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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.

PA Supreme Court Magically Turns Itself into Legislature

In an anticipated 4-3 partisan decision today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court majority rejected the original and heavily gerrymandered map submitted by the PA Senate Republicans, as well as three heavily gerrymandered maps subsequently submitted in the past week by the PA House Democrats, PA Senate Democrats, and even PA Governor Tom Wolf.

Instead of declaring none of the legislative district maps to be constitutional, because theoretically none of them have met the constitutional tests for compactness and adhering to existing political boundaries, and instead of declaring the governor’s map completely unwelcome because it is not his role to draw voting district maps, the PA Supreme Court has actually drawn its own redistricting map.

No court anywhere has the constitutionally derived role of drawing voting district maps, and no court anywhere can justify doing so. According to the US Constitution, drawing voting district maps is specifically a state legislature role.

I will say that the latest map, drawn by the PA Supreme Court majority, looks better in some ways than the other four maps recently submitted for review. This map is certainly tighter and breaks fewer county lines than the others. In that sense, it is a more reasonable map.

But that is not the question.

The first question is, should Pennsylvania just get on with voting, as we are now running out of time for the primaries, and just use the established map, deficient though it may be?

The second question is, should the US Supreme Court allow the PA Supreme Court to, in effect, turn itself into a legislature, by performing a key function that is specifically relegated only to the state legislature by the US Constitution?

Hopefully, the US Supreme Court will deny the lower court’s power grab, and direct Pennsylvania to go on with the previous voting district map, flawed though it was, the greater interest being in letting voters have a say at all, as opposed to political elites pulling strings to keep themselves in power.

As imperfect as the legislative process is, and as distasteful as the gerrymandering process is, it is what it is, meaning that this is what we’ve got. No court can magically turn itself into another branch of government. So let’s go with the existing map we had six weeks ago, and get on with elections.

 

PA 11th Congressional District race: Joe Peters or Andrew Lewis

Pennsylvania’s 11th congressional district stretches from well southeast of the southcentral PA capital city of Harrisburg to the farthest reaches of northeastern PA, near the New York border. It is one of those crazily gerrymandered districts created to protect a certain congressman, a certain party. You have to try really hard to create a political district this convoluted, and it is as twisted as the power-hungry thinking that went into it.

I know, because according to the PA Supreme Court, I was the primary victim of the gerrymandering that created the 2012 Pennsylvania state political district map, released at the same time as the congressional map.

Apparently my then-candidacy (as an independent-minded conservative) for the 15th state senate district was a threat to the political establishment (self-serving careerists surrounded by a constellation of special interest groups feasting upon the taxpayer host body), and so they placed my Harrisburg home in a tiny political pocket. Our home was barely in one congressional district that is mostly based in Adams County to the south (Gettysburg). It was just one small part of Dauphin County mixed in with much larger portions of other counties, and we were also suddenly a couple blocks away from the 15th state senate district.

The gerrymandering was announced just as our 2012 campaign got under way.

The PA state Supreme Court threw out the state district map, calling the area around our home “an iron cross…” designed to exclude someone from participating in the political process. But the court kept the congressional map, which is being challenged now.

So that is where we got these crazy district lines, and it is how we now have a four-way contest to replace outgoing Congressman Lou Barletta.

Candidates who have officially announced are Joe Peters, Andrew Lewis, Steve Bloom, and Dan Meuser. Their home bases stretch from the farthest reaches of southcentral to far northeastern PA.

I know all of these guys, and I would like to share some thoughts with you about their candidacy.

Let’s start with Joe Peters.

Joe has the most impressive resume of any of the candidates here. He has been a successful professional crimefighter, and a wonderful political outsider. Joe is the stuff of legend, a tough cop surrounded by bad guys, but always doing the right thing.

Peters is the Serpico of political candidates.

A former cop and prosecutor who put away really bad men in jail, Joe took real risks, and earned real enemies. He has been tested many times over many decades, and has proven uncorruptible.

So naturally, Joe has earned the enmity and fear of politically powerful shadows now supporting the other candidate from his region, Dan Meuser.

We would be lucky to have Joe Peters in Congress, though I fear he lacks the funds to get his message and impressive personality out to the voters. When he ran for PA Attorney General a few years ago, I gladly, even eagerly voted for him. Really impressive guy. Total underdog.

Then we have Andrew Lewis.

After more or less forcing me out of the last primary race for the 15th state senate district (2016), by undercutting my base of support in Perry County, Andrew nonetheless earned my endorsement in his subsequent man-to-man primary run against John DiSanto, our current state senator, who thankfully went on to defeat incumbent Rob Teplitz (a Marxist who was outstanding at constituent services).

What I liked about Andrew then is probably his biggest weakness now, and that is his youth.

Andrew must be the most energetic candidate to ever run for any office. He is physically tough, tall, good looking, earnest, religious, conservative, and a combat veteran of the US Army operations in Iraq. And boy is he positive. This kid has the best demeanor and personality you are likely to meet in your lifetime. He is from a rural farming background, salt of the earth family, smart as hell, and highly educated. He has an impressive resume by any standard, and especially for someone so young.

