It's time for some political straight talk. Our political, business and civic leaders have been kicking the can down the road for way too long. Solving this crisis is going to take a national conversation and some hard choices. Painful sacrifices will have to be made. So let's just come out and say it.
America can no longer afford the promises we once made to our hard-working CEOs, corporate board members and our wizards of Wall Street.
It's time for salary-and-perk reform. The money that we pay our top executives and Wall Street gurus has been rising steadily since 1981. In an era of prosperity, when the Pied Piper in the White House was promising buttercream candies served on the priciest china, what we were able to do to reward our toil-and-sweat-soaked bosses was a symbol of American audaciousness. From 1978 through 2011, we increased salary for our CEOs by 725 percent. which was 127 times -- 127 TIMES -- the rate of pay hikes for the average worklng stiff. These Masters of the Universe even increased their compensation during the Great Recession, when everybody else was making painful concessions.
My long-awaited (not really) newspaper opus -- on the three multi-millionaires (probably billionaires...after a certain point, who can count?) from Montgomery Country who plan to invest some of their fortune in an independent effort to boost state Sen. Anthony Williams in the mayoral race -- dropped today.
In a matter of days, you'll be seeing a blitz of pro-Williams TV ads funded by these principals of Bala Cynwyd's Susquehanna International Group, whose political interests are tied to one issue, and one issue alone: "School choice," led by the rise of charters as an alternative to traditional neighborhood schools.
Here's the issue for Philadelphia, and its voters:
Sen. Ted Cruz' misappropriation and abuse of the late John Lennon -- in announcing his 2016 GOP White House bid -- had to be the worst since that lame Al Pacino movie about the late ex-Beatle. OK, actually the Pacino flick is just out this week, but you get the idea. The Texas Tea Party icon spent much of his announcement speech at Virginia's Liberty University with a riff on the word "Imagine," much as Lennon had done in front of a haunting piano riff 44 years ago.
Never mind that Cruz was speaking at a college founded in 1971 -- the same year Lennon's record was released -- by Religious Right icon Jerry Falwell, who'd spent his previous years running whites-only 'segregation academies" and crusading against Martin Luther King. "Imagine no religion"?...not under Cruz control.
For that matter, never mind that Cruz' wider message -- taking away health care from millions of Americans, fetishizing an never-ending "war on terror" and denying to civil right of marriage equality to LGBT couples in loving relationships -- is about as close to Lennon's timeless utopia of love and equality as the 76ers are to that last NBA playoff spot.
If you were born in 1959 (or later), you missed out on a lot of cool stuff. Here's Exhibit A: You never got to see the great Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik play football for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Instead, a young kid starting to watch the game in the mid-late 1960s felt only the shadow of a legend, looming over the game at a moment when the world was changing so quickly. In that era, NFL TV announcers spoke of Bednarik -- who'd retired two seasons after leading the Eagles to their last-ever pro football championship in 1960 -- in almost reverent tones. Much of the awe was inspired by Bednarik's most remarkable accomplishment -- playing the entire 60 minutes in a game, as both a center on offense and a bone-crushing linebacker on defense. He was pro football's last two-way player.
Also, for all of us latecomers, there was The Picture -- Bednarik, looking like an ambulatory slab of granite and exalting after he'd flattened the Giants' Hollywood-handsome star receiver Frank Gifford (not realizing that Gifford was out cold, and about to spend the next year-and-a-half out of football) during a key game that propelled them toward that 1960 title.
Last night, mayoral hopeful and ex-City Council member Jim Kenney won the coveted -- by politicians, anyway -- endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5. Here's what Kenney said on his Twitter feed today: "I'll work with police to end practices like stop-and-frisk that drive a wedge between citizens & police."
If that strikes you as a non-sequitor, I agree. I -- and some other folks I've spoken with today -- were a little surprised that the FOP backed Kenney, who's positioned himself mostly on the left of the Democratic primary field. Kenney, after all, is the guy who led the push to decriminalize marijuana, and his stated policy on the racially divisive practice of stop-and-frisk would be a big step forward for Philadelphia. One of his rivals, you'll recall, is former DA Lynne Abraham -- "America's Deadliest DA," the woman that cop's cop Frank Rizzo forever branded as "one tough cookie." But the law-and-order icon got only two votes -- two! -- from the 72-member board of the FOP, trailing not only their overwhelming vote for Kenney but also state Sen. Anthony Williams, who was a distant second place.
That said, I'm not sure that Kenney's opposition to stop-and-frisk is that big a deal for either the FOP leadership or the rank-and-file. The real hard work of bringing Philadelphia policing into the 21st Century (kicking and screaming all the way) is a) stronger civilian review than what we now have and b) a complete overhaul of the review system that makes it so easy for disgraced cops to win their jobs back.
They always say that a budget is a political document. Well, the Republicans who run Congress have been putting out their budgets, and you'll be shocked to learn that their politics is helping rich people. Or polluters. Or rich people who pollute.
After decrying these abstract costs, the GOP then makes clear what they're really upset about: Obamacare, the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law and Environmental Protection Agency rules on carbon emissions from burning coal. No other legislation or regulatory initiative is mentioned. While the Republican budget bill decries "unnecessary red tape," the only examples it can find of such inefficiency just happen to be the signature domestic policy achievements of the Obama administration.
Surely congressional Democrats will stop this nonsense:
UPDATED 2x: This journalist (who's braver than me...aren't they all?) walks into Starbucks and tries to talk about race. You'll never believe what happened next!
UPDATE: This is better -- why wasn't it announced at the same time?
ORIGINAL POST: "It's worth a little discomfort."
A hundred years from now, humans may remember 2014 as the year that we first learned that we may have irreversibly destabilized the great ice sheet of West Antarctica, and thus set in motion more than 10 feet of sea level rise.
Meanwhile, 2015 could be the year of the double whammy — when we learned the same about one gigantic glacier of East Antarctica, which could set in motion roughly the same amount all over again. Northern Hemisphere residents and Americans in particular should take note — when the bottom of the world loses vast amounts of ice, those of us living closer to its top get more sea level rise than the rest of the planet, thanks to the law of gravity.