For nearly a decade, Pennsylvania's unemployment rate had been below, and often considerably below, the national unemployment rate. That was the case for nearly every month of Governor Rendell's two terms, and Pennsylvania was a national leader in creating jobs in 2010. Those days are sadly gone.
Pennsylvania's unemployment rate rose again in August from 7.9% to 8.1% and now matches the US rate of 8.1%. articles.philly.com/2012-09-20/news/33978393_1_national-unemployment-rate-jobless-rate. The consequences of devastating education cuts, mistaken budget priorities, and backwards economic development policie enacted over the last two years are now crippling Pennsylvania's economy.
Relying on the natural gas industry alone to bring prosperity to Pennsylvania is unfair to the industry and a colossal misunderstanding of the size and diversity of Pennsylvania's economy. Pennsylvania's unemployment situation is worsening, despite the real boost from gas production, because state policies are undermining education, health care, transportation, and clean energy industries among many. Pennsylvania is no longer making adequate investments in infrastructure and other strategic assets that create short-term employment and long-term competitiveness.
Next door in New Jersey, austerity economics is working just as it is Pennsylvania, with New Jersey's unemployment rate rising to 9.9%. Though it has fervent supporters, austerity economics undermines job creation and weakens the middle class. It has failed in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania.
As President Clinton says: "But the problems with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence. So you've got to mold the evidence to get the answer that you've already decided you've got to have. It doesn't work that way. Building an economy; rebuilding the economy is hard, practical nuts and bolts work."
The enormous cuts to public education in Pennsylvania were an ideological choice and fully avoidable. Those cuts put tens of thousands of teachers directly out of work. And when a teacher loses a job, a waitress or a store clerk will too as the loss of purchasing power in communities kills thousands of non-education jobs.
The education cuts are one reason, among many mistakes in the last two years, that the days, when Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was always below the national average, ended in August. But education cuts and the failure to make strategic investments in transportation and infrastructure are a double whammy. They hurt now and damage the future by undermining our children's and state's readiness and productivity.