Hurricane Irene Open Thread

Hurricane Irene is slamming the east coast and hit landfall again in Little Egg Harbor, NJ.  It remained a cat 1 hurricane through the night according to reports.  Post your experiences and pictures and share the agony of getting through a hurricane.  Everything is nice and peaceful out here in New Mexico, I feel as if I dodged a bullet.  Meanwhile the White House continues having press conferences with FEMA and issuing statements about their readiness.

News & Notes August 27, 2011

As the east coast braces for Hurricane Irene I’m monitoring things as well as I can from Santa Fe.  The advantage of being here is my power won’t go out and I can monitor FEMA and news sources for the latest information.  I’ll do my best over the weekend to provide information.  If you have news and information let me know and I’ll get it out there.

It’s rained every day since I arrived in northern New Mexico which is very unusual.  This is the high desert and climate change has been effecting the southwest quite significantly.  These storms break a severe drought and are quite welcome to the residents and Native Americans.  

I met a couple from Los Alamos yesterday whom I knew from our Democratic Talk Radio facebook group.  It’s so nice to put faces with names and actually get to know people.  I’m trying to do some work while here on shale gas fracking.  It’s been going on out west for years and I’d like to learn what the longer term effects are on the environment.  Larry and Shirley Jeffreys are steering me to some people in Santa Fe with whom I can meet.

FEMA seems to be managing preparations for Irene pretty well. They have been conducting news conferences and sent people into the projected path of the storm ahead of time to deal with the aftereffects.  Following just days after the 5.8 earthquake this is a double whammy for the region.  Meanwhile Eric Cantor is insisting on more federal cuts in exchange for disaster aid.  Since the epicenter of the quake was in his own district there is no larger evidence of the need for him to go.  Government exists to provide disaster aid in the event of major events and if he cannot even support disaster aid for his own District his constituents need to elect a new Congressman.

Speaking of weather, drought and climate change Texas Governor Rick Perry said this in New Hampshire this week:

“I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data, so that they will have dollars rolling into their, to their projects,”

Al Gore responded back saying most scientists have no financial gain by calling for action about the issue.  He’s correct as most of them are academics.  If they owned companies who stood to gain financially from their work that would be a conflict of interest and cloud anything they said.  Sort of like the climate change deniers who are funded by ExxonMobil (to the tune of $18 billion) and other energy companies who do actually have a financial interest in denying the science.  They do have a conflict of interest and Perry apparently is too stupid top comprehend this fact just like he’s too stupid to understand the science.

The more we learn about Perry the more radical he is and we don’t need another radical Texas Governor in the White House.  Texas is being hit with severe high temperatures and drought this year due to climate change yet he thinks the solution is a prayer meeting.

Another closeted gay Republican surfaced this week when Puerto Rican Senator Roberto Arango. was outed by Gawker for explicit pictures he posted on the smartphone gay hookup site Grindr.  I love the sarcastic commentary in their article.

Congressman Tom Marino was targeted with a mock funeral in Williamsport over the death of jobs:

Republican Members of Congress are now charging the public to attend their events in a total effort to keep the people from expressing their concern and outrage over recent votes.  If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

The White House is moving towards approving the controversial tar sands pipeline in the face of a continuous protest about running an oil line straight down the country from Canada to Texas.  With a straight face they are saying there’s minimal environmental risk.  One more reason not to vote for Barack Obama next year.

About Those Pa. Job Numbers

A blog post from Sean Brandon, originally published on Third and State.

Last week (while Third and State was on holiday), Pennsylvania’s July jobs report came out. The unemployment rate for July jumped from 7.6% to 7.8%, with 493,681 Pennsylvanians out of work.

Before June, the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania had been decreasing or holding steady for 16 straight months. The chart below showing the unemployment rate since 2007 reflects the slow recovery Pennsylvania has been experiencing.

