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If the Political Parties were competing Soda Products, the Republican's jingle that they would be universally known by would be:

"No New Taxes."

And the Democratic Party's cola slogan would perhaps be:

"Making Government work for everyone."

So what ultimately happens when first campaign gets the better of the second?

Well, you get inconceivable story-lines like this next one.  Sorry Government Employees, you lose.

Unions Fight Scranton Mayor After He Cuts Pay to Minimum Wage

by Michael Cooper and Mary Williams Walsh, -- July 10, 2012

When the city of Scranton, Pa., found itself down to its last $5,000 in the bank last week, its Democratic mayor took a highly unusual step: he unilaterally cut the pay of city workers -- including police officers, firefighters and even himself -- to the minimum wage, just $7.25 an hour. Now the city’s unions are fighting for their promised pay in court.

But Scranton finds itself in a position that is unusual even in this era of widespread budget pain: it has nearly run out of cash and, so far, no one is willing to lend it more.

The troubles of Scranton, a city of 76,000, are a combination of long-term structural decline, a mayor and City Council at loggerheads and, since June, an inability to borrow. A majority on the Council turned Scranton into a financial pariah this spring by refusing to honor a guarantee that the city had placed on the revenue bonds issued by its parking authority. The municipal bond market took its refusal as a sign that the city might also default on its own bonds, and cut off credit.

When the 'No New Taxes' pledge takes hold in the public's collective mind, as a viable solution -- will that 'race to the bottom' be very far behind?

Services?  Who need public services anyways?  Certainly not the public in PA ...

How does a local government get itself into such dire straits, anyways?

Well that answer seems to be one part sleight of hand, one part voter apathy:

With No Vote, Taxpayers Stuck With Tab on Bonds

by Mary Williams Walsh, -- June 25, 2012

Surprised local taxpayers from Stockton, Calif., to Scranton, Pa., are finding themselves obligated for parking garages, hockey arenas and other enterprises that can no longer pay their debts.

Officials have signed them up unknowingly to backstop the bonds of independent authorities, the special bodies of government that run projects like toll roads and power plants.

The practice, meant to save governments money, has been gaining popularity without attracting much notice, and is creating problems for a small but growing number of cities.

With many cities now preoccupied with other crushing costs -- pension obligations, retiree health care, accumulated unpaid bills -- a sudden call to honor a long-forgotten bond guarantee can be a bolt from the blue, precipitating a crisis. The obligations mostly lurk in the dark. State laws requiring voter pre-approval of bonds don’t generally apply to guarantees. Local governments typically don’t include them in their own financial statements or set aside reserves to honor them.

That's what you call creative kicking-the-can governing ... Can't pay your bills?  -- just take it out on your most dedicated employees' pay.  And radically so. Binding employment agreements be damned.

If Dems cannot reverse this Tax Phobia downward spiral, will any of us be immune from this shift-the-blame, economic 'race to the bottom' in the long run?

Republicans will argue, "Well it's whatever the market will bear.  If someone is willing to do those jobs for 'minimum wage' -- WHY shouldn't we let them?"

And the Democratic counter-argument to this "let the markets decide" ruse?

A strong defense for paying a Living Wage?

A passionate argument for the importance of Economic Patriotism?

A constitutional explanation of our taxing authority to provide for the General Welfare?

Well hardly.  Those arguments are hardly jingle-ready, now are they?

Job, Jobs, Jobs!    -- Now THAT's a slogan!

Exactly HOW are we going to get the seed money for those Jobs?   Well, the people don't want those messy details!

They just want Jobs.   Unemployed workers don't care about their Wage level or the Benefit package -- as the public workers in Scranton ... are about to abruptly find out.

We might be very surprised by what 'that market' will ultimately 'bear' -- especially when hunger and thirst become the all-too-common motivators. Party Slogans will ring hollow in that era, when Stockton and Scranton are accepted with a shrug -- as part of the "New Normal' ...

Sadly, that bottom-seeking economic era may have already arrived.  The No New Taxers have seemingly won the rhetorical day already -- where "Taxes" are so cavalierly painted as 'the source of all evil' ... and each Tax equally so.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's disgusting to see police officers and (13+ / 0-)

    firefighters treated in this way.

    That Mayor is destroying his city.

    I'm from the Elizabeth Warren and Darcy Burner Wing of the Democratic Party!

    by TomP on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 08:12:16 AM PDT

  •  Reminds me of the "Okie" novels of the early (4+ / 0-)

    60s (James Blish / Cities in Flight).

    Scranton, PA was a major character.

    I found the books (after a willing suspension of disbelief) to be a rather interesting sociological study.

