Editorial Roundup: Pennsylvania

Scranton Times-Tribune. Oct. 12, 2021.

Editorial: No Nobel for ignoble legislators

It usually doesn’t require the award of a Nobel Prize to demonstrate how wrong-headed Pennsylvania state legislators can be in crafting public policy based on their own ideology rather than the public interest.

But such a Nobel Prize, in economics, was awarded Monday to David Card of the University of California, Berkeley. He shared the prize with economists Joshua D. Angrist of Stanford University and Guido W. Imbens of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Card, working with the late Alan B. Kreuger of Princeton University, and Imbens and Angrist as a team, were awarded the prize for revolutionizing the practice of labor economics by relying on “natural experiments” in the real world rather than randomized experiments and theoretical models.

Card’s study is directly significant for Pennsylvania. He and Kreuger took advantage of a policy difference between Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the 1990s to assess the impact of minimum-wage increases. At that time, governments and economists assumed that minimum-wage increases automatically result in some job displacement for low-income workers.

In 1992 New Jersey raised its minimum wage by 18.8%, from $4.25 to $5.05 an hour, whereas Pennsylvania kept its minimum wage at $4.25. The economists studied the impact on fast-food restaurant employment in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania, and found that the higher minimum produced a slight increase in employment in New Jersey compared with Pennsylvania. They also assessed nonrestaurant low-wage businesses in New Jersey, and found that it did not adversely affect employment.

Now, Republican majorities in the state Legislature stubbornly cling to the discredited notion that a higher minimum wage in Pennsylvania will harm businesses and workers despite the Nobel-winning work, and despite the current experience of every state in the Northeast — other than Pennsylvania — that has raised its minimum wage rate in recent years.

For rejecting that evidence, state lawmakers would be shoo-ins if the Nobel committee honored intransigence.

___

York Dispatch. Oct. 11, 2021.

Editorial: It’s time for Scott Perry to go

If Scott Perry truly believes the false claims he spouted about election fraud following last November’s presidential election, he has fallen into a conspiracy theory rabbit hole and needs to resign from Congress.

If Perry doesn’t believe those claims he repeated for months, he’s deliberately lying to his constituents to garner favor with a man who lost a free and fair election, and he needs to resign from Congress.

Either way, it’s time for him to go.

It’s been nine months since a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the election of President Joe Biden.

Both before the insurrection and since then, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, has behaved in a manner that makes him unfit to represent his constituents in the 10th District.

Perry’s contacts with then-President Donald Trump and other officials merited a whole chapter — a whole chapter! — in a report from the Senate Judiciary Committee detailing Trump’s attempts to remain in power that was released last week.

Perry repeated several false claims about the authenticity of Pennsylvania’s ballots in an email to Richard Donoghue, the former deputy to then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who was tasked with collecting election information form elected officials. Three of his claims were debunked in the text of the report: An initial report that Pennsylvania had certified 205,000 more votes than the number of registered voters did not include voter registrations in four counties; only three attempts to cast more than one vote were discovered in the state; and the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf did encourage voters to use the new choice of voting by mail, but the purpose was to allow a free and fair election in the midst of a global pandemic.

But Perry didn’t stop there. He recommended to Donoghue that Jeffrey Clark, former acting assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s civil division, be given more responsibility in the department’s handling of the 2020 election. Perry then introduced Clark to Trump during a meeting in the Oval Office — a meeting Rosen didn’t know about.

Clark soon became a central figure in the fight to discredit and overturn the election, proposing that the Justice Department send letters to the leadership of Georgia and other contested states, encouraging them to appoint a different set of electors. At one point, Trump openly considered asking Rosen to step aside and replacing him with Clark.

Perry went on to introduce a motion on the floor of the House in the early morning hours on Jan. 7, just hours after the mob broke into the Capitol, to disenfranchise the entire state by not counting Pennsylvania’s votes in the Electoral College. Calls for him to resign in the days after that were met with a single-word statement from his office: “No.”

The months that have passed since these events have not changed any of the facts. Trump lost the election, both the popular vote and the Electoral College. No “forensic audits” or bombastic speeches or baseless rumors of fraud will change that.

