In somewhat typical Comet fashion the other day, I took a swipe at state Sen. Daylin Leach, (D) King of Prussia, in rapid response to an op-ed essay of his in our fair Post-Gazette. Now I see he deserves better than that.
He has a blog -- and not your typically awful, awful politician's abortion of a "blog", but a very credible one -- and he's an avid tweeter, and he's heavy into gay civil rights and he jumped into the fray on immigration right away and he introduced the medical marijuana bill, etc, etc -- so he's obviously a productive human being with real value. He just has chosen for some reason to defend the indefensible.
It's possible that since he's so cool, they (the Legislature) were like, "You go out and tell them all to shut up!"
However, he himself is betraying some genuine anger:
I would like to suggest an experiment. Walk up to a longshoreman. A big one. Not one of the tiny, shy, retiring longshoremen, but a huge, burly one with a tattoo of Margaret Thatcher on his arm. Then, tell him that he is lazy, stupid, corrupt and is ripping off his boss by taking a paycheck. You are likely to receive a very comprehensive lesson in what the ancient Greeks used to call "Longshoreman Justice" ... The only exception to the general rule about attacking what people do for a living is Pennsylvania State legislators. (Daylinsights.com)
And I'll warrant it's because he's offended:
The overwhelming majority of Pennsylvania's legislators, on both sides of the aisle, are extremely smart, hard-working, completely honest people who are doing their level best to make Pennsylvania a better place.
The notion that legislators are, (except for rare exceptions) corrupt in any way is plain false. (Post-Gazette)
Ah! Then this is all such a simple misunderstanding!
We're not saying anybody personally is corrupt -- hand in the cookie jar, twirling mustaches and what have you.
We're saying the system is structurally corrupt: bloated, wasteful, opaque and user-unfriendly. The "caucus system" especially, with its redundancies of effort and the ease by which it allows members to find jobs for useful campaign staff on the fly is a culprit. The overbearing size of the body only serves to hide these routine parasitic abuses -- which probably do not seem like such a problem for somebody who has spent enough time on the inside to become accustomed. On a related note, as to the tax-free daily per diems which are higher than most people's salaries and the lifetime health benefits which kick in after only a few years, I can see how these might play a role in antipathy towards reform conversations structurally.
I share Leach's lack of enthusiasm for several of the Bonusgate grand jury's particular proposals. Where we diverge is upon his seeming total lack of regard for the diagnosis -- that the degree of inefficiency throughout the Legislature is intolerable, and the need for structural and (incidentally) fiscal reform is critical.
Structural reform would obviate the need for prosecutorial reform -- which, given the state of the Capitol, must necessarily be somewhat arbitrary, and hence, very likely political. Though there are definite problems with that kind of reform, it's better than no reform at all and more business as usual, which is what incumbent legislators seem intent on offering. This is what Signor Ferrari and presently many Democrats in particular are refusing to acknowledge -- that it's actually time to tone down and better regulate the political casino. So much so that we're authentically refreshed and gratified by the notion of a hypocritical, ham-handed sheriff run amok. At least it's something, and it's overdue!
Of course all that we've been referring to as "waste" and "inefficiency", Leach defends as the only thing keeping darkness at bay:
We have a responsibility to protect the legislature as a co-equal branch of government, as a check against the power of the Governor or lobbyists. Anything that weakens the legislature's mission, such as term limits, making us part-time, leaving us unable to attract and retain talented, educated and experienced people or paying us only if we vote the way the powers that be want us to, hurts our entire state. (Daylinsights.com)
Now that he mentions it, it would be nice if a duly elected Governor had a yeoman's chance of pursuing a coherent agenda. Who better? Even at the grassroots level, it's getting a little tiresome to hear that every little thing is "impossible" and precluded. The Legislature is constitutionally empowered to act as a check and a balance; must it also, in its four partisan cohorts, be armed to the teeth and fortified like the Pentagon?
(For example, what's with these "legislative liaisons" at PennDOT? I know that politicians like to personally assist constituents with problems, and return troubled phone calls with "I made some calls and really let them have it, and fixed it for you!", thereby earning perhaps generations of undying gratitude. Yet we should acknowledge it's called the executive branch for a reason; it's tasked and outfitted to execute things. If there is a customer service problem at PennDot itself then that should be dealt with, but when PennDOT does fix something PennDOT should get the credit, together with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania -- not that legislative incumbent with the massive clout and the big heart. I wonder how badly these legislative liaisons wind up mucking up PennDOT's wide-angle plans for infrastructure maintenance across the state.)
SUMMARILY, it seems like Sen. Daylin Leach is a genuine progressive in several ways, that not simply being the "The Power of Progressive Thinking" slogan atop his blog. I hope over the coming weeks and months that he focuses that very progressive brain upon the concoction of structural reforms which will save taxpayers money and that will depoliticize the process of government at least somewhat. That is something for which progressives, liberals, blue dogs, conservatives, Tea Party patriots, Independents and undecideds all starve.