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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.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – It’s Omarosa week! And guess what? That’s right. I’ve got an Omarosa story. It’s not a great story. Sort of interesting but could be more interesting if I exaggerate. It might have a point to it, but I’m not yet sure if it will. It all started during the Trump 2016 campaign. It ended on Inauguration Day. As you may remember, Rex Early was our Indiana chairman and I was the vice chair. We were volunteers in those roles. Too bad Rex doesn’t really have anything to do with this story, because it would probably be an awesome tale if Rex and Omarosa had met. What a slugfest that would have been. What most people don’t know is that after the national convention in early August, I was also brought onto the paid staff as the communications director for Indiana. The national campaign had 18 states with paid comms directors, and because I had been the point person with the media up until then, they decided to pay me for it. Back to my Omarosa story. As the communications director, I got to be on calls with the national communications team at 7 a.m., then on another call with the other state comms folks and our director at 8 a.m. and then could listen in on a surrogate call at noon. This was all fascinating as I was listening to folks like Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Katrina Pierson. Even Bobby Knight was once on a call. And yes, Omarosa. That was crazy to me because it was Omarosa. She was nuts. I used to watch “The Apprentice,” so I knew she was crazy. What was she doing on these calls?
  • MUNCIE – The United States is close to 40 years into the “War on Drugs.” What began as a campaign of good intentions has become among the most costly policy failures of the last 150 years. We seem unwilling or unable to grapple with the immense consequences, or indeed even fully appreciate the depth, of the problem. Before I explain the issue and discuss some reasonable alternatives, I wish to make clear my personal feelings about illegal drug use. I am about as anti-drug as a Baby Boomer can possible be, and personally view much addiction and even casual use as at least partially a moral failing. Coming of age in the 1970s, even casual marijuana use could disqualify someone from military service, so I steered clear of drugs. Later, as a young officer in an army hospital, I witnessed the seductiveness of intravenous opioids, and saw plenty of soldiers ruin their lives with drug convictions.  Finally, I came to see the havoc American demand for drugs played on the economies and societies in the Middle East and South America. Illegal drug use is a scourge, and it imposes great harm on the most vulnerable citizens of the world, here and abroad. I am not an apologist for illicit drug use, but see that we need another approach. 
  • MERRILLVILLE –  It has been 51 years since Richard G. Hatcher was elected mayor of Gary. He, along with Carl Stokes of Cleveland, will always be remembered as the first two black mayors of a major U.S. city. Since his election, the city has fallen on hard times. The population has plummeted and the crime rate has soared. Unemployment is high and young black men have a difficult time finding their way. Ragen Hatcher, the former mayor’s daughter, may be about to establish her own legacy. At the Gary City Council meeting a week ago, Ragen Hatcher announced that she will seek to decriminalize marijuana within the city limits. As a former prosecutor in Gary City Court, Ragen Hatcher has seen what marijuana has done to young black men. She said that many of the cases she handled involved possession of marijuana. “That gave 18-, 19-, 21-year-olds their first criminal conviction, very young. And that follows you throughout your life,” Ragen Hatcher said.
  • LaPORTE – Rather than being diverted with esoteric debates about how many trillions of tax dollars a “Medicare for All” plan would entail, doesn’t it make more sense to see what can be done about protecting the Affordable Care Act from attacks and getting to universal coverage in other ways? While advocates of Medicare for All are certainly well-intentioned, undue attention is being paid to plans such as that which have little to no chance of passage by this Congress or any other in the near future. When one considers that the Affordable Care Act passed with just one vote to spare and is now under unceasing attack on multiple fronts including by our own Indiana attorney general, it would seem a more productive use of time and political capital to protect what has already been gained. With 400,000 additional Hoosiers are now covered under HIP 2.0 that was made possible by the Medicaid expansion of ACA, why jeopardize that by allowing critics to assail Medicare for All? Why not fight to protect the ACA with its pre-existing conditions protections and better coverage for those with serious and chronic conditions?
  • SOUTH BEND – Sen. Joe Donnelly believes in campaigning. The old style of campaigning. What he calls a “grind it out” style. Meeting voters here, there, everywhere, all over the state. That’s why, during the Senate recess, the politically endangered Democrat traveled to every corner of the state and in the middle, too, on a seven-day tour that ended Thursday. Donnelly said in an interview that he found health care the No. 1 issue with Hoosiers, with strong support for the Affordable Care Act provision for insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, especially for children. And of course he reminded voters everywhere, as he did at an event in LaPorte Wednesday night, that he cast a crucial vote to keep Senate Republicans from repealing that provision along with other parts of the health care law.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – This is the way it starts. A few optimists get together. One says, “Wouldn’t it be great to commemorate [insert idea] right here in [our town]? “That’s a great idea,” says a second. “It could be educational, informative and patriotic.” Then a third offers, “It could bring tourist money.” The glow of gold suddenly fills the room. But the fourth, a skeptic, says, “All we need is an infusion of founders’ funds.” And here a dark cloud settles over the scene. No matter how virtuous, every project needs money to get off, and to stay off,  the ground. So, it is with the National Airmail Museum at Smith Field, Fort Wayne.
