Karen Francisco: Mike Pence and His Boasts about Indiana’s Economy

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Karen Francisco is the editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal Gazette. I invited her to comment on Mike Pence’s his stewardship of the economy in Indiana. She did not touch on his abominable education policies, which are anti-public school and anti-teacher. Pence favors school choice, especially charter schools and vouchers. Anything but public schools.

She wrote:

Prepare to hear much in the coming days about the great state of Indiana. The Trump campaign, eager to claim any sort of connection to honest-to-goodness governing, will hold up Gov. Mike Pence as architect of a soaring Hoosier economy.

Consider Trump’s claims upon introducing his running mate – and the reality.

–Indiana’s unemployment rate was 5 percent in May, down from 8.4 percent when he took office in 2013.

Yes, the unemployment rate was 5 percent in May, but the figure was hardly noteworthy. Twenty-nine states had lower unemployment rates.

– – Indiana has a Triple A credit rating.

Yes, it does – along with more than a dozen other states. But the Indiana General Assembly has passed balanced budgets –which are required by the state constitution –while ignoring serious needs in social services, infrastructure and education.

— Private-sector jobs have increased by 147,000 since Pence took office.

That’s generally true, but Indiana’s rate of private-sector job growth isn’t exceptional. At just under 6 percent, it’s half as strong as job growth in Florida.

Trump’s embellishments mirror Pence’s own claims of strong economic leadership One of the governor’s current tall tales is that more Hoosiers are working than at any time in the state’s 200-year history.

That’s impressive only if you’ve never taken a statistics class. Adjusted for population growth, Indiana’s highest job participation mark was May of 2000, coming after more than a decade of Democratic control of the governor’s office and an eight-year boost from a Democratic administration in the White House.

About 80 percent of Hoosiers of working age were employed in May of 2000, compared to about 75 percent today.

What Trump and Pence don’t say about the Indiana economy, however, is the most important thing to know. Per-capita personal income in the state is abysmal. – 39th lowest in the nation. Hoosiers earned just 86 cents for every $1 the average American earned in 2015. That figure is down from the inflation-adjusted 93 cents Hoosiers earned on the dollar in 1995.

Real average weekly wages in Indiana grew by just 0.7 percent over the last six years, compared to a national increase of 2.6 percent.

If Indiana’s economy has any real strengths, one is its enduring manufacturing sector, particularly the automotive industry.

But as a congressman, Mike Pence voted against the Detroit bailout, stating that “we can’t borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy or a healthy domestic automotive industry.”

Thousands of GM and Chrysler workers in Indiana would disagree, of course. A Fort Wayne labor official called Pence out a year ago when the governor tried to claim credit for a $1.2 billion investment in the GM truck assembly plant in Fort Wayne.

“(Pence) considered it an affront to free-market ideology,” the UAW’s Randy Schmidt wrote in a column published on our op-ed pages, “He instead preferred a classic bankruptcy, one that would have liquidated GM’s assets, and sold the Fort Wayne plant in pieces to the highest bidder.

If Pence’s approach to the auto bailout as a congressman had carried, it would have proven disastrous to the Indiana economy. Likewise, his embrace of the state’s religious freedom law as governor last year would have landed a crushing blow to ur economic interests. It took the intervention of business and legislative leaders to clean up the mess the governor helped to create.

Pence might have convinced himself that he’s responsible for a booming Indiana economy. But as he and Donald Trump try to make a case their case in Cleveland this week, keep in mind that the Hoosier economy isn’t zooming ahead, and it would likely be in worse straits if he had been allowed full control of the steering wheel.

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