TERRE HAUTE —
The American economy is improving.
Confidence has risen since the government shutdown by the polarized Congress last fall. Indicators in various sectors show promise.
Thus, more good-paying jobs and a higher standard of living will follow, even in the high-unemployment Wabash Valley, right? Kids growing up here today can rise above their family’s situation and fare better, right?
The answers can be “yes” … if folks here beat the odds, and if their communities take a long, hard look at the way their residents live.
The recovery from the Great Recession has primarily bypassed middle-class and lower-income Americans, especially residents of the Valley, where incomes are just 70 percent of the national average. The wealthiest 1 percent now receive 20 percent of U.S. income earnings, up from 10 percent in 1980. Most people — Republicans, Democrats and independents in similar numbers — believe the “income inequality” gap has grown in the past decade, according to a USA Today-Pew Research Center poll.
So, there’s that.
Members of the younger generation have a chance to climb out of tough economic circumstances. A chance.
Based on income statistics dating back to the 1970s, an American kid born into a household in the bottom fifth of the annual earnings ladder holds an 8 percent chance of eventually living in the top fifth, according to a new study by Equality of Opportunity, a national team of economists. In Terre Haute, the bottom-to-the-top odds stand at 7.6 percent. Ironically, the researchers found the country’s relatively rigid mobility hasn’t changed much in 20 years. The picture is disheartening. Similar research, by the Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project, shows kids born into the bottom-fifth income level never reach middle-class, and 43 percent never leave the lower tier.
Neither income inequality or mobility will inspire as much Facebook and coffeeshop banter as virtually unresolvable social issues, but affect more lives more often, day after day, year after year.
The nagging question lingers — how do we create a better path for a kid to rise out of poverty or a working-like-a-demon-just-to-get-by lifestyle? The answer may seem old-school. The Equality of Opportunity researchers, including award-winning economists from Harvard, MIT and Michigan State, found a handful of key factors that eased upward income mobility.
People rose to higher earning levels more often in cities where lower-income families lived among middle-class neighbors — meaning, less economically segregated neighborhoods. Mobility also increased in communities with more two-parent households, stronger K-12 schools, and greater civic engagement such as belonging to a religious group or local organization.
Look around Terre Haute and the Valley. Who lives in the various neighborhoods? How often do families break apart here? Are the schools well-resourced and well-functioning? Are houses of worship well-attended each week, and are the members walking the walk of their faiths in service to others around the community? Do enough volunteers show up to clean up pollution and litter, get meals to the elderly, or mentor a needy youngster?
The Wabash Valley’s economy, jobless rate (above the state and nation) and income levels were on the mind of Joe Donnelly, as Indiana’s Democratic U.S. senator visited Terre Haute last week. “As I look at the state, obviously one of the areas we have a great passion to get the [unemployment] numbers down even more is the Valley here,” Donnelly told the Tribune-Star editorial board on Tuesday.
He’s familiar with toughest-in-the-state circumstances. In the depth of the recession, Elkhart and Howard counties — areas in the congressional district Donnelly previously represented as a U.S. House member before winning election to the Senate in 2012 — suffered through jobless rates near and above 20 percent. The successful bailout of General Motors and Chrysler has since revived those places, but the memory lingers.
“This is something that’s burned into my soul, that a family works best when mom and dad have a job, and have a chance to take care of the family,” Donnelly said. “So everything flows from the chance to go to work — personal dignity, the desire to get up and go get ’em and have a place to go to work every day and take care of your family. So great things flow out of job opportunities. And we want to see more of them here.”
The refreshingly centrist congressman discussed the virtues of the America Works Act, which he began pushing as a House member and is continuing to push in the Senate, joined by fellow senators Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, and Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat. It would modify existing federal job training efforts by targeting funds first to those most demanded by industry. That could help close Indiana’s “skills gap” in which jobs go unfilled because available workers lack the needed skills.
Education matters. As the skills gap closes, the income inequality gap does, too, and upward mobility eases.
That’s a huge part of the equation, but still, only part of it. Some other big steps in improving the odds of local children someday living a better life must be taken by Hauteans right here in Terre Haute.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or email@example.com.
Rise from poverty tough, but effort begins with a community
TERRE HAUTE —
The American economy is improving.
Feeling carried: Filmmaker captures late uncle’s walk through illness and into ‘whatever is next’
Paul Fleschner sensed a remarkable strength as he filmed his beloved uncle one final time.
EDITORIAL: Dysfunctional relationship with schools chief doesn’t bode well for potential Pence presidency
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Readers’ Forum: July 13, 2014
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• Larger energy bills on the way, thanks to EPA
• Embrace the compassion, not self-righteousness
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I recently signed on as an original co-sponsor to a bipartisan bill led by one of my Democrat colleagues from West Virginia that would stop the newly released Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on existing coal-generated power plants.