    "In other words, if we bust our butts, there's an even chance things will get better; and if we sit on our butts, there's a major chance things will go completely to hell". --- G2geek

    by Lorinda Pike on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 08:26:09 AM PDT

  •  Add San Bernardino, CA to the mix. They declared (5+ / 0-)

    bankruptcy and the times indicates there is a criminal probe underway.

    Here []

    These--Scranton and San Bernardino--will hardly be the last and their coattails on the gen election worry me a bit.

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 08:33:31 AM PDT

  •  Michael Scott (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, johnny wurster

    answers the Mayor of Scranton

    "A recent study reveals Americans' heads are larger than they were 150 years ago but sadly there is no indication that the extra room is used for anything." - entlord

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 08:45:40 AM PDT

  •  The safe investment of municipal bonds (8+ / 0-)

    OK, I don't really have a head for financial things, so maybe I'm missing some basics here.

    It seems to me the free hand of the marketplace may start opposing the "no new taxes" crowd.

    Would you invest your money in a municipal bond offered by Scranton or Stockton?  Would you invest your money in a municipla bond offered by the state of California?

    Investors may well get nervous about buying municipal bonds from municipalities that are in debt and bankrupt.  Investor may insist that municipalities show they can raise revenues before they are willing to invest.  A municipality that is sticking to a "no new taxes" pledge may find itself being abandoned by potential investors.

    How ironic if states and municipalities need a "we can raise taxes" pledge in order to take on more debt and attract buyers of bonds.

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 08:49:02 AM PDT

  •  philosophical-theological question (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorinda Pike


    What is the opposite of "the love of Money" ?


    The hatred of all Taxes.

    What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    -- Maslow ...... my list.

    by jamess on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 08:58:26 AM PDT

    •  Perhaps (0+ / 0-)


      What is the complement of "the love of Money" ?

      would have been more accurate.

      What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
      -- Maslow ...... my list.

      by jamess on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 09:41:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Altruism (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess, jayden

      In my opinion, the opposite of "love of money" is altruism, or generousity, or selflessness.

      Those eager to promote a "no new taxes" pledge, and those doing the pledging, are doing so to garner attention and poltical office for themselves, not for some benefit that goes to others.

      The no new taxer says they want to help tax-payers.  So let's ask the citizens of Scranton: which would you rather have - no new taxes, or a functioning police and fire department?

      "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

      by Hugh Jim Bissell on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 09:49:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  good way (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        to frame it.

        With concrete choices.

        thanks again.

        What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
        -- Maslow ...... my list.

        by jamess on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 09:53:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The proposed tax hike (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ranton, jamess

        is 78%. That means hardship for a great number of people. Not that the minimum wage is going to cut it, either.

        The state could help out its cities, instead of offering billions in tax breaks to businesses, especially gas and oil, whose job promises are sketchy and the big money likely to go out of state, along with its Marcellus gas jackpot.

        On up the chain to the federal level, roll back the tax cuts on the wealthy, and gas and oil subsidies. Our cities need help, and people will be homeless, stressed, and suicidal over the effects of the present situation. We can do better than this.

  •  It's not the wages (5+ / 0-)

    It's the pensions.  Negotiated 10, 15, 20 years ago.  Many cities still budget based on an expected return of 7 to 8 percent to cover.  Ludicrous based on economic reality. Unfunded pension liability across the country is currently measured in the trillions... Someone, anyone needs to go to jail, let's start with Geithner and the "economic advisors" and go from there.  Many cities have been screwed by credit default swaps and LIBOR based borrowing.  They appeal for relief, the Federal Apparatchik shut them down.

    No relief.

    You are correct, what is needed is jobs.  Pay taxes, increase revenue, cover the costs.

    A deal is a deal, and people should not have to be put though this crap.

    Throw the bums out.  Anyone milking the system for decades and living in cushy districts...

    Support the President and throw the bums out.


    Somebody said Party! I got excited. I love Parties! Especially Parties with exclamation marks! Now I'm sad because there's not a Party! h/t AnnetteK ;-)

    by EdMass on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 09:03:03 AM PDT

  •  A pity (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, jayden, mightymouse

    but with no new borrowings, no tax revenue and $5,000 in the bank, any check will bounce regardless of the hourly wage.   It looks like the council is deadlocked and can't or won't raise taxes.

    Bankruptcy, voluntary or involuntary is all that is left.  

    It is an object lesson in why you have to fund your government whether you like taxes or not.   Teh stupid is strong with some folks, however.    Now they can pay more.

  •  This doesn't involve the GOP at all. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    EdMass, jamess, mightymouse, VClib

    The mayor and city council members are Democrats.  The union, like most unions, is heavily Democratic.

