An image
Login | Subscribe
Saturday, August 15, 2020
An image
An image
Thursday, December 5, 2019 2:55 PM

How’s business? “Wonderful,” is the answer you’ll probably get from those who only know the stock market continues to rise. 

How is business in Indiana or in your sector of the economy? That answer is often hard to find. 

  • SOUTH BEND – The email update came with this subject line: “Still a ‘former Republican.’” It came from former Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, elected and reelected to that office as a Republican. He also was a top assistant to Dan Quayle, when Quayle was a senator from Indiana and then vice president. Zoeller for decades was an unwavering conservative Hoosier Republican. Then, in his view, the Republican Party at the federal level wavered away from him. During an interview a month after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Zoeller, leaving office after his second term as attorney general, described himself as “a former Republican.” In his email update, Zoeller said: “Now, a few years later, it’s abundantly clear that the GOP is not likely to return to the party I joined anytime soon.” With further email exchanges and a long phone conversation, Zoeller explained why he is a “former Republican” when it comes to the presidential election but still a Republican in state and local politics. He will vote for Joe Biden. Why? Zoeller said that President Trump doesn’t fit his definition of a conservative Republican. Not with expanding rather than limiting federal government, sharply increasing the national debt, rejecting past Republican concerns for Free World alliances and fair trade and displaying a divisive demeanor, the exact opposite of the approach of past Hoosier Republican leaders such as Sen. Dick Lugar.
  • KOKOMO – There might not be more than three people in 10,000 who would proudly tell you that statistics was one of the three things they most enjoyed about college. I’m sure that parties, spring breaks, home football weekends, fraternities, sororities, dating, drinking, no in loco parentis and cruising through life for four to six years would probably consistently outrank statistics class in their “these were a few of my favorite things” song salute to higher education. What made a traditionally difficult and boring class move to the top of my personal list of things that I most enjoyed about college? For me, the answer was simple, Dr. Lou Mattola, who made statistics come alive and rendered order out of the chaos of randomly arranged numbers and mathematical equations. In short, he put the story in story problems. His secret was to reduce a seemingly complex subject like statistics into real life scenarios such as casino betting odds, coin toss probabilities, batting averages and the likelihood of outcomes. Just think of him as the kind of guy who could explain the movie “Moneyball” to you over a beer and you’d sit listening to him all night. As someone who struggled with trigonometry and calculus, I appreciated Dr. Mottola’s ability as a professor. I wish I had told him at the time what I thought of his teaching.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – There’s a lot going on right now. With COVID-19 cases rising even as schools attempt to reopen and Congress negotiates its next COVID-19 package, trying to keep up with the deluge of policy news feels like drinking from a firehose.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that financial regulators have chosen this moment to pave the way for predatory lenders to operate freely throughout the country. In late July, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) proposed a new rule that would allow predatory lenders to partner with banks to evade state interest rate limits. How will it work? Thanks to a 1970’s Supreme Court case, banks are able to export the interest rates of their home state. However, both regulators and courts have guarded against allowing this preemption to be “rented out” to predatory lenders seeking to evade state interest rate limits. The OCC’s new proposed rule, which declares the bank the “true lender” so long as it is named as the lender in the loan agreement, would enable predatory lenders to proliferate, charging triple-digit interest for loans that cause harmful debt cycles.
