Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Schwartz Plan to Increase Healthier Food Options

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) introduced legislation today to create a national initiative that would provide an economically sustainable solution to the problem of limited access to healthy foods in underserved communities. These communities are known as “food deserts.”

The legislation encourages supermarkets and other fresh food retailers to open new stores or expand their fresh food offerings in low-income rural, suburban and urban areas through a market-based approach of loans and grants. In doing so, the bipartisan Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) could lead to a dramatic reduction in the number of Americans living in “food deserts” by providing healthier food options, as well as stimulating local economic development.

“America has a growing obesity epidemic, especially with our children. Providing healthy food options in underserved rural, urban and suburban areas improves the health of our families and reduces health disparities,” Schwartz said. “As we work to rebuild our economy, this public-private partnership will create steady jobs at decent wages and will strengthen and revitalize our neighborhoods.”

“Obesity and diabetes rates are reaching crisis proportions in our country and it is time to take aggressive action,” said Senator Gillibrand, who, as the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, is helping lead the fight in the Senate to combat child obesity and promote good health. “Millions of New Yorkers do not have access to fresh, healthy food. By building new grocery stores in underserved areas across the state we can give people the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives, save billions in health care costs, and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.”

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative would attract investment in underserved communities by providing flexible grant and loan financing. High start-up costs or limited access to credit often prevent local grocery operators from opening new outlets in these communities, even though many grocery stores that have recently opened in “food deserts” have proven very successful. The HFFI will help grocery operators meet the demand in these communities while also providing healthy food options to its residents.

The initiative’s public-private partnership would also provide a market-based approach to address the obesity crisis in these communities, where nearly 1 in 6 children are overweight or obese. More than 25 million Americans have little or no access to a nearby store selling fresh foods. Research has shown that lack of access to fresh foods is a major factor in obesity. The loans and grants from the Healthy Food Financing Initiative would help supermarkets and other fresh food retailers open new stores or expand their fresh food offerings in low-income rural, suburban and urban areas.

The initiative is modeled after the highly successful Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which turned $30 million of state seed money into $190 million of additional investment since it began in 2004 – creating or retaining over 5,000 jobs and opening more than 85 new or improved fresh food stores throughout the state.

President Obama proposed $345 million to fund the initiative in FY 2011 budget. Congressional appropriators have been receptive to that funding request thus far. The bill introduced today would authorize USDA to administer a mix of loans and grants to provide one-time start-up assistance for supermarkets, corner stores, co-ops, and farmers’ markets. In the Pennsylvania effort, projects were completed in as little as four months from the time funding became available.

“Every family should be able to access nutritious, healthy food near their homes,” said Judith Bell, President of PolicyLink, a national research and advocacy organization. “The bills introduced today could help millions of Americans eat healthier and, in turn, live longer. Too many low-income people live far from a fresh food store – either in cities or suburbs that have lost supermarkets or in rural areas that never had them to begin with. This idea is ripe – it's time to harvest it.”

“Because of the childhood obesity crisis, this could be the first generation of American children with a shorter lifespan than their parents,” said Yael Lehmann, Executive Director of The Food Trust. “We have the opportunity to reverse this trend. The Healthy Food Financing Initiative will bring affordable, nutritious food to communities where parents struggle to find healthy food for their children. Healthier food choices mean healthier families and healthier communities.”

Obama's Slurpee Summit Statement

from the inbox:

Hello, everybody. By the way, for those of you who are curious, we're using this room because we've got about a hundred volunteers decorating the White House. So we're spending a little more time in the EEOB.

I just wrapped up a meeting with leaders from both parties. It was our first chance to get together face to face since the election to talk about how we can best work together to move the country forward.

It’s no secret that we have had differences that have led us to part ways on many issues in the past. But we are Americans first, and we share a responsibility for the stewardship of our nation. The American people did not vote for gridlock. They didn’t vote for unyielding partisanship. They’re demanding cooperation and they’re demanding progress. And they’ll hold all of us –- and I mean all of us –- accountable for it. And I was very encouraged by the fact that there was broad recognition of that fact in the room.

I just want to say I thought it was a productive meeting. I thought that people came to it with a spirit of trying to work together. And I think it’s a good start as we move forward.

I think everybody understands that the American people want us to focus on their jobs, not ours. They want us to come together around strategies to accelerate the recovery and get Americans back to work. They want us to confront the long-term deficits that cloud our future. They want us to focus on their safety and security, and not allow matters of urgent importance to become locked up in the politics of Washington.

So today we had the beginning of a new dialogue that I hope –- and I’m sure most Americans hope -– will help break through the noise and produce real gains. And, as we all agreed, that should begin today because there’s some things we need to get done in the weeks before Congress leaves town for the holidays.

First, we should work to make sure that taxes will not go up by thousands of dollars on hardworking middle-class Americans come January 1st, which would be disastrous for those families but also could be crippling for the economy. There was broad agreement that we need to work to get that resolved before the end of the year.

Now, there’s still differences about how to get there. Republican leaders want to permanently extend tax cuts not only to middle-class families but also to some of the wealthiest Americans at the same time. And here we disagree. I believe, and the other Democrats who were in the room believe that this would add an additional $700 billion to our debt in the next 10 years. And I continue to believe that it would be unwise and unfair, particularly at a time when we’re contemplating deep budget cuts that require broad sacrifice.

Having said that, we agreed that there must be some sensible common ground. So I appointed my Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, and my budget director, Jack Lew, to work with representatives of both parties to break through this logjam. I’ve asked the leaders to appoint members to help in this negotiation process. They agreed to do that. That process is beginning right away and we expect to get some answers back over the next couple of days about how we can accomplish our key goal, which is to make sure the economy continues to grow and we are putting people back to work. And we also want to make sure that we're giving the middle class the peace of mind of knowing that their taxes will not be raised come January 1st.

I also urged both parties to move quickly to preserve a number of other tax breaks for individuals and businesses that are helping our recovery right now and that are set to expire at the end of the year. This includes a tax credit for college tuition, a tax credit for 95 percent -- a tax break for 95 percent of working families that I initiated at the beginning of my presidency, as well as a tax cut worth thousands of dollars for businesses that hire unemployed workers.

We discussed a number of other issues as well, including the importance of ratifying the New START treaty so we can monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal, reduce our nuclear weapons, and strengthen our relationship with Russia. I reminded the room that this treaty has been vetted for seven months now; it’s gone through 18 hearings; it has support from senators of both parties; it has broad bipartisan support from national security advisors and secretaries of defense and secretaries of state from previous administrations, both Democrat and Republican; and that it’s absolutely essential to our national security. We need to get it done.

We also talked about the work of the bipartisan deficit reduction commission and the difficult choices that will be required in order to get our fiscal house in order. We discussed working together to keep the government running this year -– and running in a fiscally responsible way. And we discussed unemployment insurance, which expires today. I’ve asked that Congress act to extend this emergency relief without delay to folks who are facing tough times by no fault of their own.

Now, none of this is going to be easy. We have two parties for a reason. There are real philosophical differences -– deeply held principles to which each party holds. And although the atmosphere in today’s meeting was extremely civil, there’s no doubt that those differences are going to remain no matter how many meetings we have. And the truth is there’s always going to be a political incentive against working together, particularly in the current hyperpartisan climate. There are always those who argue that the best strategy is simply to try to defeat your opposition instead of working with them.

And, frankly, even the notion of bipartisanship itself has gotten caught up in this mentality. A lot of times coming out of these meetings, both sides claim they want to work together, but try to paint the opponent as unyielding and unwilling to cooperate. Both sides come to the table; they read their talking points; then they head out to the microphones -– trying to win the news cycle instead of solving problems, and it becomes just another move in an old Washington game.

But I think there was recognition today that that's a game that we can’t afford. Not in these times. And in a private meeting that I had without staff -- without betraying any confidences -- I was pleased to see several of my friends in the room say, let’s try not to duplicate that. Let’s not try to work the Washington spin cycle to suggest that somehow the other side is not being cooperative. I think that there was a sincere effort on the part of everybody involved to actually commit to work together to try to deal with these problems.

And they understand that these aren't times for us to be playing games. As I told the leaders at the beginning of the meeting, the next election is two years away, and there will be plenty of time for campaigning. But right now we’re facing some very serious challenges. We share an obligation to meet them. And that will require choosing the best of our ideas over the worst of our politics.

So that’s the spirit in which I invited both parties here today. I'm happy with how the meeting went. And I told all the leadership that I look forward to holding additional meetings, including at Camp David.

Harry Reid mentioned that he’s been in Congress for 28 years; he’s never been to Camp David. And so I told him, well, we're going to have to get them all up there sometime soon.

And I very much appreciate their presence today. I appreciate the tenor of the conversations. I think it will actually yield results before the end of the year, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue in the months ahead.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Intriguing Note from NASA

this was floating around twitter:

WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

Where's Zephram Cochrane when you need him?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Warren Buffet and Philly Friends: Let Tax Cuts Expire

The Philly Deals column in today's Inquirer ("High-income earners," by Joseph DiStefano interviews some of the local businessmen who signed a recent petition. Four hundred American business owners and other high income earners, including Warren Buffet, asked the president and Congress to let the tax cuts for them and others in their income bracket expire. Interesting reading.

