Tag Archives: Indiana

Look Who’s Taxing the Rich!

If today’s GOP has one unshakable article of faith, it is that taxing the rich retards economic growth; that even the most modest tax increase will dissuade the “makers” from, well, making –hiring, expanding, or working harder.

So–how to explain why the Indiana General Assembly, which is lopsidedly and unequivocally Republican, piles taxes on the state’s rich counties and redistributes that money to the poor ones?

As a friend of mine whose research is focused upon the Indiana economy recently noted, Indiana heavily taxes its “rich” metropolitan counties–Marion County prominently among them–for the benefit of rural counties with dramatically dwindling populations. A study by the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute found that the 10 counties that make up the Indianapolis metropolitan area were major donors to rural Indiana;  residents here paid 33.5 percent, or $4.6 billion, of total state taxes and received 28 percent, or $3.8 billion, back.

I guess a welfare state is in the eye of the beholder. The (rural) home counties of so many state lawmakers couldn’t explain this very un-Republican impulse for redistribution…could it? Surely this deviation from such a core belief–or the “core belief” itself–couldn’t be based upon self-interest.

Ah, irony. Thy name is Indiana.

 

 

 

Greg Zoeller, Mike Pence, Micah Clark and the Dustbin of History

Well–yesterday certainly was a DAY in Indiana!

Federal Judge Richard Young–no wild-eyed ‘librul’– issued a beautifully-crafted, soundly-sourced opinion invalidating Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriages. As a (recovering) lawyer, I read the entire decision with appreciation for its logic and application of precedent; it was extremely well-written, without more than occasional resort to the “legalese” that jurists so often employ.

As quotable as much of the 36-page opinion is, however, my favorite paragraph is this:

“In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions–laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. It is clear the the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love. In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as marriage–not a same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.

At virtually the same time as Judge Young handed down his ruling, the 10th district Court of Appeals was upholding lower court decisions invalidating Oklahoma and Utah bans.

It’s over. I know that is a bitter pill for our elected homophobes to swallow, let alone the folks whose fundraising depends upon demonizing gay folks, but it could hardly have come as a surprise. The handwriting has been on all the walls for several years now.

It’s past time for Greg Zoeller to stop spending Hoosier dollars defending discrimination. His determination to appeal a decision that mirrors every other decision the courts have handed down is an exercise in futility, a waste of time and money, but of course, he and Pence and the other Professional Christians can’t help themselves.

They refuse to understand that they already live in the dustbin of history.

Gambling on Gambling Was Always a Bad Bet

The Indianapolis Business Journal recently reported that the state’s gaming revenues are declining.

The money the state collects from casino taxes has dropped from a peak of nearly $876 million in 2009 to about $752 million in fiscal 2013, according to figures from the Indiana Gaming Commission. Indiana’s three casinos near Cincinnati have seen big declines since a downtown casino opened in the Ohio city last year.

In recent years, Indiana’s casino industry has pleaded with state legislators for economic protection from the increasing state competition.

Let’s recap: the Indiana legislature (like those of many other states) lacked the cojones to raise taxes. In the mid-1990s, lawmakers turned to gaming to fill the state’s coffers. Many of us pointed to the irony involved: the same moralists who had passed strict limits on private gambling (it’s sin, you know…) somehow saw nothing wrong when government was promoting that sin.

At the time, I said this was upside down: the government has no business telling people they can’t have a poker night at their club, and it likewise has absolutely no business making money off gambling venues that are effectively a tax on poor people.

The New York Times recently editorialized about a proposal for additional casinos in that state. Their reasons are equally valid here: a wealth of studies show that gambling is a regressive tax that takes its highest toll on those who can least afford it; the experience of states and municipalities that have depended on gambling have not been positive (construction jobs aren’t permanent, and–as we are now seeing in Indiana–competition from other states quickly erodes revenues).

Indiana Senate President David Long says he supports assigning the issue to a summer study committee.