It was also reported that 8,700 jobs were created in Pennsylvania last month. The Pennsylvania economy must produce 7,850 jobs each month over the next three years in order to get back to full employment. In this light, the 8,700 jobs created in July seem to indicate healthy growth.

The stark discrepancies between what unemployment rate data and job count data are telling us are a result of two different surveys which are both conducted by the Labor Department. The Household survey asks a sample of individuals whether or not they are employed, gathering the data for the unemployment figures. The Establishment survey asks companies to report how many employees they have.

Below is a chart depicting each survey’s measured employment levels in Pennsylvania since 2009. As is evidenced by the chart, the disparities between the Household and Establishment surveys are not unusual. Here, the Household survey shows poor performance over the last three months while, relatively, the Establishment survey is showing consistent growth. The BLS states that “data from these two sources differ from each other because of variations in definitions and coverage, source of information, methods of collection, and estimating procedures. Sampling variability and response errors are additional reasons for discrepancies.”

Writing for London’s The Guardian, Ben Goldacre points out that we should not read into the monthly fluctuations of data. Goldacre makes a statistical argument by drawing attention to the way labor market data are collected – sampling. He uses the example of a gumball vending machine that contains thousands of blue and yellow gumballs. We know that exactly 40% of the gumballs in the machine are yellow. However, when taking various samples of 100, sometimes we may pull out 32 yellow gumballs, and other times we may pull out 48, 37, 43, or whatever.

This ‘sampling error’ is a regular occurrence and often means we can’t conclude that a monthly gain or loss in state level employment is a real occurrence or the result of sampling error. In fact, Pennsylvania is not one of the states listed by the BLS as having a statistically significant employment change between June 2011 and July 2011. That is why it is important to not put too much stock in a single month’s data, good or bad. The best we can often do is look back over the course of the last several months and search for patterns in the employment numbers.

The figure below plots the monthly change in employment alongside a three-month moving average of employment. As you can see the monthly employment data has been quite volatile. Although July was a good month overall, employment growth seems to have slowed somewhat recently (the red line).

What we can learn from the data released in July and throughout the year is that a relatively slow recovery is taking place. The chart below indicates that since the start of the Great Recession in December 2007, Pennsylvania has lost 116,400 jobs. These job losses coupled with the 110,700 jobs needed to keep up with the state’s population growth make up the 227,100 job deficit (from pre-recession employment levels) facing Pennsylvania today. In the last year, Pennsylvania has recovered over 70,000 of the lost jobs, a statistically significant employment change indicating that growth has taken place. Policymakers at the state and national levels need to keep putting people back to work if a recovery is to continue.

Toxic Lead to Cover Iowa Killing Fields

by Walter Brasch

Iowa, which gave us the carnival known as the Iowa Straw Poll and artery-clogging Deep Fried butter, will unleash another health problem, beginning Sept. 1.

The Iowa legislature last year approved a dove hunting season, the first in more than nine decades. However, the state’s Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Commission (DNR) banned the use of lead shot and bullets.

That led to a massive all-out assault by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the U.S. Sportsman’s Alliance (USSA).

In a letter to Gov. Terry Branstad, the NRA underscored its opposition by waving a veiled threat that banning lead ammunition is an “attack [on] our freedoms.”

“Absurd,” replied Robert Johns of the American Bird Conservancy, who explained that “the NRA continues to deliberately miscast the lead-versus-nonlead ammunition issue as an attack on hunting.” There is nothing in the Constitution or in any federal court decision that would prohibit the banning of any specific kind of ammunition.

The NRA blatantly suggested the ban on lead shot “is designed to price hunters out of the market and keep them from taking part in traversing Iowa’s fields and forests.” For its “evidence,” it pointed out the cost of non-toxic ammunition is higher than ammunition made of lead. However, the use of non-toxic shot results in only a 1-2 percent increase in total costs for hunters, according to a study conducted by the National Wildlife Research Centre, certainly not enough to justify the NRA’s paranoid panic that non-toxic bullets will lead to a decrease in hunting.

