Dorothy Stier 1930-2016

My mother came of age in a unique time for women. She went to college at the end of the World War II when, largely in response to the fear of unemployment on the return of servicemen from the war, women were being strongly encouraged to limit themselves to the role of homemaker. And that was perhaps especially true for college educated women. Working class women, even then, often had to work. But as the middle class expanded in the post-war years, the middle class idea of marriage became ever stronger. So women like my mother, were encouraged by parents, like my grandparents, who tremendously valued education, to get a very good education. And then they were then encouraged to stay at home with their children rather than entering the work world. Despite some appearances, my mother never really fit that mold. She worked almost her entire life. She was a … Continue reading

New Data, Good News: Health Care

Most news is bad news. And political campaigns are more likely to flag what is wrong with our country than what is right with it. So, it’s not surprising that in the heat of a presidential election, we are more focused on what is wrong with our country than what is right with it. But as the federal government updates its statistics on income, poverty and health care this week, we can take a moment to appreciate the good news—government at the federal and state level has been increasingly successful at encouraging broadly prosperity We start today with health care. The Affordable Care Act remains controversial and even those of us who support it recognize that further reforms are needed to guarantee that quality health care remains affordable to everyone. There can be little doubt that the ACA is working in Pennsylvania and beyond. Between those who bought health insurance … Continue reading

Not necessarily corrupt

I don’t know any more than anyone else does of the FBI raids on Local 98 offices, the home of John J. Dougherty, and the office of CouncilmanBobby Henon. Which is to say I know nothing, just like everyone else. And that’s why I’ve objected to the rush to conclude that any of those raided must have done something wrong or that Local 98 is corrupt. And even more, I’ve objected to people saying that this is one more example of the corruption of Philadelphia politics or of Philadelphia labor unions that “everyone knows about,” as one reporter put it today. We don’t know any of that and saying it doesn’t make it so. Is there some corruption in Philadelphia city government? I have no doubt there is. But I’ve got no reason to think it’s worse in Philadelphia than in any other big cities not to mention in smaller … Continue reading

How Pennsylvania should raise revenues this year

Now that a general appropriation bill has been passed by the House and Senate, the General Assembly and the Governor are turning their attention to finding the revenue to pay for it. And they are running into difficulties both reaching agreement on tax revenues that are real, recurring, and fair. But the PBPC-Senator Haywood proposal to slightly raise taxes on income from wealth meets all three criteria. Continue reading

The Emperor’s new liquor stores

Originally published at Third and State, June 28, 2016 Act 39 flew through the House of Representatives and was signed by Governor Wolf too fast for us, and many others, to object. If we had a chance, we would have pointed out, as the IFO did soon after passage, that the estimates of new revenue from expanding wine and beer sales was way too high. And we would have added that much of the $106 million that the IFO expects will be generated by Act 39 is a one-time deal. Projections of additional sales of wine and beer at the new locations have to be weighed against the loss of sales at Wine and Spirit shops and beer distributors. And now, just weeks later, liquor privatizers are at again, loading up a bill to expand alcohol sales at the Democratic National Convention — as was done for the Republicans in … Continue reading

School funding: what one hand gives another one takes away

Originally posted at Third and State, June 29, 2016 As this dispiriting budget season ends, advocates for education could at least be grateful that the General Assembly seems poised to increase basic education funding by $200 million. This is far less than the $400 million necessary to put us on a path towards overcoming massive cuts and the most unequal education funding in the state. And it does little more than help school districts keep up with costs. But at a time when so many legislators are unwilling to find the revenues to invest in anything, it is better than nothing. Yet, at least as Philadelphia is concerned, it will all be for nothing if HB530 passes in its current form. That bill would undermine the ability of the School District of Philadelphia to control the growth of charter schools. Yet, under the present rules, every charter school enrollment disproportionately … Continue reading

Revenue options real and fake: a minimum wage increase and gaming

Originally posted at Third and State. Ten years ago was the last time Pennsylvania raised the minimum wage in advance of the federal government doing so. In those ten years, inflation has reduced the value of the minimum wage to a poverty wage. That’s why it’s time to raise it again, ultimately to $15 an hour, but immediately to $10.10. A raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 will help 1.2 million Pennsylvanians who work hard but make less than $10.10 an hour right now. Eighty-seven percent of those affected would be over age 20 (not teenagers).  Eighty-four percent of workers who will be affected by a minimum wage increase have a high school degree or more.  And 30% of affected workers have some college education. Raising the minimum wage won’t just help workers who receive it — every dollar in new wages will be spent generating economic activity that … Continue reading

White Male Rage and Trump’s Appeal

The appeal of Trump is no surprise to anyone who interacts with right wingers on Facebook. Every day I see the casual racism and sexism, the hatred of immigrants and foreigners, the endless repetition of right wing talking points that have no relationship to fact, the lack of any genuine concern for anyone who has struggled in life, the contempt for people who do have that concern, the dismissal of every government effort to make life better for those who struggle or, for that matter, for shared prosperity as a whole. Not to mention signs of Obama Derangement Syndrome and incipient cases of Hillary Derangement Syndrome. Most of this comes from rude and crude young men, who delight in unfunny insults, many of which have more than a tinge of sexual aggression. It’s not hard to see the male rage at the diminished status of young white men, and sexual … Continue reading

Some things are worse than a late budget

From the Third and State blog. As the June 30th deadline looms, we have little more than rumors about what kind of Pennsylvania budget might be enacted by the General Assembly for 2016-17. But while some may find optimism in talk of getting the budget done, the rumors we are hearing about the details of the budget in the works are extremely worrisome. We know that everyone on both sides of the aisle wants a budget done more or less on time. All members of the House and half the members of the Senate face reelection in November, and none of them want a long drawn-out budget and delays in funding schools and human services. Yet to reach agreement on a budget legislators have to find their way between their determination to get one done and the structural deficit that requires either some new revenues or difficult budget cuts. More … Continue reading