A Different Perspective on Assault Weapons

Today we hear so much about attempts to ban assault weapons.  The language is generally used, in my opinion, to promote a delusional aspect concerning firearms.

Understanding language is important so let’s look at the language.  Let’s apply a bit of common sense to the subject.

An assault weapon should be ANY weapon used as a tool in assault against another individual or group of people.  This is different from being a defensive weapon. It’s all about intent, and since the object itself is incapable of intent, the intent is in the user not the object being used.

A law-abiding citizen who purchases a firearm for the purpose of defending themselves, their family and their property has purchased a defensive weapon not intended to assault anyone but rather to defend themselves from those who would choose to assault them, their family or their property.

As an advocate for Property Rights, the Constitutional Protections of such Rights need to be preserved.  People general refer to the Second Amendment at the Federal level or to Article 1, Section 21 of of Pennsylvania Constitution but there is another equally important perspective found in our Pennsylvania Constitution also found in Article I which is identified as the Inherent Rights of the citizens of this state.

Here in Pennsylvania our Constitution states in Article 1, Section 1 that “All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and DEFENDING life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and PROTECTING property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness. ”  (Caps, boldface and italics added for emphasis!)

The push to ban assault weapons is actually a push to ban defensive weapons.  It is a push to disarm law-abiding citizens from defending themselves from those who choose to use a weapon to assault another individual. It is then, a violation of our Constitutional Rights.  Let me explain my position!

An individual with criminal intent, displayed by breaking into your home, is in the process of committing an assault against your personal liberty.  The mere fact that they have chosen to trespass on your property demonstrates a willingness on their part to disregard any respect for your personal property or well-being.  Any weapon the criminal trespasser would use would then become an assault weapon.

On the other hand, the owner of the property, in using a weapon to defend themselves, their family and their property would be using a defensive weapon.  The term “Assault” would not apply to the person forced to defend themselves against the aggressive actions of the violator.

By allowing the narrative to be changed, those who use a weapon in their own defense can be criminalized through language simply by changing the wording and therefore shifting the paradigm.

Today, the AR-15 is commonly referred to as an assault weapon.  However, by itself the AR-15 cannot be considered anything other than a firearm.  The defining use of the weapon is determined by the person using the weapon, not the weapon itself.  Calling it an “Assault Weapon” implies that it’s use is specifically for the purpose of criminally committing an assault.  It implies intent.

An AR-15 that is purchased with no intent to do others harm is not an assault weapon since the purchaser has no intent of assault.  It will not become an assault weapon until someone takes that weapon with the full intent to break the law by using it in an assault against another person or group of people.  When that person decides to do so, that person is already willfully violating the law.

While I firmly believe that shootings like the Parkland shooting are serious and tragic events, it is always the intent of the perpetrator that will turn a firearm into a  weapon used for willful assault, not some convoluted and twisted logic or label.

The use of a firearm, like all actions, comes down to intent.  It is intent that defines, not the weapon itself, but the person who uses the weapon.    The object can not be determined an assault weapon because the weapon, by itself, is incapable of assault.

Intent is important.  The object being used is incapable of intent.  Obviously, when an individual chooses to violate the rights of another there is intent.  A person doesn’t break into a home without criminal intent.  They know before they set foot on that property that they are willfully violating the personal liberty of another.

Intent is so important to our legal system that intent must be proven in a court of law.

This is why the lawsuit from the parents targeting gun-manufacturers bothers me.  It assumes a position of willful intent on the part of the gun manufacturer to commit crimes of violence regardless of a gun-manufactures continual attempts to be in full compliance with the law.  However, it doesn’t shock me since the rhetoric of Assault Weapon does the same thing;  it implies the intent of the gun owner.

The word “Assault” requires an action, that action is dependent upon an individual, not on an object.  It also requires proof of intent.  There must be an action by an individual that demonstrates some level of willful intent to inflict bodily harm as an agressor.

Common Law defines assault as “an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.”  A firearm is incapable of such action.  It is only in the action of the individual that the word assault has any real meaning.

I don’t want anyone to think that I believe that gun violence is not a serious problem.  In searching for responsible solutions, we need to make responsible decisions, not irrational emotional responses that result in portraying law-abiding citizens as having criminal intent simply through the labeling of an object.  This is exactly what the term “Assault Weapon” does.  It implies intent by the gun owner and the gun manufacturer that defies logical reasoning and simple common sense.

The use of a firearm to commit any crime, any violent act of aggression, should be a serious offence.  It should never be taken lightly but to portray law-abiding citizens as having the willful intent to assault when their purpose is for defense is equally egregious in my opinion.

Let’s make sure we always correctly portray the real criminal.  It is never the weapon that is used but the individual who has decided to use any weapon to willfully do harm to others.  Even then, the object is not the problem, but the individual who uses the object with such intent.

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What Do I Have Against Educators?

One of the questions I’ve been asked many times since becoming an activist supporter of School Property Tax Elimination is “What do you have against educators?”  The question usually comes from an educator.

I find the question annoying because it is based on an ill-informed opinion that, because I do not support using a person’s home, which generates no income to pay for the property tax bill, that means that, somehow, I do not support educators.

Let me start by stating that I chair a local grassroots organization and we use an education model to do much of what we do.  In fact, the majority of the work done by many of the grassroots efforts around the state to advance School Property Tax Elimination has been to work in the role of educator.  Countless hours of research, data analysis and other tools have been used in the development of the presentations used in town halls.  In other words, on this issue, we work as educators. Just because we aren’t doing so in the environment of the public school classroom doesn’t negate our role as educators.

My activism at the grassroots level has brought me into contact with a lot of people who work within this system and I find that much of what is done is about using educational models to teach about issues that are relevant to many of us.  In attending other grassroots organization’s meetings, again, the model from the front of the room is about educating.  There are teachers and there are students in these environments.  Students who are free and open to challenge the position of the teachers.

You see, I have nothing against educators.  I think educating is a valuable and necessary part of life.  At 62 years of age, I still make attempts at educating myself.  As a history geek, especially with regards to the events leading up to the American Revolution, I have a home library where I continue to study in an attempt to further educate myself.   In spite of the thousands of hours of study on the topic of the ideology that led to the American Revolution, I would never be so arrogant to assume that I have all the answers or to demand, in any discussion on this topic, that mine is the only acceptable view.

You see, the question I’m asked is really a question of what I have against educators in the public school system.

The short answer is, in general, nothing.

I am partially a product of a public educational system.  I had some excellent teachers, some mediocre teachers and a few that, quite frankly, in my most humble opinion, should not have been in a classroom teaching students.  That’s not an indictment of the entire teaching profession, that’s a reality of all professions.

Every profession has a similar employee landscape.  I’ve taken my education in the public school classroom and accepted the responsibility that my educational process did not end with my graduation.  In other words, education is not limited to the public school classroom.  The occupation of educator is not limited to those identified as public school educators.  Just because someone is not paid to educate, does not mean they aren’t an educator.  By the same token, just because someone is paid to do so, does not necessarily mean they are actually good at what they are doing.

My real problem, and the problem that HB/SB76 specifically addresses is education funding.  It is not a problem with teachers; it is with how we fund education.  The supposition that because I want to change how we fund education automatically translates into a prejudicial view of all teachers in the public educational system is a ridiculous assumption.

In the past, I have taken issue with those in the hierarchy of the public school educational system.  The PSEA, the Pennsylvania State Educational Association, has put a lot of resources in fighting back against us and in doing so have used the tools, not of educators, but of those who indoctrinate by using misinformation and misdirection.

The PSEA is the state’s largest teacher’s union.  Utilizing tax-payer funded collection of union dues, public sector unions have amassed a huge financial ability to influence political policy.  The Commonwealth Foundation tells us that unions have spent $72,670,498 since 2010 to influence politics.

Their report goes on to explain “During the 2016 election cycle, government unions spent a total of $19 million—from dues and PAC money—on politics. Of that total, $3.7 million went directly to candidates. PSEA alone made $1.5 million in contributions, double the spending of the next largest PAC contributor, SEIU State Council.”  (https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/policy-memo-government-union-political-spending-trends)

Using tax-payer funded resources to advance a political agenda is one thing; using those resources to provide misinformation and misdirection, is something very different.  As I said, that’s not about education, that’s about indoctrination.  I have a real problem with that.

The same criticism holds true when it comes to virtually all of the many organizations that supposedly “represent” the public educational system.  Here’s just a few of the other institutions:

  • PSBA: The Pennsylvania School Boards Association
  • PASA: The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
  • PASBO: The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials
  • The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (Not officially a public education group but many of their board members are from the state public sector unions)
  • The Keystone Research Center (Sister Organization of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center)
  • The Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce (Again, not officially a representative of the Public Educational system but a look into the boards of local Chamber groups and you’ll find strong representation from the School Boards Association and School Administrators)

Each of these above organizations have taken official positions against School Property Tax Elimination through HB/SB 76 and have used tools of misinformation and misdirection to fight against it.    There have been cases where school districts have used tax-payer resources to send home flyers containing some of this misinformation to try to convince parents of students to oppose school property tax elimination.

When, as activists, we point out the misinformation coming out of these organizations and we refute the claims using the actual legislation itself, we get hit with the question about our disdain for educators.  We are accused of attacking teachers.  This is simply untrue.

In order to sustain the traditional revenue growth that we have seen through property taxation, it requires constant increases in the property tax.  The property tax, unlike the Personal Income Tax (PIT) and Sales Tax (SUT), has a revenue stream that does not grow naturally.

Had HB/SB 76 been passed in 2015, the last time it came up for a vote, the natural growth of the replacement PIT and SUT taxes would have generated an additional $750 million dollars to be used for education and it would have done so without the need of a single tax increase after the implementation of HB/SB76.

The current path we are on is an unsustainable path.  It is a path that will eventually fall down upon itself crushed by the public’s inability of keep up with the demands.  We already know that at least 10,000 people lose their homes through government seizure of property each year.  That just accounts for seizure of property for the inability to keep up with the demands of property taxation.  It does not account for the foreclosures and bankruptcy claims associated to the inability to keep up with the property tax.

The property tax issue contributes to the population exodus from Pennsylvania, the problems of blight, the massive inequities we see in education funding and the inability to attract more business to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  It hurts small business development and growth.

It contributes to teacher’s layoffs and has drawn attention to an unsustainable pension debt problem that, if not handled soon (some believe its already too late), will drastically impact the future of teacher’s retirement.

That’s because, in all this talk about the stability for the tax collector’s when it comes to property taxation; the problems of the instability it is causing for home owners and the business community; the problems it causes in the instability of the future of all Pennsylvania economics is ignored.

By shifting to a different funding mechanism to fund education we can stabilize the other issues by creating a predictable revenue stream through the PIT and SUT specifically designated for education funding that will allow us to responsibly address the other issues in ways that will help to protect future teachers and their retirements in ways that are more responsible and accountable.  It’s not about hurting teachers, it’s about helping them by looking at the future.

We can stay on the path we are on, which, by all accounts, is unsustainable, or we can shift to a different system and make the future of teachers in Pennsylvania more secure.

In a recent conversation with a public school teacher, we talked about the inequity problem and the teacher said “How do you provide adequate funding to rural schools who care more abut the education of the children?”

I found the question rather dumbfounding because, again, it is based on an assumption that is not rooted in reality.

Parents in low income 3rd class cities care about the education of their children.  They simply don’t have the economic resources of their neighboring school districts.  As an example.  I live in Lebanon County and the median household income of the City School District is more than $20,000 less than the median household income in the neighboring school districts.  To assume that, because these people in the city have less income so they care less about education than their neighboring school districts is to isolate education funding from the other problems that exist within a community.

It’s wearing blinders to discuss a problem and when you do so, you can not reach solutions that work.

As I look at what is happening with home-ownership and with the business environment in the state, I could reach similar conclusions and make half-hearted claims based on unfounded assumptions.  I could ask the same teachers who hit me with the “what do I have against educators” question with the same rhetoric.   “What do you have against home ownership”; I could ask “What do you have against small business growth and opportunity?”

