Corbett closer in Keystone survey

Published by James O'Toole on .

Another survey finds Democrat Tom Wolf with a substantial lead over Gov. Tom Corbett, but one that's short of the blowout proportions depicted in the initial post-primary polls.

The web site Keystone Report commissioned the automated survey by Magellan Strategies RB which reports that the GOP incumbent is trailing his challenger 50 percent to 38 percent.  The survey of 1,214 likely voters was conducted July 30 and July 31.  It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

The new numbers from the Republican leaning firm are roughly consistent with those in a CBS/New York Times survey released last week.  The CBS/NYT survey was conducted by YouGov Surveys and based on a ithe responses of a preselected internet panel rather than a traditional random sample survey.  Between its innovative methodology and the contrast in its fundings from earlier polls, it was tempting to view it as an outlier in assessments of the race.  But the Magellan/Keystone results reinforce the notion that the margin has closed somewhat over the summer.



Suffer the little children

Published by James O'Toole on .

                                                    By James M. Perry 

"See now that you don't look down on these little ones," the Bible says (Matthew 18:10). "For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." 

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:13)."

Do these Americans, most of them Christians, who turn apoplectic with rage at the children from Central America crossing into the United States, actually read the Bible? It doesn't seem so. 

"Our continued existence is at risk with what's going on at the southern border," Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas says.

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, even hints that these Central American children are being  "lured into the country so that they would grow up to be Democratic voters -- agents of a President whose own Americanness has never been accepted by many in the Republican base," says Amy Davidson in the New Yorker. 

Some GOP congressmen and county sheriffs have even referred to the children as "possible predators, gang members, and bearers of the sorts of diseases that might have been found in the holds of nineteenth-century ships -- as anything, really, but children," Davidson says. 

In Oracle, Arizona, State Rep. Adam Kwasman spotted a yellow bus filled with children heading into town. "Bus coming in!" he shouted. "I was actually able to see some of the children in the bus -- and the fear on their faces," before it drove away, Kwasman told a reporter.

 "You know," the reporter said, "that was a bus with YMCA kids" returning from camp.
Oracle was settled by Canadians who sailed around South America to get there, looking for gold and silver.    

Most of these unaccompanied children come from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, all of them centers of gang violence and drug trafficking. Honduras, Wikipedia notes, has the highest murder rate of any nation in the world. El Salvador comes in second. Poverty, gangs, and low conviction rates of criminals are usually cited as the causes.

The reasons for this sudden surge in children from Central America crossing into the United States aren't entirely clear. Most of them have been told, incorrectly, that the United States would welcome them. Most House Republicans, though, want to deport them, and the legislation they have proposed calls for a much faster process to send them back home.  Crossing into the United States from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala requires an immigration hearing that must occur not more than seven days after they are screened by child-welfare specialists, and the judge would have to make a ruling within 72 hours after the end of the court proceedings,  David Rogers noted in Politico. But House Republicans would provide just $12.9 million for additional immigration judges to handle a crush of Central American children seeking to escape the violence in their homelands. 
And they would provide nothing, not a dime, to pay for lawyers to represent them. 

"I tell you the truth," Jesus said (Mark 10:13-16), "anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them."        

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, is contributing regular observations for  Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of the The Wall Street Journal until his retirement.  Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.


NYT/CBS: Wolf, 52; Corbett, 39

Published by James O'Toole on .

A new survey shows Democrat Tom Wolf leading Gov. Tom Corbett but by a clear but somewhat smaller margin than previous post-primary polls.

The poll, conducted for CBS and the New York Times by the internet polling firm, YouGov, shows Mr. Wolf leading the incumbent, 52 percent to 39 percent, including respondents who said they were leaning toward one candidate or the other. That’s a reasonably comfortable advantage for the Democrat, but well short of the margins in the 20-point range he recorded in some earlier polls.  Without the leaners, Mr. Wolf’s lead fell to single digits, 42 percent to 33 percent.


Tax policy? It depends.

Published by Matt Nussbaum on .

20140728er taxpolicy istock184644619 480

The details of tax policy, more than almost anything else in politics, make people’s eyes glaze over.

It’s a shame that the nitty-gritty of taxes is so often ignored, because terms like “job killing tax hikes” remain ubiquitous – and virtually meaningless.

