Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 14, 2011

A MATTER OF PRIORITIES.... Watching Republican governors make budget choices is often more interesting than watching Republican lawmakers in Congress, in large part because the congressional GOP cuts taxes without regard for cost. For years, the price tag for tax breaks, disproportionately benefitting the wealthy, are just thrown onto the deficit.

Governors have to go to the trouble of covering the costs of tax cuts with comparable spending cuts elsewhere, and in the process, put their priorities on the table for all to see. This year, that generally means the GOP undercutting schools, but Jamil Smith notes a striking example of these priorities on display.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett has a twist on [Florida Gov. Rick Scott's] approach, directing the money saved by harsh cuts in education (and state worker rights) to something else: prisons. Public education? Slashed more than any other area. Funding for the state university system, including Penn State? Literally cut in half.

Funding for the state's Department of Corrections? Increased by 11 percent, a total of around $186 million, despite its existing burden on the state's budget.

Yes, Pennsylvania's new Republican governor is putting his priorities on display: in the midst of a state budget crunch, Corbett thinks funding for prisons should go up, while funding for education should face some of the toughest cuts in the country.

Corbett could save on prison costs by reevaluating existing drug-sentencing laws, but apparently that wouldn't be "tough" enough.

Jamil added, "[T]his is no longer about crowd-pleasing campaign rhetoric. It is about how these brand-new Republican governors are now actually governing. These budget proposals are the stones tossed into the water. Governors like Tom Corbett speak through their budgets, telling students it is more prudent to invest in their future incarceration than in their education. What will be the ripple effect?"

And will that ripple effect include buyer's remorse for voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Maine, Michigan, and other states that probably didn't realize the kind of agenda they were voting for in November?

Steve Benen 1:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Typical.

No money for Penn State.

Plenty of money for the State Pen.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 14, 2011 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the Republicans can't govern. They've proven that!

Well, the Republicans can campaign. They resort to rhetorical fraud, but they can run an effective campaign!

And well, here we go again!

"Shoes for the industry. Shoes for the dead!" -Fire Sign Theater

Hurting the Middle and Working Class seems to be the priority of Republican Congresscritters and Republican governors, now that the elections of 2010 have been complete! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 14, 2011 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

You will get tax cuts.

But they will be less than the tolls, fees and rents when these public assets are privatized.

Nothing new here its British neo-liberalism under the guise of conservatism.

Posted by: Kill Bill on March 14, 2011 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

It let's him hand out jobs to the "real Pennsylvanians."

Posted by: Mac on March 14, 2011 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Let me guess. Major contributor or buddy is involved with private prisons-related company.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on March 14, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

And it was right here in PA that a judge was recently convicted of taking money from a "for profit" prison in return for sentencing youthful offenders to their tender mercies!

Incarceration, the latest "Growth Industry".

Posted by: DAY on March 14, 2011 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

The Broken Record Party (GOP) has not only been taken over by a right wing agenda, these several states have been victimized by a right wing coup.

The interstate coordination of policy attacks on educators, unionized workers and on other public employees was obviously planned in little cabal rooms at the Republican Governors Association, the secret Koch Brothers meetings (with Scalia and Thomas in attendance!). And it was KEPT SECRET in order to win the votes they needed to go in and literally disestablish parts of the governments they were supposed to be in charge of.

This calls for a serious investigation of conspiracy. And the people who were duped into voting for what they imagined would be 'conservative' Republican policies are clearly shocked.

Let us pray we have enough democracy left by the time these pea brains are through with us that we can vote them permanently out of office or rather out of any place they can do such harm.

Posted by: jjm on March 14, 2011 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

The truly evil plot in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., began in 2002 when Senior Judge Michael Conahan and Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. conspired to shut down a county-run detention center and incarcerate juveniles instead in two privately operated juvenile prisons.

From then on, it was incarcerate, baby, incarcerate. Ciavarella’s juvenile court oper ated like a conveyor belt. Young people were brought before him without an attorney, given hearings usually lasting only a minute or two and summarily sentenced to months in juvenile prison.

The budget priorities are clear and logical. Education has not been privatized the way incarceration has. Given the recent scandal, with two judges pleading guilty to sentencing juveniles to incarceration in private facilities in exchange for kickbacks, this would seem to be political suicide for Corbett. But voters would have to be paying attention to some news source other than Fox News Channel for anything good to come out of this. In the meantime, the private prison industry has become one of the most potent lobbying forces at the state level. They were responsible for Arizona's immigration law and I would bet that they contributed heavily to Corbett too.

Posted by: majun on March 14, 2011 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Could somebody tell me why the Republican governors are all going after education. Was there a meeting somewhere? Is there a memo?

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 14, 2011 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

The politics of prisons would crack me up if the resulting realities weren't so bleak. In CA, the anti-union folks are having a lot of trouble squaring the circle of being against the odious prison guards union while supporting the odious three-strikes law. The dirty secret is, of course, that the prison guards union has been the prime mover for three-strikes. Politics makes strange bedfellows.

There's a lot of money to made in locking people up.

Posted by: danimal on March 14, 2011 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

@ Kill Bill You said it - Nail the working stiffs with hidden taxes . In Florida they doubled the tag and license fees to make up for the lost tax revenues from a property tax cut. Same as they did a bait and switch on the lottery years before...Oh the lottery will subsidize the education and now it IS " the " education fund

Posted by: John R on March 14, 2011 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

And when these policies deepen our national misery, we will be told that they failed only because they were not conservative enough.

Posted by: JB on March 14, 2011 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

What's even more disturbing about Corbett's budget proposal is his refusal to tax companies drilling for Marsallis shale oil. That's right. They are not taxed so much as a penny. We are the only state in the nation to offer tax free oil to positioned corporations. Imposing a reasonable tax would not affect these businesses at all. They will pay to get at the energy, just as surely as they will depart when it's been exhausted. Unbelievable.

