Tag Archives: Indiana

How Are Hoosiers Really Doing?

Morton Marcus can always be counted on to debunk official happy talk. In a recent column (link not available), he did it again.

Responding to what he characterized as “recent self-congratulatory claims from the State Office for Ooze,” he chose annual data for two decades (from 1994 to 2004 and 2004 to 2014), a time period that allows him to paint a more accurate picture of how Indiana has been doing compared to the nation.

Here are the numbers:

  • At the national level, the number of jobs grew by 17 percent from 1994 to 2004. In the next decade (2004 to 2014), U.S. jobs grew by 10 percent. For those two decades, Indiana’s job growth rate was 9 and 4 percent respectively.
  • Over that 20 year period, jobs in the U.S. grew by 29 percent while Indiana advanced only 13 percent. Indiana ranked 47th among the states.
  • Between 1994 to 2014, Indiana fell from having 2.3 percent to barely 2 percent of all American jobs. (As Morton points out, that may not seem like much, but that “little difference is the equivalent of 950,000 jobs over those 20 years. That failure to just keep pace with the nation, means our addition of 442,000 jobs between ’94 and ’14 was 53 percent short of mediocrity.”)
  • Also during this time frame, Indiana lost 26,000 construction jobs or 12 percent of the jobs in that industry while the national decline was only 7 percent. Indiana also saw greater percentage declines in computer and electronic products employment than did the nation, although the state experienced lesser percentage losses in primary metals and motor vehicle manufacturing.
  • Indiana had job losses in every category of retail shops while some types of retail grew at the national level. “Despite the Great Recession, finance and insurance jobs grew by 22 percent nationally, but only 9 percent in the Hoosier state. Food service and drinking places had job growth of 20 percent across America, but only 10 percent here.”

Next year, Indiana will elect a new Governor. Candidates for that position need to tell us how they plan to improve–rather than continue to spin– the state’s dismal economic performance.

John Ketzenberger’s Required Read

John Ketzenberger’s “Business Insider” columns should be required reading for anyone who cares about economic policy–and that should be all of us.

Ketzenberger, for those who don’t know, directs Indiana’s Fiscal Policy Institute, and is thus privy to a wealth of information about Indiana’s economic performance. He is also able to “connect the dots” between various economic indicators in clear English, as he did in his column in last Sunday’s Indianapolis Star. (For example: Job creation is only part of the picture; because Indiana workers make less than workers in other Midwest states, they have less buying power–one reason Indiana’s economy remains sluggish. We need to recognize that the number of jobs may be high while per capita income remains low.)

As illuminating as his economic analysis consistently is, however, what really struck me about last Sunday’s column was its conclusion. Ketzenberger drew on his years of observing the operation of Indiana policies on the prospects of Hoosier citizens and offered five recommendations:

  • Understand it’s not a political thing, it’s a practical thing. And that thing is compromise. Nobody has the market cornered on good ideas, so it’d be nice to see business leverage partnerships and politicians apply a little common sense. Compromise, contrary to popular belief, is not a sign of weakness, but it takes a lot of fortitude and smarts to apply it.
  • Mitch Daniels was right—never mix social issues with public policy making. It’s hard to debate the state’s budgetary priorities when all of the attention is on efforts to discriminate against a class of people in the name of protecting religious liberty already enshrined in the constitution.
  • When we’re ready to get serious about the issues, I’d suggest we consider them in this order: long-term infrastructure funding, comprehensive long-term education policy, ensuring the public safety net is wide as possible.
  • Let’s agree to destigmatize taxes. This is not a call for a tax hike, a cut or dramatic shifts. It’s just a plea to recognize that taxes are necessary to pay for domestic tranquility—an organized community, public safety and basic services. Treat all taxpayers fairly, use the money wisely and balance the need for fiscal responsibility with the other two points and we can get on with substantive policy debates.
  • Finally, we must remind our elected officials they are leaders obliged to serve all of the citizens, not just those who paid the freight or voted for them. Votes are a far greater currency than all the big-money interests, but only if people choose to participate. The next time you see a negative campaign ad, remember its purpose is to drive independent people out of the voting booth. Maintain your independence and vote.

Yes, yes and yes to all of these!

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things….

Like reasonable laws.

Recently, Indianapolis City-County Councilor Kip Tew sponsored an ordinance that would  require people to file a report if a gun they owned was lost or stolen.

Laws requiring gun owners to report loss or theft of a weapon help police in several ways:  they deter gun trafficking and discourage straw purchasing; they  facilitate the return of the guns, if found, to their lawful owners; and they help police disarm people who aren’t legally eligible to possess firearms.

As an officer friend pointed out recently, timely reporting of gun thefts and losses allows police to trace guns more effectively, and makes the successful prosecution of users of stolen guns more likely.

A very small step, granted, but a step in the right direction.

Currently, however, there aren’t enough votes to pass the measure. Not because council members are opposed to it, but because several of them worry that it might violate a relatively recent provision of the Indiana Code–a provision so ridiculous I couldn’t believe it was real.

Here are the relevant parts of Indiana Code 35-47-11.1 – 7.

Except as provided in section 4 of this chapter, a political subdivision may not regulate:
(1) firearms, ammunition, and firearm accessories;
(2) the ownership, possession, carrying, transportation, registration, transfer, and storage of firearms, ammunition, and firearm accessories; and
(3) commerce in and taxation of firearms, firearm ammunition, and firearm accessories.

