Monday, February 28, 2011

Teacher in PA says "Solidarity Forever!" to WI workers

Michelle Heh, a public school teacher from Cumberland County, PA says "Solidarity Forever!" to Wisconsin workers at the Save the American Dream Rally on the PA Capitol steps, Harrisburg, February 26, 2011.

92 year old in PA says "I am Wisconsin!"

92 year old former union member Marge Holicek joins 1000 Pennsylvanians in saying "I am Wisconsin!" Capitol steps, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, February 26, 2011.

Friday, February 25, 2011

New Report Shows Millions of People Would Suffer Under House Budget Plan

Tells Congress Best Approach to Reducing the Federal Deficit
is to Protect Vulnerable Families, Promote Economic Recovery

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At a time when 14 million people are out of work, the House approach to the federal budget fails those who are struggling most, according to a new report by the Coalition on Human Needs for the SAVE for All campaign.

The report draws a sharp contrast between the president’s budget for next fiscal year and the House plan for the remainder of this year, although it also notes serious concerns with elements of the president’s budget. It shows how the proposed budget cuts would both harm individuals and damage the country’s fragile economic recovery. The House plan includes the largest cuts, on an annualized basis, in domestic appropriations funding in history.

Ultimately, the biggest deficit-reduction measure is an expanding economy, with more people working and paying taxes, according to the report, A Better Budget for All: Saving Our Economy and Helping Those
in Need

The Coalition on Human Needs released the report to help launch the Strengthening America’s Values and Economy for All Campaign, or SAVE for All. SAVE for All is supported by more than 1,000 organizations across the country.

The report reviews the biggest differences in the two approaches to the federal budget, as well as the cuts with the largest effect on vulnerable people. It also analyzes current proposals for changing the federal budget process, pointing out that all of them share a common flaw: they reject revenue increases as part of a balanced solution for reducing the federal deficit and debt. The report calls on Congress to look at the entire federal budget -- including revenues, tax loopholes, and military spending -- not just domestic annual appropriations.

“Cutting only from a portion of domestic spending that constitutes less than a fifth of our total budget simply cannot solve our federal deficit and debt, but it will cause enormous pain and cripple our economic future,” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs.

According to the report, millions of people would suffer under the House of Representatives’ plan for the rest of fiscal year 2011. Here’s a sampling:

  • 218,000 young children would not be able to receive Head Start services;
  • 11 million patients would lose health care they would have received at Community Health Centers over the next year, with 3.2 million losing care in the next few months; 127 health center sites would have to close and 7,434 jobs would be lost;
  • 20 million low-income people, including 5 million children, 2.3 million seniors, and 1.7 million people with disabilities, would have access to anti-poverty services disrupted;
  • 9.4 million low-income college students would lose some or all of their Pell Grants;
  • More than 8 million adults and youth would lose job training and other employment services. Job training under the Workforce Investment Act would essentially be shut down until July 2012;
  • 81,000 low-income people, mostly seniors and some children, will no longer receive food packages and six states would not be able to join the program after being approved to do so;
  • 1.2 million poor households in public housing (two-thirds of whom are elderly or have a disability) would see maintenance and repairs on their apartments deteriorate due to cuts in the Public Housing Capital Fund;
  • 10,000 people with significant long-term disabilities would lose their rental assistance; most of these would lose their homes.

The report calls for any deficit reduction plan to:

  • Make major steps towards deficit reduction gradual and long-term, because the solutions will be much easier and the resulting pain much less severe if the economy is stronger;
  • Not rely primarily on cuts in domestic appropriations, which are not the cause of the ballooning federal deficit;
  • Include equitable revenue increases;
  • Reduce wasteful spending;
  • Protect low-income people from harm.

"Just as federal investments following World War II paved the way for the largest middle-class expansion in history and made it possible to pay off the huge post-war deficit, the best way to recover from the Great Recession is to make strategic investments that will spur job creation, build a stronger economy, and allow for a more rapid reduction of the deficit” Weinstein said.

To read the complete report, click here or visit

Rally to Save the American Dream

Rally to Save the American Dream

In Wisconsin and around our country, the American Dream is under fierce attack. Instead of creating jobs, Republicans are giving tax breaks to Wall Street and the very rich and then cutting funding for education, police, emergency response and vital human services. The right to organize is on the chopping block. The American Dream is slipping out of reach for more and more Americans, and we have to fight back.

