Friday Funny: The Mean Stepdad Governors

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The Daily Show's Jon Stewart takes on a number of new governors (including our own Governor Corbett) in an amusing segment that, in true Stewart fashion, is peppered with profanity. In it, he describes each of the guv's relationship with their state as going from "cool new boyfriend to psychotic stepdad" in the weeks after they took office.

Trickle Down Economics Not Helping Marcellus Shale Communities

The counties hosting the most Marcellus Shale gas drilling are showing early signs of increased economic activity, but little in the way of increased resources.

The smart people at Penn State's Cooperative Extension (which is shortsightedly cut by 50% in the Governor's 2011-12 budget proposal) looked at state tax collections by county and noticed that certain types of taxes are performing better in areas of heavy drilling activity than in the rest of the state. Based on anecdotes of filled hotel rooms, increased restaurant usage, and checks to landowners for drilling rights, it is not surprising to see an initial uptick in royalty income and sales tax receipts in those counties.

For local governments and schools hosting the activity, there are increased demands for services like education, health care, police, and emergency responders, to name a few. The problem is that these communities receive almost no benefit due to the state's tax structure.

Consumers Tell Real Story of Affordable Care Act

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The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce convened in Harrisburg today for a hearing focused on rolling back the reforms of the Affordable Care Act.

Not far from the hearing room, dozens of Pennsylvanians gathered in the Capitol Rotunda for a "consumers hearing" to highlight just how much the landmark health law has impacted the lives of everyday Pennsylvanians. Consumers were noticeably absent from the docket of speakers at the congressional hearing, which included Governor Corbett, lawmakers and the usual-suspect business lobbyists.

The consumers' message was simple: don't roll back reforms that are critical to the health and lives of working Pennsylvanians.

Where There Are Unions, There Is Less Inequality

I highly recommend you spend some time checking out the website for The State of Working America, the annual checkup on the health of the middle class produced by the Economic Policy Institute. 

One of the interesting graphics researchers put together for this year's edition was a scatter plot of union coverage and inequality in advanced economies.

Unions compress the wage distribution and, thus, reduce inequality. As a result, the more people who are covered by unions in an economy, the less inequality that economy has.

A 'Double Irish' Here, a 'Dutch Sandwich' There

St. Patrick's Day may be behind us, but plenty of U.S. corporations are still helping themselves to a "Double Irish." Or a "Dutch Sandwich," for that matter.

No, we're not talking about drinks or delicacies from these European countries. We're actually talking about complex accounting gimmicks that U.S.-based corporations use to shift foreign profits into accounts in Ireland, the Netherlands and Bermuda to avoid U.S. corporate taxes. Companies use other loopholes to shift income earned here to subsidiaries abroad. These practices cost the federal treasury as much as $90 billion a year.

In Case You Missed It: Third and State Blog for Week of March 14

This week on Third and State, we blogged about the state budget, privatization, fruit salad (really?), and much more!

In case you missed it:

  • On the state budget, Sharon Ward shared resources from the Pennsylvania Budget Summit this week and wrote about priorities in the budget. Chris Lilienthal, meanwhile, highlighted a United Way of Pennsylvania survey documenting just how much budget cuts and the recession have taken a toll on vulnerable Pennsylvanians and the organizations that help them.
  • On privatization, Michael Wood took a closer look at the real costs of privatization, with highlights from a Budget Summit session on the topic.
  • In debunking claims about public- versus private-sector wages in Governor Corbett's budget speech, Mark Price suggested that the Governor's speech writers are fond of fruit salad — or at least apple-to-pears comparisons.
  • Finally, Mark has this week's "Dark Humor" Friday Funny: an article from The Onion explaining why March Madness has office employees in Columbus, Ohio thinking about how many of their co-workers were laid off in the wake of the recession.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

March Madness After the Recession

The Onion informs us this week that March Madness just isn’t the same at downsized workplaces across the country. Or at least, it isn’t taking as much printer time.

The incomparable “fake news” site offers up this rather dark (and worrisomely real) take on basketball office pools post-recession:

Yes, Years of Budget Cuts Have Taken a Toll on Pennsylvanians

Over the past week, much has been said and written about Governor Corbett’s proposed state budget cuts. Naturally, the debate has focused on the future, but we should also take stock of what has happened over the past couple years.

The United Way of Pennsylvania is helping with that. In a new survey of more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations, it found that the deep recession created a greater need for services for out-of-work Pennsylvanians and their families, while diminishing the resources that service providers have to help them.

What's the Real Cost of Privatization?

Privatization is a buzz word in Pennsylvania these days, even if no specific plans were put forth in Governor Corbett's budget proposal last week.

At the Pennsylvania Budget Summit on Monday, I heard from Shar Habibi of In the Public Interest on the broad issue of privatization. She shared some of the experiences of other state and local governments across the U.S. that have tried to sell off public assets or farm out services to private companies, usually for a quick infusion of cash. The D.C-based group's latest report goes through the basics of privatization deals and some of the issues that policymakers should consider before signing on the dotted line.

Budget Summit Recap: A Question of Priorities

If you were one of the 140 people who attended our Pennsylvania Budget Summit on Monday, your head is probably still spinning from an overload of information.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) has posted PowerPoint presentations and other resources from the Summit online, and we will be posting more, including video highlights, later in the week.

For now, I wanted to share a few thoughts from the Summit.

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