Cake icing for warts: Pittsburgh is an ugly baby

Cake icing for warts: Pittsburgh is an ugly baby

A recent Post-Gazette editorial lamented new data indicating a labor force drop of just under 5 percent between January 2020 and May 2021 in Southwestern Pennsylvania. That’s more than double the 2.2 percent average national drop, it reports.

“Add to this a long trend of declining population, as deaths have long outpaced births and immigration, and the region’s long-term economic health becomes hazy,” it opined.

Oh, what to do, oh, what to do, the P-G appears to be wringing its hands.

“Other states and cities have experimented with public-private partnerships to attract and retain new residents and talent,” the editorial continues. “Pittsburgh mustn’t accept its shrinking labor base lying down.

“City leaders should consider why it is struggling to retain its labor force and they should get creative with strategies to combat the contraction,” the opinion piece exhorts.

Astoundingly, however, not only does the editorial not use the opportunity to detail all of the wrongheaded and failed public policy prescriptions that keeping racing the region to the proverbial bottom of economic well-being, it quadruples down on the insanity of even more government interventionism.

There’s not one mention of the City of Pittsburgh’s failing schools. Not one.

There’s not one mention of Allegheny County’s far too expensive bus service. Not one.

There’s not one mention of onerous city and county regulations that, in the name of helping those in need, only make things worse and more expensive for everybody. Not one.

There’s not one mention of the city’s repeated failures to deliver on basic public services in the most efficient and economical way – from water and sewerage to snow removal and public safety. Not one.

And speaking of public safety, there’s not one mention of the growing lawlessness Downtown and on the South Side, among other areas. Not one.

There’s not one mention of autocratic public authorities that run roughshod over sound economic policies. Not one.

But the P-G editorial devotes considerable space to other regions and states bribing people to stay, return or take up residence in their locales.

There’s neighboring West Virginia offering “$12,000 over two years for workers who relocate to the state, as well as free co-working space and continuing education classes at West Virginia University.”

There’s Northwest Arkansas “offering $10,000 and a mountain bike. Tulsa, Okla., is offering $10,000 and access to coworking space. St. Clair County, Mich., will help residents find housing and schools and pony up $15,000,” the P-G says, noting how “the list goes on.”

“Pittsburgh, with buy-in and assistance from the state to bolster its efforts, could start with a monetary incentive and then tailor its perks. That would be a logical place to start,” the P-G advises.

No, it’s not. That’s like rubbing cake icing on a wart, then pronouncing the wart all gone.

The logical – and only – first place to start is by being honest about Pittsburgh’s long-running governance failure, doing the same things over and over again with the same failed outcomes. The baby is ugly and continually pushing for cosmetic fixes only makes the baby uglier.

The sheer inanity of the P-G’s editorial on the region’s declining workforce numbers comes in its penultimate paragraph:

“City officials and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development could launch a commission to investigate which perks and issues are most important to prospective residents.”

And the blind continue to lead the blind all the while convincing themselves that the promised land of true and abiding “renaissance” is only one more hackneyed, damaging and/or superficial government intervention away.

Or two. Or three. Or four. Or dozens more.

Good grief.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).