and running around screaming, or allowing ANTIFA Brownshirts to attack peaceful protesters while the city police are illegally told to not protect the peaceful protesters, while the other political party stands there slack-jawed, incredulous that anyone would abuse our governmental system so badly. That the DOJ is AWOL on ANTIFA and anti-civil rights mayors who enable their violence does not help.

If you want to watch all of what is happening in Washington, DC, and Seattle and Portland and Minneapolis and Charlotte, in a nutshell, then watch a fascinating fight on the Pennsylvania senate floor (below) where the Democrats throw the law and senate rules right out the window, and in response the Republicans mill around like a bunch of confused and rattled little school girls while one of them barks repetitively for a very long time about how the Democrats WILL follow the rules and hand over that microphone right now.

Which the Democrats do not do, of course. Instead, they do exactly what they want to do, which is to take control of the senate through lawless chaos and anarchy. They have zero respect or use for the law, or the rules, because at the moment neither suits their purpose. Wait until the rules and the law finally DO suit their purpose, and then watch out! They will bring a hammer and a sickle down on anyone standing up to them.

So, like what happens in DC, the Pennsylvania senate Republicans here are basically standing there flat-footed, dazed, confused, addled, with Jake Corman barking “Point of order! Point of order!”  like a worn out old dog whose angry bark is all it has. He has no bite.

Sad thing to me is that Jake is not a small guy, physically. He should have some confidence to stand up to his political opponents. I wanted to fist fight him a few years ago, but he wouldn’t stoop to it, and now here he is facing off with a real live Democrat insurrection, and he can’t even muster the courage to storm the podium and wrestle back the microphone and control of the senate floor. What a loser!

Jake, you are a weak kneed little girl, because all your career you have had everything handed to you. When you are needed most, you don’t have the strength of character to stand up and fight.

Lawless Democrats, confused, spineless Republicans, just like across America and in DC.

By the way, this lawlessness is exactly how the Communists took control of eastern Europe, because the good guys/better guys were too proper, followed ‘the rules’ even when there were no rules, and thereby failed to assert themselves when their leadership was most needed. The good guys lost.

Here is the amazing video.

[Screen grab] Pathetic and weak career politician Jake Corman barking like an annoying little lap dog at the mean Democrats who have stolen control of his precious senate floor process. Corman is surrounded by a bunch of little school girls dressed like men, who mill about confusedly. This is a snapshot of what is happening Across America as lawless Democrats take control while mystified Republicans stand around and ineffectively say “Hey, you can’t do that, you’re not allowed to do that.”

Somebody Primary RINO US Sen. Pat Toomey

Few personality types bother guys more than weak, weasely, whiny men, and US Senator Pat Toomey is all that in spades, and much more, or less. It stinks to have an elected “leader” like Toomey demonstrate so little leadership quality, and even worse, to publicly flout his less-than-manly characteristics. Always appearing in public with some kind of fakey senatorial bearing, Toomey’s speech is similarly a fake serious tone, a kind of deeply thoughtful grasshopper. What a show. He reminds us very much of another phony RINO, congressman Charlie Dent, now thankfully gone from public life where he also did so much damage to the American people.

Pat Toomey is one of the great RINOs of today’s Republican Party. For the uninitiated, RINO means “Republican In Name Only,” which really translates into a liberal. Not a conservative. In it for the money. Not committed to freedom or liberty or the US Constitution.

Toomey exhibits weak-kneed indecision and back-stabbing liberalism traits pretty much every day on the job. He does not have the president’s back, but much like another RINO senator, Mittens Romney, Toomey seeks to falsely burnish his credentials by actually blocking, damaging, or criticizing the one person who is trying to right the American ship, President Trump. As if Toomey is so, so thoughtful and carefully considerate.

Toomey has been a real go-getter on disarming law abiding citizens, hatching one gun-grabbing scheme after another, always punishing the law-abiding and never, ever being tough on actual crime and real criminals. The other day he was one of a few US Senate RINOs to vote with the anti-America Democrats against the president’s border emergency wall, as if there is no border crisis, no illegal invasion crisis.  Toomey might as well join AOC down at the border handing out taxpayer-funded sombreros and bottled water to illegals on their way into the taxpayer funded haven of America.

And on this new Trump-Ukraine phone call fake scandal, where a rogue spy within the American defense system filed a fake “whistleblower complaint,” Toomey says the President’s phone call may have been “inappropriate,” but not impeachable. Since when was the effort by the US President to bring to justice a treasonous and corrupt American, Joe Biden, inappropriate? America and Ukraine have an anti-corruption treaty that the president was implementing, as is his job. Toomey should have pointed to admittedly corrupt Joe Biden as the subject of this scandal. Biden used his previous Vice President position to blackmail Ukraine and to enrich his family.

Is Toomey against bringing Biden to justice?

Even worse, several US senators from the Democrat Party actually visited the Ukraine and wrote a letter, directly threatening Ukraine leaders, saying they would vote to withhold promised US defense funds if the Ukraine actually DID investigate Joe Biden’s son. How is that for hypocritical and bald-faced lying irony?

And yet, where is Pat Toomey on all of this? He says nothing about his senate colleagues blackmailing Ukraine and is ho-hum about the US President just doing his duty as president.

Like just about every other Washington, DC political hack, spineless career politician Pat Toomey remains purposefully and deeply insulated from reality, and yet he has so much negative impact on the real lives the rest of us lead. If there is one solid RINO candidate for a strong primary opponent, it is Pat Toomey. The guy has no fight in him, not for us, and it would be easy for a good primary opponent to simply tick off the laundry list of assaults Toomey has led against citizen rights and needs over the years he has inhabited this seat. Someone please primary this bad guy. You will get a lot of support from real Republicans. That is, patriots and conservatives.

Chief Weasel and RINO king, Pat Toomey, begging for a primary opponent

Pennsylvanians deserve an open primary

“I don’t want some unaffiliated voter determining the nominee in my political party,” goes the overused and unpersuading assertion for why closed primaries, where voters can only vote for who is in their particular political party, and not across party lines. Independents cannot vote for Republicans or Democrats, only for Independents and so on etc.

Pennsylvania has a closed primary election.

If there is one thing that the two main political parties can agree on, it’s that they do not want to share power with anyone else; certainly not the voters! So many cozy deals between the Democrats and Republicans – dividing up the spoils of elected office – have been revealed over the years (the biggest most recent is the PA Turnpike Commission scandal) that is it any wonder why this happy and very lucrative lovefest between the two political parties is being protected at all costs…

The thing is, both the Republican and the Democrat parties are private organizations. I found this out first hand in 2009 when I ran for congress, against the wishes of the PA Republican Party. I was one of those first-in “Tea Party” candidates who declared after just six months of Obama’s treasonous communism and the GOP’s complacency. Except that neither I nor the other similar grass roots candidates knew that we were in the “Tea Party.” We were just mad as hell at both political parties, neither of which seemed interested in helping us, the working people of America, and were rather devoted to the constellations of money-sucking special interest leeches circling about each of them. Elected officials, party hacks, and party functionaries in both political parties did just fine in that scenario, even if the rest of America was falling apart.

And when we began to push our own GOP, we learned that they were accountable to no one, because they were and remain a private entity.

A couple years ago another independent-minded candidate ran in a Dauphin County Democrat primary, and learned the same lesson from his own party. Nope, no transparency for you, you little peon citizen!

Both political parties answer to absolutely no one in the public, because they are private corporations. They can play all kinds of money games, and rumor whispering games, and endorsement games, and information hiding games, because they can; and no one can do anything about it.

So why are we taxpaying voters footing the enormous annual election bills for these two private entities, so that they can hold on to power and keep us citizens at bay, fending off change and accountability?

Why do the Democrats and the Republicans alone get to determine so many important outcomes in our government, when we taxpayers are the ones who are paying for how these two political parties are elected in the first place, let alone all of the expenditures they feed to themselves and their chums? In other words, we voters pay for everything and are told no, we can get only a small portion of what we should get in return, in terms of determining the political outcomes that affect us.

If the two parties want to remain private, and also want to have closed primaries, then let them pay for all of the election expenses in Pennsylvania. We taxpaying voters owe these two private entities nothing, as they owe us nothing (they tell us).

