Budget Season Bad Ideas

Budget Season Bad Ideas

By Leo Knepper

It’s June in Harrisburg, and that means that the Capitol is teeming with lobbyists trying to convince lawmakers to spend someone else’s money on their client’s causes. Sometimes that takes the form of subsidies like the nuclear power bailout, or the $250 million Race Horse Development Fund. However, bad ideas are not limited to spending tax dollars. One popular, and harmful policy, that continues to pop-up while lawmakers look for horses to trade is an increase in the minimum wage.

A recent article from the Associated Press notes that Republicans in the General Assembly have until now rebuffed efforts to increase the minimum wage. According to the article, there is now some movement among Republicans in the Senate to raise the minimum wage:

“In that chamber, Labor and Industry Committee Chairwoman Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, is preparing legislation to boost the minimum wage by a ‘cost-of-living increase,’ which she said would protect business owners from crushing new costs.

“She declined to give details.

“Senate Majority Policy Committee Chairman David Argall, R-Schuylkill, said he also supports some sort of minimum-wage increase and that Senate Republicans have discussed the idea of tying an increase to policies to get more people into the workforce and off public assistance programs.”

Lawmakers who advocate increasing the minimum wage are no doubt well-intentioned, but there are always unconsidered, or unintended consequences to their interference in the labor market. One item that is rarely discussed in debates on minimum wage is the simple fact that government-mandated wages, by their nature, interfere with an individual’s freedom of contract. Freedom of contract is a person’s right to bargain and create an agreement without interference. When the government sets a minimum wage, that freedom is diminished.

A second problem with increasing the minimum wage is more practical; it harms the people that the policy change purports to help. The Independent Fiscal Office estimated that raising the minimum wage to $12.00/hour would destroy 33,000 jobs in Pennsylvania. Their report may underestimate the impact substantially. Ontario, Canada increased their minimum wage by 20 percent from 2017 to 2018, and there was a nearly immediate elimination of over 59,000 part-time jobs. Most of the wage proposals being floated would surpass Ontario’s wage increase on a percentage basis.

The real minimum wage is zero. When politicians forget that and try to set wages, they may feel good about themselves, but workers pay the price in lost jobs and decreased hours.

Mr. Knepper is executive director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.

Budget Season Bad Ideas
Budget Season Bad Ideas


Wolf Climate Plan Crushes Pennsylvania Citizens

Wolf Climate Plan Crushes Pennsylvania Citizens

By Gregory R. Wrightstone

On April 29, 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf released the latest version of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Climate Action Plan, announcing that Pennsylvania would join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of 24 states committed to implementing policies that support the Paris Agreement — an international collaboration from which the U.S. has withdrawn.

According to the governor, “states like Pennsylvania must take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our communities, economies, infrastructures, and environments from the risks of a warming climate.”

The plan’s primary objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 80% by 2050 in the Keystone State to reduce the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and keep future increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

Described in the 231-page plan are more than 100 actions intended to reduce GHG emissions, 15 of which are analyzed in detail. Each action involves increased taxation, increased regulation, increased spending or restrictions on citizens’ freedoms.

Some very relevant questions should be answered by the governor and the PA DEP concerning this far-reaching plan that will necessarily have significant negative impacts on the Commonwealth’s citizens and businesses:

  • Once implemented, what effect would this have on global temperature?
  • Are the justifications listed in the proposal supported by the science, facts and data?
  • What costs and negative effects are associated with this plan and are they offset by the alleged benefits?

The overarching goal of the proposal is to lower the Earth’s temperature by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania. However, nowhere does this hefty document estimate a reduction of temperature.

To obtain an estimate, we used the MAGICC simulator (Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse-gas Induced Climate Change) that was developed by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research under funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The model estimates how much temperature rise would be averted globally by various reductions of CO2 for the United States.

Calculations using this (Figure 1) assume an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions, a climate sensitivity of 2.0 and the latest estimate of Pennsylvania’s share of U.S. emissions (4.2%) to reveal the following theoretical reductions:

  • 0.0023oF by 2050
  • 0.0061oF by 2100

This extremely small effect should be a very important component in the discussions on whether to impose the significant burdens of the Climate Action Plan on the state and its citizens.

Wolf Climate Plan Crushes Pennsylvania Citizens

Listed on page 14 of the plan is a section titled “Why Does Pennsylvania Need a Climate Action Plan?” It lays out justifications for why the plan is needed, listing 10 climate impacts that were “already occurring and put Pennsylvanians and local industries at risk.” Many of the impacts it described as occurring are, in fact, not happening and in some cases are improving the state’s ecosystems.