  • MUNCIE – As I pen this column, Congress is debating a follow-up to the CARES Act, aimed at mitigating the effects of a worsening economic downturn. There are many points of contention between the parties. Among the most important disagreements is that of economic support for state and local governments. Several prominent members of Indiana’s congressional delegation have spoken out against this proposal, decrying it as a bail-out for fiscally imprudent states. They are right to be wary of this. Federal taxpayers should not bailout irresponsible cities and states. If that were the case, I would support that position. However, the economy is worse than generally believed, and the depth of fiscal distress felt by state and local governments much worse than generally understood. In fact, Indiana’s experience demonstrates why the nation needs a very large state and local tax support payment. Indiana’s economy has thus far been less affected by COVID-19 than most states. We are manufacturing-intensive, so a fair share of joblessness in the state was temporary. That is reflected in the large reductions of unemployment reported over the last two months. However, while many businesses are able to adapt, the underlying loss of permanent jobs is alarming.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Science is not cut and dried. Science is studied and analyzed. It is discussed and debated. It is like making pancakes, a learned skill perfected with the trial and error of sometimes being right and sometimes being wrong. For that reason, science is not sacrosanct. The conclusions always reserve the right to be wrong. But at the same time, science is also not sacrilege. For a layman following the science and understanding the fluidity of facts, it is no less a noble endeavor than being the expert themselves. The fact is facts are not constant. Facts are evolving and ever-changing. Even historical events permanently etched into our collective consciousness are amended over time. An unearthed diary. A long-lost letter to a loved one. Newly discovered documents in a presidential library. All inject new facts into the story line and alter our conclusions of what we once knew. Science, like the facts of our historical record, is by no means constant. The earth was once flat, we were the center of the universe and germs did not spread disease. Of course, those ideas are ludicrous today (I hope), but at a point in time they were considered fact. And when those facts changed, so too did the known truth.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – We all know that America’s leading economic sector is xxxxx. What drives our economy, boosts Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and should be hailed as the “backbone” of our prosperity? Is xxxxx Farming? Manufacturing? Entertainment? Each would have a claim, but NO, despite the vigorous lobbying of each, the leading economic sector of U.S. in 2019 was Real Estate, rental and leasing services. No! Can’t be! It’s a service. And only Health Care, among the services, could top Manufacturing or Farming. And what about Construction, there’s an awful lot of that too? In 2019, according to the GDP figures released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), 13.4% of GDP was in Real Estate, rental and leasing services. Manufacturing (durable and non-durable goods combined) was 11.0% and Agriculture (which includes farming plus forestry, fishing and hunting) was dead last of 21 sectors at 0.8%.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – In the April 7, 2011 edition of Howey Politics Indiana, I offered up this analysis of the coming reapportionment: "New Congressional and legislative maps are being forged in the Indiana House and Senate and are expected to be made public next week. Whatever the specifics are, the new maps will likely paint a grim picture for Indiana Democrats." The year before, Republicans seized control of the Indiana House, giving them a commanding trifecta (along with the staunchly GOP Indiana Senate and Gov. Mitch Daniels) to steer the reapportionment outcome. Then Secretary of State Todd Rokita, now the Republican nominee for attorney general, came up with what seemed to be reasonable guidelines: The districts would be based on “communities of interest” keeping legislative and congressional county lines intact, and nesting House districts in Senate districts. Gone would be the serpent-shaped gerrymandered maps Hoosier Democrats had drawn in 1991 and 2001. The final product, which breezed to passage and Daniels signature, came via computer-assisted Republican consultants. They worked with and weaponized the demographics from the 2010 Census that posed a daunting challenge to House Democrats. During that fateful spring of 2011, the 40 Democratic-held Indiana House districts gained a total of 4,681 people, an average of 117 per district. The 60 GOP-held Indiana House districts gained a total of 398,636 people; an average of 6,644 per district. In the April 14, 2011 edition of HPI, my analysis: "Canny House Republicans can get maps for the next decade that will be fertile ground for future majorities just by playing the demographics straight and following the Rokita doctrine that has been embraced by the governor." Now as we head into the fifth and final cycle of these maps, the adjective "grim" is an understatement for Hoosier Democrats. It has become an enduring nightmare. 

