Monday, September 22, 2014

New Economic Data on Pennsylvania Coming

The Keystone Research Center has released a report detailing how the income share for Pennsylvania's middle class has shrunk since 1978 in each county. The full text of their press release is below. New Census data on the uninsured for Pennsylvania and it's counties for 2013 will be out tomorrow to give us a glimpse of how the Affordable Care Act has impacted our state.

SEP. 16, 2014
Media Contact: Mark Price, 717-255-7158,
Middle Class In Every Pa. County Has Shrunk Since 1970s
Meanwhile, top incomes in every county have surged
HARRISBURG, PA (Sept. 16, 2014) — Pennsylvania’s middle class is smaller, while the
top 1% of earners enjoy a larger share of income, in every county in Pennsylvania today
as compared to the late 1970s, according to a new report from the Keystone Research
“This report quantifies what most working Pennsylvanians have sensed for years. It’s
harder today to find a job that pays enough to lift a family into the middle class,” said
Mark Price, KRC’s labor economist and coauthor of the report. “Traditional gateways to
a middle-class income such as a manufacturing job, or more broadly a job with union
representation, are less common today than they were a generation ago.”
The Center’s report finds that:
The counties or county groups with the largest percent decline in the share of
households with middle-class incomes are:
o Delaware (only half (50.9%) of households in the middle-class, a decline of
more than a fifth (20.9%) since the late 1970s);
o Philadelphia (43.1% in the middle class, a shrinkage of a fifth (20.2%));
o Columbia, Luzerne, Montour & Northumberland (53.3% in the middle
class, down by nearly a fifth (19.3%));
o Bucks (56.8% middle-class share, a shrinkage of more than a sixth (17.6%));
o Erie (55.1% middle-class share, down a sixth (16.7%));
o Chester (54.8% middle-class share down nearly a sixth (15.9%));
o Westmoreland (55.6% in the middle class, down by 15.8% to);
o Allegheny (53.0% in the middle class, down 15.6%);
o Armstrong & Indiana (53.7% middle-class share, down 15.6%);
o Lebanon (58.2% middle class, a 15.0% decline); and
o Centre (half of households in the middle class (50.1%), down 15.0%.
The counties or county groups with the largest middle-class share in 2010-12 are:
Cumberland & Perry (59.3%); Adams, Franklin & York (58.8%); Schuylkill
(58.6%); Lebanon (58.2%); Butler (58.1%); Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Elk,
Forest, Jefferson, McKean, Potter & Venango (58.1%); Bedford, Blair, Cambria,
Fulton, Huntingdon & Somerset (58.0%); Lancaster (58.0%); Clinton, Juniata,
Mifflin, Lycoming, Snyder & Union (57.6%); and Crawford & Warren (56.8%).
The counties or county groups with the smallest middle-class share in 2010-12 are:
Philadelphia (43.1%); Centre (50.1%); Delaware (50.9%); Allegheny (53.0%);
Columbia, Luzerne, Montour, & Northumberland (53.3%); Armstrong & Indiana
(53.7%); Chester (54.8%); Fayette, Greene & Washington (54.9%); Erie (55.1%);
Dauphin (55.3%); Bradford, Carbon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne & Wyoming (55.3%).
“This report builds on our previous work examining state-level trends in incomes by
looking at the growth of top incomes in every one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties,” said
Estelle Sommeiller, a socio-economist at the Institute For Research in Economics and
Social Sciences in France.
“What is evident in this new data across rural, urban and suburban counties in
Pennsylvania is a striking surge in top incomes. In 1978, the share of total income
captured by the top 1% of taxpayers did not exceed 10% in any county in Pennsylvania.
By 2011, the top 1% captured more than 10% in all but six counties,” said Sommeiller.
With respect to top incomes the Center’s report finds that:
In NO Pennsylvania county between 1978 and 2011 did the income growth of the
bottom 99% exceed the income growth of the top 1%.
Over this same period, the real income of the bottom 99% of taxpayers grew in only
21 of the 67 counties.
Between 1978 and 2011, the counties with the greatest percent increase in real
income growth among the top 1% were: Forest (757%), Bucks (278%), Chester
(250%), McKean (245%), Greene (238%), Washington (211%), Bradford (208%),
Potter (203%), Delaware (202%) and Susquehanna (193%).
The 10 counties with the largest share of all income earned by the top 1% in 2011
are: Forest (33.9%), McKean (25.2%), Somerset (21.0%), Montgomery (20.3%),
Allegheny (20.0%), Delaware (18.7%), Philadelphia (18.1%), Potter (18.0%),
Greene (17.9%) and Chester (17.6%). The 10 counties with the smallest share of all income earned by the top 1% in 2011
are: Franklin (11.1%), Bedford (10.7%), Lebanon (10.3%), Fulton (10.0%),
Huntingdon (9.9%), Carbon (9.9%), Monroe (9.6%), Snyder (9.5%), Juniata
(9.1%) and Perry (6.7%).
"Taken together,these trends – the shrinking middle class and the rapid rise in top
incomes – are quite troubling. Their reversal requires urgent action by policymakers in
Harrisburg and Washington,” Sommeiller said.
This data points clearly to the need for policymakers to raise the minimum wage in
Pennsylvania, which today has 15 percent less purchasing power than it did in 1979.
Such a move would be a modest first step to push more working families closer to the
middle class,” Price said.
Read the full report at