  • KOKOMO  – The taxi driver in Budapest looked at me with an expressionless face as I asked him to take my wife and myself to the place where the Arrow Cross fascists murdered hundreds of Jews on the banks of the Danube River toward the end of World War II. Not sure of what else to tell him, I simply told him, “You know, the place with the shoes.”  “Ah yes, the shoes, the shoes, I take you there!” Our time was going to be limited on our first trip to Budapest and we wanted to pack in as many of the sights as possible. While most tourists rush to visit Fisherman’s Bastion, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, St. Estevan’s Basilica, the amazing Hungarian Parliament building or one of the other better-known tourist attractions, my wife and I tend to dig a little deeper for some of the lesser known sites. From the time when I first began planning for this visit to Budapest, I knew that there was one pilgrimage that we had to make. During the latter months of 1944 and into early 1945, over 3,500 Hungarians, mostly Jews, were rounded up from the Jewish ghetto of Budapest by the fascist Arrow Cross group, marched down to the banks of the river, forced to remove their shoes and then lined up and shot so that they would fall into the river. In this way, the evidence of the Arrow Cross crimes would be swept away by the icy Danube.
  • MERRILLVILLE –  There are greater implications than either Democrats or Republicans are talking about in terms of the elimination of a third of Lake County’s precincts. Democrats are saying the biggest losers are the people in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago, cities that represent the backbone of the party. Republicans say the reductions will result in the annual saving of $117,300 because fewer election workers will be hired. Republicans don’t say the cuts will weaken Democrats. Each party is right. But neither party is talking about the biggest impact the cuts will have. Hardest hit will be north county Democrats, who have pretty much controlled the direction of the party until now. The impact won’t be known until there is a vacancy in a county office that will be filled by one of the county precinct organizations. We only have to go back to the fall of 2017 to get a feel for the impact of filling vacancies.
  • SOUTH BEND - Readers ask why Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, the Republican incumbent in Indiana’s 2nd District, agreed to three televised debates with Democratic challenger Mel Hall. She refused televised debates with the prior two Democratic challengers and won big each time. So, why change? No mystery. When refusing to debate became more damaging politically than any damage likely to occur in debates, Walorski wisely decided to “welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues that matter most to Hoosier families.” She declined televised debate in campaigns against the prior two Democratic nominees, Joe Bock in 2014 and Lynn Coleman in 2016, because their challenges were not serious threats. The candidates were serious, of course, and tried hard. But they lacked the resources and organizations to come close. Incumbents with leads, Democrats as well as Republicans, traditionally are advised by their political consultants to avoid debates that give lesser-known challengers enhanced name recognition and a chance to hammer at some telling issue or silly mistake and perhaps catch up. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – It was just two years ago that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence entered the Trumpian twilight zone. Those close to him saw it as a deal with the devil. Others believed it would be his clearest path to the presidency that he had coveted since his childhood. What commenced in Indianapolis, Westfield, New York and then Cleveland in July 2016 has been Vice President Pence’s odyssey, with the final chapters of how this ends unwritten, unknowable, and perhaps, unfathomable. In the Pence worldview of ambition, he was climbing into the shoes of Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush, turning the “heartbeat away” office as entry into the pantheon of 45. Or, he could be consigned to Vice President John Nance Garner’s “warm bucket” of “spit” occupied by Hubert H. Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Gore who aspired and fell short. On July 24, 2016, in Cleveland, we heard Pence cut through the myriad of controversies surrounding the GOP nominee. “Donald Trump gets it,” Pence said in his half-hour speech in primetime. “He’s a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers. He doesn’t tiptoe around a thousand new rules of political correctness."
  • INDIANAPOLIS – National chatter about a potential wave election has persisted since at least the spring of 2017, and conventional wisdom for the past 18 months or so has been that Democrats will take control of the U.S. House but struggle to take control of the U.S. Senate because they have to play too much defense. As we’re now within 100 days of the election, speculation will quickly crescendo as pundits attempt to discern what kind of wave, if any, might be approaching our electoral shores. In the midst of such an environment, “What constitutes a wave election?” is a question that rarely gets asked, as most settle for the ambiguous expectation of big gains for the party out of power. Meanwhile, “What does this mean for down-ballot races in Indiana?” is a question that rarely gets answered, at least not in a way that achieves consistent consensus. But by investigating the former question, we have a better chance of using historical data to attempt to answer the latter. Over the last 50 years those criteria leave us with seven wave elections: 1974, 1980, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2008, and 2010. So far, so good; even without our criteria, most observers would probably settle on those same elections.