Such conversations, however, are futile.  I think that many teachers do care and I wouldn’t want to lump them all together as some teachers have done in their criticism of us.  There are also many within the above named organizations who disagree with the official positions of their organizations.

That doesn’t mean that myself, or others within our efforts to put an end to school property taxes, don’t get frustrated with those organizations who take official positions of opposition.  Sometimes we get angry and I believe that the anger is justifiable.

Unlike the detached position of Michael Wood of the Pennsylvania Public Policy and Research Center who said, in an official testimony before the General Assembly, that 10,000 people losing their homes to property taxation is not a significant enough number to do something,  I’ve been out there in my travels across the state to offer education on this issue.  I’ve met those people.  I’ve seen the devastation and instability to the lives of the people who have been crushed by this tax.

It is true that it’s a lot of seniors but it’s young families as well.  I’ve listened to their stories and I’ve shared in their heartaches.  In those travels I’ve gone through communities plagued with the issue of blight; where homeowners must choose between maintaining their property or maintaining their property tax.

I’ve spent time talking to small business owners, some of whom have closed their doors.  Recently, I talked to a local owner of an Italian Ice store and another who sells Ice Cream from their local business locations.  We talked about how many items they have to sell just to pay their property taxes which prevents them from expanding and providing more jobs in our communities.

I only say all of this to make a point.  I do care about the future of education in Pennsylvania.  I also care about home owners and local business establishments.  I care about the future economic condition of the Commonwealth.

What I want is a solution to the problems that works for all of us, not just systems where some benefit at the expense of others.

I think we can change how we fund education in ways that secures the future for educators and education in Pennsylvania without putting homeowners and the small business community at risk.

HB/SB 76 is a responsible solution that will help to pave the way for other solutions.  In those solutions,  we have to look at the big picture, not through some narrow window of any one particular group of people.  It must be systems that are fair and equitable for all because anything else is inequitable.  It is unfair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Property Tax Exclusion is NOT Property Tax Elimination

It’s important that we all understand something.  A Property Tax Exclusion, regardless of how it is sold, is not Property Tax Elimination.

When discussion began on homestead exclusions as a path to raise property taxes.  Some of us very close to the issue challenged the basis of these bills in relation to the Constitutional Amendment.  We explained that the amendment did not allow for elimination.  It left the final decision up to school districts.  We were told we were wrong.

In the process, we allowed this discussion to continue to see how this would develop because we aren’t absolutely unreasonable but deep down inside we had this feeling that the Homestead plans would not be able to deliver on the promised claims.  It now turns out, after reviewing some of these proposals that we are right.

Initially the talk was centered around complete elimination for homestead/farmstead properties.  It was said that it would be complete elimination for all homestead.farmstead properties without exception.   As we feared, this is simply not the case.  It’s not elimination, it’s an exclusion and there is a difference.

Think of the gambling exclusion.  This is money generated by the gambling industry in the Commonwealth that was sold to us as a path to complete elimination.  We all know how that worked out.  That reduction in property taxes quickly was outpaced by increasing property taxes.  Yes, we still get the gambling exclusion but many of us have seen property taxes that increased by far more than the gambling exclusion gave to us.

This was just another failed band-aid approach to the property tax problem.

 

Homestead only bills are being introduced and some of them are being sold as elimination bills but this is simply not the case.  They offer an exclusion of property taxes for homestead properties but it still comes down to whether or not the school district accepts the exclusion.

What happens when we raise the state Personal Income Tax (PIT) on everyone to fund this but school districts decide not to exclude?  Residents in those school districts will be forced to pay a higher PIT and still have to pay the full local property tax in their school district.   There’s no way around that.  A state-wide PIT increase would affect everyone but not everyone would see their school property taxes excluded.

As many as 1/3 of our school districts apply for exemption of the Act 1 limits which are routinely rubber stamped by the Department of Education.  In many cases these are school districts in our 3rd class cities where median household income is often much lower.  Those school districts would likely reject the homestead exclusion meaning that residents in lower income districts would be the ones still paying the PIT increase and the full Property Taxes.

I seriously doubt that any school district which regularly applies to exceed the Act 1 limits will accept the exclusion plan.

Another point we made about the exclusion path is that school districts, even those who initially accept the exclusion, would still be levying a property tax on homestead property.  This could mean that while a school district would initially grant a 100% exclusion, as property taxes kept rising the exclusion of the newer implemented property taxes would not be a part of the exclusion.  Those people would then be paying a higher PIT as they watch their school property taxes continue to increase while residents in other school districts would also be paying the higher PIT and see no exclusion of their property taxes.

The reason for this is simple.  These plans are exclusion plans, not state-wide elimination plans.  It becomes a tax shift and a tax increase for anyone living in a school district where 100% exclusion is not accepted and could become a tax increase for some school districts that do because some of those school districts could still provide an exclusion but in years to come, it would not cover 100% of the property tax in that district.

The Property Tax structure in Pennsylvania is already regressive and unfair.  Despite expensive reassessments that are supposed to make the Property Tax uniform, the assessments continually fail to achieve that intended uniformity.

A homestead plan that offers exclusion where school districts decide would only serve to make the new system of education funding all the more regressive and far less uniform than the current system.  In looking for a quick fix, the so-called proposed cure becomes worse than the disease.

SB76 is still the best option to deal with the problems of using our homes to fund education.

We are all aware that inequity in education funding is a serious problem in the Commonwealth.  As long as the property tax exists we will never be able to address the inequity problem because it’s a constantly moving target.  The landscape of property taxation changes from school district to school district every year so no equitable funding formula can remain stable.  It will have to be adjusted every year as they deal with property tax changes in 500 different school districts across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Once school property taxes are eliminated a funding formula for equity can be developed that will be stable and predictable allowing us to deal with the inequity problem.  Until then nothing will change because the property tax still exists making it virtually impossible for ANY equitable funding formula to successfully achieve that aim.

Throughout this debate, one thing becomes very clear, we understand this issue far better than some of our legislators.  As we have reviewed the issue and studied everything from the amendment to the more recent proposals of Homestead exclusions, we continue to look at the big picture and not some quick fix that promises to deliver something that, by the very nature of the limitations of what they are doing, will fail.

It’s becoming very apparent that the Homestead Plans aren’t viable options to anyone seriously studying this issue.  No more band-aid approaches to property tax.  The only real solution is complete elimination of all property taxes on all property.

 

 

Can Dan Meuser eliminate property taxes at the Federal level?

There’s a radio ad airing where Dan Meuser says that he will introduce a proposal that will eliminate our property taxes at the Federal level.  On his campaign website he says the following:

“Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution no state tax can contradict those enumerated in the United States Constitution. Should I win election to the United States Congress, I will introduce legislation that will require the states to comply with the Constitution and stop the unfair practice of taxing hardworking families out of their home.”

This concerns me because the Supremacy clause is often used to violate state rights.  The Supremacy Clause is only supposed to deal with powers enumerated to Congress  in our Constitution…not as an excuse to do what they will whenever they want.  What are those powers….interstate commerce, foreign affairs and commerce, matters of the military and war.

Meuser is only partially correct.  States cannot contradict Federal policy when Federal Policy coincides with the enumerated powers delegated to Congress by the states.  The problem with this proposal is that there is no power granted to Congress that would allow them to interfere with the internal taxation of the state that exists within that states border.  There is no enumerated power in the Constitution delegated to Congress to do what Meuser says he wants to do.

Granted, if there were a Federal Property Tax, Dan Meuser would be able to use the enumerated powers of Congress to eliminate such a tax because such a tax is outside the enumerated powers of Congress.  That’s not the case here.

It doesn’t matter how much we may hate the property.  This is not a Federal Issue.  It may even be that the Property Tax in Pennsylvania violates our State Constitution.  I think there are solid arguments to be made that the property tax violates parts of Article 1, Sections 1,2, 8, 9 and 10.  That, however is a state matter.

Perhaps Dan Meuser is operating on a false assumption that the property tax means the same thing from state to state.  That’s simply not true.  Property Taxes a levied through different means in different states as well.  It applies to different types of property in some states.  In no case whatsoever does the property tax in one state force the same principles of property taxation in any other state so it isn’t even remotely connected to principles of interstate commerce.

Alexander Hamilton says in Federalist 78: “There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.”

Again, Hamilton speak of delegated authority.  Congress can only act within the framework of the powers delegated to them by the people through their states.

Madison says in Federalist 45 that the “powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined and those powers are to be principally exercised upon foreign affairs, such as war, peace, negotiations, and foreign commerce.

Again, Madison speaks only of delegated authority.

Jefferson wrote in the Kentucky Resolves of 1798. “Whenever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritive, void and of no force.”

Let’s be clear, Any law made by Congress that is not made in pursuance to the Constitution, that is not withing the authority delegated to them by the people through the states, is no law at all.

That is why we have the 9th and 10th Amendments to our Constitution in our Bill of Rights.

The Supremacy Clause is NOT a limit of State authority, it is NOT a statement of absolute supremacy of the federal government in any matter they choose over the power of the States.

The Supremacy Clause tells those in the federal government that their power is limited by the Constitution through the delegated authority of the enumerated powers of Congress as ratified by the people through the States.  The States do not have to submit to any imposed or pretended authority of the federal government that is not made consistent with the powers delegated by the Constitution, which the States themselves created.

SB1137 – Exclusion is NOT Elimination!

A new bill dealing with property tax elimination was introduced on April 23.  It’s SB1137.  The bill is being touted as an elimination bill but it’s not really elimination and I’ll explain why.

To begin with the bill is not an elimination bill. It actually admits this on page one of the bill which states the bill is to be known as “the School Property Tax Exclusion Act.

On page 3 the bill offered definitions where it describes a homestead as “A dwelling, which is owned and not rented, and so much of the land surrounding it as is reasonably necessary for the use of the dwelling as a home, occupied by an applicant.

My immediate response is who gets to determine how much of the land on my property is necessary as a dwelling place. My wife and I no longer have any children living in our home. We live in a medium sized home within the city limits. We have street parking available to us. Do we really NEED our backyard to our city home? Do we really NEED that driveway? I guess that all depends on who you are talking to.

If you are talking to the people who want to use my home to fund their wants, then no, our small backyard and our driveway isn’t necessary.

On page four I learn that this tax is based on a privilege because I am employed. It says “Every resident individual, estate or trust shall be subject to, and shall pay for the privilege of receiving each of the classes of income enumerated in section 303 of the Tax Reform Code of 1971, a tax upon each dollar of income received by that resident during that resident’s taxable year at the rate of 1.98%

In other words I don’t actually earn my income…to the tax collector, I don’t get paid because I work, I receive it as a privilege for doing my job and because of that privilege they have a right to extort 5.05% of my income. If they look at us like this, is it any wonder why taxes in this state are such a mess.

Language like this would be laughable if it weren’t so insulting.  It’s not really just this bill.  The problem is that our tax code is established in such a way that this is how we are viewed.  We are the cash cow to be milked to provide for the governments growing desire to do political favors to certain groups of people at the expense of everyone else.  There is always some government “need”.  There is always some “crisis”.   This bill just exposes the way we are viewed by the people who want to tax  us as they continue in these efforts to reduce us to the realms of serfdom.

The additional 1.98% in PIT is not really elimination regardless of the rhetoric used to describe it.  For many of us, we will be paying the additional tax and still paying the property tax.  It’s an exclusion based on a determination of how much of your owner occupied property is actually eligible to be excluded and that’s going to be determined by some undefined powerful all-knowing beings who obtain that omniscience by some act of benevolent bestowance by the General Assembly. You know, just like those hired to do assessments on our properties for the property tax. Regardless of how many mistakes have been made, we were constantly told that their determinations for the purpose of taxation are accurate. Why?  Certainly not based on the evidence.  It true simply because they say so.

