Category Archives: Harrisburg

Shapiro for Governor: He Could Be Our First Jewish President. But First He Needs to Beat a Far Right Christian Nationalist in PA

Shapiro doesn’t think of himself as a moderate or establishment Democrat, the terms journalists often use to describe him. Instead, he calls himself a “populist.”

Devoutly Jewish, Josh Shapiro wants to persuade voters that his opponent’s Christian nationalism doesn’t represent the values of the state.

By Holly Otterbein
Politico

Sept 14, 2022 – PHILADELPHIA — In one of the poorest neighborhoods in one of the poorest big cities in the country, blocks away from where a woman was gunned down just the day before, Josh Shapiro is singing with a group of Black pastors.

Shapiro, a type-A attorney general running to be the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, rocks in his pew. When a reverend asks the churchgoers to lift up their voices, he looks her in the eye and finishes her sentence, pronouncing “me” when she croons, “What God has for me, it is for me.” He then proceeds to give a 30-minute speech that was supposed to be closer to half as long.

Unlike some before him, Josh Shapiro hasn’t downplayed his religion out of a fear of appearing different. To the contrary, he’s made his faith — and fighting anti-Semitism — a central part of his political persona.

“I want you to know that being up here on the pulpit means a lot to me — and it is a place where I feel comfortable,” says Shapiro. “I feel comfortable here because this is a place of spirituality, this is a place of purpose.”

Shapiro, 49, who describes himself as a Conservative Jew from the Philadelphia suburbs, talks about being raised to bring faith “out in the community and make a difference.” He refers to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the spiritual icons who forged a friendship during the civil rights movement. He quotes from an ancient collection of Jewish teachings: “No one is required to complete the task, but neither are we free to refrain from it.”

The battle for governor in Pennsylvania is one of the most consequential races in the country: It could determine whether women have the right to an abortion and all voters have the right to cast a ballot in a pivotal battleground state. Shapiro’s Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, led the movement in the state to overturn Joe Biden’s election and opposes abortion with no exceptions.

Mastriano, a state senator who is widely seen as the archetype of the rise of Christian nationalism in the GOP, is courting MAGA-aligned Evangelicals and other conservative Christians. Though he rejects that label, he has said the separation of church and state is a “myth.” Mastriano also has ties to antisemites, and this week he used an antisemitic trope, portraying Shapiro as out of touch with everyday Pennsylvanians for attending what he called “one of the most privileged schools in the nation,” a Jewish private school.

Shapiro’s response has not been to decry the entry of religion into the race; in some ways, he has amplified it. He says he doesn’t want to tell anyone “what to believe.” (“I’ll be a governor that relies on my faith and my upbringing to actually look out for everybody,” Shapiro says. “And I think he’s the exact opposite.”) But he refuses to cede Pennsylvania’s churches to his opponent. Instead, he deliberately highlights his religiosity to appeal to Christians and people of other faiths who might feel alienated by Mastriano’s brand of religion-tinged conservatism.

If Shapiro can fend off the far-right firebrand, he would catapult into the position of one of the most prominent Jewish elected officials in the country — and be talked about within political circles as a future presidential or vice-presidential candidate. And he’d do it by being a new kind of Jewish politician. Unlike some before him, Shapiro hasn’t downplayed his religion out of a fear of appearing different. To the contrary, he’s made his faith — and fighting antisemitism — a central part of his political persona.

“People are looking for someone who has strong faith. It almost doesn’t matter what denomination it is,” says former Democratic governor Ed Rendell.

Shapiro sees his Judaism as a tool to bond with people, not as something that sets him apart. On this sun-drenched September morning in Philadelphia, at least, his strategy seems to be working.

Speaking to the dozen powerful pastors of nearby AME churches, all of whom could help him turn out critical Black voters in November, Rev. Dr. Janet Jenkins Sturdivant says Shapiro is “not a perfect man.” But he is a “man of God — and all we need is someone who will listen to God.”

Josh Shapiro in a Quiet Rage

“NO good jews.” “America jews themselves are a cancer on any society.” “I hope no one votes Jew.”