Local Tea Party Activities

Last Tuesday (11/23) Jennifer Levitz wrote an article "Tea parties turn to local issues." It has a few paragraphs on a tea party group in York, PA saying people there are upset about teachers getting pensions when people are out of work, and mentions a Philadelphia tea party group planning to monitor local government activities. What really drew my attention, however, was this passage:

Earlier this month in Troy, Mich., tea-party activists delivered a petition to city hall, seeking to force officials to keep the Troy Public Library open without a new tax.

"We really are embroiled in a big controversy here in Troy," said Janice Daniels, co-founder of the Troy Area Tea Party.

Local voters narrowly shot down a proposal for a library tax on the Nov. 2 ballot. Now, the library is scheduled to close in June.

The tea-party members believe the city can find money for the library by cutting compensation packages of municipal employees, but Mayor Louise Schilling said that "the suggestions made by the tea party are not realistic."

"If you're going to have services, you have to pay for them," she said.

Now, that's scary. Losing good teachers who go to greener pastures and closing public libraries are bad for education, bad for property values, and bad for community cohesion.

Flat Daddies

This Sunday's Parade magazine had an article, "Wish you were here," by Brad Dunn on "flat Daddies," life-sized cardboard images of loved ones. Military familes can have a "flat Daddy" or "flat Mommy" to remind children of deployed parents. Lest you think this odd, let me provide two examples of what happened when there were no such reminders.

This is from the remarks Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz made at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 1, 2007:

I sometimes believe that my first memory was when I was barely 3 and my father left for the Korean War. I can picture my mother, my brother at 4 ½ and my sister at 2 all slightly sad – not really sure why.

But, I know that my father’s return, more than 2 years later after serving in an Army MASH unit in Korea is in fact my own, real remembrance.

I was 5 years old. I was in Kindergarten and my father came to my school to get me. I remember seeing him. In his uniform. So unlikely to see a man in uniform at school.

But what I remember most was that I did not recognize him. I did not know him. I was a little awed and a little scared. I remember needing to be reassured by my older brother who, at 6 ½, was very much my “older brother” – that it was okay, that this man was our Dad.

My second example is more personal. I've written of being from a military family. My father was in the Army for 20 years. He returned from an overseas tour of duty when I was about 3 or 4. My mother tells me I was concerned about "that man" getting in the refrigerator and just being around the house. I didn't remember him. The year I was in first grade he was a platoon sergeant in Viet Nam. My parents bought matching tape recorders (the old reel to reel kind) and we would send tapes back and forth. She would set the tape recorder out on special occasions, like Christmas morning, and record the family conversations so he could keep up with what we were doing and hear our voices. He would send tapes back just letting us know what he was doing and so we could hear the sound of his voice. One of his favorite stories was my mother writing him to say they must be having bad weather because she could hear thunder on his last tape. (Hint: it wasn't thunder.) My parents divorced about a year after he got back. All told, he was away for four of the eight years of my childhood that my parents were married. That had to take a toll.

"Flat Daddies" may sound strange to those not familiar with family life when one parent is away for an extended period of time. I think it's a grand idea. If you are looking for a holiday charity, you can donate a flat Daddy or Mommy to a family. Something to think about.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Small Business Saturday: Dee's Pretzels

Today has been designated "Small Business Saturday." When writing about event posts, where I'm out and about, I try to mention businesses, particularly small businesses, in the area. In honor of SBS allow me to write up a couple of posts on small local firms I've run across outside of the political arena.

Dee's Gourmet Pretzels (www.deespretzels.com/) makes great chocolate covered pretzels, graham crackers, marshmallows, and assorted other food items. I can vouch for the first three as I won a gift box of Dee's at a charity event. (The person who donated it paid for it -- don't hit up small businesses for freebies unless you actually buy there, too.) The family loved them (what was left of the box when I got home, anyway). The next time I was asked to donate an item for a charity fundraiser I bought a box from Dee's and it also was a big hit.

A bag of Christmas mini pretzels ($10) or Christmas grahams ($6) would make a wonderful stocking stuffer or gift for a friend or neighbor. For larger budgets there is a pretzel of the month club ($150). For special occasions there are items such as baby or wedding shower favors, and small and large gift boxes. For the health conscious there are sugar free items.

Dee's Pretzels is located in Montgomery County but is primarily a mail order business and does ship throughout the region (and beyond). I can heartily and from personal experience recommend Dee's products. They are great to buy for yourself, as gifts, or as something to donate. Dee's offers 30 flavors; there is surely something for everyone.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Messages

A few Thanksgiving Day messages from the inbox:

Pres. Barack Obama:

When Michelle and I sit down with our family to give thanks today, I want you to know that we'll be especially grateful for folks like you.

Everything we have been able to accomplish in the last two years was possible because you have been willing to work for it and organize for it.

And every time we face a setback, or when progress doesn't happen as quickly as we would like, we know that you'll be right there with us, ready to fight another day.

So I want to thank you -- for everything.

I also hope you'll join me in taking a moment to remember that the freedoms and security we enjoy as Americans are protected by the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces. These patriots are willing to lay down their lives in our defense, and each of us owes them and their families a debt of gratitude.

Have a wonderful day, and God bless.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz:
As we gather for Thanksgiving with family and friends, I want to take a moment to wish you a happy Thanksgiving and to tell you how grateful I am for your support and confidence.

We have much to be grateful for, even as we acknowledge the hardships so many Americans have experienced this past year as the national economy slowly recovers.

There is much to do and I am honored to return to Congress to work to strengthen the economy, and better ensure security and opportunity for all Americans.
Best wishes for a warm and happy Thanksgiving.

Sen. Bob Casey
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving it is a time to be thankful and remember our many blessings.

It is also a time to remember the challenges our Commonwealth and our country face and the work that must be done to strengthen our economy. Unemployment is too high and more people are struggling to put food on their table.

I would also like to especially thank the men and women who are serving our country overseas and are away from their families.

Terese and I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nancy-Ann DeParle Gets the White Board

Austan Goolsbee isn't the only White House bigshot to take to the White House White Board. Nancy-Ann DeParle Director of the Office of Health Reform at the White House, has made a WHWB video explaining the "medical loss ratio" and how the new health care bill affects it. The new rules will require health insurance companies to spend 80% of their profits on actual medical care instead of overhead or salaries.

You can find all of the White House White Board videos at: www.whitehouse.gov/whiteboard. This is a cool series.

State by State Earmark Information

The good people at CQ have put together an interactive map that will provide information on earmarks for each state. You can find out how much each state received in earmarks, plus a per capita figure, and a list of elected officials and how much in earmarks each one received. Worth a look: http://innovation.cq.com/media/earmarks2010/?ref=CQ

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Santa Visits SEPTA

from the inbox:

Santa is coming to town on Friday, November 26, on board one of five festively decorated SEPTA Santa Express trains. The annual trip to the Gallery at Market East in Center City marks the start of the holiday season.

The special service includes two Market- Frankford Line trains, one Broad Street Line train, and two regional rail trains. Santa his helpers (SEPTA employee volunteers) and a spirited group of magicians, face painters, and costumed characters as they join together for a parade through the Gallery at Market East to Center Court.

Santa Express trains will depart:
• On the Market-Frankford Line at 10 a.m. from Frankford Transportation Center. (Featuring Santa)
• On the Market-Frankford Line at 10 a.m. from 69th Street Terminal.
• On the Broad Street Line at 10 a.m. from the Fern Rock Transportation Center (the train will operate as an express).
• On the regional rail Warminster Line at 9:41 a.m. from Warminster Station.
• On the regional rail Elwyn Line at 9:35 a.m. from Elwyn Station.

Passengers can board any of the trains at station stops along the way to join in on the festivities.

For more information visit www.septa.org.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Affordable Care Act Rules Take Effect in 2011

from the inbox:

New regulations issued today by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) require health insurers to spend 80 to 85 percent of consumers’ premiums on direct care for patients and efforts to improve care quality. This regulation, known as the “medical loss ratio” provision of the Affordable Care Act, will make the insurance marketplace more transparent and make it easier for consumers to purchase plans that provide better value for their money.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans will get better value for their health insurance premium dollar,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “These new rules are an important step to hold insurance companies accountable and increase value for consumers.”

Today, many insurance companies spend a substantial portion of consumers’ premium dollars on administrative costs and profits, including executive salaries, overhead, and marketing. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, consumers will receive more value for their premium dollar because insurance companies will be required to spend 80 to 85 percent of premium dollars on medical care and health care quality improvement, rather than on administrative costs, starting in 2011. If they don’t, the insurance companies will be required to provide a rebate to their customers starting in 2012.