It is well past time to open up our primaries. That flexibility is the true representation of freedom, the freedom to choose, which is the core of representative government. And in Pennsylvania’s particular case, that freedom to choose is about political parties sharing something with the taxpayers who pay for all of the elections of which the two parties are, so far, the sole beneficiaries. It is not right, it is not good, it is not fair.

Open up and let us in!

Awesome fist courtesy of Lee Vanden Brink

Trump got played by the PA GOPe this week

Pennsylvania Primary Election Day Tuesday this week was not an especially exciting time, as voting days can go, because few names and positions were on the ballot, anywhere.

Somewhere up north Mabel’s cow got more votes than the local township highway manager, which caused a brief fuss. A tie-breaker of sorts was held and the road master challenged the cow to mow the grass along the road margin faster and better than he could. The cow did eat along at a pretty good clip, but the three voters agreed that the fresh cow patties left behind were a detriment. Some Amish happened along, ate the cow, and that settled it.

One bright spot here in Central Pennsylvania is where Senator Rich Alloway retired, kind of abruptly, if you ask me, and a special election was held between a hard-bitten retired Army colonel and long time entrepreneur, and a young, sweeeet, gentle as the morning breeze airhead of a Millennial Democrat who just wants to play Santa Claus with your money, goshdarnit her intentions are just so good.

The Army colonel won.

Three cheers for Central Pennsylvania.

One truly sad aspect of the day was the outcome of the most watched and only state-wide election for Pennsylvania Superior Court judge. With three beautiful and practically identical looking Republican women running for two open seats, a lot more interest was garnered.

Of the three primary contestants, former Montour County District Attorney Rebecca Warren is the most qualified for that seat. Articulate, forceful, experienced, principled, poised even with a kid on her hip, Warren has a well-deserved strong state-wide following. She was no shoo-in for one of the two seats, but it appeared she had a very good chance.

Too good of a chance for the Pennsylvania GOP, which is made of people who dislike conservatives even more than Democrats. So the PA GOPe ran a team of two candidates, Ms. Peck and Miss King, against the lone conservative, Warren.

As a plausible candidate for even township road master, let alone the very high court she aimed for, Miss Meghan King is only slightly more believable than the airhead who ran against the Army colonel in Alloway’s former district, and is probably less knowledgable than the cow up north. Seriously, the highly inexperienced, young, and dumb-of-tongue King was not up to the task of running for much of any public seat, and yet here she is, buoyed up by the good ol’ boys of the PA GOPe. It’s a lot of horsepower behind a newspaper sailboat, which is intriguing almost as much as why Alloway abruptly flew the cuckoo’s nest.

Serious forces are at work here, folks, “a dark and powerful magic,” to quote my favorite magician.

Peck stands on her own merits, and I’d be proud to have her on the Superior Court. But King? For real?! She sounds and looks like a child, and her public speaking is hesitant, halting, uncertain, because, goshdarnit, she was hand-picked to be a puppet or a parrot for the good ol’ boys, and she has not one clue about what it is she is saying or doing up at the podium. King is going to get check-mated by some kookus mongus leftwing Democrat in November. It won’t take much.

So Tuesday’s election came down to the amazing Rebecca Warren vs. the GOP good ol’ boys’ puppet, Miss King, and at the last minute, President Trump was duped by the GOPe guys into tweeting his support for Miss King after his wonderful rally in Montour County, here in central PA. And sure as shootin’, next thing ya know, Miss King obtained more votes than either of the other two candidates, and the cow to boot. Sure, Warren came very close to winning a seat, but King did not earn what she got through both the party establishment support and from the president’s tweet.

What bothers people like me about this election outcome is we work for years to find and get behind solid, conservative, independent-minded, constitutionally-based grass roots candidates like Rebecca Warren, and then the GOPe comes along and snatches away the victory and replaces it with a dishrag of a human being. It’s why the Republican Party, nationwide, is full of so many lame human beings, with no gumption, no vision; they just have a desire for power and to do what they are told by party bosses. They connive their way through all of these elections.

If President Trump actually knew how much damage he just did by supporting Miss King, and how badly he was duped by the PA GOPe, he would swear off primary endorsements forever. He did the same thing in Alabama two years ago and got stung. Winning primary elections by conniving simply places unqualified losers in positions of power, which works great only for those pulling the puppet strings.  We don’t get great people, like Trump. When will Trump learn that he would never get the PA GOPe endorsement, not even for township road master, if he were in King’s shoes. The PA GOPe strongly opposes strong, independent – minded candidates.

Those of us who admire President Trump are hopeful that he will learn to ignore the same GOPe guys who have screwed him over since 2015 and who will continue to interfere with his agenda until 2025 (unless there is five bucks to be made; then they will come flocking). Otherwise he is simply shooting himself in the foot by helping zeros like King get elected over people who admire him, who share his values, and who want to fully implement his agenda, like Warren.

Dear PA GOPe: We know you guys care only about holding power, but you should know that with every stolen election like this where a grass roots Rebecca Warren loses, you chip away at the base’s commitment to the GOP and you make us dislike you ever more.

A naturally close race was artificially influenced by a well-intended tweet from our President. Under normal circumstances, in rural Tioga County Warren should have received 50% of the votes cast.

Still the chief of Celtic music: The Chieftains at 57

Local York Scots Bagpipers Brigade joined local York Chorale members and then audience members with The Chieftains and the Piltazke Brothers in a long snake dance that ended the performance

The local York, PA, bagpipers all dressed up in their Scottish tartans, participating with The Chieftains in a typical sharing of Celtic culture and music, to the audience’s delight

Last night the Princess of Patience and I ventured not too far down the road to the Appell-Strand Theater in York, Pennsylvania. It is a venue we have visited over the years for a variety of music types for the adults, and high-end children’s entertainment for the kids. It is a clean, pretty, historic place right in historic downtown York, easy to access, lots of free parking, and when you are done, it is easy to leave. Fellow patrons are easy, chatty, friendly, happy, and the lady I sat next to, a Lori Sims of Hanover, PA, cheerily shared gardening tips with me and disclosed her yearning for Spring to finally arrive so her garden could get under way. Then again, no wonder: she has a TWO-ACRE GARDEN.

What we witnessed last night is one of those rare moments where, if you have been lacking in faith in humanity for whatever reason, it would be restored immediately. We watched The Chieftains do what they do best: Play sweet Celtic music combined with amazing Irish dance, and incorporating local talent in a pub-like atmosphere of fellow music chums just kind of jamming along with each other in the spirit of the moment. It would be the best of what you would find at the Temple Bar today.

So here is Chieftains founding father, Paddy Moloney, who must easily be in his 80s, alternately playing both the chipper and then humorously gruff oldster commenter, as well as his own penny whistle and Irish pipes: “Oh sure, ya show-offs,” as the Pilatzke Brothers perform amazing amazing amazing Irish tap dance routines that leave the audience exhausted from the intensity and skill. Serious world-class talent.

Now in 2019, The Chieftains are celebrating their 57th anniversary. Think about that. Fifty-seven years as inspiring performers of not just music, per se, but keepers of traditional culture, Gaelic language, ancient musical instruments, and the music and the rural, undeveloped, natural Irish landscape that binds all that together. It is quite a gift to all of us that they provide. At 57 years of live musical-cultural performances, The Chieftains are an institution, a world heritage institution.

Despite having a stack of Chieftains CDs, I can never really get enough of them, and last night my mind drifted back to one evening in the summer of 1992, during the Celtic Festival at Wolf Trap, in Virginia. The Princess of Patience and I were about to be engaged to be married, and our long-time friend Lori encouraged us to join her at Wolf Trap for that evening. The weather was perfect, the music was perfect, the musicians and performers were perfect, our snacks and wine were perfect, the audience was rapt and enthusiastic. It was all quite perfect. And there they were, now 27 years ago, The Chieftains up on stage, looking a hell of a lot younger than now, and probably having a few more teeth then than now. But still flawlessly performing the same beautiful, inspiring music.

