Jewish Population by Congressional District

Joshua Comenetz has broken down the American Jewish population by Congressional district.

Here are the local numbers:

District Representative Jews %
PA1 Robert Brady (D) 17,000 2.41%
PA2 Chaka Fattah (D) 36,000 5.10%
PA6 Jim Gerlach (R) 19,000 2.69%
PA7 Pat Meehan 36,000 5.10%
PA8 Mike Fitzpatrick (R) 44,000 6.24%
PA13 Allyson Schwartz (D) 63,000 8.93%
NJ1 Robert Andrews (D) 35,000 4.78%
DE John C. Carney, Jr. 15,100 1.68%

The estimate of the Jewish population in all Congressional Districts is 6,735,830, approximately 2.18% of the total U.S. population. This estimate is consistent with the 6.7 million Jewish persons reported in the 2013 Pew Research Center Portrait of Jewish Americans….

The American Jewish population is simultaneously more densely clustered geographically than the overall American population and very geographically diverse — at least a few Jews live in every one of the 436 CDs. Half of all American Jews live in just 37 CDs, and 93 CDs contain three-quarters of all Jews. In contrast, the 266 districts with the fewest Jews collectively have only 10% of the Jewish population. The most-Jewish district, New York’s 10th, has as many Jews (197,000) as the 170 least-Jewish CDs combined.

There are 13 CDs with 100,000 or more Jews, nine in New York and two each in California and Florida — the three states with the highest total Jewish populations. In general, the most-Jewish CDs are in the northeastern states, California, Florida, and a few other large urban areas such as Chicago and Atlanta. The least-Jewish CDs are mostly in the rural parts of southern states.

Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District has the most Jews in the state and is ranked 24th nationally while the 3rd, 5th and 9th District have only 1000 Jews.

Where is the Jewish vote the most decisive?

There are 27 Congressional Districts in which the Jewish population exceeded the margin of victory in the 2012 Congressional election. Heading the list is:

  • Illinois’ 10th Congressional District whose 76,500 Jews (10.73% of the population) is about 23 times the 3,326 vote margin by which Democratic challenger Brad Schneider defeated Republican incumbent Robert Dold.
  • Florida’s 32th Congressional District whose 32,000 Jews (4.60% of the population) is about 17 times the 1,904 vote margin by which Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy defeated Republican incumbent Allen West.
  • New York’s 11th Congressional District whose 129,000 Jews (17.97% of the population) is about 12 times the 10,688 vote margin by which Republican incumbent Michael Grimm defeated Democratic challenger Mark Murphy.

Runners up are NY-9 (6.95x), AZ-2 (6.93x), MA-6 (6.12x), NY-18 (5.19x), CA-52 (5.08x), NY-3 (3.45x), CT-5 (3.35x), CO-6 (3.29x), UT-4 (3.26x), CA-26 (3.03x), NY-1 (2.95x), FL-22 (2.73x), NY-6 (2.03x) and IL-13 (2.00x).

Abbas Adopts Jesus as a Palestinian

(DEBKA) Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas sent this Christmas message to the world:

“In Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born, a Palestinian messenger who would become the guiding light for millions around the world.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said:

“Abbas should check his facts, read the New Testament before spouting such nonsense. But we forgive him, for he knows not what he does.”

Cartoons Courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen http://drybonesblog.blogspot.com/ and The Cartoon Kronicles @ http://cartoonkronicles.com

Fear of a Word: Marijuana Forbidden for Sick 3-Year-Old

— by Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach

Garrett Brann, who is about to turn 3 years old, has a form of epilepsy, known as “Dravet’s Syndrome,” which is robbing him of his childhood, a normal life, and much more.

The disease manifests itself primarily in almost constant seizures. Garrett routinely has more than 100 seizures, of varying degrees of intensity, every day.

Garrett’s story is obviously sad, but what makes it truly tragic is that there is a treatment which could very possibly end Garrett’s seizures and allow him to live a normal life. However, because that treatment is a derivative of marijuana, he is not allowed to have it.

More after the jump.
As a result of the frightening and damaging seizures, Garrett’s brain does not rest long enough to develop normally. He, like all children with the Syndrome, suffers from severe cognitive underdevelopment, which only gets worse with time.