We will look at only a few of the most egregious examples of misinformation due to space restrictions, but these should serve to illustrate that this document is more of a political tool than science-based justification for action.
More frequent extreme weather events including drought

Increased risks of injury and death from extreme weather events.

Increased human health risks from air pollution

Increased demand for energy, particularly during warmer summer months

  • There is no mention of the reduced energy demand during the winter months.

Most of what was listed as justification for implementation of this far-reaching plan were projections of what may or may not occur many decades in the future. These projections are based on climate models that over-predict warming by 2.5 to 3 times too much. It is important to separate speculation of what may occur in the future based on failed climate models from the actual events that can be empirically observed.

Recommended Strategies: 
The Plan identified 15 actions that were most impactful for reducing GHG emissions and would require increased taxation, spending and government control, some of which are listed below.
In the Energy sector, the Plan would:

  • Invest in building-scale solar
  • Incentivize renewable energy
  • Maintain current nuclear generation levels (bailouts for Exelon)
  • Tighten regulations on methane emissions
  • Create a Cap & Trade program for electricity sector carbon emissions

Transportation

  • Reduce personal vehicle mileage (no more trips to Home Depot)
  • Incentivize increased electric vehicle use
  • Increase use of public transportation

Please note the repeated use of the terms “invest” and “incentivize” as code for spending more taxpayer dollars. Additionally, the Cap & Trade program that is proposed will be a huge revenue generation scheme that would draw large sums of money into Harrisburg for redistribution to favored programs.
Pennsylvania’s citizens would not only be burdened by new direct taxation, but additional costs of regulation and higher energy costs would be passed on to customers.  While the plan offers no estimates of costs, they surely would run into the millions if not billions of dollars.

According to the Plan itself, the 15 action items would only reduce the state’s GHG emissions by 21%, far less than the 80% targeted. In order to reach the higher targeted goals, ever more onerous and economically crippling actions would be required.

Conclusion
Pennsylvania’s Climate Action Plan will impose huge costs on the Commonwealth’s citizens and businesses while burdening them with additional levels of restrictions and regulations.
Companies will pass these higher costs on to consumers or absorb the costs, which will deter hiring and new investment. A rise in prices means that consumers will buy less, and companies will drop employees, close entirely, or move to other states where the cost of doing business is lower. The consequence means fewer opportunities for Pennsylvania’s workers, less economic growth, lower incomes, and higher unemployment.

The justifications for imposing this plan are flawed, the costs and regulations are economically crippling, and the result is a temperature reduction so low that it is indistinguishable from zero. 

In short, the plan would infringe on the freedoms of people and make them significantly poorer. This plan should be opposed vehemently by the GOP-led House and Senate. 

Mr. Wrightstone is the author of Inconvenient Facts: The science Al Gore doesn’t want you to know

School Choice Expansion Clears Committee

School Choice Expansion Clears Committee

By Nathan Benefield

The Pennsylvania House Education Committee passed HB 800, April 29, which represents the most significant expansion of the state’s popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) school choice scholarship program since its inception.

The EITC program is funded by business donations (businesses earn tax credits in return) and allows Pa. kids to attend a school they otherwise may not be able to afford. But arbitrary limits on the program prevent tens of thousands of kids from attending a school of choice.

HB 800, sponsored House Speaker Mike Turzai along with 59 other members, including several Democrats, would increase the tax credit cap for EITC K-12 scholarships by $100 million next year and further raise the cap by 10 percent when 90 percent of tax credits are used in the prior year. 

I cannot stress enough: This bill is a huge step toward helping families access the education choices they deserve. Tax credit scholarships are so popular the programs could double in size and still not meet demand. 

The bill passed along party lines, you can see the roll call hereThank you to the representatives that voted to expand opportunity for thousands of Pa. kids!

An EITC scholarship may be a family’s only lifeline to provide their child with a chance at a brighter future. It’s time to raise the limits so kids can reach their dreams. We’re excited to see HB 800 progress in the legislature, and will keep you posted as key votes occur.

School Choice Expansion Clears Committee
School Choice Expansion Clears Committee

Coup d’ecole Common Core

Coup d’ecole Common Core was sent to us courtesy of Joanne Y.

By Bruce Deitrick Price

Bill Gates is among the richest, most successful people on the planet. He enjoyed a lot of victories until he ventured into a dangerous part of town called Education.  He squandered a few billion dollars by becoming entangled with a shady character named Common Core. 

Since 2010, Gates endured a long, slow defeat, as more people turned against Common Core, and he himself realized that it was not what he had dreamed of.

So how did Bill Gates lose his golden touch?

