Morton Marcus: Wages, not just jobs

“Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” bellows State Senator Puffy Stuffy. “Wages, Wages, Wages,” shouts State Representative Roberta Righteous.

“It’s like the Sinatra song, ‘Love and Marriage, you can’t have one without the other,” retorts Stuffy.

“What world do you live in?” asks Righteous. “Indiana has 2.1% of the jobs in the U.S. and 1.7% of the wages. Only two other states have a larger negative difference in those figures. Simply put, Puffy, we’re 48th in the nation.”

“Now, Bobbie, consider who we represent,” Stuffy pleads. “We in the General Assembly protect the Hoosier way of life. I’ve seen the list with California and New York at the top. They make movies and money. We make steel and soybeans.”

“Yeah,” says Righteous.

“Precisely,” says Stuffy. “Manufacturing in Indiana has 76% of the goods-producing jobs in the state. Nationally, that figure is 57%.”

“Right,” says Righteous. “But we must be producing lower quality or less desirable products than they do in other states.”

“How dare you?” Stuffy challenges with stentorian indignation.

“I’m just looking at the 2021 average wages of manufacturing workers in Indiana compared to those nationally,” replies Righteous. “A manufacturing job in Indiana averages $68,886, 10% below the national average of $76,580.”

“But, Bobbie, the cost of living …” Stuffy says before getting cut off.

“Oh, that old bit of hogwash,” laughs Righteous. “You should know by now the cost of living is dominated by the price and rent payments for homes. And those costs are determined by the wages of workers. Low wages, lower housing prices. High wages, higher housing prices. How many times must you hear that?”

“It could work the other way,” he says.

“In your dreams,” she says.

“Well, our state is branching out, diversifying, thinking out of the box,” Stuffy affirms.

“Oh, like tourism as a way of bringing in more visitors to Toad Hop, Gnaw Bone and Birdseye?” asks Righteous. “Are you aware that leisure and hospitality jobs are among the lowest paid jobs in the United States, making about 60% less that the average private sector job?”

“That’s why we need more of them,” Stuffy puffs. “Increase the demand and wages will rise.”

Righteous ignores this and continues, “Puffy, here in Indiana, workers in that sector earn 21.4% less than their counterparts nationally. Want to hear something really funny? That’s better than local government workers (like teachers in our schools) do. They hold jobs that make 21.7% less than local government workers nationally.”

Stuffy makes sounds that cannot be reproduced in print. Then he says, “But remember jobs must precede wages, ‘they go together like a horse and carriage.’”

“Right,” says Righteous. “The horse does the work pulling the owners in the carriage.”

“Commie,” roars Stuffy.

Morton Marcus is an economist. Follow him and John Guy on Who Gets What? wherever podcasts are available or at Send comments to [email protected]