He used to be able to feed himself and speak, but has lost those abilities. He can no longer walk consistently and frequently falls. As a result, Garrett’s parents have had to rush him to the emergency room repeatedly for stitches and other medical treatment.

Garrett cannot run, climb steps or jump like a normal 3-year old. He receives occupational, physical and speech therapy, but makes no real progress in any of these areas, as the Syndrome continues to run its often-fatal course.

In an effort to ameliorate the seizures as much as possible, Garrett is currently on a highly toxic and addictive three-drug regimen. These drugs are known to cause liver damage. One of them is not covered by insurance, and costs the Brann family thousands of dollars per year.

The treatment that could help Garrett is known as “Charlotte’s Web,” named after the first girl with the Syndrome to whom it helped.

Charlotte, like Garrett, suffered with near constant seizures. Also like Garrett, nothing seemed to help her until she was given the marijuana-based oil.

The results were miraculous. Her seizure rate went down from hundreds per week to less than one. She is now developing normally and has regained much of what she had lost when she was constantly seizing. Similar results have now been seen in dozens of children with the Syndrome.

The miracle treatment is a tincture or oil that comes from a certain, specific strain of marijuana.

It is important to know that marijuana contains two active compounds:

  • The first is tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC.” This is the part of the marijuana plant that is an intoxicant, and makes people “high.”
  • The other active compound is known as cannabidiol, or “CBD,” which cannot make people “high” at all.

The specific strain of marijuana used to create Charlotte’s Web is packed with CBD and contains almost no THC. So the oil that could help Garrett cannot and will not get Garrett stoned or intoxicated in any way.

If Charlotte’s Web came from a yucca plant or bacteria grown in a laboratory, it would be easily available in every CVS or Rite-Aid in America.

But because it comes from marijuana, the plant that dare not speak its name, no child in Pennsylvania can obtain, possess or use it. Garrett’s parents can fly to Colorado, establish residency, buy the oil and bring it back to Pennsylvania, but if they do they risk arrest and felony prosecution.

This policy is insane. A few drops of a simple oil can potentially save a young boy’s life. The oil is not addictive, not intoxicating, and has no side effects.

There is no rational reason to deny this child the medicine he needs. The only thing that stands between Garrett and a normal life is the fear of the word “marijuana.”

This word has the same effect on many policymakers in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. as Kryptonite has on Superman: it causes them to lose their ability to think clearly, and forces them to flee in terror.

We must overcome this superstitious way of thinking. It is causing people to suffer needlessly, both with symptoms that could have been eased, and with the side effects of drugs much more toxic and dangerous than Charlotte’s Web could ever be.

Would our policy on medical marijuana make sense to you if Garrett was your son?

See No Warming, Hear No Warming, Speak No Warming


DEP acting head, E. Christopher Abruzzo.
Credit: Pennsylvania DEP

— by Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach

Yesterday, I heard the following from E. Christopher Abruzzo, Tom Corbett’s nominee for Department of Environmental Protection Secretary:

I have not read any scientific studies that would lead me to conclude that there are adverse impacts to human beings or to animals or to plant life at this small level of climate change.

While it is absolutely galling that Corbett would have the audacity to nominate someone for the post of protecting our environment who has not read anything at all about the human impact on climate change, it is not unexpected.

However, I was the only member of the State Senate yesterday to hold Corbett’s nominee accountable, ask hard questions, and vote against his nomination.

As an environmentalist, I believe it is of the highest imperative to protect our natural resources, and am willing to stand up to anti-environment politicians like Corbett to do what is right — and that is what I want to do when I am elected to Congress.

More after the jump.
As The Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

Leach was the only senator to oppose moving Abruzzo’s nomination out of committee for consideration by the full 50-member Senate, expected within the next week.

He said he believed Abruzzo, a longtime prosecutor who later served as a deputy chief of staff to Corbett, had “no obvious experience in environmental protection, and that manifests itself in things like not knowing the science behind climate change.”

“This is not a reflection on you,” said Leach. “There are many positions that you would be qualified for. I do not think this is one of them.”

Affordable Care Act Brings New Health Care Options to Pennsylvania

— by Chris Lilienthal

Beginning today, Pennsylvanians who are working but lack health insurance will be able to shop for and compare options for affordable coverage, on a new competitive Health Insurance Marketplace established by the federal health care law.