Iowa’s DNR, the NRA claimed, was echoing not just environmental extremism but “the unscientific battle cry of the anti-hunting extremists.”

Contrary to NRA and USSA statements, there are several hundred scientific studies that conclude that lead shot is a health and environmental danger. Lead can cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, reduced reproduction, neurological damage, and genetic mutation. For those reasons alone, the U.S. bans lead in gasoline, water pipes, windows, pottery, toys, paint, and hundreds of other items.

“Wildlife is poisoned when animals scavenge on carcasses shot and contaminated with lead-bullet fragments, or pick up and eat spent lead-shot pellets[,]mistaking them for food or grit,” the Center for Biological Diversity points out. As many as 20 million birds and other animals die each year from lead poisoning, says the CBD.

Humans can be poisoned by eating animals that have eaten the pellets from the ground or which have eaten decaying carcasses of birds that have been shot with lead ammunition. Iowa is one of only 15 states that don’t have some regulation that bans lead in shot and ammunition. Most European countries ban the use of lead shot for hunting.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1991 banned the use of lead shot in all waterfowl hunting. The NRA screamed its opposition at that time. However, the ban didn’t lead to a reduction of hunting or hunters, nor did it violate any part of the Constitution.

R.T. Cox, in his column, “The Sage Grouse,” notes that “bird hunters can leave 400,000 pellets per acre of intensely hunted areas.” About 81,000 tons of lead shot are left on shooting ranges each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Part of the reason for so much lead shot on the ground is that doves, which can fly up to 50 miles per hour and make sharp turns, are difficult to hit. While hunters may claim they shoot the birds as a food source, such claims are usually blatant lies meant to hide the reality that the 20 million doves killed each year are nothing more than live targets. The five ounce mourning dove, hit by shot, provides little usable meat. The NRA even advises hunters that for health reasons, they should “cut away a generous portion of meat around the wound channel.”

Lead on the dove killing fields isn’t the only problem. An investigation by the North Dakota Dept. of Health in 2007 revealed that 58 percent of venison donated to food banks by the Safari Club contained lead fragments. During the past decade, 276 California condors were found to have had lead poisoning; there are fewer than 400 in the state. A ban on lead shot was enacted in 2007.

There are alternatives to using lead. Non-toxic bullets and shot are made from tungsten, copper, and steel, without the negative health problems. While some hunting advocates maintain that lead bullets are significantly better in the field, there is no evidence to suggest that “green” ammunition results in fewer kills.

Nevertheless, disregarding scientific evidence and facing NRA wrath, Branstad said he agreed with a legislative panel’s decision to ignore the findings of the state’s professional wildlife conservationists, who he said exceeded their authority, to restore lead shot hunting.

Andrew Page, a senior director for the Humane Society of the United States, has another opinion, one far more logical than the NRA/NSSA rants: “If hunters are conservationists as they say they are, they should be the first to stand up and say they won’t poison wildlife or the ecosystem.”

Irene Coming For A Visit

Hurricane Irene will be visiting Pennsylvania this weekend and prognostications are calling for heavy rain and strong winds for the weekend with the worst arriving Sunday.  Please make preparations by bringing outside furniture indoors or tied it down.  Stock up on water, candles, batteries and other emergency supplies as power may go out in your area.  The White House has announced FEMA is already in place:

WASHINGTON – As Hurricane Irene moves closer to the East Coast of the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working closely with states up and down the East Coast to ensure they have the resources they need to prepare.  FEMA strongly encourages all East Coast residents to take steps now to prepare for severe weather in the coming days and urging them to listen to and follow the instructions of their state, tribal and local officials.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Watch for the North Carolina Coast from North of Surf City to the North Carolina-Virginia border.  A Hurricane Watch means hurricane conditions are possible in the area within 48 hours.  For more forecast information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center, click here.