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Single Payer Alive and Well in Massachusetts

Donald Berwick ran a campaign for governor of Massachusetts (home of Romneycare the model for the Affordable Care Act) on a single payer platform.  Previously he ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services in the Department of Health and Human Services.  He ran against better funded candidates State Attorney General Martha Coakley (who had lost the special election for Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat to Scott Brown) and State Treasurer Steven Grossman.  Most polls had Berwick in the teens to the single digits as can be seen in the data tracked by Real Clear Politics.  The final results had him at 21.1% which suggests an upswing of support. 

There was no exit polling to monitor the true impact of Berwick's campaign on the voters.  The pre-election polls restricted their samples to who they thought would be likely voters.  The results suggest that Berwick brought in new voters.  Just because Berwick did not win does not mean he did not have an impact. 

The same day as the Massachusetts primary, Zephyr Teachout ran a primary challenge to New York governor Andrew Cuomo and received 30% of the vote. She discusses her campaign below.  Her campaign received more attention than Berwick's.  But it's at least as impactful.

Polling Data

PollDateSampleCoakley Grossman Berwick Spread
Final Results----42.436.521.1Coakley +5.9
WBUR/MassINC9/2 - 9/7234 LV412012Coakley +21
Boston Globe9/2 - 9/3400 LV472513Coakley +22
UMass Lowell/7News8/25 - 8/31685 LV52209Coakley +32
WBUR/MassINC8/24 - 8/31340 LV47236Coakley +24
Boston Globe8/17 - 8/26347 LV462410Coakley +22
Suffolk/Boston Herald8/21 - 8/24400 LV423016Coakley +12
Boston Globe8/10 - 8/19358 LV452410Coakley +21
Boston Globe8/3 - 8/12357 LV452110Coakley +24
Boston Globe7/27 - 8/5361 LV45189Coakley +27

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National, State, and County Uninsured Estimates


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Single Payer Petition

I have been busy with teaching and working so it's been harder to find time to blog but I have been using examples from the blog to teach with.  My organization, Healthcare for all PA is circulating an online petition.  You can sign it here.

Signing closes on Tuesday 9/9.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Testing Fairness, Outliers, and Racism

Oftentimes the importance of an issue isn't realized until it hits home.  The film Stand and Deliver tells the story of math teacher Jaime Escalante who's students (20 in total) all passed the advanced placement (AP) Calculus test in the 1980s.  The education testing service (ETS) (which administers the AP test as well as the SAT and a host of other standardized tests) thought the results were an outlier and launched an investigation into whether or not the students cheated on the exam.  In the clip above, Escalante (played by Edward James Olmos) confronts the investigators (one of them is played by Andy Garcia) from ETS and questions the motives behind the investigation.  He argues that the results would not be questioned if the students were from Beverly Hills.  The investigation later proved that the students passed the test legitimately as the students had to retake the test and all passed with a score of three or more.  The ETS investigators were just doing their job and anomalies have to be investigated but the way in which they are investigated can show bias.

Bias in testing is a universal problem and how the results are interpreted is certainly an inflammatory issue with a lot of time and energy spent to correct and quantify it.  As the prevalence of high stakes testing has increased, authentic cases of cheating have occurred as school funding is now tied to the results of those tests under the No Child Left Behind Act.  Recent cases of cheating on standardized tests have involved the principals and teachers supplying the answers to the students in hopes of improving school funding.  The photo below is of an art installation of an education student's opinion of high stakes testing.

