First, my reaction to the breaking news: I’m delighted that we caught Osama bin Laden, but dismayed that our troops killed him. He should have lived to stand trial and after conviction, been sentenced to rot away his years in solitary confinement. The images of people celebrating his death were quite disturbing to me. No man’s death should please anyone. In a humanitarian world, one without war, the world we hope to build—in this future world, the true enemy is death against which all men and women will fight together as brothers and sisters. Didn’t bin Laden gleefully celebrate the destruction of 9/11? Let’s despise Osama bin Laden and celebrate his capture, but let’s not stoop one nanometer to his level by applauding his death.
Now we return you to your regular programming:
We’re used to hearing and reading lies from the right wing, such as the lie that gutting job-creating programs to cut taxes on the wealthy creates jobs. Or the lie that providing unemployment benefits for too many weeks will lead to people staying at home instead of looking for work. Or how about the lie that government never does anything as well as the private sector can do it, or that charter schools lead to better educational outcomes.
We’re also used to stupid statements from the right, such as the many factual errors of Sarah Palin or the absurd exaggerations of Michelle Bachman. Or how about the Florida Tea-partite politico who said that 90% of Planned Parenthood’s work involves abortions.
But Tom Corbett, newly elected governor of Pennsylvania, concocted an especially unheady brew of lying and ignorance late last week with his solution to the budget problems facing Pennsylvania’s public universities. His idea is for the state schools to earn money by allowing companies to drill for natural gas below campus.
Let’s start with the lying part that underlies the idea: The primary reason that Pennsylvania institutions of higher education face a critical funding shortfall is because Corbett’s new budget hacks $2.0 billion in state support to education and cuts aid to colleges and universities by 50%. Corbett tells us that cutting aid to education is the best way to solve the budget crisis and free businesses to forge Pennsylvania’s economic future in an increasingly globalized and knowledge-thirsty world. These cuts make little sense to anyone who has one or more child in college.
Corbett’s other lie that lurks behind his advice to public universities is his insistence that gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale becomes deregulated and remains relatively untaxed. The lie of course is that the current price of oil and the impending shortage of the stuff isn’t enough to interest gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale. We also have to let them sully the environment and not pay their fair share in taxes.
So after having had a major hand in creating the problem—immediate and critical budget shortfall—the Governor proposes his unshackled Marcellus behemoth as the savior.
Only one problem, and here’s where Tommy Boy’s ignorance comes into play: Under current law, none of the royalties from drilling on campus property would go to the universities. The royalties would all go directly to Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund. In other words, Tommy Boy’s plan would provide no help to the colleges and universities now scrambling to pay for teachers, equipment, staff and building maintenance.
I imagine, though, that Corbett’s idea delights his true constituency, the oil and gas companies that see the Marcellus Shale as a potential goldmine, especially if they can drill everywhere (like on the many campuses of college-rich western Pennsylvania), with little regulation and a light tax burden.
No wonder that surveys show that Corbett’s popularity has plummeted since he took office. He was elected to create jobs, but instead cares more about ramming through the right-wing soak-everyone-but-the-rich-and-poison-the-environment agenda. Like Tea-partites and their fellow travelers everywhere, his brand of lies and ignorance plays well until people actually see it in action.