Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hometown Heros

What Happened to Yesterday's Hometown Heroes?
by Lee Wishing

Each morning my local county newspaper shows up late. Speaking with the delivery man and calling the office hasn't changed things. So, rather than canceling the 20,089 daily circulation paper I continue reading the local news with my coffee ... a day late. And I love to read it cover-to-cover. Yet, lately I'm finding I'm growing frustrated with the content. I see some of our older hometown heroes growing weak. But, not our kids.

It's Saturday, and as I read Friday's sports on page B-1, I see three brawny boys wearing "Reynolds Wrestling 600 Wins" t-shirts hoisting the western Pennsylvania District 10 AA Dual Meet Championship trophy over their heads. Reynolds is a local perennial small school wrestling powerhouse. Above them are pictures of 112-pound and 140-pound boys locked in mortal holds.

On page B-3 there are four similar pictures: one shows 125-pound Reynolds Raider Robbie Miller turning Greenville's Doug Richmond on his back with the referee lying next to the boys waiting to call the pin. Richmond must have bloodied Miller's nose earlier in the match because Miller has cotton in his nose. And Richmond isn't giving up even though he's on his back. His back is bridged and he's jamming his palm under Miller's chin. Hometown heroes, these boys. Great stuff!

And then I turn back to page B-1 to read a story about the Pittsburgh Penguins. Another hometown hero, Mario Lemieux, and his Penguin co-owner partners are wrestling with Pennsylvania's governor, Pittsburgh's mayor and Allegheny County's executive to get a new arena for their team. The paper reports that Lemieux and company leave the negotiations-they walk off the mat-because they don't want to share parking and other revenues.

But wait, my instincts tell me there's something wrong with this picture. Why are Lemieux and friends wrestling with the referees? Why are they turning to government for a $290 million deal? Aren't the governor and his team elected to create and enforce laws rather than wrestle with businesses over how much money to grant them? And what's happened to Lemieux? I don't ever remember a champion asking a referee to hand him a win or a Stanley Cup, let alone huge financial favors.

Hmmm...even though he was on his back with the referee lying just inches away, Greenville's Doug Richmond wasn't asking the referee for help. He was fighting for the win.

And then I turn to the business page on B-5 to read a story titled "Dairy Queen Gets Grant to Upgrade Equipment." Once again Pennsylvania's governor is featured. This time his office announces that the governor is giving a local DQ franchise $7,500 to install high-efficiency refrigeration equipment. The story notes that the governor has handed out $2.8 million in similar equipment grants to other small businesses since July 2004.

What is going on with America's business owners? Are they starting out tough as youngsters but growing up soft-turning to government to solve their problems with money that doesn't belong to them? And how do they learn to become weak? Do they read about hometown heroes gone soft in America's sports and business pages? There's a lot of talk today about athletes having a responsibility to be role models. What's happened to Lemieux and Pittsburgh's young mayor? The mayor was a college football player not too long ago. Are these men role models for future business owners?

I've got to shake off this mental softness that's seeping into my mind. Back to page B-3 for me. I'm cheering on young Robbie Miller and Doug Richmond. Grow up strong guys. If you go into business, remember your picture on page B-3. Frame it. Hang it in your bedrooms. Hang it in your dorm rooms. Hang it in your offices. Remember, the referee is just a referee. Don't ask him for help. Even though I'm reading about you a day late, you guys are my hometown heroes today.

Lee Wishing, an adjunct scholar with the Commonwealth Foundation (www.CommonwealthFoundation.org), is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values (www.visandvals.org) at Grove City College.

Permission to reprint is hereby granted provided the author and affiliation are cited.

Commonwealth Foundation | 225 State Street, Ste. 302 | Harrisburg | PA | 17101

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

NEWS RELEASE From the Commonwealth Foundation


The Tax Man Cometh

Rendell budget would increase taxes by $806 per family of four

HARRISBURG, PA - The Commonwealth Foundation expressed disappointment that once again Gov. Ed Rendell violated his first-term inaugural promise to "make government live within its means" by introducing another budget that would tax, borrow, and spend more than the people of Pennsylvania can afford.

"Gov. Rendell's spending proposal would cost the average family of four $1,100 more per year," said Commonwealth Foundation President Matthew Brouillette. "Since he entered office, the cost of state government has jumped more than $4,500 for that same family."

The Commonwealth Foundation also pointed out how Gov. Rendell continues to try to mask the real growth in state government spending. By including supplemental appropriations (increasing the baseline) and shifting spending to other funds and creating new ones, the Governor claims to be increasing the General Fund by only 3.6%. But when fully quantified, total state spending in all funds under Gov. Rendell's budget proposal would increase nearly 9.8%-$3.7 billion-this year alone.

These proposed increases in state government spending would be funded through new or increased taxes on sales and use (1% = $1.4B), oil company earnings (6.17% = $760M), business payrolls (3% = $120M, with a projected increase to $1.9B in four years), all tobacco products ($91.3M), trash disposal ($61M), and electricity use ($75M). These tax increases alone total over $2.5 billion next fiscal year alone-the equivalent of more than $806 per family of four.

Gov. Rendell's proposed budget would increase state government spending by nearly 31% since he took office in 2003, which is more than double the 14% rate of inflation in that time. According to the Governor's Statistical Supplement, per-capita income grew by only 12.4% during his tenure-less than half the growth of state government spending.

"Pennsylvanians' paychecks haven't come close to increasing at that rate, yet working moms and dads-and eventually their kids-will be forced to pay for the governor's spending habits that have failed to revitalize Pennsylvania," said Matthew J. Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation. "Unfortunately, this year, Governor Rendell's ambitions exceed the funds he has available based on his last tax increase."

The growth in the budget is driven by both new proposals and by past spending. New proposals include the Governor's "Cover All Pennsylvanians," an expansion of the state's adultBasic healthcare program, and a new "Energy Independence Fund" to provide funding to alternative energy providers. These programs only add to increased costs resulting from higher interest payments to pay off our rising state debt, expansion of the welfare state, and growth in corporate welfare spending under Governor Rendell.

"The Governor's plans to expand government's role in healthcare and to offer more taxpayer handouts to energy companies will only serve to drive up the tax burden on Pennsylvania's taxpaying families and businesses," said Brouillette. "Governor Rendell's efforts to tax, borrow, and spend our way to prosperity have failed to improve Pennsylvania's economic competitiveness."

Despite dramatic increases in state spending during the Rendell Administration, Pennsylvania lags behind the rest of the nation in Job Growth, Personal Income Growth, and Population Growth, according to the most recently available data. Since the end of 2002, Pennsylvania ranks:

a.. 35th in job growth.

b.. 43rd in personal income growth.

c.. 42nd in population growth.

Among the few high points of the Governor's budget ideas is the elimination of tens of millions in "Walking Around Money" and looking to Public-Private Partnerships-including a lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

"We applaud the Governor's willingness to look to private sector options for funding our transportation infrastructure needs," said Brouillette. "It is unfortunate that the Governor looks to more government and higher taxes rather than free-market solutions in other policy areas."