PA Treasurer Rob McCord: PA Will Benefit from Embracing Clean Power

January 12, 2015 – Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service (PA)

Posted at http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2015-01-12/energy-policy/state-official-pa-will-benefit-from-embracing-clean-power/a43925-1

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HARRISBURG, Pa. – While the Environmental Protection Agencies proposal to curb carbon pollution may be a difficult pill for coal supporters to swallow, one state leader is convinced the benefits outweigh the costs. About 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s electricity comes from coal, and the Clean Power Plan calls for the state to reduce carbon emissions from coal power plants 32 percent by the year 2030.

State Treasurer Rob McCord admits there are costs and concerns to be addressed, but says there’s much to gain by embracing the goals of the plan.

“We have families who depend on the income from working in the coal industry,” he says. “But what we need to take a look at is that, in the last decade, we’ve generated hundreds of thousands of jobs now in green technology industries related to energy, as opposed to the 7,500 jobs in coal.”

McCord says the plan would also reduce climate change, and help those who suffer from asthma and other lung conditions by improving air quality. In the last two years, the EPA has received more than eight million public comments supporting federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The rules are supposed to be finalized this summer, although GOP leaders in Congress say they’ll try to prevent that.

The EPA has crafted the plan so states are allowed flexibility in how they meet their goals. Instead of waiting for federal regulators to decide how Pennsylvania will reduce carbon emissions, McCord says the State Legislature should adopt its own approach with wind and solar power, and other innovations.

“Net metering is a big opportunity for families; generating green technology is a big opportunity for businesses,” he says. “Incentives for conservation, we get a $3 return for every dollar spent on any kind of conservation. All of those things could be put into a customized bill.”

McCord believes the savings that result from moving to a clean energy economy can create new opportunities for those families and businesses that have depended on coal for their livelihood.

“Provide special incentives to transition away from a dependence on coal,” says McCord. “We may want to invest in things like carbon sequestration, so that our coal reserves become more valuable as well as safer over time and we could have subsidies for the families that are losing jobs.”

McCord says measures implemented to meet the EPA’s goals could generate nearly $90 billion per year in savings for less than $9 billion per year in investment between now and 2030.

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Every Child Deserves a Fair Chance

From the Children’s Defense Fund (http://www.childrensdefense.org):

By Marian Wright Edelman

A population that does not take care of the elderly and of children and the young has no future, because it abuses both its memory and its promise.” 
— Pope Francis

For many, the start of a new year is a chance to turn over a new leaf and take a hard look at the gap between who we say want and need to be and who we are. As a nation it’s time to close our hypocrisy gap in the treatment of our children and value and protect our children—all of them. We need to examine with urgency how we treat our children and the gap between what we say and what we do.

If we did, we’d find:

  • A public school student is suspended every 2 seconds.*
  • A public high school student drops out every 9 seconds.*
  • A child is arrested every 24 seconds.
  • A public school student is corporally punished every 30 seconds.*
  • A baby is born into poverty every 35 seconds.
  • A child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds.
  • A baby is born without health insurance every minute.
  • A baby is born into extreme poverty every 68 seconds.
  • A baby is born to a teen mother every 2 minutes.
  • A baby is born at low birthweight every 2 minutes.
  • A child is arrested for a drug offense every 4 minutes.
  • A child is arrested for a violent offense every 8 and a half minutes.
  • A baby dies before his or her first birthday every 22 minutes.
  • A child or teen dies from an accident every hour.
  • A child or teen is killed by guns every three hours and 18 minutes.
  • A child or teen commits suicide every four hours and 11 minutes.
  • A child is killed by abuse or neglect every five and a half hours.
  • A baby’s mother dies from pregnancy or childbirth complications every 11 hours and eight minutes.

*During the school year.

What do these numbers tell us about who we are as a nation and whether we value the life and potential of every child? Why do we choose to let children be the poorest age group in our rich nation and stand by as millions of children suffer preventable poverty, hunger, homelessness, sickness, neglect, abuse, miseducation, and violence? Why do we continue to mock God’s call for justice for children and the poor and our professed ideals of freedom and justice for all?

It’s time to close our hypocrisy gap as a nation and to realize the promise of a fair playing field for all children. We can and must do better.

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Interfaith Community Unites to Address Drone Warfare

At first conference of its kind, national religious leaders discuss moral, spiritual dimensions of U.S. use of drones 

PRINCETON – Religious leaders, scholars and community activists from across the country came together this weekend at Princeton Theology Seminary for the nation’s first Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare. The conference sought to educate and engage the interfaith community on the ongoing issue of U.S. drone strikes around the world. Following a weekend of presentations, discussions, interfaith prayer and deliberation, the conference adopted a set of policy recommendations to guide the faith community to address the critical issue of drone warfare.

“This conference provided an important opportunity for the faith community to come together and discuss the urgent moral issue of drone warfare,” said Rev. Richard Killmer, the project director for the conference. “But this is only the beginning of a much longer conversation. It is our hope that the guidelines drafted today compel the faith community toward greater action and a deeper commitment to reconciling with the concerns raised by drone warfare.”

