The Myth of Political Gridlock
For years we have been led to believe by our elected officials, and most media coverage, that the two major political parties—Democrat & Republican—refuse to work together for the benefit of the people, and that as a result the states and the country find themselves in the throes of “political gridlock.”
While every myth is entitled to its kernel of truth, in this case there is ample evidence to suggest that the two major political parties do cooperate much more than most people realize—just not in ways that are always obvious, nor in ways that voters would appreciate, if in fact they were to become aware of them.
A cynic might even suggest that public displays of rancor between elected officials from both major political parties is a theatrical smokescreen designed to perpetuate the myth of political gridlock and in that way to distract public attention from numerous examples of collusion between the elected officials from both parties, a collusion that benefits, not the people but rather, the elected officials themselves.
Merriam-Webster defines “collusion” as “secret cooperation for an illegal or dishonest purpose”
Don’t tell the children, but would any adult in America today be surprised if told that elected officials on both sides of the aisle might “work together secretly in a dishonest effort” say to benefit themselves at the expense of the taxpayers? No one paying attention in Pennsylvania could credibly claim surprise.
In 1995 Pennsylvania legislators gave themselves automatic future salary increases tied to the CPI,¹ and in 2001 they doubled their pensions—in both cases with sufficient bipartisan support to make it law.
And lest you think that sort of thing is an anomaly, years earlier in 1978 the Pennsylvania Legislature created an Ethics Act nominally designed to make conflicts of interest by elected officials illegal. But by cleverly ignoring the dictionary definition of the term and creating their own definition instead, ² the conflicted salary and pension grabs of 1995 and 2001 easily passed ethical muster.
I’m not saying that individual legislators are bad people. But as a group, something in the Capital coffee or water supply appears to have turned the legislature into a master of shameless, self-serving mischief.
PASCU’s Six Questions for Governor Corbett and Candidate Wolf
On August 25, 2014 PASCU reached out to both the Corbett and Wolf Campaigns on behalf of the Majority Stakeholders at the 14 PASSHE Universities, inviting both candidates to answer the following six questions:
“The purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities, according to Act 188, is to provide: “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.” Official PASSHE data show, however, that the Act 188 statutory purpose of the PASSHE universities hasn’t been delivered to the students since 2002.³ And in January of 2014, PASSHE unveiled its new strategic plan entitled “Strategic Plan 2020: Rising to the Challenge,” which makes no mention of PASSHE’s Act 188 statutory purpose. [Questions 1, 2 & 3]
1. If elected Governor of Pennsylvania on November 4, 2014, will you publicly endorse and support the Act 188 statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities cited above?2. During this election campaign for Governor of Pennsylvania, will you publicly endorse and support the Act 188 statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities cited above?
3. In view of the dual failure cited above—PASSHE’s failure to deliver Act 188’s statutory purpose to the students, and PASSHE’s failure to even commit publicly that it is trying to deliver it—what public assurances, as a Candidate for Governor, can you give to PASSHE’s students, parents and alumni that, if elected Governor, you will use the power of your office to help correct both failures?
PASCU’s Mission is “To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: ‘High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students’ is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered.” [Questions 4, 5 & 6]
4. As a Candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, are you willing to campaign publicly in support of PASCU’s Mission?5. In your opinion, is it appropriate for the State, the 25% financial stakeholder in the 14 PASSHE universities, to control 100% of the 174 PASSHE governance seats, while the students, parents and alumni donors, the 75% financial stakeholders, control 0% of PASSHE’s 174 governance seats?
6. As a candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania and, in view of the great funding/governance disparity that exists between the Majority and Minority stakeholders, are you willing to campaign publicly in support of changing Act 188 to align the governance-shares of the Majority and Minority financial stakeholders to more closely match their respective funding-shares, as advocated by PASCU?”
Will Either Candidate for Pennsylvania Governor Respond Publicly to PASCU’s Six Questions?
The 2014 campaign for Pennsylvania governor between Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf is heating up, and with increasingly nasty attack ads a certainty, the question of whether either or both campaigns would be willing to publicly answer PASCU’s Six Questions naturally arises. Between PASSHE’s 112,000 students and their parents and families, and PASSHE’s 450,000 Pennsylvania-residing alumni and their families, publicly answering those questions in an effort to gain support at the polls from such a large bloc of voters would seem like something both campaigns should consider.
We will soon learn whether either, both or neither candidate will publicly answer PASCU’s Six Questions.
Should one or both of the candidates decide to affirmatively address those questions, it would represent the first time that either political party in Pennsylvania will have recognized the interests of PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders—the students, parents and alumni donors who currently pay 75% of the cost of education at the PASSHE universities, while the State now provides 25%.
Should both candidates decline to answer, it would suggest that both political parties believe they now benefit too much from the status quo to support the kinds of changes PASCU is calling for. That would also mean neither political party is ready to support the interests of the Majority Stakeholders, despite their large numbers and potentially significant impact on the outcomes of elections for public office.