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Thursday, June 27, 2019
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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.
  • CHICAGO  – Psssst, Mr. President, you will not be running against Hillary Clinton in 2020. This past week, President Trump and Vice President Pence kicked off their reelection campaign in Orlando and while he repeated the premise for another four years - “Promises made, promises kept” - it was also an exercise in grievance, with nary an aspirational echo from those like President Kennedy or Reagan. “Our political opponents look down with hatred on our values and with utter disdain for the people whose lives they want to run,” Trump said. "They tried to take away your dignity and your destiny. But we will never let them do that, will we? They tried to erase your vote, erase your legacy of the greatest campaign — probably the greatest election in the history of our country."  Trump brought up Hillary Clinton’s “33,000 emails” as the capacity crowd chimed “Lock her up!” Trump won his historic upset in 2016 in part because of his own shrewd strategies and fulsome use of social media. But there were many of his supporters, particularly in Indiana, who loathed Hillary Clinton and voted for the billionaire. But folks, Hillary ain’t runnin’. She’s back in Chappaqua. While the economy is humming, GDP is meeting his prediction of close to 3 percent growth, and jobless levels are at 50-year lows, Trump is not reaping the political windfall that most presidents do with such a positive economy.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — In Indiana, having one’s head in the clouds is deadly; our state is the second most toxic in all the nation when it comes to pollution, according to a new U.S. News & World Report poll. But thanks to the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), fewer politicians will have their heads in the clouds when it comes to an embraceable climate change policy. One week ago, 1,500 members of CCL swept into Washington, D.C. to hold meetings with 90% of House and Senate members. Their agenda? To explain and lobby for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA), a.k.a. H.R. 763. This act creates the most painless path possible to shift to renewables -- which experts have said we have 12 years to do before we reach a planetary point of no return. Let’s be honest: Any policy that isn’t bipartisan, market-driven, scientifically legit, and revenue-neutral is not going to get passed, nor make a dent in the enormity of the climate menace. The EICDA does all of these things in one elegant package.
  • MUNCIE  – I gave a talk to the Indiana Superintendent’s Summit this week, and thought the issues I discussed might be of interest to Hoosiers as we think about our state’s economy. I began by sharing what the state’s Constitution says about education: “Knowledge and learning, general diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual scientific, and agricultural improvement . . . a general and uniform system of Common Schools.” This is exactly what an economist would say schooling does for an economy. Note that there is nary a word about filling ‘in demand jobs’ or satisfying the whims of important employers. That is because the authors of the Indiana Constitution knew state government did not have the competence to do such things, as current workforce policies are keen to demonstrate. I told the audience that labor markets are in the midst of a half century of marked change. Jobs have been significantly polarized into high-wage, highly educated jobs and low-wage, poorly educated jobs. There is also a growing geographic concentration of such jobs, with better-educated workers concentrating in urban places. 
  • KOKOMO – We’ve finally found something that Republicans and Democrats agree on when it comes to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election: “It’s our version of the economy, stupid!” In 2010 during a “60 Minutes” interview, President Obama famously speculated on employment and the economy, “What is a danger is that we stay stuck in a new normal where unemployment rates stay high. People who have jobs see their incomes go up. Businesses make big profits, but they’ve learned to do more with less. And so they don’t hire. And, as a consequence, we keep on seeing growth that is just too slow to bring back the eight million jobs that were lost. That is a danger. So, that’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.” The view of the Obama Administration did not change when in 2014, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told the Economic Club of New York City that the U.S. GDP growth rate, adjusted for inflation, is now projected to run a little above 2% a year. Apparently, seventy years of GDP growth averaging more than 3% was going to be relegated to history by the “new normal” of 2% growth.
