Republicans Obstructing Trade, Jobs, PA Needs Economic Accountability

Jim Bunning continues his personal obstructionism in the Senate, blocking important appointments.  I can see the GOP ads coming in 2012 already:  President Obama was ineffective in leading the nation because this agency or that entity didn’t govern.  What they’ll neglect to tell you is that this is because of their obstructionism.  Dozens of important appointments have been held up by Republicans.  The head of the TSA and many others.  Here is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) speaking about Bunning and the issue of exports:

Exports and trade mean jobs for Americans.  We must find new markets and expand old ones to maintain momentum in turning around our economy and create jobs for Americans.  I always considered the Republican Party to be the party of business but, more and more, they are only the party of big business.  Statistics show businesses actually fare better under Democratic Administrations.  For example just in this century the stock market was flat under George W. Bush before collapsing as trillions of dollars in wealth disappeared due to failed economic policies.  Seven million Americans lost their homes and eight million lost their jobs.  Under Barack Obama the economy is back from the brink and growing once more.  We must have fair trade to protect our businesses, our workers, our economy and our environment.  Free trade is not fair trade.  Sen, Klobuchar (MI):

In times of severe economic recession businesses find it very difficult to create jobs.  In this climate where banks aren’t lending it is incumbent upon the government to be the catalyst for job creation.  It is a myth that government cannot create jobs.  That is one of the GOP’s great lies.  Funding infrastructure projects keeps businesses in business and keeps and saves millions of good jobs.  That is reality and no amount of obfuscation erases that reality.

Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ):

On our state level economic development continues though scaled back from previous years.  In a new study the Keystone Research Center calls for more transparency and accountability in this critical area:

The report found that the level of transparency in economic development programs is better in Pennsylvania than in most states. Still, it is not strong enough to answer such basic questions as do companies receiving subsidies actually create jobs, where do the subsidies go, what industries are subsidized, and what kind of wages do subsidized jobs pay?

The report also determined that the state’s economic development efforts rely too heavily on handing out checks to companies for locating or remaining in Pennsylvania. Instead, the state should rely more on helping create and expand homegrown businesses. Pennsylvania has been a leader in such “grow-your-own” programs since the 1980s, but their funding has been slashed nearly in half since 2008-2009.

“With the sharp economic downturn, now is the time to rethink how the state promotes economic development,” said Stephen Herzenberg, PhD, Keystone Research Center’s Executive Director and lead author of the report. “These investments should be focused on growing and developing innovative clusters of Pennsylvania businesses, rather than harvesting companies from other states.”

I’ve seen economic development money go to questionable projects.  Many do nothing more than create minimum wage jobs.  Why are we wasting precious tax dollars for projects which return so little?  Shouldn’t we be prioritizing this money to have the biggest impact, create good, family sustaining, middle class jobs?  Do we really need more hotels hiring maids, janitors and desk clerks?  Do we need more shopping centers in a time when commercial real estate is reeling?   I’ve also seen money wasted by supporting a dying industry like newspapers (The Reading Eagle) and statues (Albert Boscov) in addition to supporting Mr. Boscov’s repurchase of his department store chain.  These are low paying jobs or industries headed for the junk heap of history.

This is why we need transparency and accountability.  Keystone Research Center makes several recommendations:

  1. Target traditional business subsidies to companies with good jobs, in industries that make sense for Pennsylvania, and to places with existing infrastructure near areas with high unemployment.

  2. Improve transparency and public disclosure by making Pennsylvania’s online subsidy database – the “Investment Tracker” – a more complete and usable tool, with information on jobs created, wages and health care benefits provided, and the street address of business sites where subsidies are used.

  3. Create a unified development budget that provides an annual report to the state legislature cataloging and analyzing all state spending for economic development, including tax breaks.  

  4. Enact economic development accountability legislation to require better public disclosure, strengthen job quality standards, and recapture subsidies when companies don’t create jobs.

  5. Shift the state’s emphasis in economic development to growing its own businesses. Grow-your-own programs deliver a higher documented return on investment than subsidies to individual companies and are a more legitimate focus of public investment than one-company handouts.

  6. Change the business model and mindset of economic development organizations so that they do not depend on “doing the deal” to run their operations and instead have a stake in a 21st-century state economic development strategy.

Unfortunately politics trumps intelligent, smart choices for Pennsylvania taxpayers.  Boscov got millions because he wrote checks to Gov. Rendell at $50,000 increments.  Money talks in Harrisburg and those giving the money got the money.  These were very good investments for businessmen, not for the people.

News & Notes

There’s a lot to catch up with after vacation so I’ll comment on several issues.  First off I’ll be away again next week to go kayaking in Maine.  I will have my laptop but squeezing in writing while away with the family can be difficult, especially since we’ll be sharing the computer again.

Sen. Jim Bunning has decided to retire rather than lose.  The former Phillies perfect game pitcher sullied his legacy by shilling for extreme right wing causes in the Senate.  His strange, unpredictable behavior of late became bizarre and resulted in his own Party turning upon him.  What else is new for the GOP?

