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.

Future Generations will celebrate tea party focus on debt

Guest Column by Jerry Shenk

New members of Congress are among the least powerful people in government — less powerful than their seniors in both parties; less powerful than many unelected bureaucrats in executive branch agencies.

Yet Americans have been barraged with formulaic left-wing talking points intended to convince us that a handful of House Republican freshmen identified as tea party legislators — less than 20 percent of one-half of one-third of the federal government — is holding the nation hostage.

We’re told that, since January — in only eight months following two years of a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress with a Democrat in the White House — this small group of tea party freshmen has taken over the country.

The charge is laughable. Those who buy that fiction are uninformed, stunningly naive or purely partisan. It’s true, tea party organizations, patriots and similar groups have influenced American politics. Tea parties have provided much of the energy for two major political stories — the 2010 midterm election and the 2011 debt-ceiling deal. But until the 2010 election, the media spent nearly two years largely ignoring the most important grassroots movement in recent American history.

Following the 2010 general election and the debt-ceiling deal, the American left needed a scapegoat to explain the broad opposition to the Democrats’ failed agenda and President Obama’s policies. Smugly convinced of their own rectitude, liberals have chosen to blame the tea party for the nation’s problems, for the same incivility the left has shown the grassroots or, for that matter, any others who merely disagree with them, and for the intransigent partisanship of which liberals themselves are guilty.

The most common accusation is self-serving nonsense. Anyone who opposes or criticizes Barack Obama is reflexively branded a racist. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson saw “no coincidence” in “the birth of a big, passionate national movement [tea parties] that tries its best to delegitimize the first African-American president.”

Vice President Joe Biden called the tea party “terrorists.” One wonders what terms Biden reserves to describe those who blow things up. Nancy Pelosi has characterized the grassroots as “Astroturf,” swastika-carrying, uneducated dupes.

Ms. Pelosi would have us believe that Standard & Poor’s downgrade of America’s credit rating had nothing to do with the $4 trillion debt increase under her and President Obama in the two years their party had complete control of the spending process. Channeling George Orwell, Pelosi and her media enablers have called it the “tea party downgrade.”

Writing about the grassroots, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg condescendingly reported “that there’s no point trying to explain complicated matters to the American people.” It’s not that complicated. Practical Americans know instinctively that a debt-ceiling “debate” should have been unnecessary. Most normal Americans coming home to find the sewer backed up with sewage to the ceiling wouldn’t raise the ceiling, they’d pump out the sludge.

Many Americans have come to resent that liberals will not accept that the choices government faces are ones about which reasonable people can disagree. Rather than undertaking the effort to persuade their fellow citizens, liberals insist that those who oppose them are stupid, and that America is doomed, in Weisberg’s words, to an “excruciating form of self-destruction.”

That’s a difficult point to sell considering that principled conservatives are a political minority in America. Tea party sympathizers remain a plurality in electoral politics, not a majority.

Indeed, there is considerable skepticism among tea party supporters about the Republican Party’s ability to govern, to control spending, and to express and preserve acceptable core principles.

Neither formal parties nor social groups, tea parties believe that the government doesn’t reflect the will of the people. In 1773, the issue was taxation. Today, the tea party opposes the massive debt that will burden generations of Americans.

Without the tea parties and similar groups, there would have been no debt-ceiling debate. Without the tea parties, President Obama would be advocating additional unbridled stimulus spending and larger payoffs to his supporters in advance of the 2012 election. Indeed, he still does.

The pressure on national and state politicians to deal with government debt is solely the result of energy generated in 2009 by a spontaneous grassroots organization in response to reckless, irresponsible government spending policies. Future Americans will celebrate that event.

Perzel's fall a tale of 'absolute power'

Guest Column by Lowman S. Henry

Perzel's stunning fall from power should serve as a lesson to today's General Assembly.

The Lincoln Institute's recent "Keystone Business Climate Survey" found just 16 percent of state employers held a positive view of the state House of Representatives and 14 percent thought well of the state Senate. Those numbers reflect the public's low esteem for the legislative branch.

