What Media Need To Know About Mike Pence’s Economic Record

Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) will face off on October 4 in a debate at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. As media outlets prepare for the only vice presidential debate of the 2016 election, they should have all facts about how Indiana really fared during Pence’s governorship.

Trump Boasted About Pence’s Supposed Economic Successes In Indiana

Trump Has Touted Indiana’s “Very Unusual” Economic Growth, Job Creation Under Pence. When announcing Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate during a July 16 event in New York, Republican nominee Donald Trump falsely claimed that Indiana had witnessed “very unusual” economic gains compared to other states during Pence’s tenure. The right-wing editorial board of The Wall Street Journal parroted Trump’s misleading characterization days later, heaping praise on the governor’s conservative policies as something “the rest of the country could emulate.” [The Washington Post, 7/16/16; The Wall Street Journal, 7/20/16]

But Media Have Widely Reported On Pence’s Lackluster Results In Indiana

Indiana Workers

Indiana Incomes Are “Mired Near The Bottom Nationally.” In March, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported that a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis had ranked Indiana 38th in per capita income for the third year in a row despite the state’s steadily improving job market. Andrew Bradley, senior policy analyst at the Indiana Institute for Working Families, told the paper that while the state has seen unemployment go down, “it hasn't made any significant improvement in personal income”:

The state's per capita income was $40,998 last year, which was 38th in the United States. The average Hoosier makes just 86 percent of the national average salary of $47,669.

Indiana has been 38th in the nation for three straight years, and that's the same rank it had in 2005. Neighboring Illinois, meanwhile, has an average per capita income of $49,471, which is 16th in the nation and higher than the national average.

“Even though Indiana unemployment is lower than the national level, it hasn't made any significant improvement in personal income,” said Andrew Bradley, senior policy analyst for Indiana Institute for Working Families. [The Times of Northwest Indiana, 3/26/16]

Pence Signed Law Capping Indiana Minimum Wage, Employee Benefits. In 2013, Pence mustered Republican opposition in the state’s General Assembly to a proposal that would have increased Indiana’s minimum wage to $8.25 per hour. According to The Times of Northwest Indiana, Pence had previously signed legislation “prohibit[ing] local governments from requiring businesses [to] pay a higher minimum wage, or offer any working condition or benefit, such as paid sick leave, if it's not mandated by state or federal law.” On May 6, 2015, Pence continued his campaign against living wages by repealing a law guaranteeing that “prevailing wages” be paid to workers on publicly funded construction projects. [The Times of Northwest Indiana, 11/12/13, 5/6/15]

Pence Defended State's Union-Busting “Right-To-Work” Laws. Indiana set off a cascade of union-busting legislation from Republican statehouses in the Midwest on February 1, 2012, when it became the first state in more than a decade, and 23rd state overall, to enact a so-called “right-to-work” law, which bars union contracts from requiring that non-union members pay representation feeds. Judges struck down the law, but Pence appealed the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court, stating unequivocally that “Indiana is a right-to-work state,” and he won a unanimous decision upholding the law in November 2014. Pence’s support for legislative crackdowns on worker rights and collective bargaining date back to at least 2003, when the then-congressman was an initial co-sponsor of the National Right-to-Work Act. In June 2016, Pence promoted his state’s experience with the law while praising Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole in union-heavy West Virginia. Conservative media outlets have intensely promoted “right-to-work” laws since the issue re-emerged on the national stage in 2012 as a means of boosting wages and economic activity, but research by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has consistently shown that the supposed gains never actually materialize. [AFL-CIO, 1/19/12; The New York Times, 2/1/12; Media Matters, 12/12/12; The Times of Northwest Indiana, 7/25/14, 8/22/14; The Indianapolis Star, 11/6/14; Courthouse News Service, 11/10/14; Economic Policy Institute, 4/22/15; The Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/12/16; Chicago Tribune, 5/24/16; Charleston Gazette-Mail, 7/6/16; Congress.gov, accessed 9/30/16]

Job Growth

Indiana Job Growth Closely Mirrors The National Economy. After Trump announced his running mate and stated that the “primary reason” for his choice was the improving unemployment rate in Indiana, media quickly pointed out that the state’s improvement actually just follows the national trend, which has been steadily upward since 2010. According to Politico, “the drop in Indiana’s unemployment almost perfectly mirrors the national trend.” The Associated Press (AP) also reported that the state’s unemployment rate “largely paralleled the national mark.” The trend so closely reflected the U.S. economy overall that MSNBC’s Steve Benen argued on July 19 that if Pence did a “great job producing economic results, by Trump’s own reasoning, it’s hard not to consider Obama an amazing success.” The parallel unemployment trends of Indiana, neighboring Ohio, and the U.S. average can be seen in a chart compiled by The Wall Street Journal:

