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Monday, July 4, 2022
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Friday, July 1, 2022 9:11 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE – When Mitch Daniels was a little boy, the lament of the Brooklyn Dodgers until they won the World Series in 1955 was, “Wait ‘til next year.”

On Monday, I visited Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ office at Hovde Hall. The mission was similar to what I did in 2006 with Evan Bayh and 2013 with Frank O’Bannon, which was to do a 10-year post analysis on their governorships. This sitdown was the first of an analysis coming later this year.

When Daniels was packing up his Statehouse office in December 2012, HPI observed that his governorship can be viewed as “transformative” because of its audacious scope and conspicuous use of political capital. But it will take a decade or more to determine how effective the education and transportation reforms were. Daniels agreed with that, saying, “Your time frame may be about right.”

But as Randy Tobias might put it, there was a big moose on the table. Since Daniels announced he was stepping down as Purdue president earlier this month, with a Dec. 31 departure date, it ignited a raft of speculation on whether he might become Indiana’s first three-term governor, or take a stab at the White House, or, perhaps, as Monty Python would put it, “something completely different.”

“I don’t have anything to add,” Daniels said about an hour into our conversation. “I’m leaving that for later. We’ll see. I always said I was the worst career planner on the planet. Every so often the phone will ring and there’s something interesting to do: What? Eli Lilly? What? OMB? It will quit ringing at some point. We’ll see. I’ve got some big plates spinning right now. Something will work out. I’m under no pressure to do anything.”
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    INDIANAPOLIS – The recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion provides a remarkable teachable moment for the nation if we will simply pause and ponder what the ruling actually says. Put away abortion politics, set aside any disappointment or joy you might personally feel, and consider the decision’s foundational findings as if it is a civics lessons. That’s a fair reading of the ruling, because every U.S. Supreme Court decision, at its heart, is a civics lesson. In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito declares simply that neither the constitution nor anything in our history or traditions gives the federal government the power to either restrict or encourage abortion. In our federal system, where the national government has limited, enumerated and separated powers, such “silence” means the issue rests with the states and the people. As Justice Brett Kavanaugh put it in a concurring opinion, the Constitution is neutral on abortion – it neither favors nor disadvantages abortion.
    WEST LAFAYETTE – The inflation rate in May was 8.6%, the highest since the bad old days of the Great Inflation 40 years ago. We’re all paying higher prices. So are our school districts. School districts face some costs that increase as prices rise, and other costs that don’t. Food, fuel and equipment prices rise, and schools must pay. But teacher salaries are set in contracts, and until those contracts expire, inflation won’t have an effect. In 2021, Indiana public schools paid 62,000 teachers $4.4 billion in salaries and benefits. That’s more than one-third of total school budgets. Teacher contracts run for one or two years, and until they expire, pay will rise at rates set before inflation increased. After a year or two contracts will be renegotiated, and it’s likely that teachers will expect their pay to keep up with higher inflation. Inflation had been running near 2% per year, and teacher pay increased by about that amount. The increase in average teacher salaries has been 2.3% per year, enough to keep up with inflation that was, but well short of 8.6%. After a year or two, the cost of teacher pay is likely to rise much faster.
    CARMEL – Sometime this coming weekend, Joe Sixpack, Betty Sixpack and the Sixpack brood are going to want to celebrate the Fourth of July with their usual trip to grandma’s house, the family barbecue and, of course, fireworks. In a day or two, Joe Sixpack is going to get the economic shock of discovering just how bad inflation has gotten. He’s paid the $5.25 a gallon for gas, but Betty has done much of the grocery shopping for the family and the full impact of inflation has been hidden by nifty new packaging and marketing gimmicks.  The two Sixpack progeny, Biff and Buffy, have been largely immune from inflation as far as they know and are far more worried about which pronoun they will use to call themselves next year in school. Joe is going to head down to the local stop and shop to fill up the gas tank for the trip to grandma’s house. His full tank is going to cost him over $100 for his pickup truck. He will go inside to pick up a case of beer because nothing goes better than alcohol with high explosives. He will be shocked to find that the price of beer has risen over 5% since April. 
    MUNCIE – In the past few months, I’ve had several folks ask if recent inflation is the worst it has ever been. To those sweet summer children, I say what should be obvious, inflation has been much worse. That is why economists at the Federal Reserve are burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how much monetary tightening will be needed to prevent it from worsening. A far better question is how does inflation affect the economy, and also, who benefits and who bears the cost? It’s important to note that inflation has toppled governments, throwing power to ruthless despots from Hitler to Mugabe. And yet, those were events unlike ours in every conceivable way. I have a 1 million Reichmark bank note and a 1 million Zimbabwean dollar note to prove it. Neither of these was worth its face value in toilet paper when printed. The inflation we suffer is of the more ordinary kind. Year over year, the price level has risen at just over 8% for the last quarter.
    INDIANAPOLIS –  This week, we move deeper in Indiana’s economy, down the GDP rabbit hole into the sectors of that economy. Recall, we use the 2019 GDP, the sum of all the goods and services produced in Indiana, because 2020 and 2021 were impacted by the COVID pandemic. We think 2019 is more reliable picture of our Hoosier economy. How many economic sectors are in Indiana? You could say two, the private and the public sectors, if you’re thinking of ownership. Or two, goods and services, if you’re thinking about material substances vs. what people do more directly for you. We’re dividing the economy into 21 sectors and accepting the ambiguity of those sector names.
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  • HPI Analysis: Holcomb legacy rests on post-Dobbs; special session delayed until July 25