The frothing messages from users of Gab, a far-right social media network, flash on the screen. A narrator explains that Mastriano’s campaign paid the website, the same one where Robert Bowers posted antisemitic screeds before police say he massacred 11 people in 2018 at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Mastriano, the spot hammers, is “way too extreme.”

GOP Fascism: Doug Mastriano’s Election-Takeover Plan

Photo: Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks during a rally at Archery Addictions on May 13, 2022 in Lehighton, Pennsylvania. With less than a week until Pennsylvania’s primary election on Tuesday May 17, polls have Republican candidate Doug Mastriano as the front runner in the Governor’s primary race. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Stop the Steal is only a pretense for seizing control.

By Amanda Carpenter

The Bulwark

JULY 5, 2022 – By now, political junkies are familiar with the rucksack of election-denying baggage that Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano schleps around: He organized a faux post-election legal hearing for Rudy Giuliani in Gettysburg; he asked Congress to deny Pennsylvania’s electors; he spent thousands of campaign funds busing people to the Capitol on Jan. 6th; he was filmed crossing police barricades; some of his supporters were arrested for their activities that day, and he visited Arizona to observe its disastrous Cyber Ninjas audit in hopes of replicating it in Pennsylvania.

Those are only the highlights of what Mastriano has done in the past. But what about the future? People like Mastriano are never going to let Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss go. If anything, Trump’s “Stop the Steal” lies provide a pretext for actions intended to ensure MAGA types win in future elections.

How will they do it? Well, Mastriano has some ideas. (Well above and beyond hiring Trump’s throne-sniffing flack Jenna Ellis as his legal adviser.)

Although Mastriano evades scrutiny by blockading typical media interviews, with some help from his insurrection-friendly friends, he doesn’t hesitate to talk about his plans when he feels comfortable. Put those snippets together, and it shows Mastriano has a pretty well-thought-out election takeover plan in mind.

His platform includes the following:

–loosening restrictions on poll watchers to make it easier to challenge votes;


–repealing vote-by-mail laws;


–appointing a fellow 2020 election-denier to be secretary of state who could enable him to decertify every voting machine “with a stroke of a pen”;


–forcing all Pennsylvania voters to re-register;

–and defunding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.


Let’s take them one by one.

Last month, Mastriano’s legislation to loosen restrictions on poll watchers passed both houses of the General Assembly. Its passage on party-line votes by the GOP-controlled legislature is not surprising, since one of the problems that frustrated Trump supporters in 2020 is that they could not recruit in-county residents in blue areas, such as Philadelphia, to serve as poll workers and make challenges to votes. Mastriano’s bill changes that.

If the bill were signed into law—which Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will not do—it would increase the number of poll watchers permitted by candidates from two to three, kill in-county residency requirements for poll watchers, and give poll watchers a “clear line of sight to view and hear” election workers and voters “at a distance of six feet or less.”

What could these poll watchers do with this increased capacity? Per Pennsylvania state guidance, poll watchers are empowered to “make good faith challenges to an elector’s identity, continued residence in the election district, or qualifications as an eligible voter.”

Such challenges are directed to the judge of elections, who “has the obligation to determine if the challenge is based on actual evidence and whether there is a good faith basis to believe that the person is not or may not be a qualified elector.” Democratic critics of the bill object that the close proximity of poll watchers brought in from out of the county raises the likelihood of voter intimidation.

In a statement, Trump encouraged Pennsylvania Republicans to tie passage of this bill and other election-related restrictions to the state budget:

Just as Trump called for, Mastriano has also promoted legislation to ban dropboxes and private funding for elections, as well as to eliminate “no excuse” mail-in voting and the permanent absentee voter list.

But Mastriano’s potential powers as governor far exceed that of a state senator when it comes to controlling Pennsylvania’s elections.

