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PA's July Jobs Report Is Out, and It's Not Good News

By Mark Price, Third and State

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate shot up three-tenths of a point in July to 7.9%. Just two months before in May, the rate was 7.4%. Total nonfarm jobs in the state were down 3,100 in July.

That's not all. There was a big revision downward with the state's nonfarm payroll count for June: it was originally reported as 5,729,700, but was revised down by 17,400. To put it in some perspective: Pennsylvania reported a June jobs gain in its report last month of 14,600 jobs. After the latest revisions, Pennsylvania actually lost 2,800 jobs in June.

Industry-wise, the July report is a mixed bag. Mining; trade, transportation & utilities; information; professional & business services; and other services saw gains. Constructions; manufacturing; financial activities; education & health services; leisure & hospitality; and government saw losses.

Overall, July was not a good month for the labor market in Pennsylvania, with employment falling in both the household (-10,000) and establishment (-3,100) surveys, and, of course, with the unemployment rate rising to just shy of 8% and shamefully close to the national unemployment rate of 8.3%.

I say shamefully because Pennsylvania weathered this recession better than most states and early in the recovery posted strong job gains. The Pennsylvania advantage coming out of the recession is being slowly whittled away by the persistent loss of public-sector jobs, mostly in local school districts, that has followed deep cuts in state funding.

I wouldn't panic over these numbers; there is no reason to believe the Pennsylvania or national economy are headed into a recession. Growth just remains disappointingly weak and will likely remain so through the end of the year.

My partner's son is a drug addict

He's getting along better than he has in years. He's in a methadone program. He has a mental illness diagnosis but he's been relatively stable. After a series of "brushes with the law," he hasn't been in jail in two years. He's in a stable relationship. He's been in the same apartment for two years. He's participating actively in two different counseling programs.

His girlfriend is in a similar situation. Recently she has been reducing her methadone dosage, with the hope of getting off of it.

They have been using the $200 they each get per month in welfare benefits to pay rent on their apartment in Kensington.

They both just got letters saying that their welfare cash subsidies will be ending as of July 31rst.

I know this isn't the crowd that needs to be preached to - but how in the world does this make any sense?

With losing this source of income, and the accompanying increase in financial stress in their lives, the likelihood of them using again in the future will increase. If they use, the chances of them committing crimes to pay for their habit will increase. Along with the chances of them committing crimes increasing, so do their chances of being incarcerated. With incarceration will come increased cost to the state.

Multiply their (or somewhat similar) situation by thousands (tens of thousands? - if you weren't aware of this, the cash welfare benefits for tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians will be cut off tomorrow). Consider that many of those being cut off are mentally and physically disabled.

Being disabled will not exempt anyone from having their assistance cut off

Consider that many of those being cut off have nowhere to turn to for help.

WTF?

Republicans Try Stealing Election in Broad Daylight

The power hungry Republican Party and its corporate sponsors have now put our very democracy at issue. It’s a flawed thing to begin with, given the makeup of the U.S. Senate, the electoral college, and here in Pennsylvania, the small, inconvenient window of time within to vote, and the heavy restrictions that have been imposed on absentee voting. But under Act 18, enacted a few months ago, PA democracy is threatened in an even more profound way. Fully 10% of theoretically eligible PA voters – an astounding 18% of those living in Philadelphia – may not be able to cast their votes at all in November’s election.

This is because Act 18 requires all voters, even those well known to election officials and who may have been voting for decades at the same polling place, must show a photo id when they come to vote. And not any photo id will do; it must be a Penndot issued id, military, student or passport id, or one of a very few other kinds. An estimated million or more people in our state don’t have them.

The overwhelming majority of those blocked from voting will be poor people, minorities, and young people. And, of course, most of these will be Democrats.

