Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Apathy Leads to Bossism Leading to Whiskey Taxes

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Apathy Leads to Bossism Leading to Whiskey Taxes

If there is one book that can be called “the definitive” word on Pennsylvania politics, this book by Paul Beers is it. Although printed in 1980 (thus missing events since then), this book captures the state’s history to that point. It is filled with anecdotes, biographies, and the often entertaining stories of what happened amongst generations of Pennsylvania’s politicians.

The author describes Pennsylvania as a state that throughout history has been composed of many diverse people spread out in disconnected communities that it is difficult to politically categorize what it a “Pennsylvania voter” is. Yet, in general, the Pennsylvania electoral throughout time has striven towards political moderation. Further, Pennsylvanians have more generally more apathetic about public policies than residents of other states. The times show Pennsylvania as a state where ethnic politics once had strong influences, political bosses arose, and where general apathy, bossism, and cautious moderation led to a bland political cultural where we gave the nation relatively few prominent national figures.

For Pennsylvania political enthusiasts, it may be discouraging to learn that a public poll found that 91% of Pennsylvanians surveyed did not know which political party controlled the State House and State Senate. This lack of general interest is credited with explaining why reform movements that swept other states never gained footholds in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the author questions the political sensibilities of Pennsylvania voters at times, noting that 831,355 Pennsylvanians voted against a referendum question to legally allow the capitol to be moved from Harrisburg should Harrisburg be destroyed by an atomic attack. (Nah, have the legislature keep meeting in the radioactive crater.)

Taxes, though, are what, throughout history, have gotten Pennsylvania riled-up. From the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, when President George Washington had to send troops to calm irate western Pennsylvanians who protested a tax on distilled rye, to Pennsylvania being one of the last states in enact an income tax, Pennsylvanians have seem to most awaken to public controversy when taxes were involved.

The long era of corrupt Republican bosses in Pennsylvania is partly to explain for Pennsylvania’s inability to great many political leaders. The bosses sought compliant backbenchers as leaders. The political machine of Matt Quay followed by Boies Penrose stretched beyond state politics and included control of many local offices and patronage positions. They formed alliances with businesses and with the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association (PMA) that, in some sessions, was able to produce laws favorable to the businesses and to PMA members who, in return, financially supported the Republicans. New York industrialist John D. Rockefeller noted in 1880 that “Mr. Quay might be of great use to us in the state, but he is fearfully expensive.”

The Republican machines began breaking down after the death of Boies Penrose in 1929. Penrose had no successor prepared and the factions of the Republican Party split apart. The Vare brothers machine of Philadelphia proven untrustworthy and some political deals fell apart. (Nor was the Vare machine known for their electoral honesty, as noted when voters complained the Vare machine had literally stuffed the ballots so much that legitimate voters had trouble forcing their ballots into the ballot box.) Gifford Pinchot was elected as a progressive candidate, although his first victory for Governor was in a patronage alliance with PMA where his progressivism did not extend to increasing manufacturing regulations or higher corporate taxes. Ironically, Pinchot, who had gained fame as a forester, even cut the budget for forestry development while Governor. This followed a period where business leaders such as members of the Mellon banking family and the Annenberg publishing family supported candidates with whom they agreed, yet they were not as directly involved in politics as were prior business leaders. Franklin Roosevelt brought a national political realignment which also made Pennsylvania more of a two party state. Democrats such as Governors George Earle and George Leader made state government more active in job creation, environmental protection, and making it easier for unions to engage in collective bargaining while Republicans such as Governor Arthur James worked to undo what the Democrats had previously done while progressive Republicans such as Governor Jim Duff defended some of these reform initiatives. Republican Governor Raymond Shafer failed to reach agreement with his own party’s legislative leaders which led to serious budget crises (one budget passed only with a dying legislator voting in absentia) which was finally resolved with the passage of an income tax under Democratic Governor Milton Shapp. Shapp, though, had his own problems with the state legislature. In a century prior to Shapp, the legislature had only overridden a Governor’s veto just once and that was at the Governor’s own request in order to make a change a mistake. The legislature overrode 15 of Shapp’s vetoes.

Legislative specialists will enjoy reading many of the legislative machinations through the ages. Insurgents reconvened a House session in 1921 and seized control of the House to push through $21 million in additional funds for the Governor. Bribes for $4 appropriations went for $1,000 per legislator in 1879. Boies Penrose used to create what he called “squeeze bills”, which was legislation he did not favor but had introduced in order to obtain contributions from interests who wanted him to then kill the bills. During the Depression in 1933, the legislature, in a very rare action, cut its own pay. Governor George Earle once tore up legislation, earning him a lecture from Chief Clerk Richard Heagy who told him “Governor, you may sign a bill or you may veto it, but you may not tear it up.” Honus Wagner, a famous Pittsburgh Pirate baseball player, afterwards worked as a legislative staffer. The 50 State Senators had two lobbyists who were so powerful that Sun Oil lobbyist Harry Princeton Davis was called the “51st Senator” while Pennsylvania Railroad lobbyist William Reiter was called the “52nd Senator”.

This is a history that deserves to be remembers. This book captures that history.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of those tirades that doesn’t fit in here, but I put it in here because people love at laugh at other people’s misery, so, following that logic, then readers will have lots to laugh at.

Recently, I have come been providing the opportunity to realize my value in life. Sort of like learning your credit rating and getting a rude shock (well, you readers might follow that analogy better: not only is my credit rating actually good, but I don’t need credit, which of course is why my credit rating is good. They most want to loan money to pay who don’t need and can pay for it on their own without the loan.)

For years, I deluded myself into thinking I was a good employee. Once the Big Boss (i.e.: there is no one higher in the organization) stopped me in the hallways and told me how he had come from a meeting with a number of the big shots who were complaining about the poor quality of staff. He wanted me to know that they had made a point to say that there was one exception to their complaints, and that I was the one staff members they stated was good.

Another time, I received a part-time assignment to a series of projects that had to be handled individually. We were provided credit for the assignments completed. I noticed that often my assignments were being credited to others who were working full time on the project. I was told confidentiality that this was to boost their totals so they didn’t get in trouble, but not to worry because eventually they would give me credit for something someone worked on. That never happened. What I remember was a couple years of madness as they kept giving me assignments and telling me how they needed me to do more and more.

I finally left assignment to that office when a new boss came in. The new boss, though, wanted to meet me as he told me how he was impressed in going over the office’s records to learn how I had done over half of all the projects. I was stunned, as I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was only part-time plus I had done a lot of the projects credited to others. Yet, I realized, on a part-time basis, I had done more work than eight other people combined, and I felt bad for my colleagues. Yet, I now feel one bad as I see one of these colleagues has gone forth and received an over $20,000 bonus, so I now feel less bad about them.

I remember the time I spent an entire weekend doing the work of another office. The boss in that office called and claimed her staff of 15 people were all too busy to do this work; work, incidentally that specifically was designated as the responsibility of her office. She claimed I had to do it, even though it was not our office. Indeed, I should have even questioned her right to assign this extra work to me. Yet, I was a loyal trooper and did the work. I see she got a bonus of over $38,000.

I work overtime almost every day and take work home with me. I work weekends. Sometimes I think there is no reward for hard work, yet other times, I think I know that people see and recognize how hard I work.

The point of all this? I got a bonus of $370. For several months, I was happy. It was the first bonus I’d ever gotten, as my organization is not known for giving out bonuses. Yet, when the list became public: I now realize something I always used to joke about is true.

There is no reward for hard work here.

12:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It don't matter how good you are, it's how flashy you are. People look at the flash.

6:15 AM


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