Indiana Workers Just Got Sucker Punched by GOP

Hoosiers’ Income Lagging for Decades

As a journalist and progressive, it isn’t easy to share these facts with workers residing in Muncie, Delaware County, and Indiana. Although each week and month we pay bills, we instinctively know that our incomes aren’t keeping up. We hear the Pope, and national leaders say, “Income inequality is the moral crisis of our time.” We know it’s true, so these statistics only confirm our gut feelings, but these figures show a concerted effort by lawmakers in Indiana to make sure our state appeals to CEOs but not workers.

Dan Carden with The Northwest Indiana Times recently published an article titled, “Indiana legislature, governor hike 45 different taxes, fees paid by Hoosiers“. The article was strictly about taxes and fees imposed on Hoosiers in the last legislative session. Our conservative governor isn’t concerned with raising taxes and charging higher fees on Hoosiers because:

Holcomb declined to characterize that as “a lot” of tax and fee hikes. He instead was quick to insist, “I’m very comfortable with paying for what we need.

Of course, everyone heard about the gasoline tax increased to pay for roads, but not everyone was told the truth about it. For decades, roughly 20% of the gas tax was going towards roads, with the remaining being deposited into the general fund. Thus, the money for our roads was insufficient to maintain our roads, let alone improve them properly. However, we amass a $2 billion surplus in the general fund for “emergencies” or a “rainy day.” Some Hoosiers want to applaud the conservatism, but they are grossly misinformed.

Economists in Indiana are free-market advocates or cheerleaders for the “efficient private sector markets.” But, unfortunately, the Hoosier state was sold out ago to outside interests, and workers have suffered the most. Morton Marcus, a former IU economist, has stood by workers while most have sold you out.

Morton recently shared a spreadsheet compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis regarding compensation or wage growth for the U.S., Indiana, and individual counties from 2001 to 2015. How did Indiana fare?

The average worker in the U.S. saw their wages grow by 2.89%, while Hoosiers wages only grew 2.47%, so we lagged the country’s average. Morton and his guest break it down for us:

We talk about jobs and more jobs, but in this young century, the average compensation of Hoosier employees has grown by 2.5 percent a year while the nation has advanced by 2.9 percent annually.

We’re supposed to get excited about a 0.4 percent deficit in our annual growth of compensation?

We started out, in 2001, 10.8 percent behind the nation in average compensation; by 2015 we slipped to 15.9 percent lower than the U.S. figure. Do you realize what that meant for the average Hoosier employee?

In 2015, just keeping pace with the nation, still 10.8 below the national average, meant an extra $3,300 for that average job. Over the past decade that amount balloons to $24,000 in foregone earnings per Hoosier job.

When taken by themselves, both rising taxes and lackluster wage growth look bad. However, when you look at them together, they tell us why workers across the country are upset over wealth/income inequality. It also shows Hoosiers just got sucker-punched by Republican lawmakers in our statehouse. Will they experience any negative consequences at the polls? Doubtful.

If you’re one of the wealthiest Hoosiers, your taxes were cut by lawmakers. For the remainder of you (99%), guess what? With rising expenses (utilities, rent, taxes, and fees), flat wages mean you’re losing ground. This is real, and it’s also the source of frustration and anger for Americans in 2017. It’s their reality.

What about Middletown, USA or Muncie?

Our average compensation grew 2.21% or lagged the state since 2001. We’re not alone – “…77 Indiana counties (92 total) where the average compensation of employees is below the 2015 state average of $55,159?

Yep, roughly 85% of all counties fall behind the dismal performance of our state. Is it any wonder we always rank in the ‘Top Five States by CEOs’ while ranking in the ‘Bottom Five States for Quality of Life?

Morton’s article recommends holding all economic developers in the state accountable. I agree. Why don’t we?

Our economic developers are funded by the government but considered private companies at the state level, so they have no accountability to the press or Hoosier voters. They operate without needing to disclose anything to the media, and all the positions are appointed. They give away our money but aren’t accountable.

The Indiana Chamber is funded by businesses and large foundations, so nobody will want to take ownership.

Locally, the Delaware County Chamber is funded by local businesses and the Ball family trusts and has been inept for decades. Even the Republican-controlled county government uses their own economic developers outside the Chamber, and the City administration uses their own economic developer.

Where are the champions for the Working Class?

Who’s holding both our government and private sectors accountable? Who’s holding our economic developers accountable? Who’s holding our city and county government accountable?

To reiterate, the delicate balance of power in our country is thus: our government holds the private sector accountable; to ensure our government is serving our interests, the press holds the government accountable. If there are imbalances, like stagnant wage growth since 1990, guess who’s failing citizens? All the above.

When conservative voters oppose “burger-flippers” and others making minimum wage an inflation-adjusted wage increase, they insist fellow workers should work in poverty so we can afford processed food distributed quickly. When the $600,000 a year CEO at Meridian Health Services tells case managers the company cannot afford salary increases, he’s insisting they work in poverty so he can afford to live a lavish lifestyle and surround himself with highly paid executives who stroke his ego.

We need the press to inform voters of the decade-long assault on workers, and we need voters to become more informed. We need our government to hold the private sector accountable and demand wage increases for every worker in Indiana.

Maybe, before lawmakers can pass fees or taxes on Hoosiers, they should be held accountable to wages/personal income index. If wages aren’t growing for workers, sorry, but no new taxes or fees. Supposedly, we have a representative democracy in this country, but when CEOs applaud Indiana’s government for keeping low wages for workers, who are our lawmakers representing?

When Hoosiers and Americans scream loud about income inequality, but nothing changes in Washington or Indianapolis, you begin to realize that Bernie Sanders and others who claim our socio-political-economic system is rigged are correct.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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