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Wednesday, October 28, 2020
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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. 

  • KOKOMO – As I write this, we are 17 days from, arguably, the most important election in my lifetime. In my opinion, we have never seen an election with such well-defined lines between economic philosophies as this one. On the basis of economic philosophy, how to vote should be a relatively easy decision. On the surface, the decision appears to boil down to whether you trust and support a capitalistic economic system which rewards effort, education, skills, hard work, ingenuity and risk or whether you support a philosophy of government managed economics, income redistribution and government created do overs for actors with bad behaviors. As a life-long Republican, I believe that our philosophy has always been that we are for equal opportunity for all, not equal outcomes. Right or wrong, I stand by that belief. Although the decision of who to vote for should be an easy one, it has been made much more difficult because of President Donald J. Trump. He is not a conventional president nor candidate, so he does not lend himself to a traditionally economics-based decision. The fact is that many traditionally economics-based voters will not vote their core beliefs because of their abject hate of the Orange Man. Their attitude is, “Orange Man bad, don’t confuse me with facts.”  
  • SHELBURN, Ind. - At this writing, Indiana reported a record high 2,880 new COVID-19 cases. This comes as Hoosiers are in the midst of deciding whether to rehire Gov. Eric Holcomb, or change course with Democrat and former health commissioner Woody Myers, or Libertarian Donald Rainwater. Myers entered this race with what appeared to be the perfect resume, having served when AIDS first surfaced. Yet on his final 2019 finance report, he posted just $14,000 while the Democratic caucuses in the General Assembly are tiny, having endured super minority status for the past four years. There are no Libertarians in the legislature, Rainwater has few if any relationships there, and it's hard to see how he would stock a new administration. In a sign of how strange an election year this is, Rainwater has raised enough money to run statewide TV and radio ads over the final two weeks; Myers was sitting on a mere $80,000 at the end of the third quarter and is radio silent. Political fundraising shouldn't be the prism under which to make a choice, but it is a factor when it comes to choosing a governor who would have the political support and governing components. Last Saturday, I traveled with Gov. Holcomb on a rare pandemic campaign swing. We both wore face masks the entire time.
  • INDIANAPOLIS –  They never see it coming. “Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson,” I ask, certain the prospective intern or staffer won’t get it right. When they choose correctly, the job is theirs. When they don’t, well, hopefully they can better explain their greatest weakness. When it comes to Gov. Eric Holcomb, though, it’s not an either/or. His governing style is part Jordan and part Johnson. He can both hit the clutch shot when it counts the most and pass the ball and let his teammates – in this case members of his administration and local government officials – score the basket and get the credit. We saw this at the opening tip-off of the first Indiana gubernatorial debate as a deferential Holcomb immediately dished out credit to his fellow Hoosiers for Indiana’s “positive forward momentum.” Later in the debate he sent assists to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Workforce Development, and he gave a singular “shoutout” to members of his administration’s cabinet.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – About two hours before Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly pandemic press conference Wednesday, Indiana University Prof. Aaron Carroll took part in a “Keeping IU Healthy” webinar. He was asked about the 1,700 COVID-19 cases the state reported earlier in the day: “Will the state hover around that or get worse?” Dr. Carroll, of the Indiana University School of Medicine, responded, “I think it will get worse over the next few weeks and then after the election I hope we start ratcheting things back. We can, as we have in the past, limit the spread of disease and make it safer. That will require governments to act and they often act slowly. “Even in the bad second wave, Arizona, Florida, Texas they got hold of it. They had to take action. They had to do some unpopular things, but they were able to ratchet it back to achieve a better level of success,” Dr. Carroll continued. “It will take Indiana taking action. I believe they will, it just may be a couple weeks off because the election, frankly, makes it harder to do a lot of stuff. Without laying blame or casting aspersions, ask me again in two weeks.” Gov. Holcomb was asked by the press about a possible reinstitution of lower stages. The governor became animated, saying, “Stage 5 has zero, nothing to do with any campaign. This has got to do with safely getting back to school, getting this economy reopened safely.”
  • SOUTH BEND — Four years ago, at this point before the presidential election, a columnist wrote of a widely popular sentiment, an oft-heard response to a campaign that drove down approval ratings of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The widespread sentiment was this: “I’ll be so happy when this election is over.”  But the columnist warned, “Don’t bet on that.” That columnist was me. So, despite what’s suggested in kind, thoughtful emails from militia types and conspiracy advocates, I sometimes can get something right. When the 2016 election was over, joy wasn’t ubiquitous among all who said they would then be “so happy.” A majority of voters was not happy at all. The majority, by a margin of nearly 3 million votes, selected Clinton, but the unhappy reality for them was that Trump carried key states and won in the Electoral College, where it counts. Some who didn’t vote for either Clinton or Trump also were not “so happy.” Some had voted for the Green Party nominee, who had no chance except as a spoiler, and then realized they could have been decisive in some of those key states if they had instead voted for Clinton, an environmentalist who wouldn’t have dropped out of the Paris climate accord and repealed environmental regulations.