Today marks the first day of a six-month open enrollment period, during which uninsured Pennsylvanians and their families will be able to buy coverage with the help of federal tax subsidies on the new Marketplace. It is the latest provision of the Affordable Care Act to take effect.

More after the jump.
Advocates and health care providers explained during a State Capitol press conference today that the new Marketplace will open the door to health coverage for hundreds of thousands of hardworking Pennsylvanians, who will be able to see a doctor for the first time in years.

Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said:

This is the beginning of a journey toward meeting the health care needs of individuals and families across the nation. The Marketplace will give Pennsylvanians valuable new options, and allow them to decide which coverage best fits their family’s needs.

The Marketplace is designed for those who don’t have health coverage through their employers and are not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program. Those with employer-offered coverage can keep it.

Insurance companies participating in the Marketplace will compete to provide the best product at the best price to consumers seeking health coverage. Tough rules will ensure that every package sold on the Marketplace covers the basics, like annual checkups and preventive medicine.

Pam Clarke, vice president of finance and managed care for The Hospital & Health System Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), said at the press conference:

Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems across the state stand ready to support consumers in this important enrollment process. We are committed to ensuring that more Pennsylvanians have access to affordable, timely, quality health care, which is so critical to their quality of life. The hospital community and HAP believe the Health Insurance Marketplace will be successful in enrolling many Pennsylvanians in viable health plans.

The Affordable Care Act will also make health care coverage more secure by ensuring that working families cannot be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition, or lose their coverage or be forced into bankruptcy when someone gets sick. Lifetime caps on insurance benefits will also be a thing of the past.

Seniors who receive Medicare will be able to keep it and do not need to go through the new Marketplace for coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare will cover more prescription drug costs as the new law will close the donut hole.

Ray Landis, advocacy manager for American Association of Retired Persons Pennsylvania, said:

The beginning of the health exchange open enrollment process is especially important for those between the ages of 50 and 64, who are not yet eligible for Medicare, but who have had the most difficult time finding affordable health insurance, because of the chronic health conditions that affect many people in this age group.

Patricia Fonzi, vice president of customer service and relationship management of the Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania, added:

The new law also improves health care for women and children. No longer will insurers be able to charge women more than men for the same coverage or deny coverage for maternity care.

Pennsylvanians should go to the Marketplace’s website to apply through the state’s federally-established Marketplace and to find additional information and help. Open enrollment runs from Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Applicants must apply by Dec. 15 to begin receiving coverage Jan. 1. People needing assistance can call 1-800-318-2596.  

Fact Sheet: Obama’s Better Bargain for Middle Class Families in PA

Tuition at the University of Hawaii 1974-1975

A higher education is the single most important investment students can make in their own futures. At the same time, it has never been more expensive. That is why since taking office, President Obama has made historic investments in college affordability, increasing the maximum Pell Grant award for working and middle class families by more than $900, creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and enacting effective student loan reforms eliminating bank subsidies and making college more affordable.  

However, despite these measures, college tuition keeps rising. The average tuition at a public four-year college has increased by more than 250 percent over the past three decades, while incomes for typical families grew by only 16 percent, according to data from the College Board. In Pennsylvania, about 902,200 undergraduate students are enrolled in higher education institutions across the state. For the 2011-12 school year, the average cost of attendance for in-state undergraduate students at public colleges and universities living on campus reached $24,713 in Pennsylvania. And according to estimates from The Institute for College Access and Success, graduating seniors who borrowed to attend college in Pennsylvania left school with an average of $29,959 in debt.

Declining state funding has forced students to shoulder a bigger proportion of college costs; tuition has almost doubled as a share of public college revenues over the past 25 years from 25 percent to 47 percent. While a college education remains a worthwhile investment overall, the average borrower now graduates with over $26,000 in debt. Only 58 percent of full-time students who began college in 2004 earned a four-year degree within six years. Loan default rates are rising, and too many young adults are burdened with debt as they seek to start a family, buy a home, launch a business, or save for retirement.

Plan details and more after the jump.

