Indiana–Where Lawmakers Like to Kick You When You’re Down

Hoosiers can be forgiven for thinking that Governor Pence is conducting a vendetta not just against teachers and gay folks, but working people in general. As if the much-hyped “right to work” law wasn’t enough to depress wages in Indiana, now the administration is promoting a measure to get rid of the common construction wage, and yesterday, while attention was focused on RFRA, the House obediently went along (although 13 Republicans did break ranks to join Democrats who opposed the bill).

The Governor touts Right to Work and elimination of the common wage as economic development tools.  (If I may be forgiven a bit of snark, given the amount of economic damage his “Religious Freedom” bill has inflicted, he shouldn’t be surprised if we take his protestations of concern about the state of our economy with a pillar of salt.)

So–what are the actual facts that the Senate should consider as this latest assault on middle-class Hoosiers comes up for a vote in that chamber?

The Institute for Working Families (disclosure: I serve on the organization’s advisory board) issues a biennial Status of Working Families Report; it  examines data on poverty, the labor market, wages and taxes.

“From the time the recession started, the rate of poverty, child poverty, and the share of low-income Hoosiers have all increased at rates greater than all neighbor states and the U.S. Moreover, while in all states around us, poverty is declining, it’s still rising in Indiana, as is the share of low-income Hoosiers. Inevitably, this means that Indiana’s middle-class is shrinking.”

 Additional research findings included:

  • Median household income has been on the decline since the beginning of the century – down by nearly $8,000 since 2000, and still declining as of last count. Again, while all neighbor states’ median household incomes are growing, ours is still declining.
  • Median hourly wages and 20th percentile wages – which are still declining – are down by about $0.80 each since 2007.
  • Of the half-million jobs in the top three industries, 74% pay below $13.00 per hour
  • During the growth period from 2001 – 2007, Indiana netted only around 18,000 jobs, while the population grew by hundreds of thousands. Only the low-wage category experienced a net gain (97% of which pay less than $13.00 per hour).
  • Or, since the recession started, only the low-wage category experienced a net gain. Of the jobs lost in mid-wage industries during the recession (2007 – 2010), 43% were manufacturing jobs and 38% were construction and contracting jobs. Despite a strong comeback in manufacturing, both of these middle-class jobs are still well below pre-recession levels.

Only two other states saw larger increases in income inequality than Indiana last year. That gap makes it virtually impossible to grow our middle class and/or create a sustainable economy.

So where does the common wage factor in? As Derek Thomas, Senior Policy researcher at the Institute explains,

By maintaining the common wage – especially at a time when middle-to high-skill jobs are in demand – local governments can enhance the welfare of Hoosier families and communities who desperately need quality, middle-class jobs that pay well enough to meet their most basic needs.

Just once, could Indiana’s Governor and lawmakers stop pandering to their political godfathers/donors, and resist measures to keep us at the level of a third-world nation?


  1. As an expat living abroad, I can’t believe how much noise this law has made worldwide and been in the news of late. The late night talk hosts are having a field day with this and Seth Myers had a great clip about it too.

    Still, Hoosier Shame exists, even abroad. Sheila’s post today is another example.

  2. So much can be stated truthfully against the current privately owned GOP; Indiana in particular these days. The jaw-dropping front page of the Indianapolis Star today is a “keeper”. The reference to “pillar of salt” in this blog struck me because a post on Facebook this morning caused me to pick up my Bible (it sits next to my computer along with a copy of the Constitution and Amendments) to read Chapter 19 of Genesis. With all of the Biblical quotes and references against LGBTs in the news, I found it disturbing that the Republicans have overlooked this chapter of the Bible which appears to support the benefits of incest. Of course they have also fortunately neglected to pass bills supporting stoning women to death for not remaining virgins.

    Being the mother and mother-in-law of hard working, single, self-suporting women with children and grandchildren; the jobless situation in this state affects me directly. Both were active union members; my daughter is now disabled (after 24 1/2 years with the same job) and my daughter-in-law has been jobless for almost 18 months, her home is in foreclosure. The Republicans offer no evidence of compassion or assistance for the many thousands in their same situation…and this neglect includes jobless men with families. Maybe the national – and probably international – attention to Pence’s ignorance regarding his “Religious Freedom” law will reap benefits when the negative publicity uncovers more of their actions and they begin to lose money. It will require a direct financial loss to them before they comprehend what they are doing to their constituents. They don’t even seem to be aware they are working against Republicans as well as Democrats in all of their anti-actions. They are against anything which will benefit anyone in need of assistance or any group whose civil and human rights are being denied.

  3. I researched the sponsor of one TV spot urging the getting rid of common wage. Jim Bopp is behind it with funding from anonymous donors. This is what really makes me disgusted. The anonymous donors hide their identity. If they really had the courage of their convictions, they would publicly announce their goals. These people are con artists and grifters, acting in their own interests while persuading their marks (voters in Indiana) that they are really looking out for the working folks. Call them out for what they are. Liars and thieves.

