John Ketzenberger’s “Business Insider” columns should be required reading for anyone who cares about economic policy–and that should be all of us.
Ketzenberger, for those who don’t know, directs Indiana’s Fiscal Policy Institute, and is thus privy to a wealth of information about Indiana’s economic performance. He is also able to “connect the dots” between various economic indicators in clear English, as he did in his column in last Sunday’s Indianapolis Star. (For example: Job creation is only part of the picture; because Indiana workers make less than workers in other Midwest states, they have less buying power–one reason Indiana’s economy remains sluggish. We need to recognize that the number of jobs may be high while per capita income remains low.)
As illuminating as his economic analysis consistently is, however, what really struck me about last Sunday’s column was its conclusion. Ketzenberger drew on his years of observing the operation of Indiana policies on the prospects of Hoosier citizens and offered five recommendations:
- Understand it’s not a political thing, it’s a practical thing. And that thing is compromise. Nobody has the market cornered on good ideas, so it’d be nice to see business leverage partnerships and politicians apply a little common sense. Compromise, contrary to popular belief, is not a sign of weakness, but it takes a lot of fortitude and smarts to apply it.
- Mitch Daniels was right—never mix social issues with public policy making. It’s hard to debate the state’s budgetary priorities when all of the attention is on efforts to discriminate against a class of people in the name of protecting religious liberty already enshrined in the constitution.
- When we’re ready to get serious about the issues, I’d suggest we consider them in this order: long-term infrastructure funding, comprehensive long-term education policy, ensuring the public safety net is wide as possible.
- Let’s agree to destigmatize taxes. This is not a call for a tax hike, a cut or dramatic shifts. It’s just a plea to recognize that taxes are necessary to pay for domestic tranquility—an organized community, public safety and basic services. Treat all taxpayers fairly, use the money wisely and balance the need for fiscal responsibility with the other two points and we can get on with substantive policy debates.
- Finally, we must remind our elected officials they are leaders obliged to serve all of the citizens, not just those who paid the freight or voted for them. Votes are a far greater currency than all the big-money interests, but only if people choose to participate. The next time you see a negative campaign ad, remember its purpose is to drive independent people out of the voting booth. Maintain your independence and vote.
Yes, yes and yes to all of these!