Anyone “adversely affected” by such an action is authorized to sue for damages.

This is yet another example of the legislature telling local governments what they can and cannot do (my Home Rule complaint). And in this case, what our local folks can’t do is anything that even smells of gun regulation.

But the rest of this abomination is even worse:

A person is “adversely affected” for purposes of section 5 of this chapter if either of the following applies:
(2) The person is a membership organization that:
(A) includes two (2) or more individuals described in subdivision (1); and
(B) is dedicated in whole or in part to protecting the rights of persons who possess, own, or use firearms for competitive, sporting, defensive, or other lawful purposes.

Sec. 7. A prevailing plaintiff in an action under section 5 of this chapter is entitled to recover from the political subdivision the following:
(1) The greater of the following:
(A) Actual damages, including consequential damages.
(B) Liquidated damages of three (3) times the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.
(2) Court costs (including fees). (3) Reasonable attorney’s fees.

Short version: if Indianapolis tries to protect its citizens by controlling guns or ammunition in any way whatever, the “membership organization” (i.e. the NRA) can sue the city and recover attorney’s fees and punitive (“liquidated”) damages from our tax dollars.

Think about that.

I can’t imagine what “damages” the NRA would suffer from the passage of an innocuous and helpful measure like reporting stolen guns. (For that matter, putting on my lawyer hat,  I don’t think that “theft” comes within the definition of “ownership, possession, carrying, transportation, registration, transfer, and storage,” but I do understand council members’ concern that it might.)

If you ever want an example of the way a well-heeled lobby overrides the will–and the welfare–of mere citizens, this one’s a doozy.

Life in the City

INIndianapolis will be holding its elections for Mayor and City-County Council in November, and the candidates will be talking about the issues that face our city–and hopefully, how they plan to address those issues.

It will be interesting to see how many of the challenges they identify are the same ones that mayors of other cities cited most frequently at a recent conference on the state of the nation’s cities.

Our annual State of the Cities report examines what is happening now in cities. The top 10 issues discussed by mayors in their 2015 State of the City addresses are essential to operations, development, and livability.

The analysis reveals what issues mayors are focused on by measuring the percentage of speeches significantly covering an issue. We examined 100 State of the City speeches in cities large and small, with a regionally diverse sample from across the country. These are the top issues that matter to cities.

The issues identified were, in ascending order of frequency, healthcare (especially in states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA); demographics (race relations, cultural diversity, sexual orientation, and immigration); environment and energy (a category that includes public transportation); data and technology; housing; education; budgets; public safety; infrastructure; and economic development.

All of these issues face us here in Indianapolis. Unlike cities in states with genuine home rule, however, the ability of our mayor and council–no matter whom we elect–will be severely constrained by the fact that, in Indiana, municipal governments can do very little beyond what the state legislature in its “wisdom,” allows. (You will recall we spent a good two years begging the General Assembly for the right to decide whether to tax ourselves in order to expand mass transit.)

So–as the candidates mount their campaigns, hold “meet-and-greet’ events and fundraisers and otherwise make themselves available to We the People, in addition to asking about their preferred policies, we also need to ask them how they intend to work with our “overlords” at the Indiana General Assembly.

Indiana’s Children

Sunday sermon.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the improving state economy touted by Gov. Mike Pence at campaign stops “has yet to trickle down to the 345,000 Hoosier children, or more than 1 in 5, living in poverty.”

In a recent editorial, the Anderson Herald Bulletin urged lawmakers to deal with the reality of Indiana’s working poor.

The Herald Bulletin has reported extensively this year on a group labeled Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) in a study released in 2014 by the Indiana Association of United Ways.

About 23 percent of Indiana’s population and about 28 percent of people living in Madison County belong to the ALICE group. While they earn too much income to qualify for most forms of welfare, they earn too little to afford necessities, pay monthly bills and save enough money to handle unexpected expenses such as illnesses and car repairs. Hoosiers who belong to this group find themselves in a spiral of debt toward poverty.

Many belonging to the ALICE group have children and find that paying for child care while they work is often a money-losing proposition. In Indiana, the Child Care Development Fund provides subsidies to help financially insecure families pay for child care.

It’s a great program, but it has a major flaw. A slight rise in income level can cause a family to lose eligibility, providing a disincentive to work hard and earn a raise. If CCDF subsidies were set up on a sliding scale, hard work would be rewarded.

Tweaking the CCDF program with a sliding scale is something we should do. And we should provide adequate resources for the Department of Children’s Services. But important as individual programs may be,  the inconvenient truth is that the welfare of Hoosier children is inextricably connected to the welfare of the families that are raising them.

When wage levels are too low to allow those families to provide decent housing, adequate nutrition and reliable child-care, children suffer. Recent research also suggests that the higher stress levels common to low-wage households take a particular toll on the children in those families, who arrive at school unready to learn,  and who have poorer health prospects and lower life expectancies.

A policy agenda focused upon keeping Indiana a low-wage state not only fails to create the promised jobs–it hurts children.

Politicians uniformly insist that they care about children, but aside from efforts to ensure that every conception ends in the birth of a child, I haven’t seen much evidence for that concern.