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TOOMEY: Farewell to the Senate (Part Three)

I hope you will indulge me for just a few moments to make a couple of other recommendations. I have got one for my Republican colleagues; I have got one for my Democratic colleagues—mostly for my Democratic colleagues— and two for this institution that we have had this privilege to serve in.

For my Republican colleagues, let me just say, our party can’t be about or beholden to any one man. We are much bigger than that. Our party is much bigger than that. We are the political representation of this huge center-right coalition across America. On a good day, that is more than half of Americans.

And I hope we resist the temptation to adopt the protectionist, nativist, isolationist, redistributive policies that some are suggesting we embrace. I think those are inconsistent with the core values of a majority of the people in this coalition. More importantly, I think those ideas lead to bad outcomes for our country.

For my Democratic colleagues, I have heard many of you passionately— and I believe sincerely—declare your determination to defend our democracy, but I would suggest we all remember that democracy requires much more than the ease of voting in an election.

Elections are absolutely necessary, but they are an insufficient condition for a truly democratic society. Elections really are a means to an end; they are not the end themselves. The end, or purpose, of elections is to provide the mechanism of account ability of the government to the people whose consent is our sole source of legitimacy.

When we hand over Congress’s responsibilities to unelected and, therefore, unaccountable parts of our government—be that the courts or independent regulators or executive branch agencies—we really undermine our democracy, which, of course, is really our Republic, because we weaken the accountability of our government.

Now, look, both sides have done this over time, but I would just hope we could all agree that preserving more responsibility and, therefore, accountability for the legislative branch of government is a good thing for our Republic.

And then two suggestions for this amazing, historic institution. The first one—and it is the most important one: Please keep the filibuster. It is the only mechanism that forces bipartisan consensus. It prevents government governance from the extremes. By forcing bipartisanship, it results in more durable legislation and so lessens the likelihood of big swings in policies. It provides stability for our constituents. And if you want to see more polarization, get rid of the filibuster and we will have much more polarization.

The second thought I had that I wanted to share with you is, I think we can all agree that the Senate has not been functioning as well as it once did and as it really should. I don’t think too many committees are producing too much legislation the old-fashioned way. The old-fashioned way was actually a pretty good vetting process for developing legislative ideas. And when legislation does get to the floor, typi- cally, there are very few substantive amendments that are allowed to be considered.

The result is, as a body, it is very difficult for us to discover whether and where there might be a consensus. I know there are a lot of reasons for this, including political polarization, reasons why the Senate behaves in a way that tends to block debate and voting.

But there might be some relatively modest tweaks in Senate rules that might just facilitate restoring some of what used to be normal functioning. I know a lot of you have done a lot of work in this and that work is still underway. Let me suggest you considerone small tweak, a small but important technical change to a rule, the rule which enables the obstruction of the body.

I am not talking about the filibuster but, rather, the rule that effectively requires unanimous consent, in most cases, to allow a vote on an amendment, any amendment, even a germane amendment.

I can tell you, most Pennsylvanians are very surprised to learn that in order for a Senator to get a vote on almost anything, he or she needs the permission of every other Senator. I don’t think this rule is workable any longer, and it contributes to the dysfunction.

So I have just got a simple idea: Consider raising the threshold for blocking an amendment to some number greater than one.

Now, I support the filibuster because I think it is reasonable for 41 Senators to be able to block legislation. It just doesn’t seem reasonable for one. So I don’t know what the right number is, and I am not religious about this. Maybe it is 10. Maybe it is 20. Maybe it is 50. But I would just suggest that this body consider somehow raising the bar of preventing the Senate from functioning. There may be better ways to do it, but that is one suggestion.

Let me conclude with this: You know, we have all inherited something really, really, truly special. I know we all appreciate that, the fact that we live in the greatest country in the history of humanity and that we serve in this amazing legislative body.

I suspect we all get asked—I know I get asked from time to time—some version of the question: How worried are you about our country’s future?  And, often, there is some combination of national security, political polarization, and the future of our economy that is the primary concern of the people posing the question.

My short reply is usually: Look, we have gotten through much tougher times. But think about it. I think that is so true, and it is important to remember.

On national security, we have got real threats out there. Russia is obviously led by a violent, dangerous bully. The Chinese Communist Party is a rising and increasingly aggressive threat. But nowhere do we face the imminent threats that we faced during World War II and at several moments during the Cold War.

And we are polarized, and it is uncomfortable and it is problematic; but, in 1968, we had political assassinationsand cities were being burned down. And this Chamber, this very Chamber we are in right now, first opened its doors in 1859. Imagine living through the decade that followed that.

As for the economy, look, there are always risks to any economy. Ours is no exception. I think inflation is a significant problem. There is a possibility we have a recession next year. We have huge and growing national debt, and I think that is going to be a real challenge for us.

