Op-Ed: Building a Stronger Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania General Assembly faces many challenges as the 2015-2016 legislative session opens. In the midst of those challenges is opportunity.  I hope we will take advantage of the opportunity to pass meaningful legislation that dramatically reverses the recent decline in upward economic mobility, and in so doing create an opportunity society for this and future generations of Pennsylvanians.

Central to the American Dream is the ideal that we will pass onto our children a society in which there is more, not less, opportunity.  We expect that our children will have more doors open to them, not fewer.  We expect that future generations will accomplish and achieve all that we have and more.

The unfortunate truth is, that this is increasingly not the case.  There is less upward economic mobility in America than a generation ago. Upward economic mobility has actually fallen by one-third since Ronald Reagan was President.  The poorer you are, the worse this problem becomes.  The chances of a child born into poverty becoming a middle-class wage earner is increasingly slim.  The chances of that same child moving into the highest income brackets is are virtually impossible.

In Pennsylvania, far too many young people who graduate from high school require academic remediation upon entering college.  Too many are then graduating college, having accrued significant debt in so doing, and then are unable to find work or are employed well beneath their education or skill level.

It should be alarming to all of us that many high school students attending schools we would rank among our very best are falling further and further behind their peers globally.  Thirty percent of all high school graduates cannot pass a military entrance exam.

The long term economic and social impact of an unemployed or underemployed generation is significant. An unemployed or underemployed generation will delay marriage, delay starting families, delay buying or building homes, and delay involving themselves in the life of the community.  We can also expect that an unemployed or underemployed generation will consume more taxpayer-funded government services while contributing less to pay for the increased of those services.

Upward economic mobility is both a moral and economic issue and it is an issue that requires our immediate attention.  It is an issue that should inform every action we take this legislative session.

As I officially begin my tenure as your State Senator, I wanted to open this conversation with you about an issue I intend to focus attention on.  I want to initiate a frank dialogue with you about some of the challenges we face and the opportunities to build an opportunity society in Pennsylvania. Specifically, in the coming months I intend to share some ideas with you on these pages that I believe will help reverse declining upward economic mobility in Pennsylvania.  I will discuss policies that will strengthen the family, community, the free enterprise system, and an education system that must once again become the envy of the world.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and your ideas. I hope you will work with me to build a stronger Pennsylvania.