Philadelphia’s Economic Future: Part 1Young Philly Politics is a space for young, active Philadelphians to write about the issues that matter most to them and the future of our city. Most of the contributors to YPP, including myself, are life-long Philadelphians and our passion comes from a generations long attachment to Philadelphia and the region.
Because we are not members of the mainstream media, we are able to spend more time writing in depth about ideas of importance to the city and exploring not just the who, what, when and where that the papers and TV do so well, but also the WHY that is often left out.
To that end, I would like to start a series of posts on Philadelphia’s economic health now and into the future. I think most Philadelphians want to believe in a future that preserves the character and style of our city and is full of opportunities for all. Yet, for those of us who live outside of Center City and a few other neighborhoods, we wake up every morning, look around and see signs of decay. Even for those of who in live in neighborhoods that have already “made it,” we worry that the comfort and security that has been achieved in our communities won’t last.
Philadelphia’s job market, like the nation’s, has become more and more stratified with higher wage earners earning more and lower wage earners earning less. It used to be you could graduate high school or college and be able to pick a career and maybe even a company that would last your entire career. Of course, for people my age this idea is a fairy tale. I am 26 and after graduating from college, I have already had 4 different jobs. Ask anyone under 30 who is not a doctor or lawyer and they will tell you something similar.
Our political leaders have no long-term vision for the city. Even beloved former Mayor Rendell, who some credit with the revitalization of Center City and the self-esteem of the city as a whole, did not have a comprehensive economic development plan that addressed income divisions and job market gaps. These leaders don’t lack vision because of corruption or similarly mundane reasons, they lack vision because it is pretty hard to see that far into the future. Our local and national economies are at a really pivotal moment in time as the last vestiges of the 19th and 20th century US industrial economy are quickly slipping away and no one really knows what's next.
So, with income inequalities, limited quality-job options and an absence of political leadership, what substanative steps can we as a city and as a region take to solve our structural economic problems to solidify our tax base and provide opportunities for all?
That is the question I plan to address over the next few weeks and I guess it is worth saying at the outset that my answer will never be to cut taxes alone. I can already hear it coming and I don’t want to waste a lot of time rehashing the same old debate.
The purpose of my posts will be to look at alternatives to tax-cutting as a solution to structural economic problems. I am taking on this role largely because I think that the role of reduced taxes in spurring economic growth has already become obsolete. Tax reduction alone can not create the number of jobs, encourage the number of industries or create enough of the polices needed to create a high-road economy in Philadelphia that has a tax-base sufficient enough to support citizens and businesses well into the future. There is a role for discussing tax fairness and making sure that city tax policy doesn't worsen income inequality by imposing flat or regressive taxes.
Today’s installment is intended to serve as a brief introduction to the ideas I would like to explore in the coming weeks. I plan to write in more depth about high-road economic development ideas, race and class in Philadelphia, the role of government in spurring economic development, the impact of education on the city’s economy, the role (if any) of tax policy on the city’s economy and practical, progressive solutions that will produce a Philadelphia economy that works for all.
I would also like to invite all readers to use the comment section below to tell me what you would like me to cover in terms of the viability of Philadelphia’s economic infrastructure.