Friday, January 23, 2015

Manufacturing Still Matters in Pennsylvania

Industry Accounts for 9.8% of State Employment and $77.4 Billion in GDP

HARRISBURG (Jan. 23, 2015) – Manufacturing is still a large and vital part of the Pennsylvania economy despite misguided policies that have shrunk manufacturing employment and hurt its international competiveness, according to The Manufacturing Footprint and the Importance of U.S. Manufacturing Jobs, a new study from Robert E. Scott, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute.

Manufacturing directly employs over half a million Pennsylvania workers (563,500)—one in every 10 Pennsylvania jobs. All told (counting indirect supply-chain jobs—engineering services, marketing, etc.—and jobs created by the spending of manufacturing wages and profits), manufacturing accounts for 21.3 percent of employment in the United States—a total of 29.1 million jobs. Moreover, manufacturing jobs are high quality jobs. On average, manufacturing workers earned $2.52 more an hour than other workers in 2012 and 2013. According to the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, manufacturing wages average about $54,000 in Pennsylvania compared to less than $47,000 in the rest of the economy.

Manufacturing was responsible for 12% of Pennsylvania’s gross domestic product in 2013, or $77.4 billion.

“Manufacturing is not the dying or outdated sector of the economy it’s frequently made out to be,” said Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center. “On the contrary, manufacturing is still an important part of the state economy. It is a source of good jobs, and policymakers should work to shore up and expand our manufacturing sector in Pennsylvania and throughout the country.”

Nearly 20 years of policy failures have eroded U.S. manufacturing. From 1998-2013, Pennsylvania lost 314,000 manufacturing jobs. However, there are steps that can be taken to reverse manufacturing’s decline. In the paper, Scott identifies reducing currency manipulation, shrinking the U.S. trade deficit, and investing in infrastructure and research and development as key ways to rebuild and expand U.S. manufacturing.

An online interactive map allows members of the media and public to access data on the importance of manufacturing in their congressional district, and shows which industry sectors account for the most jobs. A glance at the map of Pennsylvania shows that rural areas through Pennsylvania’s “T” and York, Lancaster, the Lehigh Valley, Reading, and Erie are all areas with above-average shares of manufacturing jobs. The map also shows that all but a couple of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts have a manufacturing employment share near or above the national average. “Pennsylvania’s 13 Republican and five Democratic congressional representatives should be leading proponents of the manufacturing agenda in the United States Congress,” Herzenberg said.

Within Pennsylvania, strong bipartisan support also exists for manufacturing. Gov. Wolf’s “Made in PA” plan highlights the potential to boost innovation, capitalizing on Pennsylvania’s 130 higher education institutions, and the need for 21st century workforce initiatives, including apprenticeship. Former Gov. Corbett’s Team Pennsylvania Manufacturing Advisory Council mapped out an array of state workforce, innovation, and financial initiatives that would boost manufacturing.
“Manufacturing in Pennsylvania is ripe for bipartisan cooperation to create more jobs that pay,” Herzenberg said.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ACLU Says Law Silences Free Speech Rights of Prisoners

January 13, 2015 - Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service (PA)

PHOTO: Attorney Sara Rose with the Pennsylvania ACLU says a new state law tramples the free speech rights of prisoners and former prisoners. Photo courtesy S. Rose.
PHOTO: Attorney Sara Rose with the Pennsylvania ACLU says a new state law tramples the free speech rights of prisoners and former prisoners. Photo courtesy S. Rose.
PITTSBURGH - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit last week aimed at stopping enforcement of what it calls the "Silencing Act."

Passed by the legislature last year, the act allows prosecutors or victims of a personal injury crime to obtain an injunction to prohibit anyone convicted of such a crime from engaging in any conduct that would cause "mental anguish" to the victim or the victim's family members.

Sara Rose, a staff attorney for the ACLU, says it wasn't hard too see the act's immediate challenges to the First Amendment.

"The broad impact this law could have on the First Amendment rights is significant," she says. "Not only for offenders, but the people who work with them and the people who report on what happens inside of prisons."

