The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Gary Grossman

April 7, 2014

Tom Corbett's 700 club

The news department has been researching those 700 jobs for Snyder County, much the way we went looking for the 300-job employer who was floated anonymously for public consumption before the last election in Northumberland County.

From what has been published, the Snyder 700 could be an administrative operations center attached to Gov. Tom Corbett’s “Healthy PA” plan that is, so far, an imagined alternative to the Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare.

There is, sadly, a lot of political skepticism about Gov. Corbett’s proposition, which has been described by one of his would-be opponents for office as “boneheaded.”

It is a multi-part concept that would expand Medicaid, offer Pennsylvanians premium support to buy commercial health care provided by community health centers that would be incentivized through physician loan forgiveness and streamlined into efficiency by telemedicine and electronic medical record-keeping to aid Pennsylvanians.

The Corbett workaround has a series of political hoops to navigate in order to qualify for waivers to perform experimental ideas not consistent with the Medicaid statute.

While everyone chants aloud how states should be the laboratories for public policy, the notion that the federal authorities will embrace an “in-your-face” flip-off from an anti-Obamacare litigant without excruciating bureaucratic scrutiny (as in deathrendering) seems far-fetched.

So, the Snyder 700 may never rise above a chess move between Pennsylvania’s obdurate Republican governor and the full-steam-ahead nationalization of health care under the ACA.

It is, nonetheless, an oblique acknowledgement of the world between the grotesque political currency that is trying mightily to separate America into “benefit takers and job makers” or “people who work for a living opposed to people who vote for a living” or “emancipators liberating the underclass from enslaving dependency of the social safety net by offering them starvation.”

There seem to be people who vote for the opportunity to work for a living. They are neither the vaguely identified grand army of layabouts nor the trust fund inheritors of capital who compile dividends and call it work.

There is a name for these in-between people who vote for the opportunity to do useful work. We call them American citizens.

There is in our society, and has been from the start, an unresolved tension between privilege and equality of opportunity, commonly phrased as “the rich get richer and . . .”

It is being repackaged and illuminated by two timely books, “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis about the unfair advantage computer speed gives high frequency traders on the stock market and “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Tom Piketty, which, according to economic reviews, convincingly demonstrates how return on capital outpaces economic growth. That explains the disparity between the few very rich becoming even richer and the many in the middle or below losing ground.

Post World War II, thinkers searched their minds to explain how humanity developed the means to annihilate itself and nearly did so. Many settled on a pattern of economic upheaval so devastating and farreaching that people in democratic societies, moved by propaganda, voted their way toward oblivion.

In shorthand, they found that Benito Mussolini used the ideas of Vilfredo Pareto’s wealth curve — that democracy is an illusion under which the ruling class enriched itself — to fuel the anger and energy of fascism. Adolph Hitler remixed the work of Fredric Nietzsche to convince Germany’s failing democracy that a superior race of “overman” needed to jettison the anchor weight of lesser beings through genocide.

Elements of this pattern, this tension, are more or less pronounced throughout history. You see its tiny reflections on the opinion pages today in letters and columns about who is more or most American of us all and what should be done about the rest.

Whatever, however or whomever you find convincing, another truth from history shows that the free respectful exchange of ideas — an unfettered press — exposes the false promises and divisive accusations that historically have been handmaidens to selfish wealth and destructive power.

Voters (and newspaper readers) who remain wisely steadfast in the belief that a political economy should deliver the opportunity for useful work won’t be so easily diverted by the “makers/takers” polemics or sudden pre-election promises of postelection employment. 

Gary Grossman is the publisher of The Daily Item and The Danville News.


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Gary Grossman
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