  • LaPORTE  — While I’m “all in” with Mayor Pete and am solidly committed to his campaign, that doesn’t mean I can’t respect a good plan rolled out by one of his competitors. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan released on June 4th calling for a new “economic patriotism” hits the nail on the head and could give a good lesson to Hoosier politicians of all stripes as to a winning political message. There’s a reason that Trump’s messaging turned counties like mine that had solidly supported Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 to red in 2016. I’m absolutely convinced that it was not the race-based appeals or the hard right messaging about immigrants. Voters in LaPorte County who -  like voters in around 200 other counties in this country that had voted for Barack Obama  -  didn’t instantly fall for racist appeals. Not LaPorte County. This was a county that had also elected an African-American countywide as county commissioner in 2010. Nope. This had everything to do with Trump’s very effective messaging urging an “economic populism” against coastal elites that had negotiated treaties like NAFTA that had hollowed out communities in the industrial heartland. Hoosiers are tired of being “taken advantage of” by large, faceless, nameless corporations shifting jobs and opportunity overseas who seemingly have no “patriotic loyalty” to either Indiana or the USA. That message worked.
  • RAPID CITY, S.D. - Just months after he was vanquished in the 1940 election by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie became his emissary, traveling the world on his behalf in a show of American unity during World War II. At Tehran, he gave the Shah of Iran his first airplane ride. At a fete on his behalf, Willkie complimented the Shah on a beautiful Persian rug. The Shah had his men roll up the rug, putting it on Willkie's plane as a gift, where it ended up at Indiana University's Lilly Library and, eventually, Bryan House. I tell this story because Willkie built on the world travels of U.S. Sen. Albert Beveridge a century ago to form what I call the "internationalist" wing of Indiana politics. These are the public servants who understood global complexities and worked them to the Hoosier advantage. Willkie would author the book "One World" which became a template of the emerging post-World War II new order. He would be followed by U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, U.S. Reps. Lee Hamilton, Tim Roemer and Frank McCloskey, and Gov. Robert Orr. Orr would open up Asian investment in Indiana and become ambassador to Singapore. Lugar forged monumental nuclear safeguards and pushed for global food security. McCloskey intervened in the Balkan genocide. Hamilton and Roemer served on the 9/11 Commission, with the latter becoming ambassador to India. There is now a new member of the internationalist wing: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who gave a compelling and analytical viewpoint into American foreign policy at Indiana University this past week. It was prefaced during an MSNBC Town Hall when he was pressed to name a "living" Republican he admired. Coming just after the death of Sen. Lugar, Buttigieg responded, "I had such a great answer if it wasn't living," Buttigieg said, then naming Willkie. "He was from Indiana. He put country before party."
  • IOWA CITY - If you had to conjure a living version of the word "improbable," look no further than South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. When he launched his presidential exploratory effort last January, even some Hoosier Democrats thought he was overly ambitious. Heading into the sixth month of this experiment, Mayor Pete now faces a crucial sequence that will go along way in determining whether he's an epic dreamer, on the brink of a presidential nomination, or a slot on the national ticket.  After a series of critically acclaimed town halls on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC and dozens of network talking head appearances, Buttigieg will find himself on the debate stage with the frontrunners, the old folks of the Democratic Party: Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Biden has dominated with a Real Clear Politics polling composite lead approaching 20% but has had a tormented week capped by a sudden shift on the Hyde Amendment after supporting it for decades. Sanders has faded, Warren is on the rise, and Buttigieg has leveled off in the polls after flirting with the so-called "top tier" nationally and Iowa and New Hampshire polls. He lags behind in South Carolina, where he has virtually no support from the crucial black voters.
  • KOKOMO – Members of Congress are frequently targeted for ridicule for what the electorate believes is unforgivable inertia. They are chastised for being cowards on a variety of issues. Many in Congress have learned how to avoid politically difficult votes by killing bills in committee or by inserting poisonous amendments into legislation to make passage impossible.  The truth is that votes are the best way for the voting public to reconcile what is said on the stump during an election and what the officeholder truly believes. The very best politicians are so skilled at the Potomac two-step that they can have people with diametrically opposed beliefs think that their elected representative supports their position. I knew a congressman once who received large contributions from both Jewish and Muslim supportive PACS. Now that is a real skill! Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a vote will be scheduled that you can’t avoid. The day comes when you bow to the crowd or show leadership and legislative bravery. Recently, such a vote was taken in the United States Congress. The legislation in question was the Equality Act. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS - This is the era of FBI directors leaving us hot messes in their wake. Who could forget James Comey’s July 2016 press conference? That’s when he said he wouldn’t indict Hillary Clinton on the server/email issue, but in doing so leveled searing criticism of how she had conducted sensitive affairs.  Then came the late October surprise whopper, when Comey announced a rekindled investigation of Clinton after finding her emails on Anthony Weiner’s horndogging computer. That created the upset atmosphere than led to President Donald John Trump. What Comey didn’t mention was that the FBI was conducting a counter intelligence probe into the Trump campaign. That brings us to this past week, when former FBI director and Special Counsel Robert Mueller appeared from behind the curtains. His 9-minute statement created a new sensation when he refused to absolve President Trump of obstruction of justice. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime," Mueller stoically said. Due to DOJ rules (but not the Constitution), "Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. If we had confidence the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so." 
