Dec 29, 2011

Sunoco, Shale shine light on need for new energy policy

Guest Column by Kevin Moody

A range of important issues are making Pennsylvania the center of a challenging debate over energy, starting in the east with last week’s announcement of the closure of the Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, and continuing to other regions where coal mining and natural gas drilling are making national and regional headlines. The Marcellus shale has put an even brighter spotlight on the commonwealth, and early production rates show a long-term and huge potential for natural gas from this geologic formation.

All of this positive and negative news points to a broader concern: Our nation’s energy policy sorely needs to move in a new direction. Reliable, affordable energy supplies are essential to a viable economy. New jobs are created when energy resources are explored, developed and made into products such as refined gasoline at facilities such as those in Marcus Hook and Linwood. Other benefits accrue to communities where this occurs, and elsewhere. Given the state of the nation, one would think that lawmakers, regulators and leaders in Washington would get it.

You do not have to look any further than the president’s speech about jobs and the economy in Scranton on Nov. 30 to see how hostile our leaders can be toward the development of our oil and gas reserves. Despite the fact that counties immediately west of Scranton are enjoying some of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation due to the surge in natural gas drilling activity, not a single mention of “oil” or “natural gas” passed the president’s lips during this speech.

In fact, in the past three years, the administration has done its best to block the development of new domestic oil and natural gas supplies. It is seeking to increase federal regulation of – that is, slow down or prevent — natural gas and oil development in domestic shale formations that are heavily laden with these resources.

There are similar issues in the attempts to keep the Marcus Hook refinery open through a buyer: A mature facility faces a moving target of environmental regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that seems determined to regulate these industries out of business, eliminating thousands of jobs in the process.

Now, to make energy matters worse, the president has delayed until after the 2012 elections a decision on allowing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline between Canada and the U.S., threatening the creation of about 20,000 jobs and preventing the flow of an additional 830,000 barrels of Canadian oil to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Although the president’s anti-oil and natural gas actions might sound well to his political base prior to the 2012 election, they put the nation’s long-term economic and energy health at risk.

These vital considerations, however, are not the focus of today’s energy policy debate. They have been supplanted by fear — a campaign of fear of air pollution, fear of water contamination, fear of health effects, and other often unsubstantiated worries that have been become part and parcel of the energy conversation.

The fears are fed by the scare tactics that have become a staple in political and public interest campaigns. Even the president has used fear as a means to avoid making tough decisions that could improve U.S. energy security.

Similarly, anti-drilling groups use fear mongering as a weapon against hydraulic fracturing here in Pennsylvania. They assert that hydraulic fracturing will poison our drinking water and harm human health. In one recent demonstration, protesters even donned cow costumes and claimed that the fracturing process would poison milk supplies at schools.

As long as unfounded and irrational fears overshadow the facts, elected officials will find it difficult to make sound energy policy decisions. They know that misled and frightened voters aren’t going to focus on the benefits of oil and natural gas production, even when it helps their unemployed neighbors find jobs. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, an estimated 214,000 Marcellus shale-related jobs have been created in the commonwealth since 2008, but even job growth pales in comparison to the irrational fear-of-fracking delirium.

Instead, elected officials will find it politically expedient to throw taxpayer money at so-called green energy companies even if the projects aren’t commercially viable.

There are times when fear is a positive force. It reminds us to buckle our seat belts, blow out candles to prevent fires, and teach our children to look both ways before crossing the street. But it should not be used as the basis for key policy decisions that could frame our economic and energy future.
Kevin J. Moody is vice president and general counsel for the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association.

Humor or Hubris?

Did you hear the one about the leftist Democrat who posed as a Republican senator?

Everyone's favorite RINO (Republican in Name Only), and retired Pennsylvania senator, Arlen Specter, is now a stand-up comic.

That's right: the most unfunny person to ever walk the halls of the United States Congress, is telling jokes at a Philadelphia nightclub. Click here to view the former politician performing his act Tuesday night.

Isn't this a little undignified for a senator, however? The career politician took the stage at Helium Comedy Club, and some his jokes were even R-rated. He also took potshots at current politicians, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and former U.S. President Bill Clinton (D).

"I called Clinton up on his 65th birthday and I said, 'Bill, congratulations on being 65. How do you feel?' He said, 'I feel like a teenager. The problem is, I can't find one,'" he quipped.

Specter, who earned the moniker "Snarlin' Arlen" for his angry disposition while in Congress, would seem an unlikely comedian. But, many comics, including Johnny Carson and Conan O'Brien, have had reputations for acting like jerks in "real life."

And, if Specter is able to make people laugh, why shouldn't he be on stage? At least he's not harming the nation anymore.

Don't get me wrong, It is nice to see Specter make a fool out of himself. But in the end hubris isn't funny.

Dec 28, 2011

Santa has misplaced Corbett’s wish list

Guest Column by Nathan Benefield

For Christmas this year, Gov. Tom Corbett hoped the Legislature would gift wrap three things he could tie a bow on: An education reform package that included school vouchers, state liquor store privatization and legislation addressing gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Unfortunately, the Legislature played more Grinch than giver, and the consequences of failure to act remain clear.

Inaction on school choice traps students in violent and failing schools, where they see a violent act every 17 minutes.

Pennsylvania loses jobs and tax revenue because residents spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying liquor in other states.

And more jobs lie in the balance as natural gas companies are hedging their bets for future investment, given the uncertainty of Pennsylvania’s regulation and tax schemes.

Willing to pass the buck to Santa Claus, the General Assembly heads home for the holiday break having delivered no gifts on any of these issues.

Both the Senate and House passed measures regulating gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. But the House version involves an optional local fee, with funds limited to, for the most part, uncompensated impacts of drilling. The Senate passed a statewide tax it euphemistically calls a fee that would fund a variety of programs unrelated to the impact of the natural gas extraction process. The final bill can be only one of these things.

Likewise, the Senate passed a school voucher bill the governor supports, but it isn’t yet clear if the House will rescue poor kids in violent, failing schools.

Meanwhile, bills addressing the fiscal crisis in the city of Harrisburg, flood damage across the state, and tightening child predator laws following the Penn State scandal all reached the governor’s desk.

These unexpected priorities, brought about by crises and national media attention, took time away from other agenda items.

With the census results in, lawmakers had to redraw both congressional and state legislative districts this year, or early January at the latest.

Both the redistricting commission and the legislative process for congressional mapmaking are inherently political, and every lawmaker seeking re-election (or higher office) has something at stake.

The political reality of the redistricting process ended up consuming all the oxygen in Harrisburg this fall and left other good policy opportunities gasping for air.

While 2011 has been declared the “Year of School Choice,” with 18 states creating or expanding school choice programs, Pennsylvania lawmakers punted to next year.

In the middle of the year, lawmakers claimed they had no time to pass school choice legislation with budget concerns, but would take it up in the fall. When nothing happened in the fall, it has become “wait until next year.”

In contrast, most of the victories in other states occurred early in 2011. Why?

Most states have limited legislative sessions, with deadlines for accomplishments.

Pennsylvania’s full-time Legislature and unlimited sessions tend to lead to severe cases of procrastination.

Encouraging the lack of action on issues such as school choice is the political reality that Pennsylvania’s two-party debate is not between Demo-crats and Republicans. It is actually between the Union Party and the Taxpayer Party.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, the Union Party enjoys a majority in both the House and Senate on key issues where union financial and political power is threatened.

If you want to know why school choice or other union-related bills have stalled, or why politicians in both parties are demanding new and higher taxes, look no further than lobbying by union bosses.

During the past election cycle, the political action committees of the main government and private sector labor unions gave more than $23 million to both Democrats and Republicans.

These heavy hitters include the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the Service Employees International Union, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which account for nearly 260,000 union members in the commonwealth.

The PSEA alone – after raising mandatory dues on teachers and school employees by

11 percent in early 2011 – spent $4.2 million lobbying over the past year.

The lesson is this: With the labor unions working as the taxpayers’ Grinch, the Legislature will fail to deliver not only this Christmas, but for many to come.

If Corbett really wants to put taxpayers, students and workers first, he must use his bully pulpit to overcome a Legislature that is reluctant to oppose the Union Party.

Only then will his priorities become more than just a wish list.

Nathan Benefield is director of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation

Pa. is reaping riches from gas

Guest Column by Rayola Dougher

Many jobs are created because the natural gas industry is investing a lot. In 2009, it spent $3.77 billion in Pennsylvania, according to a study by Natural Resource Economics.