  4. Has anyone calculated the following if the Republicans get their way?
    Lost sales to businesses
    Lost income taxes to state
    Increased cost of repairs or fixes or lawsuits for shoddy workmanship

  5. The republicans who control our state of Indiana may actually be doing the best they can. Their problem is that they haven’t had a new idea since 1980. The public finally appears it has had enough of their phony moralizing. Maybe some saavy politicians will see the current uproar as an opportunity to engage again with the working class; some of them may even be republicans. After the endless string of useless legislation that this group has passed in recent years, at the expense of all taxpayers, it is entertaining to watch them continue to self-destruct as the result of this situation they created by their choice to ignore the basic responsibilities of their elected offices. All their word smithing and salesmanship don’t seem to be doing anything but showing them for what they are.

  6. I am completely baffled by the number of Hoosiers that keep voting these Republicans into office out of complete ignorance. These are the people that continue to suffer more and more at the hands of the people they voted into office and they just continue to listen to the lies. How can we overcome this downhill spiral when so many voters are so lazy (or maybe stupid) that they refuse to make the effort to educate themselves on what is truly going on and what the real motives of these politicians are?

  7. One of the reasons that GOP lawmaking can be so destructive is that it’s not designed for this world. It’s designed for their fantasy world, taught them by the oligarchs who now own the party, in which there are two classes. One is those who are hard working, responsible, Christian, white, straight, traditional, and several generations from being immigrants. They who own the country. The other is all “others” who live here at the pleasure of the owners.

    The Great Oligarchy Plot is designed to maintain those two classes based on the assumption, wrong in the real world, that all good comes from the owner class and all entitlement is displayed by the rif raff, the hangers on.

    This is a huge departure both from reality and even America’s traditions. We used to be the land of the American Dream. The rise of hardworking disadvantaged to comfortable rewarding lives.

    Our challenge is to somehow mitigate the hypnosis empowered by mass media and brand marketing techniques and bring the minions back to the real world before the Great Oligarchy Plot is celebrating victory and America is a dream left in the dust.

    There is only one way to do that nondestructively. Everybody not yet hypnotized must vote in and for the real world and replace the GOPers with those who are fully engaged in real world existence. Retake America for the sake of America and bring back our traditional can do culture and apply it to adapting civilization’s infrastructure to the new earth that our numbers now create. Save America and the world.

    Not easy, but doable. Vote your conscience not your media and we’ll be fine.

  8. “Only two other states saw larger increases in income inequality than Indiana last year.”

    You might be straining a bit on this, Sheila. Here’s the publication the Institute for Working Families report is citing. The heavy lifting seems to have been done by the Census. See, Table 1.

    Income inequality in the Census report is measured by the change in Gini coeffecients from 2012 to 2013. As a lagging indicator, any data represented cannot be exclusively attributed to Pence.

    “The Gini coefficient (also known as the Gini index or Gini ratio) (/dʒini/ jee-nee) is a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income distribution of a nation’s residents, and is the most commonly used measure of inequality.” Wikipedia.

    Note that the Census report contains varying margins of error, from state to state, and note further that the Gini coefficient has substantial difficulties in being captured or expressed. Note yet further than little explanation of standard deviations is provided, so we have little idea just how profound an experience is represented by being at the top or bottom of a narrow range of numbers.

    The Indiana report is zeroing in on a one-time, year over year change in the Census report, without explaining how likely one-year changes point to larger trends or explaining whether one-year changes can be outliers or can experience trend smoothing when placed within a larger timeframe.

    Figure 2 of the Census report indicates that Indiana ranks no worse than 20th and no better than 38th (of 52) in income inequality, with the most populous states, including many Democratic strongholds, being the most economically unequal.

    One column in a Census report that employs an exotic measurement perhaps wasn’t the soundest statistical footing upon which to base an economic argument.

    The state that most impresses in the Census report is Minnesota. Low income inequality, high incomes, and, from personal experience, good food and abundant activities. How can we apply the Minnesota experience to the entire country?

  9. The Republican party exists to serve the Rich and the Super rich
    The Democratic party (Usually – Pre Clinton) works for the rest of us
    Pretty simple. When the Republicans work against working people,
    I must ask “What did you THINK they were going to do?”

  10. To paraphrase a pundit: “It’s the Oligarchy, stupid!” and the Republican Party does their bidding. The rest of us are the grunts.
    Citizens get a chance to clean house at the next election.

  11. Take a slow drive outside of Down Town and Indianapolis has the look of a Third World Country. Potholed broken streets and trash everywhere. One time when Hudnut was Mayor we had the Hudnut Hook urging people to properly dispose of their trash. Here in Hoosier Land we have residential recycling only if you pay for it. No over all mandatory Recycling program for the state of Indiana will be on the horizon.

    So if Pence and the rest Republicans run with corporate script provided for them they will do what ever they can to destroy Unions and any semblance of a Living Wage.

  12. Has there ever been revolution without bloodshed? Does the populace rise up at a given time and place, and inform the powers that be that the party is over? Does the 1% say, “OK. You got us. We give!” History teaches that change happens just like the kick-back against RFLA: Totally unseen, totally unprepared for and totally unplanned. That means one thing: Blood.

    Pence looked like a deer caught in headlights. He could not believe that the natives would ever question his position and entitlement. When it is questioned, he will strike. He and his. They will call the 101st Airborne on you. Count on it. And they will shoot you.

    What is so amazing is how historical and predictable this happens to be. When the firebrand minister no longer can milk your fears of black, brown of red faces, he will look to his mentors for aid. Foundations destroyed, the endless war will be directed toward us.

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