Randy Bish, the talented editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, recently drew a cartoon that cuts to the heart of the race for Pennsylvania governor. In the drawing, an elderly man is sitting at a table writing a letter to Gov. Ed Rendell. The letter goes like this: "Dear Governor — Is the property tax reform you are now promising us the same tax reform that you promised us in 2002?
Is there anything else that needs to be said about Rendell’s failed first term as governor? He promised to cut everyone's property taxes by 30 percent, but in four years, not a single Pennsylvania homeowner has received a penny in tax cuts. Why vote for someone who broke his No. 1 promise?
Rendell is backpedaling so fast on his tax cut promises that he's in danger of pulling a muscle. In the Oct. 4 debate in Pittsburgh, Rendell blamed the Republican-controlled Legislature for not helping him keep his word on the tax cuts. In the Oct. 10 debate in Philadelphia, Rendell changed his tune. "Five governors for 30 years promised property tax relief. I've delivered." Really, governor? Delivered what? Empty promises?
When one of the reporters on the panel asked Rendell to explain how a promise to use future gambling revenues amounts to delivering a tax cut, Rendell fumbled around a bit and came up with this brilliant response: "I wanted to do more. I wanted to raise the sales tax and use 100 percent of that money to deepen the property tax cut. We couldn't get it through the Legislature. We have to go back and keep at it."
Now I'm really confused. The governor says he "delivered" property tax relief, but he actually wanted to raise taxes so he could cut taxes. Are you with me so far? Rendell eventually admitted that only about 200,000 low-income senior citizens will get rebates under the "tax relief" bill he signed earlier this year. As for the other 12.3 million Pennsylvania residents, Rendell apparently wasn't counting us when he promised to cut taxes.
Leave it to GOP challenger Lynn Swann to step in to help translate what Rendell was trying to say when he borrowed money from the Lottery fund for his tax rebate scheme.
"He doesn't do anything to reform the structure of property taxes in the Commonwealth," Swann said of Rendell. "So if you get a little bit of money today, fine. But tomorrow, your property tax bill may go up $200 or $300, so it's meaningless."
If you didn't tune in to the Oct. 10 debate, you missed political newcomer Swann verbally pummeling a career politician whose rhetoric has grown tiresome. I'm not sure even Rendell believes the words coming out of his mouth anymore. He spews phrases like "One gun a month" and "Everyone gets property tax relief from the gaming funds" but his rhetoric doesn't match reality.
Rendell's lackeys in the liberal Philadelphia media dutifully reported that their man won the second debate. I'm not sure any of them watched the event. Swann was the clear winner in both recent debates. Swann was relaxed and confident. Rendell was fidgety and verbose.
Even on issues that you would think Rendell has the advantage, like crime, Swann prevailed. Rendell kept repeating "One gun a month" as the quick fix to violent crime, but bumper-sticker clichés are not the answer. Rendell failed to explain how restricting the ability of law-abiding citizens to purchase guns from stores would help reduce the slaughter of Philadelphia residents.
Rendell has ignored rising crime in Philadelphia and most other large cities in Pennsylvania for nearly four years. Two months before the election, Rendell wants to hire 600 more police officers and institute gun control. (Swann wants to hire up to 5,000 new cops.)
Where was the governor when 315 Philadelphia residents were murdered in the first 285 days of this year? Rendell is, after all, the former District Attorney and Mayor of Philadelphia. Surely, he has options to fight rising violent crime that don't infringe on the Second Amendment, which guarantees "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."
Swann said gun violence in Philadelphia is rising because our schools are failing and we're not providing good jobs for young people.
"Guns don't cause crime," Swann said. "It's the lack of hope. It’s the despair. The poor quality of education … children are receiving. The lack of opportunity and jobs."
Rendell's response? Gun control. Gun control. Gun control. Gun control.
This election is about politics as usual under Rendell or Lynn Swann's approach: Thinking outside the box to find solutions to make Pennsylvania a better place to live, work and raise children.