Not all Hoosiers experiencing benefits from state’s ever-improving economy


(Bloomington) Herald-Times

Unemployment is down in the state and nation.

Already, merchants are talking about the great Christmas they expect.

The stock market? It’s apparently recovered fully from the 2007-09 recession and headed to record highs.

Indiana has a couple of billion in the bank, a very healthy rainy day fund.

In fact, almost all of the numbers indicate we’re back on solid ground and moving forward.

Why, then, does the Indiana Association of United Ways report that almost a quarter of Hoosier families are barely making it, teetering so close to disaster that a single family crisis could plummet them into poverty?

There are many answers, lots of them involving politics at some level.

There is the lack of adequate preschool, a chronic shortfall here and one that weakens our future workforce even as it keeps potential breadwinners at home with the kids rather than out, growing family income.

Politics has played a role in that issue, with Gov. Mike Pence’s recent turndown of federal support

for preschool.

The state also is not likely to raise the minimum wage any time soon, which at $7.25 an hour is the same as the federal minimum wage. To actually support a family on such a wage would require magic.

On the theory that high wages discourage business investment and new jobs (and that unions help raise wages), Indiana’s Republicans have pushed through the state’s right-to-work law, which they bill as a way to attract new business to Indiana. Others see it as a serious blow to unions.

The law hasn’t been in place long enough to measure its real effects, but opponents worry that it will suppress wages at a time real earning power of most Americans is in steady decline.

Then there is the larger issue, one that transcends party politics and goes beyond liberal or conservative.

That is the changing nature of employment in the world, with a turn away from making things for money to providing services to others. And service jobs just don’t pay well.

The association’s report lists some of those jobs: retail clerk, home health aide, auto mechanic.

It points out the poorly paid jobs list does not

include STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs, which generally require significantly more education than most families at the bottom of the pile can afford.

That adage that a rising tide raises all boats now works only for some of us. The others have too many holes in their hulls.

The report makes no recommendations on how to address such large and dangerous matters.

But the Indiana Legislature, with its next session getting underway in January, should make it a top priority to develop and pursue solutions.

That task must transcend politics if we are to remain a robust, healthy state and nation.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].

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