Chasing service jobs won't save midsize cities. Education and manufacturing innovation can.

Iowa native Austin Frerick is an economist who has worked at the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Congressional Research Service. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of hearing about the death of every Iowa community that isn’t home to a Starbucks.

The Register published an in-depth story recently on the economic decline of Iowa’s midsize cities. The economic picture is bleak. Iowa’s midsize cities are the poorest parts of the state by most metrics.

In the article, two Iowa State University researchers argued that these communities should seek to lure “professional services jobs in health care and education and attracting lawyers, accountants and architects” instead of pushing for more jobs in manufacturing, which they call a “race to the bottom.”

I strongly disagree.

Fort Dodge, Keokuk and the 15 other midsize cities can thrive with both manufacturing and professional service jobs. Moreover, there is a real opportunity to bring back the type of well-paying manufacturing jobs that will allow these towns to once again thrive.

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The human cost of Big Pharma's greed: Overcharging the Hepatitis C cure

Did you know drug companies exploit charities to increase their profits? Neither did I before reading this piece by Austin Frerick. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Susan, a 52-year-old mother of two from Indianola, thought she had landed the perfect job. She would be sitting behind a desk in Des Moines after years of working on her feet in retail and even got new benefits like the day off on Christmas Eve. But her excitement ended when her life insurance application was denied because she had Hepatitis C.

Susan is one of 3.5 million Americans living with chronic Hepatitis C, nearly 80 percent of whom are “baby boomers” (born between 1945 and 1965). Susan, like most other baby boomers, was likely infected during a blood transfusion before hospitals screened blood for the virus. The infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer. Many other baby boomers in Iowa only recently discovered that they were infected, either through a routine physical or when they started showing symptoms. A new report by the state Department of Public Health found that reported cases in Iowa have increased by nearly 200 percent since 2000.

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Why Iowans need job-protected paid leave

Austin Frerick, an Iowa native and economist who has worked at the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Congressional Research Service, makes the case for job-protected paid leave. You can read his past writing at Bleeding Heartland here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Kristen Corey of Ankeny remembers the moment clearly. The moment she realized that things were different for women in the working world than for men.

Twenty-five and newly married, she just started a new job and asked her human resource professional about the company’s maternity policy. The HR person looked at her and with a short laugh answered, “Well, you just use your accrued sick and vacation time.” Kristen responded, but “what if I get pregnant in the next few months?”

To that the HR person quipped, “Don’t get pregnant.”

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Failing Iowa’s Children: The shortcomings of welfare reform and the path forward

Austin Frerick, an Iowa native and economist who has worked at the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Congressional Research Service, examines state assistance to poor children 20 years after federal welfare reform. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Nine-year-old Kaylie moved into a cheap motel after her mother got evicted. They have no refrigerator. Kaylie retrieves ice from the ice machine and fills the sink with it to keep the milk cold. When they have milk. Kaylie is just one of the approximately 110,000 Iowa children living in poverty, up 44 percent since 2000. Frontline profiled Kaylie and several other poor Iowa children in the acclaimed episode “Poor Kids.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of President Clinton’s Welfare Reform. Prior to the reform, any poor mother and child in this country received a monthly subsistence check. This law changed that. It destroyed that safety net. It removed this promise and left states free to almost eliminate welfare. Politicians promised innovation by devolving power to states on the premise that they would come up with new ways address poverty but that never happened (Iowa’s last innovation meeting occurred in 1996). They promised it would get poor mothers back to work, but the programs proved ineffective (Iowa allocates less than 6% of funding to job assistance).

Most welfare dollars don’t even go directly to poor children anymore. Most states, including Iowa, use this money to supplement funding elsewhere. Twenty years later, there are now more poor kids receiving less support. We have let the bottom fall even further for our most vulnerable.

Iowa should abandon its current failed welfare system and instead enact a Social Security program for all of its children. This idea builds on the simple notion that parents know what is best for their children, and it would remove layers of ineffective bureaucracy.

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Disheartened in the Heartland: Iowa’s Disinvestment in Higher Education (UPDATE)

Austin Frerick, an Iowa native and economist who has worked at the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Congressional Research Service, follows up on the trend of Iowa state universities becoming “increasingly dependent on higher tuition and student fees to make up for the declining state support.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

The Iowa Board of Regents recently approved another budget that does nothing to stem the privatization of higher education in Iowa. State appropriations in fiscal year 2017 for the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa is still LESS than it was in 2001, down 32 percent when you adjust for inflation. And while investment falls, tuition and student debt continues to soar to record highs.

I updated the figures from a previous post on the subject and the trend lines have only intensified.

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Big Meat, Small Towns: The Free Market Rationale for Raising Iowa’s Minimum Wage

Austin Frerick, an Iowa native and economist who has worked at the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Congressional Research Service, makes a distinctive case for raising the minimum wage, last increased in Iowa in January 2007. -promoted by desmoinesdem

All of the states that border Iowa, except one, have raised their minimum wage above the federal level. In fact, a majority of states in the union have a higher one. A recent study estimated that 413,000 Iowa workers would benefit from a wage increase to at least $12 and most of the benefits would accrue to full-time adult women. The public also already decidedly supports this action as a recent Des Moines Register poll found that nearly two-thirds of Iowans favored raising it. This debate is especially relevant for Iowans employed in the numerous slaughterhouses that dot the state.

Company towns, once a relic of America’s industrial past, have reemerged in American society, notably in rural Iowa slaughterhouse communities. This occurred because of a market climate that made their monopsony position in these communities attractive to firms. This predicament causes a market failure. Therefore, raising Iowa’s minimum wage will correct this market distortion for these especially vulnerable Iowans.

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