Today’s Des Moines Register reports that the big push by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz to crack down on voter fraud is proving what he doesn’t want: that it’s not a problem in Iowa.
A full-time criminal investigator is on the job with five guilty pleas to show for it. Kind of makes you wonder why we bother, doesn’t it?
On the other hand, wage theft is a pervasive problem in America and, as we have shown, Iowa is no exception.
Yet Iowa has only one full-time position for enforcement of wage-and-hour rules even though the Iowa Policy Project has shown violations are pervasive and other states do more. Wage theft deprives Iowa workers of an estimated $600 million, when wages are not paid or underpaid, tips are skimmed by employers, and employees are misclassified as “independent contractors” to avoid taxes, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation. It also deprives the state of tax revenue and deprives law-abiding businesses of an even playing field.
Budgets are a statement of values. We focus our finances — in the home and at the State Capitol — on what we think is important. Surely making sure hard-working people are paid what they are owed is on that list.
It defies good budgeting sense to devote a full-time criminal investigator to a phantom issue, particularly when those resources could be put toward sensible budget choices, such as enforcing worker protections. When unscrupulous employers know we’re not even watching them, we effectively encourage the very behavior we don’t want in Iowa.