  • INDIANAPOLIS — When I first met Aliyah, we commiserated about the transition to being a mother of two children. “I’m up all night with him,” she said, indicating the adorable, swaddled newborn lying beside me on the couch before turning to point at the four-year-old zipping around the room, “and then he gets up every morning at six, so I’m up with him in the morning.”  Motherhood is miraculous. It’s also not for the faint of heart. Neither is pregnancy. From the inappropriately named “morning” sickness that can strike at all hours and make it difficult to hold down food, to dizzy spells, to swollen ankles, to an alarmingly increasing chance of maternal death, pregnancy carries serious consequences and risks for women who endure it. As a state and as a nation, we have rightly turned our attention to policies that mitigate those risks. Gov. Holcomb and his team have prioritized reductions in maternal and infant mortality. This means paying more attention to how women, especially women of color, and their babies are treated. While it is great to see conversations about access to and the quality of health care women receive while pregnant, we are neglecting an important driver of poor health outcomes for pregnant women and their babies: Work.
  • SOUTH BEND — For Pete’s sake, what’s happening? Why are Bernie Sanders and President Trump attacking the mayor of South Bend? Why did right-wing conspiracy activists fake that the mayor assaulted a college student? Why is his signature achievement of fixing up or tearing down 1,000 vacant and deteriorating old houses in 1,000 days portrayed as a failure because it didn’t eliminate crime, wipe out poverty and cure cancer? Easy answer: Because South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has come out of nowhere — national political types regard South Bend as nowhere — to become a top-tier contender for the Democratic nomination for president. OK, he’s a star in the major leagues in his rookie season. But that doesn’t mean he will win the World Series. It’s a long season in baseball. The presidential selection season is even longer. So, why did the Sanders campaign attack Mayor Pete for likening Sanders to Trump?
  • MUNCIE — The research center where I work just released a study on immigration in Indiana. Sociologist Emily Wornell was the lead author of a work that most Hoosiers will find interesting. Part of the study reported surprising data, but there was also some analysis that should clarify many misunderstandings about the issue. Let me explain. So far this century, a full quarter of all the population growth across Indiana has come from immigrants. This is important in a state that is now growing at well beneath the national average. More critically, across the 32 Indiana counties losing population last year, a full 29 saw net immigration from immigrants. None saw growth in native-born citizens. Despite what many would think as a flood of immigrants, Indiana is only at about one-third of its peak immigration of the late 19th century.
