Pat O'Malley

Pat O'Malley

Pat O'Malley is a freelance writer, civics and government instructor, and consultant for nonprofit organizations. With a background in business, economics, and politics, she’s worked as a social service provider, advocate, and lobbyist for nonprofits since the 1980s. Through her online column, Community Matters, Pat uses the U.S. Constitution and current events to teach American government – civics.
American politics are in turmoil because most Americans don’t understand how their government works. Those who understand how government works know how to influence it. Pat doesn’t report the news. She explains it.

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B.A. in Economics, minor in Political Science.


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  • How Much Do You Know About Your Government?
    Most Americans don’t know how our government works, or why, because the Republicans who control our schools don’t want you to know this stuff. Take this quiz. Challenge yourself. See how much you know. There’s a link to the answers at the end. Good Luck!
  • Stuff that Isn’t True
    Fallacies fill the American conversation – things that “everyone knows” but just aren’t true – especially in our political views. Believing such falsehoods can demolish our public discussions and our expectations of government. Let’s clarify some of them.
  • Advocates Protest Readshaw’s Record on Women’s Health
    Yesterday, local activists picketed PA Rep. Harry Readshaw’s office for his anti-women’s health votes in the state legislature. At the event, his daughter tried to hit some of the demonstrators with her car. I guess those are the Readshaw family values.
  • Random Thoughts
    Wisdom for the Ages. Or the Aged. Or Whatever. Sometimes things roll around in my brain until they come spilling out. Here are just a few.
  • State of the Union Address 2014: Myths and Facts
    Every year, the president delivers his State of the Union address to a special joint session of Congress. President Obama will do so Tuesday night, January 28, at 9:00 PM. The usual fanfare will accompany the event. Maybe there will some surprises too.
  • Understanding Your Income Tax Return
    As Americans tackle the annual tax-filing ritual, millions will panic. It’s confusing. Many don’t understand it. Some are afraid of it. Relax. Just slow down and read the forms, one line at a time. It’s easier than you think.
  • Why the NFL is a Tax Exempt, Nonprofit Organization
    Yes, folks. The National Football League legally qualifies as a tax exempt, nonprofit organization. And there’s not a thing wrong with that. People must learn to distinguish between the league and the teams. The teams pay taxes. The league does not.
  • Pennsylvania Can Solve UPMC Charity Status Debate
    UPMC is SW Pennsylvania’s largest employer, property owner, health care provider, and charity. Its charity status and tax exemption are controversial. Tempers rage. There is a solution, but few people know what that is. Legal stunts obstruct the process.
  • Food Stamp Program: Myths, Facts, and History
    Food Stamps. If you haven’t used them, you surely know someone who has. And you’ve heard all of the gripes and comments about “those people”. The Food Stamp Program has been a beloved right-wing piñata for 50 years. But it shouldn’t be that way.
  • The United States Congress: Myths and Facts
    Congress has most of the political power in the United States. Public support for Congress has reached another all-time low. Our disapproval should be based in reality, not in fantasy, rumor, or ignorance. Our schools don’t bother to teach this stuff.
  • How a Federal Government Shutdown Affects You
    News reports have been chattering about a possible government shutdown all year long. Both Democrats and Republicans have been posturing and saber-rattling and making a lot of noise, but none of them bother to explain what that means for the public.
  • Thank a Union Member for the Good Life You Have
    Monday. Labor Day parade, downtown. Gather 8:30. Parade 10:00. Honor all workers-union and nonunion-especially now when we’re under attack like never before. Watch Out! They’re Coming For You Next.
  • Juries in America: Myths and Facts
    Jury trials are the foundation of the American legal system. For more than 200 years, we have expected them to hear testimony, evaluate evidence, and deliver justice. Once again, our schools have failed us. That's not their job.
  • Separation of Church and State: Myths and Facts
    America’s founders deliberately kept god out of the Constitution because they didn’t want a theocracy. But many Americans now try to force all of us to practice their faith, and prevent some from practicing different faiths. Nothing is more un-American.
