I work with a lot of amazing journalists here in Philadelphia -- some of them, at least, get the recognition they deserve but many of them don't. At the head of the second list I would place the Inquirer's Joseph N. DiStefano, an unheralded civic treasure who almost every day casts light on corners of our business world that need to be exposed.
Example: This otherwise ignored "gem" from a recent speech by Gov. Corbett at the politics-and-money gala known as the Pennsylvania Society:
Gov. Corbett cited "Pennsylvania's Gilded Age, a time of industrial might," with some nostalgia in his remarks Dec. 10 at the Pennsylvania Society's yearly steak dinner for lawmakers, lawyers, lobbyists, and business operatives in the fancy Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.
It was an appropriate setting. Maybe too appropriate.
The society holds its conclave in New York, as it has since 1899, amid the trappings of the original Gilded Age, when wealthy Pennsylvanians, and the state's finances, were relocating to the nation's metropolis.
The Gilded Age, before income taxes, antitrust prosecutions, and immigration restrictions, was a time of boom-and-bust growth for aggressive upstate timber, coal, and oil operators.
Will trying to replicate that long-ago period really restore Pennsylvania?
The obvious answer is "no"; historically speaking, the Gilded Age was not only an era of runaway disparity between rich and poor (sound familiar?) but one of massive amounts of bribery and other political crimes and misdemeanors, when muckraker Lincoln Steffans famously described our largest fair city in the Keystone State as "corrupt and contented."
But what makes DiStefano's piece really worthwhile is that he nails the gaping hole in Corbett's 19th Century fantasies for Pennsylvania. Currently, the state is encouraging fracking in the worst possible way -- with many of the well-paying jobs temporary and belonging to out-of-state transients, but without the anything near the minimum environmental protections that should be in place. But more importantly, there's no industrial policy on how to encourage well-paying permanent jobs that could be built around environmentally sound fracking. Why work that hard, when the gusher of political dollars from the oil-and-gas industry shows no sign of letting up?
Just like the Gilded Age.