  • MUNCIE - Economic data releases this past week painted a darkening view of the U.S. economy as it starts its third quarter of contraction. Declines in economic activity from February through June were stark. I pen this column before the release of Second Quarter GDP growth, but there is little doubt it will be the worst single quarter of growth in U.S. history. The consensus is that it will be somewhere between twice and three times as bad as the sharp drop in 1958 that accompanied the flu pandemic of that year.  More ominously, nearly every other indicator suggests a deepening economic downturn. Consumer confidence continues to plummet, rates of return on capital drop and we see an uptick in initial jobless claims. I could use the entirety of this column to describe the cascades of bad economic news. Instead, I will discuss the single piece of good news, and explain why it is a mirage. The spike in unemployment that took place from March through May is receding. Many workers faced temporary lay-offs due to interruptions in supply chains and initial reactions to government shutdowns. Those whose businesses remain are returning to work at a rapid pace, providing the illusion of a quick recovery in the monthly job reports. This disguises two other indicators of a weak economy.  The first is that a large share of workers who now report temporary job losses are mistaken. Business surveys suggest maybe half those currently unemployed face permanent job losses. These workers will not go back to their old jobs. The second problem is that we’ve stopped counting the 7 million or so workers who have exited the labor force since February.
  • SOUTH BEND - Joe Kernan always celebrated his “Shoot Down Day.” Every May 7. On May 7, 1972, his Navy plane was shot down while on a reconnaissance flight over North Vietnam. Kernan ejected before the plane crashed. He survived without critical injury, though unconscious on the way down. He was captured, beaten and then held as a prisoner of war for 11 months, much of this in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” prison. Why celebrate the anniversary of when he was shot down rather than the anniversary of when he was freed? Kernan once told me it was because the date of the day when freedom was taken away reminded him of the freedom he could now enjoy. Freedom on that date to do exactly what he wanted. He always celebrated with pizza and cold beer at Rocco’s, free from enduring myriad meals of only hated pumpkin soup in Vietnam. “I never forget the 7th of May,” he said. “As often as not I forget about the anniversary of the day I came home.” With Kernan’s death, his accomplishments after he came home are recalled by governmental leaders from around the state and also by folks around South Bend who knew him personally. He was elected three times as mayor, the governmental job he said he enjoyed the most. He was elected twice as lieutenant governor and became governor with the death of Gov. Frank O’Bannon.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – We are less than 100 days before the November election and on Thursday, President Trump suggested via Twitter that it be delayed. "With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history," Trump began. "It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"  His plaintive wails continued on Friday: “This will be catastrophic for our nation. You'll see it. I'm always right about things like this. I guess I must be, or I wouldn't be sitting here. Everyone knows mail-in ballots are a disaster." These grievances prompted the Wall Street Journal  to editorialize Friday, "Delaying the Nov. 3 elections is a dreadful idea. This is not to suggest that the November election will be 'rigged, as Mr. Trump asserts. If he believes that, he should reconsider his participation and let someone run who isn’t looking for an excuse to blame for defeat." In April, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said, “Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held.”  This is not an isolated case of the injection of doubt in what has become a cornerstone of American democracy: The national election and a peaceful transfer of power. 

