Economic Freedom Trumps Identity Politics

Published May 1, 2015

Imagine a little girl and her young mother sitting on a porch on 19th Street in Harrisburg. The child smiles happily, but the mother looks tired—she’s working second shift and raising a daughter by herself. The father has never played a role in the girl’s life, but she has loving grandparents doing their best to support and care for the child and mother.

It could be a page from the lives of thousands of working-class, ethnically-mixed families—but it happens to be from my own. I was that little Puerto Rican/Slavic American girl growing up with the odds stacked against me. That was my mother gritting her teeth and getting by so that I could have a chance to thrive.

Politicians constantly give lip service to helping families like mine, but I’ve found that their solutions often do more harm than good.

Given my life experience, it surprises me when people promote government intervention to address issues like income mobility, job growth, and public education. Throwing taxpayers’ hard-earned money at these problems will not make them go away. Taxing and spending is not a recipe for creating jobs or helping middle-class—or working class—families.

When I worked through college and subsisted on a diet that included way too much Ramen, a tax on textbooks would have been a substantial burden. Not to mention the impact that taxes on everything from child care to non-prescription drugs to nursing home care would have on the rest of my family.

It may not seem like a lot of money to high-income households, but in working-class and minority communities struggling to make ends meet, every cent counts.

It’s time we entrusted Pennsylvanians to make their own choices with their own money.

That’s why I came to work at the Commonwealth Foundation, which points out how a vibrant, free economy can enable individuals to reach their full potential regardless of color, class, or creed.

Unfortunately, some will resort to ad-hominem attacks of racism, bigotry, sexism, and classism to promote their government-based solutions. They rely on name calling because they are unable to justify policy perspectives that so clearly hurt the worst off among us.

Let’s be clear, there is nothing racist or divisive about empowering people to create success on their own terms. There is no place that one can point at to claim that poverty was taxed or spent out of existence.

Struggling communities in Pennsylvania are better equipped to make spending decisions about their own personal needs than politicians. If we want a brighter future for our commonwealth, we need state government to do less so that we are free to do more in our local communities and in our own families.

Brittney Parker ([email protected]) is the Community Liaison for the Commonwealth Foundation.

Reprinted with permission. An earlier version of this article appeared at