  • Brian Howey: 24 years of real news from Howey Politics

    INDIANAPOLIS – With today’s edition, Howey Politics Indiana begins its 24th year of publishing. We do so across four platforms, reaching more than a half million Hoosiers per week. This benchmark comes in uncertain times. President Trump has labeled American news reporters, editors and photographers as “enemies of the people.” This has become the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts” as Americans have fled the First Amendment Tower of Babel into ideological silos. The divisions among us go beyond gender, race and creed and into who we voted for and what cable channel or social media platform we glean our information from. It also comes as American media finds its fiscal platform splintering. According to Pew Research, newsroom employment declined 23% between 2008 and 2017. In 2008, about 114,000 newsroom employees – reporters, editors, photographers and videographers – worked in five industries that produce news: Newspaper, radio, broadcast television, cable and “other information services” (the best match for digital-native news publishers). By 2017, that number declined to about 88,000, a loss of about 27,000 jobs.

  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg should run for president. Here’s why: He would have nothing to lose. He potentially would have a lot to gain. Buttigieg, I think, will run for president. And will not win. Nothing to lose? But won’t win? Is there a conflict in that analysis? No. Buttigieg twice before has won by losing. He could again. In 2010, Buttigieg, then just 28 years old, was the Democratic nominee for state treasurer. He had little name recognition initially even in hometown South Bend. He had scant financing for a statewide race and no chance, losing amid a Republican landslide to Richard Mourdock. Yes, that Richard Mourdock, the guy who went on to self-destruct in a U.S. Senate race against Joe Donnelly. For state treasurer, Mourdock couldn’t lose and Buttigieg couldn’t win in a Republican year in which no Democrat running statewide even came close.Except, Buttigieg won by losing. In running a race that more prominent and experienced Democrats wouldn’t risk, Buttigieg impressed party officials with his intellect and ability to articulate issues.
  • MERRILLVILLE – Way back when, if you knew someone driving to Florida for part of the winter, you asked them to stop in Tennessee and bring back some fireworks. That was the only way to get your hands on fireworks back then.  Neither Indiana nor its neighbors allowed the sale of fireworks. Illinois still bans the sale and use of fireworks. That ended in the 1980s when Indiana Republicans got cute – and very greedy – and legalized the sale of fireworks. To get the naysayers to go along with the sale of fireworks, the new law prohibited the use of fireworks in Indiana even though they were sold in the Hoosier state. The new law also stipulated that fireworks outlets had to be open year-round. That didn’t work because fireworks companies didn’t want to spend the money to keep their stores open all  year since sales were pretty much limited to the days around the Fourth of July. And, the law wasn’t enforced. The charade ended in 2006 when Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a bill legalizing the use of fireworks in the state.
  • MUNCIE – The economic expansion is now a full nine years old, and we are less than a year from the longest period of uninterrupted economic growth in US history. This moment of good economic news holds some insight for many cities and towns in Indiana. It is, quite simply, if your community isn’t thriving, your problems are far deeper than you suppose. Let me explain. Across the Midwest, few metropolitan areas of more than a half million residents have lost population in this century. In contrast, a full 24 out of 56 Midwestern metropolitan areas with less than a half million residents have lost population. Since 2000, the big cities with more than half million residents grew by 9.8%, while smaller cities grew by an average of less than 2%.  The list of distressed places is a roll call of Indiana cities. Anderson, Evansville, Muncie, Michigan City, Hammond, Gary, LaPorte, Terre Haute and Kokomo are all losing population. The situation is even more dire in smaller cities and towns across the state.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – It was commonplace for Hoosier boosters and politicians in the 20th century to proclaim, “Farming is the backbone of the Indiana economy.” I loved to hear that statement. It opened the door for me to say sweetly, “Every corpse has a backbone.” For about 100 years, the beating heart of Indiana’s economy was manufacturing. Today, our state and national economies are more diversified and therefore depend less on manufacturing than in the past. The same is true for farming. In 1929, manufacturing accounted for 35% of all earnings by individuals in Indiana; farming was just 12% of total earning in the state. Nationwide, manufacturing was 26% of all earnings while farming was only 11%. That’s not the way our folklore would have it and folklore still has considerable sway in political circles. Manufacturing’s 35% of Indiana’s earnings was the 9th highest in the nation. By 2017, manufacturing had “fallen” to 21% of the state’s earnings, but that made Indiana first among the states. First! They give blue ribbons for first place; it’s the badge of honor for the victorious.