President’s Plan for Making College More Affordable:

Paying for Performance:

  • Tie financial aid to college performance, starting with publishing new college ratings before the 2015 school year.
  • Challenge states to fund public colleges based on performance.
  • Hold students and colleges receiving student aid responsible for making progress toward a degree.

Promoting Innovation and Competition:

  • Challenge colleges to offer students a greater range of affordable, high-quality options than they do today.
  • Give consumers clear, transparent information on college performance to help them make the decisions that work best for them.
  • Encourage innovation by stripping away unnecessary regulations.

Ensuring that Student Debt Remains Affordable:

  • Help ensure borrowers can afford their federal student loan debt by allowing all borrowers to cap their payments at 10 percent of their monthly income.
  • Reach out to struggling borrowers to ensure that they are aware of the flexible options available to help them to repay their debt.

President Obama outlined an ambitious new agenda to combat rising college costs and make college affordable for American families. His plan will measure college performance through a new ratings system so students and families have the information to select schools that provide the best value. And after this ratings system is well established, Congress can tie federal student aid to college performance so that students maximize their federal aid at institutions providing the best value. The President’s plan will also take down barriers that stand in the way of competition and innovation particularly in the use of new technology, and shine a light on the most cutting-edge college practices for providing high value at low costs. And to help student borrowers struggling with their existing debt, the President is committed to ensuring that all borrowers who need it can have access to the Pay As You Earn plan that caps loan payments at 10 percent of income, and is directing the Department of Education to ramp up its efforts to reach out to students struggling with their loans to make sure they know and understand all their repayment options.  

Pay Colleges and Students for Performance

The federal government provides over $150 billion each year in student financial aid. Of that total, higher education institutions in Pennsylvania will receive more than $7,039,000,000 in federal student aid funding (including Pell Grants, undergraduate federal student loans, graduate and parent federal student loans, and campus-based aid) in the 2013-14 school year. Meanwhile, all fifty states collectively invest over $70 billion in public colleges and universities. The vast majority of these resources nationwide are allocated among colleges based on the number of students who enroll, not the number who earn degrees or what they learn. President Obama’s plan will connect student aid to outcomes, which will in turn drive a better, more affordable education for all students:

Tie Financial Aid to College Value: To identify colleges for providing the best value and encourage all colleges to improve, President Obama is directing the Department of Education to develop and publish a new college ratings system that would be available for students and families before the 2015 college year. In the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the President will seek legislation allocating financial aid based upon these college ratings by 2018, once the ratings system is well established. Students can continue to choose whichever college they want, but taxpayer dollars will be steered toward high-performing colleges that provide the best value.  

  • New College Ratings before 2015. Before the 2015 school year, the Department of Education will develop a new ratings system to help students compare the value offered by colleges and encourage colleges to improve. These ratings will compare colleges with similar missions and identify colleges that do the most to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as colleges that are improving their performance. The results will be published on the College Scorecard. The Department will develop these ratings through public hearings around the country to gather the input of students and parents, state leaders, college presidents, and others with ideas on how to publish excellent ratings that put a fundamental premium on measuring value and ensure that access for those with economic or other disadvantages are encouraged, not discouraged. The ratings will be based upon such measures as:
    • Access, such as percentage of students receiving Pell grants;
    • Affordability, such as average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt; and
    • Outcomes, such as graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings, and advanced degrees of college graduates.

  • Base Student Aid on College Value by 2018. Over the next four years, the Department of Education will refine these measurements, while colleges have an opportunity to improve their performance and ratings. The Administration will seek legislation using this new rating system to transform the way federal aid is awarded to colleges once the ratings are well developed. Students attending high-performing colleges could receive larger Pell Grants and more affordable student loans.

Engage States with a Race to the Top for Higher Education that Has Higher Value and Lower Costs: The President requested $1 billion in Race to the Top funding to spur state higher education reforms and reshape the federal-state partnership by ensuring that states maintain funding for public higher education. About three-quarters of college students attend a community college or public university, and declining state funding has been the biggest reason for rising tuition at public institutions. The Race to the Top competition will have a special focus on promoting paying for value as opposed to enrollment or just seat time. States typically fund colleges based on enrollment rather than on their success at graduating students or other measures of the value they offer. There are notable exceptions, like Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio, which fund colleges based on performance. To build on their examples, the President’s plan would also encourage states to provide accelerated learning opportunities, smooth the transition from high school to college and between two- and four-year colleges, and strengthen collaboration between high schools and colleges.  