Gates, computer man and businessman, trusted data neatly arrayed on monitors.  Digital tools could give predictability, consistency, and control.  Add standards that everyone agreed on.  Not only would children learn more efficiently, and be tested and tracked more accurately, but his companies could market educational services by the cubic mile because every school would welcome the same products.  Gates could make a new and separate fortune.

So this digital leviathan abruptly became the law of the land.  Local control of schools, long an American tradition, was euthanized without mercy.  But victory was temporary.  Common Core seemed to have one objectionable feature after another.

Surely, we can stipulate that Gates is too smart to be a useful idiot, too patriotic to be a secret leftist trying to destroy the country.  So why did he align himself with what many consider blatant malpractice?  Was he blinded by predictions of a giant payoff?  Or was it a case of trusting the wrong people? 

Perhaps Gates, a college dropout, assumed that the professors at the top of the Education Establishment (many of them at his alma mater, Harvard) were smart guys who knew their business.  However, these were the same people who had been mismanaging American K-12 for a long time — so much so that McKinsey and Company, the super-consultant, summed up the situation in 2007: “The longer American students remain in public schools, the dumber they get.”  This is not a track record that a shrewd person would invest in.

There were warning signs from the start.  Never mind all the blather about a state-led initiative.  Common Core is best understood as a coup d’état, or more exactly a coup d’ecole.  This vast, top-to-bottom takeover of American public education was achieved by the old-fashioned tactic of throwing grants (some would say “bribes”) at the politicians in charge, state by state, even as Obama lent some dignity to the shenanigans.  Obama had just swept into office and was in his honeymoon phase.  Common Core was effectively ObamaEd, and nobody wanted to say no to the first black president. 

Coup d'ecole Common Core

But Bill Gates should have felt some uneasiness.  Common Core was untested, unproven, and micromanaged by David Coleman, a man with limited credentials but reliably far to the left.  Nobody in the business world launches a big new product without years of research and refinement.  Instead, Common Core was wrapped in $1 billion’s worth of propaganda and dumped on the country as a fait accompli.

The late, great Siegfried Engelmann, a real educator, was asked what he thought of this approach: “A perfect example of technical nonsense.  A sensible organization would rely heavily on data about procedures used to achieve outstanding results; and they would certainly field test the results to assure that the standards resulted in fair, achievable goals.  How many of these things did they do?  None.”

Did Gates realize that Common Core, supposedly a new and higher instruction, incorporates all the dubious ideas from decades prior?  New Math and Reform Math were the basis for Common Core Math.  Similarly, Whole Language and Balanced Literacy were rolled into Common Core’s English Language Arts (jargon for reading).  Constructivism, which prevented teacher from teaching, has been undermining American schools for decades.  Nothing new and higher about these clunkers.

An earlier generation of Gates’s business partners had created so much illiteracy that Rudolf Flesch had to write a book to answer every American’s favorite question: “why can’t Johnny read?”

Did Bill Gates reflect empathically on the proposals in his billion-dollar baby?  Everyone should try to imagine he’s eight years old and has to struggle with Common Core every day.  The verbiage is convoluted and pompous; at every step, there are absurdly unnecessary steps.  Only one way to tie your shoes?  Don’t be silly.  Every student needs to learn at least four or five!  Finally, the kids are encumbered by a backpack full of bricks and not much else.  One has to suspect that this mumbo-jumbo was never intended to improve education, but to stupefy a generation.

There are hundreds of videos made to show how wonderful Common Core is.  Instead, they show the opposite. Here’s a single abominable video that can stand for all the others.  The title is “Strategies for Addition and Subtraction.”  Notice the new layer added there.  Instead of learning to add, children learn strategies for adding — five of them, no less.  Everything will now remain in first gear as children struggle with Regroup or BorrowDecomposeCross Number PuzzleUse or Draw Base Ten Blocks, and Solve Using Money.  Think how many hours you can waste debating which strategy to use in each situation.

We have to wonder if Bill Gates performed due diligence, that being the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to other persons or property.  In other words, before putting your business funds to work on anything, you should make yourself an expert.  That’s what we need in this country: everybody becomes an expert.  For sure, nobody should trust the official experts.  If Bill Gates had observed that simple rule, he would still have a billion or two he doesn’t have now.  And the country would have tens of millions of better educated students it doesn’t have now. 

It’s annoying to study Common Core because, it seems to me, it’s on the same intellectual level as the food fight in Animal House.  Did Gates fly to Hong Kong to buy a new operating system from the local bazaar?  Or did he fly to Russia to buy something sinister from the Pavlov Neuro-Disruption Institute?  Point is, the resulting curriculum is way overpriced and relentlessly dysfunctional — a pig in a poke that you never stop paying for.
The teacher in the video actually admits that you may find this or that strategy “confusing at first.”  But that’s all right, because Common Core recommends frustration and difficulty.  The premise is that students respond to doing things the hard way — exactly the opposite of what’s true.