The increase in tax revenue from shale gas development is also significant. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue says natural gas development generated more than $1 billion in revenue for the state between 2006 and 2010, including corporate taxes, sales taxes and personal income taxes. The Natural Resource Economics study says the state could receive another $3 billion in taxes by 2020. This potentially eases the tax burden for all taxpayers.

How the state and federal government tax and regulate the industry will influence the pace of future development and the extent of benefits Pennsylvanians eventually realize. The state has been a watchful regulator on the environment, and the environmental impacts of natural gas development are being carefully managed.

The industry has upgraded its own standards and is meeting with local officials and the public throughout the state to explain how the exploration and production process works and to address any concerns.

A lot of focus has been on the hydraulic fracturing technology used to free the gas from the shale formations. The process, which has been used safely for more than 60 years in a million wells, involves injecting fluids under high pressure into a development well to release oil and natural gas trapped in shale formations. The fluids are more than 99 percent water and sand with selected additives, which might include a friction reducer similar to canola oil, a chemical such as chlorine to kill bacteria, and a lubricant similar to those found in personal care products. In general, the fracturing process creates cracks or fissures in the rock formations thousands of feet below the surface. The sand helps to “prop open” the fissures to allow the natural gas or oil to move freely to the well.

Before a natural gas well can be drilled, state regulatory authorities approve the engineering design and site plan. The well is surrounded by steel casing and layers of cement, which are mandated by state regulations to protect underground sources of water. Used fracturing fluids are recovered and disposed of according to state and federal laws, and, today, more and more operations are relying on recycling and reuse of water.

Pennsylvania has the good fortune to be sitting on top of massive supplies of a versatile, clean-burning fuel. It has just begun to enjoy the enormous benefits provided by development of this exceptional resource. And, along with the large amounts of shale gas produced in other parts of the country, Pennsylvania’s production is also helping to strengthen our nation’s energy security.

Rayola Dougher is a Senior Economic Advisor at the American Petroleum Institute

Nov 27, 2011

Three Percent Cost of Living Raises Simply Outrageous

In case you missed it, last Thursday members of our state legislature, Governor Tom Corbett, and elected officials in the executive branch just milked taxpayers here in Pennsylvania once again by accepting another three percent annual cost of living increase.

In a state currently struggling with a high unemployment rate hovering around 8.1% and more economic uncertainty, it is hard to phantom just how state lawmakers in Harrisburg can justify another increase in their salaries. This latest cost of living increase now outs that base salary of a state lawmaker above 80, 000 dollars a year. A annual salary that is double the average income of working families in Pennsylvania.

Now some legislators point out each year when they receive their annual cost of living raise how they immediately write a check to their favorite charity that equals the amount of the raise. It is really funny to see how proud they are of giving our hard earned money to a charity of their choice like that will gain them some favor in all of this.

Maybe it is time for our elected leaders Harrisburg to do the right thing for a change. They need to repeal the 1995 law that created the automatic cost of living raises in the first place. It is time for average working families in Pennsylvania to demand this reform.

The bottom line here is do our lawmakers deserve a three percent pay raise every year when all we hear about is corruption and scandal in Harrisburg? The answer is a resounding no! The repeal will go a long way of restoring some faith in Harrisburg after all the scandals and corruption that have plagued the legislator over the past six years.


EDITORIAL: Repeal automatic cost-of-living raises for Pa. legislators (The Express-Times Opinion Staff)

The Rise of Newt Gingrich

Guest Column by Lowman S. Henry,

The race for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination has begun to resemble a skeet shooting contest. Skeet is a competitive sport wherein clay disks are flung into the air at various angles and speeds. Contestants armed with rifles shoot them out of the air. GOP presidential candidates this primary season should be easily able to identify with the clay pigeons.

Since its earliest days the narrative of the Republican Presidential race has been that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the establishment front-runner. His support has not risen to more than about 30% in the polls, thus the competition has been among the other candidates to become the "not Mitt," or the clear alternative to Romney.

Over the past few months various candidates have assumed that role, only to find their candidacy shattered into a thousand pieces by the media and opponents armed with rhetorical rifles. Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann took her turn in the spotlight after winning the Ames straw poll in Iowa. She melted under the scrutiny. Texas Governor Rick Perry seemed ready for the role, until he actually started talking. Then it was former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who appeared to have staying power until allegations of sexual harassment took the luster off his candidacy.

The reigning "not Mitt" is former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich's campaign had been on life supports a couple of months ago after most of his staff resigned, but in recent days he has surged into the lead in both national polls and those in Iowa. As Newt soars through the sky, skeet shooters are taking aim.

But, not all clay pigeons get hit and some survive the game intact. Newt Gingrich may be the one that gets away. Why? Largely because unlike Bachmann, Perry and Cain; Gingrich has been on the political scene for decades. His baggage, especially the personal foibles, is already well known by the media and by the electorate. Details of his complex web of business activities are sure to emerge, but are unlikely to dent his soaring popularity.

Gingrich's policy positions are also well known. He has written and spoken more extensively than all of the other candidates and has been a font of policy ideas, many of them innovative and all well-reasoned. Since the beginning of the race, even when his candidacy was imploding, the former speaker has been generally acknowledged as the smartest man in the field with many viewing him as the candidate likely to make the best president, but not the most electable nominee.

The endless string of presidential debates, the source of mortal blows to Perry's candidacy; have propelled Gingrich to new prominence. While the other candidates engage in petty bickering, sniping at each other, Gingrich has played the role of elder statesman preferring instead to be critical of the Obama Administration's policies. Primary voters tend to be more engaged than the electorate at large and appear to be reacting positively to Gingrich's issue-based approach.

The challenge now for the Gingrich campaign is to become organized enough to take advantage of his surge in the polls. The campaign had lagged in fundraising, although that is picking up as he becomes more established in the top tier of candidates. More than $4 million has flowed into his coffers over the past six weeks. Even some of the staffers who abandoned him when Perry was the flavor of the day have returned.

Given that at any point in time over 70% of Republicans have preferred some else to Romney, it is possible early primary victories by Gingrich could have a wave effect with momentum propelling him forward even while he lacks in money and paid staff. Such a scenario would negate Romney's early advantages and render him an also ran.

For now, Romney remains the clear front-runner in terms of money and organization, but his tightly scripted low-risk campaign has yet to attract in any big numbers the supporters of other candidates who have surged and ebbed. The bulk of GOP primary voters still remains in search of a "not Mitt" and it is quite possible Newt Gingrich may be the last man standing.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

Nov 6, 2011

Where in the world is PennPatriot?

Dear PennPatriot Blog visitors,

I'm sure if you visit this blog on a regular basis you must be wondering by now, what the heck happened to PennPatriot, one of Pennsylvania's leading conservative bloggers? Yes, I haven't posted on or updated this blog for about a month now, which truly is uncharacteristic of me considering I have been blogging since 2004. For this lack of attention recently, I have to truly apologize to our reader's and explain.

No, I did not take time off from blogging to join the Wall Street protestors ;) That rumor has been going around.

The truth is, I've decided to take a break from blogging on a day to day basis. Sometimes you just need to do this as a blogger. Updating a website isn't as easy as people think. Contrary to popular belief, most bloggers are not lazy bums who live in the basement of there parents house. We have our day jobs, families, and so on just like everyone else. We just choose to participate in the political process in a unique and innovative way. Blogging truly does takes up a lot of your time and energy. Sometimes taking a break and getting away from the "day-to-day" news cycle clears your head and gives you a new perspective.

Also during this past month I have also started a new job. Adjusting to a new schedule and all the stress that comes with a new job has taken up a lot of my focus recently. But, I have to say that I am truly blessed to finally find a job after a year and a half of looking in this economy. Maybe the economy is finally getting moving again.

As for blogging, I just wanted to let everyone know that I am back. Yes, I just can't help myself. Blogging is my addiction. So look forward to a re-energized PennPatriot as we head into the 2012 elections.

Yours truly,

Randy Potter
PennPatriot Blog

Oct 8, 2011

Urban Meyer to replace legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno

The Reading Eagle is reporting that Penn State officials have been in contact with former Florida coach Urban Meyer regarding becoming the next head football coach at Penn State. Rumors about Meyer as Penn State's next coach have been flying around message boards for months now. The article states that a source close to the Meyer's family has confirmed that Penn State actually contacted Meyer to gauge his interest level in the Penn State coaching job at this point.
Jeff Rapp of SportsRappUp, who has covered Ohio State sports for several years, was told by an unnamed source who is a "close friend of Meyer" that Penn State officials contacted Meyer Sept. 25 and "expressed major interest in pursuing him as head coach" should Hall of Famer Joe Paterno decide to retire.
In June at an Altoona Curve game, I discussed this same scenario with some individuals who have interacted with Myer while golfing in Florida. They seem to believe that talks between Penn State officials and Meyer have been going on informally since May. This is quite striking since the Reading Eagle article is confirming that Penn State President Graham Spanier and Athletic Director Tim Curley met with Meyer in the summer after Meyer interviewed Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti for ESPN on July 21st.