Unlike many other states where the secretary of state is an elected position, in Pennsylvania, the governor gets to make an appointment for the position. Mastriano already has his pick in mind and, although he hasn’t provided a name, he has teased that with this appointment and his powers, he could “decertify every machine in the state with a stroke of a pen via the secretary of state.” He said, as captured via audio, here:

“I’m Doug Mastriano, and I get to appoint the secretary of state, who’s delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs, and everything. I could decertify every machine in the state with the, you know, with the stroke of a pen via my secretary of state. I already have the secretary of state picked out. It’s a world-class person that knows voting integrity better than anyone else in the nation, I think, and I already have a team that’s gonna be built around that individual.”

This is why Mastriano probably feels like he has a sporting chance to reset the voter rolls and force all of Pennsylvania’s 9 million voters to submit new voter applications to re-register to vote.

Federal voting laws prohibit such a practice, but that doesn’t deter Mastriano from campaigning on it and may not prevent Governor Mastriano from trying it—and creating a massive tangle of legal problems in the face of looming election deadlines.

Where would those legal challenges be decided? Most likely, in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. And for that, Mastriano has another idea in mind in case things don’t go his way.

If the state’s highest court doesn’t do as he pleases, he thinks it should be defunded, which is something he’s called for after the 2020 election. Here he is on a podcast* in November 2020:

“I wish the General Assembly, we would do our darn job here, and make them feel some pain. We could, we could, rein in elements. Even, we even, budget and fund the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If we are so, we’re out there as you know, shouting outrage about how they’re rewriting law, then, okay, maybe we should defund them. And let them figure out how they’re going to run a business without a budget. …” Read More

GOP: ‘don’t Blame Us; We’re Just Standing Here’

A supporter of President Donald Trump sits inside the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he protests inside the U.S. Capito lon Wednesday. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.

Republicans jettisoned personal responsibility long before fiscal responsibility

By Tony Norman
Pittsburgh PostGazette Columnist

JAN 12, 2021 – Gruesome details of what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 when thousands of deranged followers of President Donald Trump attempted to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory continued to emerge over the weekend.

We now know about the feces that was smeared across the marbled walls and tracked across once pristine floors. We’ve heard the details about one Capitol Hill police officer beaten to death with a fire extinguisher and we’ve seen the footage of other cops being beaten with broken flag poles by a mob that assures us that “Blue Lives Matter” — except when they don’t.

We’ve heard recordings of the chants “hang Mike Pence” and “bring us Nancy [Pelosi]” by a crowd that erected a hanging post just outside the Capitol grounds. The footage of men running around with plastic zip ties, as if they had expected to take hostages, sends chills because they came within minutes of decapitating the legislative branch of the U.S. government.

It is now clear that with the exception of individual acts of valor — including the officer who lured the mob away from the Senate chamber, where members were evacuating — there was a complete breakdown of security. If the bulk of the insurrectionists had been highly trained Jihadists instead of hypedup QAnon crackpots, they would still be wiping the blood from the floor nearly a week later.

On Tuesday in an attempt to assign responsibility for the assault on the Capitol, the House of Representatives introduced a resolution to impeach Donald J. Trump for the second time.

This followed a weekend in which Mr. Trump found his access to social media permanently denied by two billionaires in California because of his penchant for telling lies that foment sedition and undermine American democracy.

Vice President Mike Pence also made it clear that he reserves the right to use the 25th Amendment should Mr. Trump step out of line during his remaining two weeks in office. The PGA and other bastions of corporate America are unilaterally canceling contracts with Mr. Trump’s companies and resorts rather than be smeared by association with the soontobeimpeached and probably indicted former president.

It is all an attempt to hold a man who denies responsibility for anything responsible for the single greatest — if incompetently staged — coup in American history.

The reactions to Mr. Trump’s turn in fortune have been interesting to watch. Those who typically bellow loudest about personal responsibility rarely show an inclination to take it.

As the latest round of “whatabout” politics proved, all the nattering about Jesus, justice and jurisprudence is just virtue signaling by the right wing — a way to distinguish itself from the socalled “woke mob” of the left.

But when it comes to mobs, “woke” or otherwise, the supporters of Donald Trump are now second to none in America’s fractured discourse. They have a body count of four supporters and one dead cop (and another by suicide) to prove it.

While sincere conservatives have gone into the witness protection program, most Republican elected officials haven’t been serious about personal responsibility in years.