 

I’ve become so jaded and cynical that I constantly question why I stay in this fight.  We simply don’t have enough legislators willing to do the right thing because its the right thing to do.  We also have developed a system where the common working family gets raked across the coals by bad tax policy that views us as nothing more than collateral damage in a system that doesn’t really seem to care. That ideology is advanced and reinforced by the campaign funding lobbyist special interests. 

As I read through this bill I also came across this:

page 12…Each owner of real property seeking to have property approved as homestead property shall file an application with the assessor on a form developed by the department. Determinations with respect to the qualification of all or a part of a parcel of real property as homestead property shall be made by the assessor.

Page 13 says Applications shall be filed with the assessor not later than March 1 of each year

We have to file an application to get this exclusion. We have to file it annually. Failure to do so and you’ll have to pay the property tax because last years exclusion doesn’t count for this year. How much is that going to cost us for the additional paperwork and the filing of those papers? Will this require more government employees to process that work? More questions and few answers!

Then there is this:

The assessor may select, randomly or otherwise, applications filed under subsection (a) to review for false or fraudulent information

This is backwards. An assessor can do this randomly without suspicion to look for anything they would interpret as being fraudulent. There are just too many things in this bill that raise some very serious concerns to be able to support it. The above clause makes it so that I can no only not give it my support but is reason enough to fight against it. 

The good part of SB1137 is that by reading it you can discover so much that is wrong with how working families are treated in this Commonwealth.

I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s grievances against King George in our Declaration of Independence.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

Frankly, that is what I see with this legislation.  This becomes one more attempt to look at a very serious problem and make the problem worse, not better.  A way to expand the powers of government and take more of the protections to our Life, Liberty and Property away from us.  And yet, so many seem not to care.  

There will be those who hear elimination and will want to support this but be warned: The devil is always in the details and the details here contain grave potential.

The small business community will suffer because of this bill. It will give advantages to the corporate chains by punishing small business in the Commonwealth.  Where SB76 provided property tax elimination of those properties this does not. Many small business are already struggling with meeting property tax obligations. By going to a PIT only option, that will only increase that struggle.  

Renters will be hit very hard by this legislation. Under SB76 the property of a landlord would have been exempt but not under this legislation. That means that the property tax will still be in place for rented properties and they will continue to see the above inflationary taxes on those properties which will continue to increase the cost of rent by necessity. The authors of this bill claim they will provide for renters but there is NOTHING is this bill to justify that claim. Renters will continue to pay higher and higher rent while also paying the higher PIT rates.

The bill authorizes an exclusion, not an elimination of owner-occupied property. As already discussed, some assessor can determine that the land on which your home is located is not necessary for your home and therefore the land itself could still be taxed. When that happens you’ll pay a property tax on that land deemed non-essential for dwelling in your home and you’ll be paying the higher PIT tax. All of that seems like a potential train wreck to me.

The bill does nothing to address the non-uniformity of using property taxes to fund education. In fact it only pushes that non-uniformity even further.

The reason SB76 has not passed is because there is not enough political will among most of our legislators to get it done. That political cowardice is based on a fear of the campaign funding special interest lobbyists who continue to demonstrate how little they care about what happens to the people of this state so long as they get their slice of the pie.

I’m willing to concede that a homestead plan might be an option, but I don’t like it. I’d much rather see complete elimination. If there is a homestead plan it has to be responsible and while I question the potential of that, this bill certainly is not responsible. It is still looking at education funding on a select group of people while allowing for exemptions in education funding for many.  Rather than eliminating decades of tax shifting that we’ve seen with the property tax.  This becomes another tax shift scheme that fails to deliver on replacement.

Unlike 76 it is not a dollar for dollar replacement for the school property tax.  Since it doesn’t eliminate it, there remains that potential to be paying almost 2% of your PIT while also still having to pay property taxes.  To that end, it becomes another reduction scam, not an elimination plan.   That’s not why I got into this fight.  I know the inherent evil of the property tax and this will not put an end to that evil.

It doesn’t restore home-ownership to the home-owner but actually gives more power and authority to school districts and the government over our homes. That’s not why I got in this fight.

The property tax no longer works. It is now archaic and has already grown to be an out of control beast that can no longer be reigned in. It must be eliminated. This does not deliver. While claiming to reign in the beast, it is also unleashing other tentacles of this monster that has the potential of violating our liberties and that is a very serious problem to me.   

I hate to sound so pessimistic but is it really pessimism to look at something realistically and see little reason to be optimistic. 

Today I’me feeling very tired.  We understood that we were forced to support the referendum if we wanted to advance 76.  We were told that if the referendum failed it would send a signal that Pennsylvanians did not want to see school property tax eliminated.  Instead of using that tremendous opportunity to advance 76, they began to focus on ways to undermine 76 to give us the homestead plan.  Rather than give us a homestead elimination plan they gave us a homestead exclusion that doesn’t eliminate.  They gave us a plan that will reinforce the government desire to tell us what we need while unrestrainingly spending our hard-earned tax dollars on things government wants.  That’s a formula for economic disaster. 

This is a reminder of being careful what you ask for.  As I know there will be many who see this as beneficial to them personally at this point in time (and I would be among them-this plan would be very beneficial to me personally), the long term impacts on what this does to others for my benefit will ultimately hurt all of us.  That’s not why I got into this fight.  I don’t want to hurt others for my personal benefit.  I simply want a tax system that treats everyone the same. 

That is, apparently, too much to ask.

 

 

 

SB 1137 – Reigniting the Spark that set the American Revolution ablaze.

I am a student of the American Revolution…not just the War but of the events that led up to the American Revolution.  As I read through SB 1137 I came across a clause that shocked me.  Not just shocked me but began to anger me to the very core of my being.  Let me explain:
In 1760 The British, in their attempts to intimidate and control the people in the Colonies re-enacted and expanded something that was called the Writs of Assistance.
The Writes were endless search warrants that allowed appointed agents of government to search and seize property without due suspicion. It allowed the government to intimidate and target anyone who was not working to support the official position of the British ruling authority. Once a writ was allowed, the appointed agents in government were free to search your property whenever they felt like doing so.
James Otis Jr., a Boston Patriot and largely forgotten voice in the early days of the American Revolution rose up to oppose the Writs of Assistance in an very important hearing that led to the inclusion of the 4th Amendment in our Bill of Rights and the inclusion of Article 1 Section 8 in our Pennsylvania Constitution. It states:
The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions from unreasonable searches and seizures, and no warrant to search any place or to seize any person or things shall issue without describing them as nearly as may be, nor without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation subscribed to by the affiant.
James Otis Jr., argued that allowing this writs was a violation of our inherent rights. He argued that the writs were “the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever was found in an English law-book
He would go to proclaim “Every one with this writ may be a tyrant; if this commission be legal, a tyrant in a legal manner, also, may control, imprison, or murder any one within the realm. In the next place, it is perpetual; there is no return. A man is accountable to no person for his doings. Every man may reign secure in his petty tyranny, and spread terror and desolation around him, until the trump of the Archangel shall excite different emotions in his soul.”
Then he argued “Now, one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one’s house. A man’s house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses when they please; we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court can inquire. Bare suspicion without oath is sufficient.”
At the time John Adams was a young lawyer who witnessed the Otis oration. He would later write “But Otis was a flame of fire; with a promptitude of classical allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events and dates, a profusion of legal authorities, a prophetic glance of his eyes into futurity, and a rapid torrent of impetuous eloquence, he hurried away all before him. American Independence was then and there born. The seeds of patriots and heroes, to defend the vigorous youth, were then and there sown. Every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against Writs of Assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born. In fifteen years, that is in 1776, he grew up to manhood, and declared himself free.”
This introduction is important to what I’m about to say. I became aware of a new bill related to the School Property Tax that was just introduced in the Senate. That bill is SB 1137.
SB1137 is a bill that claims to eliminate property taxes on owner occupied homes by levying a 1.98% PIT tax on everyone taken the Pennsylvania PIT from 3.07% to 5.05%.  There are many issues I have with this bill but there is one clause in particular that is appalling.
Within that bill is this clause:
Page 7: Notwithstanding the provisions of section 353(f) of the Tax Reform Code of 1971, the department may permit the proper officer or an authorized agent of a school district imposing a personal income tax under this subchapter to inspect the tax returns of any taxpayer of the school district or may furnish to the officer or an authorized agent an abstract of the return of income of any current or former resident of the school district or supply information concerning any item of income contained in any tax return. The officer or authorized agent of the school district imposing a tax under this subchapter shall be furnished the requested information upon payment to the department of the actual cost of providing the requested information.
Putting this in layman’s terms it would authorize school districts to conduct tax audits against us. The Majority of school board directors simply aren’t qualified to conduct a tax audit so the school board will have to hire someone like a business manager to conduct these audits.
These would be appointed positions where they would be accountable, not to the taxpayers, but to the body within government who hired the, They would be agents hired to act in the interest of the school board, not elected to protect the interests of the people.
That’s a dangerous precedent because it does not actually eliminate the property tax and allows the schools districts to still tax our property while also granting them the authority to asses our tax returns.  It’s true that the language of 76 includes this provision concerning the local PIT but it does so by totally eliminating the tax.  This bill does not.  It keeps the local property tax and through finagling of the homestead act would not provide completely elimination for a owner-occupied homes while, at the same time, also expanding the power of government into new areas.  While it may have been tolerable in HB/SB76 it becomes intolerable in SB1137 because it fails to deliver complete elimination.  Furthermore 1137 adds the following….
The assessor may select, randomly or otherwise, applications filed under subsection (a) to review for false or fraudulent information
We are essentially, through this bill, authorizing the appointed agents of the school district to conduct searches of our tax filing randomly giving them access to a lot of important and private information.
Things like which charities we support; which candidates we gave money to; what exemptions we have applied for; our social security numbers and other private information would all become accessible to our school district.
Adding insult to injury there is no reasons for this to be in this bill. Replacing the school district tax with a PIT tax that is automatically deducted from your paycheck is no reason to allow school districts to do this whenever and however they please.
This will act just like the Writs of Assistance.  Like the Writs, it is a permanent authority. The appointed agents can use this against you any time the so choose.
The writs by passed the protections of a search warrant and so does this clause in this legislation while still retaining the authority to levy the school property taxes on portions of our property. It defines homestead as  a dwelling, which is owned and not rented, and so much of the land surrounding it as is reasonably necessary for the use of the dwelling as a home, occupied by an applicant.
This bill, if enacted, does not deliver elimination.  If the assessor determines that the land surrounding your home is not actually necessary for you to live in that home then they will still be able to tax that land.  SO we still have the property tax on portions of property determined by people being granted the authority to review your PIT taxes randomly at their will.
The ability of abuse is rampant where these agents, as it was with the writs, could use it to target political enemies with the threat of seizing their tax records to audit them at the whim and will of the school board.
It creates the potential for intimidating us from speaking out against something the school district wants that we may disagree with. We would know that doing so would put a target on our backs where we could be audited by the school board.
This clause in this legislation is very similar to the actions of the Writs of Assistance that first led the colonists to realize the attempt by the British Crown to reduce them absolute serfdom. Appointed agents of the School Board would have authority granted by this legislation in violation of Article 1, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, to conduct searches and seizures of our tax filing, our personal property whenever they choose without specific warrant stating the reason for doing so.
It makes these appointed agents of the school board no longer accountable to the people or to the courts in seizing our tax records.
This is no small matter.  By not totally eliminating the tax and still expanding this authority we have created conflicts beyond reason.  
No matter how well-intended this bill is, and after reading the bill I seriously doubt those intentions, but no matter, the inclusion of this clause while still leaving the potential for abuses to our property calls into question our inherent rights to our Life, Liberty and Property.
The bill authorizes this ability to the agent of the school board indefinitely. It authorizes that agent to do so selectively where particular individuals can be targeted without stating just cause. It not only authorizes them to do so whenever they please, but as often as they please with no real recourse for us.
It operates on a principle of assumed guilt on the part of the taxpayer by giving this agent carte blanche with little to no accountability to the people. It places the people under the control of the school board.
The Pennsylvania Constitution gives no authority to the General Assembly to act in this manner.
257 years ago it was the warning of England’s plans to reduce them to serfs. It should be a warning to us as well.
When our opponents to SB76 talk about loss of local control, they aren’t talking about our control over our school boards, they are talking about their fear of losing control over us.
This new property tax bill will increase that school districts control over the people in ways that were never intended for our government.
Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution says
All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
Section 2 of Article 2 continues by saying:
All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper
This clause in this bill seeks to violate both Section 1 and 2 of Article 1 in Pennsylvania Constitution.
It removes the power from us and places that power in the hands of an appointed agent of the School District.
It is a violation of the very principles that forced America to take up arms in the defense of their Life, Liberty and property against a government intent on reducing them to serfdom.
This bill needs to die and the clause within this bill needs to suffer a death so painful it never surfaces it’s ugly little head again. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “Not to Act is to Act. Not to Speak is to Speak”
I will fight it with every fiber of my being. I will not keep silent.

