So you think the government can't produce jobs? Read this.

The right wing has its litany of talking points, high on the list the notion that only the private sector can create jobs. Well, Tastycake, one of Philly's strongest businesses recently relocated to the Navy Yard, preserving hundreds of Philadelphia jobs. But here's how the Times tells us it happened:

To pay for $78 million in equipment, Tasty received $31 million in public financing in the form of loans from the development corporation, the city and the state. A group of four banks, led by Citizens Bank, picked up the balance. A group of local, state and federal infrastructure funds provided roughly $20 million for new roads and infrastructure on the Navy Yard’s west end, which should bring even more development.

Now I don't happen to think that subsidizing the borrowing costs of corporations is the most efficient way to spend public dollars for the purpose of creating jobs. But building public infrastructure is certainly a legitimate use of public funds. In the case of Tastycake and other Navy Yard businesses, both kinds of subsidies are in play. And both kinds are used over and over again all over the country, facilitating all kinds of business development and expansion, much of which couldn't happen without at least some of this spending. Your taxes and mine are busy at work every day, creating private sector jobs and wealth all across America. Strangle the government and you will strangle the economy; there's really little doubt about it.

Blood in the Water! Toomey Wants to Privatize Social Security But Doesn't Want Anyone to Know! (Tell Everyone!)

It's August, and Club For Growth extremist whacko/Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey has been running ads for weeks upon weeks, depicting himself as a normal human being who would never be exactly the kind of guy responsible for the economic meltdown of 2008 and its aftermath, the kind who favors Wall Street bankers' rights over everyone else's rights, and who still follows the failed religion of deregulation despite the meltdown -- despite the fact that that is exactly the kind of guy Toomey really is.

Hell, Toomey's role as the former president of the Club For Growth makes him the pope of the failed religion of deregulation.

This is annoying because Toomey's right wing extremism deserves the same fate as Rick Santorum's, and yet the election's in a few months, and Toomey's still very much in it. It's unnerving because the extremist Santorum slid into the Senate on 1994's backlash against Democratic President Bill Clinton -- and, well, of course it's really important that kind of conservative backlash not happen again. The 21st century can't afford to slide back as far as 1994.

The problem is exposing Toomey's unsightly extremism to those who don't pay close attention to politics, and who don't know just how scary he really is.

Well, credit recently departed (for DC) blogger Chris Bowers for discovering a chink in Toomey's thus far unbroken teflon armor: Toomey wants to privatize Social Security -- you know, turn it over to Wall Street -- always has, and presumably always will, but he doesn't want anyone to know it.

Chris discovers Toomey's refusing to admit his long support of privatizing Social Security even on the right wing website Real Clear Politics.

That means Toomey doesn't want even Republicans to know he wants to privatize Social Security.

As Chris points out, that makes sense: Pennsylvania is one of the oldest states in the country and privatizing Social Security was never popular here, even during the Bush years.

So check out Chris' post (now on Daily Kos), and then tell anyone in the media and anyone who's undecided, especially those who are considering staying home.

Who is Pat Toomey?

The Guy Who Wants to Privatize Social Security.

This is why we'd better roll up our sleeves for Joe Sestak

Despite a lot of disappointment, things like this should remind us why it's so vitally important that Democrats retain control of Congress in November. Even Ben Nelson did the right thing yesterday. Joe Sestak would have also, that Toomey guy, definitely not. Electing a Congress led by the Toomeys of this world would mean huge suffering for thousands of workers and kids in PA and Philly. Surely the Democrats aren't what they should be, but they're worlds apart from that other Party that is actually considering repealing the 14th Amendment. The future of our country as one run by sentient beings with beating hearts is at stake this November.

Sorry to oversimplify, but the truth is the truth. Big business is taking this country down.

It's pretty clear that anyone waiting for big corporations to rehire the millions of people who they fired during the recession will have to wait a long time, if not forever. And it's also clear that bleeding the rest of us to fund more tax cuts for these businesses will accomplish nothing except our own mortality. Big business is already sitting on a mountain of cash that they simply have no interest in sharing with anyone except stockholders and CEO's.

This raises profound policy issues at the local, state and national levels, but especially at the local. Most of us on this site already oppose trickle down economics. But there's been a debate on the question of whether at the local level we can "afford" to raise taxes on big businesses because, it is said, they will just take a quick hike to where they can get a better deal. But the problem is that these businesses won't hire, no matter how low we let their taxes go. We've got to find another way to promote job growth in Philly, including public employment. But we can't get there with a public sector that is running out of money due to fear of imposing taxes on those who have the cash. That would be big businesses, and it's time for them to pony up.