People asked me in 2016 why I endorsed the guy who stole my dream of serving in the state senate. My answer was that Andrew was a really impressive young man, the kind of person America needs in politics and in leadership roles. I stand by that now, and if for some reason you can’t vote for Joe Peters, Andrew Lewis is your  man. You cannot go wrong voting for Andrew, who has probably the best geographic reach (political base, or likely voters) of all the candidates.

Then we have Steve Bloom, a sitting state representative from Cumberland County.

There is nothing negative anyone anywhere can say about Steve Bloom. And there is a long, long list of very positive things about him.

And that is the problem here.

Steve, why are you in this congressional race?  You are needed in the PA State House of Representatives, where you already serve with great distinction! You are WAY too good to lose from the state house.

Steve has worked hard and smart in the state house. He has amazingly, surprisingly worked his way up into junior leadership. He is on the cusp of breaking into actual leadership, which is amazing because he is a straight-talking, no BS conservative. Steve is not a weasel, he is a force for good…in the PA State House. The fact that he is moving up is cause for celebration.

Steve is very conservative, religious, and as pure as the driven snow. Steve is exactly what we need in politics, and in fact he already IS in politics. Now that he is in the state house, it would be nice to keep him there. If you vote for Steve Bloom in the upcoming primary, no one can fault you. But the fear is that Steve’s southcentral PA base is too small for him to leverage into winning this congressional seat, and that voting for him will divide up the vote, resulting in the worst possible outcome in this race…

Dan Meuser.

If you have something positive to say about Dan Meuser, would you please contact me directly?

Honestly, if you have something truthfully good to say about him, I will publish it here, unfiltered. No lie.

Dan is from the same northeastern coal country that Joe Peters is from, and he has played the strangest role in politics for a long time.

Dan has the distinction of having blown the hugest wad of cash on a losing primary race of anyone in living history. About ten years ago he ran against Chris Hackett, a religious hillbilly who no one had ever heard of.

And Dan lost.

He didn’t just lose, he lost spectacularly, hugely, phenomenally. Dan spent literally millions of dollars on a primary race, and lost to a guy who spent, what, a hundred thousand dollars? Maybe a bit more? [UPDATE May 1, 2018: Proving that memory can be a fragile thing, campaign finance records that I looked at today show that Hackett spent well over $100,000 on his campaign against Dan Meuser. It is hard to tell exactly how much both candidates spent, but Meuser’s campaign was over a million bucks, and Hackett’s may have been right behind that. What I recalled was Hackett’s excellent grass roots ground game]

What Dan lacked in charisma and character, he made up for with money. He just kept tossing that cash around, trying to buy votes that never materialized. When the dust settled, in a two-person primary race, mind you, Hackett had crushed him with his folksy man-on-the-street candidacy. The empty suits lost to the citizen revolt that became known within a year as the Tea Party.

Dan Meuser eventually served in the Tom Corbett administration as Secretary of Revenue, the Mister Moneybags of PA government.

The Corbett administration was the worst run administration in modern Pennsylvania history.

A tone deaf governor with zero loyalty for those who put him there, and a taste for private flash, Corbett was surrounded by an army of self-directed, self-interested political hacks embodying the very worst of political patronage. God it was a freaking disaster, and it brings me no happiness to write it here.

I worked hard to get Corbett elected, very hard, and I served on the transition team, only to sit back and watch in slack-jawed amazement as the entire enterprise slo-mo crashed and burned after it was in place. Like a bad dream.

How many people went into the governor’s office, pleading for Corbett to take control and right the ship of state…it was like a nightmare, where your hand is on the wheel, and you keep turning it, but your car heads over the cliff.

Anyhow, if you are like me and four years ago you said “thankfully that pain is behind us” about the departing Corbett Administration, well, Dan Meuser is here to revisit that pain upon us, once again, but this time as a congressman.

As Secretary of Revenue in the Corbett administration, Meuser oversaw, masterminded, and approved the largest state government sexual harassment settlement in Pennsylvania history. And it may be the largest state government sexual harassment settlement in the country’s history.

You understand, this is nothing to brag about. This settlement was probably unnecessary and in any event, it was a colossal waste of limited taxpayer money. At a time of tight budgets, this is no way to spend The People’s money. At a time of flush budgets, it is going to be the butt of late night comedy jokes, because it is bad policy but at least humorously so.

And speaking of The People’s money, do you know another fantastically bad public policy idea Meuser implemented from his perch in state government? He put the squeeze on Pennsylvania businesses, like the Mob would do to extract cash from innocent people.

We PA business owners, great and small, all received these ridiculous notices from Meuser’s Dept. of Revenue saying “Prove to us that you don’t owe this tax money below, and while you are mulling that over, pay this bill for what we think, but cannot prove, that you owe to state government.”

