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Wednesday, July 31, 2013 3:35 PM
LOGANSPORT - It is more than slightly ironic that the Indiana State Board of Education is hiring its own consultant to do what it could be doing collaboratively with its state school superintendent – improve education.

It would be nice if board members and a state school superintendent from different parties could be on the same page when it comes to the importance of education in this state, but state education reform has become so politicized that politics takes priority. The irony of the current Tony Bennett controversy involving a grade change for Christel House, the charter school funded by one of Bennett’s biggest campaign contributors, represents one of the worst kinds of academic fraud there is. Forget the NCAA hammering some college for giving a football player a D- in a math class he should have failed. What Bennett and his staff did for Christel House pales in comparison. He violated a public trust for the sake of a private school run by a campaign contributor.

Think about this for a minute: If the Indiana State Board of Education had really been holding Bennett accountable like it is holding Glenda Ritz accountable now, the Christel House controversy may never have happened in the first place. But the board didn’t.
  • KOKOMO – When you take on the job of a political party chairman, you enter your tenure with visions of political lollipops dancing in your head. You imagine all of the nifty things you’ll accomplish in the name of the cause. You salivate over creating targeted marketing programs, systematic fundraising processes and candidate development.  Then, very quickly, perhaps within two or three days, you realize that you are going to be doing things that no one told you about. Scrubbing toilets at Republican Headquarters, I realized that there might be things that I would be called upon to do that weren’t in the brochures touting the glamorous and exciting lifestyles of a Republican County chairman. Ten years into my sentence, make that service, as a GOP chair, I’ve done things that I never anticipated doing and seen events that amaze and astound. I’ve done some things they just can’t get laboratory rats to do, all in the service of my party. Last April, our Republican HQ started being bombarded with telephone calls asking when we would have Donald Trump signs for distribution. The callers were polite but quickly became agitated when told that sign distribution during primaries was largely up to the individual candidates.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – A reader from Bloomfield wants economists to explain why free trade does not deliver benefits as advertised by politicians. Free trade is a concept, not a reality. It is much like other concepts so dear to some economists and most politicians, such as pure competition, open markets, free enterprise, level playing fields, the gold standard, and the ever-popular balanced budget.  But we do not live in the world of concepts. Our world has millions of people demanding protection from change. When they get that protection, it is usually at the expense of other people who are worse off. Many Hoosiers use the loss of Indiana’s jobs at Carrier to Mexico as an example of the injustice of trade deals and free enterprise. But do we hear Hoosiers complain when the Indiana Economic Development Corporation announces a company moving jobs from another state to Indiana? Or from one Indiana county to another?
  • BLOOMINGTON – Does the ubiquity of information available through social media really help citizens understand complex issues, weigh competing arguments, and reach discriminating judgments about politics? I’ve been involved in politics for the better part of a lifetime, and have spoken at a lot of public meetings over the years. One question I’ve heard more than any other: “If I want to be an informed citizen, which sources of information should I consult?” For many years, I had a set answer: Read one or more of the respected national news sources, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Financial Times, The Economist, etc. I’m not sure how good that answer was at the time, but I know for certain it would be woefully inadequate now. Younger people, in particular, get far more of their information from social media than from traditional news sources. The internet and social media have upended our expectations of what it means to be well-informed. Platforms and websites that take advantage of online and mobile connectivity are like a firehose, providing enormous quantities of information, opinion, news, statements, videos, images, analysis, charts, graphs, all of it instantly available.
