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.

Another $157 Million in Cuts Could Be on the Way

Governor Tom Corbett announced nearly $157 million in state spending freezes today. They vary by department and program, but most agencies are facing a reduction of about 3%.

As we have written here, the combination of state budget cuts and the end of Recovery Act funding have translated into a wave of layoffs and property tax increases throughout Pennsylvania. This surely won't help.

In a statement, the Governor said that if the state's revenue picture improves in the months ahead, these funds could be unfrozen. Midway through the 2011-12 fiscal year, the state has a revenue gap of $487 million.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has a quick rundown of the budgetary freezes by department and agency, with a link to a full listing of all freezes. We'll have more analysis of this and the state's revenue picture later in the week.

Morning Must Reads: The Gender Pay Gap

This morning, the Reading Eagle does a nice job summarizing Berks County and Pennsylvania data on the gender pay gap. One important note, a certain amount of differences in earnings can be explained by variation in what economists call productivity-related characteristics — things such as education and experience. When you make adjustments for this, the gender pay gap is somewhat smaller but still present and meaningful. The bottom line, the unadjusted gender pay gap data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which the Reading Eagle presents, remains a reasonable guide to the state of gender pay equity.

Most Influential

Mark Price forgot one in the Morning Must Reads today.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday included Mark in a year-end list of the most influential voices in the world of business, shining a well-deserved spotlight on his work putting the economy in context for Pennsylvanians.

Morning Must Reads: Hard Bargaining in Philadelphia and Regulation

Talk about hard bargaining. The Philadelphia School District's New Year offer in negotiations over a new contract for support staff includes layoff notices to all of the bus drivers and janitors the school district now employs unless the union agrees to $16 million in wage concessions. You, the bus drivers and janitors all remember this is the same district that offered up a CEO style golden parachute of nearly $1 million to former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

Third and State This Week: Mid-year Budget Update, a Tax Break for Jet Sales & Latest Economic News

Programming Note: Third and State will be taking some time off for the holidays. We'll be back on January 3, 2012. Have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year.

This week, we blogged about a special tax break being proposed for jet sales, the mid-year state budget update and the latest economic news.


  • On the state budget, Sharon Ward got déjà vu when she heard Budget Secretary Charles Zogby warn in the mid-year budget briefing that more state service cuts are on the way in 2012.
  • On state taxes, Chris Lilienthal highlighted a Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center analysis of a new special tax break for private jet sales that some lawmakers are advocating. He also shared a recent ABC 27 news report on a tongue-in-cheek "billionaire's press conference" in support of this new tax giveaway.
  • In the Morning Must Reads, Mark Price blogged about news stories on perfectly legal forms of wage theft, job layoffs and property tax hikes, new home sales data, and a planned increase in the Ohio minimum wage.

We will return on January 3, 2012. Have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year.

Morning Must Reads: Minimum Wage Moving Higher in Ohio and Happy Holidays

Mixed in with this morning's news of holiday surprise layoff notices and property tax hikes is some good news for low-wage workers in Ohio where the minimum wage will rise to $7.70 on Jan 1.

Almost-Friday Funny: A Little Turbulence at the Capitol

We learned this week that more cuts to health care and education could be on the way in 2012, and yet some state House lawmakers want to give a new costly tax break to the lucky few in the market for a private jet.

I wrote about this earlier in the week after the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center released an analysis of the tax break legislation. Our friends at Keystone Progress and the CLEAR Coalition hosted a "billionaires' news conference" at the state Capitol to draw some attention to this troubling proposal.

Morning Must Reads: Home Sales Data

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports this morning on the release of new data on home sales by the National Association of Realtors which shows the association has been overstating home sales since 2007.

Morning Must Reads: Jobs, Budgets and Local Taxes

If you haven't heard by now, a temporary two-month extension of the federal payroll tax cut and emergency unemployment benefits passed by the U.S. Senate was scuttled by the U.S. House on Tuesday. With the failure to extend both measures expected to slow the already tepid pace of economic growth, it is hard to imagine the House will not reconsider its position in the 11 days remaining before the current extensions expire.

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