Morning Must Reads: Remembering the Accounting Scandals, Bernanke vs. Plosser and Health Care Reform Art and Success!

The Harrisburg Patriot-News has a somewhat nostalgic look at the accounting scandal at the cable company Adelphia

In a study of contrasts, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Charles Plosser both gave speeches on Monday. Bernanke's talk focused sharply on the poor performance of the labor market while Plosser voiced again his concern that Central Banks have done too much to aid in the recovery.

Third and State This Week: Bigfoot, Preventative Care and Health Reform Turns 2

This week at Third and State, we set the record straight about welfare spending in Pennsylvania and explained why it makes sense for insurers to cover preventative health care. We also blogged about property taxes rising as a result of state budget cuts, the second birthday of the Affordable Care Act, and more.


  • On health care and public welfare, Sharon Ward explained why a recent report on welfare spending in Pennsylvania is a lot like Bigfoot, finding something in the Department of Public Welfare that just doesn't exist.
  • On health care, intern Jheanelle Chambers explained why it is important for health insurance to continue to cover preventative care, which increases both the quality and the length of people's lives. Chris Lilienthal had a post on the positive impact that the Affordable Care Act (which turns 2 today) is having on the lives of millions of Americans.
  • On higher education, Chris Lilienthal shared a chart from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center showing that if the Governor's 2012-13 budget proposal is enacted, Pennsylvania will spend twice as much on prisons as on colleges and universities.
  • And in the Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price highlighted news reports on state budget cuts driving school districts to raise property taxes and cut staff, and some good news for Pittsburgh and Chester County.

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

Lots to Celebrate

With 17 million children with pre-existing conditions no longer being denied coverage, 3.6 million seniors saving on their prescription drugs, and 2 million small business employees securing coverage thanks to tax credits, there are plenty of reasons to say, “Happy Birthday, Affordable Care Act!”

The Return of Bigfoot: Telling the Truth about Welfare Spending in Pennsylvania

BigfootYou may remember that the Commonwealth Foundation put out a report about welfare spending a couple of weeks ago that we likened to “Bigfoot” because it found something in the Department of Public Welfare — massive fraud, millions of non-working adults — that just didn’t exist.

I had a chance to debate Matt Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation on WITF’s Radio Smart Talk, and I thought it might be a good time to share the facts and give you my four big ideas about how we push back on the destructive framing that the “Bigfoot” report perpetuates.

Morning Must Reads: Good news in Pittsburgh and Chester County, Not So Much In Scranton

Since it is spring, how about some good news for a change! The budget gap faced by the Pittsburgh School District is smaller than expected thanks to unexpected revenue growth and a mild winter.

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.

Morning Must Reads: Prediction: State Budget Cuts = Rising Property Taxes = Property Taxes Revolts

A toxic cocktail of state budget choices by the Corbett administration — which include holding in reserve more than half a billion in unexpected tax revenue, corporate tax cuts and a needlessly delayed and ultimately inadequate drilling fee — have slowed job growth and driven up property taxes. It is too early to know whether layoffs in 2012 will match the thousands experienced in 2011, but the news continues to trickle in that school districts are looking to raise property taxes and cut more staff in the year ahead.   

Spending Twice as Much on Prisons as on Universities

It is no secret that Governor Tom Corbett has proposed deep cuts to higher education institutions in Pennsylvania for the second year in a row.

But just what do those cuts mean? Well, we have two charts at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's web site that speak louder than words when it comes to funding cuts for colleges and universities.

This Week at Third and State: School Bus Contracting, Voter ID and the Misguided Food Stamps Asset Test

This week, we blogged about a new report on the higher costs of contracting out school bus transportation to private companies, the expensive voter ID bill approved this week, an op-ed from the CEO of Weis Markets on the misguided asset test being proposed for food assistance, and much more.


  • On privatization, Stephen Herzenberg blogged about a new Keystone Research Center report finding that private school bus transportation services in Pennsylvania cost more than when districts provide their own transportation, underscoring that privatization is not always the best option.
  • On voter ID, Chris Lilienthal wrote about this costly plan earlier in the week and later included a link to a news story after its final passage on Wednesday.
  • On food assistance, Chris Lilienthal highlighted an op-ed by Weis Markets CEO David J. Hepfinger explaining what a bad idea it is to impose an assets test on people who are seeking food assistance.
  • On health care, Sharon Ward shared the podcast of her appearance on WITF's Radio Smart Talk, in which she discussed the future of health and human services in Pennsylvania.
  • And in the Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price highlighted a news report on a new study that predicts fiscal distress in Pennsylvania school districts thanks to state budget cuts, articles comparing the gas booms in North Dakota and Pennsylvania, and a piece examining whether the settlement between states and mortgage lenders over questionable document processing is accelerating foreclosure activity.

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

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