The big picture problem with the Tom Corbett economic agenda is that kissing business dudes’ butts and throwing piles of taxpayer money at
campaign donors and personal benefactors extractive industries is a false economic growth doctrine. The proof is in the pudding. As soon as the Corbett economic policies started hitting the bloodstream, private sector job growth stalled out. It didn’t work.
And it didn’t work because natural gas employees are only 0.5% of the PA labor force. The reason this Corbett reelection ad is crazy is because it equates the natural gas industry’s strength with Pennsylvania’s economic strength. I’m sure that’s precisely the line of crap that the natural gas executives Tom Corbett goes on vacation with have been derping him into believing.
But it’s just not true. Radically increasing the supply of natural gas has been a very good thing for the national economy indeed, and PA has drilled a whole lot of this gas. But the plain fact is that the state of Pennsylvania has seen very small benefits from this. Our natural resource wealth is scandalously under-taxed and contributes a pittance to our state and local public services compared to what other states exact. And again, the employment numbers are extremely small. Even very fast employment growth in this sector is not going to get Pennsylvania back to full employment any time soon since it’s such a small share of the labor pie.
The truth is that we don’t need a New Industrial Revolution, we just need to urbanize more. Focusing on extractive industries and manufacturing is a strategy to impoverish us. Pittsburgh’s labor force is at an all-time peak. Philadelphia is growing again, and the Lehigh Valley is also projecting huge population growth. The fact is that over two-thirds of PA’s GDP is coming from the knowledge and service economies of the 5 biggest metro regions. We need to grow those areas by making them run more efficiently, by incentivizing pro-growth municipal policies from the state level, and by keeping the cost of housing and transportation low. That’s where faster job growth is going to come from – not bribing Shell and natural gas drillers to do stuff they were already going to do.