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Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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Tuesday, January 18, 2022 9:54 AM

By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Hoosier tributes to Dr. King

Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Hoosier politicians were speaking his praise. U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan, D-Highland: "Let us honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, and recommit to doing what is right and creating a more fair and equitable society for everyone." And U.S. Rep. André Carson, D-Indianapolis: “We still have a long way to go to build Dr. King’s Beloved Community, but we are making progress. In the past year, Congress and the Biden Administration have enacted policies that address and provide solutions to systemic racism, police brutality, income inequality, educational disparities, and much more. I’ll continue working hard in Congress to strengthen his legacy through these reforms and redouble our work to pass voting rights bills to allow every American’s vote to count."

Republicans paid tribute too. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who described America at an "inflection point" durint the summer of 2020 in the wake of the George Floyd murder, said, "At a time of such challenge and controversy, like few others in history before he took action, bravely and boldly, carrying a message of love, liberty and justice for all. We know there is still a lot to do, and we're committed to Dr. King's dream of making this a better country for all. The 31st annual MLK, Jr. Indiana Holiday Celebration reminds us that the best way we'll honor his legacy is by continuing his work." Former Vice President Mike Pence: "We honor the memory of a remarkable man and a giant of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged our Nation to live up to the highest ideals of our founding and his memory will continue to inspire generations to come."

Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Braun didn't issue a statement, but U.S. Sen. Todd Young said, "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and actions still inspire us more than 50 years later. Today, we honor his message." Both Republicans oppose the voting rights bill that will be up for a vote today in the Senate. Martin Luther King III: "Don't tell us what you believe in, show us with your votes. History will be watching what happens tomorrow. If you can deliver an infrastructure bill for bridges, you can deliver voting rights for Americans. If you do not, there is no bridge in this nation that can hold the weight of that failure."

2. Only a third see King reality

Barely a third of Americans believe Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams of equal opportunity in the country are a reality. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey finds that only 34% of American Adults think the country has reached the day when men and women of all races have equal opportunity, just like King preached about in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech more than 50 years ago, while 54% disagree.

3. Holcomb on executive powers

Gov. Eric Holcomb on HB1100 that would limit his pandemic executive powers, to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: "We have concerns. I do. There's a lot of bills out there swirling around, this being one of them ... that could very easily have an adverse impact on administering state government and our duty. And so we're in ongoing conversations about every word entailed in that bill as it is right now.” 

4. Schaffer case used v. Oath Keepers

Columbus Republic: A federal judge is allowing prosecutors to share “sealed materials” from a criminal case against a local man and heavy metal guitarist (Jon Schaffer) who pleaded guilty to participating in the violent Jan. 6 Capitol attack with attorneys representing leaders of the far-right Oath Keepers militia. Leaders and members of the Oath Keepers are now facing charges of seditious conspiracy and other crimes related to the insurrection, according to federal court documents. 

5. Omicron ebbing

IU Northwest economics Associate Prof. Micah Pollak: "I'm extremely happy to say that there are now very clear signs that the Omicron #COVID19 wave in #Indiana has peaked and cases are falling. Average daily cases down 5% in the last three days from a peak of 13,549/day." Indiana State Dept. of Health: There were 13,506 cases of COVID among students in Indiana reported for the week ending Jan. 14. On Monday the state reported 3,363 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 9,870 new cases.

Have a great day folks, and thanks for reading. It's The Atomic!

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    MUNCIE - This week we set aside time to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and reflect upon his influence. Classrooms around the country will replay some of his speeches, and students together will read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It is necessary that they do so, and no Americans can count themselves as truly educated who have not read much of his most popular arguments. King’s words are part of the canon of American political writing, and belong to a long tradition of Enlightenment thought. His best belongs in the same intellectual anthology as that of Jefferson, Lincoln and Thomas Paine. The essence of the American aspirations towards freedom can be understood by cobbling together just a few paragraphs from Paine’s Rights of Man, Jefferson’s second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address, along with King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and "I Have a Dream" speech. Few readers likely experience the same misty-eyed affection for these words as do I. But, they cannot help but move even the most cynical observer of the American experience. Even an hour spent reading these words might allow us to better appreciate one another as we go about building a more perfect union.

