Indiana’s Economy–the Spin and the Reality

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.


  1. Thank you for your simple, direct explanation of fiscal responsibility using the example of your home, savings for future payments and keeping the hole in the roof. The hole in Indiana’s roof could be adding to the deluge of rain for weeks with areas still flooded, homes and businesses without power and Indiana residents needing assistance after losing everything. The further destruction of already collapsing infrastructure will require more labor and tax dollars than would be needed had it been in good repair prior to recent damage. The current financial surplus situation in Indiana is simply explained by what HASN’T gotten done.

  2. For whatever reasons, Indiana chooses to compete in the national arena as a Walmart rather than a Costco.

  3. Conservative cognitive confusion begins with the hard and fast belief that a nickle spent is a nickle lost rather than a nickle invested is a dime returned.

    Of course nobody who knows believes that but some of those who know better have taught the gullible to believe that so the they’ll elect pliable politicians. Why? So the oligarchy nickles saved can be invested only in personal returns rather than societal benefit.

    Greed, gullible, guile. Bad combo.

  4. I heard that Freakonomics did a study on time zones and sleep, and based on that, Indiana’s governor and legislature should be moving us to Central time rather than Eastern.

    Do you think anybody in government will believe the scientists and make this change? I wish.

    Then again, I also wish for a return to Standard Time rather than DST.

  5. It is pitiful to watch the cash waving while the homeless woman with 2 kids my partner and I have supported all summer cannot find housing but is on the list for income supported at about number 3000. I’d think having had 2 strokes, epilepsy and shoulder surgery on top of abandonment and domestic violence might get her and her a more compassionate look but hey!!! She’s atypical got her circumstances as a voter. Of course that’s part of the deal. Want my help? Gotta strongly consider going to the polls with me. Might spend a little on infrastructure too since that’s in tatters in many parts of the state. A list of a thousand needs can be generated instantly but the photo op and campaign is calling. Of course the calling out is too.

    What’s most pitiful is the idea that he did a damn thing to make it happen. A barely perceptible skin of the teeth truth if at all but has no trouble checking for dead babies for sale under the beds of every liberal and the godless gay allies in the state.

  6. Not all Pence’s fault we have outsourced our Manufacturing Base to the rest of the World.

    The Republicrat Party here in America thanks to NAFTA and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China has gutted our manufacturing base. Representative Bernie Sanders and sixty one cosponsors introduced a legislation in 2005 that would repeal the Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. Rep. Sanders said to the house, “anyone who takes an objective look at our trade policy with China must conclude that is an absolute failure and needs to be fundamentally overhauled.” Of course no changes were made.

    It does seem the Leadership here in Indiana would like us the 99% to compete with the Third World.

  7. Any state in the condition of Indiana, with such a surplus, should put the governor in jail for failing his fiduciary responsibilities. States are not supposed to be banks.

  8. Why doesn’t Pence pay down/off the State’s debt? Isn’t that what Republicans are calling for? Or refund it to the taxpayers, like Bush Jr did, with a Republican Congress did in 2001. That worked out well. It must be true, “Consistancy is the Hobgolin of small minds.”

  9. Richard Keefe; that tax refund from George, Jr., was done with no thought except to reap votes. I had been on low income Social Security Disability for years so hadn’t paid income tax; I could very well have used that $200. I tore up the form and returned it with a note; noticing it was against federal law to use their provided envelope for other than government work, I used a plain white envelope. When I later received the form reminding me they hadn’t received my response, I again returned it with a note – in my own envelope. How many people who didn’t deserve an income tax refund claimed that $200. My vote is not for sale, not then and not now, especially to anyone named Bush. This was a forerunner, a practice session for his later give away of billions of tax dollars – which this country (except for the 1%) is still suffering from.

  10. Over 200 FT staff positions in the DNR For over 2 years while increasing logging in state owned forests (another great source of income) has also increased reversion.
    So much more than a hole in the roof. A gaping hole in our publicly owned and shared natural resources does and will cost us a lot in the next 50 years. Quiet theft of a vital Hoosier need while setting aside new money to sue the EPA. Fiscally irresponsible to say the least.

  11. Joann, “that worked out well” was sarcasm. :). I was trying to point out the hypocracy.

  12. Fiscal envy of the Nation??? Please Mike, even your not that ignorant, are you? Thanks to you we’re the joke of the nation. Funding has been cut to numerous agency’s , schools and programs. Let’s not even talk about the roads and bridges we have to deal with. How dare you even think we’re overjoyed by this announcement. Is it not our tax dollars you’ve decided to hoard? We can’t even count on services from town or city because of budget cuts…. Or so they say. I can’t wait for election time…. I hope you get what you deserve .

  13. Sadly, Pence will be reelected because the electorate in this state would vote for Hitler as long as there was an “R” next to his name….and besides, Mr. Pence is such a good “Christian” and apparently that is all that matters…..

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