[Media Matters, 7/20/16. 7/21/16; The Associated Press, 7/21/16, 7/20/16; Politico Magazine, 7/19/16; MSNBC, MaddowBlog, 7/19/16; The Wall Street Journal, 7/16/16]

Tax And Budget Policy

Pence Signed Tax Cuts For Corporations, High-Income Individuals That Already Failed In Other Red States. Pence followed the lead of other Republican governors around the country in March 2014 by passing a package of supply-side corporate and income tax cuts that he claimed would increase business activity and economic growth in the state. Similar trickle-down economic models “collapsed” after being implemented by Republican Govs. Sam Brownback (Kansas) and Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) and failed to produce discernible results for Gov. John Kasich in Ohio. As was the case in Ohio and elsewhere, Pence’s tax cuts effectively redistributed the state’s tax burden onto local governments that were stripped of nearly $1 billion in annual revenue. An additional manufacturing tax cut pushed by the governor in 2015 was projected to cost the state between $35 million and $240 million annually. [The Associated Press, 3/25/14; The Indianapolis Star, 3/25/14, 2/3/15; New York, 3/18/16; Media Matters, 3/15/16, 7/1/16]

Pence’s Tax Cuts Amount To Spare Change For The Middle Class. The Associated Press (AP) pushed back on Trump’s statement that “Governor Pence enacted the largest income tax cut in the state’s history” on July 20, noting that the statement was factually wrong -- Pence’s predecessor, Gov. Mitch Daniels, cut taxes by a larger amount than Pence, and Pence’s tax cuts provided little relief for the middle class. According to the AP, Pence’s tax cuts amounted to a mere $85 per year for someone making $50,000 annually, and starting next January taxpayers in that income range will only save about $3.50 a month. [Media Matters, 7/21/16; The Associated Press, 7/20/16]

Health Care

Pence’s “War On Planned Parenthood” Inadvertently Set Off An “Exploding HIV Outbreak” In Indiana. Pence has been accused of politicizing Indiana’s health budget, with disastrous consequences for low-income residents of the state. According to a June 6, 2015, exposé in the Chicago Tribune about the opioid crisis crippling many e Indiana towns, Pence’s “war on Planned Parenthood” inadvertently created an “exploding HIV outbreak” in his state by shutting down access to the only HIV testing centers available to many residents. Indiana Republicans cut funding for Planned Parenthood ostensibly to reduce the number of safe and legal abortions in the state, but doing so lead to an HIV outbreak among intravenous drug users and their sexual partners,which forced the state to eventually provide emergency funding for needle exchange programs at considerable cost. [Chicago Tribune, 6/6/15; The Huffington Post, 3/31/15]

Pence Is A Longtime Obamacare Opponent, But He Took Medicaid Expansion Money To Shore Up His State’s Budget. During his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pence voted multiple times to defund and repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” telling The Hill after Republicans took control of the House in 2011 that he intended to repeal the law that expanded health insurance coverage to millions of Americans “lock, stock and barrel.” According to Politico, Pence compared the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold key provisions of the law to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans during a meeting on June 28, 2012. According to research compiled by The Washington Post, Pence voted for at least 25 pieces of legislation and up to 10 additional amendments aimed at repealing all or part of the health care reform law, including provisions like “death panels” that never actually existed. Like Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Mike Pence is both an outspoken critic of and a recipient of federal funding through the law’s expansion of Medicaid, which he formally accepted on behalf of the state of Indiana on January 27, 2015. [The Hill, 1/19/11; Politico, 6/28/12, 1/27/15; The Washington Post, 3/21/14; MSNBC, 1/27/15]

LGBT Discrimination

Pence’s Attack On The LGBT Community Set Off A “$250 Million Economic Panic.”

After Pence signed into law Indiana’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that could potentially permit discrimination against LGBT Americans based on their sexual orientation or identity, the Center For American Progress (CAP) compiled the economic damage the law had created when businesses began pulling investments out of the state. CAP found potential economic losses could amount to $256.4 million. One major company that announced it was not expanding in Indiana was Angie’s List, headed by longtime Republican and former Pence donor Bill Oesterle. CAP found Angie’s List’s decision alone was going “to cost the state $40 million and 1,000 jobs.” Reaction to the news was harsh, with the chair of the Indiana Democratic Party telling The Advocate that the law has created a “$250 million economic panic" for Indiana. [The Washington Post, 3/30/15; The Advocate, 7/10/15; Center For American Progress, 5/31/15]