Reward Colleges for Results with a Pell Bonus and Higher Accountability:
To encourage colleges to enroll and graduate low- and moderate-income students, the President will propose legislation to give colleges a bonus based upon the number of Pell students they graduate. And the Administration will prevent the waste of Pell dollars by requiring colleges with high dropout rates to disburse student aid over the course of the semester as students face expenses, rather than in a lump sum at the beginning of the semester, so students who drop out do not receive Pell Grants for time they are not in school.  

Demand Student Responsibility for Academic Performance: There are projected to be about 279,000 Pell Grant recipients and 439,300 undergraduate federal student loan borrowers in Pennsylvania in the 2013-14 school year. To ensure students are making progress toward their degrees, the President will also propose legislation strengthening academic progress requirements of student aid programs, such as requiring students to complete a certain percentage of their classes before receiving continued funding. These changes would encourage students to complete their studies on time, thereby reducing their debt, and will be designed to ensure that disadvantaged students have every opportunity to succeed.  

Promote Innovation and Competition

A rising tide of innovation has the potential to shake up the higher education landscape. Promising approaches include three-year accelerated degrees, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and “flipped” or “hybrid” classrooms where students watch lectures at home and online and faculty challenge them to solve problems and deepen their knowledge in class. Some of these approaches are still being developed, and too few students are seeing their benefits. The federal government can act as a catalyst for innovation, spurring innovation in a way that drives down costs while preserving quality.  

To promote innovation and competition in the higher education marketplace, the President’s plan will publish better information on how colleges are performing, help demonstrate that new approaches can improve learning and reduce costs, and offer colleges regulatory flexibility to innovate. And the President is challenging colleges and other higher education leaders to adopt one or more of these promising practices that we know offer breakthroughs on cost, quality, or both — or create something better themselves:  

Award Credits Based on Learning, not Seat Time. Western Governors University is a competency-based online university serving more than 20,000 students with relatively low costs — about $6,000 per year for most degrees with an average time to a bachelor’s degree of only 30 months. A number of other institutions have also established competency-based programs, including Southern New Hampshire University and the University of Wisconsin system.

Use Technology to Redesign Courses. Redesigned courses that integrate online platforms (like MOOCs) or blend in-person and online experiences can accelerate the pace of student learning. The National Center for Academic Transformation has shown the effectiveness of the thoughtful use of technology across a wide range of academic disciplines, improving learning outcomes for students while reducing costs by nearly 40 percent on average. Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative has developed a hybrid statistics course used at six public universities, and its students performed as well as their peers in a traditional course in only 75 percent of the time. Arizona State University’s interactive algebra lessons helped students perform 10 percent better, despite meeting half as often, and at a lower cost. The University of Maryland redesigned an introductory psychology course, reducing costs by 70 percent while raising pass rates. New York’s Open SUNY initiative brings together every online program offered system-wide, helping students complete more quickly.

Use Technology for Student Services. Online learning communities and e-advising tools encourage persistence and alert instructors when additional help is needed. Technology is enabling students from across campuses and across the world to collaborate through online study groups and in-person meet-ups. MOOC-provider Coursera has online forums in which the median response time for questions posed by students is 22 minutes. To help students choose the courses that will allow them to earn a degree as quickly as possible, Austin Peay State University has developed the “Degree Compass” system that draws on the past performance of students in thousands of classes to guide a student through a course, in a similar manner to the way Netflix or Pandora draw on users’ past experience to guide movie or music choices.  

Recognize Prior Learning and Promote Dual Enrollment. Colleges can also award credit for prior learning experiences, similar to current Administration efforts to recognize the skills of returning veterans. Dual-enrollment opportunities let high school students earn credits before arriving at college, which can save them money by accelerating their time to degree.

To help colleges innovate and improve quality and outcomes, the Administration will:

Empower Students with Information: New college ratings will help students compare the value offered by different colleges. The Department of Education will enlist entrepreneurs and technology leaders with a “Datapalooza” to catalyze new private-sector tools, services, and apps to help students evaluate and select colleges. The effort will be complemented by earnings information by college that will be released for the first time on Administration’s College Scorecard this fall.