Scott Perry’s role in keeping alive the baseless claims that Trump somehow won an election he so fairly and honestly lost is becoming clearer all the time. He’s one of only a handful of members of Congress named in the Senate report and the only one whose actions warrant being singled out for further investigation into his actions to pressure the Department of Justice to overturn the results of the election, along with state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams.

The deceit, the refusal to acknowledge verifiable truths, the deliberate attempt to overturn the results of an election and the threat of further investigation by Congress only serve to bring more embarrassment to the people of the 10th District. It’s time for Perry to go.

___

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Oct. 10, 2021.

Editorial: The nose knows, but is that enough?

The Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex along the Ohio River in Potter Township, Beaver County, is a marvel. For the first time in decades, the Pittsburgh region is hosting a new industrial facility of a scale and complexity that inspires genuine wonder. Children and adults alike are mesmerized by it as they cross the river on the nearby highway. With its skyline of stacks and towers and pipes, it looks like a small city unto itself.

In this age of malaise and discouragement, along with the rise of the digital world, the plant inspires confidence that we can still build consequential, awe-inspiring structures — and not just ones that house sports teams.

This, after all, is in the Pittsburgh region’s DNA: For nearly its entire history, it has been known as the place to see the biggest, most impressive industries human beings have yet devised. The Shell facility brings that legacy into the 21st century.

But Pittsburgh also has another reputation: for letting those impressive industries pollute the regional environment and poison its residents. While it’s not as noticeable as during the mid-20th century, when businessmen’s shirts would (in)famously go from white to gray over the course of a single commute, the region still has among the dirtiest air in the country.

And to this day the people of Clairton, above U.S. Steel’s enormous coking facility, suffer higher rates of asthma and certain cancers than those exposed to less airborne industrial residue.

This brings us back to Shell’s ethylene cracker. In late September, nearby residents noticed a strong and unpleasant odor wafting from the complex. The culprit, according to a commendably quick report from the company, was sodium tolyltriazole (say that five times fast, or at all), an industrial corrosion inhibitor that had been applied to new construction at the site.

In addition to learning about a new chemical, residents of central Beaver County learned something else: For almost all industrial byproducts that might foul their air and their lungs, the first line of defense is still their noses. Both corporate and government officials said that this particular chemical is not known to be harmful at such small levels — but it’s also never been tested. They also urged citizens to report noxious odors right away, but that’s hardly a sufficient safeguard for people whose homes and families long predate the arrival of petrochemical processing to the neighborhood.

Alerting us to airborne danger is what the nose is meant to do, but residents should not be the canaries in the coal mine.

It is all the more unsettling that this problem has cropped up even before the plant is operating. Residents and people in the larger community are right to be worried and to air their objections loudly.

In a previous deal with environmental groups, Shell had agreed to install a perimeter of monitors around the 400-acre site, but they won’t be active until a month after the plant begins operations.

For the sake of the well-being and peace of mind of Beaver County residents, those monitors should instead be installed and brought online right away. Shell should also empower the “community advisory panel” it had promised to form at the earliest possible time.

The petrochemicals complex has the promise to bring the best of old Pittsburgh into the future. It’s up to Shell and state regulators to make sure it doesn’t bring the worst, as well.

___

Harrisburg Patriot-News. Oct. 10, 2021.

Editorial: If we can tell women what to do with their bodies, let’s tell men, too

State Rep. Chris Rabb definitely got our attention. Is he serious about forcing men over 40 or with three kids to get vasectomies?

That’s a little unsettling. Many of us get really alarmed at talk about forcing a man to do anything with his own body – wear a mask or get a vaccination, let alone control his procreation. That’s why Rep. Rabb’s threat of a bill to force some men to get vasectomies is so over the top. The government telling a man what to do with his own body? Absurd.

Rep. Rabb said he introduced the legislation to make a point about the “egregiously gendered double standard” in society’s views on reproductive health care. Point well made. Rep. Rabb. Maybe too well made.

Our society can more easily accept controlling what goes on in a woman’s body than in that of a man.

Now, to be fair, the good legislator says he was just spoofing us. He thought it important that he speak up to show the inequality in attitudes toward reproductive responsibilities of men versus women. But his point is worth taking a few moments to ponder.

Science tells us men as well as women play a role in unwanted pregnancies. That means one sure way to prevent abortions is to stop men from making babies willy nilly.