The issues have changed little since Escalante's passed the AP test.  Policy makers often use the results of tests to demonstrate With the new ways tests are now administered the potential for cheating and questioning of results should increase exponentially. 

**Related Posts**


Testing Question


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Friday, August 8, 2014

Single-payer health care would better control costs (Letter to the Editor in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I have a letter to the editor published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in response to an editorial there on the closing of hospitals since 2000.  The image below is from the paper and is a $100 bill being used as a tongue depressor.

The Frayed Safety Net editorial does raise some important issues in the availability of medical services in Allegheny, Beaver, Fayette, and Westmoreland counties since 2000. It cites the ‘decade’s long decline’ in the population of the four counties as the reason for 11 out of the 39 hospitals being closed since 2000. While it is true that the population in these four counties has decreased 13.9% since 1980 to 2012 (the most recent year estimates are available from the Census Bureau) it has only decreased 4.2% since the year 2000. The closure of hospitals since 2000 has resulted in a 28.2% decrease (11 divided by 39) in the number of hospitals which is disproportionate to population decline even if you consider the change since 1980. It seems that cost is a much bigger factor driving hospital closures than population. 

The editorial was right to commend The Cleveland Clinic for building clinics in places where they had to close hospitals. The Clinic is a true non profit organization dedicated to serving their populations. UPMC and Highmark, while technically also non profits, often behave as Fortune 500 companies as has been shown in the current battles these organizations are involved. A for profit healthcare system cannot adequately serve their populations whether it be under the Affordable Care Act or not. A single payer system is far more efficient in providing care and controlling costs.

Paul Ricci
Stanton Heights
Healthcare For All PA 

**Related Posts** 

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How do the States Stack Up on Infant Mortality? (Cross Post with PUSH)




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The National Review Takes on Neil Degrasse Tyson and Nerd (God I hate that word) Culture

This month The National Review published an article by Charles C. W. Cooke skewering Neil DeGrasse Tyson and what he calls the new "Nerd (God I hate that word) Culture' where individuals adopt characteristics of a culture to look cool.  Cooke begins with a discussion of the clip below from the TV show Portlandia where a beautiful blonde states that she wants to give up modeling because she saw The Avengers 2 which makes her a nerd (did I mention I hate that word I'm calling it my N word from here on out this link will tell you why).  The video below shows what happens next.

On Real Time with Bill Maher, Tyson responded to the article as can be seen in the clip below.  Maher stated that conservatives hate Tyson.  Tyson responded by saying that N words (at comic con) tend to vote democratic and the right wishes that more N words would vote with their side.

The article doesn't denounce Tyson so much as N word culture.  It does say that just because you attend comic con doesn't make you a bonafide intellectual.   I don't read comic books or go to comic-con conventions.  They hate the 60's Batman TV series, I think it's hilarious. Cooke correctly criticizes those argue in favor of climate change while not really understanding the theory.  This he claims is a result of the wedding of Hollywood, science, and politics.

The article did not mention climate change or evolution but it did talk about how N word culture shuns researchers Cooke admires such as Charles Murray (author of the Bell Curve which argues for a racial hierarchy of intelligence) and anti transsexual Paul McHugh.  Cooke also claimed that there was conclusive evidence that the government programs Medicaid and Head Start do not work (I've read considerable evidence to the contrary).  

With all of this complaining about the supposed snobbery of those who engage in intellectual pursuits, I'm reminded of the founder of The National Review, William F. Buckley who debated Noam Chomsky in this clip about US foreign policy,  Both men engage in high sounding words but Chomsky speaks in opposition to US power while Buckley is in favor of the war in Vietnam.  Snobbery is only a problem when you're on the short end.

Understanding of complex phenomenon is aided by presenting scientific principles in novel ways as the series Cosmos did in 1980 and in 2014.  The science was sound but it did not jive with what the right wanted to hear at least with the 2014 version.  I don't know if the National Review criticized Carl Sagan and the original Cosmos but SCTV did a pretty good spoof of both of them in The Battle of the PBS stars.

**Related Posts**

Cosmos Redux?


The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science | Mother Jones 


Why Elites Fail | The Nation


My N Word (not what you think)