“Again, why?” William Nillie asked.
“It’s quarterly information that came out just last week. It’s comprehensive and from a very good source,” I answered.
“Nobody’s interested,” Willie insisted, “and at the holiday season, no less.”
“State quarterly personal income is important,” I was equally insistent. “It is vital information about the dollars Hoosiers have for spending. It’s based on reality, not news releases. And it is generally ignored by the media.”
“OK,” he said reluctantly. “Good or bad news this time?”
“Consistent news,” I said, reluctant to pour water on his Yule log. “Our Hoosier economy is progressing, but without the vigor shown by the national economy.”
“I cannot believe it,” Willie said. “All I hear about are the gains we are making in employment. The news tells us how slowly the nation is recovering, but how well Indiana is doing in employment gains.”
“Here are the facts,” I said softly so he would not lose faith in our state leaders and their academic apologists. “Indiana’s revenues are not keeping pace with the forecasts.”
“I know that,” Willie interrupted. “The forecasts were wrong.”
“That’s a different topic,” I protested. “Indiana outperformed the nation in 2012, which often happens in the early stages of recovery. But in 2013, the nation came on with more growth and our state ranked 48th among the 50 states, from the third quarter of 2012 to the same quarter this year.”
“That’s not possible,” Willie said.
“Those are the data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis,” I said.
“Think about it,” I continued. “Indiana expanded employment. Good news. People who were unemployed get jobs and go off unemployment compensation. Also they may not qualify for Medicaid because they are now earning ‘too much’.
“Our state unemployment compensation to those looking for work fell 37 percent over the past four quarters; the nation saw a decrease of only 21 percent. Indiana’s Medicaid payments fell by 15 percent as the nation increased Medicaid by 6 percent.
“Yes, earnings of workers rose in Indiana by 3.4 percent over the same period, yet the nation saw a 4.1 percent increase. That suggests to me,” I said, “Hoosier job gains may have been impressive, but new and existing employees probably were not doing as well as workers in other states.”
“Don’t you get tired of reporting how Indiana is lagging the nation?” Willie asked.
“Yes, I do,” I answered. “I get more tired, however, of state leaders, in and out of government, who refuse to recognize the facts. They neglect reality and refuse to admit that we have been on the wrong path for more than a generation.
“They strut about, talking up their hopes for education reform, but they fail to pursue it. They emote about strong, independent workers, but act against the interest of workers whenever they have a choice,” I concluded.
“Well, Happy Holidays,” Willie said.
“Maybe,” I said, “like the Cubs, Indiana will do better next year.”