But I think it is worth remembering this: The vast majority of Americans have a much higher standard of living today than our parents did when they were our age. And a rising standard of living is, after all, the purpose of economic growth.

So I always answer that question about America’s future with the truth, and that is that, despite our challenges, I am extremely bullish on America. And I think my optimism is easily justified by our history.

America has always been able to survive and thrive, and America remains the greatest nation in the history of the world. If we keep on being Americans, we will remain the greatest nation on the planet.

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‘Little to Celebrate’ in New Report on PA Jobs, Unemployment

Just days after Gov. Tom Wolf’s appearance at a White House celebration of the Biden administration’s economic policy, a new report shows Pennsylvania has one of the worst-performing job markets in the U.S.

According to the Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank, the Keystone State has the 8th highest unemployment rate in the nation at 4.2 percent, compared to the 3.7 percent national average. Only Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Alaska, New York, and Illinois have higher jobless rates.

In addition, some 110,000 Pennsylvanians dropped out of the labor force between Jan. 2020 and Aug. 2022, the Commonwealth report said. And the state lost 108,000 payroll jobs since Feb. 2020, a whopping 189 percent decline.

“Gov. Wolf must be disappointed,” said Commonwealth Foundation Senior Vice President Nathan Benefield, the report’s author. “He recently attended President Biden’s celebration of a massive government spending bill that was misleadingly labeled an inflation-reducing bill. Unfortunately, there’s little to celebrate.

“These numbers must be a wake-up call for Pennsylvania and national lawmakers,” he said.

And, Benefield noted, the same day the White House was touting the s0-called “Inflation Reduction Act,” Consumer Price Index showed prices have risen 8.3 percent since last August. Food prices alone surged 11.4 percent year over year, the largest 12-month increase since May 1979. And the CPI for the Delaware Valley showed an 8.1 percent year-over-year increase as well.

“It’s not going away anytime soon,” Benefield added.

The Democrat and Republican candidates vying to succeed Wolf, who is in his last year in office, commented on the report.

“Josh Shapiro knows Pennsylvanians are worried right now, and he has a concrete plan to reignite our economy, spur innovation and job creation, and reduce costs for Pennsylvanians. As governor, Josh will reduce taxes, cut burdensome red tape, invest in our workforce, and put money back in Pennsylvanians’ pockets,” said a Shapiro for Pennsylvania spokesperson.

Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s campaign spokesman said, “The recent report from the Commonwealth Foundation only underscores what most Pennsylvanians already know — Pennsylvania’s Democrat leadership has destroyed our economy and continues to pursue a radical policy agenda that will make things worse for everyone. These facts are what Doug Mastriano’s opponent, Josh Shapiro, is hiding from. He wants to embrace the policies that produce such devastating results for working families in Pennsylvania. This election is our opportunity to make a change and save the commonwealth by electing Doug Mastriano governor.”

Benefield told the DVJournal there are various reasons people have not returned to the workforce, including generous unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, and homeschooling children.

“Pennsylvania has historically been a slower growth state,” said Benefield. “Partly because of our high tax burden and regulatory burden and business climate. So it’s not terribly shocking to see it lagging the rest of the country in some of these indicators.”

“It really is about economic freedom, the differences among states,” he said. States that did not lockdown their citizens as harshly as Pennsylvania did during the pandemic have recovered more quickly, he noted.

While Pennsylvania has abundant natural gas with the Marcellus Shale and many excellent colleges and universities, it has not taken full advantage of these resources.

For example, “in terms of getting (shale gas) to market there are some issues with pipelines,” said Benefield. The gas is “one of the things that we should embrace. It would certainly help with inflation.” Pennsylvania also needs to give some “regulatory relief” to the energy sector, he said.

And while the state’s top-notch universities draw students, there is a brain drain when they complete their education and move away, he said.

“When they graduate they look for other opportunities,” Benefield said. We are “seeing our kids and grandkids leaving the state and then it’s been an out-migration state.” Although, regionally, some residents of New York and New Jersey, where taxes are even higher move here, many Pennsylvanians have headed off to Texas, North Carolina, or Florida “where there’s been greater economic growth, “he said.

And the trend of office workers working from home rather than returning to the office has had a ripple effect on small businesses like restaurants, where sales have decreased.

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WISSMAN: PA Prospers With a Strong Energy Economy

Pennsylvanians are feeling the pinch of record-high inflation and energy costs. The global mismatch between energy demand and available supply has put upward pressure on prices, which isn’t helped by the current policy and regulatory environment.

What’s needed now to help boost supply, as well as bolster our economy and U.S. energy leadership, are policies that encourage investment in energy exploration and infrastructure build-out. And in Pennsylvania, with its abundance of shale gas, policymakers should embrace energy as part of the state’s economic competitiveness and create a climate that attracts additional investment.