That was the same evening I heard the best-ever joke about the bagpipes, and it is a surprisingly unknown quip, because whenever I pass it along, people respond with great mirth, as if they have never heard it before. I will disclose it here, because I know the three people who read this blog have zero interest in Celtic anything and they will immediately forget this secret to being the star at any dinner party attended by Irish or Scots.

This joke arose as an Irish pipes player dueled with a bagpipes player on stage that evening at Wolf Trap. When played correctly, the Irish pipes are of course the most heart-tugging sound the human ear will encounter. Squared off against the blaring, loud, military-oriented bagpipes, the Irish pipes are like a gentle, sweet whisper versus an aggressive, loud shout.

So after their duel on stage, during which he had played the most mournful, beautiful, inspiring sounds, the Irish pipes player said to his Scotsman counterpart: “You do know, the Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots. And the Scots never got the joke.”

Cue uproarious audience response and a big grin from the Scotsman. Audience participation in Celtic music is expected, and it is given, as is good-natured banter among the performers.

So, on that same beautiful summer eve 27 years ago, into this good-natured banter with Celtic music and culture stepped The Chieftains, playing with humble passion on the stage at Wolf Trap. And literally over twice as many years later, The Chieftains are still chief, tops among Celtic bands. Thank you for a wonderful night of happy moment after happy moment, guys. Cheers to you, Paddy Moloney, may you see a hundred years, ’cause God knows, why not, you about look it already.

 

Your home’s property taxes: “They are called special interests for a reason”

Guest commentary from grass roots activist Ron Boltz, and first published at www.papra.org:

They’re called “special interests” for a reason. Of course I’m referring to the scores of lobby groups in Harrisburg who often fight against good ideas or good legislation, or push for bad ideas and legislation, depending upon how it affects them personally or the relatively small group which they represent. The degree to which a proposal helps or hurts others or our State is often irrelevant to special interests. Following the money is almost always the path to an explanation that might otherwise not make much logical sense, and then the true motivations become clear. It’s the same as it ever was.

While this is nothing new, it’s nonetheless very frustrating when these lobby groups unashamedly flip their talking points when it benefits them to do so, completely contradicting statements they’ve made previously. Such is the case with the PA Chamber of Commerce and the Tax Foundation’s recent proposal to overhaul Pennsylvania’s tax structure.

When lobby groups oppose ideas that are popular with the public, they often conjure up phony “reasons” to justify their opposition rather than openly stating their real objections. We’ve seen this time and time again with The Chamber and their refusal to even consider school property tax elimination. Americans for Prosperity and The Commonwealth Foundation also joined them with disappointingly weak excuses of their own.

For example, The Chamber says things like “we can’t tax diapers!” and “we have to fix the cost drivers first”. AFP had their all-encompassing “we don’t support tax shifts”, and Matt Brouillette loved his dumbed down “left pocket-right pocket” analogy in an attempt to use bumper sticker politics to demonize elimination. For those who haven’t heard it, let me explain so you can understand what we’ve been dealing with.

Matt would say something similar to “it doesn’t matter if you take money out of your left pocket or your right pocket, you’re still paying and it’s still money coming out of the economy”. This was his attempt at bashing SB 76, which is being proposed as a revenue-neutral school property tax elimination plan that would shift the burden to the income tax and the sales tax. He was trying to imply that we would be no better off under such a plan, and everybody would be paying the same regardless. This type of talking point may resonate with some, but it’s easy to blow holes in his analogy.

His own example basically says that he doesn’t believe tax policy matters. According to Matt, if it’s the same amount of money collectively, then it’s irrelevant how the money is taken from us. Of course we do know that tax policy matters, especially when we’re talking about how many “pockets” we’re taking the money from. SB 76 expands the tax base, which is extremely important. It also matters how much money we’re taking out of each pocket.

If we take $1 out of the pocket of someone who has $10, we’ve taken 10% of his or her earnings. If we take the same $1 out of someone who has $100, we’ve only taken 1% of that person’s earnings. This is the nature of the property tax. It applies different rates to everybody, is not based on our income, and it’s also very regressive.

During my travels, I met a single mother in Monroe County who is forced to “contribute” 14% of her income toward her school property taxes. Last week I spoke to a woman in Lancaster County who, since the reassessment that took place there, is now paying a full 25% of her and her husband’s income in property taxes.

This scenario plays out everywhere across the state. The only way to solve this is to completely eliminate the school property tax and replace it with a broader-based method that applies the exact same tax rates to everybody, regardless of where you live. The property tax system cannot be fixed, and it can never be “fair”. Our opposition knows this to be true, but they avoid talking about these things in their defense of the status quo.

Putting all of this aside, if Mr. Brouillette truly believes it doesn’t matter which pocket the money comes from, then why is he fighting against it? If he really believes nobody would be better off, then he also has to be believe that we would also not be any worse off. Of course, my opinion is that Mr. Brouillette doesn’t believe his own talking point. He knows tax policy matters. For the record, I like Matt, and I find some of the data C.F. puts out to be very helpful. But they are wrong on this issue. Matt is no longer with C.F., but others in the organization also oppose school tax elimination.

We’ve always known that The Chamber really doesn’t care about taxing diapers, and we know their supposed opposition to expanding the sales tax base because “it hurts the lower income folks” is just playing politics. Their true opposition to property tax elimination would not earn them many accolades if publicly stated, so they join the PSEA and the PSBA in using emotional scare tactics. But now their new plan points out their own contradictions and makes it very clear that they are willing to make exactly the same opposing arguments if it means benefiting themselves.

As I give a few examples, I want to make it clear that the purpose is to highlight their contradictions and show that they really don’t mean what they say in regards to why they oppose school property tax elimination. I will not opine as to whether or not any of their proposals would be good or bad for Pennsylvania’s economy, and I’m not trying to invoke a class warfare argument. In order to have a productive debate, it’s necessary to talk about how different people will be affected, and it’s also necessary to talk about the relative fairness of our tax systems. That isn’t class warfare. It’s simply honest discussion, which is something in which our opposition has thus far refused to engage.

Included within the Chamber’s proposal is an array of options that include rate changes, tax eliminations, and the levy of new taxes. In other words…a myriad of tax shifts. There is no mention of any type of “cost controls” among their tax shifts plans, so I suppose that critique only applies to things they oppose, and not their own ideas. For the record, SB 76 does include spending controls, and I have long held that we will never get cost controls until we get spending controls. The reason we don’t have real pension reform or prevailing wage law elimination is because the state legislature, who mandates these things, gets to punt the responsibility for paying for them down to the school boards and the homeowners.

There is no accountability in the current system, and therefore no incentive to change it. How these lobby groups, who have been around politics for as long as they have been, cannot recognize this reality is beyond me. Perhaps spending so much time inside the Capitol courting politicians has clouded their vision. Perhaps they don’t know how politics really work after all this time, or maybe they really don’t want to see these problems resolved. I’ll let you ponder that on your own, but their “cost control” philosophy is akin to continuing to hand money to the irresponsible while asking them very nicely to curtail their bad habits, with no consequences when they refuse.

Our philosophy, on the other hand, is to stop asking a group of people who have shown no willingness to control themselves, to please control themselves, and instead just cut off the money in order to force the issue. The property tax makes all of this overspending possible and is how they escape accountability. Eliminate the scapegoat, restore accountability, and watch as these things magically begin to be addressed in a meaningful way. Until then, be prepared to continue to watch the pension problem get far worse, property taxes continue to skyrocket, and the finger-pointing to resume with nothing being done.

Getting back to the Chamber’s proposal – They call for a lowering of the Corporate Net Income Tax from 9.99% to 5.99% or 6.99% (depending on the option), and the elimination of the Gross Receipts Tax on businesses. To pay for this, the plan calls for an expansion of the sales tax base, a new local income tax, and the first ever tax on retirement income. It says that the new retirement tax revenue could be used to “buy down” the PIT (Personal Income Tax) rate to 2.5%, but says that it would be “better used as a pay-for to reduce less competitive tax rates elsewhere.”