For years, people have tried to sue school systems when their children don’t learn to read.  It would be helpful if such lawsuits went forward.  Next, parents could sue the system for introducing Common Core, which is arguably a fraud designed to lower academic standards.  If parents can’t succeed with those lawsuits, they can start demanding an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for their children, an IEP that emphatically excludes Common Core.

Trump said he would cancel this preposterous thing, and he should.

Bruce Deitrick Price’s new book is Saving K-12: What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?  He deconstructs educational theories and methods at Improve-Education.org.

Coup d’ecole Common Core was sent to us courtesy of Joanne Y.

Johnny Doc, Kevin Doc And The Noble Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Johnny Doc, Kevin Doc And The Noble Pennsylvania Supreme Court

By Lowman S. Henry

Were you to travel from sea to shining sea you would be hard pressed to find a state appellate court whose reputation has been more besmirched than that of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In recent years, justices have been forced to resign for, among other things, sending sexually and racially inappropriate emails, using public office for campaign purposes, and other activities unbecoming a justice on the state’s highest court.

The resignations of Justice Michael Eakin and Seamus McCaffery in what the media dubbed the “porngate” scandal, and that of Justice Joan Orie Melvin for using her court staff to run campaigns not only left the reputation of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in tatters, but it created an opportunity for Democrats to politicize the state judiciary at the highest level.

Multiple resignations resulted in the unusual situation of having three seats on the seven member bench up for election in 2015.  State Republicans were asleep at the switch as national Democrats, seeking ways to redraw congressional district maps, and their labor union allies poured millions into the race. They won all three seats and claimed partisan control of the court.

In the process, one justice in particular, Justice David N. Wecht, openly campaigned for the overturning of Pennsylvania’s congressional district map.  Candidate Wecht, violating judicial ethics by opining on a case that was likely to come before him, made it clear he felt the state’s congressional district map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

Once on the bench, Wecht and three of his fellow justices made judicial laughing stocks of themselves by tossing out the supposedly gerrymandered map and replacing it with an even more gerrymandered map designed to advantage Democrats – which it did.

The justices had clearly trampled on the legislature’s constitutional power to draw congressional district lines. Representative Chris Dush urged impeachment of the justices saying the ruling “blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution, (they) engaged in misbehavior in office . . . each is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.”

Dush’s plea fell on deaf ears as the legislature lacked the political will to stand up for either its own powers or for the constitution.  Thus did every institution in the judicial spectrum fail the people of Penn’s Woods: the legal community did not call out Wecht for his inappropriate campaigning, the Supreme Court trampled the constitution in the gerrymandering case, and the legislature let them get away with it.

Just when you might think it couldn’t get any worse along comes Justice Kevin Dougherty.  Dougherty was one of the three justices that big labor and national Democrat money put on the court in 2015.  His brother is Philadelphia labor leader and political powerbroker extraordinaire John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty.

A few weeks ago Johnny Doc was indicted on a wide array of corruption and embezzlement charges. The federal action also ensnared Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon and six others.  According to news reports Dougherty and Henon “orchestrated a long-running scheme to steal from the union, use the money improperly, and then attempt to cover up the misspent funds by falsifying federal documents.”  WHYY radio also revealed that Dougherty allegedly used union coffers as a “slush fund for thieves and fraudsters.”

The question now becomes does Justice Dougherty fall into that category? We do know millions in labor union dollars were spent on the justice’s campaign for the high court. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has already reported that prosecutors say Kevin Dougherty received home repairs and other benefits and allege they were paid for by his now-indicted brother. No such payments were listed by the justice on his required state financial disclosure forms.

To be clear, Justice Dougherty has not to date been accused of any crime.  But, as the investigation into his brother’s tangled web of union and political finances continues, and Johnny Doc ultimately stands trial, there is no doubt a dark cloud now hovers over the justice’s head, and by extension over the entire Supreme Court.

There is, unfortunately, no electoral remedy for the court’s current situation.  Both Dougherty and Wecht were elected to ten year terms meaning it will be 2025 before they stand for a retention vote.  Given the legislature’s unwillingness to act by impeachment, that means the justices will continue to have a major impact on hugely important matters – both legal and political – for years to come.

And that will cast a pall on every decision they render and continue to erode public confidence in both the judicial and legislative branches of our state government.

Mr. Henry is the chairman andCEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the Lincoln Radio Journal.

