Peduto’s lie of ‘pragmatic progressivism’

Peduto’s lie of ‘pragmatic progressivism’

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says he wants to persuade the Pennsylvania Legislature to allow the city to find a “more progressive way to tax.”

As Astro would say to George Jetson of cartoon series fame – “Rut-Row.”

But Peduto would better serve Pittsburgh’s ho-hum economy (stagnant, by the way, since well before the coronavirus pandemic hit), its all too ready to steadily flee population and, of course, taxpayers by looking for ways to pare expenses.

Peduto’s entreaty to Harrisburg came last month as he announced his bid for a third four-year term as mayor. And woe be he because that doggone Harrisburg (and the federal government, too, he claims) stands in the way of Keystone State cities finding new ways to turn out taxpayer pockets.

This is the same fella who made housing more “affordable” by raising the realty transfer tax, then made available more tax money to cover the higher tax for lower-income buyers (ahem). There’s already evidence that, as expected, it tamped down the city housing market.

Now, among other things, Peduto is talking of a payroll tax on nonprofits. Ostensibly, it’s supposedly a way to capture millions of dollars from major nonprofits that pay little in the way of taxes to fund city services they consume.

And Peduto stresses that such a tax would allow his administration to relieve the tax burden on “mom and pop shops.”

Or, hey, maybe Pittsburgh needs to tax total income instead of just wages (i.e. earned income), he muses.

Never mind, of course (and depending on any exclusions applied to nonprofits based, say, on the number of employees), that such a tax could kill off a whole group of community-based nonprofits.

As The Beatles were wont to sing in the 1960s:

‘Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman (Yeah, I’m the taxman),

And you’re working for no one but me (Taxman!)

And we’ve not even broached Peduto’s love of the $15 an hour minimum wage. A brand-new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office says the higher wage floor would kill 1.4 million jobs nationwide, add $54 billion to the federal budget deficit by 2031 to cover, among other things, increased jobless benefits and, oh, yeah, jack up consumer prices to cover the cost.

But we digress.

All this said, it’s not as if the City of Pittsburgh does not have opportunities to save money. Consider but two.

City administrations for decades have run like speedy track stars toward the finish tape of 100-meter dash and away from privatizing garbage collection.

Never mind that many, if not most, government entities long have contracted out refuse services and found the greatest of efficiencies. But, in Pittsburgh, of course, it’s a union-protection thing.

And any real past attempts have been Christmas tree’d with so many union protections that it wasn’t worth the trouble. That is, savings and efficiencies evaporated under union kowtowing.

Then there’s water and sewer services. Peduto has flat out repeatedly rejected any privatization attempts of the long pol-abused Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

In the process, he’s spun tales of coming horrid price hikes and all manner of the proverbial “sticking it to the poor” once again. The profit motive has no place in the conveyance of a public utility, he appears to be saying. “Yeah, that’s the ticket,” his “progressive” fellow travelers mimic.

But it is that very profit motive that forces private enterprise to convey such service at the lowest possible cost. And never mind that in public or private ownership, customer rates and other operational detail fall under the purview of the state Public Utility Commission.

Peduto likes to call his governing style “pragmatic progressivism.” But what’s “pragmatic” about subjecting taxpayers to regressive public policies that protect organized labor and political rackets while killing jobs and fueling inflation?

Not. One. Thing.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).