Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pennsylvania's class war

A DN editorial (from over the holiday weekend) says it's between the elected and the rest of us:

Pennsylvania's class war

A DN editorial (from over the holiday weekend) says it's between the elected and the rest of us:

Society being what it is, we will always have class divisions. When the economic going gets rough, those divisions will inevitably turn to clashes. In fact, we can't help thinking that the rise of the tea party represents one such clash.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have a distinct face- off: between the taxpayer class and the elected class.

In Pennsylvania, it's the elected class that gets the spoils. They get jobs and great health benefits. They get cost-of-living wage increases. They get gifts and cars and per diems, and free trips and free golf games at private clubs. The laws they pass are often designed to help them reap even more, and when the laws don't work in their favor, they can change them. What a racket!

The latest outrage from this racket: an automatic 1.7 percent cost-of-living pay increase for state lawmakers, legislative leaders, judges and the governor, all of which will total about $3 million.

This hike comes at a time when unemployment is high, many workers are taking furloughs and pay cuts, and many others are hungry and homeless.

And yet, the beast goes on. The disconnect between the lawmaking world and the rest of us grows wider. Governor-elect Tom Corbett should tackle this disparity, starting with a rejection of the increase his new job will pay, and getting the Legislature to stop future automatic pay hikes.

They're legal, but wrong.

That's also the case for Supreme Court judges, who by law are allowed to accept gifts as long as they disclose them. Recently, the Inquirer reported that Chief Justice Ron Castille has reported a hefty haul of gifts - including free hotel rooms, flights and golf outings.

Castille should stop this practice immediately.

No one has said that Castille's rulings have been swayed by these gifts. Then again, we wonder if anyone, including Castille, can ever truly know with certainty.

The point is that appearance is everything. And the Supreme Court knows this. In its role as overseer of the entire court system, it prohibits judges from other courts from accepting gifts, a ban that also extends to all court employees.

Doing the wrong thing according to the rules is not the same thing as doing the right thing. It's a troubling situation if we can't count on a judge to know this.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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