Third and State This Week: Food Stamps Assets Test, Lagging Job Growth and State Cuts

This week, Mark Price dominated the blog, writing about income inequality, challenges facing school districts and a new policy intended to limit access to food stamps for low-income families with modest savings.


  • On poverty and public welfare, Mark Price blogged about a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial questioning the wisdom of the state's reinstatement of an "assets test" for Pennsylvanians receiving food stamps, As the editorial states: "Instead of encouraging the working poor to save, Pennsylvania welfare officials want to punish families for having a few dollars in a bank account."
  • On jobs and the economy, Mark wrote that Pennsylvania is headed in the wrong direction, with November 2010-November 2011 job growth less than November 2009-November 2010.
  • On the state budget, Mark highlighted news reports on the local impacts of state cuts, and he passed on news reports on income inequality and challenges facing schools and higher education.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: While Governor and Legislature Dally, School Buildings Crumble and Tuition Rises

The Reading School District has a backlog of building repairs approaching $750 million. Is anyone in the Governor’s office or perhaps the Legislature paying attention? To see firsthand, they don't even have to go to Reading; they can just turn on CNN this weekend!

Morning Must Reads: Wasteful Asset Tests, Unsafe Schools and an Entire School District Headed for a Shutdown

The Philadelphia Inquirer has an editorial this morning questioning the wisdom of the Corbett administration's move to limit access to food stamps for poor families.

The Inquirer reported earlier this week that the state would reinstate an "assets test" for Pennsylvanians receiving food stamps beginning in May.

This means that anyone under age 60 with more than $2,000 in the bank ($3,250 for those over 60) will no longer be eligible for food stamps. Houses, retirement benefits and a single vehicle are not counted. The $2,000 threshold, a minimum set by the USDA, hasn't changed since 1980.

Morning Must Reads: Where Is the Shared Sacrifice?

When the economy is as weak as it is today, the prudent approach to the state budget is a balanced approach that looks to cut spending and raise additional revenue. A Patriot-News editorial this morning points out that nonprofit groups providing services to victims of domestic violence and rape, as well as people with severe health problems, have been particularly hard hit by the last several years of budget cutting.

Morning Must Reads: New Year, Same Old Economic Austerity

From November 2009 to November 2010, Pennsylvania added 63,300 jobs. From November 2010 to November 2011, the state added just 51,000.

Wait, isn't that backwards? Nope. A weak economy, the end of federal Recovery Act funds and state budget cuts slowed the pace of Pennsylvania job growth in the most recent year.

Morning Must Reads: Inequality of Opportunity in Politics and in Erie County

Thanks to the Occupy Movement, inequality has become a major issue in the Presidential campaign. While taking on the recent campaign developments, Paul Krugman does a nice job summing up what is wrong in America today.

Third and State This Week: Economic Mobility, Budgetary Freeze and Regulations

This week, we blogged about a $157 million midyear budgetary freeze, intergenerational mobility in the U.S. and false claims about the impact of regulations on jobs and the economy.


  • On income inequality, Mark Price blogged about a New York Times story this week providing fresh evidence that there is less intergenerational economic mobility in the U.S. than in Europe.
  • On the state budget, Sharon Ward wrote about a $157 million state spending freeze announced by the Corbett administration this week, marking the fifth straight year of cuts to health care, education and human services in Pennsylvania.
  • Responding to false claims about jobs and regulations, Stephen Herzenberg cited a former Reagan/Bush official who has written that “no hard evidence is offered” for the claim that new regulations are holding back investment and job creation:
  • In the Morning Must Reads, Mark Price highlighted news stories discussing the gender pay gap and a report linking Chesapeake Bay cleanup to job creation.
  • And finally, congratulation to Mark Price, named one of 2011's most influential voices in business by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

A January Freeze

Governor Tom Corbett announced $157 million in state spending cuts this week to resolve a midyear revenue shortfall. This marks the fifth straight year of cuts to health care, education and human services.

More on Regulations and Jobs

On Wednesday, WITF’s Radio Smart Talk hosted two anti-regulation advocates to explain why regulations are, well, bad. The listeners of the show who called in did a good job underscoring the critical importance of effective regulation and exposing the lack of evidence for the views of the show’s guests.

I tried to call in myself, but time ran out before I could join the discussion. Had my call been taken, I would have pointed listeners to the writing of Bruce Bartlett, a former high-level policy person in the Reagan and Bush administrations. In a column tellingly entitled “Misrepresentations, Regulations, and Jobs,” Bartlett points out that “no hard evidence is offered” for the claim that new regulations are holding back investment and job creation: “it is simply asserted as self-evident and repeated endlessly throughout the conservative echo chamber.”

Morning Must Reads: Inequality Matters

A debate has been simmering in this country since the early 1980s about rising inequality, a debate aided by more powerful computers and readily available income data that labor economists use to analyze inequality trends.

The debate has oscillated between two camps — the first arguing inequality trends are troubling, the second arguing a combination of there is no rise in inequality and even if there were it is OK or even good (for the vitality of our economy, for example). The battle of ideas spurred new research using new datasets, but the debate always breaks down in the same way.

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