American History, 2013-2015

By Michelle Railey

 

Underemployment and the New Economy: Full-time Problems, Part-time Work, and No Solutions

February 18, 2013

Most Americans still believe that our economy is based on this basic premise: that it is possible for most people to work their way to the middle class, however loosely that’s defined; that hard work and education will lead to success for most people and if people struggle, that’s mostly due to poor decisions, sub-par work ethic, or lack of personal responsibility.

The recent suggestion by President Obama to raise the federal minimum wage is based on the premise that many people are working full-time jobs and still not making it. Which is true, many are. But many (more?) are stuck in situations where full-time jobs are not options– and not due to personal choice or failures or even personal and family conditions. A job market that is full of mostly retail and service positions is not one that is predominantly “full-time” (for purposes here, full-time employment is 36-40 hours per week even though legal definitions usually permit the employer or industry to define what is full-time in their sector or market). There’s been quiet but growing attention in the media to the changing face of employment. Stories in the New York Times (here, here, here) and NPR (this and this) have pointed out that a growing majority of retail and service jobs prefer to operate with part-time workers because it better meets the demands of their business and allows flexibility of scheduling to meet the level of traffic, down to 15-minute increments. Profits expand when labor costs can be micro-controlled using mini-shifts of 2 to 3 hours or even placing employees on unpaid on-call status throughout the week. This is bad for workers, who have no set schedules, can’t get enough hours to earn a living, can’t arrange childcare or even pick up the necessary second and third part-time job to meet their monthly expenses. Lifting the minimum wage can help— but its effects will be limited if the whole idea of it is based on a “living wage for full-time work.” This is not just about the obvious employers like Walmart and Jamba Juice. The health care industry is also prone to giving part-time hours and, even less stable from the worker’s point of view, PRN (on-call, as-needed) shifts. The education sector, particularly universities and vocational-technical schools also rely heavily on adjunct faculty and associate professors who similarly have no guarantees and no stability, teaching perhaps two classes one semester and then none for one or more semesters. And then there’s the increasing use of temporary staffing services which provide short-term jobs, generally low-paying, with lag periods between assignments when no work is available. As an increasing number of companies use these staffing services in place of hiring full-time, permanent employees, the job market offers even less traditional full-time jobs.

The traditional job market most Americans believe in didn’t go away entirely due to the Great Recession. The traditional job market has been changed by an economy that’s fundamentally different from the past. The new job market does have full-time permanent positions: but what proportion of jobs are covered by that? A light majority, possibly, but, it appears, a declining one. Even when the economy recovers to, optimistically, 5% unemployment, the signs seem to indicate that the new economy, the recovered economy, will actually be majority part-time, PRN, and temporary employment. The new job market in 2 to 3 years will be based in no small part on jobs that are non-traditional and impermanent. The new condition for a growing plurality of Americans will be under-employment not by choice, lack of education, or personal “fault,” but due to an economy that works differently than it ever has in the modern era.

Without some change to wages or even social supports (TANF, UI, WIC) and employment regulations, this new mode of employment will be bad for everyone. The individual workers and their families will be affected immediately. But even in the short-term, businesses are affected by lack of demand as people cannot afford to purchase goods and services for themselves. In the medium to long-term, it will affect finance and the world of money in the U.S. writ large: how do the permanently under-employed and permanently transient workers qualify for credit? How would solid loans be made to workers who work for a staffing agency one quarter of the year and spend the following three quarters in various part-time jobs? How stable would be credit given to people who cannot demonstrate a reasonable ability to repay that credit because they have no reliable income? So the choice of lenders would be between denying all such applications (very, very bad for the national economy) or risking the entire credit and financing system on sub-grade, high-risk loans. Housing crisis, anyone? Fiscal crisis, anyone?

Equally troubling is the idea that neither public nor private entities appear to be accurately measuring these trends, let alone coming up with solutions to them. Unemployment is still measured largely by people who self-report through the Current Population Survey that they are both unemployed and looking for full-time work. This misses, as is so often said, those who are underemployed, temporarily employed, or so frustrated they’ve dropped out of the labor market entirely. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is working on a number of alternative metrics but those aren’t the norm right now— and it always depends on the level of communication between government agencies and how the data is used. And even then, there are the questions. Who is measuring and compiling all the necessary elements of this new labor economy: the nature of the jobs in existence, the jobs that will be created? Do they measure only the number of jobs by industry or are they doing an accurate job of measuring by type (part-time, full-time) and by stability (temporary, seasonal, intermittent, permanent)? Of course, how these terms are defined makes a world of difference: permitting industry to define “full-time” may be useful for questions of safety— truck drivers, air traffic controllers, or surgeons— but is much less useful in questions of employment and wages. If the measurement of employment, like unemployment, is both incomplete and based on self-reporting, the measurement will be inadequate to provide the data needed to create solutions to the problems of the new economy.