Who is Dan Meuser, Really?

Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated with any candidate in the race for the 9th Congressional District.  I am not affiliated with any organization which endorsed any candidate for any political office of any party in that district.  I raise these concerns because I care about the future of this country and our Commonwealth.

Most of us rely on slick commercials and campaign mailers to determine how we vote in elections but we really need to dig deeper.  We need to know and understand where those who seek our support in an election really stand.  That doesn’t mean getting into the dirt of personal attacks in the process of character assassination but we should at least be aware of the important part these candidates have played in shaping political policy and ideology.  We should be free to voice our concerns in the public forum about real issues that have an real impact or our lives.

Recently, the Dan Meuser campaign announced they have a proposal for the elimination of school property taxes. While, on the surface this sounds like good news for advocates of the proposal, I have to disagree. Dan Meuser is running for the 9th Congressional District in Pennsylvania. It’s a federal position, not a state position. The notion that a candidate who, if elected, would seek to violate the protection of state’s rights in establishing how they fund education in their state appalls me. It would be a direct violation of the 10th Amendment.

The Meuser campaign announced this as a proposal. That would mean a Federal bill since he’s not running for a state office. To then learn that some of our sponsors for the school property tax elimination plan are supporting this proposal only raises my concern about the political will to get this done at the state level. We’ve long held the concern about politicians who use this issue as a carrot on a stick in order to get elected or to hold on to their seats but haven’t fought for it once elected. Now Meuser is taking that Carrot to a whole new level.

The first official duty of every elected representative is to take an oath of office that includes pledging to uphold the Constitution. Congress has no enumerated powers to regulate how states fund education and for very good reason. It’s not a federal responsibility. The Meuser campaign is promising to violate the 10th Amendment to the Constitution and voter’s, because of their hatred for the tax, will base their vote on that promise without considering the consequences. The proposal is doomed to failure, but we need not worry about that because I strongly suspect that the proposal will go no further than a promise on the campaign trail. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned that he would make such a promise to exploit voter’s in a district where this issue is important.

The 9th Congressional District represents the loudest voice in the entire Commonwealth concerning advocates for School Property Tax Elimination. The bill originated in the Reading area and quickly spread to bring strong advocates on board from Lebanon, Bethel and Schuylkill. The two successful citizen advocacy rallies dubbed the “Fill-A-Bus-Tours” originated from Lebanon through the Lebanon 9-12 Project. PA Liberty Alliance hails from Bethel. They’ve been behind the very successful door to door campaigns taking the message of school property tax elimination across the state. The founder of the PTCC hails from the Berks area.

The history of the town halls all have involvement from the Founder of the PTCC, The President of PA Liberty Alliance, who hails from the Schuylkill area and the Chair of the Lebanon 9-12 Project from Lebanon County. This is one of the hottest issues in this district and for it to be exploited for political purposes is an insult to those who have worked so hard to get this bill where it is.

The Berks County Patriots initiated a Tri-County effort that brought together representatives from Berks Patriots, PA Liberty Alliance, Lehigh Valley Patriots and the Lebanon 9-12 Project for the purpose of interviewing candidates. The hard work of this effort in doing research on the candidates that went beyond just interviews has brought very valuable information to the forefront.

As part of the Tri-County research team, this had me start doing some homework on this candidate. It turns out that this is not the first time that Dan Meuser has misrepresented facts to the people of Pennsylvania.

Dan Meuser was appointed as Secretary of Revenue during the Corbett Administration. In spite of Tom Corbett’s promise to sing the bill if it came to his desk. Corbett refused to use his office as Governor to advocate for the legislation. Even when he was seeking re-election, he refused to take this issue on the campaign trail.

As far as Dan Meuser, as Secretary of revenue he made two commitments to the people of the Commonwealth that were betrayed resulting in a cost in the millions that had to be paid for with tax payer dollars.

As Secretary of Revenue, Meuser pushed for privatizing the state run lottery system. He pushed to sell the lottery to a global lottery consulting firm, Camelot Global Services, not based in the United States, but a Canadian owned company operating out of the United Kingdom. The final decisions rested with Kathleen Kane but both Democrats and republicans in Pennsylvania voiced concerns about the legality of doing what Meuser proposed.

The Attorney general’s office reviewed the deal struck with Camelot Global and declared it unconstitutional. They pointed out that the deal included expanding the system of gambling in the Commonwealth beyond what was permitted by statutory law. The contract went beyond that which was approved by lawmakers when gambling was legalized in the state. It was also pointed out that profits from gambling in the state would have gone into a foreign based company rather than going to provide directly for services to seniors in the state. (https://www.watchdog.org/pennsylvania/updated-pa-s-private-lottery-contract-unconstitutional-ag-says/article_0ca2e77d-48a7-580b-9023-a50b0d48b80b.html)

And yet, Meuser still pushed for this. In 2013 AG DePasquale finally called for the termination of the deal which was originally supposed to cost taxpayers $725,000 to implement but had run up costs to $4.6 million, more than 4 times to original proposal. (http://www.paauditor.gov/press-releases/auditor-general-depasquale-urges-end-to-spending-on-lottery-privatization-calls-for-legislature-or-governor-to-act-by-dec-31)

As Secretary of Revenue Meuser also proposed an upgrade to the computer system that would cost Pennsylvanians $130 million dollars. The company hired to do the upgrade was Accenture, a global technology consultant, who had previously been fired by the state of Maryland for a similar project due to wasteful spending and missed deadlines. Dan Meuser assured Pennsylvanians that the same would not happen to Pennsylvania. He was wrong.

In 2015 the state cut ties with Accenture because it never delivered on it’s promise to upgrade the system. After over $100 million was spent they only upgraded state’s business tax system. A new firm had to be hired at an additional cost to taxpayers of $57 million dollars. (http://levittownnow.com/2018/03/08/pa-department-of-records-spending-57m-in-second-try-to-update-computer-system/)

Now Dan Meuser wants to take that type of fiscal irresponsibility to Washington D.C.

As we began to dig deeper we discovered some other troubling aspects.

Dan Meuser tells us that he supports building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants and yet Dan Meuser’s firm, Pride Mobility, was fined for hiring illegal aliens. Wayne County District Attorney noted that the fine was the largest fine ever levied on a Pennsylvania Manufacturing business consisting of 58 violations of immigration laws. The company was fined $41,000. According to Zimmer the first offense for hiring an illegal at the time was $2,000 per illegal alien. (https://www.timesleader.com/archive/272762/stories-records-on-fine-for-illegals-gone2c-meuser-says103673)

More digging revealed that Pride Mobility, Dan Meuser’s firm, “agreed to pay $80,000 to resolve its liability for violations of the kickback provision of the Civil Monetary Penalties Law.” according to the testimony of Dara Corrigan, Acting Principal Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. That report, which discusses attempts to defraud the Medicare system, includes the following statement: “In Pennsylvania, an OIG investigation revealed that, through a marketing program, Pride Mobility Products Corporation, a manufacturer of power wheelchairs, scooters, and lift chairs, solicited and received monthly payments from supplies in return for referring sales leads to those suppliers.” The official testimony also states, “in addition to the payment under the settlement agreement, the company was also required to adopt and implement certain compliance measures.” (https://oig.hhs.gov/testimony/docs/2004/042804fin.pdf)

Then it was discovered that, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times (7/9/07) and The Citizen’s Voice (6/30/07), Dan Meuser’s firm was forced to settle in case involving Software Piracy. The case involved a $380,000 fine to settle a software piracy case with the Business Software Alliance (BSA). As BSA noted “Software piracy is against the law, costing millions of dollars in tax revenues and lost jobs. In 2005, the United States lost $6.9 billion as a result of software piracy”. The Citizens Voice reported that Meuser’s company was fined for “unauthorized use of Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, and Symantec software”.

All of this information is particularly troubling to me as a resident of Lebanon County since The Lebanon County Republican Committee rushed through an endorsement of Dan Meuser without allowing for input from any of the other candidates in this race. The Lebanon County Republican Committee is chaired by Casey Long, who is working for the Meuser campaign, but did not disclose this to the other committee members. To my understanding the only issue that was addressed concerning Meuser is that he doesn’t reside in the 9th Congressional District. Blaming last minute redistricting and downplaying the importance of actually residing in the district you are representing was the excuse.

That brings me to the final issue…Campaign Contributions.

Dan Meuser has been a financial supporter of Matt Cartwright, a Democrat that is sometimes referred to as being left of Obama. If Meuser ran in the district he lives, he would have to challenge Matt Cartwright, someone he’s financially supported in elections. Troubling contributions through his PAC go beyond just his support of Matt Cartwright.

While Dan Meuser claims to support Lou Barletta as a Senate Candidate, financial contributions from the Meuser run PAC have gone to his Democrat opponent, Bob Casey. Other questionable contributions include donations to Hillary Clinton, Charlie Rangel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Those contributions helped to give the Democrats control of Congress which, at the time, gave us Obamacare.

It would be good to have honest answers to each of these concerns but Dan Meuser has worked hard to evade directly answering these relative questions. When confronted about the hiring of illegals, Dan Meuser stated he can’t produce the records on the case because they no longer exist. He refers to only 3 illegals, but as District Attorney Zimmer pointed out, the fine indicates the problem was much greater than Meuser admits. That information comes from the Times Leader article cited above.

Records from the Software Piracy case have also mysteriously disappeared as well. If not for archived newspaper accounts, this information would not be known because they’ve disappeared from the record. That makes me incredibly uncomfortable and very reminiscent of the Hillary Clinton talent for making things disappear.

As Thomas Jefferson stated “Shake off all the fears & servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”

 

 

 

 

 

Who is McKinsey and Company and why should we be concerned?

Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.

~André Malraux

Note: This piece is a follow-up to an article published on this blog called “Setting The Record Straight“.  The purpose of this article is to explore McKinsey and Company in their involvement in setting and establishing official government policy.  The average reader is very unfamiliar with McKinsey and those members of the general public who might be are generally only familiar with their name.  You have to dig and you have dig deep.  Even then, there are more unanswered questions because it appears to be the official policy of McKinsey that “it is the firm’s policy not to discuss any of its work with clients.” 

I have invested hours of my personal life in doing this research.  This is not just a fly-by-night hit piece.  I’ve found more than sufficient reasons to be concerned but I still have a lot of unanswered questions.  

In 2017, the Governor contracted with an outside firm using $1.8 million dollars of taxpayer funds to offer a no-bid contract to the consulting firm of McKinsey and Company to help him draft his budget proposal for 2017-18. This was at a time when Pennsylvania was facing a $700 million budget shortfall. Most of this happened out of public scrutiny since Steffi Langner, a spokeswoman for McKinsey, said it is her firm’s policy not to discuss any of its work with clients. i  I would learn, as I did more and more research, that answer seems to be consistent when McKinsey and Company is challenged by the press.