Under the direction of President Obama and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, the entire federal family, coordinating through FEMA, is leaning forward to support our state and territorial partners as Hurricane Irene continues to threaten the east coast, having already impacted Puerto Rico.  FEMA through its regional offices in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston are in constant contact and coordination with state, tribal and local officials that could be impacted or have already been impacted by this storm, to ensure they have the support they need to respond. FEMA’s regional response coordination centers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta are operating at heightened levels to ensure federal coordination and support to states that may be affected by severe weather.

Since the federal government first began monitoring the storm, FEMA officials have been regularly updating President Obama and Secretary Napolitano on the federal efforts to support storm response and preparation needs. Earlier today, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Secretary Napolitano briefed President Obama on the latest preparation efforts with states and major metropolitan areas, including the pre-positioning of staff, teams and commodities across the entire East Coast.

“All residents along the East Coast should be paying close attention to this storm and listening to their state and local officials for key updates and information, including evacuation orders,” said Administrator Fugate.  “Now is the time to prepare your families, homes or businesses, so if you haven’t already, visit www.Ready.gov or www.Listo.gov.”

In advance preparation for the storm, FEMA National Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMATs) are on the ground in North Carolina and Virginia and arriving in South Carolina, today in anticipation of further deployment to potential impact areas along the east coast of the U.S.  In addition, Regional IMATs are being deployed to Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, to coordinate with state, tribal and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting potential disaster response and recovery efforts.

FEMA has also placed liaison offers in state emergency operations centers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and with New York City emergency management officials.  Liaisons are also deploying to New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.  These liaisons will coordinate with the state for any support needed and requested.

At all times, FEMA maintains commodities, including millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories.  In Atlanta, for instance, FEMA has more than two million liters of water, more than 1.3 million meals, and more than 16,000 cots and 56,000 blankets.  These resources may be moved to Incident Support Bases (ISBs), which are distribution centers located closer to the impacted areas, allowing FEMA and federal partners to proactively stage commodities closer to areas potentially affected by severe weather, allowing supplies to quickly be moved throughout nearby affected states, should they be needed and requested.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for example, has been designated as an ISB to support federal operations, and ISBs are being set up in Massachusetts and New Jersey, to support states within the regions.

These commodities are meant to supplement state resources if needed, but it’s critical that individuals and families build their own emergency supply kits so that in the event of a disaster, state and local resources can be focused on the most vulnerable citizens.

In Puerto Rico, federal personnel are joining commonwealth and local officials to conduct joint preliminary damage assessments, as weather permits. These damage assessments are the first step in helping a governor determine whether the scope of the damages are beyond what the commonwealth is capable of handling, and if additional federal assistance is needed.  This past weekend, FEMA proactively deployed regional IMATs to the Caribbean to coordinate with territory and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting potential disaster response and recovery, and on August 22, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, making federal funding available to supplement commonwealth and local response efforts in the area.

FEMA is coordinating across the federal government to ensure territorial and state officials have the support they need as they respond to or prepare for Irene. New actions as of today include, but are not limited to:

   * NOAA’s G-IV research jet is scheduled to fly surveillance missions today and tomorrow. The G-IV flies at high altitude (40,000’+) to measure the steering currents surrounding the hurricane, improving forecasts of the hurricane’s track.  Additionally, the agency’s WP-3D is also scheduled to fly multiple research missions into Hurricane Irene today. Flying through the eye of the storm at low altitudes, this aircraft collects research-mission data critical for computer models that predict hurricane intensity and landfall.

·         The Department of the Interior units affected by the storm, primarily national parks and fish and wildlife refuges along the coast, are taking all appropriate actions and informing the public through local announcements as actions are taken.  In the Washington, DC area, the National Park Service (NPS) is coordinating closely with FEMA other federal partners to monitor the storm.

·         The U.S. Coast Guard will identify and track all vessels in port, establish contact with emergency management agencies at the local, state and federal levels, and work closely with port and industry officials to minimize damage in the event the storm impacts key shipping ports and facilities.