    INDIANAPOLIS  – When the Indiana General Assembly convenes in special session to consider tax rebates and new abortion restrictions on July 25, it sets the stage for perhaps the most compelling sequence in Eric Holcomb’s governorship. Gov. Holcomb might be remembered for his handling of COVID-19 pandemic, his robust Next Level road building program, “inflation relief” or continuing state tax cuts, but probably not. Two-term governors are usually remembered for the last big thing they did, like Gov. Robert Orr’s A-Plus education reforms of 1987 or Gov. Mitch Daniels’ 2011 teacher evaluation and options for families (full public school choice). The direction the legislature and Gov. Holcomb go on the abortion issue is one that will likely be their enduring legacy. According to informed and reliable sources, the unsettled abortion bill is expected to start in the Senate, with State Sen. Liz Brown in the key sponsorship role. The governor’s inflation relief bill will start in the House. At an event in Columbus on Thursday, Holcomb said there were no "red lines" to cross on the coming abortion restrictions.
  • Congress: The Jan. 6 ‘Moonstruck’ moment as scandal continues to mushroom

    INDIANAPOLIS — Call it the nation’s “Moonstruck” moment, which occurred Tuesday during the House Jan. 6 Select Committee session. Only it wasn’t Cher urging Nicholas Cage to “snap out of it.” This was an obscure aide named Cassidy Hutchinson and White House Chief of Mark Meadows. With an armed mob goaded by President Trump marching toward the U.S. Capitol as Vice President Mike Pence and Congress counted the 538 Electoral College votes, Hutchinson had been warned by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, “Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we let that happen.” Trump, Meadows and senior White House officials knew the mob was armed. “I recall Tony (Deputy Chief of Staff Ornato) and I having a conversation with Mark (Meadows) probably around 10 a.m., 10:15 a.m. where I remember Tony mentioning knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears, and flagpoles. Spears were one item, flagpoles were one item,” Hutchinson testified. “But then Tony had related to me something to the effect of these effing people are fastening spears onto the ends of flagpoles.”
  • Horse Race: Dobbs decision hits 1st CD race

    WASHINGTON – At the congressional level, just hours after the Supreme Court handed down a decision that struck down abortion rights, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried to make it an issue in the competitive 1st CD race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan and Republican challenger Jennifer-Ruth Green. “The stakes in this election could not be higher; Jennifer-Ruth Green has cheered as the Supreme Court rips away Hoosiers’ constitutional rights,” DCCC spokeswoman Elena Kuhn said in a statement. “She couldn’t be more out of step with Indiana voters – and we will remind Hoosiers of her extreme support for taking away women’s freedoms to make their own health care decisions every day until November.”
  • Atomic: Abortion debate injected into 1st CD; How far will INGOP go? Jacob calls for total ban; Sen. Walker might go there; 20 women assaulted in Clark County Jail
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in West Lafayette
    and MARK SCHOEFF Washington

    1. Battle lines form over Roe, Dobbs: Just hours after the Supreme Court handed down a decision that struck down abortion rights, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried to make it an issue in the competitive 1st CD race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan and Republican challenger Jennifer-Ruth Green. “The stakes in this election could not be higher: Jennifer-Ruth Green has cheered as the Supreme Court rips away Hoosiers’ constitutional rights,” DCCC spokeswoman Elena Kuhn said in a statement. “She couldn’t be more out of step with Indiana voters – and we will remind Hoosiers of her extreme support for taking away women’s freedoms to make their own health care decisions every day until November.” 

  • HPI Analysis: As Pence achieves his holy grail, he is stalled in GOP purgatory


    INDIANAPOLIS - June 24, 2022 should be the political holy grail for Mike Pence. It was the day he had long strived for, the day Roe v. Wade was consigned to the “ash heap of history.” 
    "By returning the question of abortion to the states and to the people, this Supreme Court has righted an historic wrong and reaffirmed the right of the American people to govern themselves at the state level in a manner consistent with their values and aspirations," Pence said on Friday. "Now that Roe v. Wade has been consigned to the ash heap of history, a new arena in the cause of life has emerged and it is incumbent on all who cherish the sanctity of life to resolve that we take the defense of the unborn and the support for women in crisis pregnancy centers to every state in America." Pence's campaign PAC Advancing American Freedom quickly released a video saying that for pro-life Americans "today is one many thought they would never see" while adding, "His cause is our cause." It pointed out he was the first Republican in Congress to propose "defunding Planned Parenthood," he cast a pivotal tie-breaking vote in the Senate, and as governor of Indiana, signed every pro-life bill he was presented.

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  • Holcomb will sign 'any' abortion restriction; House GOP to caucus outside Statehouse
    “I don’t have any red lines right now. It’s of paramount importance to me … that we must recognize that this issue is one of the most divisive by definition — when you look at where people fall in the nation — and that will require a thoughtful and respectful airing of where we all come from.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb to the Capital Chronicle, saying he will sign any abortion restriction legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes in a special session on July 25. Informed and reliable sources tell Howey Politics Indiana that House Republicans will caucus outside the Statehouse at an undisclosed location on Tuesday July 5 to develop legislation.
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