The suit was filed on behalf of four former prisoners who are now community leaders, several journalists and media organizations, and a professor who works with prisoners.

Rose notes the impact goes beyond the groups the plaintiffs represent, because the act prevents anyone else from hearing offenders' statements and opinions.

"It violates not just the First Amendment rights of offenders, but also the First Amendment rights of those who wish to hear what they have to say," says Rose.

She adds the law already has gone into effect, but at this point, the ACLU believes no victims or prosecutors have sought an injunction against any offenders.

Rose says a potential financial penalty for prisoners or ex-prisoners who speak out also constrains their right to free speech.

"The law does contain a provision that would allow the court to charge the offender with costs and attorneys fees if the injunction is issued," she says.

The law was aimed at silencing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1982 and is serving a life sentence. He maintains he is innocent.

Monday, January 12, 2015

McCord: PA Will Benefit from Embracing Clean Power

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service (PA)

HARRISBURG, Pa. - While the Environmental Protection Agencies proposal to curb carbon pollution may be a difficult pill for coal supporters to swallow, one state leader is convinced the benefits outweigh the costs. About 40 percent of Pennsylvania's electricity comes from coal, and the Clean Power Plan calls for the state to reduce carbon emissions from coal power plants 32 percent by the year 2030. 

State Treasurer Rob McCord admits there are costs and concerns to be addressed, but says there's much to gain by embracing the goals of the plan. 

"We have families who depend on the income from working in the coal industry," he says. "But what we need to take a look at is that, in the last decade, we've generated hundreds of thousands of jobs now in green technology industries related to energy, as opposed to the 7,500 jobs in coal."

McCord says the plan would also reduce climate change, and help those who suffer from asthma and other lung conditions by improving air quality. In the last two years, the EPA has received more than eight million public comments supporting federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The rules are supposed to be finalized this summer, although GOP leaders in Congress say they'll try to prevent that.

The EPA has crafted the plan so states are allowed flexibility in how they meet their goals. Instead of waiting for federal regulators to decide how Pennsylvania will reduce carbon emissions, McCord says the State Legislature should adopt its own approach with wind and solar power, and other innovations. 

"Net metering is a big opportunity for families; generating green technology is a big opportunity for businesses," he says. "Incentives for conservation, we get a $3 return for every dollar spent on any kind of conservation. All of those things could be put into a customized bill."

McCord believes the savings that result from moving to a clean energy economy can create new opportunities for those families and businesses that have depended on coal for their livelihood. 

"Provide special incentives to transition away from a dependence on coal," says McCord. "We may want to invest in things like carbon sequestration, so that our coal reserves become more valuable as well as safer over time and we could have subsidies for the families that are losing jobs."

McCord says measures implemented to meet the EPA's goals could generate nearly $90 billion per year in savings for less than $9 billion per year in investment between now and 2030.

The Astonishing Cost of Ohio’s Lowest Performing School

Ohio’s most expensive failing school is ECOT, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. It has theoqesthfaduation rate of any school in the state, yet is never held accountable. It is financed by taking funds away from much more successful schools and districts.
“The Columbus Dispatch wrote recently of the academic failures of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) where the graduation rate of 38% is among the worst of any school in the state. Among Ohio’s 613 traditional public school districts , the lowest graduation rate is 60.9%. In addition, ECOT received all Fs and one D on the state’s most recent report card.
“Despite its abysmal performance record, ECOT continues to expand. More than 14,500 children are currently enrolled, making ECOT the equivalent of the 10th largest school district in the state. The Dispatch story noted that ECOT founder William Lager has donated more than $1 million to Ohio politicians in the last five years as his school has grown exponentially.
“Information at helps clarify the burden that local public schools must bear to cover the costs of students who chose to attend ECOT. Kids in all 88 Ohio counties are impacted. More than 95% of school districts – 586 of 613 districts – have students and money being transferred to ECOT. As one of the state’s 9 statewide e-schools and one of the country’s largest for-profit K-12 schools, ECOT’s poor performance is exacerbated by its extraordinary financial impact on children throughout the state.”