The Keystone Progress Team is asking everyone to join us in taking one or more of the following actions:

Emergency Rally on the Capitol Steps in Harrisburg
There is a national call for emergency rallies in front of every state house this
Saturday at 12 Noon to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. We demand an end to the attacks on workers' rights and public services across the country. We demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And we demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share. Click here to let us know you’re coming and to get a reminder email. Co-sponsored by Keystone Progress,, Color of Change, Democracy for America, Center for Community Change, and Progressive Majority.

Contribute $14 in honor of the 14 Democratic Wisconsin State Senators who are risking their careers to stand up for the rights of working families.
The other side has billionaires and Wall Street funding their attempts to squash working families. We don’t have Fat Cats funding us, so we need you. Please give a one-time or monthly gift of $14 to help us continue the fight here in Pennsylvania.

After decades of stagnant wages and a crushing recession, this latest assault on the American way of life is one the middle class cannot endure.

We are all Wisconsin.
We are all Americans.
This Saturday, we will stand together to save the American Dream.

In Solidarity,

Michael Morrill
Keystone Progress

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

VIDEO: "They Call it Democracy," by Bruce Cockburn

Probably the only song ever written about the International Monetary Fund. I've been thinking about this song lately, after Cairo and Madison.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

UPDATE: Scarnati to Return Super Bowl Money

Scarnati Agrees to Return Super Bowl Money After 1,000 Write to Him Demanding Action

(HARRISBURG, PA)—Less than 24 hours after the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Senator Joe Scarnati took a junket on the tab of Consol Energy, more than one thousand citizens forced his hand by demanding he return the money.

Scarnati’s office received more than one thousand emails telling him that his acceptance of the Super Bowl trip calls his judgment into question.

Consol Energy is one of the largest drillers using the controversial “hydraulic fracturing” method of extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region. Pennsylvania is the largest natural gas producing state that does not tax extraction. Scarnati opposes taxing Consol and other drillers.

Scarnati’s trip didn’t break any laws, but it raises questions about whether Scarnati is in the pocket of the natural gas industry. Raising even more questions about his ability to represent taxpayers, Scarnati has also taken $142,000 in campaign contributions from energy interests, including another $15,000 from Consol.

Keystone Progress organized the email campaign demanding Scarnati return the Super Bowl money. Keystone Progress is now asking Scarnati to return the $15,000 in Consol money to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest. The sign up sheet for the campaign can be viewed at:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Super Bowl, Super Sleaze

Super Bowl, Super Sleaze

“Super Sleaze.” That’s what WHYY radio in Harrisburg calls PA Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati’s trip to the Super Bowl.1

Sleaze may be a strong word, but we agree. You see, Scarnati’s trip to the Super Bowl was paid for by Consol Energy, one of the biggest natural gas drillers in PA. While the rest of us were content to watch the Super Bowl on TV, Scarnati had his tickets, flight and hotel paid for by Consol Energy.

I guess it’s just coincidence that Scarnati has opposed taxing the extraction of natural gas.
Scarnati is the highest ranking Senator, leading the Republican majority. He should be looking out for Pennsylvania taxpayers, not accepting what many call “legalized bribes.” Pennsylvania is facing a $4 billion budget deficit, and an extraction tax would help in reducing that deficit. PA is the largest only state with significant gas resources that doesn’t have an extraction tax.2

Scarnati’s trip didn’t break any laws, but as WHYY said, it’s still sleazy. It raises questions about whether Scarnati is in the pocket of the natural gas industry. Raising even more questions about his ability to represent taxpayers, Scarnati has also taken $142,000 in campaign contributions from energy interests, including another $15,000 from Consol.3

Scarnati should pay for his Super Bowl trip from his own pocket, reimbursing Consol for everything it paid for his junket. Click here and tell Scarnati to return the money now! Pennsylvania deserves real representation, not “Super Sleaze.”

Michael Morrill
Keystone Progress

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Emerging from the Recession: Pennsylvania Ranks Third in Jobs Created in 2010

Pennsylvania added 65,000 jobs in 2010, ranking third in the nation in job creation coming out of the recession. Neighboring New Jersey, on the other hand, ranked 50th in job performance for the same time period, losing 31,000 jobs. Adjusting for state workforce size, Pennsylvania ranked 12th in the nation on job performance and New Jersey ranked 49th.

Pennsylvania outperformed all neighboring states in job growth between December 2009 and December 2010, with a growth rate of 1.2% — followed by West Virginia at 1.1% and Maryland at 1%. No neighboring state came close to the number of new jobs created in Pennsylvania in 2010.

