IN HIS STORY ON unemployment in Pennsylvania (

Daily News

, Dec. 21), Will Bunch reveals a fundamental lack of understanding when it comes to free-market economies.

Recovering from a recession is best accomplished by growing private-sector employment - something the Corbett administration has done to the tune of 109,000 new jobs. These are the jobs that spur economic recovery, support other sectors through spending and investment and provide revenue for government services.

Government jobs, on the other hand, consume public dollars, and the taxes public employees pay return only a fraction of money to the same treasury from which their salaries came. That is why any post-recession return to government hiring must be preceded by a robust growth in the private sector, the real engine of an economic recovery.

Bunch's basic misunderstanding of things economic is revealed in the very timing of his report. Anyone with a passing background in such reports would have known that the latest unemployment figures are released at this time of the month.

Had he waited a day, he would have seen that Pennsylvania's rate has again dropped - a common phenomenon when once-discouraged workers who bumped up the preceding month's unemployment figures by re-entering the recovering job market find employment.

As presented, Bunch's story was faulty in its premise and out-of-date the moment it hit the streets.

Julia K. Hearthway

Secretary, Pennsylvania

Department of Labor & Industry

Trouble with gift cards

The problem I have with gift cards is that they prompt people to spend. People will spend when they really don't need stuff but do not want to waste the gift card. In a time when everyone is struggling to make ends meet, cash would help a great deal.

It's also a liability of a gift. If I received a $25 gift card to a store, I may go there to spend my card and could end up spending more money because I see something I suddenly feel I need. I might rationalize that the additional spending is OK because it's only, say, another $10 out of my pocket. It's a vicious cycle for people who struggle with managing money and buy stuff instead of saving or paying off debt. I do not know anyone that I have given money to for any occasion that was disappointed in my choice of gift. But maybe I don't know anyone who does not need a couple bucks. :-)

Oanh Kim Le

Washington Township, N.J.

The tarnish on Paterno

William A. Thorpe (letter, Dec. 24) opines Ron Jaworski and the Maxwell Club should be ashamed for removing the name of Joe Paterno from their "Coach of the Year" award, and having the guts to name new Coach Bill O'Brien the 2012 recipient of said award. Sadly, what Mr. Thorpe and every other Saint Joe Paterno apologist continues to ignore is the fact that Mr. Paterno and his administrative lackeys turned a blind eye toward a child-molesting pedophile, covering up at least a decade of horrible crimes perpetrated by a close associate. Paterno chose the reputation of his self-serving "grand experiment" over the welfare of innocents and forever disgraced his carefully crafted image. Good job, Maxwell Club, and congratulations to Coach O'Brien and all Penn State Nation.

Donald J. O'Grady

Elkins Park

Using school buildings

With school buildings being closed, there are other uses for the buildings.

Classrooms and teachers' lounges could be turned into temporary individual and family dwellings. Drug testing would be done for all applicants. Tight security measures would be in place for guests entering the facilities. An ongoing job search would be required, as well as proof of job search, by all residents. Previous employer references would be checked, as well as any state licensures, certifications, etc.

Priority would be given to the families and individuals mired in long-term unemployment, and those on the brink of being or in some way already homeless.

The necessities needed for operation (food, bedding, miscellaneous) could easily and willingly be donated by religious groups, community organizations and businesses. There is no shortage of those wanting to give. It also would spur job creation for the caseworkers, cooks and on-site health-care providers.

A strict zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol on the premises, or being under the influence on the premises, would be strictly enforced.

It would bode well to take some action on these properties that were once schools and those on the verge of closing. Because as it is shaping up, it won't be long before they begin to fully deteriorate into disrepair, and they themselves become contributory to the blight of our communities.

Jim Stephens

Southwest Center City

Author, "The Poverty Paper: A Brief

Introduction to Poverty in America"