Natural gas development in Pennsylvania has proven to be an economic boon for the state, bringing in billions of revenues annually, generating over $2.2 billion in impact fee funding during the last decade, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and signaling to other companies, both large and small, that they should invest here.

Natural gas and oil activity has not only contributed directly to Pennsylvania’s economy but has also boosted manufacturing, logistics, banking, construction, and many other sectors in the state – more than $78.3 billion in total economic impact.

Research has shown that every direct job in the natural gas and oil industry – over 102,000 – generated an additional 3.7 jobs in Pennsylvania. Good jobs mean family-sustaining wages that are spent on homes and at restaurants, retail stores, and small businesses.

Pennsylvania has prospered in many ways from a strong energy sector. But more can – and should – be done to ensure the commonwealth is one of the best places to do business and continues to grow its energy economy.

This year, state lawmakers advanced measures to bring more investments and jobs to Pennsylvania, while continuing to hold the line on policy proposals that could harm our state’s national standing as a top energy producer.

Pennsylvania is clearly making progress. Yet, to embrace all that Pennsylvania has to offer, we need predictable regulations and efficient permitting, as well as a business climate that keeps the Keystone State competitive.

In June, the American Petroleum Institute (API) unveiled a 10-point policy plan that would strengthen U.S. energy leadership and unleash investment in America. These policy solutions, like removing obstructions to permits for natural gas projects, accelerating liquid natural gas (LNG) exports, approving applications for new export terminals, and designating critical energy infrastructure projects, would create new energy access while avoiding harmful government policies and duplicative regulations.

These solutions offer energy producers ways to supply more American-made natural gas and oil to consumers here at home and our allies abroad–not to mention generate good jobs, increased tax revenues, and economic development.

Rather than rely on foreign regimes for natural gas and oil, we should encourage domestic production in Pennsylvania. And that starts with policymakers at every level of government supporting a statutory and regulatory framework that fosters economic development, allows Pennsylvania businesses to grow and multiply, and supports domestic energy production and infrastructure expansion.

Pennsylvania has led the way in energy production and environmental progress and has the potential to do much more.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, while natural gas production growth in the Appalachia region over the past decade has been helped by improved productivity from wells drilled, regional transportation capacity is nearly full.

Without additional pipeline capacity, access to affordable, reliable energy is limited, and so is the state’s ability to grow its energy economy. Advancing natural gas development and pipeline infrastructure could help meet the dual challenge of powering Pennsylvania homes and businesses while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Under API’s solutions-focused policy plan, projects that support the production, processing, and delivery of energy should undergo a streamlined review and permitting process not to exceed one year.

At this critical time, with high inflation and energy prices hitting families hard, simply put, we need more energy. Ramping up energy production and completing pipeline projects doesn’t happen overnight. That is why we need smartly crafted policies that encourage investment and growth in the energy sector enacted today.

Pennsylvania-made natural gas is key to keeping our state competitive and boosting its bottom line. Consumers benefit, too, with increased access to affordable, reliable energy, and billions in new revenues that are directed to the state and communities in every corner of the commonwealth.

With the right approach, Pennsylvania can continue to build on these gains, safeguard our energy future and stimulate long-term economic growth.

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RICHEY NICHOLAS: An Update to James Carville’s 1992 Campaign Advice

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

That was James Carville’s advice to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Thirty years later, the economy is again a top concern of voters.   However, this time the advice from the small-business community is, “It’s the economy and democracy, stupid.”

Small businesses are raising their voices about protecting democracy. They know that a strong democracy is crucial for a vibrant entrepreneurial economy. The two go hand in hand. Polls show that businesses, small and not so small, are concerned about the state of our nation’s economy and they want Congress to act.

Small businesses thrive when entrepreneurs know that their investment of time and money can lead to successful, profitable businesses for themselves, their families and their communities.

This confidence drops when our democracy is threatened to be replaced by an autocracy, one-party rule, in which government leaders are no longer chosen in free and fair elections. Under autocratic governments in which leaders are not concerned about the opinions of voters, only the politically well-connected are favored by government policies, consumers reduce spending, not all entrepreneurs have access to the marketplace, and successful businesses are in jeopardy of being shut down or taken over by big campaign supporters of those in office. Free market capitalism dies.

After the 2020 election through Jan. 6, 2021, we now know that there was a concerted effort to deny the will of the voters. The congressional hearings have exposed the anti-democracy supporters among us. Had they been successful, America would have been on the path to an autocracy that small-business owners fear.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of senators understood that Congress needed to protect democracy by reforming the ambiguous 1887 law regarding the federal role in certifying the president and vice president based on state elections. These nine Republicans and seven Democrats have co-sponsored a bill to update and improve the 135-year-old law.

