Tag Archives: Indiana government

Hype And Reality–Hoosier Version

It’s one thing when progressives or liberals criticize a state’s governance; it’s considerably more interesting–and should be more persuasive–when that criticism comes from the same side of the political aisle as the party controlling that state.

Aaron Renn is a conservative. He recently authored a lengthy article in a publication called American Affairs Journal (a publication with which I am unfamiliar) analyzing Indiana’s performance under the much-hyped “pro-business” model favored by the GOP supermajorities that dominate the Hoosier State. His recitation is much, much kinder to former Governor Mitch Daniels and even to former culture warrior/pious hypocrite Mike Pence than I personally feel is warranted, and his bona fides as a conservative are indisputable.

So what about performance? What does Renn see when he looks to the evidence supporting the “business-friendliness” of Indiana? Let me share a few of his statistics/observatons:

When Indiana became a Republican trifecta state, its average disposable income had actually declined to 89.5 percent of the national level. By 2019 (pre-pandemic),2 it had fallen slightly to only 89.4 per­cent, and during the pandemic it dropped to 88.7 percent in 2020. In short, under Republican leadership the state’s relative incomes started out low and got even lower….

Measured since the pre–Great Recession employment peak in 2007, Indiana has only grown its job base by 5.8 percent, trailing the national average of 9.4 percent…

Under Republican leadership, Indiana’s disposable incomes have declined relative to the national average. Since 2000, the state ranks a dismal forty-sixth in median wage growth, and the growth in median earnings has been at only half the rate of the rest of the country. Only 42 percent of workers in the state earn a living wage (adjusted for cost of living) and have employer-provided health insurance…

Indiana ranks thirty-ninth in its share of jobs in new companies, the major source of job creation, and has more old firms than young ones..

.Indiana’s demographics are also weak. During the 2010s, the state’s population grew by only 4.7 percent versus a national average of 7.4 percent. Its population growth rate has been decelerating since 2000. During the 2010s, the state grew at less than half the rate it did during the 1990s, when under Democratic gubernatorial leadership. Most of this drop mirrored the national trend, but Indiana’s growth rate declined more rapidly than the nation’s as a whole. Large portions of the state are either stagnant or declining in population. Over half of the state’s counties—forty-nine out of ninety-two—lost population during the 2010s.

Renn points out that weak population growth means equally weak labor force growth, which also means “that the era of job growth in Indiana is nearing an end.” If such job growth requires an educated population, we’re also out of luck: he notes that the state “also lags in educational attainment, with only 26.9 percent of the state’s adults holding a college degree, forty-second in the nation.”

He also acknowledges what our legislature–dominated by rural interests–persistently refuses to admit: to the extent there is any good economic news, it is due to the performance of the state’s metropolitan areas–especially Indianapolis. Indianapolis has 31 percent of the state’s population, but was responsible for 74 percent of the state’s population growth over the past decade, including, importantly, a “disproportionate and growing” share of the state’s educated residents.

That means that the parts of the state outside Indianapolis’ metro area are actually performing even more poorly than those weak state-level averages indicate.

What should concern our legislative overlords is another worrisome fact:  Indianapolis’ growth has come largely from the rest of the state. Renn reports that some 90 percent of the city’s net in-migration comes from the rest of Indiana; that is very different from the growth of Sunbelt cities like Austin, Nashville, and Raleigh, which have a national draw. In effect, he says, Indianapolis has grown by drain­ing the rest of the state.

Summing up, Renn says:

In the end, Indiana built its sandbox, but not very many people or businesses want to play in it, and the ones who do don’t have much money. The state attracts few new residents on net, and the businesses that are locating there are predominantly low-wage employers taking advantage of the state’s lower-skilled, poorly paid workforce.

Republicans like to talk about running government like a business. If Indiana actually were a business, shareholders would replace the man­agement after such a poor showing.

But of course, Indiana is gerrymandered to give outsized power to its dwindling number of rural residents, who resent the state’s city-dwellers and dismiss all the evidence of economic mis-management.