A number of individuals and groups have filed suit to stop this abomination from going into effect in November, and the hearing on the suit will begin on July 25 in Commonwealth Court. But meanwhile it is up to us to do what we can to get people the ID’s they need. Fortunately a coalition of over 100 PA organizations has come together to accomplish just that, the PA Voter ID Coalition. They will provide you with training and materials to work in your very own neighborhood to get this work done. Please, if you value democracy, join this work.

The Coalition is headquartered at 310 W. Chelten Avenue. They will hold a training on field operations Monday, July 23rd at 6 PM, and another on the elements of Act 18 on Wednesday, August 1st. Please stop by or call them at 1-866-687-8683 to find the best way for you to pitch in to save our democracy.

An article about guns some gun control, from a gun owner, Willa Howe-Bennett

BECAUSE I FELT LIKE IT . . .”

I, like the rest of the world today, woke up to the sickening events in Aurora, Colorado . . .
Let me say at this point that I am a member of a group called PINK PISTOLS, which is a GLBT shooting club that is also a member of the NRA. I take my 2nd Amendment rights very seriously; the one recourse that all people of the United States have access to combat tyranny is the right to keep and bear arms. However, an armed citizenry and a RESPONSIBLE, well-educated citizenry are two separate things

The rest of the article is at,
http://readersupportednews.org/pm-section/437-2nd-amendment-rights/12532...

http://readersupportednews.org/pm-section/437-2nd-amendment-rights/12532-because-i-felt-like-it-

I would like to thank Wilma Howe-Bennett for your fresh air on the gun issue. I have something similar to reach people and change minds. But since you are a gun owner I will tailgate your blog post.

George Zimmerman's right to follow people around in a way many of those followed found threatening was his membership in town watch. But he was ignoring their telephone instructions to stop following. If he had a suit or a guard outfit on, Trayvon Martin would have less reason to think he was about to be mugged and felt he had to defend himself. Zimmerman might have well been a rouge undercover cop who was told to stop looking for hidden illegal weapons in a extensive legal collection and ending up shooting in self-defense the way a bank robber would shoot before a security guard aiming a gun at him shot first.

Most killing is some sort of self-defense. So the issue is legal or illegal self-defense. What is now driving more servicemen batty then in past wars is that today far fewer of them were in fear for their lives when they were told or expected to start shooting.

So a gun owner defending George Zimmerman is defending a rouge police, or other official, being around the gun owner in a threatening way, and ending up killing the gun owner.

However arresting Zimmerman's wife and high bail makes gun owners less identify with Trayvon Martin who was killed because he wasn't a pacifist and decided to defend himself.

Let's in our political activity get back to trying to persuade instead of to try to make those we disagree with do what we want.

INFORMATION UPDATE:

Comprehensive look at James Homes follows, How did painfully shy straight A student
(become)
Americas hated killer

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2180101/James-Holmes-How-did-pai...

Gun Owners Say They Want More Controls, a GOP Pollster Says,

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/27/gun-owners-say-they-wan...

Will the Reform Party change the image of the protest vote in Philadelphia?

Reform Party activist David Shrier is trying to get enough signatures to run in the 182 House Legislative District which includes parts of Center City, Fairmount, Grays Ferry and Washington Square West. The anger over Gay Rights leader Brian Sims throwing Babette Josephs under the bus, as she puts it, might guarantee Shrier 8% of the vote which is what Gene Miller the Green candidate got when he successfully fought against the Chinatown casino. The Reform Party's National Convention is coming to Philadelphia and will be a source of volunteers for Shrier, http://reformpartyevents.com/
There is still time for the Peace Community, and those who don't like what happened, to find a candidate and gather signatures to run under the Green Party banner and be far less sharp-tongued, and preserve the image of a Philadelphia protester usually being progressive.

David Shrier was once extremely sharp,
http://articles.philly.com/1999-11-04/news/25493839_1_candidates-money-d...
Cerebral Palsy slowed him down to the point that it is surprising that he is running. He seems to have money to spend. His Petition Party leaflet announces “FREE Food, Beer and Soda – No Contribution July 22 1:pm Second Floor * Dave Shrier MUST have his ballot petitions signed AGAIN on a NEW form, even if your've already signed the old form”.