  • Read the Declaration of Independence
    The Declaration of Independence was more a process than a moment in history. This act of treason against an empire sparked the Revolutionary War and, eventually, the United States of America. It is not, and has never been, a law, but it is worth reading.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Myths and Facts
    Recent news reports claimed that the IRS targeted extra scrutiny to conservative groups applying for nonprofit tax exemptions. It was much ado about nothing. But it’s time to clarify nonprofits’ legal status and their social roles in our culture.
  • When Does Obstruction Become Treason?
    Recently, Bill Maher and Michael Moore rightly criticized Congressional Republicans for their relentless obstruction of government. Plenty of liberal bloggers and their followers jumped on the bandwagon. But they all went too far in calling it treason.
  • Impeachment: Myths, Facts, and History
    Right-wingers trembled with glee when Sen. James Inhofe said that President Obama might be impeached for events in Benghazi. Few rank-and-file Americans understand impeachment or the odds of it happening. It does not mean that the president is fired.
  • Find Out What Congress is Doing
    Public interest in Congressional activity surged in recent years. Confusion, misinformation, and outright lies abound. But we can get accurate information without extensive web searches. All official Congressional activity is available on one website.
  • Martin Sheen Honored in Pittsburgh for His Activism
    In a building dedicated to those who have fought in America’s wars, about 250 people gathered in Pittsburgh on Saturday to honor a man who has dedicated his life to working for international peace and social justice.
  • The Postal Service is Not a GOP Target
    Congressional Republicans Just Want You to Think It Is. Unlike most Americans, many members of Congress have actually read the United States Constitution. They know what it would take to abolish the postal service and they do not intend to do it.
  • Activist Supreme Court Judges Created Their Own Power
    The Constitution Does Not Authorize Judicial Review. Our teachers are wrong. The Constitution does not empower the Court to interpret the Constitution. The founders didn’t give that power to anyone. The Court decided that for itself.
  • Petitioning the Government Doesn't Guarantee Success
    We Americans love our petitions, but too many don’t understand how they work. A well-written petition, directed to the appropriate target, can be an important tool to create change, but it can’t stand alone.
  • Committees Hold the Real Power in Congress
    The most powerful people in Congress aren’t elected. News programs report on groups of Representatives and Senators examining witnesses. Those sessions are usually comfortable and polite. Sometimes, they’re not. Those are congressional committee hearings.
  • Obama’s Second Inauguration Blends Law and Tradition
    Obama’s second oath of office happened twice: the first on Sunday, privately in the White House; the second, with celebrations, for the public on Monday. It was not a plot, or a secret, or new. As usual, the media did a poor job of explaining the events.
  • Sloppy Reporting Misleads the Public on Executive Orders
    Thousands of reporters were wrong about President Obama’s proposals to end gun violence. Their negligence fuels the psycho-goofball conspiracy nutjobs who claim that Executive Orders are illegal and that Obama is coming for your guns.
  • The 113th Congress Opens for Business
    Every two years, Congress reboots. Like a bright New Year’s Day, it’s fresh, and clean, and brief. The 113th Congress assembled on Thursday, January 3 – a day for family and tradition, smiles and handshakes. They’ll return to the backstabbing soon enough.
  • How Does the Electoral College Work?
    Legally, the Electoral College chooses our president, but our votes DO control that result. And until we can remove the marketing geeks from the election process, we do still need the Electoral College.
  • Discover Your Bill of Rights
    Americans revere their rights and expect government to honor them. But we don’t have as many rights as many people think we do. Too many just don’t bother to read the Bill of Rights because our schools do a poor job of creating responsible citizens.
  • Lame Ducks and Moving Vans
    Nothing has changed since the election on November 6. The changes won’t take place until January 3. Real elections don’t work as they do on American Idol. This is called a “lame duck” period. Congress has the same powers it had before the election.
  • Secession, the U.S. Constitution, and the Consequences
    Since last weekend, the internet has been aflutter with news that many states have petitioned the White House for permission to secede from the union. No state has officially done any such thing, but secession is possible. This is what’s going on.
  • Does the U.S. Constitution Still Matter?
    Our Constitution emerged 225 years ago today. It matters as long as the United States exists. Yet Americans still argue about it, file lawsuits about it, claim to love it, and swear to uphold it. But most have never READ IT. So let’s look at it.
