Getting more difficult to stand for hypocracy

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Okay, apparently the Pennsylvania Republican Party can’t stand for judge candidates who support peaceful protest, but can stand for gerrymandering.

This week the state GOP sent out a mailer attacking Democratic judicial candidates saying “Vote for Judges who share our values and stand for the flag.”

Then days later, the state GOP sought a stay on federal lawsuit challenging the 2010 Congressional districts. The request came from state House Speaker Mike Turzai and state Senate President Joe Scarnati, who argue the U.S. Supreme Court is about to decide a very similar case involving Wisconsin. The Pennsylvania trial, brought by five state residents, is due to start in about a month.

Okay, first let’s go to the mailer.

This whole vilification of the kneeling thing is, well, embarrassing.

Peaceful protest — and not peaceful protest, like say, Lexington and Concord — is hardwired in to the USA’s DNA. The athletes taking a knee before sporting events during the national anthem are protesting what they see as unfair treatment of minorities by police, the criminal justice system and so on.

There is some empirical argument that they may have a point.

Of course, these protests have been reinterpreted to somehow be protesting the flag and our military. It may be the farthest thing from the truth, but damn, it looks good on a mailer when you’ve got nothing else to run on.

And yeah, it might work, short term plan to gin up a little turnout from those over 60, but like a cancer, this sort of stuff eats away at the long-term health of the party — which has dwindling support from those under 30 and a dubious future if it can’t make more relevant arguments and lay an actual vision beyond outrage at “issue of the day.”

Twinning this up with the attempt to stop the redistricting trial — which is a bald attempt to stop any rejiggering of the pathetic Congressional district map (and yes, I agree that Democrats would have, if given the opportunity, drawn an equally reprehensible map). Stopping the pending trial would prevent a court from ruling that the district maps would have to be redrawn under court supervision for 2018 (which admittedly, at this late date, would cause some chaos, but be a win for voting rights).

Our Congressional district maps are a joke in Pennsylvania — deeply rigged to make sure Republicans win a vast majority of the seats, even though there are more Democrats registered. Fair districts — where moderation would rule a general election — would mean less extremism and obstruction by both parties. Real bipartisan compromises could get done.

For the record, the same holds true for the state legislature — and the recent budget mess (which keeps happening year after year) is a testament to our broken government.

***

The GOP rolled out its tax plan Thursday and, well, it looks like it has issues.

I grant that a lot of folks will see tax cuts. But, based on rough calculations Thursday night, it looks like it might be a tax increase for me and my family. A few key hits: the medical expense deduction and the end of the deduction for state and local income taxes will hurt (I live in an township with an earned income tax — which if this tax bill becomes law, will be an issue). As we itemize — owning a couple of LLCs — the increase in standard deduction doesn’t help, while the loss of the individual exemption for each member of the family hurts. Running it against our 2016 taxes, it’s a tax increase for my family. It is likely that there will be changes before the final version comes up to vote, but that’s what I take from reading the 429-page bill.

Since so much of the cuts appear headed to the wealthy, I kind of object to Republicans in Congress seeking to redistribute my limited wealth to rich folks and corporations.

I have a sneaking suspicion that others might feel the same way.

I’m also bothered by adding to the federal budget deficit — which has slowly been decreasing over the last few years after exploding at the end of the Bush Administration and during the Great Recession. Wharton suggests that the bill could add $2 trillion to the deficit over a decade, which seems a bit pessimistic to me, but even the $1.5 trillion the GOP admits to seems problematic.

I’m kind of at a loss to see why corporations, many of which are flush with cash they’re not spending on job creation or higher wages, but mostly stock buybacks or just hoarding (as an investor, I look at a lot of corporate balance sheets), are going to do with a tax break. I don’t see where cutting taxes does much of anything to the economy. It didn’t work in 1983 or 2001 or 2003.

If the $1.5 billion were going to infrastructure projects — which would clearly create high paying jobs and benefit the average person with better roads, bridges, mass transit and airports — it would make a lot more sense.

With a rushed process and a sense of Republicans needing to pass something, anything, it may well be another nail in the coffin for local Congress members in defending their seats in 2018.

***

What to make of the allegations coming out of Donna Brazile’s new book suggesting that the Clinton Campaign conspired to take over the Democratic National Committee as early as 2015 and basically rig the race in Hillary Clinton’s favor over Sen. Bernie Sanders?

Do I doubt the account? A little, especially in light of the terms of the deal that came out afterward. Clinton was always a prodigious fundraiser and the DNC, due to enormous mismanagement was flat broke, worse in deep debt. Clinton was able to, in essence, buy it out, like a hedge fund manager.

But — and this is the big but — she had to win the nomination to take control of things. So, did it really change the nominating process? Also, Sanders was offered the exact same terms, but chose not to raise the money.

And really, at the end of the day, money is the real problem here. The DNC should have been able raise enough money to be solvent and not be sold off to the highest bidder.

Cash problems have long been an issue with Democrats — which makes it all the more laughable that some suggest “paid activists” are terrorizing local GOP Congressmen. What are they getting paid with? Monopoly Money? Gift cards to Chi Chi’s (remember that joint?)? IOUs?

That having been said, the American people tend to have a built-in BS detector. While it may take them some time, they tend to pick it up when something is off. I think a lot of people felt it, but couldn’t put voice to it.

Yes, Russian interference played a role. Clinton’s gender played a role. But I think the sense that the nomination race was a bit more preordained than folks were comfortable with — even if taken in on a subconscious level by voters — played a big role in the final outcome, especially in states like Pennsylvania.

It’s a cautionary tale and one of which both parties might take heed.

***

Local Republicans are breathlessly trashing Democratic Congressional Candidate Chrissy Houlahan over working conditions at the factory in China that made shoes for her Paoli-based company, And1.

The criticism is valid to a point — workers were clearly exploited. It appears that Houlahan may have under played how lousy the work conditions were, something not widely known at the time.

The problem is, of course, we’re all complicit. Love your new shiny iPhone? Or your flatscreen TV? Or any number of clothing, tech or other items? They were likely built under the same conditions. China has encouraged such production to grow its economy and frankly, has shown little compassion for its workers.

I covered the tech sector for more than a decade, editing some of those shiny tech enthusiast magazines, and watched one company after another shift production from Japan and other Asian (or, worse, the US) locations to China because labor was so inexpensive. At one point, a colleague and I were working on a plan to design our own home theater components and have them built in China. While the logistics proved unworkable at the time, I was shocked at the low labor costs.

You may love that $200 home surround audio receiver — which used to cost $500 when it was made in Japan, Korea or a location with reasonable, livable wages — but it has a cost.

If Houlahan misrepresented the working conditions for And1, she deserves criticism.

However, And1 seemed to be playing by the capitalist rules — an unregulated, unfettered capitalism so warmly embraced by so many Republicans — as set by Nike, Addias and Puma, who were the competition. Is it any different from calling customer support at Microsoft or Verizon and getting connected to someone in Bangalore, being paid .40 an hour, working 12 or 16 hours per day?

But we all share the blame for demanding lower prices on these products — giving manufacturers the choice between cheap, unregulated labor and going out of business.

***

Tuesday is Election Day — make sure you vote and bring someone else along. Too many important issues will be decided by the people on the ballot Tuesday to just ignore it. If you acre about your future, get out and vote.

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