  • BLOOMINGTON – As the Senate held hearings and debated the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, attention understandably focused on the policy implications of a sixth conservative vote. What got less notice was an important political fact: If she’s confirmed as expected, it will mean a majority of the Court will have been put there by senators representing a minority of the American people. Four justices on the Court already  – Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh – were confirmed by a Senate “majority” put in office by fewer voters than the senators who opposed them. Barrett will be the fifth. In fact, the ideal of “majority rule” in the U.S. is mostly window-dressing these days. The people in power as we head toward the November general election increasingly do not represent the will of the American people.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — How bad the job loss was in the United States depends on your starting and ending points. If we take March 2020 as the last “normal” or pre-covid month, with August as our latest data point, then national job losses just exceeded 10 million. Yet, just three states (California, New York, and Texas) account for one third of that 10 million. Indiana is among the 38 states in the bottom third of that distribution. Indiana accounted for 91,100 (2.9%) of that 10 million job loss. While 10 million jobs nationally represented a 6.6% drop in wage and salary jobs from March, Indiana’s 91,100 loss was only 2.9% of our March jobs. That’s the basis for the Hoosier Happy Hour at the Statehouse; Indiana ranked 47th behind Hawaii in percent of jobs lost due to the virus. Only Utah, Mississippi and Idaho were more fortunate than we.

  • CARMEL – There’s a political reason that, should he be reelected, Gov. Eric Holcomb will appoint a superintendent of public instruction. Look no further than the nationally watched 5th Congressional District, where former Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction. Suellen Reed endorsed Democrat Christina Hale on Wednesday in her race against Republican Victoria Spartz. Appearing in a TV ad with her husband, Phil, the Reeds introduced themselves as “lifelong Republicans.” Supt. Reed then says, “Cooperation, collaboration and compromise, that’s the way we get things get done.” Later, Reed adds, “She seeks common ground. That’s how democracy works. We’re voting Republican ... and for Christina Hale.” Reed’s endorsement makes it two out of the last three Republican superintendents to back Hale, who has been endorsed by current Supt. Jennifer McCormick. Former superintendent Tony Bennett has not weighed in. Governors of both parties have long salivated over the opportunity that likely faces Holcomb after the election. Reed was the Republican who served with Democratic Govs. Evan Bayh, Frank O’Bannon and Joe Kernan. Gov. Mike Pence served his four years with Democrat Supt. Glenda Ritz.

  • MUNCIE – The COVID pandemic continues to affect commerce and government in what is clearly the worst year for the economy since the Great Depression. We don’t yet know how deep this will be, but there is growing evidence of an increasingly delayed recovery. There is some good news. The official unemployment rate has dropped significantly and commerce is clearly recovering in many places. Still, in October 2020, the risk of COVID remains significant and depresses consumer spending and business investment. The most alarming piece of data is the growing number of permanently unemployed workers. The COVID spike in those reporting permanent job losses returned us to 2013 levels. The economic absorption of permanent job losses is a major factor in the duration of recovery. If the re-employment of permanent job losers is twice as fast as it was after the Great Recession, it will take close to four years to recover.  I know of no economist predicting a labor market miracle in the wake of COVID. COVID will continue to cause permanent job disruptions until a vaccine is widely available. It is easy to build a plausible scenario where permanent job losses weigh on the U.S. economy well through the 2020s. Worse still, the administrative data on job losses report more than twice the rates of job losses than do the survey data used to calculate the official jobless rate.
  • SOUTH BEND — Let’s look at election prospects in Indiana, Michigan and the rest of the nation after a chaotic first presidential debate, the superspreader in the Rose Garden, that spread even to President Trump and the vice-presidential debate. Q. Who’s ahead? A. Joe Biden. All the polls show it. Biden stretched his lead after Trump’s unhinged debate performance and again when the president, who scoffed at masks and the seriousness of the coronavirus, wound up hospitalized with the virus. On Thursday, Nate Silver, the guru of presidential forecasting, moved Biden’s chances of winning up to 85%. Q. With the election so close, is Biden certain to win? A. No. Q. What could happen? A. A lot. More surprises no doubt lie ahead. As president, Trump can and undoubtedly will spring surprises. Something totally unexpected could sway opinions. Remember how the FBI director’s surprise announcement of allegedly new Hillary Clinton emails was devastating at campaign close in 2016. Also, consider what that 85% chance of winning means.
