There’s No “We” in Mitch Land…

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.


  1. I sent my “rebates” from George W. “back” (forwarded them on to charity) and I’ll do the same with this one, except that I don’t know of a “save this crumbling bridge” charity.

    Maybe if I use the money to buy a bunch of concrete and a putty knife and I just climb under the bridge and do it myself….

  2. Of course the assumption is that if government instead of people have the $320 million, government would spend the money wisely and efficiently on necessary services. There is not a lot of history of that supports that conclusion.

  3. And Steph, have you ever seen the tax returns on some of those charities? Many pay themselves lavish six figure salaries and beneifts while very little of the money actually trickles down to the charitable purpose.

  4. 1.) There you go Steph! That’s good Republican thinking there. We can always depend on private citizens to take care of the problems that government shouldn’t… like building/repairing infrastructure. (I’m joking)

    2.) Paul, you are clueless about charities and non-profits. Most non-profits spend the majority of their money on direct services, and there are VERY FEW charities that pay six-figure salaries, and the ones that do it’s because they deserve it. Non-profits are no different than for-profit businesses, except the people have to work more and get paid less b/c of a lack of funding. I make HALF of what I should for the work I do, but choose to do it out of my personal convictions.

    A little advice I’ve learned over the years… Don’t talk about things you know nothing about. It only spreads false information and makes you look ignorant.

  5. Indiana public schools were cut $300 Million in EACH of the last two years while the state piled up a surplus of $1.2 Billion. Robbing children’s educational programs to provide tax rebates to adults seems terribly short-sighted (like eating one’s seed corn after which there is no future harvest) and downright shameful.

    Would any of us stand by and let an adult take food from a child? Taking educational nourishment from children is no more acceptable.

    Legislators were told charter school and private school voucher funds would NOT hurt Hoosier public schools, yet no new funds were provided for the additional charter and private school students. Additional cuts to public schools financed both charters and voucher schools. The state is cutting the schools where 90% of students are enrolled to finance the schools were apprxoimately 10% of students are enrolled. Adding more and more obligations to the public tax rolls is not good public policy fiscally, educationally, or constitutionally. Put another way, trying to finance 3 types of school systems and not doing well by any of them will weaken all three and the state of Indiana as well.

  6. I suspect you could argue that the real problem is that the government picks the privatizers in a governmental, not business like, way. Picking your campaign chief to run a business function for the government is STILL pretty governmental in nature.

    As for the charities and quasi charitable functions, there are many small organizations that pay little, but once they get big the top dogs get big money, based on the theory that they get half of what they deserve. If monetary rewards were your goal, go elsewhere and attempt to get them. Don’t argue that you “deserve” the same $$ for doing the work of your choosing, vs seeking out the top $$ position. So many charities – and university presidents – pay way too much on the theory that you deserve 10x more money than a Catholic nun or Navy destroyer captain or other person in a demanding semi pro bono position.

  7. When I received the forms from Bush to apply for that “tax refund”; I tore it up but left my name and Social Security number intact and added a note to find something better to do with our tax dollars. My income is too low to even file a tax return so I certainly shouldn’t receive an extra tax refund. Accepting that undeserved tax money would put me in the category of Bush’s later recipients of the bailout billions…which WE are still paying for.

  8. I wouldnt quite agree with the refund decision either, but the best way I can look at it is a $320 million dollar “mini-stimulus” to the Indiana economy. And at least it is was paid for already by US taxes instead of Treasury securities purchased by foreign governments or the Fed.

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