Johnny Doc, Kevin Doc And The Noble Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Johnny Doc, Kevin Doc

Alternative Power And Nuclear Plants

Alternative Power And Nuclear Plants

By Leo Knepper

In 2017 the nuclear power industry began lobbying Pennsylvania lawmakers to institute a bailout scheme. Due to federal regulations and an abundant supply of natural gas, the electricity produced by nuclear power plants costs more than electricity generated by other sources. Lobbyists for the nuclear power industry found little appetite in the General Assembly for the kinds of bailouts enacted by other states. The nuclear power industry has been undeterred and is now attempting to convince lawmakers to support a stealth bailout of the industry via Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS).

You may not have ever heard of the AEPS, but you are paying for it every month in your electric bill. Simply put, AEPS requires an electric company to purchase a certain percentage of their electricity from solar, wind, and other “alternative energy” sources regardless of cost. Because it costs more to generate electricity from alternative energy sources, consumers pay more for their power than they would under free-market conditions.

Being included in the AEPS list has certainly given alternative energy sources an unfair advantage over traditional energy sources. The best thing for consumers would be to eliminate the AEPS list. However, the nuclear power industry has decided that they want in on the game. They and their allies argue that being included on the AEPS shouldn’t be called a bailout; they have a point, but it is something far worse.

With a bailout, taxpayers would know up front just how much we will be responsible for adding to the nuclear industry’s bottom line. By lobbying for inclusion in the AEPS, the financial commitment from consumers is open-ended and undefined. According to the Commonwealth Foundation, the cost to Pennsylvania for the current AEPS regime is estimated to be a $700 million increase in energy costs and the loss of 11,400 jobs by 2025.

Members of the General Assembly should be appalled by the suggestion to expand the AEPS. If they wanted to help the nuclear power industry compete, they should take the government’s finger off the scale entirely and eliminate the preferential treatment given to some producers over others. Let the free-market work; not only would this help the nuclear power industry, but it would also reduce the costs for consumers.

Mr. Knepper is executive director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.
Alternative Power And Nuclear Plants
Alternative Power And Nuclear Plants

GOP Misogyny Is My Experience In Montco

GOP Misogyny Is My Experience In Montco

By Susan Jane Goldner

GOP Misogyny Is My Experience In Montco
GOP Misogyny Is My Experience In Montco

So, let me get this straight . . .

The former MontCo Chair Vereb, who resigned to take a cushy position created for him under our very progressive liberal state Attorney General Josh Shapiro in ‘15 (year we lost every row office) is allowed to get away with slander and libel against a sitting incumbent Republican Joe Gale running for re-election for County Commissioner and I’m not allowed to critique candidates up for office as a Committeewoman? Got it. But I suppose I’m not allowed to screenshot THEIR posts…

See what’s going on, folks?

The “protection of women” statement by Vereb is remarkable considering I was physically assaulted by one top party leader at the last party convention in May ‘18, called derogatory names as well by the same sleazebag, then five months later told to “shut my stupid mouth” by my State Rep’s husband who also sat on my committee for questioning legislation. Both of these men are in their late years and are why we’re in the God-awful situation we’re in. There is no such thing as protection of women in PA politics that I’ve ever known of.

Vote Joe Gale is certainly not the problem.

The greasy old men in the GOP are the problem, along with the fact that the swamp can’t simply disagree and agree to let the people decide. They have to resort to blackmail, intimidation, and extortion to remove candidates and committeepeople they don’t want. And the women who do not stand up for other women when they witness verbal, sexual, physical assaults are right there beside them.

GOP Misogyny Is My Experience In Montco

Pennsylvania Ranks Low For Business

Pennsylvania Ranks Low For Business

By Leo Knepper

Pennsylvania Ranks Low For Business

Every year tax dollars are used to bribe businesses to come to or stay in Pennsylvania. The General Assembly, the Governor, and local governments may call it “economic development” but it’s another version of engaging in central planning for economic growth. Based on lackluster job growth, and an ever-dwindling population you would think that our elected officials would have learned their lesson after fifty years of failure; they haven’t.

For evidence of their failure, look no further than the Commonwealth’s rank in terms of overall business tax climate. According to the Tax Foundation’s latest analysis, Pennsylvania ranks thirty-fourth out of the fifty states for business taxes. An article from Watchdog.org gives a good breakdown of the methodology used in the comparison:

“The analysis examined more than 100 variables involving the states’ primary methods of taxation: corporate taxes, individual income taxes, sales taxes, unemployment insurance taxes and property taxes. Many of the top-rated states lack one of those five major taxes, but a few apply all the taxes with low rates and broad bases.