  • MERRILLVILLE –  While the latest poll shows Democrat Evan Bayh leading Republican Todd Young by four percentage points in the race for the U.S. Senate, the margin likely is much different in Northwest Indiana. For two generations, this corner of the state has been Bayh country. It began with Birch Bayh, Evan’s father, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962 and reelected twice. Birch Bayh, of course, lost a 1980 bid to become the first Hoosier to be elected to four terms in the Senate, falling victim to the national push in 1980 to throw out the most liberal from the Senate. Bayh’s loss, of course, had a substantial impact on history, in that he was defeated by Dan Quayle who went on to become vice president. The senior Bayh had a host of backers in Northwest Indiana, particularly then-East Chicago Mayor Robert A. Pastrick, who had a knack for turning out huge Democratic pluralities on Election Day. If Pastrick wanted something out of Washington, Bayh provided it. In fact, it was Pastrick who was on hand to greet Evan Bayh when he made his first Northwest Indiana appearance after announcing he intended to seek the Senate seat both he and his father formerly held. Besides Pastrick, the senior Bayh was the darling of labor unions who controlled the Region politically until their numbers began to dwindle in the 1980s.
  • SOUTH BEND – President Lyndon B. Johnson was a big man, 6-foot-4 and heavy-set, very heavy. I know. He once stepped on my foot. Accidental. Not because of anything I wrote. Happened as he toured devastation in Elkhart County from the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes. Secret service agents kept pushing me along right beside the president, either because he wanted the interview or because I provided a nice shield. LBJ was a big man also in presidential accomplishments, especially in civil rights, although he was diminished in stature by the war in Vietnam, one he couldn’t win but couldn’t figure out how to escape without being branded a loser. He didn’t escape and was branded a loser, leaving office with such low voter approval that he declined to seek another term. Last weekend, while in Austin, Texas, for a football game, exciting but featuring a seemingly defenseless Notre Dame team, I toured the LBJ Presidential Library and the nearby LBJ ranch, now a national park. While his foibles and problems with Vietnam weren’t neglected in the presentations, it was the focus on the persuasive power of Johnson to get things done in Congress, including passage of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, that was of special interest to me.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – After the housing bubble collapse of 2007-8, I thought of forming Economists Anonymous, a self-help group of forecasting addicts. I couldn’t get anyone to join me. Forecasts and projections are in demand. Someone will do them and they are best if done by people who are informed, trained, and cautious. Caution is important because statements about the future are taken seriously; lives and fortunes may depend on them. Forecasts and projections are compared to what we believe we know about the present. Annual population estimates by the U.S. Bureau of the Census are as close as we can get to how many people live where. These estimates, however, are not perfect. Thus, measuring projections against the estimates involves using two imperfect sets of numbers. Matt Kinghorn at the IU Indiana Business Research Center (IBRC) does population projections. He meets all the criteria for a good forecaster and he doesn’t give up.
  • FORT WAYNE – The major shift in the WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll taken this week from earlier polls is crystal clear: Todd Young has closed the wide margin that Evan Bayh once had in the Senate race. The Gregg-Holcomb race for governor remains extremely close.  Donald Trump, as other polls have shown, has a large lead in Indiana. Two months ago, when Evan Bayh first announced that he was going to run for the Senate, the first poll had him up 54-33%. Since that time he has been under heavy criticism for his Washington D.C. residency and lobbying ties in all forms of media. A Monmouth poll had Bayh’s margin down to 48-41%. The WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll shows it has now fallen to 44-40%. However, the underneath numbers suggest more serious problems ahead for Bayh.
        