Corbett says some would rather get unemployment checks than work

What the heck will it take to convince Pennsylvanians that Corbett isn't a traditional, moderate northeast Republican a la Schweiker + Ridge, but a teabagger al la Sharron Angle + Rand Paul? If Onorato can't make hay out of this, then he has no business being in politics.

-Z

Philly to end controversial immigration contract

[We spoke too soon. The Inquirer issued a correction stating that the District Attorney has not publicly expressed support for ending the contract. Furthermore the contract actually ends in August giving more time for the city to make a final determination.

There will be a rally Friday at noon in the City Hall courtyard. You can also call 215-686-8000 to tell Seth why building trust with the immigrant community is good policy.]

Great news from both the Mayor's office, the Police Dept. and D.A. Seth Williams - all of whom, according to Public Safety Director Everett Gillison, agree that the city should sever its controversial contract with Immigration Customs & Enforcement Agency (ICE). The contract, which has been in effect the past two years and is up for renewal, gives ICE access to full police and court records including victim and witness identification and their country of birth.

In the past six months, immigration advocates had pushed hard for the city to sever its contract with ICE, telling stories about shocking interactions between ICE and police that challenged the City's written policy on avoiding such interactions. The school district as well is implicated because of its relationship with police and school safety.

In the past several months, immigration advocates have met with the Mayor's staff and the District attorney. Yesterday, advocates turned out a packed audience in South Philadelphia to demand an end to PARS and a more immigrant friendly city.

Kudos to Philly's active and engaged immigrant community and to city and civic officials who responded to this important call.

Dear Philly.com, please don't tease your stupid videos

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by using the term "tranny." Thanks.

Don't Let Them Get Away With It

Now that the Democrats are in power in DC, and given that they got there largely by fighting Republican attempts to dismantle social security, we're all breathing a sigh of relief. Well, sighing time is over, and fighting time is back.

There's going to be this town meeting in Philly on June 26 to allegedly hear everyone's opinion about how to deal with the deficit. But as the article points out, the event -- and 19 others like it around the country -- is rigged; it will be constructed so as to come out with a predetermined result, i.e., social security has got to be strangled. Maybe slowly, but sooner or later, completely.

Neighborhood Networks and other groups are coming together to send the message at this event that we're not fooled. If you'd like to demonstrate that you understand the game, go to phillynn.org, and we'll tell you how.

Former school choice advocate Diane Ravitch on why she changed her mind

The good news (for Milwaukee) is that Milwaukee Public Schools have hired Heidi Ramirez, the much-lauded Philadelphia School Reform Commission member and Arlene Ackerman critic, as their chief academic officer, following their hiring Gregory Thornton, another former SRC member, as their superintendent.

You can read about that in Kristen A. Graham's Inquirer story.

Those developments got me reading around about Milwaukee schools, when I came upon this fascinating onMilwaukee.com interview with Diane Ravitch, the former Assistant Secretary of Education under George Bush the elder, who later served on the National Assessment Governing Board under presidents Clinton and Bush the lesser.

Ravitch, once a voice Republicans turned to, to advocate for school choice and stricter national tests, has famously had her Road to Damascus moment, evidenced by her latest book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermine Education, in which she declares -- to her former pals' chagrin, "The best predictor of low academic performance is poverty—not bad teachers."

With talk of vouchers and other fads of the 1990s resurfacing here with Tony Williams' gubernatorial campaign, possibly a prelude to next year's city elections, I found this conversation about Milwaukee, home of the nation's signature voucher program, enlightening.

Highlight:

OMC: Has our continued embracing of vouchers contributed to the problems we have now in public schooling?

DR: Of course. "Reformers" in Milwaukee have been pursuing strategies that we now know are ineffective. The more time and resources devoted to ineffective strategies, the less attention there is to finding useful improvements. Choice got the support of foundations and business leaders, but it has not worked.

Elizabeth Warren on winning the final battles for the Consumer Financial Protection Agency

Consumer champion Elizabeth Warren, the Oklahoma janitor's daughter who grew up to head Congressional oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and to be the chief architect of the potentially gloriously salutary Consumer Financial Protection Agency, takes to the front page of Politico (!) today to discuss the last hurdles ahead for the creation of that agency, which could bring desperately needed sanity and oversight to the mortgage, credit card, and other lending industries.

Go Elizabeth!

With industry lobbyists stunned they couldn't halt plans to create the agency, the battle now turns to preventing industry from weakening it. One big battle will be whether big banks and payday lenders will be able to stop state Attorneys General from enforcing CFPA rules, essentially severely reducing the number of cops on the beat charged with enforcing the CFPA's laws.

This is federal policy that could have a very big (and potentially very positive) effect on the street in Philly, if the CFPA withstands the lobbyists' fury.

Check it out.