“Pennsylvania ranked No. 43 for its corporate tax; No. 18 for its individual income tax; No. 21 for its sales tax; No. 34 for its property tax; and No. 46 for its unemployment insurance tax.”

Our poor tax climate, an overly-burdensome regulatory environment, and a reputation as a place ripe for lawsuit abuse all combine to put Pennsylvania at the bottom of the list as far as a place to start a new business. If the legislature were really interested in fostering economic growth in the Commonwealth, lawmakers would make a concerted effort to move Pennsylvania into the top ten states to do business.

For evidence of their failure, look no further than the Commonwealth’s rank in terms of overall business tax climate. According to the Tax Foundation’s latest analysis, Pennsylvania ranks thirty-fourth out of the fifty states for business taxes. An article from Watchdog.org gives a good breakdown of the methodology used in the comparison:

“The analysis examined more than 100 variables involving the states’ primary methods of taxation: corporate taxes, individual income taxes, sales taxes, unemployment insurance taxes and property taxes. Many of the top-rated states lack one of those five major taxes, but a few apply all the taxes with low rates and broad bases.

“Pennsylvania ranked No. 43 for its corporate tax; No. 18 for its individual income tax; No. 21 for its sales tax; No. 34 for its property tax; and No. 46 for its unemployment insurance tax.”

Our poor tax climate, an overly-burdensome regulatory environment, and a reputation as a place ripe for lawsuit abuse all combine to put Pennsylvania at the bottom of the list as far as a place to start a new business. If the legislature were really interested in fostering economic growth in the Commonwealth, lawmakers would make a concerted effort to move Pennsylvania into the top ten states to do business.

Mr. Knepper is executive director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.

 

Pennsylvania Ranks Low For Business

Connecticut Subsidizing India IT Exporter Infosys

Connecticut Subsidizing India IT Exporter Infosys

By Marie Larson

You’ve heard it before: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Connecticut may be in its “shame on me” moment.

Connecticut Subsidizing Indian IT Exporter Infosys

State leaders have made a deal with Infosys, India’s second largest IT exporter. Connecticut is giving away American taxpayer money in return for promises to create jobs. The question is: Who will get those jobs? It’s worth taking a historical look at Infosys to answer that question.

In 2011, the Department of Justice, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Texas, the Department of State, the Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began investigating Infosys in Plano, Texas. Investigations were a result of a whistleblower tip from Jack “Jay” Palmer, who worked for Infosys from 2008 to 2013.

The investigation resulted in charges against Infosys for “systemic visa fraud and abuse of immigration processes, in order to increase profits, minimize costs of securing visas, increase flexibility of employee movement, obtain an unfair advantage over competitors, and avoid tax liabilities.”

In a record $34 million settlementwith the Justice Department, Infosys admitted that it violated U.S. employment laws. Because Infosys promised to take steps to fix irregularities and agreed to “enhanced corporate compliance measures” to include outside monitoring, the company was not required to admit widespread further wrongdoing, according to then-U.S. Attorney John Bales of the Eastern District of Texas.

In the lawsuit, Infosys was accused of using B-1 visas for jobs reserved for American workers. It would have been legally permissible for H-1B visa holders to do the work, but those are limited to 85,000 per year, reserved for foreign workers with “specialty occupations.” B-1 visas are business visitor visas intended for meetings, training or other temporary acts, but not for work. Using the B-1 visas, Infosys violated visa laws and paid its workers the much lower prevailing wage in India. The investigation found that Infosys used 6,500 B-1 visa workers to do work in the U.S. during a five-year period. Moreover, 84 percent of the Infosys forms required for workers’ eligibility had substantive violations.

But as set forth in the book, “Sold Out: How High-Tech Billionaires & Bipartisan Beltway Crapweasels Are Screwing America’s Best & Brightest Workers,”by Michelle Malkin and John Miano,the abuse was an intentional and concerted effort by Infosys management to circumvent U.S. visa laws.

Whistleblower says Infosys intentionally abused the visa system

Whistleblower Palmer said that since Infosys management knew the monitoring of the B-1 system was tenuous, they figured “no one would ever know,” so they “flooded the consulate with (B-1) applications.” Palmer was asked to change contracts to conceal the fact that B-1 visa holders were working on projects, but because he refused, he and his family suffered threats of every kind, including death threats.

“This scheme stole jobs from American workers,” said David M. Marwell, special agent in charge at the Dallas office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. “Infosys substantially increased its profit margins to the tune of millions of dollars.”

Although the investigators found “systemic fraud and abuse,” they dropped civil and criminal charges in exchange for the unrivaled $34 million settlement and the admission of paperwork violations.