As a Penn State fan, this is very exciting news. All indications from the Meyer camp suggest he is definitely interested in accepting the job. I personally think the Penn State job be a perfect fit for Meyer who got tired of the recruiting dramas at Florida. Penn State's focus on honor and tradition would be perfect for Meyer. The bottom line is that at Penn State the program is bigger than the players unlike Florida where Meyer's top 09 recruiting class basically split the team and destroyed Florida's 2010 season.

All of this leads me to believe that Penn State coach Joe Paterno is finally going to retire after this season. Spanier and Curley will not pass up an opportunity to sign Meyer even if JoePA deosn't want to retire at the end of this season. Paterno is friends with Meyer and would understand how important it is for Penn State to land a prominent coach to resurrect the program. Paterno knows that Meyer will continue to run the program with integrity.

Are we seeing the end of the Paterno era here at Penn State? I think so but I am not sad about it. With Meyer as the next coach Nittany Nation can be assured that the program will be in good hands after Joe is gone.

Oct 7, 2011

States Can Pick Method of Allocating Electoral Votes

Guest Column by Scott Paterno

Article II, section 1 of the Constitution is the very model of legislative clarity. It reads:
"The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice-President chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

"Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector."
That is all the direction the constitution provides. And in plainest terms, it leaves the decision of how to select those electors up to the individual states. Most states have a winner-take-all format, meaning the winner of the statewide vote captures every electoral vote while two states apportion them according to the vote winner in each congressional district.

Both formats are constitutional and fair, as BOTH parties must acknowledge. After all, there was no outcry from the GOP when they captured votes in Maine in the past, and the current resident of the White House targeted a single vote in Nebraska — and won it — without complaint.

This context is important to consider when evaluating proposed changes to how Pennsylvania awards its Electoral College votes: the proposed changed method has been in use and accepted by both parties for generations.

This is not to say its uncontroversial, as there are obviously many arguments both for and against the proposal, ranging the whole spectrum of political ideology with varying degrees of political merit.

That said, any and all discussion should start only after we put one silly argument to bed: there is nothing unethical, unconstitutional or sinister in changing from a winner take all state to one that apportions votes based on congressional district. NOTHING.

That is the essential starting point — no matter the reason why you wish to oppose any change, it is INARGUABLE that this is fully within the contemplated and assigned powers delegated to the states by the constitution and by the people of Pennsylvania through their elected officials.

What this is, then, is very simple: a political and policy decision assigned to the individual States by the constitution. The process is fully within the power of the Commonwealth to both change and if the electorate so demands, change back.

That is not unconstitutional -- its democracy.

So, against that backdrop, what exactly will the proposed changes mean? It's actually rather simple.

Using the vote totals from 2008, President Obama would likely win 9 congressional district and be awarded the 2 senate seats due to his overall win for a total of 11 electoral college votes. The GOP would likely win 9 congressional districts as well, making the split 11-9, or 55% to 45%.

In 2008, Obama captured 54% of the vote. Under the new system he would get 55% of the Electoral College votes. It's very hard to see that as inequitable.

On the contrary, there is a very good argument that the proportion is more equitable than the current method. Taken on its face as a policy and ignoring the purely political implications, the proportional assignment of Electoral College votes is fair to all involved — candidates and voters alike.

It is therefore fair to conclude that on a policy basis both the current system and the proposed changes are inarguably constitutional while one is significantly more representative of the will of the electorate.

That means any argument against (and, admittedly, very many for) the change is based on politics. There isn't space or time to raise them all, but a few of the most prevalent merit discussion.

There is first and foremost the argument that the change at this stage in a Presidential contest is being undertaken to effect this election specifically and is ignoring long-term considerations. There is no denying that, as a Republican, I was immediately drawn to the opportunity to effectuate a 20-vote swing in 2012. It is the equivalent of picking up Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island overnight — something either party would love to do.

However, the converse is also true; it is as easy to argue that the continual use of a "winner-take-all" format is just perpetuating a political decision to "disenfranchise" 45-48% of the electorate. EITHER side of this argument is political — and therefore neither supports or defeats either position. Continued discussion of this aspect is counterproductive, as your view will depend on where you "sit" and most views in this regard are settled along presidential camps.

Another extremely prevalent argument, this from Republican opponents to the change, is that it makes purple congressional seats more vulnerable. I understand this argument — Presidential campaigns will spend their money where they can win; if a collar county district is trending hard to the Democrats, there will be no GOP money supporting the down ticket races. On the flip side there will be similar behaviors out of the Democrats in seats trending hard to the GOP in Western PA.

These are legitimate political concerns for the members in those districts (many of whom I consider friends) and for the Parties seeking to elect congressmen — but they are simply not policy objections. Therefore they are not relevant to the discussion whether the current or changed system best reflects the will of the people.

That is, ultimately, the problem with most of the arguments against changing the system: there are political arguments, not policy ones.

And, in the end, shouldn't this be based on policy? On one hand we have a system where 50.1% can send 100% of the states' votes to Washington to vote for President on our behalf; on the other we have a system that in most years will send a proportion that reflects the electorate's mind.

On that basis, the decision to change seems pretty clear — once you filter out the cloud of party politics.

I am Scott Paterno, and that is the Uncomfortable Truth.

Oct 6, 2011

Even if we pay more in taxes, will government use money wisely?

Guest Column by Craig Keefauver

There has been plenty of debate lately concerning tax rates and the need for people (especially those deemed wealthy) to pay more in federal taxes. Many times the debate is framed in such a way as the following: Would you agree to pay higher taxes if it meant that we could reduce the federal deficit? Or would you agree to pay higher taxes if it would help make our economy grow stronger and get people back to work? I’m convinced that, given these choices, most taxpayers would answer that they’d be willing to sacrifice.

My problem with the premise is that it is fundamentally flawed. I have seen too much foolish spending, waste, corruption and cronyism to believe that those who represent us would use the taxpayers’ monies so wisely as to reduce the deficit or put people back to work.

But first, let’s get one thing straight: The government takes taxes out of my paycheck without me even getting a whiff of it. In my mind, rather than paying taxes, a more accurate description is that the government forcibly takes what it demands. You can’t pay something to the government that you never received in the first place.

Sometimes I don’t consider myself a taxpayer so much as someone whose earnings are confiscated each month. Once it’s taken, I have no control over it, no matter how hard I worked to earn it. We, the taxpayers, must always remember that, without income-generating citizens, there would be no government.

As a taxpayer, take pride in that and accept your responsibility that we must change the current dynamic. In order for any entity to expect someone to invest more in it, that entity must prove that it’s being wise stewards with what it has received. In my opinion, our government has largely been deficient in this area. I no longer have confidence that extra taxes the government confiscates will be used wisely.

The evidence is staggering. The Obama stimulus included $3.4 million to build a turtle tunnel in Florida and $54 million to fund a NAPA Valley wine train tourist attraction. Starting in the Clinton administration, and continuing through Bush’s and Obama’s terms, our State Department has sent $26 million to rebuild churches, synagogues and mosques worldwide.

I have nothing against churches, synagogues or mosques around the world, but these types of projects should be funded privately, rather than by the taxpayers. These are a just a few examples of our money being wasted. There are many, many more.

If you hired an investment firm and found that it was regularly wasting your money, you’d never give it more. We’d all be fools to entrust one more nickel under the present circumstances. To the government, I say, show that you can be a good steward, then ask for more.

Until our leaders prove good stewardship, let the Warren Buffetts of the world throw more of their own money down the drain. How dare they challenge others to do the same. I guarantee that if any of Mr. Buffett’s employees performed as poorly as our government has, he would not only refuse to pay that person more, he would probably fire them on the spot.

It’s time for reasoned and serious stewards to take control of the purse strings. Our government owes that much to those of us who fund the government. Perhaps a solution is for an independent panel of business professionals be appointed to oversee all spending. There are clearly billions of dollars that are flushed down the tubes, and it must end.

If you’re not confident that the current bunch of lawmakers has our best interests at the core of their being, it’s our duty to elect those who do.

Another President Obama Press Conference. Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah

Oh my God! I've woken up to another President Obama press conference on jobs. All I hear is blah, blah, blah, blah. The only other guy in history that likes fame as much as Obama has to be Napoleon.