The runup to the Iraq War, the criminal incompetence of the government’s response to Katrina and four years of the Trump administration’s moral callousness has all but scrubbed the terms “repentance” and “responsibility” from the GOP playbook.

Pennsylvania is home to a particularly odious brand of hypocritical rightwing populism and politician. Their ridiculous posturing has been especially evident during Mr. Trump’s attempt to disenfranchise our state’s voters and decertify Mr. Biden as the rightful winner of our 20 electoral votes.

Continue reading GOP: ‘don’t Blame Us; We’re Just Standing Here’

Harrisburg: GOP Senators Refuse to Seat Democrat and Remove Lt. Gov. Fetterman from Presiding

PA GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (center) confers with Senate Secretary Megan Martin (right), as Sen. Jake Corman (front, center), takes over the session to conduct a vote to remove Fetterman from residing over the session in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Bobby Maggio, Fetterman’s chief of staff, stands to the left.

The Fascist Danger in Our Statehouse

By Angela Couloumbis and Cynthia Fernandez
Spotlight PA

Jan. 5, 2021 – HARRISBURG — The new session of the Pennsylvania Senate got off to a chaotic start Tuesday, with Republicans refusing to seat a Democratic senator whose election victory has been certified by state officials.

Amid high emotions and partisan fingerpointing, Republicans also took the rare step of removing the Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, from presiding over the session. They apparently did so because they did not believe Fetterman was following the rules and recognizing their legislative motions.

Democrats, in turn, responded by refusing to back Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre) from assuming the chamber’s top leadership position — an unusual maneuver on what is most often a largely ceremonial and bipartisan vote.

The bitterness and rancor on display was a departure from the normally staid and sedate workings of the chamber. And it potentially sets the stage for a tumultuous twoyear session, which will include debate over key legislative priorities such as redistricting.

“With this reckless, outofcontrol, cowboylike behavior, with this Trumpian behavior that we saw today from Republicans … this does not bode well. It does not bode well for the people of Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Vince Hughes of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

For now, at least, Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster, of Allegheny County, will not be allowed to take the oath of office, as Republicans believe litigation over the outcome in his race must first play out in federal court. GOP leaders have said the state constitution gives senators the authority to refuse to seat a member if they believe the person does not meet the qualifications to hold office.

Brewster narrowly won reelection over Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli, who is asking a federal judge to throw out the election results. At the center of that legal dispute is several hundred mail ballots that lacked a handwritten date on an outer envelope, as required by state law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed those ballots to be counted, which gave Brewster the edge in the race.

Continue reading Harrisburg: GOP Senators Refuse to Seat Democrat and Remove Lt. Gov. Fetterman from Presiding

Trump ‘Sold Out Southwestern Pennsylvania’ With Recent Trade Deal

Sara Innamorato:  Our Democratic Socialist in Harrisburg  Sticking Up for All of Us.

By Sara Innamorato
Pittsburgh City Paper

Frb 14, 2020 – Everyone who grows up in Pittsburgh can narrate the rise and fall of the steel industry: the mills grew as immigrants arrived to take jobs in the blast furnaces, then the Great Strike occurred where industry titans ordered deadly violence upon workers calling for better wages and working conditions; later, the series of federal trade agreements were created, culminating with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), that sold out the workers and shut down the mills.

Our city’s population declined by half. Our family-sustaining union jobs crumbled, and our neighborhoods with them. But Pittsburghers are tough — we don’t like to complain, we’ve seen worse. And so we persevered and we adapted, and now Pittsburgh is widely seen as a success story. There is a sense of collective pride in our story of resiliency.

But as I knocked on doors during my 2018 bid for office, my neighbors told a more nuanced story. They told me they were working harder, but making less — getting by day-to-day was a stretch. They told me they were worried about their futures and their children’s futures.

The voters I spoke with, like so many of us in Southwestern Pennsylvania, had watched as previous trade agreements, like NAFTA, pushed local jobs overseas and drove down wages for the jobs that remained. People were fed up, and many voted for President Trump because he said he would “never sign any trade agreement that hurts our workers.”