Meuser’s assault on PA businesses for fast cash to prop up bloated state government spending was so shocking that whatever bit of good will the Corbett Administration had left, was squeezed out of his remaining voting base. Nearly 100% of these phony tax bills ended up resulting in zero owed, but it was the kind of expensive and anxiety-inducing government red tape we expect from liberals. Not from business people. With people like Meuser in senior positions pulling these kinds of cheap stunts, it was  ever harder to see Corbett as a pro-business Republican.

And this is the GOOD stuff about Dan.

Believe me, there is plenty more bad stuff. Like, recall the politically powerful shadows pulling his puppet strings mentioned above. He is the stultified establishment candidate. Good grief, aren’t we so beyond that now? Most Republican voters now know how failed that is, a party inward looking, without direction, barely distinguishable from the Democrats.

Dan Meuser is the last person Pennsylvanians need in office. He is representative of everything bad about politics. You cannot vote for him. You just cannot. That is a terrible choice. My gosh, you have three other good candidates to vote for here, and if you really want one of the good guys to win, you will vote for Joe Peters or Andrew Lewis.

Voting for Dan Meuser is voting for an empty suit with no principles, with a history of proven failure on one of the seminal issues of our time, sexual harassment.

Voting for Steve Bloom is effectively dividing up the good-guy vote and pretty much ensuring that Dan Meuser wins. We need Steve to stay in the PA House of Reps. Stay there, Steve, stay! Not voting for Steve Bloom is actually helping Steve stay right where we need him.

Voting for Joe Peters or Andrew Lewis is what you want if you want an outstanding congressman. You cannot go wrong with either one.

 

 

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.

Dangerous RINOs Ahead

Around the world, both the leading and moderately successful democracies  are unsustainably absorbing huge numbers of illegal immigrants who both refuse to integrate and probably could not integrate, even if they wanted.

In most places they show no signs of integrating, and are instead associated with lawlessness and chaos.

Europe, Israel, and America are where this is happening.

The faux “victim” status of the invaders has given them access to publicly funded health and education benefits, against the will of the people paying for them.

This invasion-in-fact puts increasing economic and social pressure on existing populations, the people who built their societies from the ground up. You know, the “natives.”

These European natives live in the very places against which the invaders are entitled to “resist occupation.” Why and how it is “occupation” when Europeans and Americans move to other countries, but it is a morally required population shift when everyone moves to Europe and America, is one of those mysteries that can probably only be explained by being steeped in the ‘deep thinking’ of Marxism.

This presently unarmed invasion is made possible by ruling elites who either benefit financially from the cheap labor influx, or who personally enjoy signalling their great virtues and thus willfully ignore the huge problems descending upon the natives.

While you would think leaders from opposite sides of the aisle would collide on this civilization-ending invasion, the truth is that huge collaboration between left and right party establishments is what has enabled this in the first place. Most of the left and the right are run by ruling class elites.

Among the world’s ruling class elite, the RINO is the most dangerous animal. This is because the RINO says it is a watch dog, when in fact it is a guide dog for the invaders while the American family lies asleep inside the cozy home.

Living in its own cushy, posh, comfy little corner, insulated from the reality around it, the careerist RINO just has to successfully pretend to be a watch dog and occasionally bark like a watch dog. That keeps most of the rabble away. Never mind that the rabble are the citizens the RINO is supposed to be watching.

Aside from a small group of conservatives in Congress and in state houses, the GOPe is not protecting America. The GOPe is not standing guard. Sure some of the GOPe members make a few noises about standing up for the citizens they represent, but just like with the GOPe recent unwillingness to eliminate ObamaCare, these RINOs cannot bring themselves to make a principled stand when the time has arrived. It might upset someone and threaten their cozy elected job.

Around here in central Pennsylvania, career congressman Charlie Dent is probably the greatest example of the most worthless of RINOs in Congress, and state senator Jake Corman is the best example in the PA legislature.  Won’t a couple patriots please challenge Dent and Corman in their upcoming primaries?

It is time to make these RINOs an endangered species. Otherwise, America will become an endangered specie itself.

Good luck spring gobbler hunting tomorrow

Tomorrow is the spring gobbler hunting season opener here in PA.
People from all around PA and beyond are drawn to our forests and farm fields to try their hand at enticing a strutting long beard into shotgun range. It is probably the hardest form of hunting, because little is left to chance; nearly the entire process depends upon the lone hunter’s skills.

Those skills involve calling, sure, but they also involve understanding a turkey’s habits, its habitat, the local and larger terrain and topography, weather, and the impact of other predators, both human and four-legged on how a gobbler might respond to the seductive crooning of a the faux hen.

Turkey hunting is one of the least productive, most frustrating pastimes possible. And yet it is so popular.

Good luck out there tomorrow, ladies and gentlemen. Be safe (do not stalk turkey sounds), carefully shoot for the gobbler’s neck area between the head and the body, and enjoy the unfolding of springtime all around you as the dawn magically lights up the woods.