Friday, October 21, 2005

Judges deserve to rejoin the Private Sector

On the public tab

In response to Michael McGough's Oct. 17 Intellectual Capital column ("The Poor Man's Snobbery: Complaining About Pay Raises for Public Officials Is a Great American Pastime, But Judges Shouldn't Suffer for Our Fun"): Mr. McGough should be aware that the Pennsylvania legislative pay raise is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Pennsylvania Legislature is the nation's largest full-time legislature, second-most expensive and, in my opinion, very ineffective. "Anti-pay raise zealots" are correct to include judges in their rants. Their salaries of $170,000 per year place them among the highest paid. The Associated Press reported that "the state's seven Supreme Court justices last year billed taxpayers ... $164,000 in food, travel and lodging," and "an analysis of expense records [by the Harrisburg Patriot-News] revealed that some expenses were not accompanied by receipts or vouchers, and some receipts were vague in describing the expenses."
Justice Russell Nigro billed us for 115 meals, with some costing as much as $400. Justice Sandra Schultz Newman charged taxpayers for OnStar service on her Cadillac SRX.
As citizens, we must hold all of our elected state officials personally accountable for their decisions. The legislators may have raised our taxes and stolen our money, but the judges who remained silent and left their Pennsylvania Constitutions at home when they dined out on our dime are just as guilty.
Voters must rally so that our state can reach its full potential. Leaving it to the current crop of elected officials is just not an option.

Forest Hills

Monday, October 10, 2005

Providing Help provides an Exit

The recent earthquake in Pakistan has provided The United States with more that an opportunity to help a close ally in the "war on terror." It is more than an opportunity to help a predominantly Muslim country where the recent earthquake has left an estimated twenty thousand dead, fifty thousand injured, and two and a half million homeless. It is more than an opportunity to change the minds and opinions of the people of Pakistan who have an overwhelmingly negative opinion of this country. It is an opportunity to begin withdrawing our troops from Iraq.
Regardless of your opinion of the war, we have removed the Bath regime and brought the country to a point where they have received the permanent Iraqi constitution for self government. It is time for the people of Iraq to steer their own course. We have done enough. We have lost enough, and we have spent enough. If the ethnic groups that make up Iraq can not agree to a reasonable form of self government through diplomacy and assisted mediation, they surely will not be forced into an agreement through the barrels of our guns. We have done enough and we should not do any more. The President should begin moving a portion of our troops to help the people of Pakistan recover and establish reasonable basic living conditions.
At home, we have experienced the greatest national disaster in our country’s history, in hurricane Katrina. We need to take care of our own. As a country, we must realize our limitations and prioritize our generosity to those who need it most. We are funding the Iraq war by running the largest deficit in our nation history and passing the debt on to our children. The people of Pakistan and New Orleans were devastated by natural disasters of epic proportions. They need our help and are asking for whatever we can give.
This is our exit strategy in Iraq. Simply stated, we must move our resources to those that need them most. How can we be accused of "cutting and running" when our troops have done so much. Begin the exit now, when we can do so much good elsewhere. If our troops do not start leaving , the people of Iraq may never step forward, the people of Pakistan may not recover, and the people of our gulf coast may never return.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

PA Government

Published in , The City Paper; "RANT"

Dude, Where’s my State?

Its getting so bad that people are driving to Harrisburg to inflate big pink pigs on the capitol steps. Elected officials are telling their constituents to, "get a life." Local house and senate members are refusing to return calls and their personal web sites have no information on their recent midnight pay hike. Local state representatives, senators, and state judges called the public’s anger, "A knee jerk reaction" and the result of a "slow news month." Have you tuned it all out? Is this business as usual in our state government? Will democracy prevail? Will it just all go away? What is this guy talking about? Why should I care?
If you have failed to read any local media, listen only to your IPOD and don’t bother with AM radio you may not have heard what has happened with our state legislature (senators and representatives). Around midnight when they though everyone was sleeping and no one would care, they voted themselves a really, really, big fat, super-duper payraise. What a job! You get to decide how much money you make and it doesn’t matter if you suck at it!
What they get: a salary of between $81,050 and $134,00 / $7,800 per year for a car / mileage reimbursement / $129 a day for expenses / full health care (at a premium of $14,000) / fully paid pension / other perks
What we get: tax increases / no property tax reform / the second largest and most expensive legislature in the country / loss of jobs and population / a poor business climate / crumbling schools / but... you can buy a beer on Sunday
Myth one: Our constitution will protect us. It does say the legislature will note vote them selves a payraise while in office. They must first face the voters. The legislature just called it an unvouchered expense (translation: they did whatever they wanted, usually called a crime). Try to ask your employer for an unvouchered 15 grand and see what happens.
Myth two: The courts will stop them. Why would they? They are included in the payraise. To add to it, Judge Cappy (with a salary of $171,800) may hear a law suit against the pay raise after he got a nice big fat raise himself! I wonder if he can give a fair ruling when he remembers why he changed his vacation plans from a weekend at lake Erie to two weeks at Lake Taho.
Myth three: The governor will help us, he’s on our side. WRONG! Mr Rendell initially said he would not allow the payhike unless the legislature also raised the minimum wage for the working stiffs. Then he said he thought the raise was illegal. Then he said, "We need property tax relief." Oh, sorry, he said that four years ago. Current PA minimum wage yearly income: $10, 712. Current minimum salary of our PA legislature: $81,050 (eight times as much!). Maybe we can hire eight minimum wage workers to drag every legislators’ ass out of Harrisburg.
Myth four: Screw it, we can’t do anything about it, they do whatever the hell they want to anyway. WRONG AGAIN! We can vote them out of office. All of them. Vote against retention of judges. Vote against incumbents in the primary. Vote against incumbents in the general election and don’t let them get away with it. They work for us and they are doing a terrible job. They stole our money, ignored the constitution, raised our taxes, and they just don’t give a shit.
Do you?
Out Sourcing Letter to the Editor

Published in: The Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Friday, August 5, 2005

In his response to "Creative job destruction," Richard Corwin's Aug. 1 letter replying to Pat Buchanan's July 27 column "Trading away our future," Mr. Corwin correctly points out that (robots) and "microchips will lower prices ... and destroy millions of manufacturing jobs."
Unfortunately, he then offers his Limbaugh-like talking point that somehow the loss of these jobs is "easing our transition out of our industrial age."
We need to realize that engineers and IT people are designing and creating these microchips and computers. Unfortunately, these engineering jobs are being moved to countries such as India and China. A software engineer in India may start at $10,000, while the same position in the U.S. has an average starting salary of $60,000.
Not restricting the outsourcing of these jobs unfairly offers an advantage to our foreign competitors. The government must regulate the outsourcing of these jobs. As a country we must take a stand to keep and respect our blue-collar and white-collar labor before we lose our entire shirt.