Current benefits programs like unemployment insurance (UI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are already being used as income supports by many who are already stuck in and limited by the new economy, which means benefits are being used in ways they weren’t designed for and for purposes they aren’t efficient or effective at meeting. The UI system was intended for people who are involuntarily unemployed in the short-term. The media and the government have already focused heavily on the problem of the long-term unemployed. However, there is a growing use of UI benefits by underemployed, part-time, temporary, and on-call workers– people who are employed. In many cases, their income is absolutely inadequate to meet their basic needs but they may make too much money to qualify for TANF, WIC, or similar programs and UI will only cover them for a limited period (in Indiana, it’s 26 weeks). In many cases, these benefits are difficult to navigate for working people precisely because they were intended for the impoverished— and, in American mind and American policy, these are two characteristics that weren’t intended to elide.

Like unemployment and wages, the systems of these benefit programs also rely heavily on self-reporting and the nature of the corresponding laws for these programs requires time-consuming interviews and paperwork to ascertain eligibility for the benefits. Here again, eligibility is defined by being unemployed, not “under-employed,” and unemployed in the short-term. Think “Welfare to Work”. The problem is, assistance frequently comes weeks after people have already fallen into desperation. And assistance stops when partial employment, temporary, or on-call employment has been accepted or, at least, after that under or temporary employment has become “customary”. If the long term trajectory of the nature of jobs in this country is trending toward extended under, partial, and temporary employment for a significant portion of Americans, these programs are and will be insufficient to provide what will be needed.

Is a new benefit program needed as a form of income support? Politically, that would be nearly impossible.

Are new regulations needed to protect workers? (And protect businesses and the overall economy?) Again, that would be nearly impossible to achieve, politically.

Will we need to change the way creditworthiness is defined and go to micro-loans at low interest rates?

Do we require a change to how we think about wages and place people/workers on “retainers”– a minimum amount of monthly income to remain on jobs where the number of hours must be flexible and inconsistent? Who would pay these retainers? The government? Federal or state? The employers?

What probably can’t happen is changing the economy back to one where full-time, 40 hours per week, permanent jobs are the norm. The businesses and services we have, need, and expect don’t function that way. The peculiarly American insistence that our desires and needs alike be met 24 hours per day or delivered the next day creates businesses and services which don’t fit neatly into 40 hour per week boxes. Of course, businesses could change the dynamic so they use less workers for more hours per week and/or pay reasonable wages– both of which have benefits and problems of their own and will never happen as long as businesses’ goals are mostly maximizing profits and increasing growth in terms of “now” and “this quarter.” Sure, we could have jobs that are busy-work: the old digging holes and then filling them conundrum. But this is not a reasonable solution. It isn’t reality-based.

The problem is not being adequately measured, let alone addressed. Nostalgia and denial are standing in the way. Too many in power don’t yet recognize the problem or at least, don’t acknowledge that there has been a significant and probably permanent change in the nature and demands of work– but no change to the real needs and overabundance of supply of workers to fill the “decreased” or, rather, intermittent, micro-variable roles that need filled (by hour, not year). And even good policy solutions like lifting the minimum wage, EITC, TANF, and UI are based on a world and economy that lies in the past: a world of full-time permanent jobs. So, of course, we should continue with the good policy solutions– they address real problems. They just don’t address this one. And that is the Real Problem.

So what do we do?

 

Hey, Congration. You Done It. 

June 11, 2014

Cake Fail

Two recent letters to the editor of the Indianapolis Star sounded familiar themes regarding voter ID that I keep hearing around dinner tables, water coolers, and seeing in the pages of the Star and on Facebook: namely, darn good thing it’s required (rampant voter fraud!) and stop complaining about it (which is weird, frankly, because if words floating around town are any indication, Hoosiers really like the whole voter ID thing, possibly more than voting itself.* The Pro-Voting-ID comments are not exactly infrequent.).