So here’s an attempt to have an honest look at the income tax in Pennsylvania.


Education cuts? It depends

Published by Matt Nussbaum on .

So, did Governor Corbett cut state spending on education? Or did he increase it? Well, it depends.

Education is the most important issue for voters in Pennsylvania’s upcoming gubernatorial election, according to polls. Democrats have spent years attacking Gov. Tom Corbett for cutting education spending, and it seems that the message has resonated with voters. Gov. Corbett has, they claim, cut education spending by a billion dollars.

Gov. Corbett, on the other hand, says the exact opposite. According to his campaign website: “Education funding for Pennsylvania’s kids has increased by more than $1 billion since Gov. Corbett took office.”

Wait, what?

Someone must be lying, right? Well, actually, no not really. It just depends how you look at it. So here’s the story, and it’s up to the voters of Pennsylvania to decide which version they prefer.

When the Great Recession hit in 2008, everyone’s finances were devastated, and that included states. Falling incomes and failing businesses means declining tax returns – that, in turn, leads to tighter budgets.

In the face of such a disaster, the newly inaugurated Obama Administration took an FDR/New Deal-style approach with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – popularly known as the stimulus, or ARRA. The idea was that an infusion of federal dollars, to the tune of around $800 billion, would help make up for the overall decline in demand in the economy. A good chunk of the money went to states to help them fill their budget shortfalls caused by the recession.

Facing falling revenues, Governor Ed Rendell reduced the state contribution to public education funding but more than made up for it with federal stimulus dollars. The Corbett campaign has treated this as some kind of pseudo-scandal, with an administration briefing document saying stimulus money “should never have been used in school operating budgets.”

But the stimulus was intended to do exactly what Gov. Rendell used it for – to help cushion the recession’s blow to the state. This was not unique to Pennsylvania.

A 2012 report from the Center on Education Policy states: “ARRA funding helped to blunt the effects of the budget cuts in k-12 education faced by most school districts and many states.”

Because of Gov. Rendell’s use of the stimulus money, education funding in Pennsylvania increased in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 budgets.

Without remaining stimulus funds, that state would have had to significantly increase its contribution to education in 2011-2012. It did not, and education funding fell in the 2011-2012 budget, and then increased from that level in the 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 budgets, but only just reached the stimulus-aided level of 2009-2010, which itself was lower than the stimulus-aided level in 2010-2011.

Here you have it, in chart form:


Basic Education Funding in Pennsylvania

2007-2008 (Rendell)

$4.95 billion

2008-2009 (Rendell)

$5.23 billion

2009-2010 (Rendell)

$5.52 billion*

2010-2011 (Rendell)

$5.77 billion**

2011-2012 (Corbett)

$5.35 billion

2012-2013 (Corbett)

$5.40 billion

2013-2014 (Corbett)

$5.52 billion

2014-2015 (Corbett)

$5.53 billion

*$4.87 billion from the state, with additional $654 million in federal stimulus.

**$4.73 billion from the state, with additional $1.04 billion in federal stimulus.

So, where do both sides get their numbers?

The Democrats are using the 2010-2011 stimulus-aided $5.77 billion as the base-line. With that as the starting point, you get a $420 million cut in ’11-’12, a $370 million cut in ’12-’13, a $250 million cut in ’13-’14 and a $240 million cut in ’14-15. That adds up to $1.28 billion in funding over four years that would have been there had the number been kept at $5.77 billion. It was not, and the Democrats can thus claim, credibly, that education has been cut by over a billion dollars.

Now, to Gov. Corbett’s claim that he has increased education funding by a billion dollars. For his base-line he uses the state’s $4.73 billion contribution in 2010-2011, and ignores all of the federal stimulus dollars that went to education. With $4.73 billion as the base-line, state aid to education went up by $620 million in ’11-’12, then another $50 million in ’12-’13, $120 million in ’13-’14 and $10 million in ’14-’15.

The question then, for voters, is basically how they want to count.

Also, here are some graphs, specifically tailored to your political viewpoint. And yes, I used a website called “Kids’ Zone” to make these, because excel is too complicated.

For you non-partisans:

pabasicedfunding graphicA

For Democrats:

demeducationfunding graphicB

For Republicans:

gopeducationfunding graphicC