Babette Josephs has been a tireless advocate for children. Brian Sims accusing her of voting against mandatory registration of sex offenders is very unfair. It is so embellished that no one yet found the 2006 bill he is talking about, see PHILEBRITY,
http://www.philebrity.com/2012/04/18/babette-josephsbrian-sims-battle-he...

The February 2007 The JOSEPHS REPORT page 4 Getting Tough on Sex Offenders states Babette Joshephs' position on the two 2006 bills that had just passed the previous year. “Two new laws I supported protects the public against convicted sex offenders

Pa. Budget: Failing to Invest in a Stronger State Economy

By Chris Lilienthal, Third and State

Despite ending the 2011-12 fiscal year with a $649 million fund balance, Pennsylvania fails to make the investments essential to building a strong economy or to reverse a recent trend where job growth in the commonwealth has lagged behind other states.

So concludes the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center analysis of the enacted 2012-13 state budget, which was released Friday.

In the final budget, the General Assembly restores some of the cuts proposed by Governor Tom Corbett, while leaving intact a 10% cut to human services and deep cuts to public schools and higher education made in 2011. The budget continues to shift costs to local governments and taxpayers, while adding new tax breaks for businesses.

The spending plan, at $27.656 billion, is $517 million more than the Governor’s February proposal but remains below budgeted 2008-09 levels, despite four years of recession-driven increases in demand for services. The largest cut in this budget comes from the elimination of the General Assistance Program, which provides a temporary monthly benefit to 68,887 Pennsylvanians who are sick, disabled or escaping an abuser. It ends next month

Cuts to education enacted last year, meanwhile, have diminished the quality of instruction in our poorest school districts and resulted in the loss of 14,000 jobs in 2011.

Green Night Out - Discuss the road to universal healthcare with Dr. Walter Tsou and the Philly Greens

GREEN NIGHT OUT
Single Payer Healthcare after the Supreme Court Decision

Saturday, July 21

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Singapore Restaurant,
www.singaporevegetaian.com,
1006 Race St., Chinatown, Phila. PA

GREEN NIGHT OUT welcomes Dr. Walter Tsou, who will discuss
"Single Payer Healthcare after the Supreme Court Decision"
at 6:00pm on Saturday, July 21.

Dr. Tsou teaches Family Medicine and Community Health
at the University of PA. and was formerly the
Health Commissioner of Philadelphia.
He is a board member of Health Care for All PA, www.healthcare4allpa.org.

Please join us at Singapore Restaurant in Chinatown.
Green Night Out is open to the public.
Enjoy this stimulating discussion
and a vegetarian, kosher, Chinese feast
for only $25/person.
RSVP (seating is limited) to the
Green Party at 215-243-7103 and gpop@gpop.org.

Meet George Badey, 7th Dist Dem (+ Mummer) for Congress, + 2 views of AVI @ PFC Meetup Wed 7/11 (Free Parking!)

George Badey, Democrat for Congress in the 7th (Joe Sestak's old district) headlines July's Philly For Change Meetup. A native of South Philly who attended Penn Law on academic scholarships and who fought the good fight on the Gore legal team at Florida in 2000, Badey now chairs the over-achieving Radnor Democrats (who won their school board for the first time since the Civil War) and has earned folk hero status for leading the successful Save the Mummers campaign in the Bush financial collapse parade of 2008-2009. Badey also plays sax for the always-awesome Fralinger String Band. He sounds like a natural for PFC.

Badey faces famously incompetent Republican freshman Patrick Meehan in November.

Also of interest to YPP people will be two informed but different opinions of Mayor Michael Nutter's Actual Value Initiative (AVI). Explaining the mayor's position will be Nutter's Director of Legislative Affairs Lewis Rosman. Providing a presumably alternative view will be actvist and former Controller candidate Brett Mandel.