  • MUNCIE – America’s colleges and universities are in the midst of reopening in what is sure to be a reckoning for many. My oldest already began her senior year, and my college sophomore heads back in early August. Both face strict rules on mask wearing and social distancing. They return to a combination of online and in-person instruction, with a schedule fraught with uncertainty. Right now, about a third of schools have announced this hybrid model, with more than half planning for in-person classes. A few have elected to be online only, but this raises real challenges to colleges. I have written about the economic effects of the K-12 decisions before us, but there are economic effects to reopening colleges as well. Some of the costs of COVID-19 on U.S. colleges are already emerging. International enrollment will drop, perhaps profoundly, as few students can travel to the U.S. to start school. Some will take online courses, but many will opt to delay a year or substitute a Canadian or U.K. university for a pandemic-stricken American school. This loss of out-of-state tuition will be enormous for some schools, and it is combined with a drop in other revenues.  Nearly every U.S. state has announced or implemented budget reductions for higher education. For those with endowments, stock volatility augers little good news for financial returns in the year ahead. Research dollars are likely to be down this year, and extra revenue from summer programs and athletic events face epic declines. Nearly every American college or university is downsizing staff. 
  • BLOOMINGTON – Amid all the troubles occupying our attention, one of the more worrisome is also one of the least visible. It is the loss of public faith in the effectiveness of our representative democracy. While most state and local governments, and certain federal agencies, have maintained public support during the pandemic, concern over our system as a whole is palpable: That it has trouble responding to the country’s needs, is resistant to reform as society evolves, and continues to perpetuate inequality, social immobility, and basic unfairness when it comes to creating more opportunity, liberty, and justice for all. These deficiencies corrode our unity and effectiveness as a nation. Americans increasingly divide themselves into different, often warring, political and cultural camps. Instead of working to create one out of many, they sort themselves into like-minded communities. They narrow, rather than expand, their sources of news and information, seeking those that reinforce their views. These days, we often live in different worlds from one another. Politicians have played a significant role in this. Some, including the president, are bent on stoking division. Many play to their parties’ bases.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – With apologies to Rod Serling, consider, if you will, Rob and Rhonda, two ordinary Hoosiers doing what they customarily do each weekday in the Economic Zone. Rhonda leaves the house to be at the job site by 7 a.m., hard hat on, blueprints in hand. Rob takes off at 8:10 with the kids for elementary school and then to the public library where he will drive the bookmobile and serve as its librarian until mid-afternoon. Rhonda is proud of the building her crew is constructing to green standards with the latest technology. Rob delights in bringing reading opportunities to people who find it difficult to reach a library branch. Both are warm-hearted do-gooders. Neither is prepared for the crushing truth about to fall on them. Clouds darken over the city. Lightning flashes and thunder rumbles in the distance. A voice without a direction says softly, but for all to hear, “From this time forward, you will all pay for the costs you impose on others. You are not being punished. You are merely doing right.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS – A day after Gov. Eric Holcomb had to tamp down rumors relegating COVID-19 as a “hoax” and conspiracy, and President Trump finally asked “everybody” to wear a face mask, Indiana became the third state headed by a Republican governor to mandate the now controversial facial coverings. In just about every other nation, wearing a face mask has been seen as a common sense approach to a pandemic where an estimated 40% in an Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health study are asymptomatic. In Japan, people wear masks when they catch a common cold out of respect and safety for those around them. In America and parts of Indiana, face masks are seen as an infringement on personal freedom. “We’ve arrived at this juncture because over the past several weeks, a few things have happened,” Holcomb said at his weekly press conference. “There has been a rise of COVID positivity across the state from a low of just 3.6% a month ago to where we find ourselves today with a seven-day average rate of just over 7%. The last couple of days it rose to 8%. “As a lagging indicator, our overall hospitalization has increased from about 600 a day at the end of June to about 800, where we are now,” Holcomb continued (there were 954 new cases on Thursday, 1,011 on Friday, 934 on Saturday). “Some counties in the past that had never been a blip on the radar screen for positive tests are reporting regular double digits of positive cases now, counties like Clark and Dubois, Kosciusko, Posey. 