From one: “Voters should have to prove who they are before voting. Saying that having to show ID to vote disenfranchises voters is a weak argument at best. If you want to get a driver’s license, you have to get to the license branch to take the test. That is usually done by a friend or relative. If you want groceries or living supplies and can’t drive, someone must be helping you or you wouldn’t be surviving. Obtaining an ID is a one-time thing and is free. The next time someone helps you get groceries, ask them to drop by the license branch so you can get an ID…A person has to show ID to do countless everyday things, including buying prescription medicine or alcohol and cashing a check.”

And the other: “Furthermore, this mantra that the left keeps harping on that the poor and downtrodden can’t get any place to get a voter ID, that may be a fact, but how do these same unfortunates get to the polls on Election Day?”

First off, Indiana has required ID in order to vote since 2005. Yay, Pro-ID camp, you won! Like a billiondy years ago in dog years. Sure, the law’s been challenged but the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in 2008. I think it just might stick now.

Secondly, obtaining an ID to vote is not “a one-time thing.” Any ID presented in Indiana for voting purposes must have an expiration date or have expired after the most recent General Election. So, voter-resident-citizen-Hoosier-potential fraudster and identity thief, you’re going to have to get that sucker renewed every now and again.

Thirdly, the argument regarding disenfranchisement is not solely based on transportation issues. Getting an ID is not simply a matter of getting to the license branch and asking politely. You don’t magically acquire proof of identity just by walking or hitching a ride (poor people, ammiright?) to the BMV. You have to have documentation: a passport or a birth certificate and a social security card or W-2/1099 with your SSN on it, plus utility bills or paystubs within the past 60 days showing proof of address. These types of documents can be notoriously difficult to produce for segments of the unemployed, the impoverished, the homeless, the disabled, the elderly. Of course life is easier if you have any one of these documents. Life is easier with an ID: having an ID makes having a job, cashing checks, purchasing prescription medication possible. But for some of our fellow Americans, survival is more difficult. Voting is more difficult. Everything is more difficult. But here’s the thing: having a job, cashing checks, purchasing stuff — none of these things are rights. But voting is.

It’s the weird thing about rights: theoretically, you get them by virtue of your citizenship, you get them whether you “deserve” or somehow “earn” them or not. You have rights no matter how difficult your life is, no matter how many rides to the grocery store you have to cadge, no matter if your life isn’t as together as other people think it should be. If you’re an American citizen, you have rights, even if you do or don’t have anything else. Your life is easier and better if you have the paperwork that makes full participation in American life a possibility. But even if you don’t have your birth certificate and don’t know whom to contact to get the necessary certified copy (try the Department of Health in the county where you were born), even if you don’t know where your social security card went, even if you’ve been crashing on the couches of kin and friends and so don’t have bills in your name, you still have the fundamental right to vote.

Which is why some people still talk about disenfranchising people. Putting more obstacles in the way of voting for people who already face a daily grind of repeat obstacles (to surviving, let alone getting to the polls) is de facto disenfranchisement: if voting depends on ID which depends on documents not everyone has or can easily acquire, then voting becomes dependent on having something. It becomes something you purchase through time, effort, and possession. And whatever that something is, it’s not a right.

Clearly, I understand what makes people continue talking about voter ID requirements as a harm. I’m doing it now. I talk about it because I think it’s a nearly immeasurable wrong if even one person doesn’t go to the poll to exercise one of their most basic rights as an American. I think it is unamerican to prevent people (even through inconvenience or intimidation), any person, from participating in their government. I think it is unamerican to assume someone’s guilty of committing identity theft or voter fraud before they’ve even walked through a precinct door. I think it is unamerican to exclude people from the democracy, to exclude people from their right to vote.

So I can understand why people (left or otherwise) are still “harping” on what they perceive to be a gross injustice. What I can’t understand is the semi-frequent defense of a law that is totally, one hundred percent not at risk of being repealed in Indiana. Voter ID is required. Period. I’ve heard some reasonable arguments from good people in support of the law but too often the arguments come in and they’re defending the law against, well, what, exactly? Criticism? The law is not under threat. The law is not going anywhere. So where is the need for the defensive letters to the editor, the emotional comments in the workplace about…

Oh yeah, about “those people.” The worst of the pro-voter ID chatter eventually comes down to a critique of “those people”: the “poor and downtrodden” who can (theoretically) make it to the polls but not to the BMV. “Those people” who are (it’s generally implied) secretly cashing checks (probably welfare, smirk) and buying prescription medication and doing any number of things with their ID cards until they get to a poll where they say they don’t have it or conveniently forget to bring it before they go through the line twice, one of those times as Mickey Mouse or Mayor McCheese to elect people the real voters would never select.** It’s almost beside the point that voter fraud is prosecuted when its found or that the act of voting already contains within it an attestation under penalty of perjury that one is who one says they are. It’s perhaps unnecessary to point out that if one is really super-worried about the proliferation of “rampant” voter fraud, one is free to volunteer at an election site and challenge votes, forcing “those people” to fill out provisional ballots.

