by Walter Brasch
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett may be the most adept politician in America.
With the nation focused upon the union-busting Tea Party-backed Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Corbett has snuck in a plan to mine the state's resources, increase employment, reduce educational problems, and whack unions upside the head at the same time. Miraculously, the public sector unions, so happy they wouldn't lose collective bargaining, have even said they don't mind being whacked.
In his first budget address, Corbett said he wants to freeze wages for all state employees, almost every one of them part of the middle class. Although the average wage is about $35,000 a year, according to AFSCME, the state’s primary union for public sector workers, families of four should easily be able to still afford the same luxuries as the governor who is paid $165,000 a year and has a mansion, expense account, and house staff.
As a bonus, Corbett plans to freeze wages of all public school teachers. Those are the people whom Laura Bush numerous times while in Washington said were grossly underpaid. But, since she was a teacher and not a Wall Street banker—you know, the kind who make money the old-fashioned way, by stealing from the poor—it's obvious she was a tax-sucking Big Government, Commie-loving, knee-jerk liberal who worked only a six-hour day for only a half a year, and gorged herself at the public trough. Thus, her views should be dismissed as nothing less than self-aggrandizement at the public's expense.
Cutting an additional $1 billion from public education is bringing Corbett cheers from the tax-burdened masses who have yet to figure out that the cuts will force local school boards to raise taxes to cover essential educational expenses. But, the brilliance of Tom Corbett is that by freezing teacher salaries, he also spares local school boards the sweat of trying to explain why they have to raise taxes, drop programs, and close schools.
Now, let's look at the State System of Higher Education (SSHE). Corbett plans to reduce the $465 million appropriation to a lean $232 million, roughly what it was in 1983 when the state system was created. That's the true spirit of conservatism in America—bringing back the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president.
The 14 state-owned universities enroll about 120,000 students. Some classes have only 40 students. That's highly inefficient. By cutting funding, Corbett helps assure fewer high-paid professors who inflame students with the ideas of left-wing radicals like Socrates, St. Augustine, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. There's hardly any difference between 40 and 200 students in a class. The prof still has to prepare only one syllabus, one lesson plan, and talks into only one microphone. Besides, testing is more efficient when it's computer-scored multiple choice questions. If students want to chat with their prof, all they have to do is take a number and wait their turn for their allocated five minutes face time each semester.
Cutting resources also helps the socialization of the students. On at least one campus, all two-student dorm rooms now have three students in them. This is a 50 percent increase in student interaction, allowing for more academic discussions about a wide range of topics, such as ceramics (the proper way to smoke pot), nutrition (light vs. dark brews), and psychology (improving the effect of hazing techniques on freshmen.)
And speaking of psychology, why do all the colleges have to have psych programs? Times are tough, and the luxury of a psych major at all the colleges doesn't fit into Corbett’s education plan. It would be more cost efficient for only six or seven colleges to teach psych courses, thus cutting excess faculty and resources, while filtering students into the more efficient large sections at fewer colleges.
We also don't need geography courses at any of the colleges. How many Americans knew where Korea or Viet Nam were before we went to war? Grenada, Iraq, and Afghanistan? All we have to do is keep bombing countries, and Americans learn about them. No wasteful expenses like full-color maps, globes, or professors. End of that problem.
The state can save money by dumping all foreign language programs. This is America, after all, and students should be speaking English.
Music, art, and theatre programs can also be eliminated since anyone in the creative arts is a liberal hippie who doesn’t earn enough to contribute to Republican political campaigns but can cause trouble, nevertheless. For the same reason, social work programs should be cut. That would result in fewer social workers to record poverty, homelessness, and disabilities, making it seem that the Commonwealth is just chock full of rich people with no problems.
Corbett has also brilliantly solved unemployment. The state appropriation, which will be only about 16 percent of the cost to run the colleges, will force higher tuition. This will yield one of two possibilities. First, it will separate the scum—the students who come from lower- and middle-class households—from the "true" scholars, the “preppies” who will be able to contribute to Republicans’ political campaigns. Second, if the masses wish to receive a college education, they will have to increase their work hours; their parents will have to work four jobs instead of three to afford tuition and the already extraordinarily outrageous fees. But there is light at the end of this tunnel of despair. Box stores and fast food restaurants always have openings. Not only will students not waste time by doing menial chores like studying, they and their families will help reduce the unemployment rate. And, remember, the family that works together for minimum wage suffers together, a true family value.
Students not fortunate enough to afford college would be able to look forward to expelling a lot of gas. By pushing for even more drilling and by not taxing the gas extractors, Corbett, the industry’s mascot, creates even more jobs. Like the coal, steel, and timber industries, all of which once were unionized, the non-unionized natural gas industry will have to hire thousands. Since we know that the owners believe in social justice and the rights of their workers, they may even build company towns, complete with match-stick houses, stores selling overpriced merchandise, and company-paid doctors who may or may not treat green-mulch lung disease, depending upon the company’s cost-to-benefits ratio. If the owners become rich enough in the Commonwealth of No Tax Gassy Pennsylvania, they may even hire a recent lit grad to be the industry’s hazardous materials inspector.
After 20 or 30 years, when the gas is mined out, and the companies move to other states to strip their resources and exploit their workers, Pennsylvanians will be able to proudly say they once worked for a fracking company—all thanks to the vision of Gov. Tom Corbett.
[Walter Brasch is an award-winning columnist, and the author of 16 books. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org]