Sestak seeks upper hand in debate over jobs
Beaver County Times
With Keystone State payrolls smaller than they were in 1999, Pennsylvania's candidates for U.S. Senate worked Friday to control the debate over where the jobs went, and why they're not coming back.
Republican Pat Toomey, echoing business leaders, has seized on Obama administration policies supported by Democrat Joe Sestak, such as the new federal health care law. Toomey says such policies are slowing the recovery; worries over the cost of new regulations and taxes have rendered companies unwilling to hire, he has said.
But Sestak, struggling to gain ground in independent polls, is targeting policies supported by Toomey that, he maintains, are friendly to multinational companies and give them incentives to move operations to foreign countries.
Toomey approves of China dumping cheap, government-subsidized goods on American consumers and supports a loophole that allows American companies to earn profits overseas without paying taxes on them at home, Sestak said.
In comparison, Sestak said he has pushed for tax breaks and guaranteed bank loans to small businesses, which do the most hiring in the nation's economy.
"This is the engine of our economy, this is it, small businesses. Congressman Toomey says it's 'an unfortunate tendency' to buy American," Sestak told about two dozen employees of a Harrisburg-area manufacturer of exercise and rehabilitation pools.
Sestak is a second-term U.S. House member from the Philadelphia suburbs and a former Navy admiral whose credentials during a 31-year career include commanding an aircraft battle group in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Toomey is a former investment banker and restaurant owner who also represented the Allentown area in Congress from 1999 to 2005. He more recently headed up the Washington, D.C.-based free-market advocacy group, Club for Growth.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a measure that would allow the federal government to seek trade sanctions against China and other nations for manipulating their currency to gain trade advantages. Every U.S. House member from Pennsylvania voted for it, including Sestak.
Toomey said he would have voted against it, calling it bad economic policy.
Slapping tariffs on goods is tantamount to imposing a tax on consumers, Toomey said, even though he sees some merit to pressuring China to allow the value of its currency to rise. And he said taxing the foreign profits of American companies would simply create a stronger incentive for them to move their headquarters overseas.
"What we have to do is strengthen our own businesses in the United States so that we can compete," Toomey said during a conference call with reporters Friday.
The recession wasn't as severe in Pennsylvania as elsewhere in the country. However, Pennsylvanians who lost their jobs might not know it's over. Payrolls have dropped by 230,000 jobs _ or one in every 25 _ since April 2008, when job loses hit the high mark of 5.8 million.
The number of unemployed people seeking first-time benefits is down substantially from the recession, but higher than normal.
More than 22,000 unemployed Pennsylvanians applied for first-time benefits during the week ending Oct. 2. That's down from more than 30,000 a year ago. However, it remains above the September weekly average of 17,000 from 2001 to 2007, according to labor economist Mark Price of the Harrisburg-based Keystone Research Center.
The race between Sestak and Toomey is ultra-competitive. New TV ads by the campaigns and outside groups are emerging at a rate of one per-day in October.
So far, Toomey leads in independent polls, fundraising and assistance from allies that buy TV ads, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. However, Sestak entered October with a slight cash advantage over Toomey, according to information released by the campaigns Friday.