The final straw

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Maybe it was when the U.S. House Representatives voted Thursday to blow up the increasingly popular Affordable Health Act and replace it with a non-vetted, closely-held replacement supported by less than 20 percent of voters (the cheering and beer party at the White House didn’t help, either).

Or maybe it was when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents swooped in and arrested about a dozen alleged illegal immigrants working in local mushroom farms, sending shockwaves through the small, yet powerful agriculture community that wields a surprising amount of political clout in Chester County. Enemies — serious enemies — were made that day.

Or maybe it was when the party nominated a handsy reality TV star billionaire for president, only to see him rejected locally in favor an unpopular Democrat in Chester County.

Or maybe it was just a slow death, caused by infighting, greed or a lack of a moral compass or some combination of all of the above. Either way, it appears that the Republican Party in Chester County — one of the party’s actual cradles in the 1850s — is terminally ill.

Oh, sure the Chesco GOP will continue to stagger around like some vitriol-spewing zombie (one needs only to see the dirty campaigning of one GOP District Justice candidate — one supported by much of the establishment — in the Kennett Square area targeting their fellow Republicans to see that), but the time to start working on the obituary has come.

You’ll note we don’t run a lot of obituaries: 1. the funeral homes decline to offer us any ad support, even though we’re willing to run the obits for free (as compared to the many hundreds of dollars charged to the families for each obit by other newspapers) and 2. there are too many errors in the submitted obituaries that require us to go back and fix them after being published, which is a time suck for a small company with limited resources. But for those that are newsworthy, we make a clear exception.

This, of course, is newsworthy.

As with any demise, the post mortem always looks for the cause and I suspect down the road we’ll see that Thursday’s vote to give a giant tax break to the rich and deprive the poor, middle class and elderly of health care that was the final straw in Chester County.

Supporting the American Health Care Act — which two of our local GOP congress members, Ryan Costello (R-6) and Patrick Meehan (R-7) were “no” votes, while a third, Lloyd Smucker, voted yes — a law that could deprive health care from kids, seniors and a whole wide range of folks who won’t be able to afford the cost of expensive new policies, especially those who have pre-existing conditions, isn’t exactly the ticket to electoral success.

Should that bill pass the U.S. Senate as is, doubtful thankfully, people will die.

And folks will notice.

When you, as a party or as an individual, support legislation that causes people to die, you’re not pro-life. As most folks opposing abortion also oppose contraception, they’re not pro-life, just anti-sex — for straight women. And for gay everybody, apparently. They are, of course, OK with men having sex, especially outside of marriage — a fun trait demonstrated by Republicans from President Donald Trump all the way down to a handful of local political leaders. So, there’s that.

So, to recap, Republicans are OK with married guys getting a little on the side, but not single women. Or gay couples. Or unmarried adults of either gender. Just married guys who like to grab em by the….well, you know.

Family values, of course.

But let’s dig a bit deeper.

Republicans are, allegedly, fiscal conservatives. Well, when they’re not in charge — they scream about deficits and spending.

But, elect one president, and suddenly, deficits don’t matter. Cutting taxes for rich people — which caused recessions in 1983, 1991, 2003 and 2008 — and boosting spending for boondoggle defense projects like the F-35 fighter, the Yugo of the skies, so their buddies at General Dynamics and Boeing (the latter of which managed not to pay any taxes last year — despite being highly profitable) get good return for their campaign contributions. But we don’t get any safer and the deficit explodes (just as it did in the 2001-2009 period).

As someone who truly is a fiscal conservative, I’m angered and frustrated by every dollar wasted pointlessly on defense (we should invest in people, training and taking care of our veterans — and save money by keeping proven platforms like the A-10 Ground Attack jet, which could be made state of the art with new avionics and engines, at a cost of pennies on the dollar compared to miscast and failed F-35). By being smarter, we could have a better, more efficient military — one that keeps us safer and costs less — and provide the needed support for everything from health care to infrastructure that we constantly fail at and still cut tax rates for the bottom of the income scale.