As for the President's new jobs bill, I thought infrastructure jobs were part of the first failed stimulus wasn't it? I thought they were "shovel ready" Mr. President. President

The American people need to realize that President Obama and his administration have no clue how to turn our economy around. There is no doubt that the American people know that it is time for another change in the White House! When are democrats going to stop defending this guy?

Oct 5, 2011

A tribute to Apple's Steve Jobs

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple's CEO and Co-Founder Steve Jobs has died of cancer at 56. The family is reporting that Steve died peacefully today with his family. The CEO of Apple impacted so many lives and his spirit will live on in the technology that he created. Steve you changed the world! America needs more innovators like you. God bless Steve Jobs and his family.

Oct 2, 2011

Casey Odds on for 2012

Guest Column by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L. Young

There are two distinct points of view on the subject.

One asserts that he is in trouble in 2012, running for re-election to the U.S. Senate in a state now hostile to Obama and seemingly safely Republican. In a bad year for incumbents and probably a bad year for Democrats, Pennsylvania’s senior senator, so the notion goes, is fated to become an ex-senator, the victim of an angry electorate, a dismal economy, and a resurgent Republican Party.

The other very different view asserts that his re-election chances look good to excellent in a state in which he, and his father before him, almost always found a way to win despite the odds or obstacles. This version predicts an easy victory for him in a state that historically re-elects Senate incumbents and loves to split its ticket in national elections.

The aforementioned “he” in these wildly disparate scenarios is, of course, Senator Bob Casey, now running full tilt for a second term to the U.S Senate. First elected in 2006 by winning almost 59% of the vote against then-incumbent Rick Santorum, Casey became the first Pennsylvania Democrat elected to a full term in the Senate in more than forty years.

Those arguing that Casey is in trouble make several strong points. He is running for re-election in a state where Obama's job performance is lower than the national average. Moreover, Casey had been a strong Obama supporter, one of his early Pennsylvania supporters, and in fact a “basketball buddy.”

Worse, perhaps, Casey in Washington has mostly supported the president’s agenda, including the $787 billion stimulus package, the national health care law, and financial regulation of Wall Street. Inevitably, Casey will carry the burden of both Obama and his programs into the general election, while his opponents will try to paint him as an Obama stooge, part and party to the current national malaise.

So the main argument against Casey’s re-election prospects is spelled O-b-a-m-a. The senator’s personal support of a beleaguered president as well as his early support of Obama’s unpopular programs may doom Casey’s chances.

But don’t bet on it!

More likely, the Pennsylvania GOP will need more than Obama’s unpopularity to defeat Casey in 2012. For starters, they might find someone to run against him.

So far there is no formidable opponent willing to take him on. Although as many as twelve potential opponents have signaled some interest in the race, not one of them is a current office holder or a person with a state wide persona. In short, the “big leaguers” so far are sitting this one out.

Nor is there any consensus among Republicans who the eventual challenger should be. A number of prominent Republicans, including heavyweights Congressman Charlie Dent and state Senator Jake Corman, have already turned down the race.

It’s likely that Casey’s ultimate opponent will be relatively unknown, with little organization and less political experience. In early polls, Casey is beating prospective opponents by double-digit margins.

But even if Republicans find a viable challenger, Casey won’t remain a sitting duck for the inevitable attacks on Obama and his policies. Already he has begun to move away from the president on key foreign and domestic policy issues. In the months ahead, Casey will continue to demonstrate measured independence from the unpopular Obama.

Thematically, Casey will stress his independence, evoking an image as someone who fights for the state’s vital trade interests. Casey has long been concerned about America’s free trade policies versus what he perceives as the unfair trading practices of other nations. In Congress, he has moved to establish his fair trade credentials, championing Senate adoption of an amendment to extend job training for workers hit by unfair trade practice from abroad.

Strategically, Casey will tack further center as the campaign unfolds. He will continue to pursue constituency-centered policies that demonstrate he is on top of the needs of the state—as, for example, he did with his strong support of milk producers after the market collapsed for them. And he will continue a strong personal presence in the state, as exhibited by his virtual omnipresence during recent flooding.

Equally auspicious for Casey’s re-election chances are his skills on the stump. Casey is a much better campaigner than widely believed. Long in the electoral trenches, his experience in statewide campaigns goes back to his father’s earlier gubernatorial races. Politically shrewd, if frequently underestimated, few other politicians understand state voters as well as he does.

Casey’s patented low-key style also works well in Pennsylvania. Personally disarming, he neither incurs the wrath of social conservatives nor provokes controversy. He speaks softly and rarely in partisan terms. While he inspires passion in few, he invokes visceral dislike in almost none.

Is Casey then unbeatable in 2012? It might seem so, but there are no sure things in American politics today. A worsening economy, a strong opponent, or a Casey collapse all could change the trajectory of Pennsylvania’s 2012 Senate contest, transforming a probable rout into a possible race.

Nevertheless, the odds strongly favor Casey. Over the next few months we’ll discover whether the voters do, too.

Politically Uncorrected™ is published twice monthly, and previous columns can be viewed at

Sep 27, 2011

Pennsylvania's Public Universities Have Indigestion

Guest Column by Charles Mitchell

If you ask them, they'll say they're hurting because budget – slashing Gov. Tom Corbett just forced something nasty down their throats – namely cuts to the subsidies they receive from Keystone State taxpayers. Their problem, many of them say, is not enough money, and the only answer is raising tuition on students and parents.

That's hooey. Yes, these institutions are sick, but it's because for years, they have been gorging themselves on the educational equivalent of junk food. The fault is their own, not the governor's and certainly not the taxpayers'.

Does that sound like a quack's diagnosis? It isn't, and a new study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, an independent non-profit in Washington, D.C., shows why.

This study asks a simple question about college students: What will they learn? Specifically, it looks at the required courses they must pass in order to graduate. These requirements matter because they show what our universities believe is most important – so important that if you don't have it, you can't get your diploma – and what they are making sure their graduates have to offer employers.

The answer, when it comes to Pennsylvania's public universities, is deeply disappointing. Of the 21 colleges in the study, two thirds – including Penn State – receive D's or F's and not a single one gets an A. Only two require a solid course in American history or government. None of them make certain they introduce their students to economics. And 15 don't even require college – level math. See for yourself at

Make no mistake, though: It's not that these universities simply tell students that good educational "nutrition" doesn't matter and they can "eat" whatever they want. Instead, many of them talk a good game but let students gorge on the college-classroom equivalent of Twinkies. For example, at Temple University – which hiked tuition by ten percent – students can take "Sport & Leisure in American Society" to learn about their country and a course offering "fresh perspectives, questions, and ideas on current issues from Google searches to the randomness of the iPod shuffle" to strengthen their math skills.

What does this have to do with budget cuts and tuition hikes? A whole lot.

Just like in the grocery store, eating healthy isn't just better for you than gorging on junk – it's cheaper, too. A big survey course on the basics costs less than a whole bunch of smaller classes on niche topics. Pennsylvania's public universities could give taxpayers more bang for their buck by doing more of the former and less of the latter.

Doing this would even lessen the harm done to students and parents by their recent tuition increases. While most people think college is a four – year endeavor, it isn't for most students – here in Pennsylvania, more than half of students get their degree in four years at only two of our public universities. And educational experts nationally agree that this is partly due to required courses not being available when students need them. If the requirements made more sense, students could actually learn more in less time – and pay less tuition bills.

The message of last November's election to our current class of politicians was crystal clear: Stop the overspending. Gov. Corbett and other leaders in Harrisburg have begun to do just that. It's unfortunate that so many college administrators have indigestion over taxpayers' relief – but choice they've made to pig out on educational junk food is no one's fault but their own. Now, the prescription for Pennsylvania's public universities is this: less bellyaching, more basics.

Charles F. Mitchell is vice president & COO of the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. (

Sep 26, 2011

The case for electoral reform in Pa.

Guest Column by Senator Dominic Pileggi

Pennsylvania will have 20 electoral votes in the 2012 presidential election, one for each of the 18 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the two U.S. Senators who represent our state in Washington, D.C.

Under current law, Pennsylvania would award all of these electoral votes for president to the winner of the statewide vote. This winner-takes-all approach does not allow the Electoral College vote to accurately reflect the popular vote of the citizens in our state. The U.S. Constitution leaves the method of allocating electoral votes up to each state to decide.

My proposal to more fairly allocate Pennsylvania’s votes in the Electoral College is simple: Two presidential electors would be chosen based on the statewide vote. The other 18 would be chosen based on the vote for president in each congressional district.

This proposal will better align Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes with the result of the popular vote in our state, empowering individual voters. Under the current scheme, far too many Pennsylvanians believe their vote for president is meaningless.