Eastern District of Texas attorney Bales said the settlement severely sanctioned what he called the company’s illegal conduct and required Infosys to correct its practices, but many American workers are left wondering why such blatant fraud and abuse continue unchecked. Clearly, as shown by other reports and lawsuits, even the $34 million slap on the wrist did not produce a sufficient deterrent effect. Allowing Infosys to maintain the deniability of visa fraud (albeit not plausible to those familiar with their history) is a huge mistake and an affront to American workers who have – and who will – lose jobs due to the way Infosys has chosen to operate in America.

Bales said this was the first case of its kind for his office, and the extensive investigation showed investigators that Infosys isn’t the only company defrauding the government this way. “We want other companies like Infosys to be on notice that we will be looking,” Bales said.

Americans are waiting. Groups advocating for American workers’ rights, like the Connecticut Tech Workers Coalition, U.S. Tech Workers and Protect U.S. Workers, have been screaming from social media hilltops trying to get the attention of mainstream media, Congress and business leaders in order to stop the widespread fraud and abuse in America’s foreign worker programs, and preserve jobs for Americans.

But the trend doesn’t look promising for their cause. According to Hilarie Gamm, in her book “Billions Lost: The American Tech Crisis and The Roadmap to Change,” the total number of B visas issued has jumped from 4 million to nearly 9 million from 1997 to 2016. So the Infosys settlement leaves Americans to wonder about the real value of a seemingly large fine when Infosys stands to gain billions of dollars by continuing to plow the work visa fields.

Top Infosys employee calls out the company

After Infosys settled with the Department of Justice, Erin Green was hired by Infosys in Plano to help rectify the visa problems brought to light by the lawsuit. But after working at Infosys for a few years, Green filed his own lawsuit against the company for its preferential treatment of its South Asian workers. As reported in the Dallas News, Green’s suit alleges, “While less than 5 percent of the U.S. population is of the South Asian race and national origin, roughly 93 percent to 94 percent of Infosys’ United States workforce ‘is of the South Asian national origin (primarily Indian).’”

Green’s complaint further states, “This disproportionately South Asian and Indian workforce, by race and national origin, is a result of Infosys’ intentional employment discrimination against individuals who are not South Asian, including discrimination in the hiring, promotion, compensation and termination of individuals.”

“Infosys has gone to great lengths to obtain its primarily South Asian workforce in the U.S., in particular by utilizing professional H-1B and L-1 work visas to bring South Asians (primarily Indians) into the United States to work in information technology,” according to the suit, which is currently in arbitration.

And recently, a former Indian Infosys employee filed suit in Texas alleging he suffered retaliation when he told his superiors the B-1 visa was still being used to bring in people to do prohibited work.

Yet, Connecticut’s leaders have made a deal with the same, infamous Infosys.

Accountability in Connecticut’s deal with Infosys

The deal was made under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who said: “The bottom line is Connecticut is investing in itself,” but it was partly helped by newly elected Gov. Ned Lamont’s recruiting efforts.

Lamont, a fiscal conservative, is facing major budget problems with a projected deficit of $1.7 billion in the next fiscal year. Nonetheless, Connecticut has agreed to pay Infosys $14 million in return for a promise of 1,000 jobs.

Infosys would be eligible to receive:

  • $4 million if 200 jobs are created within two years and retained for two years
  • A second $4 million payment if 500 jobs in total have been created within the next three years, and then retained for two more years
  • A third $4 million payment if the job total reaches 1,000 created within the first five years, and if they are retained for another two years
  • And a final $2 million grant would be provided now to fund job training.

There are several potential problems with the deal. First, there is no requirement that the jobs be for American workers. Most reports on the agreement say Infosys must hire “U.S. workers,” but what qualifies as such? Is an H-1B worker a U.S. worker? Is a foreign student or grad on an F-1 visa who has an OPT (Optional Practical Training) or CPT (Curricular Practical Training) job a U.S. worker? Students on F-1 visas who get OPT or CPT jobs are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes, as is their employer, but American students and grads are not. Is Infosys seeking to hit that tax-free easy button?

Second, if Infosys does hire American workers, it is problematic that the contract only requires employees be retained for two years. It begs the question whether Infosys can lay off the first round of workers (for which it will receive $4 million) after two years, and then rehire the same employees in the second and/or third round of “job creation,” receiving payment for the same body again and again?

Third, if you’ve paid attention to the facts of the 2011 Department of Justice lawsuit and how Infosys misused the B-1 visa to bring in workers from India, the word “training” in that last line (“a final $2 million now to provide job training”) should raise questions about whether Infosys will be using the B-1 visa as an umbrella to shuttle in more foreign workers under the guise of providing training.