  • WASHINGTON - Just as surprising as Donald Trump’s nomination is the fact that many Republicans are embracing certain Trump positions that are antithetical to the party’s core beliefs. Some in the GOP, like Indiana’s Governor and Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence, are bending over backwards to support statements by Trump that are way outside the party’s mainstream of thought—positions they couldn’t possibly share. The most egregious example is the way some Republicans have defended Trump’s unflinching admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a tyrant and thug who Trump seems to view as a leadership model. It was just four years ago that the GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, harshly criticized President Barrack Obama for not taking the Putin threat seriously enough. Now the Russian menace seems to have evaporated in the eyes of Trump’s surrogates.  The hypocrisy on this is palpable. Undoubtedly, Republicans would have characterized Obama as traitorous had he lavished similar praise on the Russian leader as Trump has on Putin.
  • KOKOMO – I hereby dedicate this column to former Indiana 2nd District U.S. Rep. Earl Landgrebe. Congressman Landgrebe immortalized the comment, “Don’t confuse me with the facts” during the Watergate hearings in 1974. His eloquent and timely use of this statement has been subliminally picked up and adopted by both major political parties as they go on their merry way to the bankrupting of our nation. Of course, I could have dedicated this column just as easily to one of the great philosophers of my youth, Alfred E. Neuman. His monthly mantra, “What Me Worry?” closely reflects the fiscal discipline so ably practiced by our Congress and presidents for at least the last 50 years.  Our United States government is totally devoid of a single scintilla of synergy. We elect intelligent representatives and senators, put them in the same building and crank out more toxic waste than you’d find in the Love Canal. The root cause of this legislative morass is the giant sausage-making machine that we fondly refer to as democracy. The sum of our legislative parts just doesn’t add up to a positive number.
  • SOUTH BEND – The spring edition of debates over debates is history, distinguished by deliberations over such issues as the size of Donald Trump’s hands, whether to discuss “your damn emails” and which candidates would have to sit at the children’s table rather than be in the big event. Now come debates over debates, fall edition. Locally, there’s the question of whether Congresswoman Jackie Walorski will consent to debate her Democratic opponent, Lynn Coleman, somewhere, anywhere, in a televised format or any format resembling a debate. Nationally, there’s speculation over whether Trump really will appear at all three of the scheduled presidential debates. He already has complained about the timing. And he’s sure to raise questions about whether the events are “rigged.” The vice presidential nominees will debate once, even though most of the nation isn’t paying attention to either of them.
  • MERRILLVILLE – It is becoming increasingly clear that Griffith doesn’t want anything to do with Gary. Even though the two Lake County municipalities abut each other, Griffith seemingly wants to build one of those walls Donald Trump wants to erect along the Mexican border. First it was Planned Parenthood. When the agency was about to lose its facility in Gary, it located property in Griffith for its new headquarters. But Griffith Councilman Rick Ryfa led the charge and blocked Planned Parenthood from moving into his town. And then Ryfa and the rest of the town council, which is controlled by Republicans, launched a move to have Griffith pull out of Calumet Township. The Griffith officials said they were tired of paying for public assistance to help the poor people in Gary. Calumet Township is made up of Gary, Griffith and unincorporated Calumet Township. With 39 percent of Gary residents below the poverty line, most of the township assistance money is going to Gary. Griffith residents at one point were paying about $3 million a year for public assistance. That now is down to about $1 million annually.
  • MUNCIE – Indiana’s business personal property tax remains a hot topic across much of the state. Tax abatements, TIF and an outright repeal are getting more of the attention they deserve. There is reason for optimism in this debate; however, the most critical issues are persistently ignored. In Fort Wayne, the city council will vote on a proposal to eliminate the business personal property tax. The proponents of this make two arguments. First, a lower tax will make the region more enticing to business investment. Second, that the city approves tax abatements and TIFs so often that new businesses receive huge windfalls while existing businesses bear higher taxes, or reduced services, because of the TIF or abatement. Both of these arguments have the benefit of being factually true; however, both entirely miss the real issues about tax policy and economic development. Let me explain.
  • INDIANAPOLIS - Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Gov. Mike Pence is still being paid by Indiana’s hard working taxpayers even while on his excellent, vice presidential adventure. But Mike Pence is no longer acting like an Indiana governor. Since he was officially selected by Donald Trump on July 16, he’s gone national. He’s come back to Indiana to ride his motorcycle with ABATE, he opened the Indiana State Fair, he’s had several cabinet meetings, campaigned with Eric Holcomb in Columbus, opened a Trump campaign office in Carmel and hosted Trump fundraisers in Evansville and Indianapolis. At none of these events was he willing to field media questions. He hasn’t taken live questions from the media since the vice presidential speculation was growing in early July, with the exception of one interview with WTHR-TV’s Kevin Rader where a seat on his jet cost thousands of dollars. On the public policy front, it’s been June since he took questions. Pence didn’t meet with the press when he accepted his second gubernatorial nomination in early June. During the Republican National Convention, Pence didn’t have time to stop by the Hoosier delegation’s hotel in Cleveland to rub shoulders with the faithful. On the day after his acceptance speech, he spent about 20 minutes with the delegation at a country club, and then he was gone.