·         The U.S. Department of Agriculture is releasing information on food safety tips in advance of severe weather.  Visit www.usda.gov/disaster for more information.

   * The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun preparing its facilities along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. in advance of potential landfall of Hurricane Irene.  Although all VA facilities remain under normal operations at this time, the Hampton, Va. VA Medical Center will be conducting a partial evacuation of its facility, sending some patients requiring advanced care to the Richmond and Martinsburg, Va. VA Medical Centers.

   * The American Red Cross is mobilizing disaster relief workers and relief supplies for an East Coast response.  The Red Cross is opening shelters in North Carolina as local evacuation orders begin to go into effect. Additional shelters in North Carolina and other states are being prepared along the east coast. More information is available about open Red Cross shelters at redcross.org.

Click here for the previous update on these activities.

FEMA encourages everyone, regardless of whether they live in a hurricane-prone area, to take steps to ensure their families, homes and businesses are prepared for a possible emergency.  As a reminder, the month of September is designated as National Preparedness Month (NPM), an opportunity to encourage Americans to be prepared for disasters or emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities. Individuals and families can learn about events and activities, and groups can register to become a NPM Coalition Member by visiting http://community.fema.gov.  NPM is sponsored by the Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen Corps and The Ad Council.

FEMA’s ongoing support of disaster response activities in Puerto Rico and its proactive support for East Coast storm preparations, does not diminish its focus from critical federal disaster response and recovery operations that continue, across the nation, including flooding in the Midwest and the ongoing recovery from the southeastern tornadoes.  Every disaster is a reminder that they can happen anytime, anywhere.  Now is the time to prepare–visit www.Ready.gov or www.Listo.gov for tips on creating your family emergency plan and putting together an emergency supply kit.

This is a serious hurricane and damage will be severe.Be prepared!

News Flash: PA Public-Sector Jobs Not Path to Riches

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

The Economic Policy Institute has a new report out documenting – surprise, surprise – that jobs in Pennsylvania state and local government aren’t the way to get rich.

The report, authored by Rutgers University labor and employment relations Professor Jeffrey Keefe, shows that Pennsylvania public-sector workers make the same or slightly less in wages plus benefits than comparable Pennsylvania private-sector workers. The more-generous benefits of public-sector workers are balanced by lower wages and salaries.

We weren’t very surprised by this result. We had made similar observations earlier this year.

  • When Governor Corbett implied in his March budget address that Pennsylvania public-sector workers have enjoyed faster wage growth than their private counterparts recently, we showed that the Governor was wrong.
  • We called your attention to The Economist’s observation that no one goes into government to make a lot of money.
  • We pointed out that the two highest-paid CEOs in Pennsylvania make more than the highest-paid 100 Pennsylvania state employees.
  • Oh, and see the April 1 Not Patriot News story by reporter Wanda Moore, “State Worker Stunned to Learn State Government Is Not Pathway to Riches.”

The low salaries of college-educated public-sector workers help explain why Governor Corbett struggled to find supporters over age 35 willing to take key positions in his administration.

Low public-sector pay is also why state and local government can’t save much money by slashing public workers’ benefits. To attract and retain high-quality workers, any benefit cut for college-educated public workers (most of the public payroll) would need to be matched by wage increases.

Read a fact sheet here with all the key points on public versus private pay in Pennsylvania.

Big Oil’s Myths Struck Down

Note:  I’m in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a few weeks.

I found an interesting article in the Santa Fe New Mexican about big oil’s myths depicted in their talking points.  I think part of this also applies to the gas companies drilling in our Marcellus shale region.  The article was written by Ryan Alexander of Taxpayers For Common Sense.  While the article itself isn’t available online a synopsis of it is available here.  

The first myth attacked is that oil companies shouldn’t have their tax loopholes closed or be forced to pay taxes because they already pay the federal government $86 million a day.  These aren’t taxes but royalties for removing a public resource (oil) for private profit.  The federal government sells these leases on public lands to the oil companies.