  • Thank a Union Member for the Good Life You Have
    Monday September 3, Labor Day parade, downtown. Gather 8:30. Parade 10:00. Unions honor all workers-union and nonunion-especially now when corporate and political thugs attack U.S. workers like never before. Watch Out America! They’re Coming For You Next.
  • Political Party Conventions Have Several Purposes
    Get ready for the next act in the presidential election process. Republican and Democratic conventions will adopt platforms, rally the troops, and formally nominate their candidates. Then the real campaigns begin. The stuff up to now has been easy.
  • Why Does Congress Take a Five Week “Vacation”?
    Congress recessed on August 2 and will return to work on September 10, leading millions of Americans to gripe, yet again, about the easy life of our Congressional representatives. Sorry folks, this one isn’t true either.
  • The Chick-fil-A Squabble is Not a First Amendment Issue
    Here we go again. Once in a while, a public figure states an opinion. Some people object. Other people object to the first bunch. Millions of Americans whip themselves into a colossal panic, whining about their “First Amendment Rights”. And they’re wrong.
  • Pennsylvania Voter ID Law is a Republican Disgrace
    Voter ID laws keep poor, elderly, disabled, minorities, and students from voting. Those groups tend to vote Democratic. It’s not about fraud, or protecting elections, or fairness, or justice, or democracy. It’s about preventing Democrats from voting.
  • Pennsylvania Voter ID Law is a Republican Disgrace
    Voter ID laws keep poor, elderly, disabled, minorities, and students from voting. Those groups tend to vote Democratic. It’s not about fraud, or protecting elections, or fairness, or justice, or democracy. It’s about preventing Democrats from voting.
  • Donald Trump Needs Better Lawyers for Birther Advice
    Donald Trump resurrected the birther noise again, just to keep his own name in the news. Barack Obama was most certainly born in Hawaii, but it doesn’t matter. He could have been born anywhere. He would still be a natural born American citizen.
  • Health Reform Case Illustrates Supreme Court Process
    The Supreme Court hears debate on the health reform act. Few Americans know how the Court works because schools don’t teach it. The Constitution doesn’t empower the Court to decide whether a law or an action is constitutional. The Court decided that.
  • Nationwide Grassroots Project Will Amend U.S. Constitution to End Corporate Power in Elections
    The Supreme Court Citizens United decision declared that corporations are people, and now megabucks corporations own our politicians and our democracy. The Wolf PAC is working in several states for a constitutional amendment to change that. You can help.
  • Super Tuesday’s Nuts and Bolts
    Four candidates will compete in ten states for 437 delegates to the Republican National Convention on Super Tuesday, under five different voting methods. What will the numbers say in the end?
  • An Overview of American Political Parties
    Most of the American political debate centers on the two major parties – Democrats and Republicans – but there are dozens of political parties in the US. Find out what they are and what they stand for.
  • It’s Easy to Find Government Information links every individual government site into a single place. Reach every federal, state, local, and tribal government site in seconds. No one wants all of that information, but every piece is important to someone. Here’s how to find it.
  • Mitt Romney on Food Stamps?
    I dared Mitt Romney to prove to us all just how easy "the poor people" have it by living on a welfare and food stamp budget for a month. Send him a message. Let's see how much pressure we can bring. It sure will be fun watching him squirm out of it.
  • What’s a Filibuster?
    Last week, President Obama asked the Senate to change its filibuster rules. Filibusters aren’t in the Constitution, but they are constitutional. Both parties’ senators use them to prevent a vote on a bill. That’s why Congress can’t get anything done.
  • State of the Union 'Getting Stronger,' According to Obama
    Obama’s address touched on all of the major national policy areas. He promised to fight obstruction with action. But I was disappointed that he omitted a few issues. He’s hardly my idea of the perfect president. Will I vote for him again? You bet.
  • State of the Union Address is Tradition, Not Law
    Our Constitution requires the president to report to Congress occasionally on how the nation is doing. But the “State of the Union” ceremony is tradition, not law. Obama will deliver 2012 State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 24.
  • Meet Buddy Roemer -- The Other Republican Presidential Candidate
    Buddy Roemer hasn’t participated in any of the Republican presidential debates already held because the major media outlets don’t think he has enough public support. His name doesn’t even appear in a search of the GOP website.
