Consortium News: At War with Community Responsibility

-By Lawrence Davidson

March 14, 2011- I live in a university town just west of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both the town and the university share the same name, hence West Chester University. WCU is a publicly owned institution and part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).

In all, the State System serves about 120,000 students. Despite a heavy reliance on PAASHE to help educate the youth of Pennsylvania and surrounding states, the entire system has recently come under mortal threat (along with all of the rest of public education in the state).

That threat comes from the state government itself, which is now in the hands of Republican pseudo-conservative extremists.

On March 8, Pennsylvania’s newly elected governor, Tom Corbett, delivered his budget address to a receptive state legislature. In it he called for a 50 percent reduction in PAASHE funding. If enacted, of course, this would decimate the state’s public higher education system.

Gov. Corbett said that such draconian cuts were necessary to close the state’s admittedly large deficit. We just don’t have the money to carry on as we use to, he implied.

But Gov. Corbett’s claim is inaccurate. The fact is that Pennsylvania and other states in similar situations do have the money to eliminate deficits and fund important social services like education. All they need to do is utilize the time-honored, traditional method of raising revenue known as taxation, and particularly corporate taxation.

One should keep in mind that while it is possible to tax a society to ruination, it is also quite possible to under tax it to ruination. Alas, Corbett and his supporters do not understand any of this.

And so, the real problem here is not lack of money, but rather a lack of will to collect it and direct it to community needs. It is an attitudinal problem that has become a political problem.

Gov. Corbett expressed this attitude by telling the voters who elected him that he understands that "it’s your money" and he thinks that they have been taxed enough. Actually, Pennsylvania is a state with quite low rates of taxation and, in practice, the assertion that "it’s your money" is not entirely true.

For instance, I have a real aversion to sharing my resources with a federal government that uses much of it to wage wars against Muslims, often based on propaganda and lies, costing hundreds of billions of dollars and killing millions of innocent people.

But what does Gov. Corbett think would happen if I withheld those resources from the IRS because, after all, it’s my money? It would not work. By law and tradition, by virtue of a social contract, if you will, part of my resources must be given back to the community of which I am a part.

Somehow the radical Republicans who now control states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, etc., as well as the plurality of voters who put them in office, have lost their sense of obligation to address the needs of the larger community in which they live.

It is the old Margaret Thatcher nonsense, "there is no such thing as society. There are only individuals."

Therefore, all too often it seems that the only things the Republicans are willing to recognize as public responsibilities are the police, the courts, and the waging of (usually unnecessary and disastrous) warfare.


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