The Update: What’s Happening in Harrisburg and DC – October 25, 2021



We are closely watching Washington as Build Back Better and the infrastructure bill get closer and closer to the finish line. Stay tuned for updates on this transformational package of bills.

In Solidarity,

Stephen Herzenberg
Executive Director



KRC, ReImagine Appalachia Highlight Pivotal Importance of Build Back Better to NE PA as Pres. Biden Visits Scranton

In the context of the president’s visit, Dr. Herzenberg issued the statement below:

“It is fitting that President Biden is shining a light on the potential of his Build Back Better agenda in Scranton. The anthracite coal region of Northeast Pennsylvania is the nation’s original ‘coal country,’ and has been fighting for decades to rebound from the loss of coal and manufacturing jobs. The BBB Act plus the bipartisan infrastructure plan are the best opportunities that northeast Pennsylvania has to restore shared prosperity and a strong middle class. For example, much of $11.3 billion for reclaiming abandoned mine lands in the bipartisan plan would come to the region, creating thousands of good union jobs, cleaning up our rivers, and restoring lands for economic development and outdoor recreation.”

Read more.


Sorry, Scrooges, But the Claim That Unemployment Benefits Keep People from Working Is Humbug

by Stephen Herzenberg

When it comes to working people, most big corporations love the stick but can’t abide the carrot—like Scrooge before he was visited by several ghosts. Business advocates want people to work at terrible jobs and stay impoverished, not work at good jobs that pay well.

In the short run, driving down wages is good for businesses, especially the biggest, because it raises their profits. But in the long term, it hurts everyone. As Henry Ford figured out a century ago, if people work for low wages, they can’t buy what businesses, large and small, are selling, and the economy slows down.

Nowhere is the miserliness of big-business conservatives more apparent than in their attacks on unemployment insurance. They were horrified when Congress extended pandemic unemployment benefits this March. (For details on pandemic unemployment benefits, see pp. 21-23 in “The State of Working Pennsylvania 2021.”) In response, big business and its allies threw a nationwide hissy fit. Where Republicans controlled power at the state level, they gleefully cut off the extra federal benefits early, depriving their states of income and buying power and, in the process, hurting their own economies and the small businesses they purport to love.

What big business saw as the abominable generosity of unemployment benefits ended at the start of September. As a result, workers by the millions poured back to the factory gates, and to retail stores and restaurants with “help wanted” signs.

Wait? That’s not what happened?

Read more.



Your View: How Build Back Better would help the Lehigh Valley

Opinion | Allentown Morning Call

“Over the next few weeks, Congress has a historic opportunity to deliver on President Biden’s promise to strengthen the middle class and rebuild a fairer and stronger economy from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 His $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan would make transformative investments, creating jobs, fighting poverty and bringing other investments to communities across the Lehigh Valley.”


West Virginians Want Climate Action and Social Spending. I Should Know

Opinion | West Virginia Gazette

“I don’t know what a typical West Virginia family is, but mine might be close.

We’ve been here for nine generations, with Scottish roots and hard luck in our blood. At 18, my twin brothers joined the Marines. The American flag has always meant something to them. But when they returned home, even with college degrees, the only jobs they could find were working on oil rigs and welding at a local coal-fired power plant.

My husband and I are farmers, and I’m a part-time activist. We have two young sons. Most years we barely get by, working seven days per week. We qualified for Medicaid last year.

Here’s what’s also typical about us: We love this mountain state and can’t imagine living elsewhere. We know that things have to change, however, for us to stay. Which is why all the recent polling comes as no surprise to us: The majority of West Virginians strongly support every major facet of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act.”