All posts by shekenne

Real World Choices

In 1980, I was the Republican candidate running for Congress against Andy Jacobs, Jr..

Andy was an enormously likable and popular guy, who consistently won in a Republican district.  I never failed to make the point that the most important vote he cast was for Speaker of the House. If voters preferred that the GOP (which then included lots of fiscally-conservative, socially moderate, sane folks) control Congress, they needed to cast their votes accordingly.

It wasn’t a very persuasive argument. People like to believe that individual lawmakers (and Presidents, for that matter) can make more of a difference than they really can. And in all fairness, in 1980 there were a lot of officeholders in both parties who worked across the aisle.

That was then. Paul Krugman recently summarized where we are now.

There has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.

Krugman goes on to list the vastly different political priorities of today’s Republicans and Democrats, and to offer some reasons for what he calls the greatest partisan polarization since the Civil War.

My own shorthand–my own “litmus test” is simple: I’ve given up voting for the “best candidate,” or even for the “lesser of two evils.”  I vote for the candidate whose party is currently pandering to the least dangerous special interests.

We know who calls the shots in the party of Mike Pence, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers. Even if a slightly less rabid nominee emerges, he (it is very unlikely to be a she) will owe his soul to the theocrats and plutocrats of the very far right.

That’s damaging enough in Indiana, as we’ve seen. But it’s truly unthinkable at the national level; among other things, the next President is likely to fill several Supreme Court vacancies.

You don’t have to be thrilled with the Democrats, or a fan of Hillary Clinton (to be candid, I’m neither), to understand your real-world options.

 

 

 

Shenanigans and the Proposed Justice Center

The Ballard Administration’s proposal to build a new Justice Center complex across the river from downtown just hasn’t smelled right for a whole host of reasons.

No one seriously doubts the need for such a facility, but critics have raised a host of legitimate concerns about this particular proposal. The excessive secrecy with which bids were solicited and evaluated raised red flags. The decision to use private financing via a lease/purchase when a public bond issue would be significantly cheaper makes no sense. The Council’s fiscal analyst has challenged the accuracy of claims that cost savings would cover lease payments without a need to raise taxes.

It isn’t just fiscal concerns, important as those are. Prior administrations have spent millions of dollars and much political capital building a robust downtown; what will happen to that downtown market if lawyers and other justice system enterprises (from bondsmen to court reporters) no longer work, shop and eat in the center city?

Architects and city planners have panned the design, and criminal justice reform groups have warned that going ahead as currently planned will foreclose needed changes to a dysfunctional system.

The Administration has ignored the critics, shrugged off the concerns and intensified pressure on the Council for a quick approval. That insistence on the need for haste has been unseemly, considering the huge amounts of money involved and the important issues raised, and Councilors on both sides of the aisle have expressed a desire to engage in a far more thorough and public review.

Unseemly, however, wasn’t the word that came to mind when I read the following in the Indiana Lawyer. 

Indianapolis City-County Council Chief Financial Officer Bart Brown said councilors have told him they’ve been offered up to $50 million in projects spread among five districts if they vote to approve the proposed $1.6 billion criminal justice complex.

The Administration has dismissed these allegations as “rumor,” and I certainly have no independent evidence one way or the other. It seems highly  unlikely, however, that five City-County Council members would invent such a story out of whole cloth.

As I wrote last month,

a deal this complex and expensive, intended to span this long a time-frame, needs to be done right. That means it needs to be thoroughly vetted by all stakeholders. I get suspicious when we’re given a short window within which to commit vast amounts of public money, and when the purported need for speed is based upon dark warnings that we need to move quickly in order to “lock in” benefits we aren’t even sure are there. 

I get a lot more suspicious when those lobbying for speed are offering a quid pro quo.

I suspect that someone stands to make a lot of money, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t us taxpayers.

Evidence of Wrongdoing? We Have the Solution!

Of course, it is Texas. Still….

The House Bill 2918 introduced by Texas Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) would make private citizens photographing or recording the police within 25 feet of them a class B misdemeanor, and those who are armed would not be able to stand recording within 100 feet of an officer.

As defined in the bill, only a radio or television that holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, a newspaper that is qualified under section 2051.044 or a magazine that appears at a regular interval would be allowed to record police.

