Indiana Governor Mike Pence has just bragged about the state’s surplus. We are supposed to consider the existence of that pot of money–that “rainy day” fund–as evidence of fiscal responsibility.
Not so much.
Assume I have a mortgage on my house, and I’m intent on building a savings account from which I can make future payments. Prudent fiscal management. Unless, of course, I have refused to repair the hole in the roof, because I’m saving the money for future house payments.
One of the biggest holes in the Hoosier roof is FSSA, which is being sued by caseworkers over huge caseloads that keep them from adequately protecting children. FSSA “reverted” 37 million dollars from its budget, so that the Governor could brag about his surplus. And it wasn’t just FSSA; here is a list of other “reversions” required by the Administration.
It’s amazing how much money you can save if you don’t deliver services.
And what about all those other “indicators” the Governor touts?
In the wake of the RFRA debacle and the subsequent hiring and firing of a PR firm that was supposed to repair the damage, there has been more interest than usual in what the numbers really say about Indiana’s economy.
Recently, the Indiana Democrat’s blog addressed what it called the Governor’s “Fuzzy Math.” It would be easy to dismiss its conclusions as partisan spin, and probably in anticipation of such dismissal, the posted article cited its source for each number.
The data is in table format, with the Governor’s statements on one side and the actual numbers on the other. There are several sections, but I was particularly struck by the response to Governor Pence’s assertions that Indiana is enjoying “historic” employment levels and that the Hoosier economy is “growing stronger every day.”
The blog shared the following data, from which we can all draw our own conclusions:
- Since spring 2000, 500,000 more people have moved to Indiana while the employment participation rate has seen one of the largest declines in the nation.
[Indianapolis Star, 5.28.15]
- New Indiana manufacturing jobs pay wages that are far lower than the national average – and are considered “lower-valued” in the manufacturing industry.
[Indianapolis Star, 6.10.15]
- Indiana ranks 38th in the nation in per capita income.
[Indianapolis Star, 6.1.15]
- Hoosiers make 86 cents to every one American dollar.
[Indianapolis Star, 6.1.15]
There are lots of ways to “slice and dice” economic data. It’s a question of focus–are we just trying to create an environment where business can keep costs down? Then the Governor is right: Right to Work, a low minimum wage, and low business taxes are the way to go. (Although the numbers suggest those tactics aren’t producing many jobs.)
Do we want a state where workers can count on a living wage, a state where all workers, whatever their gender and/or ethnicity, are paid equally for equal work, a state where tax revenues are sufficient to provide a decent quality of life? If those are our goals, the numbers tell the story; we aren’t doing very well.
Do we want an Administration that provides essential public services in a businesslike fashion, or one presided over by a Governor who is focused upon image while ignoring the hole in the roof?
In case you hadn’t noticed, Mike, it’s raining.