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Saturday, August 9, 2014

6 Reasons Why Boycotting Scranton is a Truly Dumb Idea

Before I even start this I will note the following:
  • While I have spent most of my life in Scranton, I am no longer a resident.  My last day as a resident was December 13, 2013.
  • While my employer has a Scranton mailing address, it is not actually (mostly) located in Scranton, therefore I will not be subject the commuter tax.
Based on the above, I don't have a financial stake in the recently enacted Scranton commuter tax.  I do, however, have an opinion about it.  More precisely, the tax is simply a really, really bad idea; here's just one reason of many:  it's referred to as a temporary tax, but yet it will never be able to accomplish its goal, namely fully funding public safety pension plans.  So much for "temporary".

Anyway, while I don't agree with the tax, boycotting business based in Scranton as some form of retribution is at best ill-conceived, at worst it's just plan stupid.  Here are my six reasons why.

Reason 1 - It will actually increase the need for the commuter tax.
If Scranton businesses are harmed by the boycott, they will end up paying less in taxes (business revenue down, tax revenue down).  This will make the need for commuter tax even greater.

Reason 2 - It harms the wrong people.
If someone wants to target a business and also have a direct impact on Scranton tax policy I have two suggestions:  Wayne Evans' real estate business and Bill Courtright's martial arts studio.   Those are two individuals who can help make tax policy for Scranton.  "Joe and Peg's Coffee Shop and Gunsmith"?  Not so much.  Joe and Peg have nothing to do with the commuter tax.  Heck, Joe and Peg probably think the commuter tax is load of rubbish too, but they are currently too busy paying their city tax on gross receipts to whine about it.

Reason 3 - It's unworkable.
Will a Dunmore resident who is having a heart attack refuse to be sent to Geisinger Community Medical Center for treatment because it is located in Scranton?  I don't think so.  How many commuters will end trusted professional relationships with city doctors, dentists, lawyers and accountants?  I'm thinking the answer is somewhere between "none" and "very few".

Reason 4 - It lets state lawmakers off the hook.
The more commuters and city residents engage in a circular firing squad, the more folks like State Senator Mellow Blake can simply sit by and continue to do virtually nothing about the plight of Scranton, well other than playing both sides against each other.  Now I don't expect local elected officials to like the commuter tax or to simply give Scranton even more money to squander.  I do, however, expect them to engage FAR, FAR MORE than they have so far in getting Scranton on a sound financial footing.  Simply being against the commuter tax but doing nothing else is, as I have noted previously, shameful behavior on the part of our elected officials.

Reason 5 - It's an emotional reaction to a rational problem.
Rational problems require rational solutions, and getting angry simply doesn't do anything to help.  It's like punching a wall when you are angry:  it feels good for about 30 seconds, then you end up with a sore hand and a hole in the wall (both of which will last far longer than 30 seconds).  This boycott stinks of an emotional reaction.

Reason 6 - It reinforces a stereotype of NEPA residents.
Know any angry, bitter, cynical NEPA residents?  You know, nasty, troll-like proto-coal miner types?  Well this is what the commuter tax boycott types sound like to me   The kind of people who, when I was a little kid living in the housing project, used to scream "get off the grass!" when I was, *gasp* playing.

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