In other words, the Chamber wants retired seniors to pay a new tax in order to lower business taxes. But don’t fret, seniors…they’re generous enough to entertain the possibility of using some of the new retirement tax to expand rent and property tax rebate programs for some seniors. But seniors won’t be the only losers in the Chamber’s tax shift. They also propose a local income tax on working families as a way to eliminate the Gross Receipts Tax.

Would these organizations please tell me again their views on redistribution of wealth, tax shifts, and the creation of new “winners and losers”? Pardon me for noticing some contradictions to what they claimed were their opposition to school tax elimination. Let’s examine a few of their talking points, and how they are seemingly no longer a concern when it comes to their own proposal(s).

The creation of winners and losers

They claim school tax elimination would just create new winners and losers. Our response is that the property tax system is responsible for creating winners and losers in the first place, for far too many reasons to list here. Everyone knows this to be true. Our proposal actually fixes this scenario by expanding the tax base from mostly just homeowners to everyone in the state who has an income, and to everyone who buys things (including tourists). In other words, everyone contributes. It also treats every taxpayer exactly the same by applying the same rate to their income, and the same sales tax rate to the same items and services. No more winners and losers paying different rates with enormous disparity an inequities.

While they love to use this talking point to criticize our school tax elimination proposal, they conveniently ignore the winners (businesses) and losers (senior citizens and working families) in their plan. Of course they will tell us that when businesses win, we all win, but I could say the same. When homeowners “win” with more disposable income, then businesses and the economy will also win. Businesses also win by making the entire state a KOZ (Keystone Opportunity zone) rather than the state picking the winners and losers. The Independent Fiscal Office report agrees.

The Stability of the tax

The Chamber, and virtually all of the public school lobby organizations, love to say that property tax revenue is “stable”, while other revenue from other sources is not. Therefore, they say, we cannot eliminate it. We always ask “stable for who?” For the tax collector? I suppose when you can constantly raise the rate, and with the threat of losing one’s home, the tax collector could view the property tax as stable. But what about the taxpayer? Is it stable for them? Absolutely not.

While the Chamber praises the property tax and touts it’s supposed stability, it has contradictory views of other taxes. In one section of their plan, they write about how governments tend to favor the Gross Receipts Tax because it produces large and stable amounts of revenue. It then goes on to say:

“…this revenue stability, however, does not outweigh the tax’s economic harm”.

Why then, does the Chamber love the property for providing the government with large and stable amounts of revenue, but then overlook the harm it does to the homeowner and the economy? Why does the same critique not apply to the property tax?

From the viewpoint of the taxpayer, the sales tax and the income tax are far more stable. Consider that the income tax in Pennsylvania has only been raised one time in the past 26 years. There was a 0.17 percentage point increase in 2004. The change previous to that was actually a lowering of the rate. That sounds pretty stable to this writer.

Even more stable is the sales tax, which has been 6% since 1968, but yet each of these taxes have continued to generate more revenue through natural growth, and they do so without the need for constant rate increases. I think we can all agree that Harrisburg has had no trouble spending more of our tax dollars in nearly every annual budget, and they do so mainly using these two funding sources. The Chamber’s report even touts the stability of the sales tax with this statement :

“Between 1999 and 2017, inflation-adjusted collections only diverged from the overall period’s average by more than 3 percent three times: once, when collections dropped in 2010, and again in 2016 and 2017, when collections comfortably exceeded the average”

While state revenues may decline temporarily during economic downturns, these periods are relatively short-lived, and the time spent in the black far outweighs the time spent in the red. In an Independent Fiscal Office report to Rep. Pashinski on August 16th of this year, there is a chart comparing the income tax growth rate to the property tax growth rate. This is a chart showing growth rate increases and decreases, so when the line goes down on the chart, it doesn’t represent a revenue loss until it goes below zero. Until then it’s still growth, and history shows the overwhelming majority of time is spent above zero. Legislators either don’t understand this, or they purposely try to spin this chart by saying it shows that the income tax is “too volatile” to be used to fund public education, but the opposite is true.

The IFO chart clearly shows that from 2004 to 20018, the property tax grew at a rate of 3.5%, while the income tax revenue (not the tax rate) grew at a rate of 3.4%, virtually the same. Again, this is with no rate increases on the income tax, but literally thousands of property tax millage rate increases during those years across our 500 school districts.

If the State can run their budget using the income and sales taxes as it’s main sources, and manage to grow spending year after year, then why can’t we fund public education this way? If taxpayers and homeowners are expected to manage their money during economic downturns, while they have fixed costs like property taxes and other bills to contend with, why don’t school superintendents and business managers, who are paid six-figure salaries, have the ability to do the same? If they cannot manage money the same way homeowners do, perhaps we should reconsider leaving them in charge of multi-million dollar budgets.

Taxes should be based on Income

One of the biggest problems with the property tax is that it is not based in any way on one’s income. Inaccurate assessments and unequal distribution of state money to our schools, combined with our homes not being a reflection of our wealth, leads to the enormous disparities in what each individual taxpayer must contribute toward the burden of funding public education. We have long condemned the property tax’s gross unfairness, inequities, and regressivity. Our State Constitution reads “All taxes shall be uniform, upon the same class of subjects, within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax, and shall be levied and collected under general laws.” The property tax falls far short of meeting this mandate.

While the Chamber doesn’t care that the property tax isn’t based on income, their report laments the fact that the Occupational Assessment tax is inequitable and not based on actual income by saying the following:

“All of which is to say that the best measure of income is income, not a tax assessor’s best guess of what that income would be assuming that a given taxpayer hewed to the median for his or her profession.”

If that’s how they feel about the Occupational Assessment tax, then how can they praise the property tax, which is not only not based on income, but it’s not even based on an assessor’s best guest of our income. Rather, it’s based on an assessor’s best guess of the value of our home, and I don’t think I even need to opine about the inaccuracy of assessments, which their own report also acknowledges.

The Pyramid effect of taxation

The Chamber wants businesses to be free of sales taxes on business-to-business transactions, and they want to eliminate the Gross Receipts Tax because this results in multiple levels of taxation that will, in turn, increase the price of the product on the end consumer. This is a valid argument. The report gives an example showing the steps a bottle of beer goes through in order to reach a consumer at a restaurant. It shows the farm, the brewery, the distributor, the restaurant, and finally the customer. Using their own example, it’s obvious that the property tax also results in multiple levels of taxation, but this is not mentioned as a concern.

Not only does the farm, the brewery, the distributor, and the restaurant pay property taxes, but so do the manufacturers and the companies who make the parts to build the farm machinery and tractor trailers, not to mention the companies who build restaurant equipment. This too is passed on to the end consumer.

The Chamber claims that property taxes have a minimal effect on economic decision making

The report reads:

“Property taxes tend to be justified on both economic and practical grounds: economically, as a generally efficient form of taxation which raises revenue with a minimal effect on economic decision-making…”

Property taxes result in sheriff sales, foreclosures, and forced relocation when the burden can no longer bet met by the occupant. Proof of this abounds in page after page of newspaper tax sale listings. It is often said that 10,000 or more homes are sold at sheriff sales annually in Pennsylvania, a statistic that’s rarely challenged.

Escalating property taxes most certainly affect spending habits for both homeowners and businesses alike. As the PA Liberty Alliance goes door to door across the State, we’ve heard hundreds of stories of forced relocation, and how rising property taxes are doing serious damage to the finances of many families. I assure you that stories of senior citizens being forced to choose between medication and paying their property taxes are real. I’ve met these folks.

We also talk to small business owners who are struggling to compete, and who cannot expand due to the inability to pass on their skyrocketing property taxes to their customers the way a large business can. The Chamber claims to represent small businesses, but in our discussions we often hear these owners refer to the organization as “The Chamber of Big Business”. This seems to be a growing consensus in the small business community. A look at where the majority of The Chamber’s funding comes from might give clues as to why they so strongly oppose property tax elimination, and why many small business owners feel left behind.

The Chamber calls the property tax “efficient” and “practical”

In the previous section, I only included part of the quote. Here is the rest of the statement:

“Property taxes tend to be justified on both economic and practical grounds: economically, as a generally efficient form of taxation which raises revenue with a minimal effect on economic decision-making and consistent with widely accepted principles of taxation, and practically, as a well-established source of funding that is both familiar and not easily replaced.”