Far easier to ask why “those people” can’t just get their collective act together and get an ID already. Far easier to say concerns about disenfranchisement are unfounded, “weak at best,” or “absurd.” But not as easy, or one suspects as honest, as just saying that maybe “those people” don’t deserve to vote anyway. And maybe in a 21st century America where job prospects are uncertain, mortgages are under water, retirements are difficult to fund, and a plurality feel (if they will admit it) that they’re one piece of bad fortune away from becoming “those people,” giving a full-throated defense of a law that is, after all, the law and has been since 2005 just feels good. It at least feels better than uncertainty.

And while I have some sympathy for that, it just seems a little redundant and/or silly. I mean, seriously, congration. You done it. Not to harp or anything, but there’s probably an argument out there to have about something that isn’t already a fait accompli.*** Heck, there’s probably more than one. So let’s have one of those next, shall we?

 

*The Indianapolis Star wrote about the low turnout in May’s primary election, which hovered in the low teens (voter turn-out in the 2014 primary wouldn’t be allowed to drive, let alone vote, in most areas of Indiana). Weirdly, the Star didn’t really mention the voter ID requirement as a potential contributing factor.

**Our second Star letter writer said voter fraud is proved as fact because states which have voter ID requirements voted for Romney/Ryan in 2012 and states without the law voted for the president.

***”Fait accompli” is a Freedom Phrase for “Got-Er-Done.” (or, in the colloquial, “Benghazi.”)

Image credit: Oh, that glorious cake! See here.

 

John Gregg and the “Left-Wing Whack-a-doodles”

January 3, 2015

Recently, 2012 Indiana Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg sat down for an interview with Tim Swarens of the Indianapolis Star. In the interview, he conceded he was considering another run for the state’s executive office. He also called a portion of the Democratic electorate “left-wing whack-a-doodles.” What did the whack-a-doodles do, you ask, to be so comically denigrated yet seriously dismissed by a candidate who had nearly benefited from their votes? They suggested in the past campaign that his Small Town ads weren’t as great as other people, presumably Mr. Gregg for example, did.

As the Star article pointed out, initially in the 2012 race against Mike Pence, John Gregg had really poor name recognition among Hoosiers. So Gregg did two highly visible and highly effective things. One, he made his mustache his best friend: it was everywhere. It was simple and graphic and appealing. It was even vaguely hipsterish. Using a Star-Spangled-colored mustache as iconic shorthand for the candidate was genius: it separated Gregg from the clean-shaven Pence, it highlighted humor and approachability, and it became a race of the Mustache versus the GOP establishment. It could even be argued that Suzanne Crouch’s winning 2014 campaign (the Red Glasses) borrowed the idea from Gregg (or that Gregg’s staff had borrowed the idea from Mary Ann Sullivan’s Red Hair motif). Nevertheless, the success of the ‘stache still left the problem of Gregg’s low name-recognition and the need to give the population some idea of who the Mustache actually was. Hence, a series of ads highlighting Gregg as a Small Town Hoosier from the Very Small and Very Hoosier Town of Sandborn, Indiana, 400-ish residents strong. The ads featured lots of colloquialisms, a distinct Southern Indiana kick to its gallop, a charming life-long friend and neighbor, and copious numbers of hanging potted ferns on homey front porches. The ads made John Gregg seem like your favorite neighbor from your hometown, someone you wanted to drink iced tea with, maybe beat at horseshoes. Watching the ads was to feel a nostalgic kind of pride in being a Hoosier, even if you lived in the big city, you could identify with the common sense integrity of a small town sensibility. It was like eating a homemade slice of pie. And then getting to vote for it.

The ads built name recognition and Gregg came closer to winning the post of governor than anyone anticipated. But some people did suggest at the time that the ads were maybe too nostalgic, too backward, too much Andy Griffith and not enough Silicon Valley. If Indiana under a new governor was to fully participate in the twenty-first century, perhaps it wasn’t the best plan to pick a guy who had firmly stood by his hanging ferns in the summertime but hadn’t yet made a strong case on any of his policy positions. In any case, there were those who thought the Small Town ads had multiplied like rabbits and had come in packs when two would have sufficed to demonstrate Gregg’s affability and charm and then lead in to more serious discussions (i.e. a platform).