Changing to a district-based allocation method will increase the significance of each citizen’s vote because besides helping determine which presidential candidate is awarded the two statewide electoral votes, each voter will participate in choosing the winner in his or her congressional district.

Since I unveiled this proposal this month, it has generated much discussion. I welcome commentary for and against the idea, because a vigorous debate on important issues such as the Electoral College is essential to a healthy democracy. In order to continue this conversation, I asked the Senate’s State Government Committee to hold a public hearing, which is scheduled for Oct. 4.

However, many commentators, including several paid political consultants, have refused to engage in a debate on the merits. Instead, they have resorted to denigrating the motives of those who support this idea. The American Thinker has correctly labeled this approach “partisan fear-mongering disguised as political science.”

I have heard from Democrats who believe this will cost their candidate for president electoral votes in 2012. I have heard precisely the same argument — virtually word for word — from some Republicans. Hearing identical criticism from both ends of the political spectrum is proof of my position that this proposal would not favor either political party.

Other political operatives have claimed that Pennsylvania, a state with 12.7 million residents, will somehow be ignored by presidential campaigns if this proposal is adopted. This defies logic. Pennsylvania will be critical to choosing the president under any system.

However, every one of those arguments misses the most important point: Changing the method of selecting electors in Pennsylvania will give every voter in Pennsylvania a stronger voice in presidential elections. The focus should not be on how any political party or candidate might or might not be affected. It should not be on abstract concepts such as Pennsylvania’s “clout.”

We should focus on how we can strengthen the role of individual voters in determining who will be our president. Enacting a district-based system for choosing presidential electors is an easy-to-understand, common-sense way to achieve that objective.

Many have suggested that my plan would have merit if it is adopted nationwide. Of course, the governor and General Assembly can only make the change here in the commonwealth.

It might be that there is a better way to align electoral votes with the popular vote in our state. I am open to that possibility, and I look forward to continuing this discussion.

Senator Pileggi is the majority leader of the Pennsylvania Senate.

Debt reduction vs. government assistance

Guest Column by Rep. Tom Marino

I have spent the last few weeks observing the heart-breaking devastation that two violent storms have wrought on the 10th Congressional District, other areas of Pennsylvania, and across America. People are hurting and there is no question that the federal government must help them get started on the road to recovery.

I have also spent the last eight months in Washington, D.C., as one of the more vocal advocates of deep federal spending cuts.

Some say these two paths shall never cross.

I strongly disagree.

This matter is not an ideological conflict.

Protecting the lives and property of Americans is not a conservative or liberal issue. It is not a Republican vs. Democrat debate.

It is a vital role of the government - and it is a message that often gets muddled when we start talking about federal resources and spending cuts.

We should not even be having this discussion. However, we are unfortunately facing a national debt of nearly $15 trillion and the federal government continues to spend more money than it takes in.

If we take the path lined with federal spending cuts, elimination of unnecessary programs and follow a disciplined regimen of debt elimination and deficit reduction, we can and will avoid these dire circumstances in the future.

Restoring our nation's fiscal stability will only ensure that the government has the resources to carry out its real responsibilities: national security; protecting our borders, our citizens and their property; and maintaining our infrastructure. And, that means federal assistance when a natural disaster strikes.

This is one of the roles of government.

It is one of the reasons that I am committed to making sure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other governmental organizations have the resources to allow individuals, businesses and local governments to bounce back from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

Yet, I will not waiver in my efforts to cut federal spending, balance the budget, downsize Washington, and keep taxes low.

Some of my colleagues believe that any increase in federal assistance to storm victims must be matched with additional cuts in government spending.

I agree wholeheartedly - nevertheless, our first responsibility is getting our citizens back in their homes or in safe, clean, temporary housing if that is what it takes.

We must help farmers clean up their land and do what we can so that small business owners can reopen their doors, and call their employees back to work.

Then, and only then, do we go back to the drawing table and find the cuts needed to offset the increase in disaster assistance funding.

With all of the waste and duplicative programs our federal government is funding, it should not be that difficult.

As vice chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, I can tell you of one glaring example. There are 17 separate federal entities that administer grants for emergency preparedness with budgets totaling $34 billion. I am convinced that by consolidating some of those responsibilities we will save hundreds of millions of tax dollars.

That is only one example of the thousands of areas where we can save resources - in manpower, office space, related office expenses, and time.

Just think. If we were not facing a $14.6 trillion national debt and a record-high national deficit, we would not even be having this debate.

It will take years to straighten out the economic mess that decades of presidents and Legislatures have brought on through reckless spending and irresponsible fiscal practices.

There are many instances where taxpayer dollars are wasted - on programs that do not fall into the realm of governmental responsibility.

This is at the heart of what we are trying to do in Washington.

The question of the U.S. government's role and financial responsibility at home and abroad will likely drive the debate in Washington in the coming months and years.

I welcome it because I believe the outcome will determine how prepared and equipped we are to handle any tragedy that affects our people, property and our nation in the years to come.

At this moment, we have a much more pressing issue.

We must do whatever it takes to help our families, friends, and neighbors recover from this disaster.

If the federal government can bail out the banks, the auto industry, and spend almost a trillion dollars on a stimulus program with taxpayer money, then the government should be able to return to the taxpayers some of their hard-earned dollars to help with a hand up during these difficult times.

Congressman Tom Marino is the U.S. Rep. from Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District.

Sep 24, 2011

Pennsylvania spent $376 million in erroneous unemployment payments last year

Guest Column by Eric Boehm

Labor Department reports more than$1B in overpayments since July 2008.

HARRISBURG — Times are tough for Pennsylvania’s 516,000 unemployed workers, but some of those workers are getting by with a little extra help from the state.

Of the nearly $3.33 billion in unemployment compensation the state paid out between July 2010 and June 2011, an estimated $376 million, or 11 percent, were erroneous payments, according to data released this month by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Since July 2008, the state has paid out more than $1 billion, or about 10 percent, in over payments as a result of fraud or clerical mistakes.

The report covers only the 26 weeks of state-level unemployment compensation payments, not the additional levels of federal unemployment compensation that provides benefits for up to 99 weeks.

“Any overpayment is unfortunate and, obviously, we are working to detect and recover improper payments,” said Sean Yeakle, press secretary for the state Department of Labor and Industry. “We have investigators who look into it, and we have partnered with other states to find solutions.”

Yeakle said overpayments can occur for various reasons, including recipients who continue to collect benefits after returning to work, clerical errors on the part of employers or the department, and improper reporting of firings.

Nationally, more than $19 billion in state unemployment benefits were paid in error during the past three years, according to the data. That’s more than 10 percent of all payments made during that period.

Only California and Indiana had higher totals of benefits paid in error last year than Pennsylvania. Indiana paid out an estimated $567 million in overpayments, more than 59 percent of all payments, while California’s $455 million in overpayments accounted for less than 6 percent of the state’s total.

But the U.S. Department of Labor warns against making state-by-state comparisons, as every state has unique eligibility requirements and verification processes for unemployment payments.

Unemployment payments are important to workers who have lost their jobs, said John Casella, administrator of the state’s CareerLink program in Monroe County, which helps match unemployed workers with new jobs. The county’s unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, one of the highest in the state.

“For those people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, they rely heavily on the support from unemployment compensation while they are making their job search,” Casella said.

While 10 percent of all payments are made in error, less than 5 percent are the result of fraud, according to the U.S. Department of Labor estimates.

When fraudulent payments are made, the state will investigate and prosecute the offenders, Yeakle said. For non-fraudulent payments, a record of the payment is made and future payments will be withheld from that recipient until he qualifies for more than the amount of the overpayment, he said.

Pennsylvania’s $376 million in overpayments is burdening an exhausted system. The state’s unemployment compensation fund was drained when joblessness climbed during the recent economic downturn, forcing the state to borrow more than $3 billion from the federal government to cover payments. The interest on that loan is being paid off in the form of higher taxes on employers and employees, but the General Assembly has yet to address a plan to repay the actual debt.

While the U.S. Department of Labor report is only an estimate, state Sen. John Gordner, R-Columbia, said, “there is no doubt in my mind that fraud goes on in the system.”

Gordner, chairman of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, said the unemployment debt would be a crucial issue on the fall legislative agenda, and any package dealing with the debt would include an anti-fraud provision.

State Rep. Ron Miller, R-York, chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee, said he wants to invite members of the administration to come before the committee to address the problems with the system.

“The bottom line is that we need to do more to ensure the integrity of the system, but I don’t see a magic wand answer to this right now,” Miller said.

Democrats contacted for this story did not return calls.