There is so much wrong with just this one sentence that it makes me wonder if we’re both talking about the same property tax. How anyone could call the property tax “efficient” is beyond comprehension for this writer.

Having to establish assessed values for every property in the entire state alone should make it obvious that this is the most INEFFICIENT tax we have. We need to hire appraisers, county assessors, and tax collectors to administer the tax. School districts must chase down delinquent taxes, and then go through the process of seizing the property when the homeowner doesn’t pay. Then we need to burden the county sheriff’s office with the duty of evicting the occupants, and then of course we need to go through the tax sale process.

Countywide reassessments cost taxpayers multiple millions of dollars each time, and always result in years of appeals that must be heard and dealt with. Maintaining the property tax system costs taxpayers enormous amounts of money. On the other hand, the sales tax is usually collected at the point of sale, and most people have their income taxes automatically deducted from their paychecks. I’m not suggesting there is no expense for businesses and taxpayers to comply with income and sales taxes policies, but modern technology has made it much easier and more efficient.

I don’t know what the Chamber considers to be “accepted principles of taxation”, and the report doesn’t elaborate, but it’s hard to imagine any standard in which complete inequity, inefficiency, unfairness, regressivity, and skyrocketing rates would be considered good principles. How can any tax that isn’t based on income, which the Chamber itself says is the best measure of taxation, be considered a tax with good principles?

The line about the property tax being “well established” and “familiar” sounds very reminiscent of the old “this is the way we’ve always done it, so it must be right” type of thinking. Are things that are “well established” and “familiar” always good? Of course not, but what the Chamber means by this is that businesses have adopted to the property tax and can pass on the cost, unlike a homeowner who cannot. Businesses have also mastered the appeals process and can have their assessments lowered if they become less profitable. Homeowners, on the other hand, cannot have their assessments lowered when their income goes down. They either have to pay up, sell their house, or don’t pay and the government takes their home, and usually most or all of their equity as well. This is devastating, unjust, and unthinkable in America where we are supposed to value property rights.

The Chamber’s Love/Hate relationship with the Income Tax

While The Chamber wants to shift the Gross Receipts tax to working families by instituting a new local income tax in its stead, the report also speaks of how the income tax “discourages investment and labor”. They claim that local income taxes encourage out-migration, particularly if it is not necessary to move far. They cite this as a reason that property taxes are better, suggesting the property tax doesn’t force anyone to move, or that it doesn’t play a role when deciding where to purchase a home or establish a business. I know plenty of people who moved due to large property taxes, but I don’t know a single person who told me they moved because of a local income tax. I also know some entrepreneurs who would have preferred to establish themselves in certain locations but the property taxes were prohibitive.

The report then says “…local income taxes are sustainable at modest rates, but create competitive disadvantages at higher rates, particularly those seen in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh” The local income tax in the overwhelming majority of the state is 1%, while the report says Philadelphia’s rate is 3.9%. So we can conclude that the Chamber considers a 3.9% local income tax to be a problem, but the 1% tax is sustainable. Let’s compare this to the property tax, which the Chamber props up and doesn’t believe to be a problem.

Most people pay far more than 1% of their income toward their school property tax, and as mentioned earlier, I’ve met one woman who pays 14% and another who pays 25%. Unless you have a money tree in your back yard, the property tax is still paid with our income, but it’s not actually based on our income. So if the Chamber sees a 3.9% local income tax as being a problem (as do I), then how can they possibly not see the property tax as being a much bigger problem? Does it no longer matter if we’re talking about homeowners rather than businesses?

Senate Bill 76 proposes a 1.88% income tax and an expanded sales tax, which the Chamber also calls for, in order to eliminate the school property tax. This would result in an overall tax cut for the majority of homeowners, backed up by multiple Independent Fiscal Office reports.

The question remains as to why the Chamber considers it good policy to institute a local income tax to pay for the elimination of business taxes, but it’s not O.K. to use an income tax to eliminate the school property tax? At the same time, how do they call a 3.9% local income tax a problem, but not a local property tax that levies a different rate on everyone, as high as 25% or more on some? These are rhetorical questions, as I believe the answer is apparent. They are a special interest group, and the well-being of the homeowner is not of their concern.

The Chamber opposes SUT expansion for property tax elimination, but call for it in their plan

After the property tax elimination effort got some traction in 2015, the opposition groups suddenly began to take the issue more seriously. The grassroots groups they previously laughed off were now making their voices heard. Since it’s very difficult to defend a tax that’s as despised by so many people as the property tax, they needed to come up with some new talking points.

This is when the refrain became “we can’t tax diapers!” Being led by The Chamber, lobby groups and politicians alike were singing off the same sheet of music. This was the new talking point that was designed to invoke emotion, while bypassing logic. Of course, we see this all the time in politics, and in this case, The Chamber now appointed itself as the champion of single mothers and their children. Imagine how heartless the property tax elimination crowd must be to propose a diaper tax!

Thankfully, the public didn’t buy it. At a town hall in Monroe County, a single mother who was struggling with her property taxes easily recognized that she would be far better off paying a relatively small sales tax on diapers than she would be paying property taxes, especially considering the property tax burden would be there for the rest of her life, or at least as long as she “owned” a home. We constantly hear about the supposed “regressivity” of the sales tax, but by definition the flat rate sales tax is not regressive. The property tax, on the other hand, actually is regressive when viewed as a percentage of income. In this case, the single mother didn’t even earn enough money to be a financial “loser” under the SB 76 proposal. She could have spent every dime she earned on the newly taxed items and still wouldn’t even come close to paying the same in sales taxes that she currently pays in property tax, even factoring in the PIT portion.

After all of their opposition to expanding the sales tax, I find it quite the contradiction to now propose exactly that. I can only assume that The Chamber doesn’t believe it’s own rhetoric as long as business taxes are reduced and eliminated rather than the school property tax. While they don’t suggest a sales tax on diapers, they do propose options that include taxing gasoline and motor fuels, even while acknowledging that we already pay the highest fuel taxes in the country. Imagine the impact of that tax alone on working families and commuters.

But they don’t stop there. Among many other items, they list clothing, shoes, prescription and nonprescription drugs, college and vocational school tuition, health and social assistance, veterinary services and food. SB 76 still exempts clothing under $50 per item, prescription drugs, heating oil, all food items that a W.I.C. check could purchase, medical procedures and other things. Missing from the Chamber’s list are services that only wealthy people would use, like airplane services. It seems to me that the Chamber’s proposal would be more harmful to the middle and lower class than would be the expansion under SB 76. But hey, at least they don’t tax diapers…

The Chamber claims school tax elimination would harm young, low income families and renters

The President of the PA Chamber has repeatedly said that SB 76 would be bad for his young son and his family, who he says shouldn’t be paying a higher income tax to eliminate school taxes for seniors. I’ve often wondered, but never asked, if his son owns a home, or ever plans to. While these same critics talk about the new “winners and losers” after SB 76 is passed, they never acknowledge that the current system is where the “winners and losers” are created, nor do they recognize the fact that their own defense of the status quo is nothing more than them trying to pick the winners and losers themselves.

The reality is, this legislation would help new families, the lower income, and the middle class homeowners. Most of these folks are paying far more than 1.88% of their income toward their property taxes, and even the additional sales taxes will not make them financial “losers”. This is backed up by an Independent Fiscal Office report issued to Rep. Frank Ryan on November 6, 2017.

According to the IFO, the median school property tax paid on a Homestead (which does not include commercial, vacation, or rental properties) is $1,972. The average is higher at $2,291. The report says that the median PIT impact of SB 76 would be $1,008, and the sales tax impact on the median income range would be $200-$400.

The report goes on to say that even the PIT impact is over-stated, as it’s calculated on the median household income of $53,599, which includes retirement and social security income that would not be subject to the income tax under SB 76. This figure also excludes Pennsylvania’s PIT Forgiveness programs for the low income, which completely excludes from taxation income up to $51,000/year for a family with four children, $41,500 for three children, $32,000 for two children, and lower incentives for one and no children.

