Note: Since writing this blog just after President Obama’s visit to Scranton on Wednesday, the Senate failed to pass Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.’s bill to extend and expand the payroll-tax cut and provide $1,500 to the average working class family.Despite the imminent expiration of the middle class tax cut, Scrantonians are optimistic that Senator Casey will reach an auspicious agreement in time to safeguard Pennsylvania families and create employment opportunities.
Although I was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, throughout the 2008 election cycle I lived and worked in New York City and, much to my chagrin, was unable to see (then candidate) Barack Obama discuss his ambitions apropos my hometown’s most pressing issues. It was deeply heartening to be back home in Scranton this week to witness the vitality and spirit of the President, his confidence in our country’s eventual triumph over the political partisanship throughout our economic recouping, and his connection to our local workforce concerns.Scranton is by no means a wealthy area, so it is of little surprise that the crowd hailed for the President’s fiscal policy defending the middle class and summoning more from top-tier earners. As evidenced by Wednesday’s turnout, Scrantonians feel connected to the Obama Administration—no doubt a token of Vice President Biden’s upbringing in Scranton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s roots in our area—and we hold their policies heretofore in the highest regard and have tremendous hopes for the passing of future initiatives. The President couldn’t possibly find a more receptive audience to launch an urgent and passionate two-week campaign for the payroll-tax cut extension, the unemployment-insurance extension, and transportation spending… granted that Congress gets on board in time for the holidays.
On Wednesday afternoon, Scranton’s economic hardship and earnest desire for passing President Obama’s reforms were palpable by the crowd’s roaring enthusiasm throughout his case for an extension of the payroll-tax holiday legislation sponsored by Scranton native Senator Robert Casey. With about 10,000 people out of work in Lackawanna County alone, this payroll-tax cut would directly benefit local employees and their employers. Putting about $1,500 into the pockets of average workers would catalyze our economic recovery—especially for citizens of lesser education, who are inevitably faced with the most adverse ramifications of our current financial structure.Last year’s cut of the payroll-tax from 6.3% to 4% only set the groundwork; a further reduction will predominantly impact the livelihood of lower and middle class workers and their families. Politically speaking, Scrantonians’ propensity toward pragmatic, nonideological tenets will serve the President well.The Wyoming Valley simply wants to see fair and effective policy come to the fore and finds little value in Congress’ ideological brawls; the image of Republicans pauperizing working Americans during the holiday season prompted a tangible anxiety in the audience. However, a sudden sense of hopefulness overcame the gymnasium when the President appealed the crowd to take action: “Send your senators a message. Tell them, ‘Don’t be a Grinch.’ Don’t vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays.”
As a swing city in a battleground state, a stroll around Scranton’s Courthouse Square is revelatory of our steadfast labor roots—home to the tributary statue of United States labor leader and United Mine Workers president John Mitchell—and the site of Mitchell’s contentious negotiations with mining industries, wherein President Teddy Roosevelt personally intervened in Scranton.On account of Mitchell and Roosevelt’s momentous resolution stipulating a minimum wage and an eight-hour workweek at the Lackawanna County Courthouse, the “Champion of Labor, Defender of Humon Rights” Mitchell statue and the Lackawanna Courthouse are registered National Historic Landmarks. When the President engaged the gymnasium gathering by asking, “What does it say about our priorities when we’d rather protect a few really well-to-do people than fight for the jobs of teachers and firefighters?” a full-out standing ovation ensued.He truly struck a cord with Scrantonians when he further posed, “What does it say about our values when we’d rather fight for corporate tax breaks than put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our schools?” The President hit home.
In the face of the devastating effects of NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China and other such unendurable policies, during the George W. Bush administration my family was forced to sell off our multigenerational apparel manufacturing business in the Wyoming Valley. Since then, my mom, Janie Alperin, established an internationally-acclaimed housewares and gift boutique, Jane Leslie & Co., based in Kingston, PA.The Obama Administration’s American Jobs Act and appeal for the furtherance of the payroll-tax cuts would be exponentially beneficial for her small business.The President’s Remarks on The American Jobs Act on Wednesday also resonated with my friends who accompanied me to the speech: Megan Davidovich, 20 (President of the University of Scranton College Democrats) and Robert Bresnahan, 21 (Chief Financial Officer of Kuharchik Construction, Inc. located in Exeter, PA).For Megan, the President’s comments on college loans were especially apposite—words moreover met with roaring acclamation from Scranton High School students and teachers bullish on the prospect for education reform. Robert’s spirits were raised by the President’s bid for infrastructure revitalization and construction initiatives.In an age of partisanship, I was profoundly inspired by Robert’s open-mindedness as a young Republican, “I advocate for the greater good of the economy and [construction] industry. As CFO of a construction company, I have first-hand experience with workers who need to be kept on the job, hence the imperativeness of this often forgotten aspect [infrastructure], which is significantly dependent on federal intervention.”Robert’s nonpartisan and objective convictions are archetypal of Scranton, where there are scores of unemployed and underemployed blue color workers (particularly construction workers), whose skillsets the President intends to utilize by funding $100 billion toward infrastructure.
The message of rendering our country’s income inequality into a more equitable model fired up attendees; if 38% of our corporations that eschew income tax payment began doing their fair bid for the country, it would ease the burden on the working people of Scranton.Radical actions that put men and women on the job—like repairing the unsound national infrastructure within the constraints of a massive five or ten-year repair program in tandem with training unemployed people and returning veterans—would not only boost our economy, but would uplift Northeast Pennsylvanians’ confidence both in our country and of our global standing.
Updated: President Obama’s statement on the Senate’s failure to pass his plan to extend the payroll tax cut for working Americans:
"Now is not the time to put the economy and the security of the middle class at risk. Now is the time to rebuild an economy where hard work and responsibility pay off, and everybody has a chance to succeed. Now is the time to put country before party and work together on behalf of the American people. And I will continue to urge Congress to stop playing politics with the security of millions of American families and small business owners and get this done. Tonight, Senate Republicans chose to raise taxes on nearly 160 million hardworking Americans because they refused to ask a few hundred thousand millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. They voted against a bill that would have not only extended the $1,000 tax cut for a typical family, but expanded that tax cut to put an extra $1,500 in their pockets next year, and given nearly six million small business owners new incentives to expand and hire. That is unacceptable. It makes absolutely no sense to raise taxes on the middle class at a time when so many are still trying to get back on their feet…”