They’ll keep voting for the pro-gun, anti-choice, anti-vaccine (and frequently anti-Black) culture warriors –and buying into the clearly dishonest hype about Indiana’s “pro-business” policies.

Honest to goodness, Indiana!!




Deplorable Hoosier Ethics

Same old, same old.

The headline on a recent editorial from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette pretty well sums it up– State Sinks Further into Ethics Morass. 

The editorial asked the 64-Thousand-Dollar question: “How low will the bar have to slip before Indiana lawmakers finally demand tougher ethics laws?”

Troy Woodruff and Inspector General David Thomas have lowered it another notch. Woodruff, the former chief of staff for the Indiana Department of Transportation, won’t face criminal or civil charges related to state land deals benefiting his own family members, thanks to a ruling from Thomas.

The inspector general simply concluded Woodruff’s conduct “gives rise to the appearance of impropriety” and “diminishes public trust.”

And how.

Woodruff’s “appearance of impropriety” (it appeared improper because it was improper) is just the latest in a sorry string of episodes in which Indiana elected and appointed officials have abused the public trust, using their positions to enrich themselves or their families.

A couple of years ago, it was Eric Turner, twisting arms behind the scenes to protect his family’s lucrative nursing home business; more recently, an employee of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles negotiated a cushy contract between the Bureau and a private vendor, and then–what a coincidence!–left the BMV for a high-level job with that vendor. (After the BMV story became front-page news, Governor Pence cancelled the contract and ordered an “ethics investigation” of the transaction. I think this is what is meant by “locking the barn door after the horse is stolen…”)

Rep. Robert Behning, who chairs the House Education Committee, formed an education lobbying company. The House Ethics Committee is “looking into” whether or not he violated the rules.

Even Indiana’s Inspector General– who seems more interested in downplaying and minimizing ethics violations than punishing them– found former Secretary of Education Tony Bennett in violation of the state ethics code.

In Woodruff’s case, as the Journal Gazette reported,

After Woodruff’s legislative defeat, he and his wife both were awarded state jobs. His mother also was hired by INDOT. His wife remains a highway department employee; Troy Woodruff left last week to go into business for himself – taking with him with years of taxpayer-supported job-training and invaluable state connections.

Statehouse observers have long whispered that the violations that get reported are just the tip of the iceberg–that backscratching and conflicts of interest are widely accepted as the way business is done in Indiana government. They note that with the exodus of experienced statehouse reporters and the diminished news coverage of state government, only the most rash and egregious behavior ever gets reported.

I’ll give the last word to the Journal Gazette.

Lawmakers ignore the repeated absolution of ethical lapses at their own risk. Voters can’t continue to overlook conflicts allowing lawmakers’ friends and allies to grow richer even as their own communities suffer from dwindling state support. They eventually will cry foul over the Statehouse’s low ethical threshold.

I Guess Their Safety Doesn’t Count…

According to this morning’s Indianapolis Star,

“A prayer group is getting special access to the Statehouse for the opening day of the 2012 session.

People attending Capitol Commission Indiana’s prayer day at the Statehouse can show a copy of an email message to skirt an expected large crowd of union members protesting the so-called “right to work” legislation on opening day Wednesday. News of the waivers emerged after state safety officials set a 3,000-person limit on the number of people in the Statehouse at one time.

Capitol Commission State Director Matt Barnes said Monday that his group isn’t getting special treatment, noting that anyone attending a scheduled Statehouse event can use a special entrance.”

So–let me see if I understand this. The reason the limit was imposed was concern for the safety of citizens who were coming to the Statehouse (formerly known as the “people’s house”). But as we learned a couple of days ago, the safety of lobbyists with special passes isn’t a concern. Okay–I can understand why the administration might not care about the well-being of lobbyists (although, if the lobbyists are injured, who will pay the tab at St. Elmos??) But religious folks who are coming to pray? Their safety isn’t important?

I’ve frequently used this blog to advocate for greater government transparency, but someone should tell Bosma and Daniels–I didn’t mean “transparently dishonest.”