The bill, “Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act,” would provide clear instructions for how states should submit their electors to Congress and how Congress should process and certify the election results every four years.

This bill is not perfect. More needs to be done to ensure that bad state actors do not replace the will of the voters with their own favored candidates. However, the bill is a vast improvement over the current law.

Business for Democracy, a campaign of the American Sustainable Business Network, has launched seven state collaboratives, with more on the way, to use the trusted voice of small businesses to elevate the issue of protecting democracy so that it will be of concern to voters this November.

These state Business for Democracy collaboratives are asking their senators to support the Electoral Count Reform Act. In addition, they are also calling for their states’ congressional candidates to commit to voting next year for two other pieces of legislation, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

These voting reform measures make up the three-legged stool needed to hold up our democracy.

The Electoral Count Reform Act can and should pass this year so that we never have another overt or covert effort to deny the will of the voters as to who will be their president and vice president.

Members of Congress who fail to support this act and congressional candidates who refuse to support the other two bills to protect democracy need to be reminded by voters, “It’s the economy and democracy, stupid.” Then vote accordingly.

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New Report Says Inflation Will Cost Families $4,400 This Year Alone

If your household is impacted by inflation, you might want to have a word with your elected officials. A new report from the American Consumer Institute (ACI) ‘s Center for Citizen Research says excessive spending, regulations, and restrictions on domestic energy production have driven up prices for consumers and businesses.

“The combination of increased spending, energy shortages, and increased regulations have led to increases in inflation that have far outpaced wage increases,” according to the report. “Based on our analysis and those of others, consumers are likely to lose thousands of dollars this year alone — by one measure, $4,400 per household in 2022 — disproportionately hurting poorer Americans and those on fixed incomes.”

The report relies on data from the federal Department of Labor, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Department of Commerce, among others.

“This report shows that inflation is increasing much faster than the average wages of American workers, which impacts consumer purchasing power,” says American Consumer Institute’s president and CEO, Steve Pociask. “This is hurting all consumers, but particularly those with the lowest incomes and those on fixed incomes.”

The solution, according to the report, is for Congress and the Biden administration to acknowledge the connection between increased federal spending and rising inflation.

The Biden administration has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin and supply chain issues for the current 9.1 percent inflation rate. Biden has also blamed Republicans in Congress for getting behind his plan to combat inflation.

“Under my plan for the economy we made extraordinary progress, and put America in a position to tackle a worldwide problem that’s worse everywhere but here: inflation,” Biden said during a June 14 speech in Philadelphia. “The problem is, Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to stop my plans to bring down costs on ordinary families.”

That, said Biden, is why his plan “is not finished.”

Brittany Yanick, a spokeswoman for Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican running for Senate, said, “”Pennsylvanians are being crushed by this inflation crisis, but President Biden and John Fetterman want to continue making groceries, gas, and everyday life more expensive through more burdensome regulations, supply chain issues, and out-of-control spending.”

If elected “Oz will work with anyone who wants to see America innovate and drive down the cost of energy in Pennsylvania, move our supply chains back on American soil, and make it easier to buy food and simple things like baby formula. Pennsylvania families have had enough of the radical left. It’s time for change,” she said.

ACI says Congress and the White House should work together to combat inflation, but not in the way the president might want.

“They must take steps to alleviate cost-push inflationary pressure,” the ACI authors recommend. “These pressures have emerged mainly from constraints on supply and onerous regulations which are driving up the price of everyday essentials for consumers.”

Guy Ciarrocchi, the former president of the Chester County Chamber and the Republican who is running for Congress against Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) said, “Of course inflation is a problem; its problem number one, two and three. While Biden and Chrissy Houlahan tell us to celebrate that gas is only $4.51, we live in the real word: things are really bad. While the so-called “experts” debate whether we’re in a recession, we lose ground every paycheck; every time we go to buy groceries; every time we buy gas.

“Houlahan helped create this mess,” Ciarrrocchi added. “First she ignored it; now, her so-called ‘solutions’ are more of what created this mess. I know inflation is crushing us, I don’t need experts to explain it to me. That’s why I’m running: to fix this mess.”

The authors maintain that recent actions and political efforts by Congress to increase regulations and taxes and impose costs on businesses “ultimately reflected in higher consumer prices.” Similarly, government regulations on domestic energy supplies lead to shortages that drive up domestic energy prices.

“Second, the administration must accept that government stimulus has created demand-pull tensions, where excessive spending creates demand in excess of supply,” the authors wrote. “While this may have been necessary early during the COVID crisis, its continuation and magnitude fueled price hikes, and adding further stimulus in the future will only do the same.”