Eight years of missing budget deadlines, a growing fiscal crisis and rampant corruption have soured citizens. To its credit, the 2011 General Assembly balanced the budget -- and did so on time. Further, the state Attorney General's Office has made significant and commendable progress in cleaning up legislative corruption.

Complete validation of former Attorney General -- now Governor -- Tom Corbett's Capitol corruption scandal probes came with the plea bargain of former House Speaker John Perzel. Perzel, the former 800-pound gorilla of state politics, ruled the House with an iron hand and was ruthless with anyone who opposed him.

He is now headed for federal prison.

Perzel and his minions spent millions of taxpayer dollars for one purpose -- to elect enough subservient Republicans to the Legislature to retain a majority and preserve Perzel's power. Some 25 individuals have been charged with corruption and 15 have either been convicted or copped a plea. The other 10 -- including former House Speaker Bill DeWeese, a Democrat -- await trail.

Lord Acton said: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." First uttered in 1887, that is as true today as it was then. Perzel arrived from Philadelphia as the unlikely winner of his House seat in 1979. He served 16 terms before losing last November.

Perzel's stunning fall from power should serve as a lesson to today's General Assembly. Despite this, there remain in power those who feel they are entitled to their jobs; who believe they are to be courted, rather than to serve. While not guilty of legal corruption, these legislators have perverted the governmental process.

It is, however, important not to paint all members of the General Assembly with the same brush. The positive effect of Bonusgate and the Capitol corruption scandals has been to bring about a housecleaning of sorts -- numerous incumbents were swept out in 2010. The new lawmakers are keenly aware of the circumstances that brought them to Harrisburg and are pushing for change. But, given the top-down nature of Pennsylvania's legislative bodies, change will be slow in coming.

For starters, Pennsylvania should return to the part-time citizen Legislature envisioned by our Founding Fathers. Forget about arguments that today's complex society requires a full-time Legislature. It does not. Texas, a much larger state, operates with a part-time Legislature. Maryland's legislative sessions last 90 days each year. Truth be told, Pennsylvania's legislative sessions occupy about the same amount of time, but are spread out with two- or three-day work weeks and lengthy recesses. For example, the General Assembly recessed June 30 and won't return until late September, almost a three-month break.

The fall of Perzel and corruption convictions are a necessary first step in cleaning up the mess in Harrisburg. The Attorney General's Office has mopped up, but the task of rebuilding and reforming lies ahead.

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

Sep 8, 2011

Marcellus Shale: A balanced approach

Guest Column by State Rep Ryan Aument,

The emergence of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania has sparked continuing debate among citizens and lawmakers with various perspectives on the advantages and disadvantages of drilling in our Commonwealth.

The issues surrounding the Marcellus Shale region remain complex, and caution needs to be exercised when discussing the impact of the industry.

Over the past several months, I have heard from many people throughout my district about their interest in learning more about the natural gas industry. I have registered their perspectives on both economic potential and environmental concerns.

Like many citizens, I am still learning about this emerging industry and its advantages and disadvantages. To address these inquiries, I have decided to bring together several experts to serve as panel presenters at an upcoming Marcellus Shale Informational Forum.

I invite anyone who has both curiosity and concern about the industry to join us at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23, at Centerville Middle School as we discuss various aspects of the subject. Representatives from Chesapeake Energy, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Rettew Associates and Hartman Underhill & Brubaker LLP are expected to attend.

It was back in 2009 that the General Assembly supported the idea of leasing state park lands to the drilling companies. This brought revenue to the state in a time of economic pressure, and the natural gas industry is responsible for enormous job growth throughout our Commonwealth. The industry has produced jobs in skilled areas such as engineering, surveying and environmental permitting, and in legal, accounting and other professional services.

In addition, this natural deposit, which has an estimated value of $500 billion, has the potential of meeting our needs for both electricity and perhaps even motor vehicle fuel for the next 40 years.

But along with all the attention paid to natural gas exploration and the economic feasibility of deep drilling, Pennsylvania also must ensure that appropriate regulations are in place to protect the environment and its citizens' water and air supplies. In particular, proper regulations need to be enacted to make sure wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," process does not contaminate groundwater.

An important issue yet to be resolved is whether Pennsylvania should assess taxes or impact fees on the value of the natural gas as it is extracted from the wells. Several legislators have come forth with tax-fee proposals that are being debated now.

