Philadelphia, Let’s Secede From Pennsylvania

The rest of the state seems to hate our city. Good luck getting along without us.

Philadelphia, it’s time: Let’s secede from Pennsylvania and make our own state.

Sound crazy? Maybe. But as we neared the legislature’s budget deadline in Harrisburg (it was passed and signed last night) it’s impossible not to notice — again — that our neighbors across the rest of the state seem not to love us Big City Folks too much. They complain about giving us money for transportation. They complain about giving us money for schools. They just don’t seem to like our African-American population — or our voters or our gay lawmakers — and the insinuation, always, is that Philadelphia is mostly a parasite sucking blood and nutrients from an otherwise healthy, vibrant state.

So maybe it’s time to leave.

Because, frankly, from where I’m sitting, it’s really easy to see how Pennsylvania benefits from having Philadelphia in its borders. It’s less easy to see what Philadelphia is getting out of the relationship, other than regular helpings of abuse.

The Inquirer’s Karen Heller boiled this down to its essence last week:

Far from being a welfare state draining state coffers, the five-county area is an economic engine. Our region is home to 31 percent of all Pennsylvanians, an Economy League study shows, yet produces 37 percent of all tax revenue.

We pay our share. And then some.

Exactly. In fact, according to a 2009 Brookings Institution report, Philadelphia punches above its weight in a number of respects:

• The metro region has 31.8 percent of the state’s population, but 32.9 percent of the state’s jobs.

• And 35.8 percent of the state’s total economic output.

• And 37.5 percent of all the state’s civilians employed in innovation-related science and engineering jobs.

• And 36.8 percent of all Pennsylvanians with a post-secondary degree.

Check the census for some more interesting facts: The proportion of our population under 18 is greater than the state’s — 22.5 percent to 22 percent — while the proportion of persons over 65 is much lower, 12.1 to 15.4 percent.

So yes, it’s true that Philadelphia has more than its share of violent crime and bad schools. (As for political corruption, things are pretty bad here, but Harrsburg seems always to be able to give the locals a run for their money — we’ll call that a draw.)

But without Philadelphia, Pennyslvania has no Comcast headquarters. Without Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has no Liberty Bell and all the tourists she brings. Without Philadelphia there are fewer tax dollars to build roads between podunk central Pennsylvania towns that barely anybody visits, or to educate bright kids who want to get out of those podunk towns. Without Philadelphia, there are fewer top universities to send those kids. And without Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has fewer places to send its college graduates to work.

Without Philadelphia — let’s be honest here — Pennsylvania has a lot fewer great restaurants.

Without Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is simply older and whiter and less diverse, much less able to understand and meet the challenges of the 21st century. Without Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s just an also-ran.

Arrogant? Sure. The point is, there’s no reason to accept the disrespect we get from the rest of the state. We’ve got our problems, sure, but we provide our share of the state’s resources, too.

It’s time Philadelphia’s neighbors across the rest of the state recognized that. And if they can’t, maybe it’s time for a divorce. Good luck, Pennsylvania, getting along without us.