It was during this time period that I first became aware of McKinsey and Company and I did a little research but nothing too deep.  Then came the announcement of Paul Mango as a candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania.

In the 2016 election cycle, McKinsey and Company dumped $1,336,032 into the elections. $1,013,589 of that went to Democrats. The remaining money went to Republicans but to say that it certainly didn’t go to the more conservative members is an understatement.  On matters of defending Personal Liberty, it’s even worse. ii

There’s good reason for this. The more conservative members of the Federal Government have been working to put an end to many of things that McKinsey promotes but big money talks in politics. That’s true at the State and Federal levels. In exploring the Deep State, we’ll find McKinsey’s fingerprints everywhere.

McKinsey and Company has been a large proponent of Common Core. David Coleman, one of the main architects of the National Common Core System (NCCS) and now head of the College Board was a former partner at McKinsey. Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Advisor for Pearson is a former McKinsey and Co partner and head of McKinsey global education practice.

Behind McKinsey’s push is the use or (or as many believe, the abuse of) “Big Data”…data-mining efforts in using educational resources to generate data concerning private medical decisions. Many are concerned that the goal is to place public data, test scores and private medical information from children among the most valuable data sets, into private hands for corporate profit and control.

According to McKinsey’s own research panel entitled: Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity– Capturing its value:

“Big data—large pools of data that can be captured, communicated, aggregated, stored, and analyzed—is now part of every sector and function of the global economy. Like other essential factors of production such as hard assets and human capital, it is increasingly the case that much of modern economic activity, innovation, and growth simply couldn’t take place without data.”iii

Among the leaders of this project is Martin N. Baily, a senior adviser to McKinsey.

During a February 2015 congressional hearing on “How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy,” Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin asked the panel to “provide a summary of all the information collected by the time a student reaches graduate school.” Joel Reidenberg, director of the Center on Law & Information Policy at Fordham Law School, responded:

“Just think George Orwell, and take it to the nth degree. We’re in an environment of surveillance, essentially. It will be an extraordinarily rich data set of your life.”

That comes from a Washington Post article “The astonishing amount of data being collected about your children” iv

That articles goes on to state:

Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), medical and counseling records that are included in your child’s education records are unprotected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed by Congress in 1996). Thus, very sensitive mental and physical health information can be shared outside of the school without parent consent.

McKinsey was hired to consult at McGill University in Canada. It created a backlash that caused one commentator in 2011 to state:

“McKinsey has a reputation for prioritizing profits over people, and for doing so opaquely and without public accountability. The quality of our university should not be sacrificed in the name of efficiency. The very presence of McKinsey consultants caused the Seattle Education Association to develop an organized resistance in 2008. McKinsey was even a defendant in Hurricane Katrina litigations for faulty advising to the insurance industry, in which the Louisiana Attorney General characterized their service, “Deny, delay, defund” to home insurers taking claims from New Orleans residents. v

In a 2007 article by Bob Ross in the Times-Picayune we find this: New Mexico attorney David Berardinelli, wrote a book about the McKinsey company’s work for Allstate called “From Good Hands to Boxing Gloves.” The title of the book is taken from a McKinsey slide advising the company to don boxing gloves and pummel anyone who doesn’t accept settlements for pennies on the dollar.vi

Current and former McKinsey consultants now invested in corporate-model education reform include: Louis Gerstner (co-chair of Achieve-the group that helped sponsor Nation Common Core), Rajat Gupta (financial backer of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Marshall Lux (on the Board of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Andrés Satizábal (Harlem Charter School), Michael Stone (Chief External Relations Officer at New Schools for New Orleans), Terrence McDonough (English Teacher and Department Chair at Edward W. Brooke Charter School and 5th Grade Teacher at Teach for America), Luis de la Fuente (with the Broad Foundation, who develops and manages a portfolio of grants to school districts, charter management organizations, and innovative non-profits), Shantanu Sinha (COO of Kahn Academies), and Jerry Hauser ( who served as the Chief Operating Officer at Teach For America). This list could go on ad infinitum.

But one final player of note is Bobby Jindal, former McKinsey consultant, and Governor of Louisiana. He formed policies to privatize public education for the entire state of Louisiana. This sounds good except he was going in the direction of privatizing them for Corporate Controls through Common Core initiatives. In addition, Paul Pastorek, the former Louisiana Superintendent of Education, hired Sir Michael Barber to help redesign the Louisiana DOE.

Mitt Romney told the Wall Street Journal that if he is elected President, he will “probably” hire McKinsey to tell him how to reorganize the government. vii

This is the force and scope of the political influence of McKinsey and yet, many of us have never heard of them. They buy political influence. After graduating from Stanford with academic honors in history, in 2001, Chelsea Clinton studied for a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford’s University College. While at Oxford, however, she seemed to spend more time making social connections while clubbing with the likes of Paul McCartney, attending fashion shows and London premieres with her new friends Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kevin Spacey and cultivating her celebrity status before settling down to find employment with McKinsey and company. With no experience or background in the Healthcare industry; no expertise in statistical data collection…she was reported to have been paid a salary of $120,000 with a signing bonus of $10,000.viii

McKinsey and Company was Mayor Bloomberg’s favorite consulting firm.ix

The push for Common Core and data-mining permeates the mindset of Charter School Investors. A 2009 article in the New York Times praised to work of hedge-fund managers and in development of common core driven charter schools. NYT stated “Charters have attracted benefactors from many fields. But it is impossible to ignore that in New York, hedge funds are at the movement’s epicenter.” NYT adds that: “Younger on average than top executives at financial giants like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley hedge fund managers are often numbers-driven refugees of those banks, who chuck the suit and tie and work with a small staff, studying spreadsheets for investment opportunities.”x

Those spread sheets of “investment opportunities”, which we call our children, include the incessant number of mind-numbing and unreliable tests designed and evaluated by Pearson that our children are now forced to take.

In 2012 the state of Florida, through their Department of Education, released the following news: “McKinsey has been retained through Gates and Hewlett Foundation funding to develop the business model/establish governing entity to succeed PARCC.xi

Let’s translate that statement. McKinsey was hired to serve as or supervise the GOVERNING ENTITY to deliver state-wide testing/data collection from public school children. The Gates and Hewlett Foundations foot the bill to make this happen.

We all are aware that we have many problems in the educational complex and that we need to see real reforms come to our public school systems. We are also all aware that Common Core was not a solution. We invested billions in applying Common Core standards which now, after taking billions in taxpayer resources, even Bill Gates admits didn’t work.xii While a failure to the children in the classroom, Corporate Welfare tactics advanced by the likes of McKinsey exploited our children in ways that are no different from the exploitation of our children by the Teachers Unions. For them, it was a money making venture; a well-paid ride on the government funded education bandwagon leaving taxpayers and our children in the treads of the tires of that bus.

Now a former McKinsey consultant and partner in the Pittsburgh offices of McKinsey is selling education reform as part of his supposedly “conservative” driven agenda. Coincidentally, Scott Wagner announced his bid for Governor and shortly afterwards came out in a scathing attack against McKinsey and Company for that $1.8 million no-bid contract. Soon afterwards Paul Mango announces his candidacy as a challenger to Scott Wagner.

Paul Mango, in the 2015/16 election cycle, gave $188,142 in political donations to Republican candidates. He tells us that he is a solid Trump supporter and supports the Trump Agenda and yet we find that, of that $188,142, more than $30,000 of that went to Jeb Bush either directly or through his Right To Rise PAC. Jeb Bush was unable to maintain his pursuit of the presidency after conservatives learned of his ties and promotion of Common Core through his Charter Schools. After it became evident that Jeb Bush was out of the primary, Mango then steered his funding to Marco Rubio. It was only after Donald Trump won the Primary that Mango finally made a contribution to Donald Trump; an investment that paled in comparison to the money given to Jeb Bush.

The Right To Rise PAC was a Jeb Bush supporting PAC. To find where there money was coming from I went to their donor list. xiii It’s a virtual who’s who of Common Core Investors. The Washington Post tells us they took in more than $118 million to prop up Jeb Bush’s failed presidential bid. But where did that money go…The Washington Post says:

Almost $87 million went into a barrage of television ads, online videos, slick mailers and voter phone calls. The group flew an airplane with a banner mocking Donald Trump over a rally of his supporters, produced a 15-minute documentary detailing Bush’s biography, sent Bush supporters individual video players, took out a billboard mocking Trump and crammed the airwaves in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In the final days, Right to Rise kept the spigot on, dumping another $1.9 million into South Carolina and Nevada.xiv

An airplane with a banner mocking Donald Trump; a billboard mocking Donald Trump….but wait; Paul Mango tells us he supports Trump and the Trump Agenda!

No Child Left Behind was a government controlled initiative that laid the ground work. Obama’s Race To The Top helped to expand those controls and push Common Core even further. Am I alone in thinking that Right To Rise sounds just a little too similar to the previous government controlled efforts to push for the “investment opportunities” of corporations in the name of violating the personal liberties of our own children.

Remember when Pennsylvania decided to push for legalizing Medical Cannabis as an alternative choice in dealing with many medical issues. If so, you might remember that Big Pharma came out in strong opposition to the legalization and so did the American Medical Association. I had to wonder why? Why wouldn’t the medical “profession” want to see all the options on the table in our healthcare choices?

I was provided with some inside information that the reason for the push against it wasn’t that they really opposed it, the problem was that they hadn’t yet figured out how to corner the market for maximum profit yet. Since that was hearsay with private conversations from insiders involved in this debate I sat on it because, it was hearsay, but then there was this article from U.S. News:

But for Big Pharma and Big Tobacco – who fund these anti-marijuana efforts – it’s really about the bottom line. For years, large corporations and well-heeled lobbyists have blocked the legalization of marijuana for medical use or recreational use in order to protect their own profits…xv

There’s also this from Alan Hirsch, CEO of Diagnostic Lab Corporation, a cannabis safety and science company:

“Big pharma is lobbying against legalization, on the purported grounds of safety, but in reality, they are just buying time to create their own synthetic cannabis medicines,” said Alan Hirsch, “Several biotech companies have started creating cannabinoid chemistry from rice or yeast, but eventually, these medicines will be manufactured by Big Pharma in Schedule 1 facilities.”

Just where was McKinsey on all of this. That’s hard to say…remember the standard talking point is “our firm’s policy is not to discuss any of its work with clients.

I find it very difficult to think that McKinsey played no role in the opposition to the legalization of medical cannabis because, as consultants, they are consultants for Big Pharma and the Healthcare Insurance moguls, not you and me and our healthcare. Time and again, it’s profit margin as the defining measure of what is right and wrong. It is not a matter of what is in our best interest…it’s a matter of “investment opportunities”.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not opposed to profit! I am, however, not at all comfortable with government policy that provides for protected classes within the business world that crushes one business model to protect the profit margin and “investment opportunities” of the Corporate world. I also don’t like being identified as an “Investment Opportunity” where I am an unknowing and unwilling participant in a hidden system where everything I do is going into some centralized data-base to be exploited and used in controlling things like my healthcare choices.

The “Investment Opportunity” mentality is why our Public Servant pension system is in the mess it is. Here’s a case where the private sector is expected to invest, through the barrel of a gun called taxation, to provide for the exorbitant pensions of those in the Public Sector. With little accountability in this investment scheme, we pay, while it is proven time and again that our money is then taken to invest in high-risk entities that fail to return on those investments. It doesn’t matter though because when the returns fail, the “investment opportunity” is there to be forced to pick up the tab. That’s called marketing. It’s also called exploitation.

Our tax dollars are being used to invest in companies that we might choose not to support and in advancing policies and issues that we may passionately disagree with. Once again, as you dig you continue to find the fingerprints of McKinsey. Unfortunately for us, the depth of that will remain largely unknown because, as McKinsey says “our firm’s policy is not to discuss any of its work with clients.” That apparently applies even when it’s taxpayers dollars being used to fund that endeavor. That included that $1.8 million in consulting fees paid to McKinsey by our Governor. I can’t be the only one who sees something wrong with that!