In 2011, the new rules will protect up to 74.8 million insured Americans and estimates indicate that up to 9 million Americans could be eligible for rebates starting in 2012 worth up to $1.4 billion. Average rebates per person could total $164 in the individual market. Important details regarding the new regulation are included below.

The medical loss ratio regulation outlines disclosure and reporting requirements, how insurance companies will calculate their medical loss ratio and provide rebates, and how adjustments could be made to the medical loss ratio standard to guard against market destabilization.

Beginning in 2011, the law requires that insurance companies publicly report how they spend premium dollars, providing meaningful information to consumers. Also beginning in 2011, insurers are required to spend at least 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect on medical care and quality improvement activities. Insurance companies that are not meeting the medical loss ratio standard will be required to provide rebates to their consumers. Insurers will be required to make the first round of rebates to consumers in 2012.

“These rules were carefully developed through a transparent and fair process with significant input from the public, the States, and other key stakeholders,” said Jay Angoff, Director of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at HHS. “As we build a bridge to 2014, when better, more affordable options are available to consumers, these rules will help make health insurance fairer for consumers now.”

The Affordable Care Act required the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to develop uniform definitions and methodologies for calculating insurance companies’ medical loss ratios. Insurance commissioners in every State have a responsibility to protect the interests of the general public, policyholders, and enrollees within their respective States. Today’s regulation certifies and adopts the recommendations submitted to the Secretary of HHS on October 27, 2010 by the NAIC. It also incorporates recommendations from a letter sent to the Secretary by the NAIC on October 13, 2010.

More information about the medical loss ratio is available at http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/medical_loss_ratio.html.

The regulation and other technical information are available at


Austan Goolsbee and His Magic Whiteboard

Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and international man of mystery, has started creating a series of videos explaining economic issues of the day. Yes, it's true. He's up to video #4; it had completely escaped my attention until today. In an age of zippy ultra cool video effects available Mr. Goolsbee (can I call him Austan? He seems very approachable.) uses a whiteboard. The suspense in the videos is when he will flip the whiteboard over and what color dry erase pen he will use on the other side. That sounds facetious but it isn't. I tracked down one of the earlier whiteboard videos for comparison and you do wait for the flip.

I highly recommend watching the Whiteboard videos. The fourth one, on the GM IPO, is available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2010/11/18/white-house-white-board-rebirth-american-auto-industry. I look forward to future additions.

The videos are 3 to 5 minutes long and he really does a good job of explaining complex issues.

Reminder on Any Soldier

Looking ahead, I'm coordinating the holiday service project for a group one of the kids is in. We will be packing care packages for troops overseas. I use www.anysoldier.com to find addresses and specifics on what people want. To avoid being part of the holiday rush we put things together before the holidays but I mail them out afterwards, so they probably don't arrive until mid-January.

I like the anysoldier site because someone in a unit will volunteer to be the coordinator on their end, post on the site what their particular people need, and then distribute the packages when they come in. As the hotspots shift from Iraq to Afghanistan I'm seeing a shift in what people need. For example, sheets are now a frequently mentioned item.

You also see a lot of the basics -- hygiene items, snacks, socks, gloves, notepads, pens, and so on. One soldier said it was a three mile walk to the dining area so some people couldn't get there for regular meals. Another said they didn't get dinner on Fridays. For those areas with microwaves handy just some ramen noodle packs can help bridge the meal gaps. Areas that don't have microwaves will ask for things like beef jerky, oatmeal bars, and fruit snacks. It is getting cold so extra socks and gloves can come in handy.

Beanie babies are always welcome -- they can be carried around in a backpack without taking up much room or adding weight, and handed out to local children as a goodwill measure.

Once our boxes are packed I take them home and then put the addresses on the day I mail them -- checking the site to see who posted that day needing the stuff we have.

One interesting note, some of the people mentioned Girl Scout cookies. You may not know this but the Girl Scouts has a "cookies from home" program that lets you pay for a box of cookies that is sent to the troops overseas. Something to remember who you see those cookie booths in February and March.

In any event, if you are sitting around with friends and family this holiday season counting your blessings, remember those serving in hostile territory. In addition to providing a way to get individual addresses, the site also provides links to businesses that have prepackaged care packages you can buy and they will ship overseas.

Just a gentle reminder.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Fix for Social Security

The Congressional Research Service released a report in September, "Social Security: Raising or Eliminating the Taxable Earnings Base," Janemarie Mulvey. It is a 27 page pdf.

Here are the first three paragraphs of the summary:

Social Security taxes are levied on covered earnings up to a maximum level set each year. In 2010, this maximum—or what is referred to as the taxable earnings base—is $106,800. The taxable earnings base serves as both a cap on contributions and a cap on benefits. As a contribution base, it establishes the maximum amount of each worker’s earnings that is subject to the payroll tax. As a benefit base, it establishes the maximum amount of earnings used to calculate benefits.

Since 1982, the Social Security taxable earnings base has risen at the same rate as average wages in the economy. However, because of increasing earnings inequality, the percentage of covered earnings that are taxable has decreased from 90% in 1982 to 85% in 2005. The percentage of covered earnings that is taxable is projected to decline to about 83% for 2014 and later. Because the cap was indexed to the average growth in wages, the share of the population below the cap has remained relatively stable at roughly 94%. Of the 9.5 million Americans with earnings above the base, roughly 80% are men and only 9% had any earnings from self-employment income. New Jersey has the highest share of the population above the maximum (11.6%) and South Dakota has the lowest share (2.1%).

CRS estimated the potential impact of eliminating the taxable wage base on future benefits and taxes. If the base were removed in 2013, CRS estimates that by 2035, 21% of beneficiaries would have paid some additional payroll taxes over the course of their lifetimes. However, the average change in taxes and benefits would be small. Looking only at individuals who would pay any additional taxes over the course of their lifetimes, at the median, total lifetime tax payments would rise by 3% and benefits would increase by 2% relative to current law. In general, those in the highest income groups would have the largest changes in both tax payments and in benefits relative to current law.

I want to make three points about this:

1) When discussing tax cuts we are calling incomes up to $200,000 for an individual middle class, but we are only collecting social security on the first $106,800 of income. That is considered the average income. There is a real disconnect when someone earning double the average income to be middle class, and a disconnect when we are only collecting social security on half of middle class incomes. Remember that congressional representatives earn more than $106,800 and thus don't pay social security tax on all of their income.

2) The growing inequality of income in the US is throwing off the balance of social security money collected and amounts earned. As larger incomes are earned by fewer people, those people are not paying more into social security. That doesn't seem right somehow -- that someone earning millions each year still only pays social security on the first $106,800 and none on any income above that.

3) Note this sentence "Of the 9.5 million Americans with earnings above the base, roughly 80% are men and only 9% had any earnings from self-employment income." If only 9% of those earning more than $106,800 have any self-employment incomes, why do we keep hearing that small businesses will be hurt by letting the current tax credits expire? That doesn't seem quite right.

Personally I think we ought to raise the base income level to at least $200,000, perhaps higher.

Obama Statement on General Motors

from the inbox:

Hello, everybody. Good afternoon. Today, one of the toughest tales of the recession took another big step towards becoming a success story.

General Motors relaunched itself as a public company, cutting the government’s stake in the company by nearly half. What’s more, American taxpayers are now positioned to recover more than my administration invested in GM.

And that’s a very good thing. Last year, we told GM’s management and workers that if they made the tough decisions necessary to make themselves more competitive in the 21st century -- decisions requiring real leadership, fresh thinking and also some shared sacrifice –- then we would stand by them. And because they did, the American auto industry -– an industry that’s been the proud symbol of America’s manufacturing might for a century; an industry that helped to build our middle class -– is once again on the rise.

Our automakers are in the midst of their strongest period of job growth in more than a decade. Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, the industry has created more than 75,000 new jobs. For the first time in six years, Ford, GM and Chrysler are all operating at a profit. In fact, last week, GM announced its best quarter in over 11 years. And most importantly, American workers are back at the assembly line manufacturing the high-quality, fuel-efficient, American-made cars of tomorrow, capable of going toe to toe with any other manufacturer in the world.

Just two years ago, this seemed impossible. In fact, there were plenty of doubters and naysayers who said it couldn’t be done, who were prepared to throw in the towel and read the American auto industry last rites. Independent estimates suggested, however, that had we taken that step, had we given up, we would have lost more than 1 million jobs across all 50 states. It would have also resulted in economic chaos, devastating communities across the country and costing governments tens of billions of dollars in additional social safety net benefits and lost revenue.

That wasn’t an acceptable option –- to throw up our hands and to quit. That’s not what we do. This is a country of optimistic and determined people who don’t give up when times are tough. We do what’s necessary to move forward.

So these last two years haven’t been easy on anybody. They haven’t been without pain or sacrifice, as the tough restructuring of GM reminds us. And obviously we’ve still got a long road ahead and a lot of work to do -– to rebuild this economy, to put people back to work, to make America more competitive for the future and to secure the American Dream for our children and our grandchildren.

