There’s a perfectly good reason why the state continues to fuck Philadelphians.
Last week, as signs went up across the city warning that Philadelphia’s libraries would close on Oct. 2, a friend lamented: “I find it difficult to care about the nation’s health care crisis when Philly’s closing libraries, rec centers and parks.”
Understandable. But there’s a thread that links the nation’s health care crisis to the Harrisburg budget dithering that may force Mayor Nutter to close the city’s libraries, rec centers and parks—as well as lay off thousands of cops and firefighters.
That thread is this: Republicans are fucking nuts. Suicidally so. Maybe a little bit racist, to boot.
What else to make of Harrisburg’s game of chicken with the Philadelphia budget? Sure, the Pennsylvania General Assembly is long overdue on its own budget, which is putting the squeeze on agencies across the state. But legislators have had months to do something very easy for Philadelphia: Give City Hall the authority to raise the sales tax one percent and do some accounting tricks with pension obligations to retired city workers. Pretty simple. And yet here we are, down to the 11th hour, with Nutter’s “Plan C” doomsday budget of draconian cuts ready to go into effect—and maybe we’ll get action this week, or maybe not.
And what else to make of the spectacle in Washington last week? Have you ever seen a president openly heckled in Congress the way that President Obama was catcalled by South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson? And can you remember anything like Saturday’s Glenn Beck-fueled “tea party” protests, where demonstrators carried signs suggesting the president was in league with terrorists like Osama bin Laden, a (probably foreign-born) tyrant whose health care proposals are the first step to creating Communist death camps?
Nuts. Plain and simple.
In Harrisburg’s case, the insanity extends to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Philadelphia, after all, is the state’s major economic engine: In 2005, the metropolitan area had a gross domestic product of $312 billion—making us the ninth-richest city in the world. The rest of Pennsylvania added just $114 billion to the state’s economy. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it shows Philly’s importance to the state’s bottom line.
Imagine what happens to that bottom line if the libraries are closed and the city’s businesses become more vulnerable to crime and fire thanks to Mayor Nutter’s layoffs. We won’t be attracting any news businesses to town, certainly, and some businesses that are here might find it in their best interest to relocate. Think the recession is bad now? It can get a whole lot worse—and it would be the fault of the Republicans who control the state legislature.
In Monday’s Daily News, Stu Bykofsky interviewed State Rep. Kate Harper, a Republican, to find out why the rest of the state apparently hates Philadelphia enough to bring us to our knees. The answers were predictable: We’re corrupt, we’re arrogant and our crime levels lead to curbs on gun ownership that rural hunters hate.
And oh yeah: Our city votes for Democrats. Without Philly’s votes, after all, Obama would’ve lost Pennsylvania to John McCain—and with the state, perhaps the presidency. Think that’s irritating to Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, the Republican who has been holding up Philly’s budget?
Oddly missing from Bykofsky’s interview with Harper: Any overt mention of race. Let’s be real, Philadelphia is home to half of the state’s African American population—and you know the rest of the state knows it, too. When James Carville famously described Pennsylvania as Philly and Pittsburgh “with Alabama in between,” he wasn’t talking about the scenic hill country: he was talking racial attitudes. White Republican legislators aren’t going to pay a political price with their white Republican constituents for punishing a city dominated by black Democrats. Even, perhaps, if that punishment threatens the economic future of the whole state.
If a child acted this way, you’d send them to their room. Instead, we have to hope and pray Republicans will come to their senses.
Don’t get me wrong. There are well-meaning conservatives out there who want what’s best for the country—and for Philadelphia—and simply disagree with President Obama and Mayor Nutter on the merits of their ideas and governance. Fine. But none of those people hold office in Washington or Harrisburg, and none of those people have platforms on Fox News or talk radio.
The Republicans who have actual power and influence? Fucking nuts.