To be blunt, a tax cut for the rich is exceptionally poor economics and little more than a payback to rich campaign contributors. The smart play — in terms of boosting economic growth — is to raise taxes on the rich, cut out the corporate tax loopholes and slash taxes on those making less than $100,000 per year.

Why? Rich people and corporations don’t spend money, they hoard it (I’m an investor, I look at the balance sheets of a lot of companies). Take a quick look around at what corporate America does with large stashes of cash: they either sit on it, or buy back stock. They don’t create new jobs or spend on expansion. Rich people don’t spend either, they stash their wealth in offshore tax havens — they’re not “job creators,” they’re wealth creators.

You know who does spend money? Poor and middle class folks. They buy cars and TVs and send their kids to college and fix up their homes. When that happens, new jobs are created and that means there are new people to buy TVs and cars and so on, it creates what economists call a “Virtuous Cycle.” This built America’s middle class between 1945 and 1981.

But that isn’t now, nor has it been for more than a generation, part of the GOP playbook. While in the past, the “cut taxes for growth” argument was plausible, repeated failures have left all but the most ignorant to question both motivation and honesty behind those supporting it. In the end, it was about wealth redistribution to the wealthy from the rest of us.

Combine that with a Molester-In-Chief who can’t control his zipper, his administration or his Twitter account, the backing of Christian Evangelicals (America’s own Taliban), whose fake moral superiority and lust to attack, well everyone else who isn’t sufficiently Godly, has become excessively tiresome to virtually anyone with a triple-digit IQ, and you sow the seeds of destruction in a well-educated place such as Chester County.

The AHCA was little more than the detonator, in the end.

But as soon as this November, the county’s Democrats, which boasts the best slate of county-wide candidates in recent memory (all of whom are vastly better than I was eight years ago), may be in position to help the county GOP reap the whirlwind of what they have sown.

It will get worse in 2018.

While Costello and Meehan wait to see which of the many, qualified, likely to be well-funded Democrats they will face, Smucker already knows (or should know) how much trouble he faces in a rematch with Christina Hartman in the 16th.

And she does, too.

Hence this post by her on Facebook the other day:

“Today our Congressman made sure that my husband, Martin, a 36-year old cancer survivor will not have his ‘pre-existing condition’ of cancer covered. He made sure that my friends who are survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence (1 in 4 women) cannot be covered by the #AHCA for issues related to their abuse. And, he made sure that women who have postpartum depression aren’t covered either.

“Are you sick of this yet?

“Because I am.”

And so is Chester County. RIP, GOP.

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  1. James Pitcherella says:

    Wealthy corporation owners can’t sustain their wealth if no one can afford their products. It’s so basic that anyone should understand it. But most wealthy people are, like Trump, born that way, not necessarily intelligent and easily conned. Even mafia “businessmen” don’t crap on the people that by their stuff.
    James E. “Jimmy” Cayne hired professional bridge players accustomed to conning wealthy people out of their cash to work for Bear Sterns in Philly.
    “The Wizard of Lies” about Bernie Madoff conning wealthy people out of their money is coming to HBO.
    Is the Republican Party, the Libertarians or whatever just a way of soaking wealthy people by appealing to their greed? Maybe.

  2. Charlene McGrady says:

    Finally an admission that there is no “trickle down” from tax cuts for the wealthy. When the cups of the 1% runneth over, they just get bigger cups. Wealth hoarders, indeed! TrumpCare hurts the poor, sick, disabled and elderly and rural hospitals in order to give Trump and his wealth hoarding cronies a massive tax cut. It’s healthcare insomuch as it supports all about financial health of the only group the GOP cares about: the wealthy. They always put profits ahead of people. The free market has zero interest in insuring vulnerable people.

  3. Kate says:

    Mike, this is exactly the problem. I think you are not taking into consideration the realities of today’s parties, which have two radically different sets of goals and priorities for America. If you fundamentally oppose one party’s platform and goals, why would you endorse and vote for someone who will be most effective in implementing it? So you thought Toomey was “more experienced” than McGinty, but it didn’t concern you at all what his positions on the issues would be? Was there no concern to what ends his “experience” would be directed?