But we are finally beginning to see some of these tough decisions that we made in the midst of crisis pay off. And I’m absolutely confident that we’re going to keep on making progress. I believe we’re going to get through this tougher and stronger than we were before. Because just as I had faith in the ability of our autoworkers to persevere and succeed, I have faith in the American people’s ability to persevere and succeed. And I have faith that America’s best days and America’s -- and American manufacturing’s best days are still ahead of us.

Finally, I just want to embarrass a couple of people. Ron Bloom and Brian Deese are key members of the team that helped to engineer this rescue of GM and Chrysler. So it had not been for these two gentlemen, a whole lot of people might be out of work right now. We are very proud of them and I figured that I’d go ahead -- you can see they’re all looking sheepish -- point them out to you.

So thank you very much, everybody.

Top Congressional Tweeters.

Fast Company has compiled a list of the top 100 congressional tweeters. The only Pennsylvanian on the list is Rep. Bill Shuster. Hmmm, room for improvement there from the rest of our delegation.

Auditor General on Drugs

from yesterday's inbox:

Offering another suggestion to address Pennsylvania’s ongoing fiscal crisis, Auditor General Jack Wagner said today that the commonwealth could save millions of dollars annually by consolidating its prescription drug purchases.

Pennsylvania state government spends more than $2 billion a year on prescription drugs for nearly 2.1 million Pennsylvanians, through 17 drug programs overseen by nine different state agencies. The Department of Public Welfare is the largest purchaser, overseeing five contracts worth $2 billion a year as of 2003, the last public data available. The others are:
· Dept. of Aging, for Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE)
· Office of Administration, through the Pennsylvania Employment Benefit Trust Fund (PEBTF), for active and retired state employees
· Dept. of Labor and Industry, for workers’ compensation
· Dept. of Military and Veterans’ Affairs, for veterans’ benefits
· Dept. of Health, for four programs, including chronic renal dialysis and cystic fibrosis
· Dept. of Corrections, for inmate drug benefits
· Dept. of Insurance, for Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
· Pennsylvania State Police, for a new program for troopers, families, and retirees

Wagner said that the commonwealth could save at least $50 million a year just by consolidating all of its own prescription drug purchases. Pennsylvania could save an additional $200 million a year, or more, if it took the next step of pooling its prescription purchases with those of New York and New Jersey.

Wagner said his proposal would change only how the drugs are purchased. It would not change the individual programs’ terms of eligibility, the quality of medicines, or level of benefits provided to Pennsylvanians.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

SEPTA Has Libraries??!!!!

Wow! I did not know this but apparently 28 Regional Rail station ticket offices have SEPTA Customer Libraries, where riders can swap out books, etc. on the honor system. Who knew!! What a fantastic idea.

It's always interesting to peek over at fellow train riders and see what they are reading. On the trains I take books outnumber newspapers, and there is a good diversity of hardback / paperback, fiction / non-fiction, religious / secular. I've gotten some good book recommendations on the train.

SEPTA recently held a book drive, called "A Good Book is a Good Treat." More than 45,000 books were collected. Of those 1,500 will go to existing or new customer libraries. the bulk of the books, 31,500 will be sent to United Way and another 12,000 to the City of Philadelphia’s Literacy Group for distribution to community centers, homeless shelters, daycare centers and schools throughout our region.

I'm hardly unbiased but, in my experience, train people are good people.

Pres. Obama's Nomination of US Court of Western PA

Today President Obama nominated six people for seats on the US District Court. One is for Pennsylvania:

Judge Cathy Bissoon: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
Judge Cathy Bissoon serves as United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania, a position she has held in the Court’s Pittsburgh Division since 2008. From 2007 until her appointment to the bench, she was in private practice in Pittsburgh as a director of the law firm of Cohen & Grigsby, where she led the labor law practice. Previously, Judge Bissoon was a partner in the law firm of Reed Smith from 2001 to 2007 and an associate at the same firm beginning in 1993. From 1994 to 1995, she was a law clerk to the Honorable Gary L. Lancaster of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. She received her J.D. in 1993 from Harvard Law School, and her B.A. (summa cum laude) in 1990 from Alfred University.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

President Obama's Statement on Paycheck Fairness Act

from the inbox:

I am deeply disappointed that a minority of Senators have prevented the Paycheck Fairness Act from finally being brought up for a debate and receiving a vote. This bill passed in the House almost two years ago; today, it had 58 votes to move forward, the support of the majority of Senate, and the support of the majority of Americans. As we emerge from one of the worst recessions in history, this bill would ensure that American women and their families aren’t bringing home smaller paychecks because of discrimination. It also helps businesses that pay equal wages as they struggle to compete against discriminatory competition. But a partisan minority of Senators blocked this commonsense law. Despite today’s vote, my Administration will continue to fight for a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Economic Benefits of Protected Open Space

A new report is available on the economic benefits of open space.

Here is part of the press release:

Conservation and planning leaders today released a new study demonstrating for the first time that preserved open space throughout southeastern Pennsylvania generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits.

Commissioned by the GreenSpace Alliance and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the study quantifies the value of open space in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. The study – the first of its kind for southeastern Pennsylvania – examines the economic benefits associated with preserved open space in four key areas: property values, the environment, recreation and health, and jobs and revenue.

“Our farms, forests, stream valleys and parks are more than just pretty places,” said Joseph M. Hoeffel, chairman of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. “They are productive assets that generate significant economic value for our region.” Hoeffel, along with Molly K. Morrison, chairwoman of the GreenSpace Alliance Board, announced the findings of the study at a news conference at Valley Forge National Historical Park. They were joined for the announcement by dozens of other elected leaders along with open space proponents and representatives from businesses that have benefited from nearby preserved open space.

Approximately 14 percent of the land, or 300 square miles, in the five-county region is preserved open space. The study found that this open space provides substantial economic benefits. Specifically, this space:
• Increases homeowner’s property values by an average of $10,000 per household;
• Saves local governments and utilities more than $132 million a year in costs associated with environmental services such as drinking water filtration and flood control;
• Helps residents and businesses avoid nearly $800 million in direct and indirect medical costs and saves businesses an additional $500 million in workers’ compensation costs and costs related to lost productivity;
• Generates more than $566 million in annual spending, $299 million in annual salaries and $30 million in state and local tax revenue, and
• Supports nearly 7,000 jobs.

The report was prepared by prepared by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, Econsult Corporation and Keystone Conservation Trust.

The full report is 72 pages long, with some really nice color photos. There are the requisite charts and graphs, showing the economic, health, and social benefits of protected open space, with a few case studies (for example, the Radnor Trail, Clark Park, and the Perkiomen Trail) pulled out and highlighted. I skimmed it and found it really interesting, specially the health aspects and the types of businesses created near the open space areas.

The information would be useful to local organizations and officials trying to create outdoor amenities (parks and trails), entrepreneurs creating business plans, and those interested in public policy. The success stories in the case studies will provide some good examples and good responses to naysayers.

Providing the economic impact of open space keeps it from being pigeon-holed as just a tree hugger feel good activity. The report also shows the tax and revenue creating impact of protected open space.

All in all a good resource.

Two bits of trivia mentioned at the press conference by DCNR Deputy Secretary Cindy Dunn: Valley Forge was Pennsylvania’s first state park, and William Penn stipulated in 1681 that for every 5 acres cleared, 1 acre should be left forested. Now you know.

Fewer Pennsylvanians Have Employer Provided Health Insurance

from our friends at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center:

Employers provided health insurance to 876,000 fewer Pennsylvanians in 2008 and 2009 than at the start of the decade, according to a new report analyzing U.S. Census data.

Only Michigan saw a larger decline in the number of people no longer insured by employer policies over the course of the decade, researchers with the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) wrote in the report, which was jointly released with the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network Tuesday.

“More and more Pennsylvanians are finding that a job doesn’t guarantee health benefits,” said Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

“There is hope on the horizon,” she added. “The Affordable Care Act will make quality health care more affordable and accessible to small businesses and working Pennsylvanians. But for now too many working families have to choose between paying a doctor’s bill and buying groceries.”

View a more detailed fact sheet on employer-sponsored health care in Pennsylvania.

While the recession-driven increase in unemployment contributed greatly to the growing number of people in the U.S. who lost employer-provided health care from 2008 to 2009, the erosion of employer-sponsored health care has been a decade-long trend, EPI found in Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Erosion Accelerates in the Recession.

As many as 25 million more people under the age of 65 would have had employer-sponsored insurance in 2009 if the coverage rate had remained at the 2000 level, according to the EPI report. The national rate of employer coverage plunged nearly 10 percentage points over the course of the decade - from 68.3% in 2000 to 58.9% in 2009.

In Pennsylvania, the number of workers and their dependents with employment-based health coverage fell from 7,929,984 in 2000-01 to 7,053,500 in 2008-09 – a decline of 876,484. The rate of employer coverage in the commonwealth dropped from 75.9% in 2000-01 to 67.6% in 2007-08 – outstripping the national average decline during that period.