I am no supporter of President Trump, but for the sake of the people I represent in Allegheny County, I had hoped this was a promise he would keep. Unfortunately, when he signed the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) on Wednesday, he broke that promise, betrayed those voters, and sold out Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Continue reading Trump ‘Sold Out Southwestern Pennsylvania’ With Recent Trade Deal

Pennsylvania Is Ready For A Just, Clean-Energy Future

By Colleen Kennedy
OurFuture.org

Oct 7, 2019 – Pennsylvania is ready for a just, clean-energy future. Ever since 1859, when Edwin Drake ushered in the modern era’s addiction to fossil fuels when he struck “rock oil” in Titusville, our state has been at the front lines of the extraction industry’s booms and busts. We are way past ready for a Just Transition to renewable sources of energy and a sustainable future for us all.

For a century and a half, we’ve watched corporations pull poisons from the ground, then leave the health and safety of our communities in ruins as they move on with all the riches. From poisoned rural waterways to the nearly catastrophic explosion at a South Philadelphia oil refinery earlier this year, no part of the state has been left unscathed. But even after a century and a half, the extraction industry still thinks the people of Pennsylvania can be fooled by its false narrative. We won’t.

Rose Tennent, a longtime conservative pundit and surrogate for the Trump campaign, now leads this unholy choir in Pennsylvania. She recently penned an op-ed decrying Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to ban fracking entirely under her presidency.

Presumptuously claiming to speak for all Pennsylvanians, Tennent argues Warren’s proposal will kill the “desirable” jobs that have accumulated in the state as a result of the fracking industry, which she irresponsibly calls “responsible.”

Let’s talk jobs first – because the statistical data Tennent relies on is grossly inaccurate. She overstates the positive impact the fracking industry has had on communities.

Speaker Mike Turzai, Tennent’s extraction-loving wing man in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, doesn’t even bother to remove industry emblems from the handouts he uses to promote fracking. Like Tennent, he touts the number of jobs he says fracking has created in the state. But we need to look beyond this headline to get to the truth. Continue reading Pennsylvania Is Ready For A Just, Clean-Energy Future

We Are the Only Oil-and-Gas State Not Taxing Drilling

Strapped for cash, Pennsylvania may finally grant the governor a victory and enact a severance tax. But it’s an uphill battle.
Governing Magazine
DECEMBER 2017 – Hydraulic fracking has “brought back great-paying jobs,” says Steve Miskin, spokesman for Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson, File)

If your state is the only oil and gas producer in the nation that doesn’t have a severance tax, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on you to enact one. But given the amount of money involved, it’s easier to talk about creating such a tax than actually imposing it. In Pennsylvania, that talk has blossomed into a fight over more than just money; it now involves lobbying, environmental protection and the next campaign for governor.

Pennsylvania became the first place in the world to successfully drill for oil back in the 1850s. Over the past decade, however, natural gas has overtaken oil as the big game in the state. Pennsylvania is now the nation’s second-leading producer of natural gas, after Texas. Naturally, lawmakers are wary of tampering with the golden goose. “Right now, you have an industry that’s growing and not asking for state dollars, like others,” says Steve Miskin, a spokesman for state House Speaker Mike Turzai. “It has brought back great-paying jobs.”

The industry has spent more than $60 million on lobbying and campaign donations in the state over the past decade to ward off a severance tax on its profits. Industry officials like to point out that, even in the absence of a severance tax, Pennsylvania’s general business tax rates are often higher than those in other production states — notably Texas, which doesn’t tax corporate income. What’s more, Pennsylvania five years ago imposed an impact fee on drillers, which generated $173 million last year. “The comparison with other states shouldn’t stop and start just with the severance tax,” says Kevin Sunday, chief lobbyist with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “We have to look at the whole structure.”

But no one disputes that fiscally challenged Pennsylvania could use the money a severance tax would bring in — easily as much as $100 million a year. So quite a few legislators are determined to pass one. The state Senate actually approved a severance tax earlier this year.