Instead, Biden and his allies in Congress have stepped up spending, first on a bipartisan $280 billion microchip and science research bill and now a $739 billion package of tax hikes, green energy spending, and increased healthcare subsidies. Economists have debated whether the bill, which raises tax collections by more than $500 billion, will have any measurable impact on inflation.

new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, notes that only $21 billion in the projected $305 billion of inflation-reducing debt reduction comes in the first five years. The other 90 percent doesn’t happen until after 2026.

“It is time for some self-control by policymakers and to avoid future policies that will only hurt the very consumers these actions are meant to help,” reads the ACI report.

Joseph P. Fuhr, Jr., emeritus professor of economics at Widener University, agrees.

“This report documents that wages are not increasing as fast as inflation. Low-income people are considerably harmed by this situation. Their wages do not enable them, the same purchasing power, but they have little savings to maintain the same level of consumption. Also, fixed income poor people are harmed even more since in many cases their fixed incomes do not have an inflation index that helps maintain their purchasing power.”

 

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GUNASEKARA: Fetterman’s Fracking Ban is Wrong for Pennsylvania

It is pretty rare that a candidate for the United States Senate would pledge to kill one of his state’s key industries. Many would call it cold-hearted or out of touch. Some might even say it’s political suicide. John Fetterman? He’d call it a “platform.”

Just this week, comments that Fetterman made during his ill-fated 2016 run for Senate resurfaced. He said, “If we did things right in this state, we wouldn’t have fracking,” calling a critical segment of Pennsylvania’s economy “a stain on our state.”

Fetterman’s callous disregard for the Pennsylvanians who work in the natural gas industry is breathtaking. His ban would immediately upend their livelihoods, leaving them without a paycheck and with few prospects for finding work elsewhere. But the fallout would not end there.

Natural gas development has lifted up all Pennsylvanians, raising home values while attracting workers and investment to the state. One restaurant owner said that a fracking ban would be “disastrous” to her business, too. Already, Pennsylvania families are barely scraping by as inflation eats away at their paychecks month after month. To add in a fracking ban would be just plain cruel.

Fetterman is obviously wrong to advocate for policies that would cripple so many Pennsylvania families. His comments indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of energy policy. The fact is, fracking is a clean way to secure our energy future. As natural gas production and consumption increase, total U.S greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 20 percent since 2005.

Even better, fracking has repeatedly been shown to reduce energy costs — this is especially important as prices continue to spiral out of control. A 2020 study found that a fracking ban would increase annual household energy costs by over $600 per year. Another report by the University of Pennsylvania found that fracking could reduce the long-run volatility of oil prices by up to 42 percent. To leave these savings on the table for the sake of advancing an incoherent far-left environmental agenda would be malpractice.

Producing our energy at home is about more than simple economics, though. It’s imperative for our national security. Just look to Europe, where reliance on Russian gas could lead to rationing in the wake of the war in Ukraine. In an era of more intense global competition, a strong domestic energy supply will undoubtedly be critical if we are called on to defend our nation.

One might think Fetterman’s ban proposal is out of line with national Democrats. Nope. Opposition to fracking is simply another front in Joe Biden’s war on American energy. His administration has halted oil and gas leases on federal land, made production far more costly, and asked for billions in tax increases on energy producers. They brag about sky-high gas prices accelerating the “transformation” to $67,000 electric vehicles, sneering at regular folks who suffer at the pump. And instead of lowering prices at home, Biden shipped more than 5 million barrels of oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve overseas—including to China. Put it all together, and the average American family has seen its energy costs increase by almost $1,500 since Biden took office.

Contrast that with the record of the Trump administration, where I served. During his term, the U.S. was the largest producer of oil and gas in the world. For the first time in over 70 years, we were energy independent, ending our reliance on foreign energy imports. We pursued an “all-of-the-above” strategy, harnessing the totality of our energy resources—including oil, gas, nuclear, and renewables—to strengthen our production capacity while working to protect the environment. And gas prices barely topped $3 per gallon. We set out the blueprint for a strong American energy policy. It’s a shame the Democrats tore it up.

The bottom line? Fetterman’s fracking ban is wrong on every front, but I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Economic illiteracy and love for government overreach are staples of every Bernie Sanders acolyte.

Maybe Fetterman should consider that fracking isn’t the real stain on Pennsylvania — he is.

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Ciresi, Neafcy Face Off Again in House 146 District

When they faced off two years ago in House District 146, incumbent state Rep. Joe Ciresi (D-Royersford) easily bested his GOP opponent, Thomas Neafcy by about 5,000 votes.

But the politics of 2022 are very different. President Joe Biden is polling in the low 30s, gas prices are soaring, and polls show voters are ready for a change. Enough change to flip this district? That is what Neafcy is hoping.

Thomas Neafcy

Ciresi, who is seeking a third term, is quick to note he is willing to buck trends in his own party.