The report analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data from 2000 to 2009. State-level data are averaged over two years to reduce sampling error.

Citing the EPI report, members of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) urged Governor-elect Tom Corbett and the new Legislature to preserve one of the only affordable health care options available to uninsured working Pennsylvanians - adultBasic.

More than 43,000 Pennsylvanians could lose their adultBasic health coverage next year if an agreement expires with the state’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans, which provides much of the funding for adultBasic.

“The Blues have seen their surpluses grow two-and-a-half times faster than Pennsylvania wages since 2002,” said Antoinette Krauss, an organizer with PHAN. “They should be able to put some of that toward keeping thousands of Pennsylvanians from losing their health insurance.”

Overall, Pennsylvania has a higher rate of employment-based coverage than the national average, the EPI report found. Among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., the Commonwealth ranked 11th in employer coverage rates in 2008-09.

Still, working Pennsylvanians are less likely to be insured by their employer today than they were eight years ago. In 2000-01, 82.5% of working Pennsylvanians were insured by their own employer, while in 2008-09, the rate dropped to 76.2% – a decline of 6.3 percentage points.

You can read the full 23 page report here.

Murphy Ensures Veterans Benefits

from the inbox:

In response to an inquiry from Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is clarifying their official policy to ensure that veterans who serve in Iraq as part of Operation New Dawn receive the full range of benefits to which they should be entitled.

In September, Murphy sent a letter to the VA Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing his concern regarding the impact that the name change from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) to Operation New Dawn could have on our servicemembers and veterans’ benefits. Murphy’s concern stemmed from the fact that some benefits are tied directly to service OIF but that the danger inherent in deploying to Iraq – despite the official end of combat operations – qualified New Dawn veterans for benefits equal to those who served in OIF. He called on Secretary Shinseki to ensure that veterans who serve in Operation New Dawn receive benefits that were previously tied directly to service in OIF.

“As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I am acutely aware of the dangers all soldiers face when deployed in theater. Therefore, I respectfully request clarification as to whether these remaining troops and others who deploy to complete operations in Iraq and Afghanistan after conclusion of OIF and OEF will still be eligible for veterans benefits that are attached to OIF or OEF service,” Murphy wrote.

In response, Secretary Shinseki reviewed VA regulations and clarified that troops who serve in Operation New Dawn will be eligible for benefits that pertain to OIF, preventing any possible obstacles to veterans receiving the benefits that they have earned. Shinseki thanked Murphy for bringing their attention to this issue and for the Congressman’s “distinguished service and continued work on behalf of our Nation’s Veterans.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Cost of the Castle Doctrine

According to assorted tweets, the Pennsylvania House passed what is called "the castle doctrine" today. The Pennsylvania Independent "House passes Concurrence of Castle Doctrine Legislation On Last Session Day," by Darwyn Deyo) describes it this way:

The “Castle Doctrine” would expand the current law to remove the duty to retreat from an attacker and to permit the use of lethal force by individuals to protect themselves with firearms against an attacker, so long as the defendant has a legal right to be where they are and the attacker does not. The language of the bill excludes the use of such force against law enforcement.

This concerns me for a couple of reasons. Like many people involved in childrens' or community groups I often find myself going to the houses of people I don't know. This time of year those visits are often after dark. There is a lot of dropping off or picking up that goes on. You frequently hear or read emails that say "leave it in the door / under the basket on the front porch / in the mailbox / behind the lawn ornament, etc. Then there is the "just set it inside the side door" and other "roam around the house" options. Remember that many houses either don't have house numbers or they are not in places that are easily visible in the dark.

My standard m.o. is to find a good place to park and then wander up and down the street looking for the landmarks provided and squinting at or for house numbers. More than once I have stood under a streetlight with cell phone and school directory calling people to say I'm on their street but can't find the house. In those cases someone will come out on the porch and wave; then I know where I'm going. More than once I've gone to the wrong house and knocked on the door, sometimes startling the elderly or teens left home alone.

The most frequent scenario is me wandering up and down dark streets, approaching a couple of houses before finding the right one. Some of the houses / sidewalks are lit, some are not. Last month I was dropping off the order envelope for a kids' group fundraiser. The house didn't have a number and no one was home. Ditto for the house next door but I finally made an executive guess, left the envelope (no money involved at this stage) inside the screen door, left a message on the house phone, and went home.

As soon as this law is passed this behavior means a trigger happy resident at any of the houses I approach is more likely to shoot me. I wish I could ensure some way of only going to the houses I am supposed to but in nearly ten years of doing this I haven't found one yet. People can't always be home (because they are driving their kids all over creation or, lucky them!, having a rare night out). Much of the civic engagement I have been involved in means taking things places and given that many people have jobs or other obligations that take them out of their houses for long periods of time, it means taking things places when people aren't there.

Some kids always remember their homework; mine sometimes don't. We have made efforts to find "homework buddies" in the neighborhood. Someone you can call and find out what the homework is and, if it hasn't been filled in yet, borrow it long enough to make a copy on our home pc printer. This also means darting through sidewalks and driveways. In an effort to teach the consequences of behavior, and responsibility, we often have the kids make these quick trips themselves. About a year ago, however, there was a middle of the night exchange of gunfire between local police and residents having a domestic quarrel. Since then, just to be on the safe side in case some of the other neighbors were jumpy, I've done any needed homework runs myself. With the passage of the castle doctrine I will be making these trips by car now, driving 5 blocks instead of taking what would be a 2 minute walk via shortcuts.

PTAs, scout troops, church groups, community organizations and similar voluntary associations have been a hallmark of American society. The ability to legally shoot strangers on your lawn won't stop larcenous junkies in need of money to buy a fix, but it might make it a lot harder to find people willing to be the brownie troop's cookie mom.

Newsworks Launches

WHYY is launching Newsworks (www.newsworks.org)today. Chris Satullo, project coordinator, describes it in this way:

On NewsWorks, we will try to bring the news from this region, from Wilmington to Princeton, from the Navy Yard to Montgomeryville, with timeliness, accuracy, energy and a sense of fun.

We will try to cover communities not only as places where problems fester and scandals erupt, but as places where hope is stubborn, where quiet heroes strive and solutions are possible. And we'll try to make the news timely, tasty and engaging with our new interactive blog, The Feed, which you'll see at the top of every page on the site.

We won't be able to do any of this without you. Newsrooms aren't the teeming masses of eager reporters they were back when I first walked into The Inquirer in 1989, as the 560th employee on the newsroom rolls.

The local news / regional community site features news stories, blogs by recognizable names, in addition to Satullo, Dave Davies, Dick Polman, and Jo Ann Allen contribute their thoughts and analysis. Readers can contribute story ideas or participate in moderated discussion forums. In keeping with the theme of civil discussion readers will be able to rate comments and, if they choose, only view positively rated comments. There will be a Ben's Bucks / Ben's ladder rewards program to further encourage thoughtful participation. One interactive visual feature is the Civic Atlas that lets you zero in on cultural institutions in the city, as well as types of services (health, financial, legal).

As the site grows hyperlocal (neighborhood or similar smaller areas) news will play a larger role. At present three neighborhoods in Northwest Philadelphia (Mt. Airy, Roxborough, Germantown) are represented. If you'd like to see your area included you'll need to sign up and send in story suggestions.

Newsworks looks to be a valuable addition to the local news scene, especially with the reputable journalists associated with it. I look forward to adding this to my daily news menu.

Kids Care at Woodmere

Today the Woodmere Art Museum held the opening reception for the annual Kids Care exhibit. Art classes, scout troops, and other kids organizations make art following an annual theme. At the end of the exhibit the art is donated. This year's theme is "Flying Colors." Art projects include windsocks, frisbees, butterflies and others. In previous years the art was donated to Manna, an organization for people with AIDS. This year items will be donated to the Spring Garden Senior Center. Twenty schools participated this year.

Kids Care is a collaboration between the Woodmere Art Museum, WXPN's Kids Corner (88.5 FM), area schools and the Philadelphia Senior Center. Robert Drake and Kathy O'Connell of WXPN made remarks at the exhibit's opening reception.

The Woodmere is a small inexpensive museum along Germantown Avenue, with a focus on art from the Philadelphia region and some interesting sculpture on the front lawn. There are a lot of shops and eateries are also in this area. Combining a trip to the museum with a little shopping and some lunch or coffee would make a wonderful outing for friends or family, whether they live in the area or are visiting. The giftshop is intriguing and would be a great place to find holiday gifts.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Big Bloggy Welcome to The Money Tale

The National Institute on Money in State Politics has launched its new blog, The Money Tale. The nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics collects and analyzes campaign contribution information on state-level candidates, political party committees, and ballot committees. Its free, searchable database of contributions, as well as its blog, "The Money Tale" is available online at FollowTheMoney.org.

