Falling Off the Ridge
September 21, 2001
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Today's New York Times features a short profile of Tom Ridge, the governor of Pennsylvania. President George W. Bush has now apparently named Mr. Ridge to do the jobs that the attorney general, FBI, FAA, Defense Department, National Security Council and CIA were supposed to be doing -- protecting Americans from terrorist attacks.
"Reared in a working-class family in Erie, Pa., Mr. Ridge grew up in veterans' public housing but won a scholarship to college, graduating with honors in 1967," the Times reports.
"And" would be a better word in that spot. "But" carries a whiff of the soft bigotry of low expectations -- as if being from a working-class family and growing up in public housing for veterans are somehow inconsistent with winning a college scholarship.
The Times profile goes on to report, "Once in office, Governor Ridge became known as a fiscal conservative, cutting state spending in half, while pushing tax cuts year after year, in a crusade that he claims has saved residents $4 billion."
In fact, $4 billion is lowballing it as an estimate of the savings; Mr. Ridge's Web site says, "Since 1995, Pennsylvania families and employers have saved nearly $15 billion through tax cuts, workers' compensation reform, reduced red tape and electric competition."
And the claim that Mr. Ridge has cut state spending "in half" seems to be groundless. The 2001-2002 budget, the most recent submitted by Mr. Ridge, is for $42.6 billion in operating spending. That budget summary says, "Governor Ridge's six enacted budgets have had an annual spending growth of 2.9 percent." Now, you can argue about real dollars and inflation adjustments, but even if you take into account inflation, it's hard to see how even non-inflation-adjusted growth of 2.9 percent a year for six years translates into "cutting state spending in half." If Mr. Ridge had indeed cut state spending in half, and the budget is now about $40 billion, the savings would be in the hundreds of billions -- not, as the Times claims, "$4 billion." The first operating budget Mr. Ridge submitted as governor, for 1995-1996, was for $31.2 billion and was touted by Mr. Ridge as including a spending increase of 2.3 percent. Maybe the Times means to say that Mr. Ridge has cut in half the rate of growth in state spending. But again, even accounting for inflation, it's hard to see how the Times can say the governor cut state spending in half. There's no evidence of it in the state budgets Smartertimes.com looked at.
As for whether Mr. Ridge is on a "crusade," well, it sure is funny how to the Times, tax-cutters are always on a "crusade," while those, like the Times editorialists, who want to raise taxes are never on a "crusade."
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