“I know some of my colleagues get upset with me because I’m not progressive enough at times. I am progressive, but I look at a different way to get there. I don’t believe that tomorrow everything should be renewable. I believe it all needs to be renewable, but you need to buy into that.”

One thing both candidates agree on is the economy is the most pressing issue.

Republican Neafcy, a former Limerick Township supervisor, blames Biden’s policies for a historic surge in inflation that has raised the price of gas, food and rent.

That is squeezing Pennsylvanians, especially families and retirees on fixed incomes, said Neafcy, who secured the GOP nod through a write-in campaign in the May primary.

“We’re heading into a recession. People on fixed incomes or retired are scared to death,” said Neafcy, who counts himself among those who are worried after retiring following more than 30 years working for PECO. “We’re in terrible shape under President Biden. Inflation’s out of control. Gas prices are out of control. Jobs aren’t what they should be. We’re in trouble and it’s going to hurt for a while.”

Ciresi pointed to the state’s $42.8 billion spending plan that allocated more than half a billion dollars in additional spending for K-12 education as providing some relief for taxpayers.

Nearly $250 billion is going to help the state’s 100 poorest districts, the Associated Press reported, along with  $140 million in direct property tax relief for residents through a one-time bonus rebate program proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D).

“We all know the economy is a major issue,” Ciresi said. “And it continues to be an issue. This budget that just came out helped a lot of people.”

After giving up his supervisor seat last year following decades in public service, Neafcy said was drawn into the race after the Montgomery County GOP failed to put up a candidate in the primary. He said he felt a responsibility to step up after serving virtually every level of local government in Limerick Township.

“I have one philosophy, and I’ve always kept it. I will give you an honest answer,” Neafcy said. “You may not like it, but I’ll tell you the truth. You can take it to the bank. I don’t play that game. I believe in honesty and integrity.”

Ciresi, a former Spring-Ford School Board member, comes from a plain-speaking Italian family whose influence is obvious in how he carries himself.

He littered his interview with DVJournal with colorful language and jokingly told a childhood story of how his mother brusquely laid into an irritated motorist who honked at them while they were broken down at a light.

He hopes his straight-talking ways and commitment to doing the “right d**n thing” no matter what appeals to voters who are disillusioned with Democrats because of Biden’s unpopularity.

Neafcy attacked his opponent’s record on education, claiming he is a “special-interest” candidate aligned with his biggest donors, including the teachers unions.

Neafcy supports school choice and was critical of legislation that Ciresi sponsored aimed at changing charter school laws and the way schools are funded.

“He’s trying to defund charter schools,” Neafcy said. “He’s not working for the kids. He’s working for the teachers’ unions.”

Ciresi, who serves on the House Education Committee, has been critical of the state’s funding formula, particularly an antiquated “hold harmless” policy, around since 1992 to ensure school districts aren’t funded less than they were in previous years. He believes it created steep imbalances among schools with shrinking or increasing student enrollment.

“It was a good idea at one point. It doesn’t work,” Ciresi said. Growing school districts raised property taxes to offset the state’s underfunding. This year’s budget includes a $225 million increase for Level Up aimed at addressing the iniquities, he said.

 

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HOGAN: Fed Must Act Now to Stop Runaway Inflation

Price inflation in the United States is getting out of control. Americans are seeing prices rise at the fastest rates in 40 years. Until recently, the Federal Reserve — the agency tasked with ensuring price stability — has been unwilling to address the problem.

In recent months, the Fed has finally started raising short-term interest rates, an essential step toward stabilizing prices. But its own projections show that a much stronger response will be needed to bring inflation down to a more normal range.

Rising prices are clear to anyone who visits the gas station or grocery store. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, foods (meats, poultry, fish and eggs) are 14.2 percent more expensive than a year ago. Prices for other items like housing (shelter) and clothing (apparel) are up by 5 percent or more, and gasoline prices are up by a whopping 48.7 percent!

These are not isolated incidents. The prices of American consumer goods have been rising across the board. The consumer price index, for example, has risen 8.6 percent over the last year, the biggest increase since 1981.

In the early phase of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, rising prices might have been blamed on problems in manufacturing and production. In response to the pandemic, many states closed their economies for a few months or, in some cases, much longer. As the economy began to rebound, shortages of automotive computer chips and production materials choked up prices and held back production.

But as the recovery progressed, it became clear that another culprit was driving inflation: too much money printed by the government. The Fed vastly expanded the money supply, accelerating the bounceback in spending and economic activity.

In March 2020, the Fed cut rates to almost zero, where they remained for two full years. Lower interest rates encourage economic production by making it easier for businesses to borrow so they can expand their facilities or hire more workers. People have access to cheaper credit to buy homes and cars or to spend on their credit cards, which eventually causes sellers to raise their prices.