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – We are heading into that stretch of the election cycle where distinct trend lines begin to take shape. It was August 1994, 2006 and 2010 when the contours of those wave elections became more recognizable in polling. While voter intensity in polls has been more meaningful up to this point, the congressional generics begin to carry more heft in August and September. The anomaly was the historic 2016 election when many pollsters, pundits and, yes, even Republican nominee Donald Trump himself, were convinced that Hillary Clinton would be the next president. That all changed around 9 on Election Night when the epic Trump upset came into focus. This cycle, President Trump absolutely dominates all things politics. This election will essentially be a referendum on his first two years.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – I’ve been asked to explain tariffs. It can’t be done in 500 words, but here goes. Tariffs on imports are not like the property, sales or income taxes. Those taxes are meant to raise money for government spending or redistribution. American tariffs, today, are intended to shape the economic relationships between nations. America and France produce wine. A tariff by the United States on French wine will, in theory, increase the price of French wine for Americans, resulting in less French wine being bought. Americans then would buy more American wine, increasing the demand for American grapes and the land on which they grow, as well as the wages of those who work in vineyards and the wineries. The Gallo and Christian Bros. would prosper. In time, American wines could become as respectable and competitive as French wines, and the tariffs could be removed, their mission accomplished. Maybe. But it is also possible Americans will switch to other beverages if the price of French wine rises. The very idea of drinking American wine could drive those with sophisticated palates to British ginger beer.
  • MUNCIE – One of the joyful indulgences of my profession comes in chatting with people about the economics of their jobs. The very best folks to chat with are those who deal with prices and wages. Men and women in the trades are maybe the most informed about the immediate vagaries of the economy. Local bankers, insurance agents and small business owners are usually just as good. My interest in these business folks is nothing special in economics. Alfred Marshall, the British economist who might rightfully be called the father of the profession, encouraged economists to walk about ports and markets to learn about the profession. So, I try to never skip an invitation to visit a factory or warehouse. Mostly, these conversations confirm what economists know, and that much is useful. The real value is in revealing things that I didn’t know before. Let me share two of these in the context of the growing trade war. I’ve a friend who is a roofer and small business owner. The business is challenging and involves dealing with the price of roofing a home or business, as well as hiring workers and buying materials like aluminum for roofing and gutters. Few people buy a new roof on a whim, so one would suppose that a price increase wouldn’t cost too much business. However, with the increase in aluminum and steel that accompanied the trade wars, he must charge between 15 and 25% more for much of his materials. 
  • SOUTH BEND – I’ve always liked Dan Coats. And now I’ve been reminded why. Indiana voters liked Coats enough to send him to the Senate in three elections, but he never had widespread approval. Many Democrats bashed him as a right-winger. Many Republican right-wingers criticized him as too much of a nice guy for effective eye-gouging politics. Some just brushed off Coats as “that other Dan,” successful only as a protégé of Dan Quayle, taking offices “inherited” as Quayle moved up the political ladder. Coats always had a very conservative voting record, but he often sought to reach across the aisle for compromise. He once told me in his final Senate term, as he was deciding not to run again, that he was disgusted with the vicious divisiveness preventing compromise for a united approach to problems from the deficit at home to the “wildfires all over the world,” security threats abroad that he saw as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Coats talked straight. Still does.
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  • Lawson announces election security awareness campaign

