Posts by stephen herzenberg

Pennsylvania: State of Opportunity?

I wanted to share my PennLive.com op-ed today on a new report offering Pennsylvania some optimism when it comes to upward social mobility but also serving as a warning for lawmakers on the policies they pursue.

'This Is What the Middle Class Looks Like' ... Fast Food One-day Strikes and the Next Upsurge in Unionism

"This is what democracy looks like." Even though this chant originated with the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO), which haven't yet led to major reforms, the phrase nonetheless captures the idea of a social movement that has crystallized its demands and has a better chance to succeed because of it. Other examples include the right to vote in the civil rights movement, or the fight to legalize gay marriage, a simple modern demand that culminates a fight for equality in all its dimensions.

Pennsylvania, Land of Opportunity

We're not always the "good news bears," but today we're thrilled to give greater visibility to a landmark new study that shows the American Dream of upward mobility is more alive in Pennsylvania than in most parts of the country.

Diversion Politics and Factual Errors with 'Americans for a Tiny Sliver of Rich People'

Jennifer Stefano, the Pennsylvania director of Americans for Prosperity, published an op-ed in the Patriot-News Friday — the latest salvo in an organized right-wing assault on nutrition assistance and other safety net spending.

Toshi Seeger and Respect for the Working Man and Woman

Toshi Seeger's obituary last week in The New York Times brought a smile to my face.

Toshi provided her husband, the folk singer Pete Seeger, with the organizational skills without which he would have not been so influential or commercially successful.

Toshi also kept him grounded. “I hate it when people romanticize him,” she said. “He’s like anybody good at his craft, like a good bulldozer operator.”

That simple sentiment works in both directions. It helped make sure Pete Seeger would not become too big for his britches. It also communicates deep respect for the bulldozer operator — and for hardworking people more generally.

Pennsylvania’s Unremarkable Private-Sector Job Performance

Philadelphia Daily News Columnist John Baer is right to suggest that Governor Corbett’s jobs performance since January 2011 is less than “remarkable.”

Retirement Gamble: The Problem with 401(k) Plans

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Just how good are 401(k) retirement plans? According to a number of recent news and magazine articles, they are a bad deal for workers, providing much less retirement security than traditional pooled defined benefit pension plans. Pension plans tend to beat 401(k)s on investment returns while 401(k)s come with higher fees. For these reasons and one other (401(k)'s don't pool longevity risk--don't ask), 401(k)s cost a lot more in contributions to achieve to achieve the same level of retirement security.

10 Reasons Governor Corbett's Pension Plan Will Dig a Deeper Hole for Taxpayers

The Keystone Research Center recently put together the following top 10 reasons the Governor's public pension plan will dig a deeper hole for the state's taxpayers. I thought I'd pass it along here.

PA Pensions Inject Millions into Local Economies

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Pension benefits earned by retired teachers, first responders and public health workers inject millions of dollars into regional and local economies across Pennsylvania, according to a new report from the Keystone Research Center. Statewide, $7.6 billion in pension benefits were paid out to Pennsylvania residents, generating an estimated $13.2 billion in economic activity.

Not What the Doctor Ordered on Pensions

I wanted to share my op-ed in today's Philadelphia Inquirer examining the added costs and other problems in Governor Corbett's public pension proposal:

In public policy, as in medicine, a guiding principle should be "first, do no harm." In other words, don't make the problem worse.

Unfortunately, Gov. Corbett's plan to radically restructure Pennsylvania's public pension system does serious harm to taxpayers, driving up the public cost of retirement benefits for years to come. It harms Pennsylvania's teachers, nurses, emergency responders, and other public servants by undermining their retirement benefits without saving a dime. And it harms efforts by Pennsylvania schools and other public employers to attract and retain high-quality employees.