Occam's razor & the Pennsylvania governor's race
In last week's Pittsburgh debate by the four Democrats seeking their party's nomination for governor, the candidates were of one mind: They all agreed that education funding is woefully inadequate. And since Pennsylvania is the only state without a severance tax on gas drilling, they all agreed that one should be enacted to change that.
But it was Occam's razor that set the theme for now and the fall general election. Occam's razor, the namesake of a 14th-century English Franciscan friar who made it popular, is the notion that between two competing positions, the simpler one is better.
Because of voters' natural instincts, any politician whose positions require lengthy explanations faces a tough hurdle. And Gov. Tom Corbett's position on both education funding and the gas tax can only be, “Yes, but it's more complicated than that. Let us explain.”
Education funding has been far less under Corbett than under the previous administration of Ed Rendell. But the governor's supporters explain that away, claiming that Rendell used federal stimulus money to support education and that money expired.
The governor's spokesman argues that the education budget had been “propped up” by those stimulus dollars and that the Corbett administration has actually increased the amount of “state” tax dollars spent on education.
But to the parent, and the child struggling to get a good education, it is simple: Education funding has been cut.
Likewise, it is not possible to deny that Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state without a severance tax on drillers. Again, the governor's supporters say it is more complicated than that.
While a severance tax could produce far more revenue than the existing impact fees the drillers pay, the administration warns that the drillers could pick up and move their rigs to another state if the tax is enacted.
David Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, recently told the Pennsylvania Independent that “new energy taxes will reduce development in Pennsylvania, and more capital — not less — will be directed to other states or countries.”
But to the average Pennsylvanian, it is simple: Every other state has a severance tax and the gas is here, so we should tax it the same way the others do.
Gov. Corbett has the advantage of incumbency and no Pennsylvania governor has been defeated for re-election. But come fall, much will depend on his campaign's ability to explain his positions on education and the gas severance tax.
The Democrats are providing simple answers, a balm for voters who often vote their gut, following their intuition.
Albert Einstein could have been setting the stage for the governor's race when he said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
And the result could turn on how the voters view Einstein's conclusion: “We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (joemistick.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates can’t overcome long rain delay, Indians in interleague setback
- Pirates notebook: Taillon headed for surgery, Richard traded
- Gorman: Barnstorming tour bigger than baseball
- Tiny black weevils booming in W.Pa.
- New Penguin Kessel’s shot is what makes him special
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Indians, July 4, 2015
- Ex-teammates say Kessel unfairly criticized
- MLB notebook: Yankees to donate $150K to charity for A-Rod’s 3,000th hit ball
- Russian winger Plotnikov could join Penguins in August
- America’s path to freedom reflected in region’s numerous historic sites
- Youngwood man’s crash knocks out power in Monessen