Morning Must Reads: Wages Under Pressure and Doing Nothing Is Not an Option

It's hard out here for a cellist!

On the cusp of the opening of the orchestra's 2011-12 season, members of the ensemble approved a contract calling for a 15 percent pay cut, reducing the size of the ensemble, and replacing the defined-benefit pension with a defined-contribution plan. The deal, also ratified by the association's board of directors, was mediated under the supervision of Stephen Raslavich, chief judge of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and is subject to bankruptcy court approval. The American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund, the $1.7 billion national plan that would be jilted by the new deal, has pledged to fight for up to $35 million it says it will be owed if the orchestra association withdraws from the fund.

Morning Must Reads: The Senate Chooses to Do Nothing About the Economy and You Should Root for GE

The economic news this morning makes you feel like you are watching Major Kong (from the movie Dr. Strangelove — the picture on the left) ride the bomb like a mechanical bull to our mutual total economic destruction. But our economic situation is more similar to that of Otto (played by Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda — on the right).  At first we are amused with the idea of being run down by a steamroller moving 2 miles per hour. But then we realize that we have stepped in wet cement and are thus destined to be run down by the U.S. Senate a one-eyed man with ketchup stains round his nostrils.

In short, our problem is a lack of aggregate demand and the solution is well within our grasp, but our politics are paralyzed and millions are destined to be run down by years of needless misery.

Morning Must Reads: Hard Times In Pennsylvania and Debates About Higher Education

The Mercyhurst College Center for Applied Politics has released to The Philadelphia Inquirer the results of a poll asking Pennsylvanians about the impact of the economy on their lives.

The poll found that one in four Pennsylvania residents has had someone living in his or her household lose a job or be laid off in the last 12 months — and two out of three had close friends or family members who were put out of work in that time. More than three out of every four Pennsylvanians said they knew individuals or families who struggle every month to afford basic needs such as rent, utilities, health care, clothes, or food. 'The poverty question was startling,' said Joseph Morris, a professor and director of the college's Center for Applied Politics, which conducted the poll, 'as was the fact that a strong majority of Pennsylvanians have had to make lifestyle changes because of the economy.'

The Mercyhurst College Center findings mirror those of the State of Working Pennsylvania 2011:

Over one in four Pennsylvania workers — and nearly one in three U.S. workers — have had less paid work than they want during the last 12 months. ... National poll results reveal that, between 2009 and 2011, 43% of likely voters had been unemployed or someone in their family has been unemployed. Since likely voters are a significantly more educated, higher-income group than typical voters, the share of all workers that have been unemployed or had a family member unemployed almost certainly exceeds 50%.

Morning Must Reads: Unemployment Up, Incomes Down

The New York Times this morning leads with a story based on a report by a private consulting firm called Sentier Research LLC. In the chart that follows, the quote below the plummeting red line is a measurement of income for the typical household and the skyrocketing black line is the unemployment rate. If you come across anyone arguing that we should do nothing to spur job growth, it is probably because profits measured as a share of national income reached their highest share since World War II, even while incomes have been decimated by high unemployment.

Between June 2009, when the recession officially ended, and June 2011, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 6.7 percent, to $49,909, according to a study by two former Census Bureau officials. During the recession — from December 2007 to June 2009 — household income fell 3.2 percent.

Third and State This Week: A GOP Drilling Tax Bill, Local Poverty Data and a New Blog Feature

This week, we blogged about rising unemployment in Pennsylvania, a new GOP plan to enact a Marcellus Shale drilling tax and local poverty data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Plus, Mark Price launched a new daily blog feature highlighting the morning's economic news. 


  • On poverty, Michael Wood shared new Census data for Pennsylvania and major metro areas. Included is a look at rising levels of deep poverty in Pennsylvania and across the nation.
  • On the Marcellus Shale, Chris Lilienthal blogged about Governor Corbett's call for an "impact fee" on drilling and a new GOP drilling tax bill adding to the momentum.
  • On jobs and the economy, Sean Brandon provided some analysis on Pennsylvania's August jobs report.
  • Finally, Mark Price launched a new blog feature this week. Check in after 8 a.m. each weekday morning to get a quick and thorough rundown of the day's economic news and opinion. Find out what happened this week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday!
More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Economic News and Opinion for September 22, 2011

Good morning! Here is today's news:

... The Association of American Railroads backs a new business coalition that wants Congress to cut the top U.S. corporate income tax rate ... The railroads have joined AT&T, Boeing, FedEx, Lockheed Martin, UPS, Verizon, and Walt Disney in pushing for the change. Nike, Time Warner Cable, and the National Retail Federation (Sears and other stores) have also joined the tax-cut group, which calls itself RATE ("Reducing America's Taxes Equitably") ... Why now, when so many big American corporations report high and rising profits, and American individual taxpayers face falling wages and scarce jobs?

National Weakness in Economy Spreads to PA in August

Sean Brandon, InternBy Sean Brandon, Intern

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate rose to 8.2% in August but remains below the 9.1% national rate. Pennsylvania has been below the U.S. unemployment rate for 40 consecutive months, and at or below the U.S. rate for 58 consecutive months. This trend is in jeopardy, however, as Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has risen eight-tenths of one percentage point since May.

Economic News and Opinion for September 21, 2011

For those of you not obsessed with the coming Pumpkin Shortage, here is your morning run down:

Which brings me to reaction to Friday's column from two executives about whether more government action is needed. Roger Colley, a former president of ... Betz Laboratories and Envirogen, would try to reduce uncertainty for business by doing the following: First, put all new regulations on hold and freeze federal spending, both for five years. Next, cut the corporate net income tax rate to 15 percent from a top rate of 35 percent and make the current rates for individuals permanent ... Tom Callahan, senior vice president of Bristol's Modern Group Ltd, ... would also cut the corporate tax rate so that businesses are not 'incented to do business overseas all the time.' Instead of a freeze on government spending, Callahan suggested it be cut, saying, 'The wars should be ended.'

Economic News and Opinion for September 20, 2011

Here is a rather grim run down of the morning economic news and opinion:

”Right before Labor Day, Mr. Myricks, of La Palma, Calif., near Los Angeles, lost his position as a factory machine operator, a job hard-won after a long spell without work. That painful loss was an echo of July 2009, when a supermarket eliminated his position as an assistant manager. Mr. Myricks joined the 28 percent of teenage men in the work force — 39.7 percent of black teenage men — who were idle and looking for a job then. He spent over a year looking for work, and moved into a cheaper home with his wife, Briana, 20, to help make ends meet. After a few months delivering pizzas part time for Pizza Hut, he finally secured a full-time job in April 2010 at a box factory where his brother is an assistant manager. ’It is a very, very dangerous job,’ Mr. Myricks said of his work at Georgia-Pacific. ‘There are operators in my plant who are missing fingers, or missing legs. They’re still working there, though.’

Economic News for September 19, 2011

Your morning economic news:

"The toughest point, said Brittany Modlesky, may have been when she had to sell her bedroom furniture to help pay for a class. She got $350 — a good amount, more than she earned in a week of waiting tables and tending bar while juggling courses. Modlesky graduated last year from Shippensburg University with a degree in communications, high hopes for the future and $60,000 in debt."

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