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Sunday, May 22, 2016

NEPA Groupthink

The more I see, read, hear and experience in NEPA the more I am absolutely convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that our single biggest problem is NOT:
  • Being in the technology dark ages (although we are...)
  • Poor primary and secondary educational systems (I think they are functionally okay...)
  • A lack of a safety net for the poorest (even though there are plenty of poor...)
...or even...
  • A lack of economic opportunities for young people (more on this in a second...)
It's not any of the above, and I'll debate this item with anyone, any time.

No, our single biggest problem lies in an inability to critically question authority in NEPA.  We basically exist in some kind of bizarre herd mentality in NEPA whereby many willingly follow anyone in "authority".  Now reading the anonymous comments to various newspaper articles may make you think differently, but it's very telling that, in order to be critical, many have to hide their identity.  Where is the revolt at the ballot box?  We elect and re-elect the same failed politicians in NEPA without so much as batting an eye.

Anyway, it's an inability to question authority...heck, there is a cottage industry in NEPA surrounding how some enable authority...that I think leads to many of the ills we face as an area.

Just what do we believe?

We BELIEVE that school boards exist not to oversee the education of children, but rather to hand out good jobs and business contract to deserving family members and political supporters.  
See the lack of real nepotism policies in Scranton, Wyoming Area, Wilkes-Barre, etc.  And let's not forget Scranton's no-bid, multi-million dollar bus contract.

We BELIEVE that political corruption is somehow bizarrely okay, as long as money is brought in to construct a building, add lights to a Little League field, renovate a theater, or any other kind of pork.  If it makes us feel good, it must be okay, right?
See Bob Mellow.  And Dan Flood.  And Joe McDade.  And Ray Musto.

We BELIEVE that big institutions are always right, no matter how often they prove it to the contrary.
See the Catholic Church*, public employee labor unions, utilities, Penn State and others.

We BELIEVE that athletes are heroes and are deserving of just about anything they want, no matter how incompetent they actually are off the playing field.
See "Skrep-Daddy".  And Joe Paterno.  And others.

We BELIEVE that local economic develop officials are doing a GREAT JOB, no matter how unsuccessful they are in getting the Scranton Wilkes-Barre MSA's unemployment rate out of last (or nearly last) place in Pennsylvania.  Note that I've been to most parts of Pennsylvania, and having the highest unemployment rate in a state that boasts such garden spots as Altoona, Easton and Erie is quite a trick.  The cynic in me thinks that some must actually work at keeping the area economically depressed.
See the local Chambers of Commerce, state economic development folks, county commissioners, etc.

We BELIEVE that entertainment is more important than attainment.  This is why local newspaper sports sections are multiple pages longer than the business section.  We wouldn't want people to be educated about our economy and how it actually works outside of the public sector.
See the Scranton Times, Citizen's Voice, the Times-Leader and others.

All isn't lost though, as the good work being done by Friends of Lackawanna is showing promise that perhaps some are willing to truly challenge the status quo.  This is a good thing.

(*) I am drawing a distinction here between what one may chose to believe about the Catholic Faith vs. human-run institution of the Catholic Church.  I admire the Faith, while I am dismayed at the institution.

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