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Senator Piccola Proposes Bold Expansion to Voucher Concept

STATE LEGISLATURE Sen. Jeff Piccola proposes legislation to give public support to Pennsylvanians trapped in failing families.


In a breath-taking expansion of the school voucher concept, Senator Jeff Piccola has introduced legislation that would grant vouchers to Pennsylvanians who wish to choose their own families.

“It’s time to let the market work,” Piccola said. “There’s just no good reason why Pennsylvanians who are trapped in failing families through no fault of their own should be denied the better quality of life they would enjoy with a higher- performing family."

Responding to questions about the availability of high-quality families willing to accept vouchers, Piccola replied, “Pennsylvanians are always eager to offer a helping hand to those who find themselves in dire straits – particularly when there’s a buck to be made. So I’m confident that the market will provide.”

Charles Zogby, Governor Corbett’s Budget Secretary, welcomed Piccola’s approach as another example of how the Corbett Administration was attempting to return power to ordinary people and to reinforce their narrow self-interests.

“That’s what Pennsylvanians voted for,” said Zogby. “I mean, have you seen some of these people’s families?”

Millwright Reference Backfires

Everyone learns about Millwrights; Governor’s Office unsure what Millwrights are



HARRISBURG In his inaugural budget address in early March, Governor Tom Corbett lauded the ordinary taxpayers of Pennsylvania, including such average citizens as “millwrights, nurses, mom and pop grocery store owners, and farmers.”

Since the address, the Pennsylvania Association of Millwrights has been inundated with calls from farmers, nurses and corner grocers asking how they can organize through the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, the union that represents the state’s more than 12,000 millwrights.

“They have a pretty good deal, and I think collective bargaining would be a huge benefit to us corner grocers, too,” said Jed Furnow, a local grocer from Newberryport, PA. “Think of the power we could have if we were represented by a collective that spoke for all corner grocers.”

Jake Blonowitz, who heads union local 2590 for the UBC, said his phone has been ringing off the hook from small grocers, nurses, and especially farmers, most of whom never considered collective action before.

“When they were lumped together with us in the governor’s speech, no one knew what a millwright was, so they looked us up on the internet and discovered we were a highly unionized group of machinists who have received job training, job placement, and higher wages and benefits over the years through union representation,” said Blonowitz. “Now everybody wants to get in on this.”

Corbett’s chief speech writer Becca Bosley, a Wellesley graduate who majored in English and wrote her dissertation on the poet William Wordsworth, explained that she was trying to create an atmosphere of pre-industrial Pennsylvania when millwrights and small farmers dotted the landscape.

“I really thought that Millwrights were the guys that ground flour on mill stones using running water from small creeks that turned mill wheels. I had no idea they were these big sweaty unionized machinists,” she said.

State Worker Stunned to Learn State Government Is Not Pathway to Riches


HIGHSPIRE Mimi Schmertz, a 28-year employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said she was absolutely stunned to learn this week that her mid-level administrative position in state government was not likely to lead to fabulous riches.

“I am so disappointed,” said Mrs. Schmertz, after a colleague sent her a recent blog post from The Economist that explained most people who go to work for state government don’t do it for the money.

“Just the other day, I popped in on the department’s Human Resources director who was going on and on about the wine-tasting tour of Paris he took last month with his wife,” Mrs. Schmertz said. “I thought, all right, that’s what I’m talking about. Then a colleague pointed out he’s married to a big shot in the natural gas industry.”

Mrs. Schmertz’s husband, Dwight Schmertz, a long-time low-level planner for PennDOT, said his wife was taking the news very hard.  “I don’t know how she got her hands on The Economist, usually she just reads People or Us, but she was pretty upset when she came home from the hairdresser."

Mrs. Schmertz said the worst part is now she can’t be as smug about her fat taxpayer-funded paycheck when she sees her private-sector-employed friends, like Betty, a stocker at Giant Foods.

“I don’t even know anymore if I make as much money as she does,” Mrs. Schmertz said. “It’ll be hard to lord it over her when I just can’t be sure.”