It’s been a tough sell in the House, though, and not only because Turzai and other Republicans are largely opposed. State Rep. Greg Vitali, a Democrat who became the first legislator to propose a severance tax nearly a decade ago, came out against the Senate package, arguing it would also loosen state control of drilling permits and weaken environmental protection. “I find myself in the odd position during these budget negotiations to suddenly be opposing it,” he says. “The passage of a severance tax now is linked to some very bad provisions that in my view would cripple the Department of Environmental Protection’s ability to do its job.”

Meanwhile, the severance tax has become a sensitive campaign issue. A leaked tape captured Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner, a likely gubernatorial candidate next year, predicting that passage of the tax would guarantee a second term for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, a leading severance tax advocate, because he’d have a big victory to tout.

The specter of handing Wolf a win has become the final and perhaps the biggest hurdle for the severance tax to overcome. “Both the Democrats and the Republicans,” Vitali says, “are viewing the severance tax through the lens of the gubernatorial election.”

State Sen. Leach Suspends Run For Congress Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

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By Jim Melwert

CBS News

Dec 18, 2017 – NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — State Sen. Daylin Leach will not step down from his seat in the legislature, but he is suspending his run for Congress in the wake of accusations of sexual harassment of staffers.

Leach says he will step back from his congressional campaign to focus on his family and to work with Senate leaders to address the allegations.

He says he will fully cooperate as the allegations are all vetted.

“While I’ve always been a gregarious person, it’s heartbreaking to me that I have put someone in a position that made them feel uncomfortable or disrespected,” Leach said in a statement Monday. “In the future, I will take more care in my words and my actions, and I will make it my top priority to protect those who to speak up to help change the culture around us.”

Leach was seeking the Democratic nomination in next fall’s congressional race for the seat currently held by Pat Meehan.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called on Leach to resign after the allegations were published and says he does not think that was premature.

“I think Daylin Leach has done a fine job as a senator, but I think we need to make a statement about what kind of society we are and what kind of a commonwealth we are,” said the governor. “I’ve had zero tolerance for this back when I was in the private sector and zero tolerance for it in the executive branch. This is not something that anybody, male or female should be forced to subject himself or herself too in the course of doing a job. It’s wrong.”

But Leach says he plans to keep his seat in the state legislature, adding, “I will continue to do all that I can to advance progressive causes in the Senate and represent my constituents with honor.”

Bernie Sanders Lights a Fire under Pennsylvania Democrats at Keystone Progress’s Annual Summit in Harrisburg

By Carl Davidson

BeaverCountyBlue.org

Feb 8, 2015, Harrisburg, PA. If the vote were taken for the Democratic presidential candidate at the Harrisburg Hilton on Saturday, Feb. 7, Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, would likely have won by a landslide.

That was the spirit in the hotel ballroom as Sanders addressed the 800 people gathered for the PA Progressive Summit. The annual meeting, sponsored by Keystone Progress, brought together progressive activists—community and trade union organizers, women’s right and civil rights groups, hopeful candidates and door knockers—all of whom made up the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, from all across the Keystone State.

“I’m going to try something a little different this morning,” said Sanders to start things rolling, “I’m going to tell you the truth.” He got a wave of laughter and cheers from people who often got something else from politicians.

Sanders with Tina Shannon
Sanders with Tina Shannon

Sanders started off with the ‘Citizen United’ Supreme Court decision taking limits off the superrich in funding elections and candidates. “It will go down is history as one of the worse ever made in modern times” Sanders said by way of description. “By a five-to-four vote, it undermined the very foundations of democracy. I know you think the situation is bad, believe me, it’s worse than you think it is.” Billionaires are not satisfied with owning the economy, he explained. They were buying government as well.”

The Koch Brothers, with 85 billion in wealth, were taken as the case in point. Sanders explained that they alone intended to spend over 900 million dollars on the 2016 election—more than the combined total of Obama and Romney in 2012. This meant these “counter-revolutionaries with a far right agenda” would wield more power than both political parties in the recent past.

Turning to the economy, Sanders said while the economy was clearly in better shape than when Obama, first took office, it was still clearly in bad shape. He explained the different meanings of official unemployment figures, with 5.8 percent being the most common number cited, but double that, near 12%, was more accurate.