With this data, the math is easy. Under SB 76, the worst case scenario for a PA family earning the median (not average) household income would be a new income tax impact of $1,008 and a sales tax impact of $400 for a total of $1,408. Since the median school property tax on a home is $1,972, this means that in a worst case scenario, which won’t even happen due to the overstated situation mentioned above, the savings for a family earning the median income and paying the median school property tax would be $564. The real world savings would likely be significantly higher.

Despite their best efforts to convince us otherwise, the special interest opposition is wrong. The wealthy are the most likely to end up paying more under SB 76, not the middle and low income homeowners. They wealthy are, after all, the people who may have a high enough salary, and who may spend enough money on the newly taxed items to result in a higher tax burden. I know quite a few wealthy people who contribute much less than 1.88% if their income toward school taxes. I don’t believe any of my middle or low income friends who own homes can say the same. Most are above 3%, many far higher, and as mentioned earlier, I now know someone who pays a 25% effective rate.

Renters also pay property taxes indirectly through their rent payments, as landlords must pass this cost on to their tenants at some point. We have U.S. Census bureau data that shows rents increasing at nearly the same rates as property taxes. This is not a coincidence. During our interactions with legislators, we often hear landlords being demonized as greedy and heartless, and we’re told that landlords would never lower their rents if SB 76 were passed. I find this to be yet another attempt at politics of emotion, and not logic. SB 76 would at a minimum stabilize rent costs. Some landlords would lower their rents on their own, and others would be forced to as the market adjusts and more people purchase their first home. Does the Chamber no longer believe in free market principles?

If these legislators are truly concerned about the impact to renters, the best thing to do for those folks would be to make homeownership easier for them to achieve. This bill certainly does that by removing a large part of the property tax burden. Part of the regressivity of the property tax is that millage rates tend to be the highest in our 3rd Class cities, where incomes are often lowest. In fact, in a study done by Joel Sears, a fellow Pennsylvania Property Rights Association consultant, he shows that a $30,000 home in Upper Darby has a monthly property tax payment over TWICE that of a normal mortgage payment in this price range. No wonder so many people are trapped into a lifetime of renting and being denied the pride of owning a home of their own, and becoming a lasting part of their community.

The problem with all of their arguments are that they are only based on a snapshot in time. It’s likely that immediately following the passage of SB 76, a family who rents may not benefit. It’s also true that seniors will likely benefit the most. But we don’t live in a snapshot in time. Young families and renters will buy homes of their own, go through the decades of their working lives, and hopefully make it to retirement in their senior years, meaning today’s renters will also benefit. The alternative is to do nothing and watch property taxes and rents continue to skyrocket, further damaging our economy and sending working families and businesses out of the state.

We always hear the talking point “if we want more of something, subsidize it, and if we want less of something, tax it”. Why then, does the Chamber support the current system that taxes homeownership every year, in an ever-increasing fashion, while we subsidize non-homeownership with rent rebate programs? The only logical answer is, once again, the Chamber doesn’t view homeownership as a benefit, or perhaps not even as a necessity, especially considering they seemingly have no issue with the government seizing homes as a result of this tax.

The Chamber’s plan for the property tax problem

While The Chamber praises the property tax, they do acknowledge it’s flaws in multiple pages of their report. They even cite a study by The Council on State Taxation which compares the uniformity and efficiency of property taxes in the 50 states. It gave Pennsylvania a grade of a D, and ranked us dead last.

So what is The Chamber’s solution? More frequent countywide reassessments. That’s their big “solution”. They also call for consolidated property tax bills, so we can pay one bill to the county, who can, in turn, distribute the money to the schools and local municipalities, rather than paying separate bills. There’s not even a new reduction scheme in their plan, which would only end up being a tax increase anyway so I’m really not complaining. Their answer is actually a tax increase, and as mentioned earlier, these reassessments are very expensive and time consuming.

Thanks to Joel Sears, we have data which shows that even countywide reassessments don’t fix all of the problems inherent in the property tax. He did a real life evaluation in Lancaster County which compared actual sales prices of homes that sold in the same timeframe as their recent reassessment, and compared them to the assessed values both before and after. He found that the same level of inequities exist even after these reassessments, and in some cases, they got even worse. That’s what taxpayers get for their multiple millions of dollars spent in an effort to make the current system more uniform.

Conclusion

Proof abounds that the property tax system is broken. It cannot be fixed. It cannot be made to be fair. Any reduction scheme will just be a tax increase as the property tax continues to skyrocket. Elimination is the only answer.

This absolutely can be achieved, and we can fund public education in a way that treats all taxpayers the same, eliminating the current winners and losers scheme. The Independent Fiscal Office confirms that homeowners would have more disposable income, home values would increase by an average of 10%, and the state would be more attractive to businesses. But apparently these benefits aren’t good enough for the Chamber, Americans for Prosperity, the PSEA (teachers’ union), or the PSBA (school board association).

These folks all view themselves as “winners” under the current system, and they don’t want to lose their stranglehold on the homeowner. They’re happy with us continuing to be the “losers”, and they spend millions lobbying in Harrisburg to keep it that way.

In addition to all of the contradictions listed in these pages, The Chamber also condemns the Corporate Net Income Tax because it doesn’t allow for cyclical profitability cycles, and they speak of how some businesses are hurt during periods of low profitability. At the same time, they praise the “stability” of the property tax for the tax collector, while ignoring that the tax always increases even if the home owners’ paycheck decreases, or goes away completely. Yet another double standard on their part.

Homeowners cannot pass their property taxes on to someone else, as businesses can. The buck stops with us. At the same time, our homes do not generate income, as commercial properties do. The current system is completely upside down and backwards, especially considering our homes have absolutely nothing to do with education. We haven’t always funded education this way, as the school property tax was only instituted in the mid 1960’s. Even our State Constitution lays the responsibility at the feet of the legislature, where it belongs, and not with homeowners.

No tax should ever have the power to leave one homeless, and our fundamental right to acquire and own property needs to be restored. If all of the other problems with the property tax aren’t reason enough to abolish it, these few reasons certainly are.

They’re called “special interests” for a reason.

Ron Boltz, President – PA Liberty Alliance

Consultant – Pennsylvania Property Rights Association

 

PA deer hunters…spending 40 years in the desert

Last week, a guy in his late 50s posted a complaint on social media. He was both complaining about “not enough deer” to hunt in Pennsylvania, and also boasting about how he buys up as many doe tags as he can get, and then he tears them up, and then he uses them to file false deer harvest reports. He hopes this all will influence Pennsylvania’s science-driven deer management. One result of all this complaining by guys like this man is that the PA Game Commission is unable to get the license fee increase from the legislature that the PGC and most hunters want.

On the one hand, this self-defeating complaining and tearing up of doe tags is pretty much insane behavior, and a complete waste of one’s own precious time on Planet Earth.

On the other hand, that someone is so passionate about hunting and wildlife is a good thing. The question is, can this guy and the thousands of other unhappy hunters like him be educated about scientific deer management? Or are they so close-minded and emotional about this subject that they are immune to empirical evidence, logic and reason?

One result of our state’s scientific wildlife management is that we are now a major trophy hunting destination. Previously unthinkably enormous bucks and gigantic bears are within reach of those who are willing to hunt hard and smart. Bucks that rival and surpass those of the “best” whitetail states in the Mid-West. Black bears that are as big as Alaskan grizzlies. These are tangible signs of policy success, and that Pennsylvania is now an outdoor Promised Land after decades of hunters being happy with a pathetic forkhorn or even a spike buck.

On my westward drive along I-80 last week, and my drive south yesterday, from northwest Lycoming County down to Dauphin County, I saw dozens of dead deer littering the sides of the roads. Actually there were so many that I lost count. There may have been a hundred dead deer along the roads. Including along very rural roads in areas where many older guys complain there “ain’t no deer.” Obviously there are a lot of deer in these places, because they are not all being killed on the highway. These dead deer are the fruit of deer-car collisions, a very expensive and dangerous result of an overabundant deer population.

To be fair to the complaining hunters, the PA deer population in these places may be too high for the road system and not high enough for hunters’ desires. That is a very real possibility. It may be that the Pennsylvania road system is just too big, too widespread into rural areas, to allow many deer to survive into the Fall hunting season.