Local NPR Station Changes Name; Hopes to Avoid Shame


HARRISBURG Midstate National Public radio and television station WITF announced it would be changing its call letters to create a “whole new image” in the wake of NPR’s national president announcing her resignation last month.

The station plans to drop the “I” in WITF, renaming the station “WTF” in order to appeal to a younger demographic. Budget analysts at the station said they expected the change would result in a more efficient operation.

“We’ve just cut our costs by 25%,” analyst Jim Streeter explained. “Sorry, gotta go – the governor’s budget people are calling me with a job offer.”

The change also comes in conjunctin with the station’s 40th birthday, celebrated today.

Kathleen Pavelko, President and CEO of WITF, said the transition should be a smooth one, particularly since young people already use the phrase WTF so often. “It’s like they saw us coming,” she said.

Corbett Speech-writer Stricken by Rare Disease


HARRISBURG The Corbett Administration announced today that one of its senior speech-writers and author of the Governor’s recent budget address was being treated for a rare condition known as loopis aphorismia. The illness – which typically afflicts writers of overwrought clichés — attacks the cerebral cortex, trapping its victims in unending sets of meaningless parallel phrases and related drivel.

A spokesperson for the Governor reported that the stricken staffer began to show signs of the illness after completing a section of the budget speech in which he used the aphorisms:
  • We have to spend less. Because we have less to spend.
  • We must tax no more. Because the people have no more to give.
After completing the final draft, the staffer sat silently at his computer, typing feverishly, reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Later analyses of the hard drive showed the classic signs of loopis aphorismia:
  • All’s well that ends well. So all wells must end.
  • A little learning is a dangerous thing. So we must learn still less.
  • A chicken in every pot. And pot for every chicken.
  • Few have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder. So let the bidding begin.
  • God is great and God is good. Good God! This is great!
  • My Lord what a morning. Morning Lord. What!
  • Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. So what are we waiting for?
"He was caught in this series of loops and he couldn’t get out,” said another member of Corbett’s speechwriting team, shivering at the thought that it could happen to any one of them.

Zogby Retracts “Expansive” Definition of Government Role


HARRISBURG In the face of a rising protest from Tea Party members, Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Charles Zogby yesterday apologized for expanding the definition of the “core functions of government” to include protecting public health as well as public safety.

Zogby used what he termed this “expansive” definition in a speech to the Pennsylvania Press Club on March 1. After the speech was delivered, conservative observers were initially pleased to discover that Zogby’s definition didn’t include transportation, public education, environmental protection, or taking care of old people.

"If people choose to grow old, that’s their responsibility” said Matt Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation.

But a flurry across Twitter and the blogosphere raised questions about what exactly “public health” means and whether Zogby might be a mole from a liberal interest group. Off the bat, the reference to public health opened the door to a new round of calls for the restoration of adultBasic, a low-cost health insurance program for low-income adults. “If people choose to get sick, that’s their responsibility,” said Brouillette.

Shortly thereafter, environmental zealots tried to sneak in the idea that protecting public health includes regulating industry to reduce mercury poisoning or other carcinogens. “If people choose to expose themselves to toxics they can’t see or smell,” said Brouillette, “that’s their responsibility.”

The last straw was when advocates argued that research evidence showing the tight correlation between income levels and health warranted an increase in public assistance to poor people and the unemployed. “If people choose to get laid off through no fault of their own, that’s their responsibility,” said Brouillette.

“I have seen the light,” said Zogby. “Public health is a function you could drive a truck through. Any broadening of the definition of government’s role is a slippery slope that can lead to inexorable increases in taxes and government taking even more of your money.”

Zogby did admit he left out one critical core function of government, “the protection of private property rights.” He also said he was re-examining whether “public safety is a bit broad. We may want to narrow that function to certain places.”

One questioner yesterday asked Zogby to comment on research of economic historians which shows that countries with narrow definitions of government’s role tend to remain economically backward. “I’m not familiar with that research,” said Zogby, “and I do not plan to become so.”

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