Plus and increase in spending….
Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania confuses me. He does not appear outwardly to be an idiot. He seems to be able to dress himself. He is well educated. Unlike Joe Biden he does not have to hustle off camera to avoid answering any questions more consequential than what flavor of ice cream he is eating.
And, yet, I can only conclude he is, in fact, an idiot.
Many, many months ago the good Governor shut down the state of Pennsylvania with a series of ill-considered and poorly executed executive orders justified vaguely by the existence of a so-called pandemic. Strangely enough, when businesses were shuttered and people laid off, tax revenue, which is based on income, plummeted. The State of Pennsylvania is now drowning in red ink.
And, so Wolf has decided that in order to make up for the shortfall caused by the fact this his constituents don’t make any money – he will make them pay higher taxes – on the income they don’t have any more. The Governor is proposing an increase in the personal income tax rate from 3.07% to 4.49%, starting July 1. That would be the first increase since 2003.
If you are confused you should be. You might as well have stepped through the Looking Glass.
Pennsylvania, like most states, is required to balance its budget. It cannot, like the federal government, just keep charging things to some magic credit card in the sky. At present, best estimates are that Pennsylvania is about $4.5 billion dollars short of what it needs just to continue to operate at current levels.
That would seem bad enough. Undeterred, though, Wolf is determined that he will make an already catastrophic situation worse. He is not just proposing to raise taxes. He wants to increase spending. That includes a 20% increase in aid to public schools and all sorts of things he wants to do to provide aid to the poor; it never having occurred to him apparently that there might not be so many people in need of public services, if the economy was open, folks had jobs and businesses were not imploding all around us.
– From Wolf’s first emergency order through the end of 2020, more than 2.5 million Pennsylvania’s filed for unemployment.
– In 2020 payroll employment in the Commonwealth declined by 7.8% compared to the year before.
– As of September 2020, there were 477,000 fewer payroll jobs in Pennsylvania than there had been at the same time in 2019.
– At some point since March 2020, 5.18 million Pennsylvanians have lost their jobs. Surveys show that an additional 3.27 million fear losing their jobs in the near future.
– According to Federal data, pandemic restrictions forced 30% of Pennsylvania businesses to close, at least temporarily, as of September 2020. This number was second in the nation only to Michigan.
– Nationally, because of restrictions like those in place in Pennsylvania one quarter of the remaining small businesses will have to close in the next six months if lockdowns remain in place.
– Revenue from small businesses in Pennsylvania dropped 27.7% from January 2020 to January 2021.
– As of today, 48,000 Pennsylvania renters owe a collective $244 million in rent. When eviction moratoriums expire, as they must inevitably do, that money will be due, and nobody on Earth thinks the renters in question will be able to pay it. A tsunami of evictions lies ahead of us.
– Suicide rates are up.
– Mental health is deteriorating.
– Because elective procedures have been pushed off hospitals have actually laid off staff and lost money in the midst of what we are told is the defining health crisis of our time.
What exactly Wolf’s motivations are and have been for his catastrophic decisions remains unclear. Certainly, he was willing to tank the economy in the interest of defeating Donald Trump. Certainly, arrogant as he is, Wolf enjoys on some level the power he derives from the “emergency.” He is also no doubt emboldened by the fact that the bulk of his Republican opponents apparently lack the intestinal fortitude to stand up to him, call his bluff and force a true showdown over his tyrannical edicts.
Even so, it is hard to fathom how he cannot possibly see the devastation he is causing. We are not experiencing a temporary lull in economic activity. We are not suffering through a period of inconvenience. This man and his minions are in the process of destroying the economy of one of the great industrial states of this Union.
The impact of the decisions Wolf has made will be with us for many, many years into the future. The small businesses that he is killing will not magically reappear. They will be gone forever. The families that are being crushed under the weight of debt and homelessness will not suddenly repair themselves. They will be shattered, and the ripple effects in terms of drug use, spousal abuse and criminal behavior will haunt us for a generation.
One thinks, Wolf must on some level understand this. He cannot possibly be unaware. Can he? Or maybe, just maybe, he really is an idiot.