In addition to cutting interest rates, the Fed created massive quantities of new money, encouraging people to spend more, ultimately bidding up prices. In March 2020, the Fed began a program of large-scale asset purchases, also known as quantitative easing or “QE,” buying $500 billion per month in U.S. Treasury bonds and $200 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities. The monetary base expanded from $3.45 trillion in February 2020 to $6.41 trillion by December 2021, an increase of 85.8 percent.

Congress chipped in with $5 trillion in new spending, including checks mailed out to millions of Americans. The Fed assisted by buying up the majority of the debt used to finance these stimulus programs.

By mid-2021, it was clear that price increases were being caused by widespread and persistent monetary inflation, not transitory supply-side inflation as the Fed had initially described. Since that time, Fed officials have repeatedly raised their projections of inflation in 2021 and 2022, yet they did nothing to stop it.

Despite several quarters of rising inflation, the Fed continued its QE program and did not tighten policy until March 2022, when it increased interest rates by 0.25 percent. They raised an additional 0.5 percent in May and 0.75 percent in June. However, these small steps don’t seem sufficient to combat the highest inflation rates in 40 years.

Even now, the Federal Open Market Committee projects that inflation will remain above its 2 percent target through 2024. It expects to raise short-term interest rates to 3.4 percent by the end of 2022 and to 3.8 percent in 2023. These minor changes hardly compare to the 1980s, when the Fed raised interest rates to 20 percent to stamp out inflation.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell promised more than six months ago that the Fed would “use our tools to make sure that higher inflation does not become entrenched.” Its actions, however, indicate otherwise. Inflation remains high, and Americans are worried that it’s not going away anytime soon.

Fed officials must act soon to get inflation under control. The longer they wait, the worse it will be for the Fed and for all Americans.

Biden Adresses AFL-CIO in Philly, Blames Ongoing Inflation on GOP

Speaking at the AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, President Biden pushed the blame for inflation on Republicans, including record-high gas prices.

Biden said he has a plan to bring down inflation, now at a 40-year high of 8.6 percent, and record-high gas prices, which are up more than $2.30 a gallon since Biden took office. But Republicans won’t let him execute it, he said.

“Under my plan for the economy, we made extraordinary progress, and put America in a position to tackle a worldwide problem that’s worse everywhere but here: inflation,” Biden said.

“The problem is, Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to stop my plans to bring down costs on ordinary families,” Biden added. “That’s why my plan is not finished, and the results aren’t finished either.”

While the president was surrounded by prominent Democrats, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, was noticeably absent. Across the country, Democrats campaigning in swing states have been less-than-enthusiastic about campaigning with the unpopular incumbent as the midterms approach.

In Colorado, Sen. Michael Bennet said he “hadn’t really thought about it” when asked if he’d welcome President Biden to join him on the campaign trail. Earlier this year, vulnerable Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) was also non-committal. “I’m focused on, right now, on things Arizonans care about, like the price of gasoline and groceries,” he said.

A spokesman for the Republican Governors Association (RGA) accused Shapiro of trying to hide his support for the president.

“Joe Biden’s disastrous policies have created an unsafe and unsustainable environment for Pennsylvania families, and Josh Shapiro has backed him the entire way,” said RGA spokesman Chris Gustafson. “Now that Biden is campaigning in the Keystone State, Shapiro failed to show up in support. Is Shapiro trying to avoid Biden or did convenient ‘scheduling conflicts’ land Shapiro far away from Biden once again?”

Shapiro’s spokeswoman says it was just a case of bad timing.

Shapiro had a previous commitment in Pittsburgh, spokeswoman Molly Stieber said. Shapiro was with the “president in April at the White House for the President’s announcement on closing the ghost gun loophole and was with him in Philadelphia during his last visit,” she noted.

During his speech, Biden urged union members to vote for Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate.

Union membership has dwindled over the years, and with it union power. Only 10.3 percent of the U.S. workforce was represented by a union in 2021, down from more than 30 percent in the 1950s. The numbers are even lower for private-sector employees, where union membership has fallen to 6.1 percent in 2021 from 16.8 percent in 1983, according to Reuters.

And while the president was in Philadelphia talking up union jobs, his administration back in Washington was floating the idea of ending some of the tariffs on Chinese goods put in place by the Trump administration.

“We have said from the beginning, some Trump tariffs were irresponsible, and did not advance our economic or national security and instead raise costs for families and businesses,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told the press traveling with Biden Tuesday.

Republicans were unimpressed.

“Biden talks about his Scranton roots, but he couldn’t care less about the struggles hardworking Pennsylvanians face today,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “Soaring inflation, record gas prices, and a baby formula shortage are only a few of the crises he’s dealt Keystone State families. Biden’s visit will only serve as a burden for down-ballot Democrats, as Pennsylvania voters will hold him accountable for his failures in November.”