This is exactly the sort of measure for which the Yiddish word “chutzpah” was invented. (For you non-Yiddish-speakers, “chutzpah” has been defined–inadequately–as “gall or nerve.” The standard illustration is a kid who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.)

The ubiquity of cameras has uncovered troubling and evidently none-too-rare incidents of police misconduct, most of which have involved the fatal shootings of unarmed black men. You might think that the appropriate response would be aimed at correcting the problem: better training, psychological testing to weed out the bad apples, etc.

But no.

Since it appears that cameras have made it harder to get away with unconscionable behavior, we should get rid of the cameras. Problem solved.

These people have no moral center. Worse, they have no shame.

 

 

And We Wonder Why People Don’t Vote…

Can you spell Glenda Ritz?

Per the Indianapolis Star,

A bill that would result in the ousting of Glenda Ritz as the chair of the Indiana State Board of Education passed the House on Tuesday, moving a step closer to becoming a law….

The bill, which the House passed by a 56-41 vote, marks the latest blow to Ritz’s authority over education in Indiana.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know whether Ritz is competent or a complete doofus–and it doesn’t matter.  Indiana voters elected her. By a substantial margin. She got significantly more votes than Governor Pence (who, I note in passing, has shown himself to be a complete doofus without engendering legislation stripping him of his position).

Ritz’s election annoyed the arrogant Super Majority in our embarrassing, hyper-partisan and tone-deaf legislature. So they decided to reverse the election results and neuter her–and to symbolically spit on everyone who had voted for her. Because they could.

Let’s see: so far this session, the Governor and legislature have undermined thirty years of civic effort to sell Indiana as a welcoming place to live, turned down federal money that would have benefitted poor preschool children, created a “news bureau” that became a national laughingstock before being ignominiously abandoned, voted against use of the Common Construction wage (ignoring warnings by construction company owners and workers alike that the move will cost Indiana jobs), sent a “FU” message to the EPA….the list goes on.

We can only hope the General Assembly goes home before it can help the Governor do more damage.

Meanwhile, Hoosiers who support teachers, contractors, the environment, civil rights for LGBT folks, a free press and/or that pesky thing called democracy need to figure out how to make our votes count–and stick–in future elections.

 

Subsidizing the Rich

Lawmakers and pundits continue to beat up on poor folks. The latest effort in Indiana is Democrat Terry Goodin’s proposal to drug test welfare recipients–never mind that such efforts elsewhere have been a colossal waste of money, since savings from the minuscule number of abusers haven’t begun to offset the costs of testing everyone getting benefits.

As I noted in an earlier post, it’s all about shaming and humiliating the “takers.”

But here’s what drives me up the wall: we not only don’t shame those who are ripping us off for more money than welfare recipients could ever dream of, we admire them. We accord them (undeserved) respect, because we think they’re smart businesspeople!

Once again, an academic study has documented what we all know: low-wage business enterprises depend upon taxpayers to support their workers and give them an unearned competitive advantage.

U.S. taxpayers pay roughly $153 billion each year to supplement employers who refuse to pay a livable wage, according to report published Monday by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor.

As the Minnesota Post has noted,

The study most likely understates the degree to which taxpayers subsidize low-wage workers. It was limited to the cost of four major public-assistance programs:  medical assistance, food stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable credit to working people with low and moderate incomes.

It did not include the cost of housing assistance, child-care assistance, free school lunches and other programs also available to low income families.

Let’s be clear: there are entrepreneurs and businesspeople who make a lot of money “fair and square.” They don’t offload costs onto taxpayers, either through externalities (dumping pollutants that we must pay to clean up), or paying wages that we must supplement. Those are the good guys, and they’re entitled to enjoy all the benefits their hard work and creativity have generated.

But the so-called “Captains of Industry” who profit at the expense of the public–those whose fat bottom lines depend upon the generosity of taxpayers–are the ones who deserve the scorn that instead gets directed at the single mom who has fallen on hard times, or the factory worker whose job vanished during the last recession.

The real “addicts” are the companies like Walmart and McDonalds whose business models  are dependent upon the drug called other people’s tax dollars.

A lot of us could be successful businesspeople if someone else was paying our employees.