    Also published on:
  • Presidential Czars and the U.S. Constitution
    The last 17 presidents have appointed special advisers. The media call them “czars”. No, that’s not their real title. Yes, they are constitutional. The Republicans think you’re stupid.
  • Republicans Roll on in New Hampshire Primary
    Mitt Romney won Tuesday’s New Hampshire Republican primary. The economy was the voters’ most important issue, and they put their votes where their mouths were by choosing Romney over Iowa’s near-winner Santorum and his largely social issues campaign.
    Also published on:
  • Executive Orders and the U.S. Constitution
    Many conservatives claim that Obama’s Executive Orders are unconstitutional. Once again, the goofballs exploit civic and political illiteracy to spread their lies. Why didn’t they have that problem with Republican presidents’ Executive Orders?
  • Romney May Have Weaknesses Against Obama on Four Issues
    Romney’s economic plan reflects standard Republican positions while Obama is running on his record of achievements. Incumbent presidents always have an advantage, but four domestic issues illustrate their fundamental differences and Romney’s weaknesses.
    Also published on:
  • Know Your Bill of Rights
    As Americans, we expect our government to honor our rights. Unfortunately, our schools do a poor job of preparing students to be responsible citizens. Most Americans are confused about exactly what rights we have, and have never read the Bill of Rights.
  • Middle Class Issues Control 2012 Swing State Votes
    The presidential election is a year away and is already contentious. No state is safe for any candidate, but Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania are especially critical. The popular vote, and public sentiment, diverge around middle class issues.
  • Why We Need More Lobbyists
    It’s fashionable to gripe about lobbying as somehow evil, corrupt, and “un-American”. Actually, there is nothing more American than a good, old-fashioned lobbyist. Sure, some of them are swine. But we do not need fewer lobbyists. We need more of them.
  • Tales Exaggerate Congressional Pay and Pensions
    Many Americans believe that members of Congress take home truckloads of money, don’t participate in Social Security, and get full pay for their lifetimes after serving only a single term in Congress. Sorry, folks, it just isn’t true.
  • What is the Constitution Anyway?
    Republicans claim to love the Constitution, but are often wrong about what it says. Schools teach it poorly, if at all. Now too many Americans have no idea how our government works. But that doesn’t stop them all from hollering at each other.
  • Thanksgiving, the U.S. Constitution, and American Ignorance
    Thursday is Thanksgiving Day, but the first federal Thanksgiving Day Proclamation wasn’t about Pilgrims, or a difficult winter, or a civil war. It was about the United States Constitution. And this is a good time to read it.
  • Bachmann, Cain Would Defy U.S. Law Prohibiting Torture
    Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain support waterboarding, even though US law forbids it. Torture is illegal, no matter how many people say otherwise. Why is it that those who claim to love the Constitution eversomuch can’t be bothered to READ IT?
  • What’s a SuperCommittee and Why Should I Care?
    The SuperCommittee’s task is to create a plan to reduce the deficit by Nov. 23. Without SERIOUS public pressure, we’ll get more tax cuts for millionaires, higher taxes on real people, and cuts in services that we all depend on. We need to make some noise.
  • Scenes from Occupy Pittsburgh
    The evolution of a revolution. The message is clear and the process works, even in a non-traditional way. Scenes from Occupy Pittsburgh.
  • Why We All Need to Vote on Tuesday
    The election is Tuesday. I know, we’re all fed up with politicians. But in these times, it’s more crucial than ever to choose our representatives carefully. Government decisions favor the rich because rich people vote more than poor people do. SO VOTE.
  • Library Referendum Supports Pittsburgh Communities and JOBS
    The Nov. 8 referendum asks Pgh. voters for a 1/4-mill property tax rise to aid Carnegie Library. CLP delivers more than $75 of benefits for every person in Allegheny County and pioneered many services. It’s always there for us. We need to support it.
  • Occupy Pittsburgh. This is Your Movement
    3,500 people demonstrated peacefully in Pittsburgh Saturday for the worldwide Occupy movement. The world’s massive problems require a massive movement. This is just the beginning. The whole world is watching. If you want peace, work for justice. Join us.