This is what we’re doing in Pennsylvania with Marcellus shale natural gas.  The gas belongs to all of us and we’re allowing Range Resources, Cabot and Chesapeake energy companies and others to drill in our state lands for free.  They aren’t paying any royalties to Pennsylvania while they rape our landscape and remove our gas.  All the while they are destroying our roads, releasing methane into our air, poisoning our ground water, releasing radioactive and toxic fracking fluids into our rivers and filling our landfills with detritus from drilling.  All for free.

The oil spokespeople also claim their tax loopholes aren’t any different from those for other corporations.  First of all no corporation should have a loophole.  However the oil industry has special, specific tax loopholes just for them.  They cannot even be truthful about the numbers of people they employ.  They claimed they employ 79,000 people here in New Mexico when the actual number is 28,688.  They’ve been lying about the number of jobs created in Pennsylvania too.

Fracking for natural gas has been going on here in New Mexico, though on a far smaller scale than we’re seeing in Pennsylvania, for a lot longer.  Most of our state lies above the Marcellus Shale while New Mexico has scattered spots of shale.  I’m attempting to contact some local people involved to gain some insight into how long term fracking has affected New Mexico so as to gain some perspective for what we have in store.

A small earthquake hit here Sunday night with an aftershock on Monday.  The tremor hit right along the Colorado/New Mexico border which is about 100 miles north of Santa Fe.  It is being blamed on fracking which has been extensive in that area.  Arkansas has also seen an upswing in the number of earthquakes attributable to hydrofracking for natural gas.  In light of the 5.8 earthquake which was centered in Virginia and felt rather strongly throughout Pennsylvania this is an important consideration.  Are our nuclear plants designed to resist such earthquakes and frequent earthquakes?  How about our crumbling bridges and other infrastructure?  Will our water and sewage systems withstand such tremors?  For how long?

We aren’t even charging an extraction tax (royalty) to these energy companies who are already lying about the number of Pennsylvanians they’re hiring while they may be subjecting us to a future which doesn’t justify the risks.  Pennsylvania must do a serious risk assessment around fracking and allow all of us to decide what is best for our Commonwealth.  We do know we cannot believe the myths being put out by the industry.

New York AG Kicked Off Bank Panel

A panel negotiating a civil settlement with major banks over mortgage fraud has removed New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.  The NY AG was opposing a proposal to allow the banks which swindled investors, defrauded homeowners and collapsed the global economy to get off with a $20 billion fine and be immune from further prosecution.  The $20 billion is the total amount for all the banks, not for each one of them.  These bankers cost investors $7 trillion, many of whom were pension funds, foreclosed on another 7 million homes and resulted in 8 million Americans losing their jobs.

They did this by telling home buyers their mortgages were fixed rate when they were adjustable, by forcing many prime mortgage borrowers into riskier and more expensive sub prime loans (for higher commissions), forged false information on mortgage applications, bundled these now toxic assets into derivative securities, rated them AAA so pension funds could buy them, then bet against them by taking insurance out on them through AIG.  It all collapsed because it was simply a huge Ponzi scheme.  The demand for more and more mortgage backed securities meant creating more and more fraud.

For this they get away with a collective $20 billion fine and no criminal prosecutions.  Schneiderman isn’t happy with that and objected on behalf of the victims in his state and, thusly, was removed from the group negotiating this sweetheart deal for the banks.

Remember who the single largest contributor was to President Obama’s 2008 campaign?  Goldman Sachs ($994,000).  JP Morgan Chase employees gave him $695,000.  One thing I will say about Barack Obama:  once he’s bought he stays bought.