Yeakle said the department will be announcing some new measures to cut down on fraudulent payments within the next few weeks, but declined to give details.

At the same time, the federal government plans to help states reduce payments made in error. Last week, the federal Department of Labor announced $191 million in grants to 40 states to improve unemployment insurance program integrity with the goal of reducing improper payment rates.

Pennsylvania is receiving $1.25 million from the initiative.

“The Unemployment Insurance system is a unique partnership between the federal government and the states,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in a statement. “States bear the responsibility of operating an efficient and effective benefits program, but as partners, the federal government must be able to hold them accountable for doing so.”

Sep 23, 2011

Some thoughts on last night's GOP presidential debate

Last night, I spent most of my time watching and analyzing the GOP Fox News/Google presidential debate. As for the debate itself, I have to send tons of kudos to Fox News and Google. This debate was hands down the most lively of the debates so far. I loved how Google and Fox integrated social networking and You Tube video questions into the debate. The You Tube questions definitely added higher level of intensity to the debate. I also think the Fox moderators do the best job of managing these debates. Bret Baier is hands down the best debate M.C.

First let me review the performance of the so called two front runners. Basically the debate was a victory for Romney and a disaster for Perry.

While Governor Perry is coming across as a bit awkward in these debates, Governor Romney is demonstrating his mastery. Last night Romney put in another solid performance in the Florida debate. But Romney is still too Al Gore like for my taste. And I just can't get over his Romneycare debacle as Governor of Massachusetts. Regardless of whether it was passed at a state level or not a true limited government, principled conservative would have never have supported Romney's health care program.

As for Rick Perry, he didn't do so well, nevertheless he remains the anti-Romney. Perry seemed confused and annoyed during the debate. His answers were far from crisp and even when he was on the attack he fumbled. Perry's accusation that Romney's flip flops on the issues during part of the debate was awful. I also think Santorum's criticisms of Perry on immigration and Michelle Bachman's continued attacks on Perry regarding the HPV vaccine mandate both continue to highlight why conservatives should be concerned with Perry's candidacy. Again I go back to the HPV mandate which would not have been ordered by a principled conservative who believes in limited government.

Newt Gingrich, as usual, dazzled everybody with his brilliance. Herman Cain again turned on the folksy, common sense charm that really connects with Republicans nowadays. Ron Paul's many ardent supporters rang up his numbers in the instant polls. And, Gary Johnson had the best line.

As for me, after watching all of the debates thus far my top tier of candidates are as follows:

1. Newt Gingrich- The only candidate running that has experience actually cutting government waste and passing a balance budget. Something our country desperately needs right now. Gingrich also is the most qualified of all the candidates. He wins every debate hands down and last night was no different.

2. Michele Bachman- She has consistently fought for limited government during her time in the U.S. House of Representatives. She voted no on TARP, the failed stimulus, ObamaCare, and the kept her word and did not vote for the debt ceiling increase. The thing I like about Bachman is she just didn't vote no she voiced her opposition and has become a leader in the Tea Party movement. There is no doubt when you compare her record to the other candidates that she is the one more likely to decrease the size and scope of federal government, restore more power to the states, and push for a total repeal of Obamacare.

3. Rick Santorum- Is virtually being ignored by the media, but has had stellar performances during all the debates. His dispute with Ron Paul over Iran's nuclear weapons program basically switched any voter who thought Paul was a serious candidate. Santorum has been the most aggressive candidate scrutinizing Romney, Bachman, and Perry's records. Santorum slammed Perry's stance on immigration last night and it definitely won him some points. Santorum was a conservative leader during his time in the Senate and except for his support for the medicare prescription drug program was rated the most conservative senator according to his votes.

So there are my top three candidates that I'm currently keeping my eye on. Again if you are a true conservative please continue to research Romney and Perry's records. What you will find will be surprising no doubt. I'm still not overly enthusiastic about these candidates but they got my attention at this point.

Sep 19, 2011

Pileggi's Electoral College Idea: A Really Bad Idea

By G. Terry Madonna & Michael L. Young,

We pose a hypothetical question. Suppose a certain state, long a political power in national politics, was beginning to lose some of its clout, as its population growth slowed. Once the second largest state in terms of electoral votes, it had recently fallen to fifth place with only 20 electoral votes, well behind electoral behemoths like California (55 votes), Texas (38 votes) and New York (29 votes).

Let’s further suppose this state had, nevertheless, managed to preserve some of its national power because of the manner in which it picks its presidential electors combined with that state’s competitive two- party system. In essence, this hypothetical state, despite a slow growth population, had become a perennial presidential battleground state. The state in recent decades had been furiously fought over because of its Electoral College votes, and perhaps even could decide the outcome of presidential elections.

Continuing the hypothetical, let’s say that state’s Republican legislative leadership and governor decided, nonetheless, to propose legislation that would end the state’s national power and electoral prominence by awarding electoral votes not “winner-take- all” as now but piecemeal by congressional district. Good-bye national battleground, hello national has-been!

Why would anyone do that? Why indeed! But that’s exactly what Pennsylvania’s Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, is proposing as we approach the 2012 presidential election. His plan would have electors chosen out of congressional districts (one per CD) with the remaining two going to the statewide winner. Worse, there is nothing hypothetical about it. Plainly put: Pileggi’s proposal threatens Pennsylvania’s continuing preeminence in national politics. Awarding electoral votes by congressional district is an old, if odd, idea that few other states have found attractive. In fact only Maine and Nebraska, both relatively small and rural, have adopted it in recent years.

Four major consequences are likely if Pennsylvania moves to a congressional district system for allocating electoral votes. None of them are auspicious for the Keystone State.

1. Loss of Pennsylvania’s coveted battleground status. Even though Democrats have won Pennsylvania in the last five presidential elections, the state remains competitive. In just the past three elections, the state’s battleground status has meant repeated visits by presidential candidates and their surrogates, making the state one of the most visited states by candidates. In 2012, the state’s 20 electoral votes are up for grabs, under the existing “winner take all” system. But Pileggi’s proposal to award electoral votes by congressional districts will stop that. The state’s electoral vote clout will be diluted, since most of the state’s CD’s are not competitive and presidential candidates will either write them off or take them for granted. Unavoidably Senator Pileggi’s proposal would significantly reduce the influence of the state in presidential elections.

2. Overall voting turnout will go down. While a handful of competitive districts will get attention, there will be no incentive to push overall turnout in the state. The two electoral votes that go to the statewide winner won’t motivate candidates sufficiently to campaign statewide to win them. Moreover, there is no clear evidence, as some claim, that congressional districts electoral votes will increase turnout. While Maine’s turnout in 2008 was third highest in the nation, Nebraska was only 30th. The difference in turnout has far more to do with voter interest in the election as well as socio-economic and demographic factors than with the way electors are chosen. Urban turnout in particular is likely to decline in the absence of competitive statewide campaigning.

3. Further balkanization of state politics. Currently all but a handful of congressional districts are “safe” for one party or the other, encouraging the divisive trend to polarization of our politics. The Pileggi proposal would only accelerate this disturbing direction. Division, not diversity, will inevitably occur. Pete DeCoursey of Capitolwire has shown that Pennsylvania’s electoral vote in 2008 under the district plan would have gone 11 for Obama 10 for McCain. McCain’s ten would have come from his victory in 10 CD’s, Obama’s in nine plus two for winning the statewide vote.

4. Little or no improvement in national politics. The enormous political cost to Pennsylvania of a district plan is daunting. But if it produced a different or better national result, it might be at least understandable. But that is not the case. If the congressional district plan had been in place in Pennsylvania in recent presidential elections, it would not have affected the outcome of any presidential election. That’s because the Electoral College spread was large enough for the winning candidate to achieve the 270 needed without Pennsylvania’s votes. Even in 2000, a split electoral vote count in Pennsylvania would have only added to Bush’s five vote victory over Gore.

There is no doubt that the Electoral College is broken. But individual states tinkering with it as Pennsylvania threatens will only make it worse. Fixing the Electoral College is a national problem, and Congress needs to act decisively to do it. It’s time for Congress to pass an amendment to the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College altogether and provide for the popular election of the president. A huge majority of Americans support that action. Until Congress acts, individual states are going to continue to flail ineffectually at the problem as Pennsylvania is now doing.

G. Terry Madonna is professor of public affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, and Michael L. Young is a former professor of politics and public affairs at Penn State University and managing partner of Michael Young Strategic Research.

An Anti-Jobs Jobs Bill

Guest Column by Ralph R. Reiland

"Pass this bill now," demanded President Barack Obama, referring to his American Jobs Act.