A Belated Note on Veterans Day

Last Thursday was Veterans Day. In lieu of posting something myself, I refer my readers to a post by blogger buddy Gort42, who served in the Air Force." And thanks to Gort and all other veterans, for their service.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

When Campaigns Manipulate Social Media

Another in a continuing series on the use of online resources in campaigning. Take a look at this article, "When campaigns manipulate social media," by Jared Keller in The Atlantic:

"If you think about how much putting an ad on TV costs, you could pay an army of people to post fake information and promote it through social networks," says Menczer, who, based on his research, anticipates future manipulation of the Twittersphere for political gains. "It's a form of information pollution. Spamming on social networks has very low cost and has the potential to influence a large amount of people. From the point of view of someone running for office, it would be crazy NOT to use this system."

The article takes up the tricky questions of if and how use of social media should be reported on campaign finance reports.

Fast Company on Digital Campaigning

Fast Company also weighs in on modern online campaigning, "The Fast Company Field Guide to Modern Political Campaigns," by: E.B. Boyd and Austin Carr. They offer advice on twittering and how to avoid the dreaded "demon sheep" viral disasters.

Kaiser Health Tracking Poll

The Kaiser Family Foundation has released the results of a new poll on voter attitudes towards health care legislation. Here is the summary (full results on their site):

Kaiser Health Tracking Poll -- November 2010

The November 2010 tracking poll was conducted in the days following the mid-term election that resulted in major gains for Republicans, including a shift in control of the House of Representatives. The survey attempts to gauge what role health reform played in voters’ decisions, and to measure the current public mood about the health reform law.

The poll finds that voters say health care reform was a factor that influenced their vote, but not a dominant one. The economy/jobs was the factor mentioned by voters most often (29%), followed by party preference (25%) and views of the candidates themselves (21%). Health care ranked fourth at 17 percent. Those 17 percent of voters who named health care as one of their top voting factors were more likely than non-health care voters to back a Republican candidate for Congress (59% vs. 44%), and to say they have a “very unfavorable” view of the law (56% vs. 33%).

Looking ahead, Americans remain divided about what lawmakers should do, with 21 percent of the public favoring expansion of the health reform law, 19 percent wanting to leave it as is, a quarter wanting to repeal parts of the law, and 24 percent wanting the entire law repealed. Among mid-term voters, a majority (56%) would like to see the law repealed entirely or in part. Voters split sharply along partisan lines. Two-thirds of those who voted for Democratic candidates want the law expanded or left as is, while and eight in 10 of those who voted Republican support full or partial repeal.

Several key provisions of health reform remain popular, even among those who support repeal of all or parts of the law. Majorities of supporters of repeal would like to keep tax credits for small businesses offering coverage; the prohibition on insurance companies denying coverage based on medical history or health condition; the gradual closing of the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole”; and financial subsidies to help low and moderate income Americans purchase coverage. By contrast, two-thirds of the general public support repealing the individual mandate, another key provision in the law.

The November poll is the latest in a series designed and analyzed by the Foundation’s public opinion research team.

(h/t Lehigh Valley Independent)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Online Campaign Ad Firm

The Philadelphia area is home to a number of interesting political consulting firms. One, of the Republican flavor, is Campaign Grid, which specializes in web ads. They were highlighted in the PhillyDeals column in the Inky "Using Web to attack, raise election funds," by Joseph DiStephano (11/07).

Here's an excerpt:

CampaignGrid tried to reach male voters by bombing ads onto Yahoo and cable company sports pages. But Henry says Phillies online ads weren't especially effective. Voters burned out on negative messages, he added. "It affected turnout," Henry said. "People just got turned off."

Dittus agrees. "A lot of the population is disgusted with negative ads," he told me. "It affects the governing of the guy who wins. He won't be able to spend. No one will have faith in him. The negative stuff bothers me as a citizen."

The firm and its clients ended up with data on millions of donors and voters and their Web preferences.

"A lot of people still don't understand the fantastic ability to target people online, compared to TV ads," Luidhart told me. "With online ads, we can show something to men, something different to women, something different to Democrats, and to independents.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Selected Campaign Thank Yous

As campaigns have wound down candidates, both those who met success at the ballot box, and those who did not, are sending out thanks you emails to supporters. Here is a selection of messages that I received or were sent to me:

Patrick Murphy (congressman, 8th district)

From the bottom my heart thank you all so much.

It has been quite a fight and I'd like to say a special thank you to all the volunteers and to everyone who supported me throughout the years.

You put your hopes and hearts in my hands -and for that I will be more grateful then I can ever express or you will ever realize.

The fight to change the direction of our country will be long and hard. And whether as a Captain in the United States Army, a Prosecutor, an elected official, a husband or a father, I will never back down on my pledge to fight for the greatness that I believe this country can achieve. I hope no matter what happens, I’ll still make you proud.

I am honored to continue this fight with all of you in this community, which we all love so much.

My faith in America, and in all of you, will never fade.

Joe Sestak (congressman, 7th district, candidate for senate)
As I write this, I know I will never be able to express the level of admiration I have for every one of you who supported me -- and our principles -- so selflessly over this (and, for so many, other) campaign(s).

I am in awe of your caring and desire for a better future. Anyone who doesn't have faith in that, did not have the wonderful opportunity to know you.

Please accept my deepest respect, the knowledge that I am so very indebted to you, and the commitment to always return your belief in me by striving to better what our youth will inherit -- as every generation in America has done.

Thank you, for always!

Dr. Manan Trivedi (candidate, 6th congressional district)
Please forgive me for taking a day to send this to you. Yesterday I decided to do something I have wanted to do for the last 6 months: Spend the entire day with my family. It really brings everything into perspective. And it is my family I want to thank first. To my amazing wife, Surekha and my absolutely adorable daughter Sonia; you have been so supportive and understanding throughout this entire campaign. I love you both.

When we began this campaign fourteen months ago, it was hard to find any of the press, pundits or Washington insiders who thought that a brown kid from Berks County with a funny sounding name and no money in the political coffers would make it very far. Throughout the race, we were met with many obstacles, but we didn't let them get us down. We never gave up because you and only you were there at each and every step of the way. You helped us overcome so much and I will be forever grateful to you for that.

So while the end results of this election were not what we had hoped for, our work is not over. There is certainly a lot that needs to be changed in Washington and we cannot let one election stand in our way.

The folks in Congress still need to regain the public's trust, so while there are so many people struggling in this economy, they should lead by example and take a pay cut when the new session begins.

Congress must put forth every effort to get our nation back to work and they need to do it without loading up legislation with unnecessary pork spending. As a physician, I know that our health care system is imperfect and that we must do everything possible to ensure that every American has accessible and affordable coverage.

And as a battalion surgeon during the Iraq War, I will never stop fighting for veterans and their families. They make our nation stronger each day and we must honor them for their service.

I promise to never give up the pursuit to change how Washington works and I hope you will too. Do it for whatever reason motivates you. For me it is the story of my father coming to this country in the 1960's and working his way through school in the back of hotel kitchens of the segregated South. He did because he believed in an American dream that you would be rewarded for your hard work and merits, not on the color of your skin, your family's last name or the wealth that may come from it. I will never forget my father's pursuit and I will certainly never allow his vision to die.

It is my father's story and the stories I have heard from so many of you in the diners, the coffee shops, the train stations and your homes that made me realize one truly significant thing during this campaign: We all share a common thread. From the Steelworker to the social worker - from the small business owner with a new start-up to the small child starting school - whether you're white, black, brown or shades in between - or if your name is as familiar as Smith or even if it sounds as unusual as Trivedi, America is about fairness and it is up to only us to do everything in our power to ensure its continued existence.

I thank you again for everything you have done to support this endeavor and I look forward to carrying on our fight for fairness.

Bryan Lentz (161st state house, candidate for 7th congressional district)
I want to express my sincerest appreciation for all of your support of the campaign. Your financial contributions, your donated time, and your words of encouragement helped us become one of the most competitive races in the country. While Tuesday’s results were not what we had worked for there are still reasons to be hopeful as we move forward.

In the last year we created one of the most efficient and effective operations in the history of the 7th District and left a legacy of coordinated Democratic activism in Delaware, Montgomery, and Chester counties. In the three days leading up to the election our campaign went to over 120,000 households to promote the entire Democratic ticket but despite these historic efforts we were unable to hold these seats in the toxic electoral climate.

I want to publicly thank my dedicated and motivated staff for their incredible commitment to this campaign and its ideals. I want to thank my family for their support and sacrifices during this last year and I also want to thank Pat Meehan for a spirited campaign. I wish Pat great success in his new role as our Congressman.

Allyson Schwartz (congresswoman, 13st district, re-elected)
n one of the toughest electoral climates in decades, you helped me win a resounding victory on Tuesday, and I want to say thank you. My district is just 52 percent Democratic and 12 percent Independent, but yet on Tuesday, Democrats, Independents and Republicans joined together to give me a strong 12 point victory.

We knew we were up against a very difficult political environment, and against an aggressive candidate who poured over $500,000 of his own dollars into the race.

But, we ran a smart, door to door campaign and pulled off a powerful win, winning both Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County.