The document agreed upon today contains several recommendations, key among them:

“We call on the Administration to immediately halt targeted lethal drone strikes. Further, the Administration must be transparent and accountable on the past use of such strikes by public disclosures including but not limited to:

  • Acknowledging strikes conducted
  • Accounting for victims
  • Explaining official criteria for selection of persons targeted
  • Disclosing all legal justification for authorization of strikes
  • Detailing the methods of investigating deaths
  • Disclosing the standards for compensating victims.”

“We call on Congress to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that has been used as the legal justification for the lethal drone program.”

To inform these policy recommendations, conference participants heard presentations on drones from a number of leading religious and academic thinkers including Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite of Chicago Theological Seminary and Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love of Catholic University of America.

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite highlighted the immediate moral crisis posed by U.S. use of drones, saying: “Drones contribute to the endless wars in which the world is now engulfed. It is imperative that the U.S. reassess its drone policy from a moral and strategic perspective.”

Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love urged those in attendance to realize the power of the faith community to address this issue: “The religious community has a track record of success on engaging on important moral issues – from landmines to debt relief, HIV funding to torture – policy makers often underestimate religious actors, but we ought not to underestimate ourselves.”

Conference attendees represented nearly 20 different religious traditions including several Protestant denominations, Catholic organizations and Jewish, Muslim and Sikh traditions.  The conference sought to bring each of these important traditions to bear on the issue of drone warfare as it considered its guidelines.

As Imam Mohamed Magid of the ADAMS Center in Virginia, said, “This conference represents the moral voice and people of conscience’s stance on taking the life of innocent people. We have to adhere to the principle that every life matters, regardless of nationality or citizenship.”

Rabbi Chuck Feinberg of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., and executive director of Interfaith Action for Human Rights,added, “Jewish tradition – and, indeed, many religious traditions – require proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an attack is imminent before preemptive action is justified. Too often, America’s use of drone’s falls short of this requirement, and that is why the religious community must come together and seek a change.”

The nation’s first Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare was held at Princeton Theological Seminary from January 23-25. It was sponsored by the Peace Action Education Fund and attended by over 150 religious leaders, academics and activists from 22 states and 20 different religious traditions. Details on speakers and panels are available at the conference’s web site (http://www.peacecoalition.org/campaigns/67-interfaith-conference-on-drone-warfare/562-interfaith-conference-on-drone-warfare.html).

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A Wage-Less and Income-Less Recovery for PA’s 99 Percent—New Study: Top 1% Only Group to See Income Gains Since 2009

From Keystone Research Center (http://www.keystoneresearch.org):

HARRISBURG, PA (Jan. 26, 2015) — The top 1 percent of Pennsylvania earners are the only group to see their incomes grow in the current economic expansion, according to a new report The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality by State released today nationally by the Economic Analysis Research Network and the Economic Policy Institute, and in Pennsylvania by the Keystone Research Center.

KRC’s release includes expanded Pennsylvania-specific analysis by the authors of the national report, Dr. Mark Price and Dr. Estelle Sommelier. The Pennsylvania release examines trends in the state’s income growth during the last 10 economic expansions, as well as county level and metropolitan area data on the share of income earned by the top 1 percent.

“Recent income trends represent a worsening of a three-decade trend, with the top 1 percent of earners capturing an ever-increasing share of income growth until, in this recovery, top earners garnered ALL the increase in income – and then some,” said Price, an economist at KRC.

In the post-WW II period until 1979, whenever the economy expanded, the bottom 99 percent of Pennsylvania earners captured most of income growth. Since 1979, in four economic recoveries, Pennsylvania’s bottom 99 percent have captured just 39 percent of income growth.

In the current economic expansion, which began in 2009, real incomes have increased 3.7% in Pennsylvania. In that period, the income of the top 1 percent of earners increased 28.6%. In contrast, over the same period the bottom 99 percent of earners in Pennsylvania saw their incomes fall 1.1%. Because the income of the bottom 99 percent in Pennsylvania fell, the top 1 percent accounted for more than 100% of overall income growth in the commonwealth.

“Every state and every region in the United States is going to have to grapple with the effects of rising inequality,” said Sommeiller, a researcher at the Institute for Research in Economic and Social Sciences in Greater Paris, France. “Our expanded findings for Pennsylvania paint a picture of the top 1 percent thriving in every county in Pennsylvania, but not the 99 percent: No county has escaped the troubling growth of inequality.”

Price said, “Policymakers need to acknowledge and to address the deeply rooted growth of economic inequality, which threatens core values including that hard work should be rewarded and opportunity widespread. The Marie Antoinette ‘let them eat cake’ approach to inequality won’t cut it anymore: Pennsylvania workers and families need jobs that pay and that will lift up their incomes.”

Read the full EARN report at http://www.epi.org/publication/income-inequality-by-state-1917-to-2012/ and read a KRC brief summarizing the Pennsylvania findings at http://keystoneresearch.org/increasingly_unequal2015.

