The Legacy of “Our Man Mitch”

The NorthWest Times of Indiana has an article detailing the devastation that tax caps are visiting on Indiana’s municipalities. We can thank Mitch Daniels for leading the charge to place these caps in the state’s constitution, where they will continue to strangle local governments until we manage the difficult job of passing a constitutional amendment.

WTHR relayed the result of an environmental group’s investigation that found Indiana’s rivers and streams the most polluted in the nation–no surprise to local environmentalists, who have witnessed the Administration’s distaste for environmental regulation.

Indiana’s much-touted “balanced budget” was achieved without touching tax breaks for business (and in some cases, by increasing them)–by cutting programs that aid those poor and disadvantaged citizens least able to access the political process or otherwise protect themselves.

And–as we’ve seen over the past couple of months–there’s mounting evidence that this Administration can’t even keep its own books.

Add to these “factoids” the war this administration has waged against public workers, it’s divisive, politically-motivated attack on private-sector unions, its willingness to sell off state assets and privatize everything in sight, and we are left with a legacy that will last long after Mitch mounts his motorcycle and rides off into the sunset.

You’ve got to give the Governor credit: he has created a persona that is entirely at odds with reality. Mitch “the knife” was a disaster as Budget Director; he took Clinton’s healthy budget and proceeded to facilitate creation of Bush’s enormous deficits. His reputation as a businessman, rather than a politician, rests on jobs in “government affairs”–that is, as a lobbyist. His standing in the national party rests on a fiction of fiscal expertise and a contrast with undeniably pathetic competition.

Whoever wins the gubernatorial election in November will inherit a broken state that has steadily been stripped of the tools needed to fix it. Of course, if that person is Mike Pence, he won’t notice. He’ll just add a dash of theocracy and an emphasis on social issues, and finish the task of turning Indiana into Mississippi.


  1. Actually, Mitch’s federal nickname was “the blade,” not “the knife.” But you get the sharp point, or the sharp edge or whatever.

  2. Any government leader who is willing to place legally binding limits on the ability to raise tax revenues is irresponsible. One can never tell what might happen that may require a tax increase. Could this nation have raised the funds needed in World War II if we had this kind of mentality back then? I doubt it. Looking at it through a lens that politicians love to use, this approach is the same as a family that decides no one will bring in additional income, no matter how bad things might get.

  3. Right on, Bill, though this irresponsible act will likely fall to the Hoosier voters, not just their elected officials.

  4. He also signed the bill to defund Planned Parenthood and done nothing to curb the theocratic impulses within his own party. And he and his party are well on the way to destroying public education and driving good teachers away, even though public school teachers taught him how to read and write. Daniels has been an unmitigated disaster for all but the already rich and powerful in this State.

  5. And there are still those who want to run this fool for president. His ho-hum attitude about the misplaced more than $500 million of our tax dollars and a mayor who wants to save our share of this last “found” millions, in case we need it next year, is frightening. Let’s hope at the end of this term he rides off into the sunset on his Harley with Ballard hanging on behind.

  6. We expected to repeat the California experiment with different outcomes? Didn’t someone once describe that process as insanity? We have successfully returned Indiana into the tag line of that old joke “welcome to Indiana – please set your watches back 20 years”. But as Bruce said we have to put the blame on those who voted (and continued to vote) for him. His record should have been enough to cause voters to reject him. He has been continually all about Mitch and his cronies. Mitch gets millions, IPL retirees get screwed. He is a republican hypocrite of the worst kind. And as said, Pence is everything Daniels is with the addition of theocracy. Mississippi?, hell it will be Iran.

  7. On the other hand, Jim, Democrats didn’t give voters much of a choice last time. Unfortunately, we don’t get to vote between candidate A and God, we have to choose between the candidates we have.

  8. I’ll provide opposing views to Bill: – the WWII analogy isn’t comparable: Short of planning for Indiana to create a standing army to fight the world, or provide massive security spending, I don’t see other areas needed for reactive revenue increases from property taxes, that can’t be done with income (or sales) taxes. The people wanted predictability (and the Tax Court required a fair baseline) on property taxes, and received them. And the cap is a % cap, not absolute: so it doesn’t mean there won’t be additional revenue, but that it will be in-line with the change in value of the property. What about that doesn’t sound fair?

  9. Scott, I couldn’t agree with you more, and Sheila, shame on you for not pointing out that Indiana remains free to increase income and sales tax any time it wishes. Why should property owners bear an inordinate portion of the costs of funding ever expanding government programs? It’s ridiculous. The notion that government can and should solve every social problem is nuts. And in my opinion, lazy parents can shoulder most of the blame for the sorry state of public education, not Mitch. If the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots, the notion of limited government should be fed frequently with tax cuts. An aristocracy of achievement will arise from a democracy of opportunity only if people get off their lazy butts and aspire to make something of their lives. The safety net should be uncomfortable, not a hammock to hang out in forever.

  10. @Scott

    that seems a tad naive to me. the amount of housing in many communities is relatively stable. especially in more rural communities following the crash. scenario: the number of occupied buildings in a town does not increase or decrease, yet the number of students does (which is possible, with mortality of older citizens and an influx of younger residents). the tax base does not change, yet the need of the schools does increase. as well, public safety is still just as much needed. in the past this would have necessitated an increase in property taxes. which is now impossible without a referendum. the recent past has shown that this is very hard to pass (for some crazy reason if you ask people to increase their taxes they largely say no).

    additionally, natural disasters can necessitate use of public funds. and economic development can depend largely on the use of local funds. by capping the taxes local government IS hamstrung. eventually, this is going to bite Indiana in a major way. as i think is evidenced in the article quoted. also, Doug Masson has an interesting take on the subject in his blog.

  11. How can you lower taxes and expect to see a more efficiant government? I am so sick of this attitude, less is more when it comes to government. I joined the Army to escape being a serf to the private sector nobles. As an private EMT I was paid barely a livable wage and had to put up with unprofessionalism constantly from co-workers and (unqualified) superiors. So as you can see, I am not a big fan of private contracting. This state appears to be the worst when it comes to paying people a decent wage who work in the private sector. An EMT in Illinois makes damn near $15.00 per hr while an EMT in Indiana ranges from $8.50-11.50 per hour max. Indiana’s neoconservatism almost makes it unbearable to live in if you believe in if you believe in government service and civic duty (or social mobility for that matter). This state is theocratic and needs to change its “good ole boy” attitude.

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