  • BLOOMINGTON — There are a lot of reasons why Congress finds itself hamstrung in Washington and discounted by the people it serves at home. These include long-term trends over which it has little control: The political polarization of the country; the oceans of money that get dumped into the political process; the push by successive presidents to amass as much executive power as possible. But in the end, the demons Congress has to fight are its own. If it is to return to relevance, effectiveness, and higher standing in public opinion, the paths it must follow start on and wind through Capitol Hill. As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the first step is to act like the co-equal branch of government our Founders intended it to be. But to get there, it needs to rehabilitate how it operates internally. For starters, Congress has gotten into some terrible legislative habits. The worst is the omnibus bill, which is emblematic of the deeply rooted issues Congress faces.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — Last week, the governor of Missouri was interviewed on NPR and stated that farming was the number one industry in his state. I’ve heard the same claim from Indiana politicians. In fact, one Hoosier solon claimed farming was “the backbone of Indiana’s economy.” I responded, “Every corpse has a backbone.”  Why do people in Missouri and Indiana believe such exaggeration? Perhaps, at one time (in the 19th century) it was true. Farming does take up a lot of the land we see when traveling from one place to another. Plus, the farm lobby is still disproportionately strong. How important is farming? Folks from Purdue love to say, “If you eat, you’re are part of farming.” Oh, so true! Plus, if you eat, you’re part of trucking, dentistry, and waste disposal. Let’s look at three different measures not provided by the biggest farm lobby of all, the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
     First, value added, the part of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), our basic measure of economic activity, attributed to Agriculture nationally (including farming, forestry, fisheries and hunting) is 0.8%, or 19th of 19 private sector industries. Number one is (drum roll… ) real estate, rental and leasing at 13.3%, followed by manufacturing at 11.4% of GDP. To be blunt, total value added from farming is less than 0.8% of the U.S. economy.
  • SOUTH BEND  — Mayor Pete won another South Bend election. This one wasn’t so big. Or was it?

    While Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s name wasn’t on the ballot Tuesday, his candidate’s name was. James Mueller, his candidate, his choice to be his successor as mayor, won the Democratic mayoral nomination, tantamount to being elected mayor of South Bend. Mueller, with 37% of the vote, won with a double-digit percentage margin over the nearest competitor in a nine-candidate field that included four other candidates considered viable. Not bad for a candidate who came from nowhere. Well, he of course came from somewhere, from the Buttigieg administration, where he was the mayor’s chief of staff and then executive director of a key development department. But, politically, from nowhere. Mueller began the race with low political name recognition, no cultivated political following and lack of political campaign expertise. He hadn’t planned to run. Didn’t at first really want to run. Buttigieg told victory celebrants Tuesday night that Mueller “answered the call when it was not the most comfortable or obvious thing to do. It’s why, even though he’s not the cigar-chomping, back-slapping politician that some people might expect, and neither am I, he is exactly the right person.”
  • BLOOMINGTON  – A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to a group of students and decided to start with a point-blank question: Is Congress doing a good job? There were perhaps 100 people in the room, and not a single one raised his or her hand. So I asked the question a different way: Is Congress nearly or completely dysfunctional? Most hands went up. These were not experts, of course. They were simply reflecting a broad public consensus that things are not working well on Capitol Hill. But they weren’t wrong, either. Things aren’t working well on Capitol Hill. I can tick off the problems and so can you. Congress doesn’t follow good process. It seems to have lost the ability to legislate. It’s too polarized and partisan. It’s dominated by political game-playing and the undue influence of money. It defers too readily to the president. Routine matters get bottled up. Its output is low and it simply cannot pass a budget on time.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – You don’t want to hear it, but fractions are important. They guide our lives. The unemployment rate. The pollen count. The interest rate. The speed of a car. All are fractions with numerators (the numbers on top) and denominators (the numbers on the bottom). Per capita personal income (PCPI) is a fraction that became the holy economic grail for Hoosier politicians. What do they know of that annual numeric stew cooked by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis? PCPI is personal income divided by population? Yeah, but personal income is not the amount you report to the IRS. The top of the fraction (personal income) includes money paid by employers for Social Security, unemployment insurance and other sums you don’t see. Plus there’s dividend, interest and rental income “imputed” to you. Also included is the value of government payments you get (Social Security) or made on your behalf by government (Medicare and Medicaid).
