Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment. Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.
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Host: Scott LaMar
How should the winners tackle unemployment? Share your ideas with us Thursday night at 8 on Smart Talk on witf-TV. Our panel includes Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, and Mark Price, Ph.D., a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center. William Moulfair, regional director of the Bureau of Workforce Development Partnership at the state Department of Labor and Industry, also weighs in.
For the first time since the recession began in December 2007, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate in September (8.2%) rose above the national average (7.8%). The U.S. rate ticked up to 7.9% in October. Pennsylvania's statistics for last month have yet to be released. September had marked the fourth straight month of rising jobless numbers in the Keystone State. On the positive side, September also marked the biggest monthly jump in hiring since February 2012.
A Keystone Research Center report released over Labor Day weekend found that most middle-class Pennsylvania families saw their wages and income stagnate since 2000. This fact comes despite an increase in productivity over the last decade. The KRC argues that, given the economy’s growth between 2000-2010, wages could have increased but instead “an outsized share of the benefits went to the top 1 percent of earners, preventing board-based prosperity and slowing down the economic recovery.” Their researchers pin the blame on “poor policy choices that have been unfriendly to working families.”
The Commonwealth Foundation disagrees and counters that living standards continue to rise in Pennsylvania. Wages, they say, tell only part of the story. Workers' pensions and health benefits, plus earnings from investments, must be considered. And, the ever-larger share of income consumed by rising taxes affects every wage-earner's bottom line.
According to a Commonwealth Foundation analysis, "Ultimately, 2011 was a change from the norm ... Not only did the state cut spending for the first time in at least four decades, but our economy started to show signs of life. Private sector job growth was the highest since 1999, and manufacturing job growth the highest in more than 20 years. Lawmakers must build on last year's success and "fireproof" Pennsylvania's economy. That means ending the use of debt for corporate welfare and providing retirement benefits for public sector employees that are predictable and affordable. It means welfare programs that encourage self-reliance rather than dependence on government and corrections reforms to reduce costs and reduce crime."
What do you want federal and state lawmakers and President Obama to do to jumpstart job growth and move the economy into a higher gear? Share your ideas with us by posting a comment here, or on Facebook or Twitter, or call in live Thursday night at 8 to 1-800-729-7532. You also can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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