Poverty Remains Well above Pre-recession Level, and Extreme Disparities Continue
In many respects, the national and Wisconsin data released today by the Census Bureau is much better than I dared hope for, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be popping any champagne corks today. A closer analysis of the data reveals that most Wisconsinites are still making less than they did before the Great Recession, and our state continues to have extreme economic disparities based on race. Read more
The decline in unions has reduced pay for non-unionized workers as well as unionized ones, costing some workers thousands of dollars a year in lost wages, and is a major contributor to growing levels of income inequality, according to a new report from the the Economic Policy Institute.
It’s well-establish that union workers earn more in wages and other compensation than non-union workers who are otherwise the same in education, industry, age, and other factors. Union workers are more highly paid than their counterparts, and better off with regards to health insurance, retirement, and paid time off.
Unions also benefit non-union workers as well. Non-union workers benefit from a strong union presence in their labor market because unions set wage and workplace policies that are often followed by other businesses that do not have unions. In order to attract employees, non-unionized employers must offer wages similar to that agreed upon at unionized workplaces. Read more
The latest annual State of Working Wisconsin report has some positive findings about recent trends for Wisconsin workers; however, it also shines a light on some ongoing challenges, and it concludes that Wisconsinites “all need stronger policy to support broadly shared prosperity.”
COWS (formerly known as the Center on Wisconsin Strategy) issues this report every Labor Day weekend. Because it’s an illuminating report, and Labor Day is an important holiday, I want to share the major findings – while minimizing my own labor this weekend. In that spirit, I am passing along several excerpts from the COWS press release.
On the plus side of the ledger, the report describes the positive effects in Wisconsin of the national economy’s gradual rebound from the Great Recession:
“The state has more jobs than ever before, unemployment rates have fallen to pre-recession levels, and workers that want full-time work are having an easier time finding it.
Wisconsin’s middle class, while still one of the largest in the country, is shrinking. Most of the loss has occurred as people fell out of the middle class to the lower income tier, rather than climbing into the upper tier.
In Wisconsin, 62.5% of residents were in the middle class in 2000, the second largest share of any state, according to a new report from Pew Research Center. By 2014, Wisconsin’s middle class had shrunk to 57.2% of residents and Wisconsin’s rank for the size of our middle class had dropped to 4th.
Wisconsin needs a strong middle class in order to thrive economically. Businesses need a large middle class, bolstered by broad-based income growth, to generate customers. The middle class is at the heart of Wisconsin’s workforce, and decisions made by the middle class drive public investments in Wisconsin’s schools and communities. Pew defines the middle class this way: “Middle-income Americans are adults whose size-adjusted household income is two-thirds to double the national median size-adjusted household income.”
The fact that Wisconsin’s middle class is shrinking is a problem, one that we share with nearly all the other states. Read more
Wisconsin residents strongly favor raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations to reduce income inequality, a new poll shows. But instead of raising taxes on these groups, Wisconsin lawmakers have taken steps to give significant tax breaks to taxpayers with high incomes and corporations.
Two-thirds (66%) of survey respondents support raising taxes on the rich and big businesses, according to the spring 2016 Wisconsin Survey conducted by the Strategic Research Institute at St. Norbert College. Another 28% of respondents did not support raising taxes, and seven percent weren’t sure.
The poll results show that Wisconsin residents are alarmed about growing levels of income inequality and the widening chasm between the highest earners and everyone else. Wisconsin residents are right to be concerned. The share of income in Wisconsin going to the top 1% has reached its highest level ever, exceeding even levels reached prior to the Great Depression, and has more than doubled over the last 40 years. Read more
An Increased EITC for Childless Adults Would Reduce Poverty and Enjoys Bipartisan Support
Income inequality has been on the minds of many voters during the presidential primaries. If you think it’s only a concern of Democrats, take a look at the results of the most recent “Wisconsin Survey” – a St. Norbert’s poll conducted for Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. The survey last week of 616 registered Wisconsin voters found that 66% favor “increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations in order to help reduce income inequality in the U.S.,” compared to only 28% who said they were opposed.
There are lots of different ways to adjust taxes (and labor policy) to reduce income inequality. Unfortunately, most of those – such as closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing the minimum wage – have little chance in Congress right now. But one promising policy option that does have a chance is to provide a significant increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for adults who don’t have dependent children. Read more
National attention has turned to Wisconsin because our presidential primary on April 5th is the only one in the next week. It’s also a significant primary because the percentage turnout is likely to be higher than in any other state since the New Hampshire primary.
For reporters and others who are trying to understand some of the demographic, economic and political context for the April 5th election, we’ve pulled together a variety of facts about Wisconsin and how it compares to other states. Here are a few highlights from that data: Read more
Happy Pi Day! Today’s date is 3-14, a close approximation of the pi value of 3.141592…
The best way to celebrate Pi Day is – news flash! – to eat some pie.
The second best way of observing Pi Day is to enjoy some delicious pie charts. Sure, pie charts don’t go nearly as well with ice cream as the real thing, but they’re still enjoyable.
Here are five pie charts that tell the story of poverty and economic hardship in Wisconsin, and how the share of the pie that goes to the middle class is shrinking.
Pie Chart #1: Highest earners capture nearly all of the income growth in Wisconsin
Wisconsin families and businesses can’t thrive when income growth is nearly non-existent for everyone except for those at the very top. The share of income in Wisconsin going to the top 1% is at its highest level ever, widening the chasm between the very highest earners and everyone else, and posing a hardship for Wisconsin’s families, communities, and businesses. Read more
Proposed Changes Will Hurt the Elderly, Blind and Disabled, while Corporate Fraud Goes Unpunished
The Wisconsin Senate moved a step closer last week to passing a bill that has been described as combatting fraud or abuse in the FoodShare program, but which will do little, if anything, in that regard. In contrast to the progress of that legislation, as each day passes it looks less likely that the Senate will approve a bipartisan bill (AB 669) that could accomplish a great deal to halt benefit fraud by businesses.
AB 669, which was approved by a voice vote in the Assembly, would make it a felony to fraudulently obtain an economic development benefit from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). It would also allow WEDC to bring a civil action to recover damages for fraudulently obtained benefits. Although the lead Assembly author of the bill is a Republican (Rep. Kerkman), and it enjoyed broad support in the Assembly, AB 669 hasn’t even been given a public hearing in the Senate. Read more
Only Six States Had a Larger Decline from 2002 to 2013
State and local governments have been neglecting to make investments in infrastructure according to a new analysis issued this week. The new study found that state and local spending on infrastructure, such as transportation, public buildings, and water systems, fell to a 30-year low in 2014, when measured relative to gross domestic product (see Figure 1). The drop-off since 2000 has been especially pronounced in Wisconsin. Read more