    ANDERSON – The subject line of the email telegraphed what was coming. “It’s a hoax!!!” it said. The writer didn’t hide his lack of credentials. “Listen, I’m no doctor or expert or the like,” he wrote, “but, BUT, I’ve read five books on this medical corruption in western civilization and two on masks. Masks are not at all safe. Period!” My reader was doing his own research. He was in the process of reading a sixth book, this one by vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “The title sez it all: ‘The Real Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health,’” he wrote. “WOW!!! Read it!!!” I was tempted to ask how many books this fellow thought Fauci had read during his long career in public health, but I decided it would be a wasted effort. I’m sure we could have gone back and forth discussing the man’s so-called experts. He mentioned Dr. Robert Malone, who claims to be the inventor of the mRNA vaccine, and Kary Mullis, a Nobel Prize winner and developer of the test used to determine whether a patient has contracted COVID-19.
    BLOOMINGTON – With a $1 trillion infrastructure package on the books and the Biden administration’s $1.8 trillion “Build Back Better” measure preoccupying the Senate after passing the House, government spending is very much on Americans’ minds. In public meetings, I frequently hear people say that government’s share of the economy is too big, and it’s likely that voters’ feelings about federal spending in particular will figure prominently in next year’s elections. If you look ahead, even beyond the current debate on Capitol Hill, there’s no question that there will be intense pressure to expand even further. To deal effectively with climate change, reckon with the impact of an aging population, handle the health care needs of Americans post-pandemic – these are problems that will demand a role for government. Which, in turn, will mean more spending, more bureaucracy, more opportunity for corruption, and less space for the individual enterprise that fuels economic prosperity. The U.S. is not alone in this. “On current forecasts,” The Economist wrote recently, “government spending will be greater as a share of GDP in 2026 than it was in 2006 in every major advanced economy.” 
    MUNCIE – Last month the state’s largest healthcare firm, IU Health, announced it would freeze prices through 2025. That end date is tentative, and the plan is short on public details. However, there has been enough reporting about the issue that we can begin to understand how financially important this is for businesses and consumers. It is also useful to interpret this decision in light of the overall hospital monopoly problem in Indiana. IU Health has claimed that this price freeze will save Hoosiers about $1 billion over the five-year freeze from 2021 through 2025. This may be correct, but this not-for-profit hospital system earned $1.2 billion in profits in 2020. Numbers of this size seem almost abstract and difficult to assess without more context. By comparison, IU Health’s profit rate is four times higher than what Walmart has posted in any of the 52 years it has been a corporation. Last year, IU Health reported profits of more than $33,000 per employee. IU Health has been able to sustain what economists term supra-normal profits for many years because it has become a strong regional monopoly in many parts of the state. This allows the firm to price its medical services at more than three times the federal reimbursement level. This is high by national standards, but to be fair to IU Health, it isn’t even the worst in Indiana on some measures.
    INDIANAPOLIS – Last week in this space, data showed Indiana performed well compared to most other states in the COVID-induced economic decline and rebound of 2020-21. Today, consider a longer period of time, 2007 through 2019. Why this 12-year span? The year 2007 was the last before the financial debacle required massive and novel recovery measures. The year 2019 was the last before the worldwide COVID pandemic from which we are still recovering. While the shorter-run is important, the longer period tests our state’s economic development policies. Jobs are the favorite economic talking point for many politicians. How did Indiana do adding jobs from 2007 to 2019? Nationally, the number of jobs grew by 9.3% and by 6.0% in Indiana. But that national figure gives more weight to the bigger states than the smaller ones.
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  • Atomic! Houchin picks up 9th CD endorsements; Milo seeks 1st CD; Sen. Baldwin's awful week

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY in Kokomo

    1. 1st & 9th CD races are percolating: Despite the new congressional maps that seem to be an Indiana Incumbent Protection Plan, there is much activity setting up the 2022 cycle. On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth announced he wouldn't seek reelection. He was self-term limited and apparently is pondering a 2024 run for governor. That prompted State Sen. Erin Houchin, who lost to Hollingsworth in the 2016 GOP primary, to announce on Thursday. She was endorsed by U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski and Larry Bucshon on Thursday, and today, Attorney General Todd Rokita, who said, "Erin Houchin is just the medicine Congress needs. She’s a no-nonsense conservative pragmatic leader who will help stop The Bumbling Biden-Schumer-Pelosi-AOC express train that is leading us to international embarrassment and financial ruin." Houchin served as Rokita's 2020 GOP convention campaign manager. A reliable source tells Howey Politics Indiana  that former Republican congressman Mike Sodrel is weighing a bid. He won the seat from U.S. Rep. Baron Hill in 2004 and held it for a term before Hill won it back. In the 1st CD, former Republican LaPorte mayor Blair Milo announced she would seek the GOP nomination for the right to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan. "I feel called to do this," Milo said in an exclusive interview with NWI Times. "We have an opportunity to elect a leader who will fight for Hoosier conservative values." Milo was the youngest mayor elected in LaPorte history before resigning in 2017 when Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed her Secretary for Career Connections and Talent.