    There is a much bigger picture here than “Do I like this person more than that person”. Having Costello and Meehan in the House has bigger ramifications than just whatever you think of them personally. By voting for Republican congressmen, you get a Republican majority. With a republican majority, you get Speaker Ryan and his agenda, including this abominable healthcare bill, tax cuts for the very wealthy and all the other things you outlined above. In retrospect, wouldn’t the “inexperienced honesty” of Balchunis have been a better choice than Meehan in this case?

    Similarly, voting for Toomey gets you whatever Mitch McConnell’s agenda is. It gets you DeVos for Education Secretary, it gets you people like Pruitt at EPA and Price at HHS. It gets you Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. It gets a rubber stamp on Trump’s agenda. If that’s your preferred policy outcome, then sure, you should vote for Toomey not McGinty. But if your preferred outcome was more in line with what the Democratic Party was proposing (which it seems you do based on the editorial), why would you think Toomey would help you get there?

    The days of picking your representatives at any level of government based on their personal qualities are over (barring such obvious disqualifiers as criminal behavior of course). The two parties have, over the past 4 decades, sorted themselves into two very different world views, with very different policy preferences and outcomes.

    Choose the party that best aligns with your values and preferred policy outcomes, and vote accordingly. Because that’s what those representatives are going to do once in office.

  4. Erin says:

    As a constituent of the 16th, I intend to do everything possible every single day for the next 548 days to make sure Congressman Smucker no longer represents me or the interests of my family. He’s bailed on that responsibility and should no longer have the title that goes with it.

  5. Kaybee says:

    I’ve been watching local Republican posts on Facebook, only to see little to no mention of a win on health care.

    This is a clear example of winning the battle yet losing the war. I look forward to 2018 when things swing so far left, things like this will never happen again. They’ve awakened the beast. Hope they are ready.

  6. jerriann says:

    KUDOS! Well written!

  7. Kate says:

    I agree with your sentiments here, but your endorsements of Republicans Costello, Meehan,Toomey and others last November makes all this ring a little hollow. Do you understand why the House was able to even bring this up for a vote? Because Republicans were in the majority. Without republican politicians like Costello and Meehan, there might not have been a Speaker Ryan who could bring such an abomination to a vote.

    Now, you’re hoping the Senate won’t pass something equally horrible? Toomey, your endorsed candidate, is on the committtee to create the legislation. (As an aside, there are no women on the committee, so if you think you’re scared, try to imagine being a woman under a health care regime that considers being female a pre-existing condition) How do you think he will vote?

    Again, I agree with what you’ve said above, but it’s time for people translate their preferred policy outcomes to their voting behavior. You just got what you voted for. And worse, you did your best to convince your readership to vote likewise.

    I’m glad you seem to have “seen the light.” I hope enough other people do before it’s too late.

    • Mike McGann says:

      I certainly appreciate your comments, but would like to clarify our endorsement policy. In a binary choice, we pick the candidate we feel is most qualified — setting party affiliation aside.

      In the case of the endorsements you mention, we found Mike Parrish and Katie McGinty to be poorly qualified candidates, and endorsed accordingly. In the case, of the 7th, we were torn between Patrick Meehan’s earnest attempts at bipartisanism and the fresh, but inexperienced honesty of Mary Ellen Balchunis and opted for Meehan.

      Endorsements are not who we as individuals vote for, but rather an even handed reflection of how we see the quality of the candidate and their campaigns and which would be more effective in representing our readers. I’ll note you left out our endorsement of Christina Hartman — and already it appears clear that she would have been a better choice than Lloyd Smucker, so that’s an endorsement we continue to take pride in.

      Too often in recent years, Democrats have run unqualified, incapable candidates and our endorsements reflect that. If the party runs better candidates — as appears to be the case with the 2017 county row office races — they will be much more likely to earn our endorsement.

      Our responsibility as journalists, especially in this time where we are increasingly under attack from politicians and dramatically reduced revenue, to offer fair, cold-hearted assessments of races. In doing so, I hope we earn the trust and respect of our readers, rather than pandering to any one political point of view.

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