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Jerry Shenk


Toward a More Compassionate Pennsylvania

by Jerry Shenk
 

Are Pennsylvanians who wish to curb welfare, food stamp and unemployment benefit fraud just hateful people who enjoy taking things from others?
No, they're practical and compassionate. They advocate enforcement to preserve those financially-unsound programs for the people who really need them. Unlike Governor Tom Wolf, practical people understand that papering over the fraudulent excesses of at-risk programs solely by raising taxes on a shrinking workforce and an aging population will eventually mean tragedy for genuinely needy recipients.

Do Pennsylvanians who advocate public pension reform just envy public employee retirees?

No, they're practical, math-qualified people who can explain why Pennsylvania's nearly $50 billion unfunded pension liability is unsustainable. Reformers are compassionate people who want to put Pennsylvania's public pension system on a firm financial footing so that current government pensioners can continue to receive benefits, and government employees anticipating retirement will receive pensions upon which they can depend.

Unlike Governor Wolf, practical people understand that trying to solve the problem of unfunded pension liabilities solely through tax hikes on a shrinking workforce and an aging population will bring Pennsylvania financial ruin.

Are the people who seek passage of right-to-work and prevailing wage legislation just angry union busters?

Perhaps some are, but most are practical people who, unlike many state and local politicians, aren't influenced by generous union campaign contributions. They have compassion for the workers, job seekers and taxpayers who are penalized by right-to-work and prevailing wage laws. Lost and never-generated jobs, forced union dues payments and artificially-inflated costs for public works and construction projects negatively affect every Pennsylvania taxpayer.

Governor Tom Wolf's campaign received nearly $3.5 million in union contributions. Unlike Wolf, labor policy reformers understand that awarding labor and public employee unions ever more tax money from a shrinking workforce and an aging population is a formula for economic disaster.

Fraud, pension and labor reforms are practical, moral issues. They are made emotional only by the people who benefit from the excesses associated with entitlement, pension and labor policies, people who vocally and vigorously fight reform to preserve their perks at the expense of taxpayers who fund them. It is they who complain, dishonestly, about the "meanness," "envy" and "anti-union biases" of reformers.

Former Auditor General Jack Wagner estimated that welfare fraud, including food stamps and cash assistance, exceeds ten percent of total state expenditures, up to $4.2 billion annually.

In 2015, the US Labor Department's Inspector General reported that, from 2009-2013, Pennsylvania paid out $2.2 billion for fraudulent, never-recovered unemployment benefits.

Pennsylvania's prevailing wage regulations increase the total costs of public construction projects by 10 to 30 percent - $1 to $3 billion in excess annual costs.

Without reform, Pennsylvania's nearly-$50 billion public pension liabilities mount daily.

Reforms are reasonable, even compassionate — and essential to securing Pennsylvania's future. Since there are no personal, political or monetary advantages to enacting reforms, reformers must be politically fearless.
Pennsylvania needs an immediate infusion of elected, service-minded, courageous, financially-expert policy reformers — and informed, similarly-compassionate voters.


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