No, we are not going to shut down the public roads to stop the carnage, though it would make sense for Pennsylvania to put a moratorium brake on road building. We taxpayers cannot afford the operations and maintenance costs on the roads and bridges we have now, let along on any new roads and bridges. PennDot must re-direct its energies into safely maintaining the infrastructure we already have, like how about wildlife tunnels? And if the deer-car collisions are any indication, our public road system has been poorly planned and badly implemented; it has spiderwebbed out into the most rural areas and wildlife habitats. Thereby inviting expensive car collisions with wildlife.

I think this unhappy hunter situation is going to be like the ancient Hebrews’ 40 years in the desert. The older generation that cannot adapt to changing habitat, changing deer behavior, changing land use patterns and changing hunting methods is going to have to die off. Then the younger generation can get in the driver’s seat on deer management policy.

The younger generation understands and values science and biology in setting policy, like doe harvest tags, the crucial importance of getting buy-in and acceptance from the larger society around us (people unhappy about hitting overabundant deer; in Europe hunters are personally responsible for keeping wildlife populations at safe levels), the need to be multifaceted and flexible when hunting deer, etc. These complaining hunters represent the ex-slave mentality of those Hebrews who left Egypt and who could not learn to live as free men. Moses could not let them enter the Promised Land because they would infect everyone with foolish ideas and weakness. That would put the entire effort at risk. So he kept them wandering until that generation died out.

Sorry, old complaining guys, you are living in a broken past. You are slaves to an unproven, non-scientific, failed approach to wildlife management. If you cannot change your mindset and embrace reality, then you will be remembered as the lost generation that stood in the way of success and happiness.

And to be fair, this same broken thinking has haunted the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s approach to Sunday hunting. The older generation there has successfully blocked a 50% increase in hunting opportunity for decades, just because they think it is “wrong,” for no good, defensible reason. But that also is about to change, soon, as the fed-up younger generation of farmers, including religious Mennonites, takes this important policy issue in hand and directly bucks the older guys standing in the way of family success and happiness.

To enter the Promised Land, you must shed your slave mentality. I hope the anti-science hunters and the anti-freedom PA Farm Bureau folks will join us as we enter a glorious new period in Pennsylvania’s outdoor heritage.

Feeling vindicated feels good

Like genuine apologies, vindication for having taken an unpopular but principled stand comes all too infrequently. And boy does it feel good.

Ten years ago, after an adulthood spent in politics of some sort or another, I finally became personally engaged in electoral politics.

In 2009, after the first six months of the disastrous Obama presidency AKA The Eight Years War Against The US Constitution, I decided to run against the local and then-incumbent Blue Dog Democrat congressman, Tim Holden. Holden had become a symbol of Obama and how radicalism was overthrowing the Democrat Party of old.

Just a handful of years before that, I had been the keynote speaker at Holden’s first and only debate with then-incumbent George Gekas, a fairly conservative Republican from Harrisburg.

After giving what I heard from many audience members was the best speech they had ever heard (no lie, no brag, and I did it in shorts and sandals), about my experience helping create the Flight 93 memorial, I then sat down next to that conservative Democrat and gave him advice on how to beat Gekas at that debate.

Here I was, an active Republican from a prominent local Republican family, sitting at the dais, next to the Democrat challenger of one of our family’s longest political friends, whom I had just publicly called “a formerly close family friend,” giving advice to Holden, which he effectively employed that day.

Holden went on to beat Gekas that Fall in a Republican-dominated congressional district, with a balance of pro-Life, pro-gun Democrats. It was Gekas’ seat to lose, and he did lose it.

Schuylkill County Sheriff Tim Holden represented the grass roots at that time, and he garnered an overwhelming number of Republican votes. Holden was a staunch pro-business, Second Amendment advocate and he earned his blue collar support in every other way, too.  He crushed Gekas.

What had made me turn against a long-time political ally and family friend, Congressman Gekas? Probably the same things that made so many other Republicans vote against him. He had become what today we would identify as an ossified establishment politician, a careerist who would show up to vote and to eat at every free lunch, and who would do very little else.

Gekas and I had met together earlier that year, and I had left his office seething with anger at how selfish and self-serving he had made himself. Where had the patriot gone? Where was the campaigning small-business owner, the Everyman who everyone could identify with, regardless of political party?

In today’s parlance, Gekas had gone DC Swamp, and as a result he had lost my support. Back then I would not have said it in those terms, but the bottom line was that he had made the seat all about him, and not his constituents or the principles that made America great, and which I had seen first-hand were under serious assault in Washington.

Fast forward a handful of years later, and I myself was itching to run against the then-incumbent congressman, Tim Holden, Democrat from Schuylkill County.

By then Holden’s party had become the majority, and Holden was voting with radical Nancy Pelosi 93% of the time. Not the 55/45% he had done previously.

So much for the independent-minded Blue Dog Democrat! Holden had gone DC Swamp, too, and the region was on fire to get rid of him.

In 2009 I declared myself a candidate for US Congress and ended up running in a four-way primary race. At the end of the race our campaign did not win, but we finished very strongly third (with the two top vote-getters within a few hundred votes of one another). A lot of politicos and lobbyists complimented our grass roots campaign. The highlight of that campaign was getting over 50% of the vote in that four-way race in Perry County, one of five counties in that congressional district. Perry County was then, and is now, symbolic of the American heartland, so getting the majority of their votes made me feel all-American forever.

But along the way in that race I had received some harsh words, too. Some from old friends or erstwhile political allies, admonishing me for running against the GOP-picked favorite (he was an elected official and went on to lose to Holden in what many insiders even today are convinced was a thrown race).

I had written to one of them, working as a high level appointee in DC at the time, that the grass roots was “on fire” and there was a sense of “rebellion in the air.” A few more emails exchanged between us, and I don’t think he “got it” or frankly even cared that the grass roots voters were rebelling against the ossified, elitist, self-serving political class.

This was right as what was to become the Tea Party was forming, and it all began right here in Central Pennsylvania. Berks County and Lebanon County, to be precise. We did not know what we were doing then, except that we were challenging that entrenched, deaf, self-serving political elite class that depended upon us for votes, but who would then sell us out when it came to giving in on quintessentially American principles to an increasingly radical Democrat Party.

And now here we are, mid-2018, and a huge wave of grass roots, stridently anti-establishment, pro-citizen, pro-taxpayer, pro-America-as-founded candidates are winning primary elections all over America.

And the GOPe is reeling.

Sure, they got Mittens Romney as the next US Senator in Utah, and they got a Democrat elected in Alabama over conservative Roy Moore. The GOPe was bound to win one or two. But they are not winning like they used to win ten years ago. A political revolution is taking place.

Having been at the bleeding edge of that movement\ revolution ten years ago and again and again as a state senate candidate nose-to-nose with the state GOP, and having suffered personally for it, and then partially vindicated by the PA Supreme Court in a landmark case that tossed the GOP gerrymandering plan because of my state senate district and restored me and our campaign to my original state senate district, it now feels good to be vindicated by the recent electoral successes of our ideological successors and soul mates across America.

After the past month, it turns out what at one time seemed like a very few of us are not alone in yearning for a return to the basic American values and principles that allowed for the greatest, broadest diversity of success, freedom, and opportunity the planet has ever seen. The American People are largely behind us, and seemingly increasingly so by the week.

Along with thousands of other risk-takers across America who also made sometimes costly and painful personal sacrifices to run on principle against an unprincipled bi-partisan political establishment early on, I know now that I, we, are now all vindicated. Our fellow Americans are proving this by voting for their own true interests (as opposed to the selfish interests of corporations, The Koch Brothers, unions, political parties, illegal immigrants, economic immigrants, violent jihadist immigrants, socialists, etc), and electing good people who best represent those all-America interests and values.

And that feels good.

Sometimes a threesome just sucks

Welp. Primary Election Day is now behind us. Thank God.

Yesterday’s bright moment was Andrew Lewis running and winning against a large part of the GOP establishment in the 105th State House District.

