asked police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public employees to make a personal sacrifice: voluntarily forgo their pay increases for 2009.Given the disproportionate distribution of wealth in this country, there is no reason to ask working people to sacrifice until there have been significant efforts at a redistribution of wealth, particularly targeting the wealthiest 1% of the nation.
The request came in the wake of the governor's decision earlier this month to freeze the wages of state workers, including his own, in hopes of reducing a projected $763 million state budget spending gap through June.State workers are struggling already. The Federal Poverty Threshold is $21,200 for a family of four in Indiana. The median family income in Indiana of $47,422 is defined as "low-income" because it is just over 200% of the of the poverty threshold. Many state employees earn significantly less than that. In fact, poverty is widespread in Indiana.
As reported by Suite101.com:
The major cities that have reached critical poverty levels (50% above the state average) are the following:
* Bloomington (29.6%)
* East Chicago (24.4%)
* Gary (25.8%)
* Marion (16.9%)
* Muncie (23.1%)
* South Bend (16.7%)
* Terre Haute (19.2%)
* West Lafayette (38.3%)
In a State administration where a Clerical Assistant 4 grosses $24,437 after many years of working at the State, asking State employees to forego their raises is wrong. In a state with rampant poverty, it is not helpful to resolving the economic crisis to deny State workers raises.
There is no doubt that States are struggling in the face of lowered tax payments due to unemploymnet rates raising, people buying less, and other reasons. Unlike the Federal government, States can't print money. However, States can take some important steps including overturning constitutional or legal requirements for a balanced budget, creating new community initiatives to meet working family's needs such as free community health clinics, three free meals for children in school even when schools are closed for classes, lengthening the time schools stay open so parents don't have to pay for child care, providing ongoing unemployment payments until the economic crisis is over and there is full employment, providing free lifelong education from kindergarden through post-graduate and continuing education, and active lobbying with the Federal administration for funds to support these types of programs that benefit working families.
This is not the time to deny public workers their often desperately needed raises. Restore the raises, stop privatization of State programs, and provide for the needs of working families in Indiana.