In Pennsylvania, life is good if you’re a state legislator. Not only do you get all sorts of perks and privileges like a car and swank offices, but you also get to go on summer vacation. Oh, sorry—did I say vacation? I meant recess. Which is what it’s called when the legislature stops meeting for two months. Which is totally different.
Did I mention that, on top of their $84,000 salary, legislators also get to collect a per diem of up to $159 in expenses any day they claim to be working—no receipts required? Must be nice; most of us have to pay for our own meals and travel. And the health and pension benefits! Hot damn. I can barely even afford to pay for Obamacare.
I’m not alone, of course. While our elected officials in Harrisburg spend their time stifling one another’s attempts to accomplish anything worthwhile, their constituents back home are busy paying their bills, sending their children to crumbling schools—and, if they’re LGBT, getting discriminated against in all parts of the state.
The more we keep getting the shaft, the more justified I feel in calling them all assholes.
Here’s what’s been going on in the state capitol lately: Our legislators seem to have become obsessed with sex. Literally, that is, not just their usual figurative interest in screwing us over. They’ve been very busy passing bills to crack down on sex trafficking and revenge porn—which is great, but you know, what ever happened to priorities like passing a budget that will do anything whatsoever to spur economic development in the state? Because they’re not doing that.
Just look at their bizarre mollycoddling of the oil and natural gas industry. It’s one thing for the GOP-dominated legislature to encourage energy companies to extract resources from underneath state parks now, but to do it without taxing those companies for it like every other state in the U.S. does? I can’t tell whether our representatives are morally bankrupt or intellectually impaired.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that Republican obstructionists have been delaying HB300, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBT folks. Now that gay marriage is legal here in the Keystone state, the absence of this kind of anti-discrimination law is leading to some outright absurdities: One wedding venue near Scranton, for instance, is refusing to marry same-sex couples, and a budget inn up the street is now advertising that they’ll do same-sex weddings as a marketing ploy against the other place. Hey, at least opportunistic American capitalism is still intact, whether our legislators are worried about discrimination or not!
To add insult to injury, these politicians—“full-time” legislators in a state that lets them take the summer off—then express consternation that the state a great many of them have presided over for decades is in financial disarray.
What’s particularly odd is that Harrisburg legislators, who talk a good game against big government, themselves act like they’re in liberal California when it’s convenient for them to do so. It’s awfully disingenuous to embody some of the worst aspects of a nanny state—a bloated, useless, overpaid government—without even trying to balance that with any of the progressive-populist goals that would normally accompany an oversized American bureaucracy, like, you know, laws to shore up equality or economic opportunity. Republicans in Harrisburg might toe the Tea Party line out loud, but meanwhile they’re sustaining big government so they can get paid for their bloviations that accomplish next to nothing.
Pennsylvania and California have little in common, of course. California is our country’s barrier along the Pacific border, famous for beautiful weather, mountains, deserts, America’s gay mecca and plastic people in Los Angeles. It’s also a newcomer to the United States, having received statehood in 1850, while Pennsylvania is O.G.—that’s original government, yo, part of the original 13 British colonies that formed America in the first place in 1787. Pennsylvania has a population hovering around 13 million, California has a population of nearly 40 million. Californians have protections in place preventing anti-gay discrimination; here in Pennsylvania, we’ve none.
Yet we do have some common ground with California: Our legislatures are approximately the same size and get roughly the same salaries. This makes sense if you’re a lunatic or a politician living in Pennsylvania. It makes no sense if you’re anyone else in the known universe.
As a reminder, Harrisburg Republicans, youze guys have been the ones legislating. Not President Obama, not the Democrats, not the Illuminati, not anyone else. You and you alone. For years.
Have a great vay-cay, Harrisburg! Nobody likes you.