Posted by: JoeW on March 14, 2011 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

As a PA resident I am appaled but not surprised that Republican Tom Corbett could cut school budgets so drastically. I will tell you that this is definitely hitting home with my non-political friends.

This nationwide overreach by Republican Governors will have a lasting effect on the Republican brand...but my fear is that the damage will be done by thime these jokers are kicked out of office for good

Posted by: lib4 on March 14, 2011 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

"And will that ripple effect include buyer's remorse for voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Maine, Michigan, and other states that probably didn't realize the kind of agenda they were voting for in November?"

At this point, I just have to say, what did the GOP-voting morons THINK they were going to get?

Posted by: Arachnae on March 14, 2011 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Who would have ever thought that creating a profit motive for increased crime might have bad consequences?

Posted by: Sarcastro on March 14, 2011 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, please do not forget Cuomo. He has a novel approach to killing public schools. Not really novel as Howard Jarvis did it Cali. Cap property tax increases to 2% and force a super majority of 62% to go higher. Worked so well in California the jackass wants to do it here. No one asked for it and instead of coming up with real ideas or difficult solutions he proposes a gimmick.

Posted by: KK on March 14, 2011 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Just like Arizona... More private prisons despite the fact that crime is decreasing. Remember if the private prison industry can buy Arizona's state legislature and scare the population into voting for a bunch Republicans whose policies verge on southern separatist they can do it in Pennsylvania. The only beneficiaries of this policy are prison owners... who in AZ are trying to create a whole new class of criminals with SB1070 and it's successors with which to populate their prisons.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on March 14, 2011 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

It would be interesting to learn if Pennsylvania's prisons are privatized and campaign donors to anyone. I believe it was in Pennsylvania a few years ago that some judges were sent to prison for trumped up sentences for accused juveniles and getting kickbacks for putting kids in the prisons for which the prisons would receive payments for.

Posted by: bos'n on March 14, 2011 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

As a long time resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I would be hard pressed to say if Republicans have done a more thorough job fracking the people or the environment of this once great state.

Community after community is ravaged by drugs, crime and poverty, yet the good people of Pennsylvania hand power back to the GOP. It breaks my heart to say that, in spite of Governor Drill Bits efforts to turn Pennsylvania into a penal colony and an oil and gas wonderland, I have a hard time imagining people here taking a stand like they have in Wisconsin. They have been beaten down for so long they can't imagine a better life for themselves or their families-precisely what their Republican overlords have in mind.

Posted by: broken arrow on March 14, 2011 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm in Pa too. The ability of the voters to know nothing and to vote stupid is unmatched.

Did you know that buried in his proposed budget, our lovely gov has a proposal to hand regulatory authority over to a czar-his buddy Walker the lawbreaking coal baron and large campaign donator-so that all permitting could be done with NO recourse to any law or regulation that-in Walker's opinion!!!- might reduce jobs...

Posted by: sue on March 14, 2011 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Arachnae - I have no sympathy whatsoever for anybody who has voted republican since 2002. By the end of Bushit's first term, the publican agenda was clear: Gut the middle class (actually, anybody in the bottom 80%), string them up to bleed out, and spread the offal around to draw the wolves to the carcass.

Or as Edward R. Murrow put it: "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves."

Posted by: KarenJG on March 14, 2011 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

When a brand-new prison went up across the road from our brand-new, consolidated (county and "city") highschool, we used to joke to our kids: better study hard, or else. Seems like Corbett actually meant what we thought was a -- somewhat sick -- joke.

And vis the advantage of (some) prisons over schools, there's another -- often overlooked -- reason, beyond the business of private prisons, which makes various officials at all levels vie for having them in their locality: the prisoners are counted in the census, thus, potentially, enlarging the kitty, not to mention representation (both at federal level). At the same time they're unable to vote, thus do not endanger the political power balance. Win-win for the establishment.

Posted by: exlibra on March 14, 2011 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Don't educate! Incarcerate!

Posted by: SqueakyRat on March 14, 2011 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

My brother is an arch Republican who tells me it is all about creating a proper climate for business in this state. Apparently he meant reducing the economy of this state to that of a third world country so it could compete on a world stage.

Pennsylvania has nothing to show for thirty years of smokestack chasing except small towns that are a shadow of their former selves and workers who struggle simply to survive. They have given up hope. Since no one steps forward to speak for them, they elect a Republican and hope for the best. Like Ireland, Pennsylvania has an extremely well-educated work force. However, since there is no effort to create opportunities for our graduates, they go else where, which hastens our impoverishment.

The thing is, there is no reason why there can't be manufacturing in this state- particularly in industries that focus on alternative energy (everything from building windmills, solar panels, and batteries for electric vehicles to growing scrubgrass as a bio fuel). Republican politicians like Corbett and Toomey prefer a third-world economy focusing on minimum wage jobs, coal, and oil and gas extraction. Their policies also sustain the prison industry, as many of the arrests that occur are for drug-related offenses (often minor)that are, at least in part, bred by the lack of opportunities in these little towns along the Allegheny.

The cynicism of Republican politicians is staggering, as is the willful ignorance of the voters in this state who put them in office.

Posted by: broken arrow on March 14, 2011 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Let's turn this over to Mr. Charles Dickens:

`At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, `it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.'

`Are there no prisons?' asked Scrooge.

`Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

`And the Union workhouses?' demanded Scrooge. `Are they still in operation?'

`They are. Still,' returned the gentleman, `I wish I could say they were not.'

`The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?' said Scrooge.

`Both very busy, sir.'

`Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,' said Scrooge. `I'm very glad to hear it.'

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 14, 2011 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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