Seed Innovation and Measure What Works: To demonstrate what works, President Obama has proposed a new $260 million First in the World fund to test and evaluate innovative approaches to higher education that yield dramatically better outcomes, and to develop new ways for colleges to demonstrate that they are helping their students learn. In addition, the Department of Labor is planning to grant an additional $500 million to community colleges and eligible four-year colleges and universities next year. A portion of these resources will be used to promote accelerated degree paths and credentials that would drive more high-quality and affordable options for adult workers and students. Through these efforts, the Administration will work with business and philanthropy to support industry partnerships to enrich student learning with valuable job exploration and experience.  

Reduce Regulatory Barriers: The Department will use its authority to issue regulatory waivers for “experimental sites” that promote high-quality, low-cost innovations in higher education, such as making it possible for students to get financial aid based on how much they learn, rather than the amount of time they spend in class. Pilot opportunities could include enabling colleges to offer Pell grants to high school students taking college courses, allowing federal financial aid to be used to pay test fees when students seek academic credit for prior learning, and combining traditional and competency-based courses into a single program of study. The Department will also support efforts to remove state regulatory barriers to distance education.

Finally, the President will challenge leaders in states, philanthropy, and the private sector to make their own commitments to improve college value while reducing costs. For example, states can redesign the transition to postsecondary education and commit to strategies to improve student learning and enhance student advising, such as hybrid learning pilots, adaptive learning platforms, and digital tutors. Philanthropists can create initiatives, pilots and prizes for colleges that advance competency-based education, accelerated degrees, and the integration of new technologies into on-campus teaching and learning. Investors and entrepreneurs can directly support and develop new technologies and innovations that accelerate student learning while evaluating the effectiveness of different approaches. And employers and industry groups can collaborate with postsecondary institutions and new providers to develop high-quality, low-cost degrees in growing sectors of the economy, offer work-based learning experiences to students, and hire graduates who demonstrate the knowledge and skills employers need.

Ensure Student Debt Is Affordable

In Pennsylvania, about 1,885,600 student loan borrowers owe an outstanding total debt of more than $42,031,000,000. While bringing down costs for current and future college students, President Obama will also help students with existing debt to manage their obligations.

Income-driven repayment plans allow borrowers to take responsibility for their federal student loan debt with more flexible repayment terms, while helping professionals like teachers and nurses who take on critical jobs in our society that require significant education but may result in modest salaries. These plans allow students to fully repay their student debt on a sliding scale that adjusts monthly payments based on changing income and growing families. Nearly two-thirds of people that currently participate in the income-driven repayment plans make less than $60,000 a year. Currently, about 2 million of 37 million federal student loan borrowers are benefitting from income-driven plans.

Make All Borrowers Eligible for Pay As You Earn: To make sure that students and families have an easy-to-understand insurance policy against unmanageable debt now and in the future, the President has proposed allowing all student borrowers to cap their federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their monthly income. Currently, students who first borrowed before 2008 or have not borrowed since 2011 are not eligible for the President’s Pay As You Earn plan. In addition, the Administration will work with Congress to ensure that the benefits are targeted to the neediest borrowers.

Launching an Enrollment Campaign for Pay As You Earn: Beginning this fall, the Department of Education will contact borrowers who have fallen behind on their student loan payments, undergraduate borrowers with higher-than-average debts, and borrowers in deferment or forbearance because of financial hardship or unemployment to ensure they have the information they need to choose the right repayment option for them. Starting in 2014, the Department of Education and the Department of Treasury will work to help borrowers learn about and enroll in Pay As You Earn and Income-Based Repayment plans when they file their taxes. And to assist guidance counselors and other advisers who guide students through the process of selecting and financing their higher education, the Administration will launch a “one-stop shop” that will include important resources for choosing among various income-driven repayment options.    

New Report: Pennsylvania Needs to Invest in Education

— by Chris Lilienthal

The best way for Pennsylvania to grow its economy is by investing in a well-educated workforce, according to a new study from the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN), a network of 61 state/local and 25 national economic think tanks coordinated by the Economic Policy Institute.