We'll also be toasting the Obamacare ruling and plotting future progressive actions in the city.

Philly For Change July Meetup is Wednesday July 11th at 7:00 at Fergie's, 1214 Sansom Street. Parking is FREE in Center City after 6:30.

PA Starts New Fiscal Year with $400 Million in the Bank

By Michael Wood, Third and State

After a less than stellar May, General Fund tax collections bounced back strongly in June — exceeding estimate by $170 million, or 6.5%. This narrowed the 2011-12 revenue shortfall to $163 million, or less than 1% of total estimated collections for the year.

As a result, the state ended the year in a much better fiscal situation than projected back in February, when Governor Tom Corbett released his budget plan. Counting the dollars the state had in the bank, Pennsylvania actually started the fiscal year with a $400 million fund balance.

The recently enacted budget acknowledged this but only to a point. The Legislature increased General Fund spending in 2012-13 by $655 million from the Governor’s  proposal — restoring funding in a number of important areas: higher education, accountability block grants, and half of the 20% cut proposed for county services included in the now-rejected Human Services Development Block Grant. Lawmakers also found funding for another round of business tax breaks.

However, June collections indicate more could have been done — for General Assistance recipients, environmental programs, and child care. Lawmakers also passed on setting aside any of the additional revenue in the Rainy Day Fund.

Click here for the Tale of the Tape.

The revenue surplus in June was led by corporate tax collections — coming in $180 million higher than the monthly target, or 38%. After falling short of estimates for seven of the first eight months of the fiscal year, corporate taxes ended June with a small surplus of $39 million, or 0.8%.

The Human Cost of Eliminating General Assistance in Pennsylvania

By Kate Atkins, Third and State

Since the Great Depression, Pennsylvania has had a General Assistance (GA) program — a small cash benefit that serves as a bridge to self-sufficiency for the temporarily disabled and for victims of domestic violence and addicts seeking help to turn their lives around.

Since the Great Depression. Until late last month when state lawmakers adopted a new budget.

That budget will end Pennsylvania’s modest benefit for 68,000 people, effective August 1. At $205 per month, nobody was getting rich from the program. Here is a sample of who is using General Assistance and why:

A disabled military veteran in Lancaster County, who applied for General Assistance to get him through until his Social Security disability benefits were approved.

A waitress in her 50s who was diagnosed with breast cancer and used General Assistance when she could not work as she was receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatment. After about nine months, she was able to return to work.

Good Samaritans who are caring for children not related to them — perhaps children of a close friend of neighbor. Many of these children are now likely to end up in the foster care system.

A very focused group of young women I saw at a recent rally in Delaware County, who chanted: “Pennsylvania, we need GA. We’re in treatment, we need to stay!”

"Winners for the Losing Team:" An Inspiring Speech At Penn by Geoffrey Canada

Over the years, some great speeches have been given at the University of Pennsylvania. As an undergraduate long ago, I was responsible for bringing Robert F. Kennedy and Jackie Robinson to Penn. (An invitation I sent to Martin Luther King, Jr. shortly before his tragic death led to his gracious telegram of regrets). And I remember being thrilled with optimism after hearing labor leader Walter Reuther address students at the Wharton School. Much more recently, I attended enthusiastic speeches by Barack Obama and Bill Clinton there.

But perhaps the greatest of all Penn speeches, from my perspective at least, was one I did not attend: Geoffrey Canada's address to the University of Pennsylvania graduating class of 2012, reported in great detail by Maarvi Singh, of Penn's Class of 2013, in the July/August Pennsylvania Gazette, Penn's high quality alumni magazine. See http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0712/gaz01.html. The text of the speech can be found in The Pennsylvania Almanac at http://www.upenn.edu/almanac/volumes/v58/n34/comm-canada.html . A You Tube tape of the speech (with better sound quality than the one posted on the You Tube site itself) can be found at http://wilkes-university.blogspot.com/2012/06/penn-2012-commencement-add... .

