Posts by guest blogger

Apocalypse Not: Study Finds Severance Tax Unlikely to Scare Away Drillers from Marcellus Shale

By Parth Vaishnav (left) & Nathaniel Horner (right) of Carnegie Mellon University

Parth VaishnavNathaniel HornerA common argument against enacting a severance tax on shale gas in Pennsylvania is that the additional cost will cause the industry to leave the state. As graduate students in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, we decided to test that idea.

We found that replacing the state's current drilling impact fee with a 5% severance tax would be very unlikely to inhibit new drilling. Our study looks at what such a tax would mean on a driller's internal rate of return (IRR) and how that would influence drilling decisions. What we find is that while a severance tax would decrease a well's IRR, as does the impact fee, the decrease is rather small — making wells still quite profitable for drillers.

Low-wage Workers Take Post-Recession Hit to Paycheck

By Ellis Wazeter, Intern

Since the end of the recession, Americans working in low- and mid-wage occupations have taken a bigger hit to their paychecks than their counterparts in higher-paid jobs, according to a study by the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Guest Post: It Wasn’t the Shale, Yinz

By Tim Stuhldreher
Originally published at Tim Stuhldreher's Blog

Paul Krugman muses on why deindustrialization left Detroit a basket case, but not Pittsburgh. Both metros were one-industry towns well into the 1970s (cars in Detroit, steel in Pittsburgh). Both took huge economic hits in the 1980s when the factories closed and the jobs went away. Yet today Detroit is a bankrupt wasteland, while Pittsburgh isn’t doing too badly. What’s the difference?

Pennsylvania Shuts Down Its Safety Net of Last Resort

By Liz Schott, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Originally published at the Off the Charts Blog

Pennsylvania ended cash assistance today for very poor residents who cannot work and don’t qualify for other assistance, joining many other states that have scaled back or eliminated their General Assistance programs even as the need has grown.

A Recovery for the 1%

By Jheanelle Chambers, Intern

Even in a Down Year, Top 1% Have More Total Income Than Bottom 50 Percent CombinedWhile many middle-class Americans are still struggling in a down economy, the 1% is doing quite well.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has an eye-popping chart (right) showing that in 2009, despite the weak economy, the top 1% of households captured $1.32 trillion in gross income while the bottom 50% earned $1.06 trillion.

Economists' Roundtable on February Jobs Report

By Jheanelle Chambers, Intern

U.S. jobs numbers for March are due out next week. In anticipation, here is a quick review of what D.C.’s leading economists had to say about the February job numbers.

Cutting Routine Care to Save on Health Care Costs?

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By Jheanelle Chambers, Intern

Temple University professor and National Federation of Independent Business economist Bill Dunkelberg writes in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer column that health care coverage should be more like auto insurance, covering catastrophic illnesses only — and not routine preventive care:

For me, what we call "health-care insurance" should be more like car or home insurance. Health plans should cover catastrophic illness, but not preventive care.

When you change the oil in your car, does your car insurance cover that? New tires? A battery? That's maintenance.

But if you have a serious accident, that is "catastrophic," involving potentially large and uncertain costs, and insurance covers that.

The problem with this approach is people are not cars. Regular medical check-ups maintain good health, and if a person waits until a minor illness turns serious, the cost of treatment is much greater. There is also strong evidence that preventative care increases both the quality and the length of people's lives.

Length of Unemployment at All Time High

Sean Brandon, InternBy Sean Brandon, Intern

While the U.S. unemployment rate fell to a 32-month low of 8.6% in November, the average duration of joblessness hit an all-time high — 40.9 weeks. This number has more than doubled since the start of the Great Recession in December 2007. Nevertheless, it should come as no surprise amid lingering unemployment. There are four job seekers for every job opening these days.

Using Temporary Workers to Forecast the PA Economy

Sean Brandon, InternBy Sean Brandon, Intern

The employment services industry provides a variety of human resources services, including most notably supplying temporary workers to other businesses. Because of the unique characteristics of this industry, economists often use its job market trends as an economic forecasting tool. The reason is simple: When the economy starts to slide, the first workers to go are usually the temporary employees, but when the economy begins to pick up, businesses will hire temporary workers first.

State Insurance Regulators Deny Ratepayers Public Hearing on Highmark Rate Hike

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By Athena Ford, Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN)
Originally published October 19, 2011 on the PHAN Blog

Thousands of activists with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) sent emails, signed petitions, called and showed up in person to ask the Pennsylvania Insurance Department for a real, public investigation into Highmark's proposed rate hike on the Special Care plan. But this week the department approved the increase, without holding a hearing.

Special Care is a limited benefit plan offered by the state's Blue Cross/Blue Shield providers. It was touted as an alternative when the Corbett administration ended the adultBasic health insurance program in February.