Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Payouts and Cutbacks - Philly's city government dumps money on the affluent

Recently a new boardwalk opened in Philadelphia.  The boardwalk runs along the Schuylkill River between Locust Street and South Street.  The boardwalk extends the pedestrian and bicycle path that also runs along the Schuylkill.  Recently, I rode my bike about sixteen miles to see what the finished boardwalk looked like and took the photo included in this blog.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the cost of this boardwalk was eighteen million dollars and the project took a total of eight years.  The Inquirer had political reasons for not reporting on many of the other costs that made it possible for this boardwalk to be built.

The priorities of city government

For this boardwalk to be built, those people who had the resources made a few decisions about what their priorities are.  We can see what these priorities are by looking at where money has been spent in Philadelphia. 

1) Sports stadiums and convention centers were built at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

2) The Philadelphia City Charter requires that the first item that needs to be paid in the city budget is for city bonds.  Some of the owners of these bonds are, no doubt, some of the most affluent people in the area.  Tens of millions of dollars, that is paid out by the city is interest payments on these bonds.  So, in other words, affluent individuals reap millions merely by lending the Philadelphia government money.

3) Philadelphia has the largest tax abatement program in the nation, amounting to about $500 million in tax credits for new construction.  The owners of many of the buildings in the above photo received tax abatements and pay no taxes for ten years. 

The tallest building in the above photo is the one billion dollar headquarters for the Comcast Corporation.  The owners of this building pay no taxes.  Brian L. Roberts is the CEO of Comcast and he is the highest paid executive in the Delaware Valley.

Recently the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article that showed how the people of this city benefitted from all these investments.  The article states that Philadelphia has become the poorest of the ten largest cities in the nation.

Goods and services that working people need

Yes, when the plans were made to invest in this new boardwalk, basic services that working people need were consciously neglected.

1) In this country, the agriculture department estimates that one out of every six people doesn’t have enough food to eat.

2) Last year the Philadelphia city government closed twenty-three public schools and the cutbacks in education are just beginning.  The city government has actually made a decision to violate the contract they have with the teachers union.  They are doing this attempting to force teachers to make financial contributions to their health insurance.

We might consider that the teachers of Philadelphia have already lost 3,000 support personnel.  This has meant that teachers need to have overcrowded classes in run down schools.  Sylvia Simms of the School Reform Commission had this to say about the efforts teachers are making under these difficult conditions.  She argued that teachers are “playing games on the backs of our children.”

Ms. Simms neglected to mention that the above evidence shows that the city government has been a literal cash dumping machine.  As we have seen the city has been dumping millions of dollars on some of the most affluent people who live in this area. 

The other government action program for dealing with these problems has been to spend trillions of dollars on war, as well as making the United States the nation with the most prisoners in the world.


The U.S. government has consistently argued that their actions serve all the people who live in this country.  The island nation of Cuba has shown that it is possible for a government to have a different set of priorities.

Since the revolution, two of the main priorities of the Cuban government has been health care and education.  Today, Cuba has more doctors and teachers per capita than any other nation in the world. 

Recently, Cuba sent about 400 health care workers to Africa to treat patients who have the Ebola virus.  The World Health Organization argues that Cuba today is sending more health care workers to fight this disease than any other nation in the world.

The World Bank has also argued that Cuba has the best educational system in all of Latin America.


I found the new boardwalk in Philadelphia to be an enjoyable place to stroll or ride a bike.  With all the wealth in this country, there is no rational reason why poverty is not being eliminated.  Clearly there are also enough resources to make more projects like this boardwalk possible. 

However, if I had to choose, I would prefer that money be spent to eliminate poverty, and hunger.  I would also like it if the Constitution in this country was more like the Cuban Constitution.   Cuba guarantees every citizen the right to a lifetime of free education and health care.

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