    The tax increase they're balking at is a 78% property tax increase.  That's not small potatoes.

  •  Let's look at PA assessment of taxes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, mightymouse

    Pennsylvania Tax Guide

    Property Tax

    The state of Pennsylvania does not levy or collect taxes on real estate or personal property. Instead, those taxes are reserved for the local governments: counties, municipalities and school districts. Property taxes in Pennsylvania are collected only on real estate -- land and buildings -- and not on other types of property like cars or business inventory.

    Following the link

    Pennsylvania Personal Property Tax

    What Property is Taxed?:

    Property taxes in Pennsylvania apply only to real estate - land and buildings - and are not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes in Pennsylvania, including places of worship, places of burial, charitable and educational institutions and government property.

    How to Calculate Your Property Taxes:

    Property taxes in Pennsylvania are based on millage rates set by individual municipalities and school districts. In other words, property taxes in Pennsylvania vary from one county to another, and even from one town to the next. The amount of property tax you will owe is based on a combination of your assessed property value (as determined by the county assessment office) and the millage rates of the municipality and school district in which you live.

    What's a Mill?:

    Property tax rates in Pennsylvania are referred to as millage rates, and they are figured in mills. One mill is equal to 1/1,000 of a dollar. Basically, for every $1,000 in taxable value, a property owner will pay $1 in taxation per mill.

    Know your Mills...

    No revenue?  Well how does that effect your Mill rate?

    In other words, property taxes in Pennsylvania vary from one county to another, and even from one town to the next.
    Now, that's a system....

    Somebody said Party! I got excited. I love Parties! Especially Parties with exclamation marks! Now I'm sad because there's not a Party! h/t AnnetteK ;-)

    by EdMass on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 09:30:02 AM PDT

  •  will Fight Fires for Minimum Wage (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Whadaja think?  Will unemployed people take jobs as firefighter and police at minimum wage?

    Suppose the Scranton police and firefighters refuse to work for minimum wage (after all, they were promised much higher pay rates).

    Do you think other unemployed people will rush in to take those jobs for minimum wage?  Do you think the fire and police departments will find recruits willing to take the necessary training if the jobs only paid minimum wage?  

    These jobs are hazrdous.  Would unemployed people be willing to put their lives on the line in these jobs for minimum wage?

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 09:57:25 AM PDT

    •  You're missing the point (0+ / 0-)

      No revenue, nothing in the bank, no one will extend line of credit or support bond issues....

      Magic money?

      Somebody said Party! I got excited. I love Parties! Especially Parties with exclamation marks! Now I'm sad because there's not a Party! h/t AnnetteK ;-)

      by EdMass on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 10:01:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  did you even read my post? (0+ / 0-)

        it's about reframing the Tax Issue.

        Scranton is just an example of the problem.

        The post wasn't about "How to fix Scranton," per se.

        that's post perhaps you should write, EdMass.

        What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
        -- Maslow ...... my list.

        by jamess on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 10:22:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Why yes, yes I did (0+ / 0-)

    The problem is not "reframing the tax issue".  The problem is that Scranton is a leading indicator, along with cities in CA that have voted to redo agreements, declared bankruptcy and it spreads across the nation.

    This is a systemic fault with the basic financial infrastructure of the country, states, counties, towns.  

    All of this is out there if you look.  Don't need to diary in some perceived opposition or contra conclusion to you.

    Again, you are correct, we need jobs, we need a growing economy and a whole lot of the BS chest thumping goes away.

    Somebody said Party! I got excited. I love Parties! Especially Parties with exclamation marks! Now I'm sad because there's not a Party! h/t AnnetteK ;-)

    by EdMass on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 10:34:53 AM PDT

  •  I think you'll find that property taxes in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Scranton have been  going up. The first thing I read upon googling it is that a few years ago they increased 25% over a 3 year period. Now the taxes might still be lower then they should be (that seems pretty clear) but that doesn't mean it's some kind of malicious anti-tax fervor. When taxes increase 5% a year, that can't really be said to be a small amount.

    Hillary Clinton's Liberal Ranking

    by tigercourse on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 10:44:28 AM PDT

  •  I'm confused about the difference between (0+ / 0-)

    a bond and a guarantee.

    And, I'm not sure it's the mayor's fault; if they don't have money, they don't have money, and it sounds like the city council made sure that was the case.

    •  I /think/.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I think it's the difference between

      A) The city sells bonds directly to the public, receives money from the public, and spends the money on something like sewer upgrades or such, or some project that increases tax revenue. When the bonds come due, the city pays off the bond with the increased tax revenue.