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People are dying, again, in Iraq. And, again, people other than Iraqis will ultimately make the decision about what happens to this ancient land.
Editorial: The Bennett ‘settlement’
It takes a special kind of arrogance to flout ethics laws in the manner which former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has violated them. Even when he finally admitted his transgressions, he claimed he could have avoided the matter altogether had he just changed the department’s ethics policy before engaging in the troublesome conduct.
In essence, this was the old “mistakes were made” acknowledgment of wrongdoing. And the real mistake to which Bennett admits was apparently not changing the rules before he violated them. This is a truly Nixonian moment.
- Readers’ Forum: July 11, 2014
RONN MOTT: That Old Man River
I was surprised to learn the people in Cairo are now taking water taxis to avoid the traffic, the confusion and the dangers that are appearing on Cairo, Egypt’s, streets. I mean, I was surprised the people in Cairo, these native Egyptians, were surprised they could take a water taxi and get to where they wanted to go using the Nile River as a highway. So, for the Egyptians living in Cairo, everything old is brand new again.
EDITORIAL: A green idea worth pursuing
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READERS' FORUM: July 10, 2014
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• Thanks for stirring fireworks show
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Readers’ Forum: July 9, 2014
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RONN MOTT: Black Dog
We had some excitement around our house the other day and it was not the good kind.
There was a small dog, black in color with a spiked collar on his neck, and he was the spitting image of a small Doberman. I don’t know if they have miniature Dobermans but this dog could have been a mixed breed that came out looking like a Doberman although smaller.
Readers’ Forum: July 8, 2014
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MS. TAKES: Great music is made during all generations
Number Two son tells us that his 20-year-old son has been listening to “Big Band” music with apparent enjoyment. As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, I was talking with a young girl, barely out of her teens and she told us that she really wasn’t into rap. She said, “It isn’t really music, it’s just talk.”
Readers’ Forum: July 7, 2014
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Obscured by the recent rift over use of departmental funds in the city of Terre Haute’s budget are serious issues related to our city government’s overall financial health. The answers may be mired in the complexity of municipal finance, but coming to grips with the situation is important to the city’s future.
Readers’ Forum: July 6, 2014
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• Do those mustache posters exist?
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• This preaching must stop — now
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Flashpoint: State’s lawyer has duty to represent state in marriage lawsuit appeal
Recent federal court actions that first struck down Indiana’s statute limiting marriage to the traditional definition, and then stayed that order pending appeal, have left many in our state in legal limbo. As the attorney who represents state government and defends its laws, I know this difficult case stirs many people’s deeply held beliefs that touch their lives in very personal ways. Not since my office had to represent the state in lawsuits arising from the State Fair disaster has a dispute been so seemingly impossible to address in a way that the public would accept as being fair to all concerned.
Flashpoint: The Supreme Court decision and ‘closely held’ corporations
The much awaited Supreme Court decision in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby came down this week. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the 1993 Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) does cover “closely held” corporations, even if those corporations are for profit.
RONN MOTT: Learning more about Jefferson
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EDITORIAL: Celebrate your independence
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As eloquent and declaratory as that statement is, implementing its principles has been a decades-long pursuit for these United States of America. Our nation, it seems, is the quintessential work in progress, even though what this country has created in terms of a stable, collective society is, let’s face it, pretty darn good.
- Readers’ Forum: July 4, 2014
RONN MOTT: The Men Who Made the Country
The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. It reminds me of something David Ben-Gurion would say, at a much later date, about British rule: “If you have to have a master, the British are about as good at it as anybody.” Of course, we really don’t need a master.
GREG ZOELLER: State’s lawyer has duty to represent state in marriage lawsuit appeal
Recent federal court actions that first struck down Indiana’s statute limiting marriage to the traditional definition, and then stayed that order pending appeal, have left many in our state in legal limbo.
Readers’ Forum: July 3, 2014
• Over the top on immigration
FLASHPOINT: HIP 2.0 gives consumers better choices
On Wednesday, the State of Indiana submitted its proposal for the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
MIKE PENCE: HIP 2.0 gives consumers better choices
Today, the state of Indiana submitted its proposal for the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
If approved, the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 would replace traditional Medicaid for low-income, able-bodied Hoosier adults. Unlike traditional Medicaid, which is government-driven, HIP 2.0 is consumer-driven.
Editorial: Texting law serves safety
July 1 each year marks the day in Indiana when new laws take effect. But rather than focus on new laws today, let’s observe the anniversary of a law that went on the books three years ago this month — the law that barred texting while driving.
- Readers’ Forum: July 2, 2014
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