There's nothing new in it, just more government spending -- more spending for infrastructure enhancements so we won't supposedly be buried by collapsing schools and bridges.

The "rush" tactics are the same. As with ObamaCare, there's a proclaimed "crisis," followed by demands to pass legislation "now," even if no one has adequately analyzed the bill, or even if no one has read it, or even if the legislation will only make things worse, and even if we're already flat broke.

And as with earlier stimulus packages, roads are a particular priority in the American Jobs Act. You'd think we were all riding around in mud ruts. I heard a politician say last week that 40 percent of American roads need to be rebuilt -- not just fixed up with some pothole mix, but torn up and hauled away right down to the dirt and completely made brand new.

We have 4 million miles of roads in the U.S., so 40 percent is 1.6 million miles. And what's the price per mile for a new road? It depends on such things as hills, water, etc., but a generic cost model by the Department of Transportation in Florida puts the price at $1.5 million per mile for rural two-lane roads, $3 million per mile for rural four-lane roads, and $4 million per mile for urban four-lane roads.

Of course, when the politicians get really nuts, they can end up blowing $500 million per mile, as with Pittsburgh's tunnel to the North Shore. It was better when it was called North Side and a bridge was good enough and the $500 million could have been used for cancer research.

In any case, let's figure the 1.6 million miles of allegedly collapsing American roads at $3 million per mile. That's $4,800,000,000,000 -- another $4.8 trillion of red ink, deficit and debt.

Add that to the $14.7 trillion that we're already in the hole at the federal level (to be exact, $14,717,868,058,346.24 as of the minute I'm typing this sentence), and that averages out to $342,500 in federal debt for each of the 51 percent of American households that still pay federal income taxes.

But the tax burden doesn't equally average out. Federal income tax figures for 2008, for instance, updated in October 2010, show the top 10 percent of income earners receiving 46 percent of total income and paying 70 percent of total federal income taxes.

In addition to roads, Obama's new jobs program includes spending to rehab "vacant homes." Why the priority to fix up vacant houses during a major housing glut? And why borrow money from China or hike taxes in the U.S. on those who are the most likely to create real jobs in order to fund some temporary jobs in wasteful and ill-conceived make-work projects?

Obama said that "everything in this bill will be paid for." Over 10 years, he wants $41 billion more in taxes from oil and gas companies, $3 billion more from owners of corporate jets and $400 billion more from "the rich" (defined as anyone earning $200,000 or more a year, or any family earning $250,000) by limiting their itemized deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving.

What Obama is saying is that we'll get more jobs by way of less oil and gas, less manufacturing of jets, fewer home sales, and lower levels of charitable giving.

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur. E-mail him at

Sep 15, 2011

Unemployment: Obama's Hostage Crisis?

Guest Column by Lowman S. Henry

Barack Obama's presidency is in deep trouble because he neglected to heed the maxim ineloquently stated by Clinton campaign manager Jim Carville in the 1992 Presidential campaign: "It's the economy, stupid." In this case the saying might be refined a bit to: "Its unemployment, stupid."

The nation's stubbornly high unemployment rate threatens to become President Obama's version of the Iran hostage crisis that brought down our last hapless chief executive, Jimmy Carter. A group of Islamic militants stormed the embassy of the United States in Tehran on November 4, 1979 and took 52 Americans hostage. The regime of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini spent the next 444 days taunting the United States and frustrating the Carter Administration's ineffective efforts to free the prisoners.

Fast forward to 2011 and we have the economic equivalent of the hostage crisis with the nation's economy bound and gagged by massive federal government over-spending, an abundance of job-killing regulations, and historic levels of uncertainty created in no small part by the passage of the Obama health care "reforms."

At various points during the first three years of his presidency Barack Obama has given lip service to dealing with unemployment. The situation is virtually all the policies he has implemented have made the problem worse and driven the American economy to the cusp of a double dip recession. The so-called economic stimulus package proved to be little more than a pay-off to Democratic constituencies with even the president himself admitting there were no "shovel ready" projects to fund. The administration's signature legislative achievement — passage of Obamacare — is so complex businesses cannot figure out what they are required to do and what it will eventually cost.

Against this backdrop he appeared before a joint session of Congress to announce what was billed as a comprehensive new jobs program. During that speech, as he often does, President Obama summoned the memory of Abraham Lincoln. But Lincoln also once observed: "How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg." Likewise, calling another stimulus package a jobs bill doesn't make it a jobs bill.

The President's "new" jobs package is little more than a rehash of tactics that have been tried and failed, and others that may have some long-term impact but would fail to create jobs in the short term. In what was a highly partisan speech the President essentially challenged Republicans in congress to yield to his will, or he would make them the issue in the upcoming Presidential campaign.

The day after the president's speech the financial markets tanked.

By failing to admit to past mistakes, craft a new plan in cooperation with both parties in congress, and put forth a new set of initiatives President Obama fed the one factor that is most responsible for the reluctance of businesses to create jobs: uncertainty.

As a result of uncertainty, and a failure to attend to the core problems affecting job creators trillions of dollars in capital are going to remain on the economic sidelines. This was evidenced by statements last July from Las Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn who called Obama "The Greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime." He went on to say: "Those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President."

Steve Wynn is not alone. Businesses large and small cannot risk their capital on the soft socialism promoted by the Obama administration. Essentially their capital is being held hostage by his policies. And that capital is not going to be released while Barack Obama sits in the Oval office. If job creators won't create jobs, the unemployment rate will not drop. Thus joblessness will remain high through next year's Presidential election.

On a clear January morning in 1981 Ronald Wilson Reagan raised his right hand and took the oath of office becoming the 40th President of the United States. Half a world away the 52 Americans held hostage were put on a plane and sent home by an Iranian regime that wasn't willing to risk a confrontation with the new leader of the free world.

A comparable scene will unfold in January of 2013 as the inauguration of America's next president releases the shackles now stifling the nation's economy setting free trillions of dollars in capital that will lift the clouds of recession now hovering over us.

Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

Sep 13, 2011

Federal judge in PA rules that the Obamacare mandate is unconstitutional

The AP is reporting that Judge Christopher Conner, a U.S. District District Court Justice for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, has ruled that the requirement to purchase health insurance written into President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is unconstitutional. His ruling today stated that the mandate forcing individuals to purchase health insurance is an unconstitutional extension of the powers granted to federal government under the Constitution's commerce clause.

I just can't see how any logical reading of the Constitution would allow someone to conclude that the federal government has the authority to force you to buy a good or service. I know individuals advocating for the mandate bring up how states force individuals to purchase car insurance.

But the Obamacare mandate is totally different. First, it requires everyone to purchase health insurance or they will incur penalty in the form of a fine. Second, auto insurance laws are controlled by states and not the federal government. Which is why the same mandate passed under then Governor Romney is constitutional in Massachusetts.

Most likely this debate will ultimately be settled by the Supreme Court and will be struck down by a 6-3 decision. Yet another reason why Congress and our next President should vote for a total repeal of Obamacare.

Sep 12, 2011

Stalling Our Economy One Company at a Time

Guest Column by Glen Meakem

This past weekend, I examined the possible political motivations behind the Obama administration’s recent attack on Gibson Guitars. Over the past week, Americans have learned that the wood seized from the Gibson manufacturing plant in Nashville last month is exactly the same in every way as the wood used by every other guitar manufacturer in the country. George Gruhn, an expert on vintage American guitars and related instruments stated, “the wood that Gibson is using is from the same country and cut to the same specs as wood used by every other guitar maker. If it isn’t legal, than all of those makers in the USA are in deep trouble.” No other guitar manufacturers have been raided to date, and Gibson has not yet been charged with a crime. The fact that Gibson is a non-union company, based in a right-to-work state, and run by a Republican CEO, when most other manufacturers are unionized with CEOs who say they are Democrats, has numerous industry insiders wondering if the decision to seize assets was a political one.

Perhaps this attack on an American manufacturer and on American manufacturing jobs is a politically motivated move by the Obama Administration. Perhaps it is just the action of a brain dead bureaucratic machine randomly enforcing an Indian law that even the Indian government says has not been violated. Who knows? No matter, this incomprehensible action by the U.S. government to seize one million dollars of semi-finished goods from an American manufacturer, while also publicly castigating a well known American company and an iconic American brand is creating new levels of fear and uncertainty in what is already an incredibly difficult economy. American Companies that import rare wood to manufacture furniture as well as musical instruments are openly concerned that they may also have their assets seized, and brands tarnished. The Obama Administration’s attacks on businesses are weakening our economy one private business at a time. Just ask Boeing about the costs and risks it is incurring from the Obama Administration’s shut down of its new $2 billion aircraft plant in South Carolina.

