It was a grim report released a couple of weeks ago by the Indiana Institute for Working Families, an anti-poverty advocacy program. The report said that more Hoosiers are having a hard time making ends meet. At the same time, the state was reporting “surprise” funds that give Indiana a nearly $2 billion surplus. Is there a disconnect here?
Indiana is sixth in the nation for low-wage workers, according to the Working Families report. That means only $47,100 for a family of four. The poverty rate in Indiana increased from 2010 to 2011. One of the key reasons for income loss is a steep drop in earnings. From 2000 to 2011, median family income fell to $57,148 from $78,599, the second largest decrease in the nation.
For all of the jobs touted by, first, the Daniels administration, then the Pence administration, not to mention numerous legislators, wages are going nowhere. According to Working Families, 70 percent of new jobs in 2011 paid full-time wages that aren’t enough to pull people out of the low-income category.
Of course, the state can’t do anything about those wages. Private companies are moving to more part-time and temp work, where wages are low, and there is no easy route out of poverty. But the state can help by using its surplus instead of sitting on it. The governor thinks the surplus shows Indiana is doing the right things economically, but the statistics differ with that assessment.
As House Minority Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City noted, “the leaders of the state worship these surplus numbers like they are ends in and of themselves.” Such an attitude also signifies that the state has no problems and doesn’t need to spend money, or is spending enough money, on areas such as infrastructure and education.
Meanwhile, families go on hurting. Medicaid and food stamps are also being cut while wages continue to decline, pointed out Lafayette Township Trustee Steve Anderson.