  • WEST LAFAYETTE – Is it September already? While I’m gearing up for my economics class at Purdue, it’s a good time to take a look at the economy. Got to offer those eager young people the latest word!  Let’s start with gross domestic product, our main measure of goods and services production. GDP grew 1.2 percent above inflation from July 2015 to June 2016. That’s pretty slow. Don’t blame consumers. Consumer spending increased 2.7 percent above inflation over the past year, and when people buy, businesses produce more products and hire more employees. There are good reasons to think that consumers will keep spending. Job prospects are better. Wages are edging upward. Home and stock prices are up. Let’s put consumers down for 3 percent spending growth next year.
        
  • WEST BADEN, Ind. - When you look at the last generation of Indiana gubernatorial races, almost every time there has been a heavy to nominal favorite. Govs. Doc Bowen and Bob Orr were both heavy favorites, though Orr’s 1984 reelect was closer than expected due to a tough economy. Evan Bayh went from nominal advantage over Lt. Gov. John Mutz to a landslide reelect. Frank O’Bannon had the biggest upset in 1996 over Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, then went on to an easy reelect, with one person telling Republican David McIntosh, “Are you sure you want to challenge grandpa?” Then came the Mitch Daniels era, where his weed-the-garden comeback message prevailed over Gov. Joe Kernan, who had been in and out of the 2004 race. Daniels then he steered through the Obama phenomena to win a reelection with 58 percent of the vote. Mike Pence was a heavy favorite in 2012, but eeked out a narrow win over John Gregg, in part because of the female vote and Richard Mourdock’s epic Senate debate blunder. Pence’s second race as the most polarizing governor in modern history had placed him on tenuous ground before he bolted for the presidential ticket. Today, Hoosiers are on a precipice of electing a new governor.
  • KOKOMO – Howard County and the City of Kokomo are not the first areas to be visited by the destructive forces of a tornado, nor are they the victims of the worst tornado. They are the victims of three nasty twisters that touched down last Wednesday. When you are in the middle of a tornado you don’t spend a lot of time debating whether it is an F2, F3 or F4 storm that is flattening your house, destroying your business or totally disrupting your day-to-day life.  There’s quite a bit of chance and luck that goes into determining whether you emerge alive from a big tornado. When and where the twister touches down, the time of day, how long and wide the path of destruction and the day of the week are all variables that go into Mother Nature’s lottery of life. Of course, decisions and actions taken by governmental bodies and individuals also help or hinder the ultimate outcome of the tragedy of a tornado. Very accidentally, I found myself at ground zero in the direct path of the tornado at 3:20 p.m.  Sometimes innocent decisions can alter your life. Thankfully, my number didn’t come up on the big old wheel of fortune this time. It was 2:25, and I was in the family room of my home, entertaining my brother visiting from Florida. It was sunny outside but you could hear a faint rumbling of thunder from the west.
  • FORT WAYNE – The challenge of this year’s gubernatorial election is different. Contrary to feelings inside most campaign bubbles, almost no one is paying attention and few voters care about the race. This helps both Eric Holcomb and John Gregg because both begin as relative unknowns to most but party loyalists. Name identification is not the same as having an image attached to it. It helps Holcomb because attempts by Gregg to connect him to Mike Pence don’t work except to appeal to hard-core Democrats. The obsession with all things Trump, and secondarily with all things Hillary, means that voters at this point connect Pence with Trump. While Trump/Pence could lose in Indiana, it certainly doesn’t appear so and my guess is that Indiana would be one of the last states to go even in a Democrat tsunami. So why would you tie Holcomb to Pence. What could matter, if Holcomb capitalizes upon it, are his even closer ties to Mitch Daniels. Daniels is a popular and respected figure, possibly more in memory than at the time. It would make Gregg appear to be running against both Pence and Daniels.  On the other hand, Gregg has a different problem than Holcomb. For someone who served in his first elective office 42 years ago and was Indiana House speaker in the last century, he also remains a relative blank slate.