Geoffrey Canada was one of seven recipients of honorary degrees in May, and his speech stole the show, relegating even a thoughtful sppech by Penn President Amy Gutmann calling for more societal collaboration and describing current graduating students as the "collaboration generation" to the sidelines.

A Big Win on Payday Lending, at Least for Now

Sorry to take so long for this update, but, despite hundreds of thousands of dollars of lobbying money, the payday lenders have lost a round in Pennsylvania. For now.

Consumer advocates in Pennsylvania won a hard-fought delay on Wednesday against a pending bill in the legislature that would once again permit payday lenders to charge predatory rates and victimize the state’s poor and downtrodden residents.

A bill that passed the Pennsylvania state house earlier this month that would raise the permissible annual percentage rate on small loans to 369 percent will be held in the state senate until the next legislative session in the fall, according to activists fighting against the bill.

The goal of the payday industry was to ram this through, quickly. Why? Because, the more attention legalizing loan sharking gets, the worse it is for the industry, and those who would enable it. So, while the payday lenders will be back in just a few short months, the delay into the fall is a real, substantive victory, won by a coalition of consumer advocates, religious groups and military veterans.

Of course, the battle is not over. And, in fact, the State Senators that still need the most education on the topic are largely the same ones that seemed on the verge of passing it. So, be ready in a few months, because a win is sweet, but a long term win would be a hell of a lot better.

SEPTA Station Renovations Make Me Sick!!

SEPTA recently finished the Girard and Spring Garden station renovations on the Broad Street line. The Cost was $30 million. The money came from stimulus programs sometime after the housing bubble burst. The rule with stimulus funds is that money can only be spent on "shovel ready" projects. SEPTA has had plans drawn up to install elevators at stations for many years. These plans were in response to Federal handicap accessibility legislation of the 80's or 90's I believe.
Before the renovations, both stations had only the two south side entrances available. Now both stations obviously have elevators, and all four corners have entrances. But from here it gets wacky and just plain stupid. At both stations, two of the four entrances are only entrances Monday through Thursday, 12 noon to 4:30 pm or something really stupid like that. They are exits only the rest of the time. As if I should be looking for a plastic sign pinned above the stairwell to inform me of such foolishness. Of course I got downstairs, gimpy with a bad knee, before a pathetically scribbled cardboard sign in the window of the vacant ticket window informed me of my folly.
Now really, how much does it cost to install two elevators? To be fair, both stations benefitted from some upgraded interior design, and Spring Garden Station had some wiring work done to it as well. But the four entrances that they opened up (almost exclusively for exiting) were already there; they just had to redo the stairs and put the already leaky semi-roofs on.

Council Democrats Seal the Deal with Philly's 1%

Yesterday, Council repealed the wage tax rebate for the working poor. This landmark legislation, one of the signature achievements of the late Councilman David Cohen, was repealed by a 10-6 vote, with 8 of those repealing votes coming from Democrats. Voting in favor of repeal were the following:

Clarke D-5th District
Green D-At Large
Greenlee D-At Large
Henon D-6th District
Jones D-4th District
Kenney D-At Large
O’Neill R-10th District
Oh R-At Large
Reynolds-Brown D-At-Large
Tasco D-9th District

Voting against repeal were the following, including only 5 Democrats:

Bass D-8th District
Blackwell D-3rd District
Goode D-At Large
Johnson D-2nd District
O’Brien R-At Large
Squilla D-1st District

Generally I try not to engage in single-issue rating of politicians. But this is going to be a hard pill to swallow when it’s time to vote for the repealers again. The wage tax credit is the kind of tax provision that generally marks the divide between Democrats and Republicans. It’s targeted toward the working poor so only those that need it get it. Credit recipients recycle the money to the economy by spending it locally, rather than on overseas vacations, or by depositing it in offshore accounts. The City gains by enabling economically marginal families to pay their rent and utilities, thus keeping families intact and lowering pressure on local services.

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