Given my swing district, it took our collective efforts over the last several months to touch as many voters as possible through as many avenues as we could.

Tuesday night we celebrated a 12 point victory thanks to you, and the efforts of the countless volunteers and supporters. You helped us to get out the vote and ensured that we had the resources necessary to run the biggest, strongest campaign since I was first ran for Congress in 2004. I could not have done it without you.

Now, I return to Washington to continue fighting for you, just as you have fought for me – to grow private sector jobs, protect health reform, reduce our deficit, and make sure that economic recovery and future economic opportunities reach all of our families.

In the new Congress, I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle – as I always have – to meet the challenges we face as a nation. But, do know that I will stand up and speak out when I need to promote our core values.

I hope that you will stay involved. Keep in touch with my political activities and my work in Congress on my website and through Facebook.

Once again, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Ruth Damsker (candidate, 12th state senate)

Over the past several months, we have waged a determined campaign to change the way Harrisburg does business. Given the national political climate, it was particularly challenging. However, we succeeded in putting issues on the agenda and building toward further success in the future. I am grateful to you for sharing your time, talent, and treasury in support of my campaign.

When I spoke with Senator Greenleaf on Tuesday night, I wished him well and made it known that I will continue to work for the continued improvement of our Commonwealth.

Please stay in touch with me and remain engaged in the political process. Your involvement will make the difference in the future as we continue the effort to improve our State.

Rick Taylor (incumbent, 151st state house district)
I first ran for office to make sure that our most vulnerable have a voice. Corporations and special interest groups have plenty of lobbyists, and I have held myself to a simple principle: give a voice to the little guy and let us hear the every day citizen.

At the end of this long campaign, I am saddened that I will no longer be that voice for you in Harrisburg. Through this disappointment, I’m also overwhelmed with gratitude. I am in awe of how hard you worked to allow me to continue representing you in the 151st District.

This campaign was built by the hard work of all my supporters, volunteers, staff, friends, and family. To you, I am forever in your debt. Thank you for working so hard. Please feel free to give me a call and let me know if there is anything I can ever do to help you.

Shannon P. Meehan (candidate, 163rd state house)
My deepest gratitude...


After some much-needed rest, I wanted to take the time to thank you for all you have done for me and my campaign over the eight months. Although we came up short last Tuesday, we accomplished extraordinary things, and I am incredibly proud of the work we were able to do with your support.

As a first time candidate, campaigning was all new to me. I was told there would be hard work and long hours, but I never expected the positive feedback I received from voters—of all political affiliations—and the overwhelming support of people like you. Because of your contributions—financial, time, energy, and words of encouragement—we were able to do all that could be done leading up to this election.

Over the past eight months, we knocked on almost 10,000 doors, built a strong grassroots organization, and fought hard against the Republican establishment. While we were not successful this time, I hope that you stay involved in local politics and continue to support our Democratic candidates.

Josh Shapiro (153rd state house, re-elected)
I'm writing to simply say, thank you.

With your help along with thousands of volunteers and donors, we were able to mount a strong campaign and win reelection to the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives. In a competitive district and facing strong political headwinds, we received 70 percent of the vote. I'm grateful to the more than 17,000 voters--Democrats, Republicans and Independents--in Abington and Upper Dublin who again entrusted me with their vote.

You're sending me back to Harrisburg to continue our efforts to create jobs, reform state government, improve education and much more. I'm ready for that fight, but Harrisburg will look different next year. We'll have a new Republican Governor and the Republicans will control the House and the Senate. I won't be afraid to cross the aisle to work with them to advance our goals but I also won't be afraid to stand up to them respectfully when we disagree. The political circumstances in the Capitol may be different but I'll be working for you with the same energy and determination.

I hope you'll keep up with our efforts on Facebook and Twitter and stay in touch by email.

Thanks again for your outstanding support.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Dent Chief of Staff Trades Stocks

This can get a little dicey. Congressional representatives and their staff can trade stocks (buy and sell), even though in industries related to their committee assignments. There are no restrictions on this. The Wall Street Journal has been running some articles on this topic. On Saturday, "Congress has active investors," by Tom McGinty, Jason Zweig, and Brody Mullins went into some detail on this. The only Pennsylvania example mentioned was this:

Some congressional staffers actively traded lesser-known stocks. Consider George McElwee, chief of staff to Rep. Charlie Dent, (R., Pa.), who sits on the House Ethics Committee and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which oversees pipelines.

In 2008, Mr. McElwee reported trades in several small energy companies, including Pyramid Oil, which was bought and sold 14 times in his account during the year, and Rex Energy, which was traded 31 times in 2008. His profits or losses couldn't be determined from the disclosure filings. In 2009, Mr. McElwee didn't report any stock trades.

Neither Mr. McElwee nor Mr. Dent's office responded to requests for comment.

While there may not be rules against doing this, it does kind of look bad.

WSJ: Renewables Not Likely to be Renewed in PA

Thursday's Wall Street Journal had an interesting short article, "Pennsylvania's vote for gas hits renewables," by Liam Denning. Here are a few points:

With the economy figuring large in America's swing rightward, Harrisburg's new masters have reason to nurture the Marcellus. A 2010 Pennsylvania State University study estimated Marcellus development added 44,000 jobs last year in a state with 570,000 unemployed. A friendlier Harrisburg lifts a cloud for developers like Range Resources, for whom the Marcellus represents 59% of net asset value according to Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.


Gas emits roughly half the carbon coal does. Solar and wind emit zero. But new gas-fired plants produce electricity at 53% and 21% the cost of onshore wind and photovoltaic solar respectively, according to Energy Department projections. Combine those economics with local political backing, and the result is a big competitive headache for renewables.

Range Resources, it should be noted, made some sizable political donations. Guess who to?

Slippery Rail Season

from the inbox:

Classic fall weather has settled in over the Philadelphia region, adding a touch of beauty to SEPTA riders’ commutes as trees trade in their drab green summer leaves for colorful mixes of yellows, oranges and reds.

And while SEPTA is happy to offer customers the opportunity to take in the landscape as they ride the rails, the Authority also has to be vigilant about what these pretty leaves can do when they break free of their branches and float onto train tracks. This turns fall into “Slippery Rail” season for SEPTA operations personnel, who are working up a sweat amid the crisp, cool weather to keep conditions safe for riders.

Slippery Rail is a condition that occurs when falling leaves, crushed by passing vehicles, deposit a residue on the tracks. This coating decreases the friction of a train's wheels, creating slippery rails, and the problems that go with it. In these situations, speed reductions are put into place for trains in order to maintain safe operations – and that can lead to delays and other inconveniences for passengers. These conditions can impact Regional Rail lines, Trolley lines and the Norristown High Speed Line.

SEPTA takes a proactive approach to battling Slippery Rails, with the goal of minimizing the impact to riders. Crews are dispatched along the tracks with high-pressure washing equipment to blast away leaves and leaf residue. Oily deposits are cleaned with a combination of water, gel and sand.

In addition, SEPTA is using all resources available to keep customers informed about Slippery Rails and related service disruptions. Notices have been posted throughout the system, and whenever service is impacted, announcements are made at stations. These travel alerts are also posted online at www.septa.org and SEPTA’s Twitter feed, and sent to local news media outlets.

For more information about Slippery Rails, visit a special section of SEPTA’s website at

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Campaign Ads DO Eat Your Brain!!

Fast Company has an interesting article, "How Neuromarketers Tapped the Vote Button in Your Brain to Help the GOP Win the House," by Kevin Randall (11/04) on the use of EEG machines to measure responses to political campaign ads. The data from the measurements are used to tweak the ads to appeal to more emotional responses, triggers if you will, that move people to vote on way or another. No one in the business likes to talk about it though,

The secrecy may be in part because the field is in its infancy, and many in the academic neuroscience community find the current state of political neuromarketing flimsy at best. “We are in no danger of being brain-washed by super-effective, neuromarketing-based political propaganda!" says Martha Farah, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society.

All the same, you now have a good reason to just mute or turn off the tv when the ads come on.

Something to remember for next campaign season. Geeks and wonks will want to read the whole article.

Free Range Twenties

I was in a local department store this week and saw something interesting. The man in line in front of me was taking a long time at the register so I looked up to see what he was doing. The clerk was counting out a mountain of twenty dollar bills. She'd count out four or fix stacks of $100 and then put them on the ever growing pile. It went on for a while. When he left I asked if he had bought something with a thousand dollar bill. She was vague but between what she said and what I overheard when she call store management, it seems this older gentleman walked in with a large manilla mailing envelope and paid off his $5K store charge card in cash, a banded bunch of brand new twenties. Even from a distance I could see how crisp they were and thought there was a chance the clerk would cut herself on the edges.

I had never seen that much actual cash in one place before. It looks like monopoly money in such large quantities. Like something out of a movie. At home I was trying to explain to the family why it seemed so odd to have so much new money. It looks odd but trying to say exactly why is difficult.

Anyway, it was an unusual sighting.

