W hen Pennsylvania lawmakers had a chance in 2001 to debate the question of whether a 50 percent increase in their pensions (and 25 percent for teachers and other state workers) was a fair exchange for giving then-Gov. Tom Ridge the budget he wanted, there was hardly any discussion.
Good deal, lawmakers of every persuasion agreed.
For them, but not for taxpayers. We've been suffering ever since.
When it came to feathering their own nests, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle couldn't agree with each other fast enough. And in the middle of the night, no less.
Now fast forward 10 years. We're finding out the opposite can be just as bad.
We've gone from a no-politics stance on a pension issue that has cost and will continue to cost taxpayers billions of dollars, to a nothing-but-politics approach to the state Voter ID plan that was approved four months ago.
If you've been following the news leading up to and since the passage of the voter identification law, you can't help but be aware how politicized the issue has become on both sides.
I've written about the Voter ID proposal/law a few times in the past year. Basically, I've supported it. And I've supported it because I take voting seriously -- I've never missed a vote -- and I want the process to be as clean and legal as it can possibly be.
I am not a political animal. I'm registered Republican, but probably have voted for more Democrats over the years than Republicans. Truth be told, if I'd be allowed to vote in the primary election, I'd almost surely be a registered Libertarian.
When it comes down to it, I don't care a whit about politics. It's an ugly business in my opinion. Besides, I like to think for myself. What I do care about are issues and doing things in a way that is in the best interests of voters, taxpayers and other citizens, not politicians.
Which takes me back to the Voter ID debate. If one were to set aside all the political agendas -- a bunch on both sides -- can anyone reasonably argue that it is not good social policy and common sense to insist on a voting process that allows only properly registered and legal citizens to participate?
Few things in life seem more fundamental to me.
Anything less is chaos.
If we can agree on that, a requirement to provide proper identification to vote doesn't seem out of line to me. I hate ID cards. I especially hate government-mandated ID cards because they can so easily be used to abuse our liberties.
But ID cards have become such an integral part of our lives these days -- the horse is out of the barn, in other words -- I don't see how we can all of a sudden deny their use in the most important function of American citizenship.
I'm sick to death of all the political nonsense that's been thrown into this discussion -- none of which has any merit, in my mind.
I don't care if there's proof that an illegal vote has ever been cast. The important point to me is not if it's been done, but if it could be done. Of course it could. So let's stop it if we can.
And please don't suggest to me that the Voter ID law will somehow disenfranchise certain voters because it would force them to make a trip to the PennDOT licensing center to have their picture taken. I'm not buying it.
Will they be slightly inconvenienced? Possibly. But 99.9 percent of these folks have no trouble whatsoever finding transportation when they need it to do other things, including going to vote.
So make one more trip -- the responsibility of citizenship, I might suggest -- to have your picture taken.
And I don't care if there are as many as three-quarters of a million registered voters in this state -- 19,000 in York County -- who don't have a photo driver's license or a photo ID. Now's a good time to get one.
In my mind, this has absolutely nothing to do with politics.
When a pea-brained lawmaker -- I'm talking House majority leader Mike Turzai -- is so stupid as to state publicly that "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done," he's out to lunch.
I have no doubt such political shenanigans were the motivation behind the Republican effort to pass Voter ID into law. They were wrong-headed.
And I'm just as certain similar political tomfoolery has been the motivation behind the Democrats' opposing the plan and working like demons to get it reversed. They're wrong-headed, too.
Politics is driving the rhetoric, not common sense.
Providing a secure and level playing field at the polls is the right thing to do.
If that inconveniences anyone a little bit, too darned bad.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.