Wanted – A NAFTA and Trade Policy That Help Unrig the Economy Against Working Families

The Lamb-Saccone race in Western Pennsylvania upped the pressure on policymakers of both major political parties on trade. It expands the opportunity for progressives and progressive lawmakers to articulate and advocate for a fundamental change in U.S. trade policy in NAFTA renegotiations.

For the Trump Administration, the special election suggested that some working families are no longer willing to take the President’s word for it that he’s in their corner. That’s hardly a surprise given that the President’s actions so far have rigged the economy further against working families, the opposite of what he promised to do. That’s why some Trump voters have “buyer’s remorse” already.

Why the PA Supreme Court's Lines Should Stand

The effort by the General Assembly’s Republican leaders to have the United States Supreme Court block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to create new, fair congressional districts in our state is based on both a hypocritical attempt to undermine the rights of states and a flawed understanding of the subtle, yet fundamental, ideas of our constitutional system. The vehemence with which they are pursuing their case makes one wonder whether those ideas can survive in a day and age when so many politicians, especially on the Right, appear to have neither the intellect to understand principles that are the least bit complicated nor the integrity to follow them when they cut against the results they seek.

(Click to read the rest of the post.)

Key Sources on the Value of Unions and the Importance of Protecting Workers' Real Freedom to Join Together

Today is a little like Labor Day except with a twist: because of oral arguments today in the Supreme Court on the Janus case, editorial boards, the media, social media, and the public are all focused on workers  in this case on their freedom to join together into unions.

Given the widespread interest, here are some links new and old on unions.
A "two-pager" on the value of unions that draws heavily from this longer piece by the Economic Policy Institute published last year.
A new report by the Economic Policy Institute that documents the orchestrated, decades-old funding by right-wing individuals, foundations, and non-profits that led up to the Janus case. Today's New York Times story appears to draw heavily from the new EPI report althought it does not reference it.

People Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones

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(NOTE: at a future date we plan to address the substance of the op ed referred to below by Anthony Davies and a co-author in more detail.)

So, this is rich: in an op ed critiquing our Pennsylvania Promise free tuition (not free college) proposal, Anthony Davies and a co-author snidely say “we use the term loosely” after describing the Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center as “think tanks.” 

Why is this rich? Because Davies is the guy who wrote multiple papers for conservative “think tanks“ with flawed statistics claiming to show that states which have not privatized alcohol distribution (like Pennsylvania) have HIGHER traffic fatalities. 

STUDY: Teachers in Pennsylvania Are Undercompensated

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The Economic Policy Institute is out today with a new paper authored by Jeffrey Keefe examining compensation for public school teachers in Pennsylvania.  If you are still an avid reader of letters to the editor in your local paper, or perhaps a braver reader of the comment section of the online edition of your local paper, you will not infrequently encounter angry comme

Proposed Elimination of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG)

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The following is a guest post from Steven Martinez, Communications Director at the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania:

On President Trump's Infrastructure Proposal

The president has put forward a "plan" for infrastructure spending that identifies no new source of funding, that makes unbelievable assumptions about how much state and private spending can be leveraged by a limited amount of new federal spending and that proposes an end-around of environmental regulations in the guise of streamlining those regulations. 

In response to deep and long ignored needs in Pennsylvania and throughout the country for upgrading our roads, bridges, transit systems, airports and water and sewer works - needs that should be met by new investments that could create tens of thousands good jobs - the president has offered a glittering fantasy with little of the substance necessary to meet those needs. 

FACT CHECK: Undocumented Immigrants Like the Dreamers Are Not a Drag on State and Local Government

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A political movement that is based on demonizing a group of people needs a demon. So the efforts of the Trump administration to generate anger and hatred toward immigrants, both documented and undocumented, has been combined with repeated claims by the administration and its supporters about the terrible burden immigration creates on the United States. Immigrants have been called rapists and murders and terrorists and have been said to be dragging down our economy and burdening citizens with higher taxes.

That rhetoric has heated up as Congress struggles to pass legislation to restore the DACA program, which protects the Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children — from deportation. It has reached even higher levels as the Trump administration uses the debate over DACA as a bargaining chip to win Congressional support for a border wall with Mexico and radical changes to immigration policy.

Most of those claims have been rebutted, time and again. It is not clear how effective facts can be in tempering hatred. But we intend to do our part by putting the truth before Pennsylvanians.

The Pennsylvania Promise - Affordable College for all Pennsylvanians

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Pennsylvania is barreling towards a future where only the descendants of the well-off will have access to quality higher education. Or perhaps we are already there. See the figure below, which shows high performing, high-income youth are more likely (74%) than high scoring, low-income youth (41%) to complete college (columns in blue):

PA Leads on Overtime Pay – Where the Governor Can Act Without the State Legislature

Turns out that Gov. Wolf believes in the 40-hour week. Because he does, about 460,000 lower-paid Pennsylvania salaried workers will soon be on track to receive overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week. If their employer doesn’t want to pay overtime, these hard-working members of Pennsylvania’s middle class will get back time with their family, instead of having to work for free.

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