The Great Recession has been hard on Pennsylvanians, with almost 600,000 people unemployed at the peak. But the Commonwealth weathered the recession better than many states, with state unemployment rates below the national average in 35 of the 36 months since the recession started (including 12 months when the rate was at least a full point below the national average).

PA Finishes Third inJob  Growth in 2010

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is a non-partisan policy research project that provides independent, credible analysis on state tax, budget and related policy matters, with attention to the impact of current or proposed policies on working families.

Pocono Medical Center Workers’ 1-Day Unfair Labor Practice Strike on February 9th

· Pocono Medical Center (PMC) in East Stroudsburg, PA, is forcing approximately 550 service and maintenance employees – members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania – out on a 1-day unfair labor practice strike on Wednesday, February 9th.

· While PMC posted record profits of $21.9 million last year, many frontline hospital workers struggle to make ends meet. These are the staff who provide care at the bedside, sanitize patients’ rooms, serve their food, do their blood work, and secure their medical records.

· PMC has engaged in a pattern of unfair labor practices. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against the hospital for illegally interfering with employees’ right to discuss workplace issues on their own time, and additional charges are pending.

· PMC is demanding to take away workers’ “union shop,” even though workers voted overwhelmingly in an NLRB-certified election last fall to keep their union shop. Earlier this month, over 70% of PMC workers signed an open letter published in the local newspaper calling upon the hospital to respect the results of their democratic vote.

· Workers have made good faith compromises in an attempt to reach a contract settlement, but PMC management continues to violate the law, arrogantly reject the results of a Federal government-supervised election, and disrespect the contributions of frontline staff who are the heart of this community hospital.

· No one wants to strike, but feeling management had given them no choice but to stand up for themselves and their patients, PMC workers voted by 71% to send a notice of 1-day unfair labor practice strike on Wednesday, February 9th.

· It is the height of irresponsibility for PMC management, despite reaping record profits, to risk a disruption in hospital services for the community rather than obey the law, respect a democratic vote, and work with frontline service and maintenance workers to settle a fair contract with union shop.

For more information, contact AJ Marin at 814-571-9614 or

or visit

Friday, February 4, 2011

Progressive Groups Stand United In Support Of Planned Parenthood

Media Matters Action Network joins 26 others in opposing any effort to defund the organization following fact-free right-wing attacks

Washington, DC -- Today, Media Matters Action Network joined 26 progressive organizations in sending a letter to members of Congress to express their “opposition to any effort to defund Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood has come under attack from conservatives after Lila Rose, an Andrew Breitbart-promoted videographer, presented heavily edited video she claims proves the organization engaged in systemic criminal activities.

The letter reads, in part:

These attacks are not about the issue of choice. Instead they are designed to systematically vilify and destroy institutions dedicated to helping America’s most vulnerable citizens with "evidence" that does not support their claims. They're about disempowering those who don’t share their world view. And they're about intimidating those in desperate need of help.


This week, Rose’s organization, Live Action, released the latest in a series of heavily edited videos that it claims exposes what the group calls “Planned Parenthood’s cover-up of child sex trafficking.” Of course, that isn’t the case at all. Planned Parenthood had already reported the “potential sex trafficking” to law enforcement officials.

That’s why Media Matters Action Network has joined 26 organizations, including EMILY’s List, People For The American Way, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Service Employees International Union in standing united against any effort to defund Planned Parenthood.

The full text of the letter reads:

Dear Members of Congress,

Right-wing groups are once again attempting to destroy an organization dedicated to providing crucial primary care services to Americans that need them most. Armed with heavily edited videos, countless lies, and a shameless echo chamber that repeats unfounded accusations ad nauseam, they’ve now turned their sights to Planned Parenthood, which offers a range of important health and reproductive services that help both women and men prevent unintended pregnancies and provide screenings for cervical and other cancers.

We are writing to inform you that our organizations stand united in opposition to any effort to defund Planned Parenthood.

These attacks are not about the issue of choice. Instead they are designed to systematically vilify and destroy institutions dedicated to helping America’s most vulnerable citizens with "evidence" that does not support their claims. They're about disempowering those who don’t share their world view. And they're about intimidating those in desperate need of help.

Your constituents sent you to Washington to be a strong advocate for their interests and stand up for the quintessential American values of justice and fairness -- and this latest digital witch hunt is neither just nor fair.