To John Gregg of late 2014, the people who held these views not only didn’t get it, they are “left-wing whack-a-doodles.” Now, it seems to me that it is not an especially partisan critique to point out that an ad campaign comprised mainly of multiple variations of “Gee Whillikers, I’m a Hoosier” smacks of redundancy. Pointing out that the small town charm was insufficient as a policy portfolio wasn’t and shouldn’t have been seen as a frothing Progressive electorate dismissing the State Fair and James Whitcomb Riley and basketball and everything holy in Hoosierville. Instead, it remains a question expressed by voters capable of critical thinking: Who are you, John Gregg? What do you believe in? Why are you a capable leader? What is your vision for Indiana? If we elect you from that storybook front porch, what will you do for the people of this state?

Still, Gregg has decided to plant his flag firmly in the I’m a Moderate camp. Fair enough, it has worked for Bayh and Donnelly. It has worked for every other Democrat who has managed to get elected here in the most recent decades. You never lose in Indiana by tracking center-right. You never lose in Indiana, as a Democrat, by disavowing your Democratic leanings. You can be a Democrat, but only if you say you’re really kind of not. So, it’s a sound strategic decision to make and, should Gregg run for governor again, being front porch and center should help him out.

Lucky for John Gregg, though, that his “left-wing whack-a-doodle” comment appeared in print. Demographically speaking, younger people skew Democrat (or Libertarian, depending). With the right media outlet and the right spin at the right time, the perceived insult to Democrats and actual left-skewing voters could have been damaging. But, demographically speaking, young people aren’t paying attention to the newspapers. The insult didn’t trend on Twitter and it wasn’t turned into a snarky click-bait piece by a politically minded Progressive.

Still, if I were assisting or staffing John Gregg, potential 2016 candidate, I would already be on damage control and I’d already be working on answers to the question of why, when there were only reasons of pandering and cheap politicking to do so, a candidate chose to diminish honest critique from a camp of easy votes. And I’d be working on polishing up the media savvy and presentation skills of a candidate who wasn’t able to escape getting booby trapped by his own mouth in a soft interview situation where there was neither scrutiny or real pressure.

Or I’d be scouting for some more small town cafes and picturesque front porches, I guess. Add corn, puppies, or kids, and you just can’t go wrong with those.

 

Governor Pence Had a Bad Week. And He Co-Paid for It.

February 3, 2015

I think the consensus is in and nine out of ten internets agree that Republican governor Mike Pence of Indiana had quite a week last week. For one thing, his mom told the Terre Haute Tribune Star that her son shouldn’t run for president until he completed two terms as governor. Another thing was that he tried to start a state-run news outlet, complete with a starter staff, managing editor, plans to have evergreen stories and provide exclusives to newspapers around the state, and the fancy title of Just IN. Then, after the Internet essentially exploded, the governor had to explain both that the whole state-run media thing was “an understandable misunderstanding” and that he didn’t even know about it until he read about it in the paper (it not being a Just IN exclusive, I guess). At which point, the governor tried to have a big celebration to announce that roughly 350,000 Hoosiers would finally have access to health insurance after his administration and the Obama administration had reached agreement on the HIP 2.0 version of the Medicaid expansion that had been under negotiation for months. Of course, that news was difficult to see because Just IN was the bad idea that just would not go away. Or at least not until late in the week when the Indiana General Assembly discussed eliminating funding that would go to the fledgling press/news/but not like North Korea news, really, news thing and Governor Pence reassigned the staff members to other areas of the administration and said there would be no such thing as Just IN because it was Just Out. As the kicker, over the weekend, Pence’s fellow Midwest Republican Governor Who Might, Scott Walker of Wisconsin quietly topped a Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. And Pence went from a name quietly being talked about as an executive prospect to being loudly excoriated nationally for having a politically catastrophic week, and doing so in such a spectacular way that no one will be whispering about a 2016 spoiler from Indiana anymore. Just ask Governor Pence’s mom.