Yet, most of us cringe at the thought of forcing a man to do something proactive about preventing abortion. We recoil at government trying to block a man’s right to cast his seed about, even if he repeatedly shows he has no respect for human life or his responsibilities to nurture it.

There’s something abhorrent about the government having the right to force a man to stop making babies neither he nor the woman can properly raise. There’s something repugnant about interfering with what a man does with such an intimate part of his body.

And there’s something utterly disdainful about telling a man he must play a role in preventing the situation where a woman finds herself seeking an abortion.

With satirical and dramatic flair, Rep. Rabb has struck a chord of truth we should not ignore.

Stopping men from impregnating women is the surest way to stop abortions. And those who truly abhor an act they consider murder should be eager to explore every way to stop it.

They should be as open to considering what men should do to prevent abortions as they are to blocking women from having them. And those who support government intervention to control the bodies of women also should support government intervention to control the bodies of men.

Thank you, Rep. Rabb. You have given us a lot to think about, however unsettling. And you have sent a warning shot to profligate men everywhere: If you don’t stop making babies you aren’t prepared to love, cherish and raise to full adulthood, the government may have to step in.

If states like Texas can tell women what to do with their own bodies, telling men what to do with theirs may not be far away.

___

Altoona Mirror. Oct. 11, 2021.

Editorial: Central York unifies behind banned books

The Central York school board obviously wasn’t expecting this.

For nine months, no one seemed to care that a long list of resources recommended by the district’s diversity committee had been banned from use in classrooms.

After all, the board had gotten away with indefinitely tabling the diversity curriculum by saying it was too divisive, didn’t show proper respect for police and taught white children that society doesn’t give people of color the same opportunities they enjoy.

Society doesn’t give people of color the same opportunities white people enjoy, but that’s beside the point. Some members of the board didn’t want that fact pointed out to while children, and the rest of the board went along with those mid-20th century views.

So last November, when the board unanimously banned such highly controversial content as the children’s picture books “Fry Bread,” “Hair Love” and “Like the Moon Loves the Sky,” along with works such as the Oscar-nominated PBS documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” about writer James Baldwin and a statement on racism from the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, they probably thought that was the end of the discussion.

And it was, for a while.

But then the four-page list of resources not to be used in classrooms was distributed to teachers by Central York High School Principal Ryan Caufman on Aug. 11…

Then the books hit the fan.

After a Sept. 1 article by Dispatch reporter Tina Locurto, the protests began. Central York High School students stood outside the school with signs blasting the decision every day for more than a week.

Voices from the community joined them, and soon authors on the list also spoke out against the decision.

And along the way, some women decided to do something about it.

Central York residents JJ Sheffer and Hannah Shipley began to gather copies of the banned books. At first a few for the free libraries they host, and then a few more.

Soon Amazon was making multiple deliveries a day at their homes. Books were piling up on piano benches and in the kitchen and in the garage.

Soon there was little room to move, and family members were spending evenings sorting through all of the literature.

It kept coming. Deliveries from across the country and around the county arrived — nearly 7,000 copies of the books donated to make sure those voices that had been banned in classrooms were heard outside the schools.

An avalanche is not an overstatement.

The outpouring of attention was exactly what was needed — and just what the school board didn’t want.

The same board that unanimously approved the ban last November tucked their tails between their legs in the face of the public’s obvious support for the banned resources and temporarily reinstated all of the resources on Sept. 20, while also proclaiming that they were never banned to begin with, just not allowed to be taught. Which sounds a lot like a ban.

And all those books?

They’re out in the community. Some were read aloud at Sheffer’s house before being given away. Three days later, more than 5,000 were snatched up in less than half an hour during a giveaway at Cousler Park in Manchester Township. Fitting events for national Banned Books Week.

With all of those banned books now in the hands of children, there’s one more step adults need to take.

Remember this.

We don’t know what will happen on Election Day, but the Central York school board race is one of the most combative in the county. And the district is bringing in a new superintendent in the next few weeks, as well.

The lifting of the ban was a temporary measure that the board could backtrack on at any point.

It’s up to the community to keep this issue in the minds of the public both before and after the election to ensure that, no matter who is sitting at the board table, those previously banned books aren’t removed from classrooms again.

END