 

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Absent Candidates Present Prime Target At GOP US Senate Debate

David McCormick, Carla Sands, and Dr. Mehmet Oz may have been gone during the Republican U.S. Senate debate Monday evening, but they were not forgotten.

The three candidates skipped the event, and their opponents called them out for it again and again.

“We have political tourists running in this race. Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick do not know this state, they couldn’t be bothered to show up tonight and they don’t care about you,” said Montgomery County developer Jeff Bartos.

“I didn’t parachute into Pennsylvania to run for office,” said Bartos. “I’m a lifelong resident with a deep love for our commonwealth. You cannot save Main Street if you can’t find Main Street. And as we saw tonight, my out-of-state opponents don’t even care to try to find it.”

Kathy Barnette, George Bochetto, Everett Stern, and Jeff Bartos. (photo by Maria Andraos)

Huntington Valley resident Kathy Barnette, an author, and Fox News commentator said it was the second debate Oz and McCormick spurned.

“Jeff has thrown out a lot of punches on Dave McCormick and Mehmet Oz, and it is warranted. It is such an insult that this is the second debate and they refuse to come before the American people, and specifically Pennsylvanians.”

On a different topic, Barnette said, “We need to focus on the economy and not just welfare checks or stimulus checks to keep people floating by.”

Along with cutting taxes and deregulating, “We need to begin to stabilize the U.S. dollar. That creates job growth and a rising tide lifts all boats,” she said.

“Students follow jobs,” said candidate George Bochetto, a Philadelphia lawyer. “And in order to keep students in this area, we need to provide good jobs, attract good jobs, provide the environment that businesses want to invest in. Right now the current leadership we have in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, with Democrat-run cities that are chasing away our businesses, the students will (go) away with them. So if we want these students here, we have to get them the best jobs imaginable and we have to invest in our communities and our businesses that will provide those jobs.”

And then there was relatively unknown candidate Everett Stern, who attacked his fellow Republicans — particularly Barnette — for supporting former President Donald Trump. He said Barnette should personally apologize for the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The audience booed Stern, an investigator and Chester County resident.

Jeff Bartos greets people after the debate.

“My mission is to absolutely make sure that a right-wing candidate backed by either Trump or Gen. [Michael] Flynn, does not get into office. And that means if I have to take down any of these candidates, to make sure I bring the moderates with me and a Democrat wins, so be it,” Stern said.

A hot topic for the Republicans on stage was inflation hitting gas prices and grocery store shelves.

Bochetto said inflation does not hurt rich people or those who are not paying taxes but takes a toll on the middle and working classes.

“But the handling of the COVID pandemic, the giveaways and the printing of money that has taken place, that is the terrible policy President Biden implemented on day one when he took office, which was to close down our development of natural gas in the United States of America…to force this country to start begging OPEC for oil and oil supplies, and they’re driving up the prices,” Bochetto said.  “And what’s driving up inflation? Go to the gas station. Fill your car up. See how much more it takes. That’s what’s driving inflation.”

Bartos said that during the pandemic he started a nonprofit and raised $3.5 million to help small businesses after he saw people “being crushed by a government that did not care.”

George Bochetto

“Then Biden administration comes in and put in policies that raise inflation…that have crushed, crushed the restaurants and small businesses that already operate on a razor-thin margin. We need to go back to the policies that were working just two short years ago,” said Bartos.

Asked about the state’s energy sector, Bartos said he would be a senator who “fights for Pennsylvania’s energy industry.”

“What we’re seeing today in Ukraine and Russia is the direct result of the Biden administration’s terribly flawed, failed policies from day one to enable Russia to finish the Nord Stream pipeline that will allow Putin to ship his natural gas and resources to Germany. Tomorrow, Pennsylvania gas should be on LNG tankers on its way to ship to Europe to help America’s allies. We need to shut off all pipelines and all energy transfers outside of Russian borders and we should cut Russia off. And we should put Putin right back where he belongs, which is in his a country, a gas station with an army.”

“Pennsylvania’s natural resources are a key national security asset of the United States,” Bartos added.

Barnette would write legislation to remove the Biden administration’s restrictions on drilling and to reopen the Keystone pipeline. Having a strong domestic oil and gas production “allows us to remain strong and put a check on bullies all across the world,” she said.

Kathy Barnette talks to students after the debate.

“There’s no question we’re sitting on a Saudi Arabia of natural gas, Marcellus Shale,” said Bochetto. “Developing that and fracking is key…But what really has to happen to turn it around is to invest…get it to Philadelphia, get it to New Jersey, get it to the coastline where we can then export. And the only one meaningful way to get it there and that’s through pipelines.”

Broad and Liberty, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the Keystone Free Enterprise Fund and GOP SuperPAC LV Strong sponsored the debate.

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