This weekend I also commented on President Obama’s “jobs” speech, which recycled the failed tax, borrow, and spend policies of the “progressive” left yet again. This time, President Obama said the “rich” can afford to pay more in taxes because Warren Buffet (a man who is worth $50 Billion) wants his tax rates increased. But quoting Warren Buffet to make the argument for higher taxes was a weak move on the part of the President. Unfortunately for the U.S. government, Buffet is currently arguing with the government to avoid paying $1 billion in back taxes. He also employs 120 people off-shore in Bermuda whose primary job is to reduce the amount he pays in U.S. personal and corporate taxes, and is giving tens of billions of dollars away over time to the Gates Foundation. All of these gifts are, of course, pre-tax and help Buffet to avoid taxes. We should judge Mr. Buffet on his actions, and not on his words. Can you say “$50 billion hypocrite?” If Mr. Buffet really feels like he isn’t paying “his fare share” of taxes, then he could both close down all of his tax avoidance schemes and pay more to the Federal Government. After all, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates who earn billions per year on their massive fortunes cannot be compared to much more typical Americans who earn over $200 thousand per year. Buffet is a complete hypocrite and it is shocking that our President quoted Buffet’s cynical, empty words in front of a special joint session of Congress as justification for raising tax rates on all Americans who earn more than $200,000 a year. The average American does not earn $200,000 per year, but millions of very hard working executives, entrepreneurs and small business owners (who put their money at risk to employ tens of millions more Americans) do. These job creators already pay between one third and one half of their earnings to the government, depending upon where they live and work. Aren’t these tax rates high enough? I guess not if, like Obama, you do not believe in achievement based on hard work and merit, but rather believe in redistributing wealth. Karl Marx had a phrase for this — “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” I guess our current President agrees.

President Obama demanded that Congress pass his $450 Billion “jobs” bill “right now” eighteen times during his 25 minute speech so that, among other things, construction workers could immediately begin repairing bridges and school buildings. This demand raises the obvious question: what happened to the money that was supposed to be for infrastructure projects in Obama’s first $830 Billion stimulus? If the new bridge and school repair work – funded on high from the federal government — is so obvious and so easily accomplished before next year’s Presidential election, then why wasn’t this work already done over the past two years? What makes President Obama think “shovel ready” projects are any more “shovel ready” in 2012 than they were in 2009, 2010 and 2011? The fact is the stimulus money that could be spent quickly in 2009, 2010 and 2011 was spent and it did not improve our economy or long-term jobless situation. In fact, the failure of Obama’s massive stimulus programs to revive our economy is further proof (on top of many other empirical examples from the past century) that Keynesian stimulus destroys more economic activity and value than it creates. Obama’s insistence that Congress add another $450 Billion to our deficit in 2012 in order to “jump-start” our “stalled economy” is a tremendous admission that the kind of Keynesian government spending he has forced on America for the past 2 ½ years is a failure. (By the way, President Obama claimed his bill is “paid for” and then went on to say that Congress will have to find the money to pay for it.)

Even if the President and his speech writers did not just dream up the urgent need to repair schools, spending money to “modernize” public school buildings does not guarantee a better education for our kids. My wife and I spend many thousands of after-tax dollars each year to send our elementary school age kids to a private Montessori school. This private Montessori school is located in old classrooms tacked onto the side of an old ice rink. This old ice rink is situated under a major road bridge. The school has no gym, no music room, no art room, no computer room, and no cafeteria. The kids have their recess on a nearby community owned playground. The suburban public school district in which we live has two beautiful new elementary schools with every modern convenience. So why do my wife and I spend thousands of dollars a year to send our kids to the old, decrepit, make-shift school building under the bridge? Because the school has a GREAT LEADER, GREAT TEACHERS and GREAT CURRICULUM. And, of course, it has no union. The quality of education is not determined by the quality of the building, but by the quality of the teachers, the support of the parents, and the work ethic and commitment of the students.

Please remember that I will host “An Evening with Glen Meakem” this coming Tuesday (September 13th) at the Hilton Garden Inn in Southpointe, Pennsylvania. I will be discussing America’s strategic strengths and weaknesses as well as long-term threats to our nation, including our rapidly rising debt, and the out-of-control government spending that is fueling it. Please consider attending this educational and uplifting event. To find complete information and register, go to, or call (412) 749-9045. The cost for this event is only $45 per person.

I hope to see you there.



Sep 9, 2011

President Obama’s Latest “Jobs” Gambit

Guest Column by Mark W. Hendrickson

If you watched President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress, you didn’t see anything new. He did what he does best—campaign for re-election and pay lip service to private enterprise and fiscal responsibility while proposing more top-down economic planning that (despite his claims to the contrary) will surely plunge the government more deeply into debt; that is, if Congress gets stampeded into passing the proposed “American Jobs Act.”

This president’s policies so far have left us with economic stagnation and stubbornly high unemployment. His new proposals are more of the same. Obama’s rigid ideological convictions may render him incapable of supporting the kinds of policies that let job creation flourish. Remember that word “let”—I’ll come back to it.

Over a year and a half ago, my article “Obama’s Anti-Jobs Policy” described several ways by which this president’s policies were killing jobs: heavier taxation and regulation of business, expensive federal jobs programs that triggered a net job loss, and a minimum wage hike, among others.

Team Obama has continued to undercut job formation by waging a relentless campaign against profit-making businesses. To Obama, it seems like the only good business is a business that government funds and/or controls. His modus operandi is government economic planning. Think of the tax dollars blown on uneconomic solar boondoggles.

Team Obama persecutes private businesses. It has just launched lawsuits against banks for peddling the junk mortgages that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac essentially forced them to issue. Late last month, the feds raided Gibson Guitars, showing far more concern for the possible importation of a little bit of illegal wood than concern for the certain immigration of large numbers of illegal aliens. The executive branch bureaucracies—led by the EPA, the NLRB, the Departments of the Interior, Transportation, Energy, et al.—have hounded, burdened, impeded, blocked, threatened, and intimidated businesses.

No wonder American businesses are reluctant to hire. In this kind of environment, business managers can’t help but wonder if they will be the next to get zapped by some government-hurled bolt out of the blue.

It never ceases to amaze me how some individuals can claim to be pro-jobs when they are aggressively anti-business. If you want jobs, you need businesses to prosper and profit. Businesses equal jobs, period. Did President Obama offer a truce to business in his speech last night? No. Instead, he trotted out his stale, make-the-most-profitable-businesses-pay-their-fair-share-of-taxes line (i.e., raise their taxes) again.

Yes, he did propose to give businesses a tax credit for hiring workers—another iteration of that government-with-strings-attached “partnership with business” that Obama refuses to abandon. Job creation would be more vigorous and less costly to government if the president could grasp that profit-seeking businesses are the major employers in a growing economy, and you don’t need government to use tax dollars to pay them to hire people. You just need to get government off their back.

Obama presented a new version of his failed “stimulus” plan by proposing various make-work projects. Naturally, these projects are of his choosing, which means more spending targeted to union interests such as teachers and construction workers on federal jobs. What the president fails to grasp is that government attempts to accelerate economic growth and boost job creation are counterproductive. Jobs are like roses: You can’t make them grow; you have to let them grow. If you remove obstacles to growth and protect your crop from disruptive intrusions, you’ll end up with more of what you wanted than if you try to force the issue.

What the president needs is for one of his pals in Big Business to explain to him how free markets generate jobs. Unfortunately, he surrounds himself with the likes of GE’s Jeffrey Immelt who shares his belief in state capitalism. The kind of business friend he really needs is a modern version of Monsieur Legendre.

Few people today remember M. Legendre, an obscure 17th-century French merchant. In 1680, the French economy was stagnant, as ours is today. Merchants labored under the burden of mountains of regulations and the oppressive meddlesomeness of government bureaucrats. Anxious to stimulate the economy (as a means of increasing royal revenues), Louis XIV’s Finance Minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, assembled some business leaders to inquire what could be done for them.

The plainspoken M. Legendre replied with the immortal phrase, “Laissez-nous faire”—“Leave us alone.” That was the origin of the term “laissez faire” as a label for a free-market economy. More fundamentally, it set forth a great truth, simple in its elegance and profundity—that the “invisible hand” of a free market generates wealth-producing jobs far more effectively than the heavy hand of government planning. That truth eludes many a bright individual, Barack Obama included.

The president pointedly belittled the laissez faire option last night. That is his prerogative—and our job-seekers’ loss. More stimulus, more debt, and more government planning can produce only what they have been producing: more stagnation and reduced employment opportunities.

Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.