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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Response to Tom Borthwick's comment, Mulligan campaign material

My friend Tom Borthwick made a comment to THIS POSTING.  I had planned on replying sooner, but in complete candor, I find politics in general to be slimy (at best), with Scranton politics being particularly and genuinely disgusting.  This made me put off responding, but Catholic guilt compels me to no longer put the response off, and since the text editor for comments stinks, I'm going to reply here.

Anyway, Tom wrote the following:

"This is misleading. The letter, while clever, makes a false equivalence. The statistic from the Census Bureau only includes salary, not benefits. Somebody making less than $20,000, especially if that person has a family, would be eligible for a host of federal subsidies. So if he wants to compare the average salary of a Scrantonian to a firefighter, he absolutely needs to use the baseline salary. Firefights and cops start around $40,000 in this city. 

Also, median income in the city is $36,968. The figure Mulligan used is per capita. I understand per capita is low. That's normal in cities, which tend to have high poverty rates. Blaming that on the unions is silly. 

Mulligan's credibility took a huge hit with me over this piece."

In response, I want to make a few points:

  1. Salary - It was misleading, and I noted it a such, for the Mulligan campaign to use loaded salary+benefit figures in it's campaign ad.  However, I'll note that Tom is also a tiny bit guilty here as well, in that the vast majority of Scranton and police and firemen make WELL OVER the $40,000+/- starting salary he notes.  The better comparison would the average salary (without benefits) for both groups.  While I don't know that number, a good guess would be in the $65,000/year range.  That's still far in excess of the average salary of a working Scrantonian.  The Mulligan campaign blew it by plastering big numbers for "shock and awe" impact, but underselling the salary is wrong as well.
  2. Median Income - Tom is correct, but he is missing the point that the Mulligan campaign is clumsily trying to make...I that in Scrnaton, it's government jobs that pay the most.  In a city that is functionally bankrupt, that's a real problem.
  3. Unions - Yes, the Mulligan campaign is blaming the unions for Scranton's fiscal mess.  Are they responsible for all of it?  Of course not, but Tom is wrong in that they do share in some of it.  I respect Tom's perspective on organized labor, but I can cite countless examples of the police and firefighter unions acting in the worst interests of the city.  Just to amuse myself, I'll list just one:  the insistence, years ago, by the Fraternal Order of Police that the Police Chief be a union member.  Yes folks, they wanted management to also be labor.  And the list could go on, but the central point is this:  the labor unions look out for the interests of union members, not taxpayers.  Unfortunately, the central problem with Bill Courtright, in my mind, is that he ALSO will be looking out for the interests of union members.  Who then looks out for the rest of us?
In my opinion both Mr Courtright and Mr Mulligan and deeply flawed candidates.  However, Bill Courtright has made it clear that he will never take an assertive stand when dealing with Scratnon's public safety unions.  In a city that has an expense problem...we can't pay our bills...Scranton taxpayer's simply can't afford to allow a mayor to be politically beholden to city employees.  That's part of what got Scranton into the mess over the past 50+ years.  The madness has to end.

There are no "revenue enhancements" that will save the day for Scranton.

The University of Scranton will not give the city millions of dollars.

The state will not bail Scranton out.

Refinancing debt only stretches the debut out and makes it more expensive over time.

Scranton residents already pay one of the highest wage taxes in Pennsylvania.

Scranton businesses already pay some of the highest business taxes (including one on gross receipts...meaning that even if your business fails to make money you still owe a tax) in Pennsylvania.

Scranton residents have low household incomes and can't easily afford dramatic increases in property taxes.

In the end, Scranton doesn't have a revenue problem in as much as it has an expense problem.  Dealing with Scranton's expense problem will require dealing with labor costs.  Period.

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