  • We’re Waiting for YOU, Mr. President
    In Pittsburgh, Obama asked us to lobby Congress to support his Jobs Act, but it must work both ways. We must fight for our families. Obama must stop surrendering to the Republicans’ childish demands. Tax cuts don’t create jobs. Work creates jobs.
  • Obama to Visit Pittsburgh for American Jobs Act
    I'll be covering President Obama's event at IBEW Local 5, Pittsburgh, tomorrow for his American Jobs Act. Stay tuned for the story.
  • TV’s Latest Trend Offends All of Us
    Women worked hard to build our “place” in the world. We made progress, until now. Mad Men, Pan Am, and The Playboy Club drag us backward to the juvenile behaviors of their period. This junk was bad enough 50 years ago. It’s worse now. Teach your children.
  • Voter Registration Deadline is Tuesday, October 11
    Local elections don’t carry nearly as much drama as federal and state contests, but are no less important. Be sure you’re registered to vote by October 11. Learn where and how here.
  • Pittsburgh Unity Fair Offers Help for All Working Families
    Unemployment is a community problem. Are you out of work, facing a lay-off, or under-employed? Do you know someone who is? The Pennsylvania Wants to Work! Resource, Jobs and Unity Fair can connect you with information, help, and support.
  • President Obama’s American Jobs Act
    Congress is now sitting on President Obama’s American Jobs Act. It emphasizes infrastructure improvements and tax cuts. Given the politics, it will not move quickly. Congress just isn’t interested because it affects your life, not theirs.
  • More on Brentwood Police Corruption
    There are two Brentwood Police cars sitting in the street in front of my house right now. Lights off, motors running, cops inside the cars. Been there about 15 minutes
  • Republicans Want to Steal Your Vote
    Lyndon Johnson said voting is: ". . . the basic right without which all others are meaningless." He signed the Voting Rights Act as president in 1965. Today, the Republican Party and other Koch brothers stooges want to strip you of your right to vote.
  • Join Your Friends and Neighbors in the Labor Day Parade
    Monday September 5, Labor Day parade, downtown. Gather 8:30. Parade 10:00. Unions honor all workers-union and nonunion-especially now when corporate and political thugs attack U.S. workers like never before. Watch Out America! They're Coming For You Next.
  • Why Congress Can't Get Anything Done
    America needs serious adults, working together, to solve our problems. Most members of Congress care more about pleasing their big bucks corporate campaign donors than in doing the job that we hired them to do. Corporations don't vote. Real people vote.
  • Who Should Provide Social Services?
    Who would gut social services just when we need them the most? During the debt 'Å"negotiations', republithugs demanded social service cuts. President Neville Chamberlain appeased them AGAIN. Should government or private agencies provide those services?
  • Brentwood Officials Are Still Covering Up Police Crimes
    Brentwood cops are out of control. Borough council lets them get away with it. Terroristic threats, harassment, intimidation, and conspiracy when they think there are no witnesses. Brentwood needs to control its cops before someone gets killed. AGAIN.
  • Get Your Message to Your Legislators
    How many of those irritating "Make Congress do what we want. Sign our petition today"emails did you get today? They're a popular community organizing tool, but they're the least effective way to get your representatives' attention. Find out the best way.
  • Reimagining Capitalism: From the Ground Up
    Capitalists are bullies. Pure capitalism is a massive failure. Most Americans can't define capitalism, but think that our Constitution requires it because our schools yield politically and economically illiterate citizens. We can create a new capitalism.
  • Jobs in Pittsburgh: Speak Your Mind at Two Events
    Corporations collect $billions$ in tax cuts but refuse to create jobs. Join your neighbors at two important events. Community Meeting with UPMC Officials, July 12, 6:30. Community Jobs Rally and Town Hall with Members of Congress, July 18, 5:00 and 6:30.
  • Read the Declaration of Independence
    The Declaration of Independence was more a process than a moment in history. This act of treason against an empire sparked the Revolutionary War and, eventually, the United States of America. It is not, and has never been, a law, but it is worth reading.
  • Infrastructure Spending Stimulates the Entire Economy
    Every business that has ever sold anything to a construction company or a construction worker has benefitted from stimulus spending. The stimulus bill could have worked better if Republicans hadn't hijacked one third of it for their own tax cuts.