I believe a tax or fee is appropriate. I also believe that any tax or fee needs to be structured to ensure that it is fair to businesses, residents of the Marcellus Shale region and the citizens of the Commonwealth.

The real political fight lies in determining where this money will go. Special interest groups throughout Pennsylvania are already lining up with their hands out for any additional revenue an impact fee may generate. The Legislature must carefully analyze any proposal to ensure that those dollars are put first toward improving our infrastructure and combating any environmental impact.

In order to protect our water supplies, further regulations need to be implemented by the Department of Environmental Protection. DEP has already hired 105 new oil and gas regulatory employees and currently mandates a 150-foot buffer for the 20,000 miles of Pennsylvania's highest-quality waterways.

A final report recently released by Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recommends stronger regulations, such as tripling the well setback distances from streams and other bodies of water (from 100 to 300 feet), as well as increasing the setback from private water wells (from 200 to 500 feet) and public water systems (1,000 feet).

With two serious accidents involving Marcellus Shale drilling sites having already occurred — including a well blowout in Clearfield County that spewed 35,000 gallons of wastewater and another accident in Marshall County, W. Va. — it is imperative that stricter regulations for drilling and tougher penalties for violators are included in any legislation that is considered this fall.

Our task in the Legislature is to reach an appropriate balance between promoting the growth of this new industry with its potential to employ thousands of our fellow Pennsylvanians while protecting our environment from reckless acts.

State Rep. Ryan Aument is a first-term legislator representing East Petersburg and Mountville boroughs, East and West Hempfield townships, the western portion of Lancaster Township and part of Manor Township.

Sep 6, 2011

Santorum has friends in Pennsylvania

Politico is reporting that several high profile Pennsylvania Republicans have endorsed former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's candidacy for President. According to the article 15 state lawmakers plan to support Santorum over the rest of the Republican Primary field.

Santorum's recent trip to Pennsylvania has seemed to reconnected him with his conservative roots while helping raise some much needed cash for his campaign for President. In a statement Santorum seemed to gain some confidence after the trip.
“I am honored to have the support of this esteemed group of Pennsylvania leaders, from Tea Party legislators to Party Leadership, who know firsthand that our campaign has the record of electoral and legislative success in Pennsylvania and is best positioned to defeat President Obama,” Santorum will say in a statement. “They understand that our nation is at a crossroads and that it is time for proven leadership, not showmanship in the White House. I have worked with these fine people and they know my record of consistent conservative results. Read more.
I have to say, when you think Santorum doesn't have a chance then more chips continue to fall into place for his candidacy. I just can't count out the Bulldog just yet.

The big GOP names throwing their support behind Santorum give his candidacy much needed credibility here in Pennsylvania. They include state Senate President Pro Temp, Joseph Scarnati, and the state appropriations chairman, Senator Jake Corman. Corman used to be a Santorum aide.

Perhaps the most surprising and most important endorsement is that of State Senator John Eichelberger. Eichelberger is a leader in the Pennsylvania conservative movement who steadfastly supported Pat Toomey over then Senator Arlen Specter in the 2004 Senate Race. Needless to say Eichelberger didn't see eye to eye with Santorum who supported Specter at the time. Then Eichelberger went on to defeat longtime President Pro Temp Robert Jubelirer after the pay raise debacle in 2005. Since his victory in 2006, Eichelberger has been propelled onto the state conservative scene here in Pennsylvania.

Senator Eichelberger's support alone reveals that Santorum's candidacy not only has legs but also shows that Santorum can combine both the Tea Party wing of the GOP with establishment party leaders.If Santorum can do it here in Pennsylvania he sure can accomplish the same strategy in other more conservative states.

I wouldn't be surprised if you see Santorum continuing to gain momentum here in the fall.

More: Pennsylvania leaders line up behind Santorum

Santorum focusing on job creation and American Exceptionalism

Here is some amateur video footage of Senator Rick Santorum's speech at a campaign stop last week. The speech was delivered at McLanahan Corporation here in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

Santorum is truly running a grassroots campaign and his message his hitting home with the folks at campaign stops. The message focusing on American Exceptionalism and creating jobs is in tune with what many Americans want to hear and see our elected leaders to focus on.

