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As Economy Changes, Lawmakers Look To Ensure PA Jobs Keep Up

(WSKG) -- Retail and manufacturing jobs are on the decline--both in Pennsylvania, and around the country. So a state lawmaker is looking for ways to pinpoint exactly where those jobs are going--and how to stop the bleeding.  Democratic Representative Mike Schlossberg of Lehigh County said two factors stand out as major causes of job loss in Pennsylvania: automation in manufacturing, and the rise of online shopping. Since 2002, he said department stores jobs around the country have declined by about 25 percent. His office projects employers in the state could automate up to 280,000 of the state's 560,000 manufacturing jobs over the next two decades. Schlossberg said the commonwealth should be figuring out how to adapt to that new economy.

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NY Lawmakers Hope To Reform Economic Development Contracts

One of the top issues remaining before the state Legislature adjourns for the summer is fixing problems in the state’s economic development contracts. That’s after a scandal led to federal corruption charges against nine former associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A bill by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to reinstate the comptroller’s ability to oversee economic development contracts is gaining momentum in the Legislature. DiNapoli said for the past several years hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts connected to the governor’s Buffalo Billion and other projects were negotiated largely in secret without any outside monitoring. Those dealings led to nine former Cuomo associates, including the governor’s former closest aide and a highly paid former State University of New York official, being charged with felonies ranging from bribery to bid-rigging. The comptroller’s bill, would, among other things, restore oversight powers that his office held for nearly a century but lost in a law passed in 2011.

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Empire Center Questions NY Prevailing Wage Rule

A fiscal watchdog group is questioning the state’s century-old prevailing wage law for construction workers, saying it unnecessarily costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year in added expenses for big road, bridge and other projects. The Empire Center, a fiscally conservative budget watchdog group, looked at the state’s constitutionally protected prevailing wage law. It requires contractors on public projects to pay their workers the amounts set in unions’ collective bargaining agreements. The Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon said an analysis of federal data on wages paid finds the law’s interpretation is outdated and that New York may be paying more in taxpayer money than is necessary — up to 25 percent more for some projects in some regions of the state. “You’re talking about something that’s neither prevailing nor limited to the wage,” McMahon said.

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Small NY Cities Wonder Whether To Fund Stadiums

Public money is often used to fund stadium upgrades. Elected officials say it builds up a local economy by attracting businesses, who want to set up nearby, and people, who spend their dollars in the city. That claim is debated in major league cities around the country. But what about smaller cities, like Elmira and Binghamton? Could stadiums benefit those economies?

"Borrow: The American Way of Debt" by Louis Hyman

"The real S&L crisis [of the 1980s] was not a few deregulated hucksters but the complete shift of Americans' savings from banks to markets... In a titanic shift in the organization of American capitalism, banks had become service providers, not capital providers." -- from "Borrow: The American Way of Debt"
The dynamism of a nation's economy means that it is constantly changing -- new products and services, expanded markets, creative entrepreneurship -- sometimes for the better but possibly also for the worst.  The rise and fall of opportunity and output may be cyclical, prosperity and recession may be due to factors outside the economy, such as war or a changing birthrate.  Sometimes economic development contains the seeds of decline; the dot-com revolution of the 1990s was one more example of an imploding technological revolution.  And now the American economy is in a slow climb out of "the great recession" that saw the first decade of the 21st centuy fall victim to the souring of forces that made much of the 20th century a period of growth and optimism. The ravenous beast was debt -- as nasty a four-letter word as any that shouldn't be spoken around children.  The abundance of credit cards, home mortgages, auto loans and other forms of individual, corporate and government debt has become such a common burden that it may come as a surprise that until recently falling into debt was considered a serious moral failing, though one that the average person was unlikely to qualify for.  Consumer debt is a distinctly 20th century product.  The history of debt -- where those mortgages, charge accounts, credit cards and layaway plans came from and how they work -- has now been told in "Borrow: The American Way of Debt" by Louis Hyman, assistant professor in Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.  It is a companion volume to Dr. Hyman's earlier book "Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink". "Borrow" tells "how personal credit created the American middle class and almost bankrupted the nation."  The book ranges from the activity of loan sharks to the contrasting policiesin the early days of Ford and General Motors, through the role of debt in bringing on the Great Depression of the 1930s and then to supercharging the post-war recovery.