Speaking of the Phillies a fan was beaten to death in the parking lot last week.  This came as no surprise to me.  I had a scary experience there when I had Sunday season tickets.  This is a major reason I stopped going to games there.  When I contacted the team about the unsafe conditions in their own parking lot they couldn’t care less.  They have allowed these rowdies to take over their facility and it was only a matter of time until tragedy happened.

On the good news side Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.  It isn’t even August and we are this far in the process.  Maybe we can even get a real liberal next time.

Are you as fed up with the death of customer service as I am?  I recently had some really bad experiences.  Monday I was in a Redner’s market when an employee in a hurry to go home almost ran me down in the aisle.  I mentioned sarcastically (as I too often need to do) to “excuse me for getting in your way, I’m only a customer.”  This is designed to remind them that customers are too important to be rude towards.  Her reaction?  She began laughing.  I put all my purchases back and left the store.  Why should we tolerate such horrid customer service?  Vote with your feet and shop elsewhere.

Then there are the rude drivers.  People right on red doesn’t mean you can run red lights.  The law requires that you STOP first and insure no oncoming traffic is coming.  I’m fed up with people trying to crash into me while running red lights.  This is a bad law because there’s no traffic enforcement because the Keystone Kops can’t patrol everywhere.

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan has decided to run for Congress in the 15th CD.  Charlie Dent hasn’t had a serious challenger until now.  Callahan is smart, young, handsome and a real up and comer.  Dent’s people are giving him serious credibility by attacking him already.  They should be worried.

Health care reform is dead.  The current proposed legislation will do almost nothing.  Failure to go for the best resulted in getting nothing.  Blue Dogs and Republicans are to be thanked the next time you get sick, get denied by your insurer or die because you cannot get in any waiting line for care.  The delaying tactics of the GOP have killed reform.  What a shame.

I was on a blogger conference call with President Obama and David Axelrod last week.  Obama said he had serious reservations about health care coops.  We’ll see if he winds up signing a bill in which coops are the “reform.”  He sounded very good on the call and having the opportunity to listen directly to the President and his chief adviser was amazing.

The mortgages with preferential VIP terms given to Senators Dodd and Conrad have turned out to be bad news for both Democrats.  After denying they knew they were receiving sweetheart deals Countrywide now is saying both were told they were getting special terms because of who they were.  Hubris always is the fall guy when powerful people allow their power to go to their heads.  I don’t care which Party to which you belong, if you do wrong we’ll call you on the carpet.  Both of these men should resign.

Last week’s sting in New Jersey surprises no one.  The corruption there is depressing and is so endemic to the process you’d swear the state was part of Philadelphia.  Clean them all out and send them all to prison.  Violating the public trust these days is only good for 55 month sentences regardless of your level of corruption.  Shame on the courts too.

KBR electrocuted 17 soldiers because they cut costs to increase profits running their massive war profiteering operations in Iraq.  Credit to Sen. Casey for pursuing this issue but Cheney’s company got off the hook today.  Part of the reason for government is that some vital services and duties should not be done for profit.  Military operations, prisons and health care are obvious examples.  Every time we make these for profit the greed takes over, we have endless wars, judges sending kids to prison by denying them their right to lawyers, millions of people incarcerated, and tens of millions of people with no access to medical care.  Shame on us for privatizing government.

The people called “Birthers” are insane.  Claiming Barack Obama cannot be president because he was born in Kenya illustrates their complete lack of intelligence.  The birth certificate and two newspapers in which his birth announcement was published when he was born in Hawaii were made public before last year’s election.  This is the same stupidity which results in people denying the Holocaust, global warming and evolution.  Meanwhile we wonder why our students are falling behind in science?  Facts are stubborn things, they do not disappear simply because you wish they would.  Lou Dobbs is one of the most visible idiots fomenting this craziness.  It’s time CNN took him off the air before they lose whatever credibility they retain.

Stupidity Virus Hits Senate Republicans

We’re beginning to see exactly how stupid the remaining Senate Republicans are.  The last time Jim Bunning was perfect was Father’s Day 1964 and his very undistinguished Senate career took a serious hit this week.  Sen. Bunning started a Justice Ginsberg death watch while speaking to a local group in Kentucky:

During a wide-ranging 30-minute speech on Saturday at the Hardin County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning said he supports conservative judges “and that’s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg … has cancer.”

“Bad cancer. The kind that you don’t get better from,” he told a crowd of about 100 at the old State Theater.

“Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer,” he said.

Sen. Bunning is rooting for Justice Ginsberg to die the way Phillies fans rooted for his perfect game against the Mets on June 21, 1964.  Unfortunately now Bunning will be best known for his callousness and galling cheering for an icon of social justice to die.  Apologies don’t negate such extraodinarily bad behavior Senator.  

As if that weren’t stupid enough Sen. Richard Shelby then repeated the false claim that President Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii.  This has been debunked by the State of Hawaii which even went to the extent of releasing his official birth certificate to placate the fringe conspiracy theorists.  It seems Sen. Shelby is one of these fringe conspiracy theorists like the new President of the Kutztown University College Republicans.

Here’s what Shelby said:  “Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate. You have to be born in America to be president.”

Has a stupid virus hit the Senate Republican offices?  Perhaps this explains their recent votes.