Regardless, citizens of the Nutmeg State, and states beyond, are doubtful that the picture is as rosy as proponents are trying to paint.

According to HartfordBusiness.com, Cigna, Hartford Healthcare and Stanley Black & Decker were some of the companies whose leaders worked to persuade Ravi Kumar, Infosys president and COO, that Connecticut was “home to insurers, health companies and advanced manufacturershungry for the services Infosys could provide.” (Emphasis added.)

When Infosys opened a facility in Raleigh, NC, its stated intent was to pull from the local college community to fill 2,000 positions, but according to Gamm’s book, Kumar admitted that only about 15 percent of the Infosys hires were from local colleges. 

Connecticut’s 10-member bond commission voted 9-1 to approve the assistance. The only one to vote against the deal was Rep. Chris Davis (R-Ellington), who said Infosys has been one of the leading outsourcers of U.S. jobs to other countries. “Infosys outsourced Connecticut-based employees at Eversource and at financial services and insurance industries across Connecticut,” said Davis.

Craig DiAngelo was one of the 220 workers laid off at Eversource (formerly Northeast Utilities), when the Connecticut utility company hired Infosys in 2013.

Both American and foreign workers lose

“The people they sent over from India earned less than half what we earned, with no benefits, no health insurance, no paid vacation,” said DiAngelo, who now works for a tech consulting company. “Some of the Indian guys worked 12-, 13-, 14-hour days. Sometimes they wouldn’t get paid for weeks. Many of them lived five or six together in one apartment. So not only are American IT workers getting hurt by this, many Indian IT workers are abused.”

Rep. Davis added: “We are going into partnership with a company that has displaced, potentially, thousands of Connecticut employees over the years, and we are giving them taxpayer money.”

The CT Tech Worker Coalition, a group committed to opposing the governor’s deal, is thinking along the same lines: Why is our government handing taxpayer dollars to an Indian outsourcing company notorious for visa violations and for discriminating against – and displacing – American workers? 

John Robert is one of the Connecticut tech workers helping to organize a rally this weekend in Hartford to protest the state giveaway to Indian outsourcing giant, Infosys. He worked at an insurance company and watched as 350 of his fellow IT workers were slowly replaced by H-1Bworkers. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), also of India, was responsible for that outsourcing, and Robert said TCS also brought in L-1, B-1 and OPT workers.

“I’ve noticed that wherever (Infosys) shows up, pink slips start flying,” said Robert. “It really hit home after the Verizon layoff of 44,000 workers, and Infosys was bringing more than 2,500 jobs to India.” Robert was forced out of his job and could only find work two states away for two-thirds of his salary.

“I’m fighting this because Connecticut is my home, and I want to defeat these forces before my daughter enters the workforce,” Robert said.

Other Infosys Sweet Deals

  • Indiana, where Infosys opened a hub in March 2018 with 250 employees, has been promised up to $31 million in tax credits for producing up to 2,000 jobs, according to The Indianapolis Star.

  • A design hub announced last fall in Rhode Island could earn the company $10 million in state incentives for 500 jobs, Rhode Island Public Radio reported.

  • Texas announced a $3 million land grant for 500 jobs, according to The Dallas Morning News.
  • North Carolina promises Infosys $25 million in state grants in exchange for the promise of 2,000 jobs

GOP Bosses Stifle Conservatives

GOP Bosses Stifle Conservatives

By Susan Jane Goldner

The Democrat Party gives the allure (ok, facade) of opportunity and potential with a more welcoming spirit. After five years of being a slave (work with no pay) in the GOP, forced to serve the interests of the political elitist “old guard” swamp establishment here in Pennsylvania, they have tried to stifle and snuff out my strong conservative voice and knock out young people—true public servants—like myself who dare question and challenge the status-quo.

This is deeply troubling and we should all work to fix it.

We saw it happen four years ago with the youngest Commissioner in the County ever to be elected. They have not learned and they will not change patterns of corrupted unethical tactics. It is too imbedded and with high turnover, our local county gop has been able to cover up their years of terrible corruption, bribery, gossipy slander against others. We saw how party loyalists fought President Trump tooth ‘n nail while he was campaigning (then did a 180 and tried to take credit here for his grassroots victory in PA). The reason he’s successful is bc he does not play by the house rules as a leader and political outsider. It should be about an educated citizenry, a concerned electorate, and a free-thinking, liberty-minded society.

It should be about an educated citizenry, a concerned electorate, and a free-thinking, liberty-minded society.

Yes I believe anarchy is coming (Biblical prediction: Book of Chronicles) and has considerably already arrived. Both systems need to be broken up and we need to return to our Nation’s founding principles.

GOP Bosses Stifle Conservatives