Julian Bond, Board Chairman Emeritus, NAACP

Accountable America

African American Ministers in Action

Alliance for Justice

Center for Community Change

Center for Media & Democracy

Common Cause

Courage Campaign

CREDO Action


EMILY's List

Feminist Majority Foundation

Friends of the Earth

Keystone Progress

Media Matters Action Network

Midwest Academy Political Action

NARAL Pro-Choice America

National People's Action

People For the American Way


Project Vote

Public Campaign

Service Employees International Union

Sierra Club


Voices for Progress


Recent Job Growth in Pennsylvania is Healthier than in Most States

HARRISBURG, PA (February 4, 2011) — Pennsylvania has enjoyed better job growth during the fragile economic recovery than most states, according to a new policy brief from the Keystone Research Center.

In 2010, the Commonwealth added more than 65,000 jobs, ranking third among the 50 states in the number of jobs created. On a percentage basis (adjusting for the size of each state’s economy), Pennsylvania job growth still exceeded three-fourths of all states.

“Pennsylvania’s investments in local communities, energy, job training and education have reaped real rewards for our economy,” said Stephen Herzenberg, Ph.D., Economist and Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center. “We need to build on these policies to ensure Pennsylvania is poised for long-term economic success.”

National job numbers for January were also released today, showing weak job gains. The jobs report underscores the need for Pennsylvania to build on its recent job success.

Pennsylvania’s job growth performance has improved steadily compared to other states over the past 16 years. While Pennsylvania ranked 39th in job growth percentage since December 1994, the state’s rank moved up to 29th during the past eight years, and has ranked 14th — in the top third of states — during the last three years (since the start of the recession in December 2007).

Pennsylvania outperformed all neighboring states in job growth between December 2009 and December 2010, with a growth rate of 1.2% — followed by West Virginia at 1.1% and Maryland at 1%. No neighboring state came close to the number of new jobs created in Pennsylvania in 2010.

When job growth is adjusted for growth in the adult working-age population (16 and over), Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 in 2010, since the recession began in December 2007 and since December 1994.

Pennsylvania’s recent job performance is particularly good compared to New Jersey, which finished dead last in the number change in jobs during 2010, losing nearly 31,000 jobs. On a percentage basis, New Jersey’s job performance ranked 49th in 2010, compared to Pennsylvania’s 12th ranking.

“New Jersey should not be viewed as a model for Pennsylvania,” Dr. Herzenberg said. “Under Governor Christie, the state’s job performance has been abysmal, which reinforces our point that if you make deep cuts to public investments in education and infrastructure, the state’s economy will suffer and working families will pay the price.”

Instead, Dr. Herzenberg said, Pennsylvania should build on its solid job performance in recent years.

“Continued investments in skills development, renewable energy jobs and opportunities for the next generation are key to our economic health,” Dr. Herzenberg said. “That’s why policymakers should address Pennsylvania’s fiscal challenges with a balanced approach that includes new revenue in addition to savings and efficiencies.”

Click here to read the full policy brief:

The Keystone Research Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that promotes a more prosperous and equitable Pennsylvania economy. Learn more:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Planned Parenthood Statement on Virginia Videotapes

Statement by Stuart Schear, Vice President for Communications, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, on Virginia video tapes released by Live Action:

Today, Live Action, an anti-abortion groups led by Lila Rose, a self-described “extremist”[1], who has called for abortions to take place in public[2] and has vowed to “take down” Planned Parenthood, released videotapes secretly taped at Planned Parenthood Health Centers in Virginia.

In a recent round of secret videotaping in January 2011, at least four health centers in Virginia received visits in a short period of time from persons claiming to be involved in the sex trade, involving vulnerable minors. Local authorities, as well as federal authorities, were alerted to these visits. In this morning’s publicized tape, the Planned Parenthood staff member reacted professionally to a highly unusual person posing as a patient. After the encounter, the staff member immediately notified her supervisor, who subsequently notified members of Planned Parenthood’s national security team, who are working with the FBI, which is investigating these visits.

It is clear that Live Action is coordinating its activities to support legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, introduced by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) to defund Planned Parenthood by stripping it of Title X family planning funding, which Planned Parenthood’s local affiliates receive to provide low-income women with birth control, family planning, and preventive care, including lifesaving screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

In the past, Live Action has heavily edited tapes to create the impression that Planned Parenthood staff are not acting professionally or following the law. Planned Parenthood’s first analysis is that this new tape from Virginia is edited, and we believe the members of the press should be able to view the raw, unedited footage of any tapes that have been made public.