No, Glenn Beck, we don't suck

An IOM editorial in the Daily News:

Watch out, Philadelphia. You are not safe downtown. There are gunmen hiding in the Liberty Bell, and that Betsy Ross impersonator might take you for everything you've got.

At least, that's the fantasy world inhabited by right-wing radio host Glenn Beck, who declared on his show earlier this week that "Philadelphia sucks."

It's easy to laugh at Glenn Beck (boy, is it easy!). However, it's less amusing to think how his rhetoric might affect how others view Philadelphia. After all, Beck's program is carried by 22 affiliates across the state. That includes every corner of Pennsylvania, from Pittsburgh to Erie to Harrisburg.

That's troubling, because on Tuesday, there was a huge power shift in state government when Tom Corbett was sworn in as governor. Corbett hails from Pittsburgh, and none of the top leaders in the Legislature is from our city. And though the two-day-old Corbett administration hasn't yet taken an ax to the city, there's an expectation around Pennsylvania that things are about to get ugly for Philadelphia.

That would be a mistake. Because Philly doesn't suck. For those who are unlucky enough to live in other parts of the state, it's popular to portray Philadelphia as a needy, greedy metropolis that eats up a big part of the state's resources.

The facts say the opposite.

A study released last month by the Economy League, a nonprofit municipal-research agency, dispels the myth that Philadelphia and its surrounding region are a mooch on the rest of the state. (Find "Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth Budget" at

Southeastern Pennsylvania is home to about a third of Pennsylvania's population, but makes up about 40 percent of the state's economy.

According to the Economy League report, the five counties of southeastern Pennsylvania (and parts of South Jersey) combined represent the ninth-largest gross domestic product in the world, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Philadelphia is the economic engine in the region, meaning that the entire state's economy would be in trouble if Philly suddenly fell into the Delaware.

But our contributions go beyond jobs and the economy. Philadelphia and the surrounding counties are vital for the troubled state budget.

The region generates about 37 percent of total revenue for the general fund. We receive only about 31 percent of state spending. That means the rest of our taxes are distributed to other parts of Pennsylvania. What's the opposite of a mooch - a sugar daddy?

The region does need much of the aid it gets from the state if it's going to continue to be an economic engine. State funding is particularly important to programs that provide a social safety net to the most vulnerable among us, including homelessness, mental health, and other social services. (The region does have a slightly higher percentage than the rest of the state of people living in poverty.)

While the bad-old Philadelphia image still lives in the minds of some lawmakers and lame commentators like Glenn Beck, the rest of us should understand the 21st-century reality: that the state would be in dire straits without the Philadelphia region . . . and vice versa.

The enlightened know that our strength and future rest in recognizing our interdependence.

They also know that the biggest danger in walking around Independence Hall at 6 p.m. is not getting shot, but not getting a table at one of the hot restaurants.

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