Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"Campaign Jack Murtha": Economic Failure

My column yesterday showed that – economically – John Murtha’s 12th District in Pennsylvania isn't doing well. The median household income (MHI) in the 12th ($30,600) is one of the lowest in Pennsylvania, barely above the MHI in inner-city districts.

Murtha’s famous earmarks apparently have helped affluent people – corporate executives, surgeons, and lobbyists. But they haven’t done much for the average resident of the 12th District

The poverty rate in the 12th is about the same as inner-city Philly and inner-city Pittsburgh.
Many people in the 12th, especially those in Johnstown and Cambria County, believe that Murtha has been very good for the local economy. But has he really?

Consider some ten-year data for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for Cambria County – most of which is in Murtha’s district, part of which is in Republican congressman Bud Shuster’s 9th congressional district.

1996 Labor Force: 69,643
1996 Total Employment: 63,864
1996 Total Unemployment: 5,779
1996 Unemployment Rate: 8.3%

2006 Labor Force: 67,954
2006 Total Employment: 64,201
2006 Total Unemployment: 3,753
2006 Unemployment Rate: 5.5%

Difference: Labor Force: -1,692
Difference: Total Employment: +337
Difference: Total Unemployment: -2,026
Difference: Unemployment Rate: -2.8%

The unemployment rate is down from 1996, but the total labor force is smaller. One way you bring down unemployment is to have people give up looking for jobs and leave. That appears to be Cambria's "solution" to the problem.

Total employment is up only a tiny fraction, showing that the county hasn't grown its way out of unemployment.

The BLS numbers for Cambria certainly aren’t the type associated with a growing economy. From 1996 through 2006, there was substantial national growth in the labor force and total employment. National unemployment declined below 5% Those things haven’t happened in Cambria.

Yes, Murtha has poured in hundreds of millions in earmarks, special projects financed with your tax dollars. But the region clearly has failed to create new private enterprise jobs. So, people are leaving the area – not in droves, but steadily.

What about supposedly booming Johnstown, PA, the “jewel” of Cambria? Its population in the year 2000 was 23,906. By 2006, the population was down to 22,269 – a 6.8% decline.

Hyperbolically perhaps, one could say that, without the earmarks, Johnstown would be resembling Mayberry, RFD. Somehow the John Murtha Cancer, as well as the Joyce Murtha Cancer Center, along with other institutions named for the esteemed congressman, haven’t done much to keep people in Johnstown.

As one Johnstown mother told a friend of mine: "The kids get an excellent college education, but then they can't find a job here." Her sons had both gone out-of-state to seek work. She's not alone in that.

In regards to Murtha, can I use the “f-word?” Okay, as far as an economic engine of growth, John Murtha is a total FRAUD.

His hometown and home country are NOT growing. Clearly, the number of good jobs is declining, except for the lobbyists that funnel money to Murtha in exchange for huge amount of what we might call campaign “jack.”

Things are worse for most counties in the 12th District. The “Murtha Miracle” has not taken place and is more of a political Houdini’s trick. He hands out huge amounts of taxpayer money. In return he gets millions of dollars in campaign contributions. The companies and their lobbyists make out fine in this arrangement, but the one who makes out best of all is Congressman Murtha.

In the 12th, the rich get richer, and the middle-class and poor get to travel by more and more buildings named after John Murtha. It’s a scam, and the sad thing is that many voters have bought into it.

What’s the answer to Johnstown's neffectual political bully? I have three words: William Trower Russell. He understands there's no reason why real growth can't take place in the 12th, an area with great natural beauty, good schools, and hard-working people.

(As you scroll down, you'll see more columns devoting to "The Murtha Myth.")


Christopher said...


I've wrote about the Murtha/Russell race over at my place. Love to get some feedback.

Jim Fryar said...

This is a great start to countering the 'money drying up' argument. On those figures it appears to me that this money is actually harming the area, if in fact it is being used there at all.

An improving economy tends to have an increasing labour force, drawn in by the opportunities being created.

For the labour force to be declining despite the massive pork spending in the area means to me that the place is being ruined, or that most of it is going elsewhere, and that the perception of money coming in is illusory and a fraud.