Then he broke it down further: “We talk a lot about Ferguson, as we should. But we also need to talk more about Black youth unemployment, which is 30 percent. Nobody should be satisfied with where we are today. We have 45 million people living in poverty, another word we need to talk more about today.”

For those worried about deficits, Sanders noted that they had been reduced under Obama. But he also insisted that if they were truly concerned about deficits, they would have stood up against the Iraq war. This remark got wild cheers and everyone out of their seats.

Unfair Impact of Technological Change

Sanders went on to examine ‘the explosion in technology,’ not only i-Phones and i-Pads, but robotics in factories. “All of this has led to a tremendous growth in productivity on the part of American workers.” Such changes logically might suggest workers were paid more or worked shorter hours, he added, “but all of you know, tens of millions of Americans today are working longer hours for less pay.”

This meant anger and stress among workers—impacting both men and women, even if in slightly different ways—needed discussion as a national issue. There was a time, “ancient history” said Sanders, when one worker could work 40 hours and support a family reasonably well. Now women were working along with men, sometimes at two or three jobs, at long hours and low pay, to hobble together enough to support a family. “This causes a lot of anger, and often it’s being angry at the wrong people for the wrong reasons,” he added. “The average male worker, right in the center of the economy, now makes $800 a year less in inflation adjusted dollars than he did 40 years ago. The average female worker in the center makes $1300 a year, even less. They have a lot to be angry about. They want to know why, and our job is to explain it to them.”

Continue reading Bernie Sanders Lights a Fire under Pennsylvania Democrats at Keystone Progress’s Annual Summit in Harrisburg

Memo to Tom Wolf and Harrisburg: An Eye-Opening Description of Pennsylvania’s Failed School Funding System

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post

Dec 11, 2014 – Many school reformers today like to say that “money doesn’t matter” in making schools work and that holding students and teachers more “accountable”   — largely through standardized test scores — is what is needed.

Certainly a great deal of money can be used poorly but that is not the same thing as money doesn’t matter. It is, however, a good mantra for people who want to ignore the severe and consequential funding inequities that persist in the U.S. public education system across the United States.

According to this 2013 report on school funding by the Education Law Center:

    In fiscal year 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, state governments, on average, funded 43.5 percent, or $259.8 billion, of the total amount spent on public education. School districts and other local sources were responsible, on average, for almost 44 percent of all public school spending or $261.6 billion. The federal government, on average, provided almost 13 percent of the total revenue received by public schools, or $75.9 billion.

With most of the money coming from state and local sources, disparities are inevitable, especially because in most places local sources are dependent on property taxes, meaning that poor areas have less money to spend on schools. Federal money given to low-income areas doesn’t close the gap.

So how inequitable can school funding be within a single state? Let’s look at one of the most troubled in this respect, Pennsylvania.

Here’s some testimony from Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, given to a public hearing of the Basic Education Funding Commission in Pennsylvania about school funding:

    Pennsylvania’s system of funding schools is a failure by every criterion: equity, adequacy, predictability, fairness. Too many students in too many schools are unable to meet state standards of what children should know and be able to do. Too few are going on to college or are prepared for well paying jobs. No one is responsible to calculate how much it will cost districts to provide the necessary instruction and support. The inequity of the system is glaring: the amount of public resources spent on preparing a child to succeed in the adult world varies from $9,000 to $27,000 a year, which is a quarter of a million dollars difference over a school career from K to 12th grade. But it is not only unfair to children, it is unfair to taxpayers where the tax burden can vary from the equivalent of 8 to 36 equalized mills of tax effort for homes with the same value. And in the ultimate insult, the districts bearing the highest tax burdens frequently have less dollars to spend on their students than districts with tax burdens half the amount.

    The reasons for these multiple failures are simple:

    1. Too few state dollars result in too high reliance on local dollars;
    2. The system does not take into account how much it costs to educate children.
    3. State dollars are distributed on a basis which does not reflect the tax effort of the district.

Continue reading Memo to Tom Wolf and Harrisburg: An Eye-Opening Description of Pennsylvania’s Failed School Funding System