      B) The local stadium sells bonds to the public, the stadium receives money from the public, the stadium spends money on stadium upgrades to things like the scoreboard and the sod and the bathrooms.... And when those bonds come due the stadium is obligated to pay them back, but if the stadium is broke (like from paying the stadium manager Mondo Money) then the local city government is stuck for the money because the city council guaranteed the stadium's bond.

      I think.

  •  There is a tax rebate/amnesty (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cai, jamess

    program for seniors in PA, with special help for those in the largest cities including Scranton. I have no idea how this figures into the equation, however. Upon last notice, the program was time-limited.

  •  Jobs Jobs Jobs! doesn't Reframe Reframe Reframe! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ranton, jamess, Abelia

    In terms of messaging, there are two different things going on: economic poverty and fiscal irresponsibility. Stimulus for jobs will never happen until the fiscal problems are dealt with positively. So the primary task is to reframe the situation in a manner that leads to positive progressive outcomes.

    Conservative anti-tax framing created the mess by attaching moral judgment to government taxing and spending.  Their success was in removing context from those verbs and giving them negative moral meaning -- they are sinful, in effect.

    No logic, reasoning, facts, or constitutional evidence can overcome entrenched moral values. You cannot expect to win on this issue by attacking it in the conservative framing.

    Progressives need to reframe -- change the focus of the conversation to have moral force on our own terms.

    So it isn't about trying to find a frame that explains and justifies taxes -- that's their battleground.

    The progressive framing needs to express moral values that resonate with the audience, to produce emotional motivation to do things right. For example:

     -- Our security and safety are threatened
     -- It's foolish and irresponsible to fail to take care of our minimum needs
      -- The people we pay to risk their lives to protect us and keep us safe should be honored and appreciated.
     -- If we can't even pay our cops or pick up our garbage or keep the city maintained this place will fall apart, everyone smart and able to will move away, and this town will be a total shit-hole in no time.
      -- If we don't stand together as a community, we suffer shame and lose our identity. Do we want Scranton to mean short-sighted rubes who dug their own graves?
    ... and so on, in that vein. The topic is NOT taxes, the topic is security, honor, responsibility, identity, etc.

    "Jobs Jobs Jobs!" goes nowhere. It provides no motivation for citizens to choose to pay higher taxes, or to elect progressives who will put community needs ahead of ill-guided austerity. It's not actionable.

    Scranton needs to pony up or wither. It sounds sucky to have 73% property tax hike. But average home value in Scranton is around $80,000; annual property taxes are $1000 to $1600 on that, so homeowners will all pay $750 to $1200 more -- $60 - $100 more per month. That's a relatively small price for putting the town back on its feet.

    Republicans are great at staying on message, Democrats suck at it. Democrats will muddle into the objections and financing problems and conflicting interests ad nauseum, and forget that no good solutions are possible if voters aren't given consistent MORAL VALUES reasons to fix anything. In the face of criticism of some aspect of who should pay what, or who should have in the past, Democrats tend to respond rationally and start justifying and defending.


    In the face of any criticism, the response should always be:
    "Well first, let's start with why we're here." Then:  "[Repeat main moral values messages, repeat main moral message. Mention how to get past some pragmatic problem. Reiterate main moral message.]"

    When the right people get elected, or the proper bond measure gets passed, then deal with pragmatic problems.

    Our cause: a More Perfect Union

    by Roby NJ on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 11:00:25 AM PDT

    •  You make an essential point that needs to be (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess, Roby NJ

      emphasized over and over and over!  This was key to FDR's success:

      progressive framing needs to express moral values that resonate with the audience, to produce emotional motivation to do things right.

      Robber Baron "ReTHUGisms": John D. Rockefeller -"The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets"; Jay Gould -"I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."

      by ranton on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 12:08:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is definitely an argument for municipally- (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ranton, jamess

    owned water systems.

    If the water system were owned by the city, they wouldn't threaten them with cutting off water.

    Privatization advocates take note.  Even if business could do things more efficiently than government (arguable) and would pass savings on to governments (never happen), business still doesn't give a fuck if water comes out of the tap when you turn it on.

  •  If the city leaders were commited to getting their (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    cities help, they would inform the people in every speech they make, the  Republicans are the problem and if they want to get out of the mess, they need to vote them out and save the city.

  •  Did you think it would happen magically? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What is happening in scranton is the nitty gritty interactions that will eventually result in a much more pro-sustainable tax system in scranton.

    You don't change people's gut beliefs without a gut-level impetus. It took the gut-level pain of the depression and the gut-level rescue of the new deal for people to believe in FDR down to the last twist of their bowels.

    Hell, if the mayor plays this right, this gut-level crunch could lay the groundwork for a local-centric economy. Purchase from local markets and local farmers because the big box grocery store doesn't run a tab. And so on.

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