There's an old axiom in journalism that sometimes the best articles aren't the ones that tell you something you didn't know, but the ones that confirm or prove what you long suspected. Here in Pennsylvania, you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that Gov. Corbett sees his constituency as business owners -- especially large business owners -- and that to better serve that clientele and thus give to the rich, he metaphorically robs from the poor -- again and again and again.
It started right after he took office in 2011 when he killed the AdultBasic program and left many lower-income people without health insurance. There were massive cuts to public assistance, and now the governor's stance against Medicaid expansion under President Obama's health care reform will needlessly put thousands more at risk. All this while Corbett continues to push for lower corporate taxes and spurned a broader tax on the fracking industry -- something that's done in every other gas-producing state -- in favor of an "impact fee" that has much less, um, impact.
But the unkindest cut of all has been education. Corbett surely revealed his true colors when he slashed overall statewide aid to education by $1 billion upon taking office, and he's done nothing to rectify that situation. But it gets worse. Now the Public Law Center of Philadelphia is here to prove what most of us long suspected, that the cuts to schools fell heavily on poorer districts:
Data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education showed the average student lost $414 in funding. Because the reduction in spending by the state varied from district to district, the impact on minorities and poor also varied. Recent PDE data reveal that the low-income student on average lost 50 percent more in state funding than higher income students: $615 in spending reductions compared to $401. The disparity in cuts based on race is even more dramatic. Caucasian students lost on average only $366 per student while non-white students lost on average $728 per student, twice the amount of funding cut from the average Caucasian student. Although the restoration of $39 million to distressed school districts last year helped minority and low income students, the impact of the disproportionate cuts continues. The remaining cuts, for example, are still 188 percent greater for minority than white students.
I will say this about Pennsylvania's bass-ackwards "Corbett Hood," who gives to the rich: It takes a lot of political skill to hit the poorest people with his bow and arrow every single time. So far, Corbett's policies have embodied a kind of a winner-take-all society that is brazen in its belief that people not only at the top but in the middle simply won't care about the overt screwing-over of the poor on the bottom. Apparently there's some talk in Harrisburg that even Tom Corbett knows that the pendulum has swung too far, that he will labor to find a few extra dollars for Philly and the other struggling districts. I hope that's true, but when you've been driving Pennsylvania's poor off a cliff at 85 mph, it's not easy to shift into reverse.