Recycling Grant for Lower Makefield and Newtown

from the inbox:

State Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, today announced that Lower Makefield Township and Newtown Borough have been awarded recycling grants from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Santarsiero said Lower Makefield Township will receive a $115,745 grant, which is based on the 4,886 tons recycled by the township in 2008 and the municipality's population.

Newtown Borough will receive a $7,963 grant, which is based on the 340 tons recycled by the borough in 2008 and the municipality's population

"The state DEP has made yet another wise investment in our region," Santarsiero said. "I commend Lower Makefield Township and Newtown Borough for their hard work and commitment to promote recycling locally."

The grants are part of the Recycling Performance Grant Program, which provides incentives to help Pennsylvania's communities increase the amount of materials recovered through recycling and promote economic growth in the Commonwealth through job creation and market expansion.

Young Scientists in PA

from Friday's inbox:

President Obama today named 85 researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

The Presidential early career awards embody the high priority the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the Nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges, and contribute to the American economy. Ten Federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions.

"Science and technology have long been at the core of America’s economic strength and global leadership," President Obama said. "I am confident that these individuals, who have shown such tremendous promise so early in their careers, will go on to make breakthroughs and discoveries that will continue to move our nation forward in the years ahead.”

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. Winning scientists and engineers have received research grants for up to five years to further their studies in support of critical government missions.

Award Winners at PA institutions:

Jennifer G. Cromley, Temple University, recognized by Dept. of Education
Rachel M. Werner, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, recognized by Dept of Veterans Affairs

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Aker, the Arctic and Philadelphia?

This month's issue of Fast Company has an article, "The $15 trillion treasure at the end of the world," by Joshua Hammer, about natural resources in the Arctic, specifically possible natural gas deposits. Since (yes, it's true) the world is getting warmer, parts of the Arctic are accessible for more of the year. In the Yamal Peninsula reindeer migrations and drives are disrupted by gas drilling operations. While Gazprom is doing most of the drilling, Aker Arctic Technology of Helsinki is designing the ships to get them back and forth:

Aker is the only private company in the world with such an ice-model testing lab. The $16 million facility uses saline spray that forms a soft granular slush on the pool surface, before freezing to the required thickness during the night, to replicate conditions in Arctic and sub-Arctic seas, including the "multiyear ice" found around the polar ice cap. Aker has pioneered a design for "double-acting vessels": ships driven by an electric-powered azimuth propeller that can rotate 360 degrees, allowing them to smash through ice stern first, creating less friction and leaving less of a carbon footprint. "We found that the thrusters performed better when going backward in heavy ice ridges," Niini tells me. "It was a much more energy-efficent way of breaking ice -- we saw a 50% improvement [versus breaking it with the bow]."

This innovation has led to a new generation of cargo ships and oil tankers that can both break up ice and transport huge amounts of goods through polar regions. Today, Niini and his staff of 40 are working on several projects: a trio of "shuttle tankers" for Sovcomflot, which will transport crude oil from the new fields of the Pechora Sea to the Arctic port of Murmansk; an "Arctic ore carrier" that will take iron ore from Baffin Island, located in Nunavut territory in the Arctic Ocean of northern Canada; and the Aurora Borealis project, a scientific-research icebreaker commissioned by the European Union. The vessel will conduct scientific drilling, Niini says, "to see if there is anything in those untouched sediments -- oil or gas -- underneath the polar ice cap. Right now, we don't have a clue what's up there."

If that name is familiar it's because the shipyard in Philadelphia is the Aker Philadelphia shipyard, part of the Aker Group.

Further on in the Fast Company article we find this:
The U.S. has recently explored the Chukchi Plateau, an undersea ridge that extends 600 miles north of Barrow, Alaska, with the USS Healy -- the only vessel for scientific research in the federal government's 30-year-old fleet of three icebreakers (the others, the Polar Sea and the Polar Star, patrol and guard Arctic waters). But if the U.S. hopes to effectively explore the polar ice cap, a group of U.S. scientists and military officials admitted two years ago that the country's aging fleet needs to be totally revamped, at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. "We're at a crisis point," Admiral Thad W. Allen, then commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, told The New York Times. Yet there has been little enthusiasm in Congress for Arctic shipbuilding.

If there were a will and a way to invest in arctic ships for the US, to explore the Chukchi Plateau, the ships would probably be built here, and that would mean a lot of jobs.

Just sayin'

President's Remarks Today

Hello, everybody. I just want to make a few quick remarks to expand on some things that I said yesterday. Obviously Tuesday was a big election. I congratulated the Republicans and consoled some of our Democratic friends about the results, and I think it’s clear that the voters sent a message, which is they want us to focus on the economy and jobs and moving this country forward. They’re concerned about making sure that taxpayer money is not wasted, and they want to change the tone here in Washington, where the two parties are coming together and focusing on the people’s business as opposed to scoring political points.

I just had a meeting with my Cabinet and key staff to let them know that we have to take that message to heart and make a sincere and consistent effort to try to change how Washington operates. And the folks around this table have done extraordinary work in their agencies. They have cooperated consistently with Congress. I think they are interested in bipartisan ideas. And so they are going to be integral in helping me to root out waste in government, make our agencies more efficient, and generate more ideas so that we can put the American people back to work.

Now, at the same time, obviously what’s going to be critically important over the coming months is creating a better working relationship between this White House and the congressional leadership that’s coming in, as well as the congressional leadership that carries over from the previous Congress. And so I want everybody to know that I have already called Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to invite them to a meeting here at the White House in the first week of the lame duck on November 18th. This is going to be a meeting in which I’ll want us to talk substantively about how we can move the American people’s agenda forward. It’s not just going to be a photo op. Hopefully -- it may spill over into dinner. And the immediate focus is going to be what we need to get done during the lame-duck session.

I mentioned yesterday we have to act in order to assure that middle-class families don’t see a big tax spike because of how the Bush tax cuts have been structured. It is very important that we extend those middle-class tax provisions to hold middle-class families harmless.

But there are a whole range of other economic issues that have to be addressed: unemployment insurance for folks who are still out there looking for work; business extenders, which are essentially provisions to encourage businesses to invest here in the United States, and if we don’t have those, we’re losing a very important tool for us to be able to increase business investment and increase job growth over the coming year. We’ve got to provide businesses some certainty about what their tax landscape is going to look like, and we’ve got to provide families certainty. That’s critical to maintain our recovery.

I should mention that in addition to those economic issues, there are some things during the lame duck that relate to foreign policy that are going to be very important for us to deal with, and I’ll make mention of one in particular, and that’s the START treaty. We have negotiated with the Russians significant reductions in our nuclear arms. This is something that traditionally has received strong bipartisan support. We’ve got people like George Shultz, who helped to organize arms control treaties with the Russians back when it was the Soviet Union who have come out forcefully in favor of this.

This is not a traditionally Democratic or Republican issue but rather a issue of American national security. And I am hopeful that we can get that done before we leave and send a strong signal to Russia that we are serious about reducing nuclear arsenals, but also sending a signal to the world that we’re serious about nonproliferation. We’ve made great progress when it comes to sending a message to Iran that they are isolated internationally, in part because people have seen that we are serious about taking our responsibilities when it comes to nonproliferation, and that has to continue.

So there is going to be a whole range of work that needs to get done in a relatively short period of time, and I’m looking forward to having a conversation with the leadership about some agenda items that they may be concerned about.

Last point I’ll make is that I’ve also invited the newly elected Democratic and Republican governors here to the White House on December 2nd because I think it’s a terrific opportunity to hear from them, folks who are working at the state and local levels, about what they’re seeing, what ideas they think Washington needs to be paying more attention to.

A lot of times things are a little less ideological when you get governors together because they’ve got very practical problems that they’ve got to solve in terms of how do they make sure that roads and bridges are funded and how do they make sure that schools stay open and teachers stay on the job. That kind of nuts and bolts stuff I think oftentimes yields the kind of commonsense approach that the American people I think are looking for right now.

So, in sum, we’ve got a lot of work to do. People are still catching their breath from the election. The dust is still settling. But the one thing I’m absolutely certain of is that the American people don’t want us just standing still and they don’t want us engaged in gridlock. They want us to do the people’s business, partly because they understand that the world is not standing still.

I’m going to be leaving tomorrow for India, and the primary purpose is to take a bunch of U.S. companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia, in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and we can create jobs here in the United States of America. And my hope is, is that we’ve got some specific announcements that show the connection between what we’re doing overseas and what happens here at home when it comes to job growth and economic growth.

But the bottom line is, is that all around the world, countries are moving. They are serious about competing. They are serious about competing with us not just on manufacturing but on services. They’re competing with us when it comes to educational attainment, when it comes to scientific discovery.

And so we can’t afford two years of just squabbling. What we need to do is make sure that everybody is pulling together, Democrats and Republicans and independents, folks at the federal level and the state levels, private sector with the public sector, to make sure that America retains it competitiveness, retains its leadership in the world. And that’s something that I’m very much looking forward to helping to be a part of.

So, thank you very much, everybody.