The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

August 8, 2012

If only Hippocrates were running

We wish our politicians would take a cue from the medical community in one particular regard: Remember Hippocrates.

Do no harm.

We can always aspire to do better than Hippocrates minimum standard. But why must those who are paid $174,000 a year do worse?

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, of Hazleton, and Tom Marino, R-10, of Cogan Station, both voted last week for a defense appropriations bill that does not include funding for the Tobyhanna Army Depot, one of the largest employers in northeast Pennsylvania.

Questioned about their positions, both lawmakers said they had voted for the bill based on assurances that depot would be funded. The problem was an accounting error regarding how much money was available for facilities such as the Tobyhanna Army Depot.

Since the Senate passed its own version of the defense appropriations bill, the two bills are headed to conference where Barletta said the issue will be resolved.

On Friday, he sent a letter to leaders of both chambers asking them to remedy the situation in conference and to ensure Tobyhanna and the other facilities receive adequate funding for their operations.

In the state Legislature, things have been no better.

On the campaign trail, state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver noted that as a working mother, she understood the importance of early childhood education.

Then, in office, she voted for a state budget that cut funding for early childhood education.

Culver and state Rep. Fred Keller, Rep. Kurt Masser and Rep. C. Adam Harris all voted for Act 22, which granted authority to the head of the state Department of Public Welfare to make cuts to reduced wasteful spending.

When county leaders protested that the agency's view of wasteful spending included money for aging programs, the lawmakers characterized the reductions as "unintended consequences."

There are times in history when elected leaders have given us profiles in courage by voting against their own interests in the name of deeply-held principles.

What we have witnessed are profiles in incompetence.

Elected leaders cast votes with inaccurate or inadequate information about how legislation will affect the people they represent. Those paid $174,000 to represent us in Washington or $82,000 to represent us in Harrisburg ought to be able to avoid taking action that is harmful to Pennsylvanians.

Citizens might wonder if the uneven performance reflects how our elected leaders approach their jobs and who they work for -- party leaders.

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