    “In Indiana, the security of our voting systems is of the utmost importance. This public awareness campaign demonstrates to voters that proper precautions are in place to secure their vote. We take great care to prepare our election administrators for each cycle, and in partnership with counties, other states, and the federal government we are developing new answers to security concerns and election policy.” - Secretary of State Connie Lawson, announcing she will launch a public awareness campaign to build understanding of cybersecurity efforts in Indiana and help explain why voters should feel confident their vote is secure. Her Democratic challenger, Valparaiso attorney Jim Harper, believes the Indiana system is vulnerable to assault by foreign actors. Lawson explained that no piece of Indiana’s voting equipment is online. The machines and tabulators are not connected to the internet. In addition, the Secretary of State’s office has a mechanism known as the Voting System Technical Oversight Program hosted by Ball State University that tests all of the election equipment used in Indiana for an added layer of safety and security. Another tool is the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an independent entity that partners with the Department of Homeland Security and allows 24/7 access to security information, threat notifications and security advisories.

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  • What you get with TV stars, sleazebags, billionaires and Mooch
    After reading about the Paul Manafort trial, hearing of Rick Gates testimony and now the “Unhinged” book by Omarosa Manigault Newman, several observations:

    1. The Trump 2016 campaign was, well, sleazy. Not the Indiana part, but all the alleged tax evasion, the embezzlement, backstabbing and conspiracy of Manafort and Gates. Donald Trump apparently had no idea that Manafort was broke, seeking wild bank loans and promising high ranking jobs if they pulled off a miracle (which they did). The campaign vetting process appears to have been non-existent.

    2. Omarosa’s qualifications were … what? That she was a TV star on “The Apprentice”? Or was she there to check off the “African-American” box on the diversity chart? Whatever the reason, this was resume-lite and she had no reason to be in the White House where she secretly recorded her final conversation with CoS John Kelly in the … Situation Room. That sounds like a national security breach to me.

    3. This has evolved into a presidential administration of TV stars, talking heads, billionaires … and Mike Pence. Mooch, we hardly knew ye.

    Sooooo, we shouldn’t really be shocked that the ethic limits are pressed and pushed, while protocols and securities are breached.
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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