The Gasman came and has achieved the damage he was sent to do

A new Think Progress piece reports that:

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) signed a disastrous state budget last night that favors the natural gas industry at the expense of the state’s children and least fortunate citizens. The $27.15 billion budget does not raise taxes, but cuts health care for more than 100,000 of the state’s poorest residents. It did this by slashing Medicaid contributions by $280 million, which will result in a $425 million loss in matching federal funds. State universities and community colleges have announced the largest tuition hikes in state history as education funding took a heavy, $863-million hit.

Yet, state Republicans and Corbett did not have to punish children and the neediest to plug a $4 billion budget deficit. Several variations of natural gas drilling taxes were proposed this year, and an extraction fee tacked onto the budget by the state Senate last week would have raised $310 million. However, Corbett threatened to veto any tax, and he strong-armed the state House into withdrawing a vote on the tax this week just hours before it was scheduled to be debated. Corbett’s obstinacy continues even though Pennsylvania is the only major gas producer that does not tax its use.

So why is Corbett very friendly to natural gas, despite its documented dangers? It may be because the governor owes part of his political career to the industry, having accepted almost $1.3 million in campaign contributions from drillers.

One might consider the slashing and burning of Pennsylvania’s next budget a necessary condition for spurring job growth — that is, generating new jobs — in the Keystone State. Taxes on capital and profits allegedly deter investment. Investment in plant includes jobs as an unavoidable consequence. Ensuring profit-taking is therefore a necessary condition for increasing the employment rate. This, of course, is the supply side mantra that Americans have heard for decades. It is treated today as if it were a natural law. However, now that I have reiterated the orthodox — that is, the fundamentalist — take on this matter, I wish to point out that the Keystone Research Center reports that the Marcellus Shale jobs premium has been very modest so far:

Overall, Marcellus job growth is small — accounting for less than one in 10 of the 111,400 new jobs created since February 2010, when employment bottomed out after the recession, the report finds. Even if Marcellus Shale-related industries had created no jobs in 2010, the state still would have ranked third in overall job growth among the 50 states.

“The Marcellus boom has contributed to job growth, but the size of that contribution has been significantly overstated,” Dr. Herzenberg [of the Keystone Research Center] said.

“To explain Pennsylvania’s relatively strong recent job growth requires looking at factors other than Marcellus Shale — such as the state’s investments in education, renewable energy, workforce skills, and unemployment benefits,” he added.

Bluntly put, Pennsylvanians have benefitted little from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale industry. This industry has not generated the kind of employment gains needed to offset the externalities that come along with this industry. Nor will it generate revenue for the state of Pennsylvania. Tom Corbett, on the other hand, has greatly benefited from the industry.

What we can clearly see here is Tom Corbett quickly proving himself to be just another Republican politician promising economic benefits to the “lesser people” while implementing economic policies that are simple forms of economic predation. Someday, if this political trend continues unhampered, if, that is, this reactionary political economics continues to inform policy decisions in states like Pennsylvania, the citizens of those states will lack social rights. Poverty will be a common denominator that unites them. Paid work will gain the aggressively debilitating and inhuman quality found in the kind of labor performed in sweatshops around the world. It will wholly coincide with its function as a commodity input in a raw version of the capitalist system of production. The dignity of labor will be but a myth hobos will tell around their campfires when they recall the old and good times their grandparents knew firsthand.

Like his 2011 classmates Nikki Haley (SC), John Kasich (OH), Rick Scott (FL), Rick Snyder (MI) and Scott Walker (WI), Corbett has sought to make his bones in a political attack on the well-being found among common Americans. Because of this attack these men and women have earned a place among the scoundrels of the age.

You've got a Friend in Pennsylvania

You can find a slightly different version of this post at Fire Dog Lake

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