This week, I had the opportunity to participate with my fellow 5th district candidates in a forum sponsored by WPSU TV to discuss job creation and economic conditions in the 5th Congressional District. As we fielded questions on the various issues, I paid close attention to how my views on job creation and retention along with overall economic development strategy differed from my opponents. What I heard from my Republican opponent was numerous statements about “incentives” and “tax credits” to entice businesses to locate or expand in the 5th district.
When government provides “incentives” they give funding to a business through grants / loans, while “tax credits” grant certain exemptions that allow a business to omit paying some taxes by writing off eligible expenses. Regardless of what form they take, “incentives” spend federal government funds and “tax credits” decrease revenue coming to the federal government. While this may be a reasonable plan when the federal government is fiscally strong with a surplus, it is impractical to suggest at a time when the federal budget has a $482 billion deficit and $9.6 trillion in debt is owed to foreign countries including the likes of China and Saudi Arabia.
Throughout this campaign, I have made the case to the voters in the 5th district the federal government cannot help revive our failing economy, much less deal with other important domestic issues, until the federal budget is balanced, a surplus is growing and the debt to foreign nations is paid down. It is irresponsible when a candidate for federal office proposes creating new “incentives” or offering “tax credits” to corporate America while we have record deficits and debt at the federal level. Sadly, this is more of the same failed fiscal policies we’ve seen during the last 8 years.
The same day as the WPSU forum, the Centre Daily Times printed a story about the recent unemployment rates released by the PA Department of Labor and Industry. Throughout the 5th Congressional District, unemployment and economic conditions are some of the worst in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In fact, the 2 counties with the highest unemployment rates in the state were here in the 5th district with Cameron County at 7.6% and Forest County at 8.4%. Perhaps even more troubling was the fact that 15 of the 17 counties in the 5th district are above 5% unemployment with the only exceptions being Warren County just slightly under at 4.8% and Centre County at 4.2%.
Not only do we have the highest unemployment rates, but the US Census Bureau reports that median family incomes in the 5th district are, on average, almost $12,000 less than the rest of the nation. The US Census Bureau — 2006 American Community Survey lists the Median Family Income for the 5th Congressional District of Pennsylvania at $46,863 versus the U.S. average of $58,526. Worse yet, while we are averaging significantly less in income than other areas of the country, we are paying the same rising costs for food, gas, energy, automobiles, clothes and other necessities that we need in daily life. During the WPSU forum the issue of young people leaving the 5th district after graduating from high school and college was discussed. It is obvious the difference in income levels plays a huge role in the departure of our young people from rural central Pennsylvania.
Of course, the question still remains, how do we create jobs, lower record unemployment rates and increase income levels in the 5th Congressional District and spur the economy at the national level? The federal government isn’t going to fix this for us because they don’t have the financial resources to do so. The time has come for certain sacrifices to be made by those who have profited in recent years.
We need our business leaders to realize there are no more handouts for them if they are running a profitable business. Too often, businesses on solid financial ground want the government to provide incentives and tax credits before they will expand and create new jobs. We need corporate America to voluntarily reinvest their profits to rebuild our nation’s economy without the expectation of incentives and tax credits.
And to the wealthiest citizens, the time has come to stop complaining if you have to pay a little more in taxes to get us out of the fiscal mess from the last 8 years. To accomplish this, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans must expire as scheduled in 2011. Once we get the fiscal mess straightened out, then a new set of tax cuts for poor and middle class, roughly 90% of the working population, can be put in place.
At the federal government level, a strong, stable fiscal policy that balances budgets, builds surpluses, pays down the debt and stops borrowing from foreign governments will eventually allow the federal government to get back to supporting economic development and job creation. This can only be accomplished if voters send fiscally responsible people to represent them in Washington. Contrast my message of fiscal responsibility to that of my opponent who continues to voice support for failed fiscal policies that will continue to threaten our national security through higher deficits and more debt to foreign sources.
2008 Continues to be Historic
When I decided to enter the race for the US Congress, I did so with a slight thought in the back of my mind that, in some small way, I might be involved in an election that was historic. Now, with September upon us and just over 2 months until Election Day, it is obvious that history will be made in 2008. We could see the first African American elected President of the United States in Barack Obama, whom I support, or we could see the first woman elected Vice President in Sarah Palin (as part of the McCain ticket, I’m not so excited about that prospect). At the DNC Convention in Denver, the speech by Barack Obama on Thursday was one of the greatest presentations I’ve ever watched. He was flawless in his presentation and he showed the country and the world that he is the strong, articulate leader we need to solve the problems facing our country.
And the announcement on Friday by Senator John McCain that his choice for a running mate was the first term Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin was a gutsy call to say the least. It will be interesting to watch the rest of the campaign and learn more about Governor Palin.
Happy Labor Day and Prayers for the Gulf Coast.
On behalf of the McCracken for Congress campaign, I want to offer a Happy Labor Day to the working people in the 5th district. People in rural Pennsylvania are known for their strong work ethic. All they ask for in return is a fair wage and benefits that will allow them to care for their families and put food on the table.
Finally, we all need to be sending our prayers to the people and communities on the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Gustav moves across the Gulf of Mexico. We never want to see a replay of the destruction and despair that we saw during Hurricane Katrina.
Please help in any way you can to help the residents of the Gulf. You can donate to the Red Cross at this link:
Mark B. McCracken
Your Candidate For Congress