Now, the expansion of the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP 2.0) is a genuine triumph for the governor. Under the ACA, Indiana had the option to expand Medicaid to all those whose incomes were too low to qualify for the federal subsidies to purchase individual plans but too high to qualify for pre-ACA, traditional Medicaid. Governor Pence and his administration, however, wanted desperately to deny that expansion (and the ACA overall, which Pence is still saying he believes should be repealed), but accept the federal money that came with it, all while claiming credit for covering thousands of Hoosiers who didn’t have health insurance before. And after months of wrangling with the federal government over how to accept Medicaid without it actually being Medicaid, the federal government finally agreed to let Governor Pence have his cake and eat it, too. So the approximately 350,000 Indiana residents who could have had coverage beginning January 1, 2014 will at last be eligible to pay co-pays of as little as one dollar, sign up, and have coverage beginning more than a year after they could have had it, had the need to make political points not triumphed over good sense. This should have been a good week for the governor, then, and for Indiana’s uninsured residents (pay no attention to the year 2014 behind the curtain). The governor was able to claim a victory, give a speech at a hospital, and call out a real-live soon-to-be-HIP-insured person, who hugged him and said to him and the paper (but not Just IN) that he just didn’t know how much this meant to her and her family, this whole part where they could see a doctor now.

The state’s traditional media outlets published the news on HIP 2.0 as though it were a victory and even some Democrats were saying “this is a good thing” because of the expanded coverage and all that. Of course, they also pointed out that with the whole Just IN thing, the public didn’t really notice and no one could properly pay attention, what with all the fake memes of Pence’s head against the flag of the USSR, China, and North Korea, which were admittedly flashy, but hey, look, health care! Mysteriously, there was little attention paid to the entire year of coverage people did not have when they could have; no questions or trending topics about the cancers which went undiagnosed and advanced a stage in that year, no tweets and no vines about the chronic conditions which went untreated, the prescriptions not taken, the emergency room visits not paid for, the emergency room visits which could have been avoided if people had only been able to see a family doctor; the lost hours of productivity, health, and happiness or the worry that could have been avoided. Potentially 350,000 Hoosiers will have health coverage now, as soon as they can thread the bureaucratic needles, sign up, and qualify. But, in all the hullabaloo with the Great Understandable Misunderstanding, few people bothered to point out that this could easily have been something Hoosiers could already have had for an entire year. This Just IN: it was more important to make a political point regarding HSAs and co-pays and make people’s hard lives harder. It was more important to go for the win, and even if it was obscured by Mao, Stalin, and “Pravda on the Plains,” well, the governor got it.

But if the health care which people could have had last year but didn’t isn’t troubling, we can at least agree that several aspects of the Pence administration’s now-defunct Just IN program are. For one thing, if Mike Pence is to be taken at his word, then how did he not know about a program that already had paid employees and the words “state-run media” attached? If the governor did not know about a program like this until he “read about it in the paper,” what does that say about how his administration is running? What does that say about his administration’s understanding of, say, bullet points? How can that even happen? And when it does, the buck is with Governor Pence. Who is running the show in his office? How does the show get to the paid-staff phase or the media-leak phase without getting to the all-important Pence Awareness Phase? Where was the red flag and what happened that Pence was too disconnected from the standard bearers to see it?

More troublingly still is the fact that Just IN happened in January of 2015. Of all the possible issues and challenges confronting “the state that works,” it would appear that one of the governor’s (or his staff’s) first priorities for Indiana in 2015 was to create a news outlet, no, wait, make that public relations arm, either with or without the governor’s blessing or knowledge. One would think that Indiana had gleaming schools untroubled by rifts between the state Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction where all the pupils were brimful of college-preparedness and workplace-readiness. One would think Indiana had a system of water pipelines and an electrical grid that not only did not date to the Depression Era, but set the standard for 21st-century America. One would think the Hoosier State had a low rate of childhood poverty, farmland in reserve, superior and structurally sound roads and bridges, and the very highest of employment participation and the lowest levels of political corruption. Because if all those things were true, then the first priority for the governor in 2015 might be restructuring his publicity and press releases; might even be creating a news outlet to provide stories which tout how wonderful Indiana is under a Pence administration (even the working poor can have health insurance now!). But if even one of those things is not true*** then, as a priority, better publicity shouldn’t have made the cut. Not in January. Not in 2015.

This Just IN: Governor Pence had a bad week. But he co-paid for it. Let’s see what he does with the rest of his year.

 

***Just for starters, on infrastructure (roads, bridges, wastewater, drinking water), the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Indiana a grade of D+ for 2013. The report card is here. On childhood poverty, the percentage is roughly 23%.

 

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