Random Thoughts

My phone began buzzing with texts and Tweets yesterday after the earthquake hit the east coast.  Fortunately it doesn’t sound as if there was any major damage in Pennsylvania.  Some bridges may have been weakened, mass transit systems were going slowly and some cell phone outages were reported.  With fracking beginning to penetrate our earth we’d better prepare for lots of earthquakes in the future.  Arkansas is seeing a sharp increase and two smaller quakes hit here Monday and Tuesday.  I didn’t feel anything from the tremors at the Colorado/New Mexico border (about 100 miles due north of Santa Fe) but they are already being blamed on the hydrofracking.  This area has seen natural gas fracking and drilling for years.

Are you as tired as I am of the Obama apologists saying he can’t get anything done because of the Republican House?  Have they forgotten he had two years of a heavily Democratic House and a super majority in the Senate?  Excuses.

I was listening to the excellent NPR station here (KSFR) yesterday as reports out of Tripoli noted rebels had entered the huge and heavily fortified Ghaddafi compound and began shooting in the air in celebration.  My reaction was that they should save that ammunition.  Entering that compound was just the beginning.  It could take days to subdue the pro Ghaddafi forces entrenched there in bunkers.

Congressman Tom Marino claims he’s trying to create jobs but everything he has done so far has destroyed them.  The debt ceiling deal which he supported kills between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000 jobs.  How does that vote jibe with this:

“I’m for the creation of jobs,” he said. “I always have been, and that won’t change.”

Santa Fe got quite a bit of rain last weekend, 3.9 inches which is a lot for the desert.  Plows were out Monday morning clearing dirt which cascaded onto the roads, many of which are unpaved.  Since there is little precipitation dirt roads are common and allow for rain water to replenish the aquifer.  Water use here is restricted so homeowners have a certain amount of water they can use each year and that’s it.

Could It Be the Weather?

(The decline in the number of returns could also reflect more Pennsylvanians dropping under the poverty level and, thus, not required to file a return.  That’s an argument FOR unions. – promoted by John Morgan)

A blog post from Michael Wood, originally published on Third and State.

The Delaware County Daily Times reprinted a story from the PA Independent (the state news service started by the Commonwealth Foundation) which mistakenly blames unions for the out-migration of taxpayers in the state.

Here is the claim:

The Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C., tax policy nonprofit, tracks tax  returns filed in every state to determine how shifts in population affect working by tracking the Social Security numbers of income tax returns filed with the IRS each year.

Between 1999 and 2008, Pennsylvania saw an overall decline of 84,000 tax returns. The top three destinations for people leaving Pennsylvania during that time – Florida, Virginia and North Carolina – are all right to work states. The data is the most recent available.

There are a couple of problems with this rationale.

1. Not many people move between states as a share of the population. According to data on the IRS’s website for the period 2004 to 2009, Pennsylvania lost a net 21,847 filers. This equates with less than 0.2% of our population. Most people who move do so to neighboring states.

2. Included in these numbers are retirees. If you aren’t in the workforce, I don’t think workforce policies are high on your priority list.

3. A bigger issue, particularly for retirees, is likely weather. I don’t hear about people retiring to Minnesota or New Hampshire, but I do hear about people going to where it is warmer – places like Florida, California, Arizona, North and South Carolinas, and Texas come to mind –  and that is precisely where people are going, the data show.

In fact, when you look at the 2004-2009 data, nine of the top 10 states receiving filers who lived the previous year in Pennsylvania enjoy milder winters than we do.

PA Filers Lost to Warm Weather States

Filer information comes from the IRS. Weather data come from the NOAA.

One thing that can’t be claimed from this data is that people are moving to lower their income taxes. In these top 10 net destination states, all but Texas and Florida have higher personal income taxes than Pennsylvania. For many retirees, Texas and Florida offer little in terms of income tax savings, as Pennsylvania doesn’t tax pension income.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently took a look at whether taxes have much impact on where people decide to live and found that other factors, including home prices and weather, are more important to people.

So how should Pennsylvania deal with this manufactured crisis? Abolish unions so employers can pay people less, give everyone a heat lamp and raise Pennsylvania’s income taxes?