I have no problem with study. But I would have a huge problem with any proposal to “bail out” Indiana’s casinos–and I think most Hoosier taxpayers would agree with me.

 

Back Home in Whose Indiana?

Two articles have come across my laptop screen in the past week that reminded me of the old observation that what you see depends on where you sit.

Morton Marcus’ “Eye on the Pie” column stuck basically to statistics, sharing data that suggests our state is not faring well economically. Private sector jobs remain stubbornly below pre-recession levels, despite growth in population; and although wages are up, they aren’t up enough to have kept pace with inflation, so real wages (buying power) actually declined in all but five metropolitan areas.

The result is that the average Hoosier has $30 less a week than she had six years ago.

The job picture is similarly uneven.  Elkhart-Goshen has lost 8.8% or 10,600 jobs; Michigan City-LaPorte is off 4,400 jobs, or 11.2%.

In the Northwest Indiana Times, Rick James focused on the contrast between Indiana lawmakers’ solicitude for business and our abysmal social safety record.  Indiana is 45th among the states in infant mortality–more babies die here before their first birthday than in 44 other states. Public school teachers have been under relentless attack for deficiencies in our education system, despite the fact that our problems are systemic, complex and frequently exacerbated by clueless ideologues at the statehouse.

As James notes,

“Pence can boast about the business climate. He can also talk about the $2 billion the state has in the bank while babies are dying, roads are crumbling and schools are cutting staff and programs because of lack of funding. That, my friends, is Honest to Goodness Indiana.”

The evidence demonstrates rather forcefully that being a low-tax, “right to work” state has failed to create jobs or contribute to prosperity. To the contrary, our obsession with tax-cutting has degraded the quality of life that–according to research–is what actually attracts new businesses and residents.

Meanwhile, our political spin-doctors continue their “happy talk.”

I don’t know what state the administration flacks who issue those glowing media releases live in, but the rest of us would sure appreciate getting directions to that Indiana.

Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned

Whatever the merits of, or problems with, charter schools, those schools at least are public.  Schools that benefit from the voucher programs so beloved by our Governor and legislators are not, and the public dollars going to such schools are not necessarily being used to educate children.

I have lots of problems with vouchers, many of which are detailed in this article I wrote several years ago. I won’t bore you with the whole list. Read the article if you’re interested. But a warning from voucher opponents that has consistently fallen on deaf ears is that families who would opt for private or parochial schools in any case–families whose children already attend such schools–would be beneficiaries of a windfall. They would take money intended to enable poor kids to opt out of nonperforming public schools.

Evidently, that’s exactly what is happening in Indiana.

Father Jake of St. Jude parish in Fort Wayne, Indiana, indicates that, thanks to the impending influx of tax dollars, the church will soon be getting a repaired air conditioning system, redecorating the church, new paint, and repairs to the church steeple.

The link above the quote will take you to a fairly lengthy post in Education Week Teacher by a woman who listened to Father Jake’s speech. As she also reported (emphasis in the original):

I was appalled when he said that most of the students who are accepting vouchers are already attending St. Jude’s (minute 40:57).  Wasn’t one of the selling points of “opportunity scholarships” to reach out to economically disadvantaged students so that they could attend the private school of their choice?  Weren’t students to qualify for vouchers based on the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Guidelines?

Father Jake says with a chuckle that scholarships must be based on need, but the parish is free to determine what this means (minute 39.47). He says that since the Indiana Supreme Court says that vouchers are constitutionally allowable because the money goes to the tax payer, so the Indiana Choice Scholarship comes essentially with no strings (minute 42:00).  Father Jake goes on to say that he doesn’t see the program going away because the state of Indiana is saving millions of dollars a year by taking $4700  off the top of the funding formula to give to voucher kids rather than spending the $7000 per public school child in the state formulation.  So, the state saves over $2000 per student, but at what cost to our community schools?

Somehow, it doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy to know that Indiana is saving tax dollars by shortchanging children and re-roofing Father Jake’s church.