PLC 2019: Free Markets and the Celebration of Capitalism

“Free markets and the celebration of capitalism” was the theme of the 30th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (PLC), and as U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) pointed out in his speech kicking-off the two-day event, there has been plenty about capitalism of late to celebrate.

“We have the strongest economy in 50 years,” Toomey said to a packed ballroom at the Radisson Hotel in Camp Hill last Friday. “We have added 2.6 million jobs. Unemployment is at a 50-year low. We have highest African American and Hispanic employment rate in history.”

There was also a cautionary message from Toomey and other free market leaders speaking at the annual gathering of conservatives: many in the Democratic Party are embracing socialism in a style reminiscent of the post-World War II delusion with Soviet communism, and that is a threat to our economic and constitutional freedoms.

“What we really want to get across is that conservative pro-growth free enterprise polices work,” said Loman Henry, President of the PLC, and Chairman of the Board of the PMA. “We need to get past the talking points about what really lifts people up, and it’s not socialism it’s capitalism.”

Mainstream media isn’t telling the full story either. News reports either ignore the economic gains under Trump or twist good economic news to fit an anti-Trump theme. A recent New York Times story, for instance, covered how labor shortages in construction are pushing workers’ salaries to $25 an hour.

“But because the Times can’t stand to give Trump any credit,” wrote New York Post columnist Charles Gasparino, “the story was framed that this shortage as a bad thing, a terrible burden for wealthy construction companies and contractors. What hypocrisy.”

The key drivers of the booming economy are the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” of 2017 and the roll back of paralyzing federal regulations. Senator Pat Toomey played a key role in both.

More good news along those lines: the country has what economists call full employment, the number of jobs available actually exceed the number of workers; wages grew 3.2 percent over the last twelve months, at a much higher clip than inflation; the country has created 480,000 manufacturing jobs since Trump’s election and 209,000 in just the past twelve months.

“Over the past two years, we’ve seen the undeniable proof that free markets and economic growth can lift everyone and that people can become empowered through the creation of wealth,” said David N. Taylor, President & CEO of PMA, and Chairman of the PLC. “Manufacturing jobs, the highest paying jobs in any sector, play a central role in helping people realize dignity, security, and independence.”

The fight continues. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus vs. AFSCME ruled unconstitutional the law that gave public sector unions to right to extract dues from the paychecks of government employees who chose not to join a union. But Mark Janus, the former state employee who filed the original case in Illinois, told PLC attendees that many unions are still denying workers their constitutional liberties.

“The Constitution governs our country, but a lot of people think of it as merely a suggestion,” Janus said.

The Liberty Justice Center (LJC) out of Chicago, where Janus now works, has brought two cases against unions in Pennsylvania.

In one, LJC is representing Shalea Oliver, a Department of Human Services employee in Philadelphia, who is suing SEIU to recover all the money she paid to the union since June 27, 2018, the date of the Janus ruling. The union first resisted letting her drop membership, then later reimbursed her only a portion of what she was owed. “It almost came across like a blood contract,” she told Watchdog.org.

In another case, four mental health workers in Lebanon County tried for months to quit their government union, Teamsters Local 429, with no success.

“They discovered they would be forced to pay union dues until their union membership anniversary, an arbitrary opt-out window,” Janus said. “After exhausting all options to exercise their rights with Lebanon County and Teamsters 429, they turned to the Liberty Justice Center for help. It’s like the unions telling you can only exercise your constitutional rights at a certain time of the year.”

The weekend’s featured speaker, Kimberley Strassel, member of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, warned that “socialism is by definition authoritarian.”

“They have to remove individual freedoms to implement their policies,” Strassel said at Friday night’s Liberty dinner.

“A lot of people say that the fight is against big government but that is too limited,” she added. “But we already have big government, but it’s big government still operating in capitalist mode. The fight is against government acting in a socialist mode.”

To access videos of every speaker from this year’s conference go to: http://paleadershipconference.com/index.php/agenda