These protected “investment opportunities” provide little gamble for the investors because they are utilizing taxpayer funded incentives in a system of Corporate Welfare. If they fail, we’re the ones on the hook.

Paul Mango tells us that he created jobs through his partnership at McKinsey and Company. Penn-live requested specific information with regards to this claim and campaign adviser Matt Bevins stated “Paul led the growth of a multi-hundred million dollar business at McKinsey & Company and in the course of this hired hundreds of employees over 8 years as the head of this business,” he said. “He also advised scores of clients on growth strategies both within and beyond Pennsylvania.xvi

However, the reputation of McKinsey and Company is not about job-creation. It’s about down-sizing. As the Penn-live article states:

In fact, the record of Mango’s former employer, McKinsey & Co, suggests that they are wizards in the black arts of corporate downsizing.

If what Mr. Bevins said about Paul Mango is true, then Paul Mango is not just another simple consultant or a low-level player at McKinsey. He’s is a policy setter with ties to one of the most influential policy consulting firms that has their hands in things that make most conservatives cringe.

Paul Mango loves to attack Scott Wagner because of a non-discrimination bill Wagner supported and yet one division of McKinsey and Company is their organization called GLAM. It is LGBT centered organiztion allowing GLAM to drive policy for McKinsey and Company.xvii

On their own website they tell us how they push GLAM:

McKinsey is a founding sponsor of groups such as Reaching Out MBA in the United States and Brazil, Out for Undergraduates in Business, IvyQ, and Open for Business, a business-led coalition focused on the business and economic case for global LGBTQ rights.

You will find our LGBTQ consultants at many schools meeting with students and providing insight into the working and welcoming environment at McKinsey.xviii

You can’t have it both ways.

I can go on but this is already, again, much longer than it should be.

It’s simply that I want to know who I’m voting for and with no voting record I need something more reliable than campaign trail rhetoric. I’ll continue to dig deeper and deeper but, so far, with each dig I find myself in new territory learning more and more that McKinsey’s involvement is not nearly so much about consulting but rather about setting and controlling government policy.

In short, I find it hard to believe that Paul Mango wants to drain the swamp because McKinsey is a part of it. Here in Pennsylvania, he was an integral part of McKinsey. Not just a part of it but a key player in making sure the swamp remains to allow for the usual predators that love to hide in the swamps and wait for the next unsuspecting passerby.

Perhaps Paul Mango can cite how he went in to McKinsey and worked from within to change their internal policies. Perhaps he can demonstrate how he opposed the push of McKinsey and Company into the intrusions of our personal liberty and if so, I’d like to hear about that. I’d like to see the evidence where Paul Mango, partner and consultant at Pennsylvania’s office of McKinsey and Company, was the exception to the rule.

 

Footnotes:

 

PS:  Attacking the messenger without providing proof that what is written here is incorrect is futile.  When a person decides to run for public office, matters like this should be explored and questions should be asked.  When that process is no longer a part of the election debate, we are no longer a republic! 

 

Setting The Record Straight

As anyone who read’s my blog knows, I’ve been very active in pushing for School Property Tax Elimination in Pennsylvania. Along with people like David Baldinger, Ron Boltz and Dean Klopp we have worked with legislators, attended countless internal meetings and participating in town halls held across the state of Pennsylvania. I met with Governor Wolf and have also met with Senators Argall and Folmer and House Rep Jim Cox on many occasions concerning this important legislation. I am also a chair of a local citizen’s advocacy group where one of our key issues has been the Property Tax problem in this state. I have testified before the Senate on this issue, once before the finance committee and another time before an economic development hearing. I was on WITF to defend the legislation facing opposition from representatives from NFIB and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce. I organized two rallies in Harrisburg in support of SB 76 to eliminate the school property tax.

Because of my activism for this issue, Ron Boltz and I met with the Governor at his request. During our meetings with the Governor and his staff, a local funding option was discussed. We knew this would not work for the majority of the school districts. We had already put countless hours into collecting that data in the early days in the formation of this legislation and we continued to work to update that data. After reviewing that data, they agreed, if property taxes were to be eliminated it had to be through a state source.

When this bill was coming up for a vote in 2015, I was one of a handful of people involved in internal meetings as we worked to try to ascertain the votes to get the bill passed. It turned out to be a tie vote with Lt. Governor Mike Stack casting a vote to break the tie. It was a defeat of the legislation that left a bitter taste in my mouth. There were a few who had used this issue during their campaigns the assure their election but when it actually came time to vote for it, they jumped ship and voted against it. They betrayed their promise to us and to the people in their district.

I’ve been closely involved with this issue for about 9 years. I believe it’s one of the most important issues facing Pennsylvania. I also have learned during that time that vocal support for the legislation is not proof of a vote in support when push comes to shove.

I really don’t like to write what I’m about to write but if I didn’t feel it was important.  I wouldn’t do it.  There are clarifications that must be made to set the record straight with some of things going on behind the scenes in the ongoing debate between Scott Wagner and Paul Mango.

As we came in to this year’s governor’s race and group of grassroots leaders came together to form a coalition and interview the candidate for the Governor’s race, naturally the issue of property tax was foremost on my mind during these interviews.

All of this is to demonstrate that when it comes to the issue of school property taxation, I am personally involved and that includes being involved on the inside.  Sometimes that means I have to silent about specifics that take place in these private meetings and I have tried to respect that.  The generalities of those meetings however does not have to maintained.

I’ve never had any reason to doubt Scott Wagner’s support of School Property Tax Elimination. He became a co-sponsor of the legislation almost immediately after he won his special election. Scott has been a part of many of the internal meetings that I’ve attended concerning the School Property Tax Elimination legislation. I have solid information from other legislators that Scott Wagner has pushed this issue behind the scenes in meetings where I was not a participant.  He was not just a name on a co-sponsor’s list. He was working behind the scenes to get it done. When the vote on SB 76 took place in 2015, he voted for it.

When Paul Mango announced his candidacy, I had reason to be concerned. He had already given interviews concerning the plan to eliminate the school property tax through HB/SB 76 and it was very clear that he was not a supporter of the legislation.

Paul Mango had been a guest on the Sue Henry radio talk show on WILK (http://www.wilknewsradio.com/media/audio-channel/wilks-sue-henry-republican-paul-mango-running-pa-governor: go to the 14 minute mark of the interview) in June of 2017. In the interview, he stated he was in favor of eliminating or reducing the school property tax but then went on the criticize 76. His talking points were straight out of the playbook of the PSEA, the Chamber and other opposing groups. This was for good reason. He states in the interview that he talked to school district administrators and he was literally repeating their opposition talking points which have been refuted time and again.

Paul Mango criticized the tax shift using their 60% increase in PIT taxes. This is always a tactic used by our opposition to create shock and rejection. The truth is that the PIT would increase by 1.88%; less than 2 cents of every dollar earned. This is necessary to provide the dollar for dollar replacement of the money collected statewide from property taxes. Paul Mango stated his concern that 76 would drive the high income earners out of the state because of this PIT increase even though the PIT in many other states is higher than ours or they use graduated steps when those same people, Paul Mango claimed to be so concerned about, would be paying more in PIT revenue. He ignored that we are already watching an exodus of population in Pennsylvania largely because the property tax is making home-ownership unaffordable for many young working families in the state. He also choose to ignore that people were actually losing their homes to this tax. Thankfully, Sue Henry was there to point this out.

When the central Pa Tri-County Coalition met with him to interview him we had the opportunity to address his criticism and lay out the details of the bill. During that interview Paul Mango told us that he read the bill and understood it which concerned me because his criticism of the bill in those interviews contradicted the facts concerning the legislation. He re-addressed those concerns, which again, are not part of the bill he claimed to have read. By the end of the conversation, however, he agreed to sign a pledge that “If elected Governor, he would sign the bill if it came to his desk”

It was a start. He also agreed to have further discussion on this matter. Those discussions followed with a series of phone conversations with his staff where the same old criticisms of the legislation kept resurfacing. We provided them with data sets that backed up our positions that his local funding methods would not work.

They told us that they agreed and they told us they would support 76. Then Paul Mango gave an interview to the Caucus where he again returned to his preferred support of a local option, which we proved to him would not work. He repeated his previous claims of opposition to the legislation.

In the interview he returned to the local funding mentality. He states “I would not want the money to flow through Harrisburg” and then keeps going back to a local income tax to replace the funding. That simply won’t work. There are so many factors at play including the factor that in 3rd class cities where many lower income families live, there is PIT tax forgiveness for a family of four earning under $34,000. Under 76, that stays the same so the tax shift of 76 has far less impact on lower income working families. This point is often ignored by our opponents as they fight against claiming that the tax shift will hurt the poor while ignoring that its the property tax that is crushing the lower income working families.  Paul Mango states his concern but he appears to be more concerned about protecting  the higher income earners by pushing that tax burden on those earning less which is exactly what the property tax is already doing. The property tax, in all our studies, demonstrates that it is the most regressive tax in this state and you can read more about that in other places on this blog.

The simple truth is that SB 76 will not work unless we use a state funding source. That was clearly explained to Paul Mango and his staff. They went so far as to agree with us when talking to us but then stated a very different position afterwards.

He also misrepresents the lock-box provision of the legislation in the Caucus interview where he says “We saw it with Act 89. They are not using the dollars as we talked about for what it was supposed to.” This is right after he says he “read the whole bill, all 138 pages of it.”

The lock box is a critical component of the legislation that does not allow it to be raided for other purposes, unlike Act 89.

In the interview with the Caucus, Paul Mango then criticizes the remaining debt portion of the bill. This was something he also did on the Sue Henry interview where he misrepresents the retained debt portion implying that schools districts can extend or add to retained debt. That’s simply not true.

I can go on but I think you can see where this is going. He doesn’t really support the bill.

Then, following the backlash of his opposition in the Caucus, Paul Mango contacts us and says that he didn’t realize that HB/SB 76 was a grassroots bill and that now he is, once again, a supporter.

I’m sorry but a bill doesn’t become a good bill simply because it’s a grassroots bill. HB/SB 76 is a very good bill that had a great deal of grassroots support coupled to legislators who helped us put this whole thing together. We were a critical part at every stage of the development of this legislation.  They took our concept and helped us to turn that concept into solid legislation and that wasn’t an easy task.  The many hours of detailed analysis and study to make sure that this was the fairest way to find the replacement revenue to eliminate the property tax can never be underestimated.

In both the Caucus interview and in our interview with Paul mango he made the claim that he had read the bill. I’m not going to question that. If he says he read the bill I’ll take him at his word but it does make me question his reading comprehension skills if the claim of reading the Bill is true.  If he did and he really understood it, he wouldn’t be saying the things he’s saying. I find that very frustrating.

More recently, Paul Mango is claiming that he fully supports SB 76. He’s on the campaign trail using the very same rhetoric that others used in their claims of support for SB 76 but I’ve been down this road before and I doubt that what Paul Mango is saying on the campaign trail is accurately reflecting how he really feels behind the scenes on that legislation. Claimed support on the campaign trail will help him secure much needed votes just like it secured votes for Kim Ward and Tom McGarrigle who then voted against the legislation when it mattered.  While I appreciate that he’s talking about it, which does help to spread the word, in the process supporters of Paul Mango are ignoring the shifting positions on this legislation.  Maybe the simple reminder that Scott Wagner has been supporting the School Property Tax Elimination position all along and has worked with us in tweaking this legislation to make it the best it can be is worth mentioning here.  The same, however, cannot be said about Paul Mango.

There is a pattern here with regards to SB 76, that those of us who have worked so hard on the inside in pushing this legislation, have seen time and again. We all know it happens. It should come as no shock to us but yet is still does!