Corbett attacks critics who say he misuses his office...by misusing his office

This is almost too bizarre to be true, but apparently it is:

Tom Corbett, the Republicans' great white-haired hope for governor, has used his office of the Attorney General to subpoena Twitter to discover the names of two tweeters who frequently criticize him.

Ironically, almost UNBELIEVABLY ironically, the two tweeters' most common criticism is that Corbett unethically misuses his office to investigate his political enemies.

Can this be true? Is a cashed-strapped state government, one that struggles mightily to keep schools functioning, state parks open, and kids on CHIP, really paying to assemble a judge and grand jury to investigate two guys who tweet dirt on the AG?

Has Corbett -- who failed recently to name the part of the Constitution that health care reform violates, despite using state funds to sue the federal government over its alleged un-Constitutionality -- ever read the First Amendment?

Is this really the guy Pennsylvanians want making the call on the budget?

If Corbett were to win, would Pennsylvania become a police state -- or a police commonwealth?

S. Philly High Principal quits

A lot to say, but for now, here's a collective statement from Asian Americans United, Boat People SOS and Victim Witness Services of S. Philadelphia:

South Philadelphia High School Asian Student Advocates
Statement on the resignation of S. Phila. High School Principal LaGreta Brown

As a coalition of adult advocates and youth organizers, we have felt strongly that administrative change was a necessary first step to begin the process of healing and the work of positive change towards racial and cultural learning, respect, and community building within the school.

Under Ms. Brown’s leadership, language access policies have been deliberately violated and a school that was struggling with severe and pervasive harassment spun completely out of control. Post-Dec. 3rd, there is on-going harassment and violence and a hostile environment that has exacerbated existing racial tensions in the school.

While we are hopeful about Mr. Hackney’s appointment, we believe the District has missed an important opportunity to engage the broader community in an important dialogue on finding the best leader for South Philadelphia High School at this time. We have been in this position before. The problems at the school are serious, there is on-going violence and harassment of students, there is a basic lack of policy and procedure, and what is needed is a real change in the way that the District has been approaching the problems at S. Philly High.

In spite of this missed opportunity, we intend to continue our work with the District in finding real and lasting solutions. We hope for the sake of students, staff and community of South Philadelphia that this change in the administration will signal a renewed effort to address the real and deeply rooted problems which plague this learning community.

Momentum builds as Sestak finally releases the Specter-Bush ad

Young Philly Politics predicted it a year ago, and now it's finally arrived, just in time for maximum effect on election day:

Joe Sestak yesterday released the television commercial showing George W. Bush supporting Senator Arlen Specter in his last reelection campaign, repeating twice Specter's impolitic opportunism in his (televised) admission that he switched parties merely to keep his job.

With Sestak already rising in the polls, the ad, produced by Neil Oxman's accomplished Campaign Group, is what Chris Cillizza says could deal "a political death blow to Sen. Arlen Specter."

Cillizza also notes that Specter's own words may be the most damning:

While the Bush footage is damaging -- reminding Democratic voters of their wariness about casting a vote for someone with such a long history in the Republican party -- it's Specter's own words that may be the toughest part of the ad.

"My change in party will enable me to be re-elected," Specter is shown saying twice in the 30-second ad. The commercial's narrator adds: "Arlen Specter changed parties to save one job....his, not yours."

Truly, this may be a 30 year career going up in 30 seconds. High political drama doesn't get much better than this.

Cillizza likely is right that "(t)his is the ad that Sestak saw in his mind's eye when he decided to run against Specter."

Check out the ad, with Cillizza's article, at the link.

Polls agree: Sestak is closing in on Specter

Took a long time, but Congressman Joe Sestak finally is on statewide television, and, as many predicted, the retired admiral -- the highest ranking military officer ever to sit in the House of Representatives -- is now closing on longtime-Republican-turned-Democrat Senator Arlen Specter.

Four point spread! This is going to be a barn-burner!

I know there are reasonable arguments from those supporting Specter, but I believe a win by Sestak, clearly the candidate choosing to run on the left of this race, could be a real shot in the arm for progressives nationally, and a sign to the Obama administration that real Democratic voters want real Democratic government in Washington.

Also, good to check out the Allentown Morning Call's Pennsylvania Avenue blog, one of the best online resources for statewide politics.

Councilman Green - so what happened to the creative ideas about business taxes?

What did I miss?

On the other end of the debate is Councilman Bill Green. He wants to keep tax hikes to an absolute minimum, and to make those that must be enacted temporary.

To limit the tax hikes, Green would bleed the city's fund balance - the projected amount left over at the end of the year - down to $20 million, far below the $68 million cushion that Nutter considers prudent.

Green would also cut spending by an additional $40-$50 million next year. Doing that, he contends, means the city would only need to increase taxes by $43 million next year, the equivalent of a 5 percent property tax increase. The figure is $100 million less than what Nutter has called for.