Some of it is old news, pun somewhat intended: Pennsylvania is second in the nation in people over 65. Young people are leaving by the busload. Immigration into the state was described as "modest." All those factors amounted to Pennsylvania posting the third-slowest growth numbers in the nation: 3.4 percent or 400,000 residents.
Not surprisingly, the state is near the bottom in employment growth, with 60 percent of the state's work force making less than $27,000 a year.
With that kind of dismal future, is it any wonder that Pennsylvania is ranked first in the nation in the absolute loss of young workers in the last decade?
Paradoxically, even though the state is essentially not getting bigger, people are spreading themselves out. Half a million people moved to outer townships in the last 10 years, some to far-flung communities. As a result, tax revenue and the services they buy are being spread too thin.
According to Brookings, in 15 years Pennsylvania's suburban sprawl grew by 47 percent. Essential services like fire, police and utilities now must cover more ground, even though the population has stayed essentially the same.
The surge in population growth in the outer suburbs has left in its wake older towns and suburbs that are decaying instead of being revitalized.
At this stage, it would be fair to wonder if Stephen King wrote the Brookings report. How much doom and gloom can a state handle?
But along with all the negatives, Brookings pointed to some of the state's great advantages - from its natural beauty to its world-class institutions of higher learning. "Pennsylvania, in short, possesses much of what it needs to flourish."
So what's missing? A vision.
That's the top recommendation from the respected think tank: Pennsylvania needs to create "a statewide vision for economic competitiveness and land-use, and get serious about planning and coordination."
That requires a will and imagination now absent in Harrisburg. Witness the budget battle over education.
It would be easy to blame partisan politics for the current budget stalemate, but the truth of the matter is this is not a Democrat vs. Republican problem. It's more a battle between visionaries and those who are content with the status quo.
Gov. Rendell, for all his missteps this past year, campaigned on a vision of the state that voters found compelling. Not everything on his agenda should be passed, but the governor is going in the right direction for getting Pennsylvania on the road to faster, more productive growth.
If the Legislature has a counter-proposal that fairly addresses the stark numbers in the Brookings report, let's hear it. But if they can't lead, they should follow or get the hell out of the way. *