We all know that we elect people to office who tell us one thing on the campaign trail only to get elected and then turn their backs on their promises. My dilemma remains: Which Paul Mango do I believe; the Paul Mango that has been openly critical, returning to the same negative talking points about the legislation, or the Paul Mango that goes out on the campaign trail and promises to support it. They are, after all, diametrically opposing views.

The evidence that people want School Property Tax elimination is overwhelming. In Poll after Poll elimination through 76 wins. The statewide ballot initiative reinforces that position. If you follow the polls, then a savvy candidate will go out to the constituents and sell a position that reflects the polls but, as they always say, the devil is the details and when Paul Mango gets into the details his stated positions on the details of the legislation demonstrates that he does not really support SB 76.

I was willing to stay out of this debate until I was brought into it by Paul Mango where, at a recent campaign event, he made the claim that he talked to us and we trust his support of this legislation. I will not speak for the others but I don’t.

I also know that this will draw the ire of the Paul Mango supporters because it already has. In spite of the public comments, in spite of the Sue Henry interview, my personal conversation with Paul Mango has been called unverifiable by them because I didn’t record the interview and because I don’t have a written transcript of that dialogue. I’m just supposed to ignore, as they are, the highly critical statements made by Paul Mango after we had our discussions with him and now just blindly accept that he supports the legislation. I’m sorry but I can’t go there.

Some of my friends who just haven’t drunk the Paul Mango Kool-aid are noticing a trend.  If anyone posts anything that questions Paul Mango, his supporters come out of the woodwork and go on a rabid attack of Scott Wagner.  In that process they don’t defend the inconsistencies of Paul Mango.  The simply try to turn the question into an excuse to bash Scott Wagner.  In doing so they repeat misrepresentations or they attack the messenger all while avoiding simply explaining the inconsistencies with Paul Mango on some important issues.  I expect that I’ll find much of the same.

When it comes to the property tax, here is the simple truth.  Among the Mango supporters, none of them is even remotely tied to this issue the way people like David Baldinger, Myself or Ron Boltz have.  None of them knows what we know.  As Walter Brennan used to say in “The Guns of Will Sonnett“:  “No brag, just facts!”

When it comes to this particular issue, we know what we are talking about because we’ve been there, in the inside and we’ve seen things that many simply don’t see.  And it goes further than that….

In the candidate interviews as part of my part of the Central Pa Tri-County Coalition, I didn’t stop with the interviews. Nor did Ron Boltz.  It’s just foolish to blindly take any candidate at their word believing that they wouldn’t misrepresent the truth to us.  Don’t get me wrong, their are good guys out there but there’s a lot of bad guys too.  There are more than enough politicians who will tell you anything just to get elected and that’s nothing new.  That’s been going on as long as there have been free and open elections.    You have to dig to get to the truth.

We’ve done extensive research that includes looking at previous voting records (not just as a legislator) but as a private citizen. This was especially important to my own research.  I’ve looked into campaign donations by these individuals to other candidates. I believe this to be far more reflective of the candidate I’m researching because individual financial support demonstrates a personal investment and commitment.

Personally, I don’t give to State Party or local party committee’s because I know that money might wind up supporting a candidate that I would otherwise oppose in an election.  Unlike people who can afford to donate thousands and more to political campaigns, my financial resources are limited.   I jealously guard the limited financial resources I have to only give directly to a candidate that I have taken the time to study.

As someone who passionately opposed Common Core indoctrination in our Public Schools, I find the financial support of Jeb Bush in the presidential election of 2015-16 greatly disturbing and yet the majority of Paul Mango’s financial support went to backing Jeb Bush and his Right To Rise PAC in that Presidential election. It is no surprise to anyone who has done the research that Jeb Bush was a huge proponent of Common Core.   I find it difficult to accept that one would give over $30,000 to a political candidate who openly advocated for Common Core and not know it.  If they didn’t, that demonstrates a lack of fiscal accountability to me.  Elections are important.  Elections have consequences.  I would hope that we have all learned that lesson by now.

Equally alarming to me is the fact that the only candidate from Pennsylvania that Paul Mango gave financial support to was Pat Toomey. I’ve found no records of financial support to any Pennsylvania General Assembly candidates from Paul Mango or financial support to any of the judges in an election that allowed Democrats to seize a majority leading to the debacle we now have with the Congressional maps. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there are records out there but it’s not registered on followthemoney.org and other place where this information is accessible to the public.

Not only am I unable to find where Paul Mango offered financial support to these races, he didn’t even bother to vote in many of the Pennsylvania elections.  And now he wants to be our Governor.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (http://www.post-gazette.com/early-returns/erstate/2017/06/07/Paul-Mango-candidate-governor-pittsburgh-businessman-spotty-voting-record/stories/201706070149) Paul Mango is quoted as follows:

“I wish I would have been more active politically earlier in my life,” Mr. Mango said in a statement issued by his campaign. “I did vote in every general election and have supported Republicans here in our state and nationally. I want for my family what every Pennsylvanian wants for theirs, a chance at the American dream, and that dream is fading here in our Commonwealth.”

Those are nice words but as the article goes on to explain, Paul Mango is being less than honest with those words when it comes to his voting records:

“According to Allegheny County voter records dating back to 1988, the Pittsburgh business consultant has failed to vote in every primary contest through 2015. (He did vote in the 2016 and 2017 primaries.) He has also frequently failed to vote in the November general election in odd-numbered years: He has voted only in four such elections out of 15 that have been held since 1988.”

I find this to be even more troubling. Look, I know that I’m a political junkie and I know that I get in the mire of things where the general public usually doesn’t go but misrepresenting your own actions to the public where there is evidence, if you are willing to look, that proves otherwise bothers me. Far too many people seeking office, however, know that the average voter doesn’t look into the backgrounds. They simply don’t have the time or lack the knowledge of knowing where to start to do the digging that should be done before casting their vote of support for a candidate.

It goes beyond the Property Tax and Paul Mango’s voting record.   I’ve found conflicting information in other areas as well. The most troubling aspect in all of this is Paul’s Mango position as a partner in the Pittsburgh Office of McKinsey and Company.  Paul Mango tells us that his business, in reference to McKinsey, is responsible for the creation of hundreds of jobs in the state.  If this is true, then Paul Mango is a very influential part of McKinsey and Company.  The truth, however is questionable.

The following appeared in a 2017 article on Penn-Live (http://www.pennlive.com/capitol-notebook/2017/07/friends_call_gop_guv_hopeful_p_1.html):

That’s because despite making extravagant claims about Mango’s skills as a job-creator, Mango’s campaign couldn’t produce a single example – anywhere in Pennsylvania – where he had done that.

In fact, the record of Mango’s former employer, McKinsey & Co, suggests that they are wizards in the black arts of corporate downsizing.

Paul Mango’s position at McKinsey is often spun as being a healthcare consultant which creates a very different impression from the reality of what his position was. McKinsey is a consulting firm hired by government and businesses, they do not offer healthcare advice to the general public, just on the policy that will impact the General Public.  To make matters worse, that policy hasn’t made healthcare choices better for the general public.  Some of that policy generated financial rewards to the healthcare industry and insurance companies at the expense of the working families.

Consider the following:  McKinsey’s involvement in key policy issues that have given us things like the Affordable Healthcare Act is deeply troubling to me. In 2009, the magazine The Economist included this quote from Paul Mango (https://www.economist.com/node/14031432)

The government gives hospitals some money to compensate them for this, but the AHA says it does not cover the full cost, which it put at $34 billion in 2007 (around 5% of hospitals’ annual revenues), up from $3.9 billion in 1980. Paul Mango of McKinsey, a consultancy, estimates that the hospitals recover only 10-12% of this cost. But he says the problem would be greatly reduced under a system of universal health-insurance…

Paul Mango’s statement concerning universal healthcare is more concerned about ensuring maximum benefit to hospitals while not so much about the fact that the shift to a universal healthcare system impact on the affordability of healthcare for the average joe.  This is typical of McKinsey’s terminology where they talk about “investment opportunites” and by that they mean you and me.  It’s about exploiting us for their profit.  I’ll cover that more in part 2 of this article.

On the campaign trail Paul Mango represent another diametrically different opinion of this topic. Again, which Paul Mango should I believe?

At the center of this election the matter of Scott Wagner’s support of a non-discrimination bill has been twisted and maligned going so far as to accuse Scott Wagner of being pro-choice. Again, this simply isn’t true.

Scott Wagner supported a non-discrimination bill that would have protected the rights of the LGBT community when it came to matters of jobs and housing. Scott Wagner has never supported the belief that men should be using bathrooms that are designated for a woman’s use. A provision in the bill makes it appear that the legislation allowed for that but that interpretation of the language in the bill has been highly debated.

Taking that and then attacking Scott Wagner as someone who is then pro-choice is absolutely astounding. Scott Wagner’s voting record proves the exact opposite. In fact, the misrepresentations have gotten so out-of-hand that the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation put out a clarification of Scott Wagner’s position on Right To Life. They said:

“[s]ome individuals who call themselves a name similar to the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation have put out a false report, suggesting that state Senator Scott Wagner is not pro-life. Wagner, a candidate for Governor in the May 15, 2018 Pennsylvania Primary Election, has a 100 percent pro-life voting record, has co-sponsored pro-life bills, sponsored a bus to the March for Life, and distributed a clear statement condemning Roe v. Wade, the tragic U.S. Supreme Court ruling which legalized abortion nationwide.”

Don’t miss one part of that. Scott Wagner personally supported a bus for the March For Life Rally. What has Paul Mango personally done to combat the plague of abortion in our nation? Yet we are simply supposed to take the word of Paul Mango and his supporters on this important issue.

The issue and promotion of this misrepresentation by Paul Mango and his supporters has gone so far that the State Republican Committee chair, Val DiGiorgio felt it necessary to come out and set the record straight.  Paul Mango simply isn’t telling the truth.  Val Digiorgio says:

“Scott Wagner has been a leader in the fight to protect the unborn in Pennsylvania. As a cosponsor of legislation that would eliminate dismemberment abortions, ban abortions after 20 weeks and defund Planned Parenthood, Scott’s pro-life record has been justly praised by organizations like the Pennsylvania Pro-life Federation.”

This led me to question some of the other things coming out of the Mango camp regarding Scott Wagner.  Let’s look at McKinsey’s official position of LGBT issues. One division of McKinsey and Company is their organization called GLAM. It is LGBT centered allowing GLAM to drive policy for McKinsey and Company.

On their own website they tell us how they push GLAM:

McKinsey is a founding sponsor of groups such as Reaching Out MBA in the United States and Brazil, Out for Undergraduates in Business, IvyQ, and Open for Business, a business-led coalition focused on the business and economic case for global LGBTQ rights.

You will find our LGBTQ consultants at many schools meeting with students and providing insight into the working and welcoming environment at McKinsey.

You can’t have it both ways. It’s hypocritical, to my way of thinking, to be attacking Scott Wagner for holding the same positions as McKinsey, in fact positions that far exceed Scott Wagner, while working as a partner at McKinsey with the influence in the company that Paul Mango claims to have had.

How much policy has GLAM, through McKinsey, pushed through the legislative process? Getting to the root of that is very difficult because McKinsey seems to like the position of being one of the most influential political consulting firms that few in public know anything about. In fact the standard statement out of McKinsey when questioned about their consulting positions is that they don’t talk about their involvement with the clients they consult. The positions being given to the firms they consult is not public knowledge and they want to keep it that way.

Then there is this simple fact:  In 2017, the Governor contracted with an outside firm using $1.8 million dollars of taxpayer funds to offer a no-bid contract to the consulting firm of McKinsey and Company to help him draft his budget proposal for 2017-18. This was at a time when Pennsylvania was facing a $700 million budget shortfall. Most of this happened out of public scrutiny since Steffi Langner, a spokeswoman for McKinsey, said it is her firm’s policy not to discuss any of its work with clients.

