POVERTY ON RISE: Iowa’s economy is in recovery from the Great Recession for many businesses and individuals. But it’s still a spotty rebound. The latest U.S. Census data shows Iowa’s poverty rate is up substantially — from 10 percent in 2000 to 12.7 percent last year. That also includes a sharp rise in the number of the poorest — those who earn less than 50 percent of the poverty level increased from 101,203 to 159,392. That jives with the paltry increase in annual median household income during that period: $73. Creating more better-paying jobs and more training for unskilled workers while maintaining an adequate safety net for basic needs must be the focus going forward.
COST OF VICES: The so-called “sin taxes” — on tobacco, beer, liquor, lottery and gaming — generated $710.6 million in Iowa during fiscal year 2012. That’s a big chunk of money that goes for various state and local programs and worthy causes. Iowa ranks No. 10 nationally in sin tax revenue per capita, at $233. But is this tax revenue really a net gain for Iowa? Consider that direct health care costs from smoking alone are estimated at $1 billion a year, says the American Cancer Society. Those other vices have social costs, too.
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