  • MERRILLVILLE – If Lake County Democratic Chairman John Buncich has said it once, he’s said it a hundred times. “We can’t take four more years of Mike Pence,” is Buncich’s standard line. With Labor Day just a few days away, Lake County’s once dominant, but still powerful, Democratic Party is ready to launch the two-month campaign leading up to the Nov. 8 election. But, of course, it won’t be Pence who Democrats will be facing. But that doesn’t matter to Buncich, who doubles as county sheriff. “You look at (Eric) Holcomb and you see Pence,” Buncich said of the lieutenant governor who is Pence’s replacement on the ballot for governor. Holcomb, in fact, has vowed to campaign on Pence’s record. The fall campaign will culminate with a late October victory rally at the Greek Hall in Merrillville with some 800 expected to attend. U.S. Senate candidate Evan Bayh, governor candidate John Gregg and the rest of the state ticket will headline the rally.
  • INDIANAPOLIS –  Somebody is sure to ask, “Are you better off now than you were in 2007?” That was probably the one year most folks think of as “pre-Great Recession,” when the Good Times last rolled. Your answer is going to depend on where you live now, what you are doing now, compared to where you were and what you were doing back then. We’ll use 2007 and 2015 annual averages at the county level from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development to get some idea about how the Hoosier economy is now compared to then. Let’s start with the unemployment rates. Back in 2007, the highest unemployment rate fell on Fayette County at 7.2%. In 2015, Vermillion had that “honor” at 7.1%. In both periods, Hamilton County could boast the lowest unemployment rate of Indiana’s 92 counties, although the rate did rise there from 2.9 to 3.4%. Hamilton was just one of 40 Hoosier counties with a higher unemployment rate in 2015 than eight years earlier. By contrast, 32 counties saw their unemployment rates fall over that period, while 20 counties had negligible changes from -1 to +1%.
  • SOUTH BEND - Gov. Mike Pence will not be governor of Indiana next year. Nor will Pence be vice president, unless there are monumental events to avert the looming defeat of Donald Trump in the presidential race. Q. So, where would that leave Pence? A. Perhaps closer to his goal than he would have been if he had declined the vice presidential nomination and had run instead for re-election as governor. Q. Really? Losing for vice president, maybe with the GOP ticket trounced, could leave Pence still viable for his goal of president? A. Quite possibly. In fact, it could be argued that the worse the trouncing for Trump, the better politically for Pence. Q. Won’t Pence share blame if the Trump-Pence ticket is demolished? A. No. Pence would get no blame. It wouldn’t be his fault. Pence would get credit from Republican leaders for trying to hold the party together and save Republicans in governor, senator and House races. They would think of how much worse things would have been if Pence wasn’t there to clean up after Trump’s messes. Many Republicans now lament that it’s not Pence leading the ticket. And that’s his goal - someday, preferably in 2020, to lead the ticket, to be the presidential nominee and win.
        
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  • Intelligence Chairs say Putin seeks to disrupt, influence U.S. election
    “At the least, this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes. We believe that orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from very senior levels of the Russian government.” - In a jointly issued statement from Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam B. Schiff who are the ranking Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees, on Russian President Vladimir Putin's likely effort to disrupt and influence the U.S. presidential election. Both said they reached their conclusion “based on briefings we have received” from U.S. intelligence agencies. The Republican presidential ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence have both cited Putin for his strong leadership and Trump has suggested the U.S. election will be “rigged.”
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HPI Video Feed
Hillary Clinton's "Mirrors" TV ad
The Clinton campaign highlights Donald Trump quotes on women.

Don King slur while introducing Trump
Don King uses the N-word while introducing Donald Trump in Cleveland on Wednesday.

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Trump taxes

Should Donald Trump release recent tax returns, like every major party nominee has done over the past 40 years?


 




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