Morton Marcus: Moonshine along the Wabash
Thursday, October 20, 2016 9:23 AM
INDIANAPOLIS – The campaigns for governor and 125 seats in the General Assembly are winding down. We’ll be relieved soon from the slurs and insults of competing camps. Commercials will return to products supposed to make us regular again.
The big question of these elections is, “Will anything be done by state government to make Indiana more attractive as a place to live and a place to run a business?” Every candidate told us s/he has a plan. That’s wonderful. But plans don’t do well in our legislature because most Hoosiers believe we don’t have any real problems and they elect people who agree with them.
After all, we already have the Lord’s blessing (“Ain’t God good to Indiana?”). Plus many business publications declare Indiana the winner in promising few quality government services and delivering less.
We’re becoming the North Korea of the Western Hemisphere. Our state government tells us how fine life is here and most of our news media print and broadcast all the good news they can find in self-serving press releases. However, Indiana is trending down relative to other states. We currently rank as the 16th most populous state, with 6.6 million residents. We gained 136,000 since the Census of 2010 (22nd among the 50 states), which translates to a 2.1 percent increase (32nd) compared to the national growth rate of 4.1 percent.
Natural increase, the excess of births over deaths, accounted for 95 percent of our population growth. You aren’t troubled by meeting strangers in Indiana. International migration ranked us 20th at 57,000, offset by net domestic out migration of 47,000. Thus, we ended up with only 10,000 new residents. We also lost 3,000 for unknown reasons.
Did you get that? 47,000 more Americans chose to leave Indiana than to move here from elsewhere in the U.S. In a free country, where you can move anywhere, anytime, without a permit from the government, losing population through domestic migration is – at minimum – embarrassing.
To add to our embarrassment, 58 of our 92 counties lost population, during an economic recovery, between 2010 and 2015. And we’re told how well Indiana is doing.
Why are people leaving? There are many reasons, but our state’s economy is one. No, it wasn’t the recession, as some politicians want you to believe. Between 2005 and 2010, the Indiana economy, measured by Real GDP, grew by 3.3 percent, a shade better than the 2.9 percent increase enjoyed by the nation. Yet, when the recovery got rolling, 2010 to 2015, the U.S. gained 9.5 percent while, Indiana – “the state that works,” “business friendly Indiana” – advanced by only 1.7 percent.
Our share of U.S. GDP fell from 1.91 percent in 2005 to 1.86 percent in 2015. I can hear it now, “What’s the fuss over 0.05 percent?” The answer: “$6.7 billion in foregone output by Hoosier businesses and possibly 66,000 Hoosier jobs in 2015.”
Yes, indeed, somebody’s been drinking strong moonshine while the moonlight’s fair along the Wabash.
Mr. Marcus is an economist, writer, and speaker who may be reached at email@example.com.