When Steve Goldsmith was Mayor–talking incessantly about government’s “customers” while shifting costs from the operating to the capital budget in order to “reduce” taxes (i.e., push the costs to the next administration)–I used to grouse that his vision of the ideal government would be one that eliminated all municipal services so that the City-County Building could be rented out to give taxpayers a rebate of 50 cents each.
I’ve often considered Mitch Daniels to be a Goldsmith clone. They share a touching belief that privatization cures cancer–a belief that appears unshakable no matter how many times they’ve been bitten by poorly-thought-out contracts. (They also share a patronizing attitude that lets you know they think they know more than anyone else–and most definitely more than those annoying yahoos elected to legislative bodies.) I’m not the only person who has noticed the resemblance: the joke that made the rounds when Mitch was first elected was that he was Steve Goldsmith with a personality.
Now Mitch has confirmed my snarky “rent out the City-County Building” description of their shared governing philosophy.
According to the Governor, Indiana has suddenly “discovered” 320 million dollars that we somehow didn’t know we had. Assuming the accuracy of his description–i.e., assuming the administration really didn’t know the money was there–most of us would first question the competence of the administration employees involved. After all, how do you “lose” 320 million dollars? Then–in a sane universe–we might begin a discussion to see which of the recent, draconian cuts to public services we might mitigate. Our bridges are crumbling, our parks are untended, our schools struggling, early childhood education still largely unfunded. Foster parents have just taken a big hit, and the administration has continued its unremitting war on Medicaid recipients. Granted, 320 million won’t restore all that–or even come close–but it would help.
But that’s not the way officials think in “Mitch land.”
Mitch doesn’t want to apply that money to improve the state’s infrastructure, or to ameliorate the suffering caused by cuts to social services during an economic downturn. He wants to trigger an automatic “rebate”–to return it to individual taxpayers. Rather than applying the windfall to improve public services or the public goods we all share, he wants to give each taxpayer a refund. Elementary math suggests that refund might be enough to buy a couple of coffees at Starbucks–it certainly won’t be enough to repair that tire you ruptured on one of our neglected roads, or to pay the tutor you hired to supplement your child’s inadequate math instruction.
In Mitch land, government can do no good and the private sector can do no wrong. Applying “found” money (forgive the quotes and my skepticism) to education or infrastructure is “waste”–but sprinkling it among hundreds of thousands of taxpayers is “good government.”
Maybe Mitch can rent out the statehouse, and send each of us enough to buy an hour or two of privatized parking.