As college students return to campus and children head back to the classroom, this new report finds a strong link between the educational attainment of a state’s workforce and both productivity and workers’ pay. Expanding access to high-quality education will create more economic opportunity for Pennsylvania residents and do more to strengthen the state’s overall economy than anything else.

More after the jump.
“To paraphrase James Carville, ‘it’s invest in education, stupid,'” said Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center, a member of the EARN Network. “The powerful evidence that states making investments in education have more robust economies raises fundamental questions about recent Pennsylvania policies.”

The report, Education Investment is Key to State Prosperity, was authored by Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, and Peter Fisher, research director at the Iowa Policy Project.

At the heart of the paper is evidence that states with larger increases in college-degree share from 1979 to 2012 enjoyed faster productivity growth:

  • For example, the top 10 states (measured by change in education levels) increased their share of adults (25 and over) with a bachelor’s degree by an average of 18 percentage points, twice as much as the 9 percentage points in the bottom 10 states.
  • The top 10 states also experienced productivity growth nearly twice as large: 82% versus 44% in the bottom 10 states. Investment in education by a state is also associated with higher living standards for typical workers. Top 10 states (measured by the increase in college-degree share) saw median compensation (pay plus benefits) rise by about 20% compared with barely any increase in bottom 10 states (4%).

The relationship between education and pay was much weaker before 1979, in part because large numbers of high-paid manufacturing jobs lifted up the wages of non-college workers. “It is more important now than ever that we invest in education, to boost the strength of the economy and for the sake of future generations of Pennsylvanians,” said Dr. Herzenberg.

Pennsylvania had the 12th-biggest increase in college-degree share since 1979, but still ranks in the middle of the pack, 26th, based on 2009 Census data. The large share of Pennsylvania adults with no education beyond high school also holds back the state’s productivity and wage levels, helping to explain why Pennsylvania had only the 28th largest increase in productivity since 1979, and the 33rd largest increase in compensation.

Of Pennsylvania’s neighbors, New Jersey and Maryland enjoyed top-10 increases in college-degree share, and top-third increases in productivity and median compensation. At the opposite end of the spectrum, West Virginia and Ohio finished 30th and 43rd respectively for the change in college degree attainment, and 43rd and 46th measured by change in median compensation.

According to the new study, Pennsylvania can increase the educational attainment of its population by investing in quality K-12 education, working to slow the growth of college tuition, and offering universal preschool programs. However, recent trends in Pennsylvania have gone in the opposite direction, with state budget cuts to higher education and K-12 schools, including funds that were used for full-day kindergarten and pre-K programs.

Meanwhile, the research evidence shows, cutting taxes to recruit employers from other states is shortsighted, promoting a race to the bottom that undermines the states’ ability to invest in, and attract, an educated workforce. The paper finds no consistent relationship between a state’s tax rates and its wages.

Gun Violence Prevention Rally in Montgomery County

— by Michael Barrett

Montgomery County residents rallied for Gun Violence Prevention and urged swing-district Congressman Jim Gerlach (R PA-6) to cosponsor the “Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013” HR 1565 to keep guns out of dangerous hands.

The event was part of Organizing for Action’s statewide day of action called “Hands Across Pennsylvania.” At 12:30 residents joined hands to show solidarity in preventing gun violence.

What Price to Pay for Peace?

— by Steve Sheffey

There is no evidence that the U.S. pressured Israel to release Palestinian prisoners in order to renew the peace talks. Prime Minister Netanyahu made this painful decision because he believes it is in Israel’s best interests to negotiate a two-state solution, even at an unfairly high price.

Virtually all of the 26 prisoners released on August 13 were directly involved in the murders of Israelis. Read about each of them here.

So why did Israel release them? Blogger Matan Lurey summed it up perfectly: The Israel/Palestinian negotiations are about “peace, not justice; pragmatism, not revenge.” The prisoner release was unfair, unjust, and — in the opinion of Prime Minister Netanyahu — in the best interests of Israel.

Perhaps Netanyahu could have brought the Palestinians back to the table with a settlement freeze (which he tried to do before, but it did not work), or an explicit agreement to negotiate based on the 1967 lines, but instead he decided to release the prisoners, which he said was “an incomparably difficult decision, it is painful for the bereaved families and it is painful for me.”