President George W. Bush Set to Visit Flight 93 National Memorial Dedication

AP News Break: The AP news is reporting that former President George W. Bush will be speaking at this week's dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, PA.
The National Park Service and National Park Foundation announced Tuesday that Bush will join Vice President Joe Biden and Flight 93 family members. Also attending Saturday's event will be dignitaries including former first lady Laura Bush, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett. Read More
President Bush has been flying under the radar since his presidency ended, so it is nice to see him participate in the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial dedication. I personally give President Bush credit for keeping America safe during one of the darkest moments in American history. I'll never forget him standing at the base of the twin towers, amongst the wreckage, in front of the all those emergency personnel saying, "I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!". It still gives me chills.

This week we will be remembering and honoring those who lost their lives on September, 11th 2001. This will be the 10th anniversary of that tragic day. A day when our busy worlds stood still for a moment. A that we realized just how vulnerable our way of life is. A day when we all stood up a chanted U.S.A! U.S.A!

Also: Eyewitness Reflects On Flight 93 Crash (CBS Pittsburgh)
More: Flight 93 only Sept. 11 memorial not fully funded (Tribune-Review)

Calls for Pay Freezes for Teachers Ignored

Teachers in North Penn School District applaud after rejecting pay freez
Charles Thompson of the Patriot-News yesterday highlights the alarming number of teachers and union leaders that flat out rejected Governor Corbett's calls for pay freezes across the state. If you remember correctly, Pennsylvania was facing a 4 billion dollar budget shortfall heading into this fiscal year.

As a result the Governor proposed sweeping education cuts and urged teachers and their union leadership to accept pay freezes for the 2011-2012 school year to relieve pressure on state and local budgets during these tough economic times. Governor Corbett is obviously disappointed with the numbers.
“I’m encouraged by the ones who did do it, but I would have liked to have seen more of them do it,” Corbett said.

“You see a lot of teachers that were laid off in districts that refused to take a wage freeze, and the parents and citizens, the taxpayers in those districts should ask why. They want to blame all the people being laid off on the fact that the [overall] budget was cut ... but they could have participated and helped get through this year and chose not to.” Read More
Surprisingly, teachers in only 83 of the 500 Pennsylvania School Districts accepted pay freezes. An alarming rate considering the decline in our economy and private sector wages since 2008. The teachers and their union leaders who chose not to accept the pay freezes contributed heavily to layoffs of valuable support staff and increases in property taxes. It is a shame that an overwhelming number of teachers chose to think of themselves over the quality of education being delivered to our children.

Sep 2, 2011

Obamacare: Constitutionally Infirm

Guest Column by John A. Sparks

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the key feature of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known by many as “Obamacare,” is unconstitutional. The “individual mandate” portion of the legislation—a provision which requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or suffer a monetary penalty—was found by the panel in a 2-1 decision to be constitutionally infirm. The two judges who wrote the opinion, one a George H. W. Bush appointee and the other a Clinton appointee, used 207 pages to analyze the legislative intent of the enactment, to explore the existing pertinent case law, and to carefully consider all the possible arguments for the individual mandate offered by both sides.

In the end, their conclusion was that the question before them was “whether the federal government can issue a mandate that Americans purchase and maintain health insurance from a private company for the entirety of their lives.” The answer they gave was a resounding “no,” to which every American should respond with an “amen.”

The opinion reminds us that the Constitution creates a federal government of numbered or enumerated powers. When Congress acts, it must stay within the boundaries of those powers. In other words, the federal government is not unlimited; it is limited. It is a government with considerable power, but it is also one whose actions must conform to the confines of the powers set out in Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. If Congress exceeds those powers, it is acting unconstitutionally and the Supreme Court must rein it in. Chief Judge Dubina and Judge Hull have done exactly that.

