Bad news week for Florida’s middle class … and the GOP?

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Unless your annual income ranks near the top one percent in Florida, the economic news coming out of two major new reports is not good.

On Wednesday, the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute released “The Increasingly Unequal States of America”, with a dedicated section called “Lopsided income Growth in Florida“.

Key takeaways include:

  • From 1979 – 2011 average income of the top one percent rose 116.2 percent, while incomes of the other 99 percent dropped by 7.5 percent.
  • The top one percent enjoyed nearly 70 percent of all income growth over that 32-year span
  • That trend resulted in one-percenter incomes being 32 times the size of 99-percenters.

Even as the Great Recession eased in recent years, 99-percenter average incomes continued falling, while one-percenters’ were on the rapid rise once again.

And because there’s no personal income tax or estate tax in Florida, the state and its 99-percenters have had a very hard time deriving any demonstrable benefit from that explosion and concentration of income and wealth in the one percent.

Combine that with a minimal, often-evaded corporate tax and it becomes easier to understand just how dependent the state is on sales taxes paid by 99-percenters; and why middle-class disposable income and its capacity to fuel economic growth has been so diminished.

The broader impact of economic and tax policies that benefit the one percent and hurt the 99 percent is comprehensively detailed in “Tougher Choices: Shaping Florida’s Future“, the study released Thursday by the nonpartisan Leroy Collins Institute based at Florida State University.

The wide-ranging 120-page report paints a very different picture of the state of the state of Florida than the one that Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican legislators are painting as they seek reelection this year. Rather than a Sunshine State that under their stewardship is flourishing, the report finds:

  • In K-12 education, funding per student and teacher salaries in Florida lag not just the U.S., but also the south as well. Among states, Florida’s real teacher salaries declined at the 4th fastest rate…
  • Funding for higher education has fallen even further behind the rest of the nation…Florida was last in the nation in the sum of state funding and net tuition per FTE for the 2011-2012 school year.
  • Compared to the rest of the nation, Florida has relatively fewer high-skill high-wage jobs and relatively more low-skill low-wage jobs…Further, this disparity between Florida and the nation has been growing…
  • Congestion in Florida’s major urban areas is among the worst in the nation.
  • New high-skill jobs go…where investments in K-12 and higher education are world class, both to tap into the talent pool and because the workers want good schools for their children. They go where infrastructure is configured to support mobility in dense, dynamic, urban centers.”

Given the credit Gov. Scott and other 2014 Republican candidates are taking for job creation, education improvements and economic growth, it will be interesting to see the extent to which Democratic candidates – and voters of all persuasions – use the substantiated facts in these reports to challenge them.