Baer: The summer of our (political) discontent

Saudi Arabia US Veterans
FILE — In this Sept. 6, 2016 file photo, an American flag flies over Capitol Hill in Washington. A Saudi-funded lobbying campaign involving U.S. military veterans saw some organizers disclose their activities late or vaguely. That stymied public knowledge on the scale of foreign influence in the campaign. The campaign and the allegations surrounding it […]

How you enjoying your summer thus far?

Politically, I mean.

Just one week in, it’s shaping up as the summer of our discontent.

In Washington and Harrisburg, Republicans fight each other over, respectively, health care and a new state budget.

These fights play out like real-life versions of the old wordless comic strip Spy vs. Spy: entertaining, sure, but only producing stuff that keeps blowing up.

In Washington, Trump and company bask in wins of multiple congressional special elections and this week’s Supreme Court go-ahead nod for at least a mini-travel ban.

This certainly makes many Republicans happy.

I’m just not sure what such wins do for, say, average American working families worrying over stagnant income, health-care costs, car payments, college tuition, etc.

Meanwhile, we’re treated to GOP-on-GOP wrangling over the latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, action promised by the Republican president (on day one, if memory serves me) and, incidentally, by Republican leaders for the last seven years.

Maybe, to quote one high-ranking public official, “nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

And Democrats, a.k.a. the party of headless chickens, continue to run around in circles, depressed about losing elections, distraught by the very plain fact they simply have no voice.

This is a party that’s the best argument for registering as an independent voter and pushing for open primaries in each and every state.

And then there’s Harrisburg, D.C.’s little mirror image along the Susquehanna.

Republicans are fighting each other in Harrisburg, too. But not over anything as important to the general population as health care; they’re fighting over VGTs.

And, no, that’s not a sexually transmitted disease. It stands for video gaming terminals, or specifically, a new way to suck more money from people who haven’t yet learned the house always wins.

In this case, the GOP House wants 40,000 money-sucking machines all over the state because (just between you and me) there’s more interest in new revenue that doesn’t come from business (read: donors) and less interest in any community’s quality of life.

The Senate, generally known as a little more sensible than the House — a low bar indeed — has concerns about such expansion, its impact on urban neighborhoods, and its possible threat to lottery funds that serve senior citizens.

Resolving this disagreement, just to show you the level of discourse in your Capitol, is reportedly key to resolving a new budget due by the end of this week.

And that budget is all but guaranteed to be a no-big-taxes/no-big-solutions, maintain-the-fiscal-pain plan.

Neither Republican legislative leaders nor Democratic Gov. Wolf wants the kind of protracted battle waged in Wolf’s first year. It was due the end of June 2015. It was done in March 2016.

So the prime directive now isn’t to do what’s best to address budget holes and looming deficits. It’s to do what’s necessary to paper over problems and get out of town, lest voters think less of them (if that’s possible).

This sort of “leadership” is why seven consecutive Franklin and Marshall College polls since the 2015 budget fiasco say the most important problem facing Pennsylvania is “government, politicians.”

Not taxes. Not health care. Not education. Not infrastructure. “Government, politicians.”

So don’t seek summer contentment in Washington or Harrisburg, two comic-strip-worthy capitals in which your interests aren’t always drivers of policy.

But, hey, there’s always next year. To borrow from the Bard of Avon in the opening of Richard III, maybe we’ll all say: “Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this son of York.”

In 2018, when the next gubernatorial election rolls around, you could get to pick a son of York: Sen. Scott Wagner or Gov. Wolf.