It lies around out through Harrisburg’s eastern suburbs and could easily swing “RINO,” but yesterday it did not. Proving the power of staying positive and of doing door-to-door, Lewis impressed so many voters that many of them eagerly relayed to us volunteer poll workers their happy experiences meeting him at their home’s front door.

That said, much of yesterday’s political outcomes were unfortunate, for those of us who trust and hope in We, The People and who have learned not to trust the GOP establishment.

Woody Allen once quipped “I believe in relationships. Love between two people is a beautiful thing. Between three, it’s fantastic.”

Well, sometimes that truism just doesn’t hold water, and nowhere was this observation more evident than the results from yesterday’s political threesomes in Pennsylvania.

As we political watchers and participants have seen repeatedly, and as I myself have experienced as a candidate for office, three-way races can and often do allow liberal Republicans to prevail. And in fact, it now seems that the threesome approach is a significant strategy for GOPe candidates.

Yesterday, Dan Meuser won the PA 9th congressional district election (he lives in the 8th District) through the benefit of the two grass roots candidates  (Halcovage and Uehlinger) each siphoning off sufficient votes to allow the establishment candidate to get the plurality. There is some question out there about whether Uehlinger was, in fact, a conservative, or even a Republican; despite getting in the race first, his campaign seemed the least organized. Halcovage was not terribly organized, either, and did not respond to important questionnaires from interest groups. Firearms Owners Against Crime advised voters to select only Meuser of the three candidates.

Actually, Meuser may have obtained more than 50% of the vote, which is an indication that he might have won on his own merits (e.g. he was the only candidate deemed acceptable on Second Amendment rights to FOAC). All his negatives notwithstanding.

One lesson for sure comes out of that particular three-way race: If you cannot present yourself as an organized, credible candidate, then please spare everyone the drama and do not run.

People who wake up on some Thursday morning and say “What the heck, I am gonna run for office” have every right to do so, but recognize that there are consequences to this. Better to have a one-on-one clear choice for the voters. We will almost always have an establishment candidate, so pick the one best grass roots candidate as The People’s champion, and chase off the rest.

In the PA governor’s race, liberal dark horse Laura Ellsworth knew she had no chance of winning. I mean, with liberal policy positions like hers, she should run as a Democrat (she said she would not accept money from the NRA). But run she did, and though she obtained less than 20% of the vote, she siphoned off sufficient votes (especially in Western PA) from true conservative and US Army veteran Paul Mango to get Scott Wagner the plurality.

Mango is from western PA and would have otherwise obtained most of Ellsworth’s votes.

Yesterday I was a volunteer poll worker from 7:00 AM until 7:35PM in the Harrisburg area.

What I heard from GOP voters (and mostly from women over 50 years old) at several different polls was that they were angry at both Mango and Wagner for all the negative ads. They knew Ellsworth was liberal, but they were voting for her as an alternative to the two boys engaged in distasteful roughhousing.

Wasn’t this a variable we were picking up from women voters weeks ago? Yes.

Did someone pay Ellsworth to run? One asks, because she knew her chances were very low to nil, that her liberal ideas and policy positions are way out of synch with the vast majority of Republican voters.

Ellsworth the Spoiler has now burned her bridges with about 40% of the state’s Republican super voters, which even the most obtuse political nerds would expect as a logical outcome.

So why else was she in it? One cannot help but wonder if she was paid to play the spoiler. It was done in the last race I ran in….by someone involved in the race she ran in…so…

When we look at Idaho’s primary yesterday, a similar scene unfolded. The unlikely liberal GOPe candidate beat the conservative, by way of siphoning of votes by a third candidate who himself had no hope of winning.

Folks, the only way these third candidates can run is if they are independently wealthy and just yee-haw running for office; or, they are willing to sacrifice their name in one race by trying to build it up for a future run at some other office; or, most likely, they have “other” sources of income or promises made to reward them for playing the spoiler in the current race.

So, as we move into a more experienced and savvy grass roots political landscape, begun just ten years ago as the “tea party,” we are learning that our own strength can be used against us judo-like by the same corrupt political establishment we are trying to defeat.

Threesome races may look democratic, and it is true that every American has the right to run for office. But sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes those threesomes are designed to undermine the conservative grass roots candidate, and to help the plain vanilla milquetoast establishment candidate win.

Sometimes political threesomes just plain suck. And not in a good way. They can be designed to exploit the big-hearted nature of so many grass roots activists, so that their enemy, the GOPe, can win.

Lesson learned.

Do you drink wine from a human skull?

Jakob-Creutzfelt Disease in Europe was traced back to a self-styled secret society in Italy, where members filed solemnly down into ancient burial crypts and drank local wine from the skull of a deceased past master.

No lie. Look it up if you like. Yes, people do strange things.

Even hundreds of years later, after the past master had died, the JCD ‘bug’ was still infesting that old skull of his, and the wine swilled from it carried the bug down the gullets of the secret society members and into their bodies. A lot of these secret society members died bizarre, horrible deaths, prompting health officials to investigate what was going on.

To date this is likely the only investigation in Italy’s history that was both scientific and professional. And that is because it involved drinking wine.

JCD basically eats your brain and leaves you a drooling, deficient, dying husk of a human being. You die pretty quickly, and it is an ugly death.

“Spongiform disease” is also how this kind of prion-based attack is known, because the person’s brain looks like a sponge, riddled through with holes where brain matter ought to be. Survival is not an option.

There is no cure, and the cancer-like prions use their protein shells to fully resist fire, cold, desiccation, Hollywood, and high cholesterol. Once a prion is present, it cannot be destroyed by anything human. Prions seem to live forever in the dirt under your feet, and possibly in food grown in that dirt, like corn and soybeans.

JCD is known as Mad Cow Disease among bovines, Scrapie among sheep, and Chronic Wasting Disease among cervids, like deer, here in America. In other words, there is a prion out there for every mammal, though this is a new science we are just beginning to understand.

For a long time the guy who discovered prions was said to be a fake. And then his work was replicated, and he became a celebrated scientist. The politics of “climate change science” do not apply to prions and human health, thankfully.

One thing is clear: Prions develop most among wild animals that are new to being domesticated, like deer. It is their bodies’ reaction to being unnaturally cooped up. Something in the wild animals’ artificially confined body is misfiring, going haywire, and imploding.

CWD has its genesis in the wildlife management equivalent of drinking wine from a human skull: In most states, including Pennsylvania, deer farms are not required to have two strands of metal fencing separating the confined deer from wild deer. Deer are not yet a domesticated species (if cows, sheep and goats are any indication, it will take another 3,000 years to domesticate deer), they are still wild, and they herd up for protection, as do all social animals.

As a result, wild deer approach the deer inside the deer farm enclosure, touch noses through the fence, exchange body fluids, and get CWD. The wild deer then leave and go off into the wild deer populations and spread CWD among otherwise healthy deer across the landscape.

As a result of this madness, CWD is spreading through Pennsylvania like wildfire, except no one is paying attention. Not really. Only the Pennsylvania Game Commission is trying to solve this crisis, and the agency is being stonewalled at every turn.

You know why?

Because the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is protecting a nascent $16 million annual deer farm business sector from having to install double fencing.

Do you know what hunting is worth annually in Pennsylvania? It is worth $1.6 BILLION, and a great deal of that is from deer hunting.

So here in Pennsylvania, we have a state agency, the PA Dept. of Agriculture, essentially preferring the complete shielding of deer farms from a necessary and responsible practice, and thereby sacrificing Pennsylvania’s wild deer herd and the huge sustainable, renewable economy built on managing those wild deer.

This poor policy from the PA Dept. of Ag is really bad government on display. This is Bad Government 101. Actually, this is failed government.

You cannot make this stuff up, and the CWD situation here highlights why political involvement in a democracy is so important. If you sit back and wait for someone else to solve problems, most often no one else will get involved. You have to lead the charge yourself, and thereby attract fellow supporters.

If you want to get involved, call the PA Dept. of Ag at this number, 717 -772-2853, and tell the nice person who answers the phone that you want DOUBLE FENCING at all deer farms. It is as simple as this.

And if you don’t give a whit about hunting or deer management, consider the impacts CWD will have on other wildlife beyond wild deer. It is an earthquake building under our feet, and we can stop it, if we want to.