The story between the lines in the New York Times.
This week, the 112th Congress begins its business, and here in Pennsylvania there is a new Senator: former Congressman Toomey, who was elected last November with 51% of the vote and support from this vocal Republican/extremist group who call themselves the Tea Party. (The Tea Party is nothing new, it’s just a rebranding of one of the right-wing groups in the Republicans who want government spending for themselves and no one else.)
Pennsylvania is a competitive, two-party state among the ones of the Northeast in America. It’s not unusual for House seats, a Senate seat, state houses, and the governorship to switch parties every so many years. So the only way you can really make it as a politician here is to be very middle-of-the-road, never mind what your public persona is. There are a lot of different, organized interests, and people who pay attention and vote. And Pennsylvania is spread out: 325 years of settlement has created all these rural population centers throughout the state. I think someone once told me that Pennsylvania has the largest rural population of any state. That would not surprise me.
So here Senator Toomey wins by being this Tea Party guy, but he wants to be Senator for more than 6 years–which means he has to ditch the Tea Party at some point, or at least disappoint them. The question is: how is that going to work?
Do you see what’s going to happen? Pennsylvania is a state that wants its share of government bacon coming back. One way this is done is through earmarks. Another way is through programs like social security and Medicare. (Pennsylvania has the second highest number of senior citizens, after Florida.) For a northeastern state, a lot of federal money flows into Pennsy—probably enough for it to get $1 for every $1 that goes to Washington.
How does Senator Toomey propose to keep the faith with his Tea Party friends, who want to eliminate earmarks and cut back on entitlement spending like social security and Medicare, and still have any support in 2016 from the rest of us, who want federal money coming back to this state for all the amount that’s being sucked out in federal taxes. He’s going to have to say, “sorry, I tried really hard” to one group or the other.
I’d also like to know what he thinks about Temple Japan sending millions into the Tokyo real estate market, then hiding it through a nonprofit accounting technicality. But I’d probably get told it’s not a federal issue . . .