Kicking the Dog

Watching the Indiana legislature reminds me more than anything of those days—and we’ve all had them—when nothing has gone right at the office, we’ve made fools of ourselves in a meeting, and we’re just in a foul mood. So we go home and yell at our spouse, snap at our children and kick the dog.

Our lawmakers are faced with massive problems, not all of which they created themselves. We have horrendous budgetary and fiscal problems, fights over education policy are reaching the boiling point, the Chief Justice and the Governor have stressed the need to rethink incarceration policies, and notwithstanding the constant hype from state officials, Indiana’s job creation has been anemic (to put it mildly).

So our legislators are kicking the dog—in this case, gays and immigrants.

Not that Indiana’s legislature has ever distinguished itself in the “serious and responsible” category. (When the late Harrison Ullmann edited NUVO, he regularly referred to the General Assembly as The World’s Worst Legislature.)  But this focus on gays and immigrants (more accurately, brown immigrants) is not only wrongheaded, it’s counterproductive. As the CEO of Cummins, Inc. wrote in this morning’s Indianapolis Star, Cummins has been a bright spot for employment in Indiana, creating jobs at a time when many employers have been cutting back. But much of their growth has depended upon international trade, and immigrant-bashing will hinder further job creation.

“We plan to add even more people given our ambitious plans for growth. These new jobs could be located in many places in the world; for us to add them in Indiana we must have an environment that is welcoming to all people and where diversity is valued and allowed to flourish.”

I hope some of our legislators are listening, but I doubt it. Kicking the dog doesn’t solve any of our problems, but it evidently makes them feel better.