  • EVANSVILLE - Citing emergency powers conferred on him by the legislature in the “Emergency Management and Disaster Law” (EMDL), Gov. Eric Holcomb will issue an executive order mandating face mask usage statewide effective July 27. Failure to abide by the order could result in a Class B misdemeanor.  Can he do this? Mandating masks is a legislative power entrusted to the legislative branch, not the governor. But what happens when the legislature willingly delegates those powers to the governor? That’s precisely what the Indiana General Assembly did in the EMDL several years ago — it provides a centralized and streamlined emergency response in the executive branch allowing the state to act more quickly and efficiently than the normal legislative process. In other similar situations, courts have consistently concluded that the legislature may delegate much of its powers to the executive if it chooses to do so, particularly in an emergency.

  • MUNCIE – With some reluctance I write about the decisions that grip some 30,000 school districts across the country. I am hesitant because I don’t wish to be prescriptive about the most contentious issue of in-person versus remote learning. In our republic, decisions of this nature are inherently local. As both a parent and keen observer of schools, this suggests to me that school districts are trying to address issues as completely and thoughtfully as possible. What I wish to do with this column is outline the very high stakes of this decision and walk through how the rest of us might make that decision simpler. Both the decision to hold in-person classes and the decision to go online have enormous costs. The landscape for decision making is tough.  Indiana has about 1.1 million kids in grades K-12 spread across almost 300 school corporations. Of these, about 7% or more have no internet at home, and many more have intermittent service or slow download speed. All told, somewhere between one third and one half of Hoosier kids face real learning obstacles with online instruction. It should be obvious that the school closing in March was most damaging to those students who were already the most vulnerable. It is likely the learning gap between the poorest and most affluent students grew more last year than at any time in American history. This is a strong argument for opening schools, but there is more. If schools do not re-open, we will extend the single worst labor supply shock in U.S. history. By my count, 7% to 10% of workers are either single parents or one partner of a dual income couple with children age 5 to 12 years. Many, perhaps most, of these workers will be unable to work if schools don’t re-open. The loss of this many workers alone is enough to push us right to the brink of a depression. 
  • KOKOMO – At this point in the 2020 United States presidential election, it is beginning to look like the mountains of abuse heaped on President Trump by the national media, the leftist social media, every anarchist group known to mankind and even a few Republicans just might be successful in defeating him and sending a third-rate Democrat to the White House. If I were the type of person to sit around wearing a tinfoil hat and seeing multiple gunmen on the grassy knoll, I might just be a little cynical about the timing of a pandemic hitting when the United States’ economy was the best that it had been in history, with record low unemployment across all demographics, increasing personal incomes and unheard of stock market valuations. Further, the attention paid to the coronavirus seemed to grow as the Democrat trumped-up impeachment fell apart in a dismal partisan failure.  No, I’m not going to be one of those people who see conspiracies wherever you turn. I merely want to ask the question, win or lose in November, where does the Republican Party go from here? Should Donald Trump defy the current odds and big poll deficits and win a second term, what would the future hold for the Republican Party?  
  • BLOOMINGTON – I’ve spent a long time in politics, and over those years one thing has remained constant: There are a lot more Americans who criticize government than there are who serve and do something about it. I’ll admit, there have been times when I’ve felt a bit resentful. It’s hard to enter the fray, be expected to listen patiently to criticism from all comers, and then look around to find that many of them are nowhere to be found when it comes to the hard work of improving our communities and our system. But far more than annoyance, what I’ve felt is amazement at the immense but often un-grasped opportunity our system offers. This is especially acute these days, as millions of Americans take to the streets and to social media with passionate intensity, driven by deeply held beliefs or newfound conviction and a sense that it’s time to weigh in.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Recently, we examined the median incomes of all households in the nation and Indiana, with a special focus on Black households. Now, let’s look more broadly within our state. The Census Bureau provides median household income data for 2018. The racial or ethnic characteristic of a household is determined on the basis of the person responding for the household. Therefore, if a Black person answers, the household is considered Black despite the partner of that person being Asian. It’s imperfect but has both statistical and practical validity. The median, you will recall, is where half of all households are above and half below the reported number. The 2018 median income for all households in the state was $55,746, ranging from $94,644 (Hamilton County) to a low of $42,217 (Blackford). Black households (9.3% of all Indiana households) reported a median income statewide of $32,290, going from $83,588 (Putnam) to a low of $20,271 (Miami). Counties with small minority populations may give rise to results with large margins of error.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – During a hot July four years ago,  Donald Trump rescued then Indiana Gov. Mike Pence from what many believed would be a career-ending loss to John Gregg. And now, four years hence, it is Vice President Pence who is tied inextricably to the flagging fortunes of America’s most conspicuous pandemic victim, President Trump. Vice presidents must become team players, echoing their boss. But what Vice President Pence faces now is a pandemic that is becoming the gravest crisis facing the nation since World War II. The emerging consensus is that with Pence at the helm of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the federal response has been botched. It took Trump nearly two critical months to acknowledge this health crisis wasn’t a “hoax” dreamed up by Democrats and the news media. The federal response has been punted to the 50 states in what every other country has deemed to be a national crisis. With U.S. deaths approaching 140,000 in just five months, on Tuesday, Italy reported 114 new cases, Germany 276, and the United States 67,400. At critical junctures, Pence has misled the American people. In an April 24 interview with Geraldo Rivera, he said, “If you look at the trends today, that I think by Memorial Day weekend we will have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.”
Looking for something older? Try our archive search
An image
  • IU President McRobbie to retire in 2021
    "I am immensely proud of all that has been accomplished over the period I have been president. All the change and effort has, I believe, consolidated and elevated IU's position as one of America's premier and leading research universities. But all these accomplishments -- and many more -- are not a one-person show. They are the collective product of the hard and unremitting work of IU's outstanding senior leaders, the strong support of superb faculty who have embraced change, engaged and talented students who have and will continue to go on to become leaders in their chosen fields, and exceptional staff whose professionalism and dedication have been the linchpin of so many of our successes." - Indiana University President Michael McRobbie, who announced on Friday he will retire in June 2021. McRobbie came to IU in 1997 from his native Australia as its first vice president for information technology and chief information officer. Now a U.S. citizen, he was appointed vice president for research in 2003 and named interim provost and vice president for academic affairs for IU Bloomington in 2006. He became IU's 18th president on July 1, 2007, making him one of the longest-serving university presidents in the country.
An image
  • Trump answers Hannity question on what he'd do if elected to a 2nd term
    “Well, one of the things that will be really great, you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I’ve always said that. But the word experience is a very important word. It’s a very important meaning. I never did this before - I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington I think 17 times, all of the sudden, I’m the president of the United States. You know the story, I’m riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady and I say, ‘This is great.’ But I didn’t know very many people in Washington, it wasn’t my thing. I was from Manhattan, from New York. Now I know everybody. And I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes, like you know an idiot like Bolton, all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to kill people.” - President Trump, answering this question from Fox News' Sean Hannity at a Wisconsin town hall Thursday: “What’s at stake in this election as you compare and contrast, and what are your top priority items for a second term?”
An image
HPI Video Feed
An image
An image

The HPI Breaking News App
is now available for iOS & Android!

An image
Home | Login | Subscribe | About | Contact
© 2020 Howey Politics, All Rights Reserved • Software © 1998 - 2020 1up!