The Obama administration argued for the constitutionality of compulsory health insurance by asserting, among other things, that Congress has broad power to “regulate interstate commerce.” True, said Judges Dubina and Hull, the definition of interstate commerce has been expanded, especially from the New Deal to the present. However, they add, what the Obama administration is claiming is “unprecedented” and “breathtaking in its expansive scope.” If commercial activity is already occurring, it is very likely that Congress can regulate it, but this is quite different from compelling “individuals to enter into commerce” by forcing them to purchase health insurance and then penalizing them if they fail to do so. As the opinion says: “Every day, Americans decide what products to buy, where to invest and save, and how to pay for future contingencies such as their retirement, their children’s education and their health care. The government [Obama administration] contends that embedded in the Commerce Clause is the power to override these ordinary decisions and redirect those funds to other purposes.”

That is exactly the issue. Will Americans retain the right to decide how much and where they will spend their money for health care? Or will they allow the Leviathan State to usurp that right? If the latter, then they should not be surprised to find that Congress’ voracious appetite for control of our daily lives will not be satisfied with health care, but will seek to dictate our choices of schooling, food products, energy, housing, and wearing apparel. Again, as the opinion warns: “The government’s position amounts to an argument that the mere fact of an individual’s existence substantially affects interstate commerce, and therefore, Congress may regulate them at every point of their life.” Exactly so.

Because the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, by contrast, has held in favor of the constitutionality of compulsory health insurance, thus creating a conflict among the Circuits, this case will undoubtedly be heard by the Supreme Court. There will be no more important decision on the Supreme Court’s docket, for the outcome will determine whether we will remain a nation with a limited government dedicated to the preservation of liberty or become a nanny-state with the federal government as our nurse.

Dr. John A. Sparks is dean of the Calderwood School of Arts & Letters at Grove City College, Grove City, PA, where he teaches constitutional law and business law. He is a member of the State Bar of Pennsylvania and a fellow for educational policy with The Center for Vision & Values.

Is there hope for Harrisburg?

Harrisburg has just literally fallen off a financial cliff. Things are so bad financially in the City that state Senator Jeff Piccola has rounded up a bunch ruffians and scallywags on horseback to commandeer the city and impose financial order. I'm kidding about that but Piccola is threatening to have the state take control of things since Mayor Linda Thompson and the City Council members cannot come up with a solution to solve the City's never ending financial troubles.

Yesterday members of the City Council voted down Mayor Thompson's plan for the City's financial recovery. Some members opposed the controversial commuter tax. Other members voted no because they felt the plan was too vague.
"The people of this city need the truth, not smoke and mirrors. It was smoke and mirrors that got us into trouble in the first place," council member Brad Koplinski said.
In voting down the plan the members seem to be simply inviting a state takeover at this point thus abdicating their responsibilities to govern and manage the City's affairs. Senator Piccola himself called the Council vote "irresponsible and reckless". In a press release yesterday Senator Piccola didn't mince words.
“Yet again, these locally elected officials have proven their inability to come to the table and compromise on a plan that is responsible for Harrisburg – a plan that is fiscally sound and provides the necessary road to recovery addressing both the incinerator debt and ongoing structural budget deficit."
Mayor Thompson has done a pretty good job of at least trying to turn things around and renegotiating the incinerator contracts to reduce the debt, but from the outside one can sense that she is a little over her head so to speak.

Now the financial situation is ready to go from bad to worse. Senator Piccolla has already called on Governor Corbett to stop all aid to the City until a state takeover is complete. Governor Corbett himself said today that there are no current plans to send anymore state assistance to the cash strapped city.
"I understand and I can sympathize that the council that is there today did not create the situation that they are in. But they have been given an opportunity to work with a plan. They have chosen to turn it down.

"I think the ball is in their court to see what they have as a solution." Read More
So now what is next for the City? Well perhaps a glimmer of hope on the horizon. City Controller Dan Miller has decided to announce his candidacy for Mayor. In a statement today, Miller highlights his credentials as a Certified Public Accountant and years of experience as aspects that make him a "good" candidate for Mayor.

I don't know whether to cheer for this guy or ask someone to have him assessed for a mental illness. I mean who besides Linda Thompson wants to be Mayor of Harrisburg right now? It will be interesting how it all plays out but Thompson just seems to be at the end of her rope right now. I think Miller is a good candidate and having someone with an accounting background may just be what Harrisburg needs right now.