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. — Last week I regaled you with the legacies of the Senate lions, the late Birch Bayh and Richard Lugar. Their passing occurred just months after Indiana's newest senator, Republican Mike Braun, followed in their giant footsteps. In the television age of politics, only nine white guys have made it to the U.S. Senate from Indiana. Our new senators tend to arrive in crisis atmosphere, whether it was the assassination of President Kennedy 11 months after Sen. Birch Bayh was sworn in, the shooting of President Reagan three months after Dan Quayle took the oath, or President Clinton's impeachment that prompted Sen. Evan Bayh's first votes. Sen. Braun came to Washington with the federal government shut down, in a standoff over immigration between President Trump and congressional Democrats. It was a "crisis" that pales in comparison to the thunderclap immediacy of gunshots and impeachment, but it is a sclerosis that has created historic dysfunction at a time of global duress, whether it be climate change, rising super powers or a rapidly aging population. All of these issues will test the viability of our republic in the coming years. Braun won office by sporting a blue shirt sans tie, dispatched three sitting Members of Congress along the way with a cranky attitude that endeared him to many Hoosiers who are fed up with bovine scatology that has become federal governance. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS - There's an old aphorism about being a mayor that goes, "Plowing streets isn't a partisan issue." In other words: Being a Republican or Democrat might signal the governing approach of a legislator or a candidate for state or federal executive office with a broad range of powers, but it doesn't tell you much about how a mayor may manage a city. Once elected, a mayor — perhaps more than any other officeholder — is judged more on their ability to deliver results around nuts-and-bolts issues than their ability to advance an ideological agenda. And yet so many obituaries for the late Dick Lugar note that he was a successful senator and he was a successful mayor, but fail to make the connection that he was a successful senator because he was a successful mayor. To most commentators, his eight years leading Indianapolis are merely a one-sentence biographical prelude to paragraphs about his thirty-six years of achievement in Washington. But it wasn't those achievements that earned Lugar the title of statesman, it was his approach to governing. And in so many of his later achievements, we see the approach of a mayor: Someone who understood that bringing people together, solving problems, and delivering results should be the goal of government, at whatever level.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – It’s just a little over 48 hours since the call came early Sunday morning that “RGL,” as Senator Richard Lugar was known to his staff, had passed during the night. The news is still sinking in while accolades for the great man, many and varied, accumulate from nearly all quarters. With his death, a mighty titan of Indiana politics and global affairs passes from the scene. More than a few have remarked that Lugar’s passing marks the end not only of his life, but of his kind of bipartisan politics. Maybe so – supporting evidence abounds – but because Dick Lugar was quite simply the model public servant, the ideals he embodied will live on alongside his many accomplishments. Archetypes never die; they endure to be emulated.  I’m not sure that any recitation here of his accomplishments adds much to the current remembrances of his life or leads to an understanding of him as a statesman and leader. They range in impact from the personal, to the political, to the local, to the national, and finally to the truly global.  However, I might humbly offer that they are all rooted in one, plain truth: Right makes might. 
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  • Buttigieg email to campaign supporters: 'My heart is broken'
    "It’s been a week since a member of our South Bend family was shot and killed by a police officer. I’ve held meetings with community members, the police department, and faith leaders. And yesterday, I held a community-wide town hall to discuss race and policing in our city, to make sure all residents could be heard. It was a tough conversation. Hearts are broken. My heart is broken. It was a painful but needed conversation. And I feel overwhelmed and heartened by the number of people – supporters and critics – who have reached out and made it clear over the past week that they want to join hands and face these problems together. Safety and justice are inseparable. Making them a lived reality for all is one of the great challenges of our time. And the solutions will have to come from cities like South Bend, where people are ready to come together to struggle and repair. I’m running for president as a mayor of an American city because the toughest issues we face locally are also important national issues." - South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, in a Monday morning email to supporters of his Democratic presidential campaign. Buttigieg is still planning to participate in the second Democratic presidential debate in Miami on Thursday night.
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  • Trump '100% for Pence on 2020 ticket

    President Trump made it clear that he will seek reelection in 2020 with Vice President Mike Pence on the ticket. NBC Meet The Press  host Chuck Todd asked Trump if he would run with Pence. "Well, look, look - 100 percent, yes. He's been, he’s been a terrific vice president. He's my friend." 

    Todd asked Trump why he didn't commit to supporting Pence for president in 2024. "Because it was a surprise question," the president said. "I mean, you know, I’m not even thinking of it. It's so far out. I mean, It's so far out. That would be the only reason. Now what happens in 2024? I don't know that Mike is going to run. I don't know who's running or anything else." - Brian A. Howey, in Indianapolis

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