More after the jump.


Feel free to criticize the prisoner release, if you think that you understand Israel’s security needs better than the Prime Minister of Israel.

This is not about justice or fairness. Israel needs a two-state solution to remain Jewish and democratic. We can talk as much as we want about what it says about the Palestinians, that they insisted that these murderers be released as a precondition to negotiations. Israel is negotiating a two-state solution for its own sake, not the Palestinian’s sake. Prime Minister Netanyahu determined that this prisoner release was in the best interests of Israel.

Feel free to criticize the prisoner release, if you think that you understand Israel’s security needs better than the Prime Minister of Israel, but do not insult Netanyahu by suggesting that he would sacrifice Israel’s security in response to U.S. pressure. Do not insult previous Israeli governments, which have released more than 10,000 terrorists. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Obama administration pressured Israel into releasing these prisoners. Those on the extreme right and the extreme left, albeit for very different reasons, refuse to see that Netanyahu is willing and able to make difficult decisions for peace.

This is how the White House defines the American role in the negotiations:

The bottom line is these are direct and bilateral talks between the parties. They are going to have to sort these issues out themselves. They will be meeting with each other, as they did here. They met together with the Americans, they also saw each other separately. But as [Senior State Department Official] said, facilitator means to facilitate, and whatever way we can to be helpful, at whatever level, is what we’re going to do.

And that is exactly what they are doing.

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Reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen www.DryBonesBlog.blogspot.com.

Palestinian Minister Admits Peace Talks With Israel to Be a Ploy


“In less than two years, the Prophet returned and based on this treaty, he conquered Mecca. This is the example, this is the model.” PA Minister Mahmoud Al-Habbash.

(CAMERA) Last month, as preliminary negotiations were set to begin between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash delivered a Friday sermon. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was present and it was broadcast on official PA-TV on July 19, 2013.

Did he talk about peace? Did he preach about achieving a treaty? Well, sort of. Palestinian Media Watch posted and translated a video of the sermon, in which Al-Habbash starts off well:

We hate war. We don’t want war. We don’t want bloodshed, not for ourselves, nor for others. We want peace. We say this because our culture is founded on this, and because our religion is based on this. Yes, we want peace, but not any peace. We want a peace based on justice, therefore the Palestinian leadership and the PLO have not missed any opportunity for peace…

More after the jump.

The Palestinian leadership’s sense of responsibility towards its nation made it take political steps about 20 years ago (i.e., signing the Oslo Accords). Despite the controversy, despite much criticism and much opposition by some, it brought us to where we are today: We have a [Palestinian] Authority and the world recognizes the [Palestinian] state.

All this never would have happened through Hamas’ impulsive adventure, but only through the wisdom of the leadership, conscious action, consideration, and walking the right path, which leads to achievement, exactly like the Prophet [Muhammad] did in the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, even though some opposed it…

What is the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah? After Muhammad and his followers were driven out of Mecca by the Quraish tribe, there continued to be fighting. Muhammad and his followers wanted to return to Mecca. Rather than battle, they made a ten-year peace treaty with the Quraish. Al-Habbash explains the rest:

The hearts of the Prophet’s companions burned with anger and fury. The Prophet said: “I’m the Messenger of Allah and I will not disobey Him.” This is not disobedience, it is politics. This is crisis management, situation management, conflict management…

Allah called this treaty a clear victory…

Omar ibn Al-Khattab said: “Messenger of Allah, is this a victory? Is this logical? Is this victory? We are giving up and going back, and not entering Mecca. Is that a victory?” The Prophet said: “Yes, it is a victory.”

In less than two years, the Prophet returned and based on this treaty, he conquered Mecca. This is the example, this is the model.

So, according to PA leadership, the “model” is to make a peace treaty and then come back and breach it through violence. This strategy is pretty newsworthy and yet only the Israeli and Jewish press reported it.

When the Israeli government publishes bids for the construction of apartments in Jerusalem, the mainstream press writes literally thousands of stories. Naturally, there was a New York Times editorial calling these potential apartments “a fresh cause for pessimism about the prospects for successful peace negotiations.”

Yet, when PA leaders brag about faking their way through the peace talks? Nothing.

When they boast about their insincerity and malicious intent? Zero.