Tag Archives: Indiana

I Think I See a Theme Emerging…

The Indianapolis Business Journal sends out a chatty, daily “Eight at 8″ for subscribers. A couple of days ago, the transmittal included the following “Soapbox Moment.”

Our city and state leaders knock themselves out offering financial incentives to support local business expansions and to attract firms to central Indiana (see No. 1). As well they should. Excellent work. However, Eight@8 wishes they would throw more weight behind arts organizations and find more ways to bring more artists here. As in business, the benefit could be modest. Or the benefit could be incalculable. One or two artists can change the way the entire country thinks of Indy. I give you two examples. First, author John Green. He came to Indy because his wife found a job here in the arts. So this is where he based his juggernaut novel “The Fault in Our Stars,” filled with specific references to local places. This is why the tens of millions of people who have read the book and/or seen the movie know that Indianapolis 1) exists; and 2) could be an awesome place to live. He continues to happily associate himself with Indy, occasionally in his ambitious multimedia projects (200 million video views and counting). You can’t CONCEIVE of the value of that kind of warm-puppy publicity…Second example: Asthmatic Kitty. It’s not an artist, per se, but a record label which came to be based in Indy because its manager happened to move here in 2005. It has since become one of the most influential small labels in the country and a national calling card for our music community. And its leaders have turned their energies to the city’s urban fabric. We’ve run out of room, so check out The Atlantic’s CityLab feature on Asthmatic Kitty’s influence on our city.

Good try, Eight @ 8, but–agree or not about the merits of those “financial incentives” generally– official Indianapolis has never given much indication that we appreciate or value the contributions made by the arts to the culture and economic health of central Indiana.

Eight referenced a recent, lengthy post from Aaron Renn at the Urbanophile, in which Renn discussed the roots of–and differences between–the cultures of Indianapolis and Louisville. Louisville remains largely a product of southern tradition, a tradition that valued aristocracy and respected “the finer things.” (Although that culture has a considerable downside–which Renn acknowledges–it also tends to produce better restaurants, among other things.) 

Indiana, he notes, grows out of a very different tradition. After pointing to Columbus as a deviation from the Hoosier norm, he writes

But in a state replete with struggling communities, has anyplace ever looked to imitate Columbus? Has it been held up as a model? No. Why not? It’s because Indiana as a whole rejects the values that made Columbus successful. J. Irwin Miller famously said that “a mediocrity is expensive.” True, but that misses the point re: Indiana. Mediocrity isn’t an economic value in the state. It’s a moral value. People aren’t choosing mediocrity in the mistaken belief that it’s cheap. They think aspiring to better is a character defect. That sacralization of average is why many of its communities are willing to martyr themselves in its honor. And if a place tries to aspire to better, don’t worry. The General Assembly will soon be introducing legislation to make sure that doesn’t spread.

Ouch. That hurts because it rings so true–especially the line about our benighted General Assembly. And it reminded me of a recent conversation with Drew Klacik, researcher extraordinaire at IUPUI’s Public Policy Institute. Commenting on the persistent disdain of so many of Indiana’s legislators for Indianapolis, and their disinclination to consider measures that would benefit or strengthen the core of Indiana’s largest city, he offered an analogy:

Why do Marion county and downtown matter? Well, think about a solar system; why does the sun matter? It matters because it provides the energy that drives us forward and provides the gravity that holds us together. That is exactly what downtown Indianapolis does for the region and the state.

The problem, as Renn aptly notes, is that our General Assembly is broadly representative of Indiana’s culture, where excellence is “uppity,” the arts are “elitist” and education (as opposed to good old job training) is suspect. No wonder there is so little legislative regard for Indianapolis’ aspirations to “world class” status.

Honest to goodness, 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.