  • How to Become President of the United States
    America's next presidential election will be Nov 6, 2012, more than 16 months from now. The candidates and the media have already begun the journey and it promises to be a great show. It's a long and grueling process with many things happening at once.
  • America's Liberal Roots, Shunning, and Other Random Thoughts
    Enjoy two dozen nuggets of remarkable insight, analysis, and wisdom about politics and life.
  • We Are All Welfare Recipients
    The republithugs love to squawk that they adore the Constitution and chastise, belittle, and whine about "welfare recipients". They won't admit, even to themselves, that we are all welfare recipients and that every "welfare program" is constitutional.
  • Who Should Pay Taxes?
    At its barest minimum, government has expenses. So government needs money. Government gets its money from taxes. Tax cuts do not create jobs. We all must contribute to the society that we enjoy. Everyone should pay taxes. It's part of being a grownup.
  • American Education: We Need Higher Standards
    Our schools turn out financially, economically, politically, and socially illiterate citizens. This stuff doesn't happen by accident. The last thing any fascist wants is an educated workforce. We must require more from our kids and from public education.
  • Labor Unions: Myths and Facts
    The republithugs blame labor unions for every problem we face. It's just another pathetic stunt to divide, conquer, and destroy the American middle class. Labor unions benefit every working person in America, whether they belong to a union or not.
  • Welfare in America: Myths and Facts
    We can debate whether to provide welfare benefits at all, but we must open that discussion with the truth, not with rumors or lies or distortions. Some even want to punish anyone who dares to ask for help. Why are so many people so proud of being so mean?
  • Vote Tuesday in Pennsylvania Municipal Primary Election
    Tuesday's PA primary election covers county and local offices. Local elections are critical because the Republicans' demands for federal and state governments to abandon their responsibilities force the local governments to try to make up the difference.
  • Unemployment Compensation: Myths and Facts
    The GOP is still setting Americans against each other by lying about unemployment benefits and unemployed people. Don't fall for it. Here's the truth. Tell your legislators to support working families who pay taxes, not the corporations that don't.
  • Rally for a Responsible Budget was a Huge Success
    Nearly 7,000 Pennsylvanians from throughout the state and dozens of groups rallied in Harrisburg with a single message. We demand a responsible budget. All corporations must pay taxes. We lobbied our legislators. Now we all must keep up the pressure.
  • You Can Participate in Forming Government Regulations
    Corporations want to eliminate all government regulations, yet they don't hesitate to use and exploit every benefit that our civilized society can offer them. Regulations don't just happen. There is a process and you can influence it.
  • Pennsylvania Needs a Responsible Budget
    Corbett's budget plan cuts one billion dollars from all public schools and universities. No school is safe. All local wage and property taxes will rise. Join us in Harrisburg on May 3 to stand up for your family. All are welcome. Free buses are available.
  • Mourn for the Dead. Fight for the Living
    Each year, dangerous conditions kill thousands of workers on the job. The AFL-CIO observes April 28 as a day to "mourn for the dead, fight for the living." Labor unions and workers in nearly 100 countries observe the day. Join us at an event in your town.
  • Let's Criminalize Poverty
    I love recessions. They're just so darned entertaining. First, politicians try to deflect attention away from their fiscal failures by turning Americans against each other. Then the great American middle class gets an education.
  • Public Demonstrations Do Bring Change
    Most Americans have a baffling fear of demonstrations, but they're completely safe. No significant social, economic, or political change has happened anywhere in the world without protest and demonstration. History is made by those who show up. Join us!
  • Beware the Politics of Distraction
    For 30 years, those on the political right have focused more on scaring you than informing you. Now they're blaming their bad economic decisions on labor unions and public employees. They don't believe any of this stuff. They want you to believe it.
  • Pittsburgh Says: "THIS is WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!"
    The GOP attack on Americans began in Wisconsin nearly two months ago. More than 20 states have joined the assault. On Monday, nearly 1,000 people marched through downtown Pittsburgh in solidarity with the national "We Are One" campaign. Join us.
  • How a Federal Government Shutdown Affects You
    News reports have been chattering about a possible government shutdown since September. The demodupes and republithugs have been posturing and saber-rattling and making a lot of noise, but none of them bother to explain what that means for the public.
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