WITH STATE budget stuff starting to cook, seems like a good time to offer a handy, helpful protesters' guide: How to get the most out of slogans and chants.
Because as the aggrieved gather to voice discontent over various proposed cuts, there's a risk that all the voices will evaporate into a common cacophony.
Broad demands, protestations, pleas and petitions, regardless of merit, can roll off the backs of Gov. Corbett and lawmakers like so much water off sitting ducks.
To be better-heard, messages should be better-honed.
This means knowing your target and how to hit it.
Know, for example, that the Senate last week passed a budget restoring about $500 millionin cuts asked for by Corbett in February. Know, too, that about half of that is for higher ed and puts back virtually all of the Guv's takeaway.
But because Corbett and the House appear cool to so much restoration, you can aim your angst specifically at them.
The House & Corbett should come along. The Senate's right. Those two are wrong.
Give more funding the college try. Don't be mean like Mike Turzai.
The overriding argument against all pleas will be that there is no money.
This is a lie.
The Legislature has a slush fund of $183 million.
Historically, it's maintained so that lawmakers and staff get paid in the event a governor, during a budget fight, temporarily shuts down the treasury.
In other words, it's a safety net — under a very far-fetched risk.
Legislative leaders say that this year they'll give back $62 million, but legislative leaders say lots of things. And even if they follow through, that leaves $121 million of your money sitting somewhere gathering interest.
So if you're losing general assistance of about $180 a month because you're poor, unemployable or temporarily disabled; or if you're losing Medicaid benefits for a special-needs child, you might want to focus on the legislative safety net.
You've got a safety net, yes you do! Why shouldn't citizens have one, too?
It's our dollars, it's our dimes! Hoarding it amounts to crimes!
Similarly, if you're affected by cuts to food banks, or losing food-stamp benefits amounting to $32.12 a week, focus on lawmakers' food.
Lobbyists often provide them dinner, and when lawmakers are "busy," catered meals come to the Capitol courtesy of taxpayers.
In addition, lawmakers get daily expenses of about $165 for food and lodging.
Few appear to go hungry.
You might want to highlight the point.
You feed yourselves on the public dole! When it comes to the needy you need a soul!
No lobbyists take us out for meals! All we get is your raw deals!
Finally, education and human-service cuts and a steadfast refusal to address acknowledged safety issues surrounding unmaintained roads and bridges hinge mostly on two things: a massive ($1 billion-plus-a-year-and-growing) problem of underfunded state pensions and Corbett's "no-tax" pledge.
The former was created by the Legislature when it voted to hike its own pensions along with those of state employees and teachers. It shouldn't now punish vulnerable people to pay for its own greed.
And the "no-tax" pledge — although more of a campaign slogan than leadership — should be balanced with innovative options.
Lawmakers and governors always find funds for annual pay hikes, perks and pensions, sports stadiums and grants to corporations promising jobs.
What they never find is creative answers to people problems.
You find the funds for you and yours. Time to fund some social cures.
No new taxes, we agree. How 'bout creativity?
Oh, and pack a lunch. Getting through to this crowd might take a while. n
For recent columns, go to philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.