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Support Federal Medicare for All Legislation

From Healthcare-NOW! (http://www.healthcare-now.org/):

Very soon Representative John Conyers will re-introduce HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act! There is a brief window to ask your Representative to become an “original co-sponsor” of the legislation before it is filed – please email and call your Rep today at http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/6055/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=7367!

Think about everything we witnessed in 2014: co-pays and deductibles rising so rapidly that 40% of the insured now report being unable to afford the care they need; extreme limited networks becoming pervasive and creating yet another barrier to care; polling that shows even FEWER people could access needed care compared to 2013, despite 10 million newly insured.

As our healthcare system springs more and more leaks, the time for trying to stick fingers into the dam is over. Please urge your Representative to make healthcare a right today!

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News and Action Summary for January 23, 2015

Download a pdf version of the January 23, 2015 News and Action Summary!

News Summary 1-23-15

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News Posts, January 23, 2015

Here are news articles posted since the previous News and Action Summary:

No Child Left Behind Has Not Worked. Why?

PA Fails Low-Income Preschoolers

Majority of U.S. Public School Students Are in Poverty

50,000 More in Affluent Classrooms, Ten Times Less in Poor Classrooms

For PA School Districts, the Rich Get Richer & the Poor Get Poorer

PA Public School Poverty: The New Normal

Child Homelessness in U.S. Hit All-Time High in Recent Years, New Report Says

Richest 1% Percent To Have More Than Rest of Humanity Combined

Employment Rate for Young People Hits 70-Year Low

PA’s Tax System Grows More Unfair: Low-Income Pay Price

Who Pays? Examines Tax Systems in All Fifty States

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Advocacy Positions Available—January 23, 2015

Here is the most recent posting of jobs available in research and advocacy:

Program Director, Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy Seeks Choptank Riverkeeper

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Public School Poverty: The New Normal

Posted at http://thirdandstate.org/2014/december/public-school-poverty-new-normal

Dec 12, 2014 05:49 pm | Waslala Miranda

The Great Recession may be over but many in Pennsylvania are still suffering from its effects. This is most obvious in our public schools where the number of students who qualify for free- or reduced-priced lunches, a poverty measure, is disturbingly high. Almost half of all public school students qualified for the lunch program in 2013-14.  When we look at these students and their school districts we find:

The state, overall, saw its student poverty rate increase from 36.51% to 43.2% between 2008-09 and 2013-14, a jump of nearly 7 percentage points.

Across Pennsylvania, poverty was the norm in 2013-14:

  • Two-thirds of school districts had a poverty rate equal to or higher than 33%.
  • Half of all school districts suffered from concentrated poverty, where the poverty rate equaled or exceeded 40%, the federal threshold for qualifying for Title I school-wide funding.  This federal funding is necessary to help school districts manage the added difficulty of educating students going to schools and living in neighborhoods with little relief from poverty.
  • About 25% of school districts had a poverty rate equal to or higher than 50%.
  • The state’s largest school districts–Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—educate more than 160,000 students and had poverty rates of 80.76% and 73.11%, respectively, in 2013-14.

As a state, we have crossed the 40% Title 1 concentrated poverty threshold. This alone should set off alarm bells.  In addition, severe budget cuts that have disproportionately targeted low-income districts mean that too many students are in schools that cannot financially function as places of learning.  Just look at Northeast High in Philadelphia: more than half of its students qualify for free or reduced lunches, and yet it only has a total school budget of $5 per student. [1][1]  That’s $5 for everything—books, supplies, labs, and anything else needed to make a school a school.

[1]We cannot rebuild our economy when so many of our schools are awash in poverty and unable to meet their mission of educating our children.  We must invest more, not less, in our public education system so it can provide all our children with a quality education and lay the groundwork for a strong economy for the future.  We must and can do better.

You can read more about school district poverty on the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center’s Education Facts webpage.

[1][1] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/philadelphia-schools-crippled-budget-crisis/

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Child Homelessness in U.S. Hit All-Time High in Recent Years, New Report Says

Posted at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/child-homelessness-in-us-hit-all-time-high-in-recent-years-new-report-says/2014/11/16/5ffa5324-6dd5-11e4-8808-afaa1e3a33ef_story.html

By David Crary and Lisa Leff November 17, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO — The number of homeless children in the United States has surged in recent years to an all-time high, amounting to one child in every 30, according to a comprehensive state-by-state report that blames the nation’s high poverty rate, the lack of affordable housing and the effects of pervasive domestic violence.

Titled “America’s Youngest Outcasts,” the report being issued Monday by the National Center on Family Homelessness calculates that nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013. The number is based on the Education Department’s latest count of 1.3 million homeless children in public schools, supplemented by estimates of homeless preschool children not counted by the agency.

The problem is particularly severe in California, which has about one-eighth of the U.S. population but accounts for more than one-fifth of the homeless children, totaling nearly 527,000.

Read more at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/child-homelessness-in-us-hit-all-time-high-in-recent-years-new-report-says/2014/11/16/5ffa5324-6dd5-11e4-8808-afaa1e3a33ef_story.html.

Posted in Children, Economic Justice, Human Needs | Tagged | Leave a comment