Monday, February 1, 2016

Legislators: focus on reality, not fantasy

Posted By on Mon, Feb 1, 2016 at 9:38 AM

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The Circus is entertaining once more at the Statehouse. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of all Ages, the Indiana General Assembly is in session.

Once again, you can see the stars of the show attempt to make daring public policy, swallow the fire of tax increases, and walk the tightrope of discrimination. Off to the side are the brave few battling the beasts of Ignorance, Indifference, and Stupidity.

Let’s resist the temptation to shine a light where so much darkness dwells. Instead, we retreat to the Garden of Data where, despite some weeds, the air is clean and invigorating.

Imagine if our legislature stopped for a moment to sniff this delicate statistic from the American Community Survey (ACS) of 2014: About a third of all Hoosiers work outside their county of residence.

That’s a higher proportion than found in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois or Wisconsin. It isn’t as great as Virginia, where nearly 52 percent of workers cross county lines to work. Nor is it as low as Hawaii, where 0.8 percent cross watery county boundaries.

What are the implications of commuting across county lines for our transportation systems, for shopping and for equitable taxation of sales and income? These are subjects worthy of legislative consideration.

In another part of the garden are dazzling data points. Look there, 6.2 million Americans work at home, just 4.4 percent of those holding jobs. Indiana has 96,000 persons working at home or 3.3 percent of job holders.

Women in Indiana work at home more than men (3.5 percent compared to 3.1 percent). Also, working at home rises with age. Among Hoosiers 20 to 24 years, only 2.1 percent work at home. By ages 55 to 59, it’s 3.8 percent and rises in the early 60s to 4.4 percent, reaching 6.7 percent among those 65 years and older.

Is working at home a good deal for workers and employers? Or is it just another means for bosses to cut wages and reduce other costs while placing new stress on workers?

Working at home is nothing new, although it has several new names: telecommuting, distributed work, mobile work, remote work, smart working, and work-shifting.

In the past, many piece-work jobs were performed at home evading any regulation of working conditions. Nowadays, working at home is considered a benefit for the employee, granting status and comfort, enabling multiple family interactions while granting superior access to the refrigerator.

Work at home is growing in the for-profit and not-for profit sectors, and in all levels of government. Some studies report major improvements in productivity, while others suggest that productivity is impaired by separation from the formal work-site.

What does this trend mean for Indiana’s urban areas and their transit systems? Does the lack of high-speed internet in rural areas discourage telecommuting and deny good paying jobs for Hoosiers?

Yet, we understand. It is hard for our legislative circus performers to stop thinking about guns for their assistants and focus on the real world.

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About The Author

Morton Marcus

Morton Marcus

Mr. Marcus is an economist, writer, and speaker who may be reached at

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