  • HPI Analysis: Holcomb's 6th address comes in surreal times

    INDIANAPOLIS – When Gov. Eric Holcomb appeared at the House podium Tuesday night for his sixth State of the State address, it came amidst surreal circumstances that have consistently defined his political career. Indiana’s hospitals were swamped with mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients and in a crisis mode. The state had a historically low 3% unemployment rate and there were 150,000 job openings coming at a time of what is being called the “Great Resignation” (or the “Great Retirement”) that is potentially skewing labor statistics. Holcomb avoided the hot button social issues percolating among the two General Assembly Republican super majorities. He is being confronted by a Republican attorney general and spoke to a General Assembly that earlier this year had overridden two of his vetoes. So here was Gov. Holcomb, who ascended to office in 2016 while “building the airplane in mid-air,” now confronting a third year of a pandemic crisis that resulted in $13 billion of emergency federal aid flooding into his beloved Indiana, giving, perhaps, his best State of the State address yet. It was full of passion as he outlined reasons for optimism. Just hours after his speech, the Associated Press moved a story suggesting that the Omicron variant surge could wane quickly.
  • Horse Race: Hollingsworth passes on reelect; Houchin announces for 9th CD

    INDIANAPOLIS – Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth announced on Wednesday he will not seek reelection, setting off a chain-reaction as State Sen. Erin Houchin said this morning she will seek the 9th CD, while speculation builds that he will run as a self-funder for governor in 2024. Hollingsworth said in his IndyStar op-ed that he said he would continue to serve the 9th CD “in different ways,” suggesting a 2024 gubernatorial run where he would be a potential self-funder candidate.  Hollingsworth, a Republican first elected in 2016, said that much of his time in Congress has been spent “battling Washington itself,” writing, “The problem of politicians using their office to catapult themselves to another office, to a Committee assignment, or to a high-paying lobbying job is the misaligned incentive that tears at the most fundamental promise of democracy: Elected officials represent electorates.”
  • Horse Race: SofS race begins to take shape

    INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana secretary of state race began to take definition this past week as incumbent Republican Holli Sullivan declared for a full term while Democrat Destiny Scott Wells declared for the nomination with a boost from Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, who held the seat three decades ago. Sullivan, who was appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb when Connie Lawson retired last winter, faces at least two convention opponents, Newton County Commissioner Kyle Conrad and unsuccessful 4th CD candidate Diego Morales. “As secretary of state I know how much is at stake,” Sullivan said in announcing for a full term on Monday. “I’m running because safe and secure elections is not a destination. It is a relentless pursuit to ensure that all eligible voters are able to cast a ballot and all legal votes are counted in a timely manner, free of fraud, corruption and interference.
  • Sen. Mrvan abruptly retires

    Howey Politics Indiana

    Longtime Democrat State Sen. Frank Mrvan abruptly announced his retirement on Tuesday. "Today I notified Indiana State Senate Majority Leader Rodric Bray that I am retiring effective January 11, 2022," said Mrvan. "This journey into public service would not have been possible without the support of my lovely wife Jean and countless others over the years who have allowed me to be the most effective leader I could be for the constituents of Northwest Indiana. No one could have imagined after my first successful campaign to serve as the City Councilman for the Sixth District of the City of Hammond in 1972 that the citizens would support me to continue a career in public service for five decades. Holding the public trust in elected office is an incredible honor and responsibility. Throughout my career, I have always placed a value on being able to listen to the concerns of constituents and be their voice in our state’s Capitol." 

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  • South Bend Mayor Mueller hopes pandemic ending
    “And to get even bolder, I hope this is the last community event, big community event, hat is delayed or canceled because of COVID-19. We are weeks away from turning the corner and putting this behind us once and for all. I know we are excited to get there, and right now it is a little disappointing.” - South Bend Mayor James Mueller, speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. event on Monday. St. Joseph County Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox: “I think we are certainly weeks away from being through the worst of the omicron phase. We may have crested now or sometime in the next week, probably, we will hit our peak at omicron. And the recovery from that should almost be as rapid as the rise was. While it’s caused a lot of infections, the duration is going to be relatively short-lived.”
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