Scott Wagner came out highly critical of this effort by the Governor.  Pennsylvania was already facing a $700 million budget gap and hiring an outside consulting firm when we have Departments, Agencies and Commissions within the government whose job it is to do what they paid McKinsey and Company $1.8 million dollars to do really troubles me.  To then be told that the public isn’t supposed to know what McKinsey consulted with the Governor because that’s not their policy even though that money came from taxes collected from us, not from the Governor, angers me.

Paul Mango announced his candidacy after Scott Wagner went after the Governor and McKinsey.  We’ll have to draw our own conclusions on that one.

This is already too long, which I guess my readers are now somewhat used to, but I will be doing a follow-up to this article where I explore McKinsey’s connections to the push for Common Core. The public needs to know more about McKinsey and Company and what they do. You may be shocked at how much of our taxpayer dollars are being used to fund McKinsey’s and Company’s bottom line.

Their role in the promotion of Common Core and their role is advancing Sustainable Development ideologies coupled to their use of something they call “Big Data” should be something of concern to anyone interested in protecting personal Liberty. More on that to come….

 

I stand with CAP!

(A response to the much misaligned mailer from Citizen’s Alliance of Pennsylvania)

CAP (Citizen’s Alliance of Pennsylvania), recently sent out a mailer exposing the Republicans who voted against ensuring that taxpayers would no longer be able to be forced to pay for the collection of Public Sector Union Dues.  That money is then often used to fund elections that work against the policies that the majority of the Republican’s in this Commonwealth want.

The press and party establishment then jumped on the bandwagon to go after CAP for doing so.  They then made attempts to tie this directly to Scott Wagner.

Let’s clear up some of these points.  James Kennedy holds the title of Chairman Emeritus of CAP.  He is also chairing Scott Wagner’s Governor’s bid.  The title of Chairman Emeritus is a special honorary title for an individual who played a critical role in the establishment and advancement of an organization.  That doesn’t mean he’s calling all the shots at CAP anymore.  It also doesn’t mean that he is not without influence with CAP.  However, to blame Kennedy directly for these mailers without proof is irresponsible.  To then attempt to directly tie that to Scott Wagner takes that irresponsibility to new levels.

The mailer sent out by CAP specifically addresses a vote by Republican legislators.  You can see that mailer in the first source link below.

That is the only relevant topic here, in my opinion.  Does the mailer accurately reflect a specific vote on a specific issue and the answer to that is a resounding YES!

That vote results in the rest of us still having to pay to collect the union dues of public sector employees.  That vote promotes the legal plunder of taxpayer dollars to provide special protections to public sector unions.

To be clear, I don’t blindly stand with CAP in all of their positions any more than I stand with any organization in blindly supporting their positions 100%.  On this issue; in this matter; I stand with CAP.

Senator Rafferty uses the excuse that he couldn’t vote for the bill because he couldn’t get an exemption for first responders.

So let me understand that…Not supporting the legal plunder that forces taxpayers to pay for the collection of union dues, which will then largely be spent on getting Democrats elected to office, means we don’t support the individual police and firefighters.  Pardon me if I disagree.

Let’s turn to Bastiat for a minute:

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.

We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

Taxpayer dollars should not be used to pay for the collection of dues to any organization formed by the public sector.  They voted to unionize. Let them then pay for the collection of their own dues.  How they spend those dues then becomes irrelevant.  It is not our responsibility to pay for the collection of any organizations dues.  End of story.

In other words, let’s not allow for the legal plunder of the taxpayers to provide for a choice of association.

Forcing me to pay for the collection of those dues through legal plunder is a violation of the principles of association.

By the way, Senator Rafferty has no problem stonewalling a bill that would allow a special group of veterans in this state who restore military vehicles from having their own custom license plates.  He’s perfectly fine with forcing us to pay for for the collection of public sector union dues, but not okay with allowing a group of veterans who are performing a role in preserving the history of this country.  Using his own logic: is he opposed to veterans?

Party establishment comes out of the woodwork to attack CAP for exposing this vote.  They say that CAP’s drawing attention to this is destroying the unity of the Party.  Val Digiorgio went so far as to claim that CAP, and groups like them, would  “ensure the liberals like (Gov.) Tom Wolf and (U.S. Sen.) Bob Casey call the shots in government.”

The question given to Val Digiorgio avoids questioning if the party agreed with the vote of these legislators.  The only thing journalists seem to care about was whether or not the party played a role in it.

The journalists are avoiding the real issue here and that is the vote itself.

We are just supposed to ignore the fact that these Republicans voted against something the majority of the Republican’s in this state want; that they voted against party unity and then blame the messenger who informed us all of the vote.

If you want to make it easier for the liberal agenda in Pennsylvania, continue to allow the special protections to the public sector unions; continue to allow them to use our hard earned dollars to increase our tax burden to pay for the legal plunder of the collection of the union dues which will then be diverted in supporting candidates and issues many of us have opposed.

Republicans have the majority but we still can’t get critical legislation passed because of Republican Legislators who vote against the things many Republicans.  We have a super majority in the Senate but what good is it when we have these Republicans who vote with the other side more than they do our own party.  It’s not CAP who is ensuring the victory of the Liberal majority, it is the actual votes by legislators that is making this happen.

That can’t be, ignored.

And let’s understand something right now.  Party affiliation is not the issue here.  The particular bill and the issue of that bill is what matters to me.  I believe it is wrong to force me, or anyone for that matter, to pay, through taxation, for the causes which I, or they, do not support.  Those calling out CAP based on party unity have made that the issue and I’m simply pointing out their hypocrisy in doing so.

While screaming about preserving Party Unity, the same Republicans then push the blame to Scott Wagner because James Kennedy is chairing his re-election bid because an organization where Kennedy is CHAIR EMERITUS, put out a mailer asking us not to support the Republicans who aren’t supporting the will of the Republican Voter.

Who’s really guilty of violating Party Unity?   The legislators who vote against the Party or the activist organizations who expose that vote.

The implication is made that Scott Wagner was personally responsible for that mailer by connecting dots that do not necessarily lead to Scott Wagner.  Forget that, just buy the party’s rhetoric for the sake of party unity.

That should come as no surprise to us.  Wagner has often challenged the party establishment.  He’s been a thorn of contention with those who vote against principled party platforms.  In this case, however, making that connection directly to Wagner takes a stretch of the imagination not proven by facts which are made irrelevant through deflection.

This is an election season, and connecting dots that do not necessarily connect and then demanding those dots connect is typical opposition talking points.  Lying about the opponent so you don’t have to defend your candidates positions: redirecting and deflecting criticism from the one you support by attacking and even outright lying about the one you oppose is standard campaign fair.  Just because it exists, however, doesn’t make it right.

Are we not supposed to question our own when they vote against the things we want to see happen in this state?  Are we supposed to be silent when they betray us?

Most important, is it moral to call out the other side on their votes when we are pressured not to call out our own?

True investigative journalism should be covering all aspects of this vote, not just concerned with attacking the messenger.  It is the vote itself that matters and this vote concerned perpetuating the legal plunder of our income to provide for the protections of the public sector union’s ability to fund elections and, in my opinion, buy candidates.

That’s what this should be about: not merely who exposed it, but the actual vote and what that vote means.

The Commonwealth Foundation told us in April of 2017:

Though union dues cannot be given directly to candidates, dues can fund radio and TV ads, lobbying expenditures, get out the vote efforts, candidate endorsements, and PAC fundraising. Dues can also be funneled to SuperPACs, which in turn spend unlimited amounts of money supporting or opposing candidates.

  • Since 2010, government unions have diverted more than $46.7 million of members’ dues to political purposes. PSEA alone spent $23.2 million.

  • Several unions are not required to disclose political dues-spending details, while others wait until months after elections conclude to disclose expenditures. These practices obscure where unions leaders send their members’ hard-earned money.

The Republicans named in CAP’s mailer voted to make sure that continues to happen and they are upset that they were exposed for doing so.  To then have party leadership trash the messenger seems hypocritical to me.

A defense is made of this vote because some of the legislators are retiring or some of them have no opponents in the upcoming primary.  So what..that doesn’t change how they voted!   That doesn’t change the issue behind the vote!

If we are expected to stand down when Republicans vote against Republican positions because the Party Leadership says so, how will we ever see the reforms we need.

Let me create an example.  A playground is divided into two groups.  33% of the playground wants to steal the lunch money one particular kid to make their own lunches less expensive.  67% say no as a group but when it comes time to vote, enough of that 67% vote with the 33% to allow that one kid’s lunch money to be plundered.  Calling out those voted to allow such plunder is, according to this party unity logic, not okay because it doesn’t promote party unity.  We’ll just then pretend the one kid who has been plundered didn’t happen for the sake of party unity.

We’ll then deflect from the result of the vote to attack that one other kid who stands up and says that what just happened wasn’t right.

The right of peaceably assembling for the purpose of redressing our grievances against government, regardless of party, is a treasured right beautifully expressed in our Declaration of Independence.  Apparently, when it comes to party unity, that truth is no longer relevant.

There has been criticism of the timing of this release.  We didn’t time the vote on this legislation.  We didn’t vote.  They did.  The vote was then made public so the timing is not the question here in my opinion.  Was CAP supposed to wait until some later time when the release of this information would have been more convenient and just when would that be?

The arguments being made against the mailer implies that the information should not have been released at all.  They seem to prefer that we remain uninformed about how those we elect to office vote, especially when they vote against a reform measure that the majority of us want to see.  I guess unity means submission even when the vote is to legally plunder us.

Informed voters create better government.  The truth is that many of the reforms we want to see happen in this state do not happen because of the votes of Southeast Republicans who spend more time voting against the Party than with it.  Sure, we can blame the Democrats, but the reality is that when an important reform bill fails in the General Assembly, we don’t have to look to hard to find out why.

I don’t believe that the issue of not allowing unions to take taxpayer money to collect the dues of public sector employees is a far right issue. Painting it as such is disengenuous.  It is a betrayal of founding principles of both our State and Federal Government.

I believe the issue is one of the violation of my 1st amendment rights and a principle in violation of the inherent rights of all people especially regarding the right of association.  Forcing me to fund an organization through taxation that I would otherwise not choose to fund violates that most basic right.  I do not want, nor do I expect, others to pay for the groups I choose to align myself with or to fund the advancement of the issues that matter the most to me.

That’s not a right wing position and its not a Republican position.  It is a principled position.  I simply believe that nobody should have to endure plunder when the government steps in and forces us to financially support the issues, cause or organizations we disagree with.

Frédéric Bastiat warned:

Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame, danger, and scruple which their acts would otherwise involve. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons, and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim — when he defends himself — as a criminal…

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime…

When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it — without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud — to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed…

I say that this act is exactly what the law is supposed to suppress, always and everywhere. When the law itself commits this act that it is supposed to suppress, I say that plunder is still committed, and I add that from the point of view of society and welfare, this aggression against rights is even worse. In this case of legal plunder, however, the person who receives the benefits is not responsible for the act of plundering. The responsibility for this legal plunder rests with the law, the legislator, and society itself. 

On this I am in full agreement with Frédéric Bastiat.  It is a violation of our right to property, a violation of our inherent rights of association by choice and an abuse of the power of government is legislating the legal plunder of our property (income) to provide a benefit to a protected class of citizens.

Bad timing on not:  I stand with Bastiat and with CAP in the release of this mailer.

Those highly critical of this mailer are basing their positions on two aspects: 1) Party Unity, which this vote betrayed and 2) Blind support of legislators based solely on party name.  The issue at hand is ignored to attack what they perceive as right-wingers while deflecting from the issue at hand…the legislation and the principles of that legislation.

That seems to be the general discourse of dialogue today.  It doesn’t seem to matter what that issue is.  Deflect, misrepresent, attack the messenger but God forbid we actually discuss the issue especially when the issue is the protection of our individual rights to Life, liberty and Property!

The following sources were used for this posting:

1. http://www.cityandstatepa.com/content/wagner-campaign-chair-tied-attack-ads-targeting-fellow-republicans

2. https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/policy-memo-government-union-political-spending-trends

3. http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html