  • ANDERSON – I didn’t even notice the fly. In the middle of a debate between Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a fly took up residence on the vice president’s head, and social media exploded. I don’t know why, but while almost everyone else seemed focused on that fly, I was thinking about who won the debate. As soon as moderator Susan Page closed the discussion, I flipped over to Fox News to learn that nearly all of the panelists thought Pence had dominated the evening. You have to admit the vice president was focused. Regardless of any shots his opponent might take, he stayed relentlessly on message. Nothing could shake him. “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said. But Pence was unmoved. He suggested that by criticizing the administration’s handling of the pandemic, Harris was actually minimizing the sacrifices of average citizens.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — While the legislators are home telling their constituents just how wonderful they have been recently, the east entry to the Statehouse is closed for repairs. Thus I was surprised when I heard the rasp of a familiar voice coming from the back of the statue of Gov. Morton. It was Sorethroat, my longtime conduit to all matters political below the radar. “Where ya goin’?” he asked, approaching the fence that separated us. “To lunch,” I replied. “Lunch,” he said. “With the price of cigs so high, I don’t do lunch anymore. But I got something you could chew on.”  “What’s that?” I asked. “The hot topic for the legislature of 2021-22. It’s going to be a barn-burner, so to speak. Where are people moving within metro areas?” he said. “You’re pulling my leg,” I responded.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – We all knew this election was going to be about HIM. So what happens to Indiana’s down ballot candidates if and when President Trump’s reelection bid collapses? There is mounting evidence that a Democrat tsunami is forming. CNN/SSRS had Joe Biden with a 16-point lead nationally, 57-41%, on Monday, coming on the heels of NBC/Wall Street Journal Sunday that had Biden up 53-39%. The CNN poll revealed 69% don’t trust what the White House is telling the public about the president’s health. Biden leads by 9% in the Real Clear Politics Polling composite, crossing the 50% milepost. In swing states, Biden has crossed the 50% mark in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, is at 49% in Michigan and Arizona, and 48% in North Carolina and Florida. And almost all of these polls were conducted prior to Trump’s hospitalization for COVID and his chaotic return to the hotspot White House, where the virus has spread to 34 staffers. Sunday’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had Biden leading Trump by 27% among senior citizens (62% to 35%), and Monday’s CNN/SSRS poll had Biden up 21% (60% to 39%). Trump carried senior citizens by 7% in 2016. Why is Trump collapsing?  
  • GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Over the years, alliances and issues change, but Indiana Republicans like to battle over differences. The fact is, so do Indiana Democrats. Every state does this. We just do it better. Contentious times on issues lead to divisions within and among parties. So do controversial individuals and internal power struggles. In 2020, we have all those things. Gov. Eric Holcomb has a few huge advantages in his reelection campaign. The biggest is our state’s modern history of stability through all chaos.  The Indiana gubernatorial two-party victory margins were: 1984 (5%), 1988 (6%), 1992 (25%), 1996 (5%), 2000 (15%), 2004 (7%), 2008 (17%), 2012 (3%), and 2016 (6%). Two facts jump out: 1.) the three wide margins (1992, 2000, and 2008) were reelection campaigns of Governors Bayh, O’Bannon and Daniels and 2.) otherwise, for nearly four decades, the two political tribes in Indiana have been fairly evenly matched. The Republicans have won only one race with a margin of more than 7% since the Ronald Reagan sweep year of 1980. However, it takes a ground shift for an Indiana governor to lose a reelection campaign. In fact, no elected governor (Joe Kernan had been elected as lieutenant governor) has EVER been defeated for reelection. 

  • WASHINGTON – I try to avoid making predictions during a presidential campaign. Aside from the fact that I’m superstitious, recent presidential races have been difficult to predict until much closer to the election. When I have made predictions, I’ve often been wrong. For example, I declined an invitation in 2000 to fly to Nashville to be with the Gore campaign in the event of a recount. “There is no way there will be a presidential recount,” I said. But this year the dynamics have been set for months. The most recent developments such as President Trump’s disastrous debate performance, a New York Times report that Trump had not paid taxes for 10 years before 2016 and then only $750 for the next two years, and Trump’s handling of his COVID, point to momentum moving in Joe Biden’s direction. Post-debate polls reveal a Biden bounce. A CNN poll released Tuesday, Oct. 6, shows Biden leading Trump by 16 points, 57% to 41%. A NBC/WSJ poll released Sunday, Oct. 4, has Biden leading Trump by 14 points, 53% to 39%. Biden is running ahead in all the battleground states and running even in some states once believed to be safe for Trump. Even assuming wavering Trump voters return home, it doesn’t look promising for the president’s reelection chances.  With that in mind, below are my predictions with less than a month to go. 1.) There is usually tightening before the election, but Joe Biden should easily defeat Donald Trump 54% to 45%. I believe Biden will carry all the states Barack Obama won in 2008, except Indiana.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – How will President Donald J. Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis impact the race? Will the pandemic effect turn-out? How effectively will election officials process the expected surge in mail-in ballots? How long will it take to count votes and announce a definitive victor? A week? A month? After the New Year? Who knows?! With three weeks left before Election Day, we know nothing. Literally nothing. Yes, that means you, me, the media, and candidates themselves. We all pretend to have answers but come on, man (h/t Joe Biden), Nostradamus we are not (and Nostradamus he was not). Political events no longer follow a predictable cause and effect formulation. Machiavellian plotting is for naught (just ask Nancy Pelosi, who tried to squash Bernie Sanders’ Iowa momentum by chaining him to his Senate desk during the impeachment trial) and all the norms of public life have been erased from our memories as if we are Tommy Lee Jones and the universe is Will Smith. In an age of data, analytics and information, where computers and algorithms are supposed to predict the future, we instead live in an Age of Improvisation where humans know nothing of what is on tap for tomorrow and are forced to roll with the punches.
  • WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s reversal on coronavirus relief legislation might be giving Sen. Todd Young policy whiplash. Just days after exhorting his administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reach an agreement on a package to boost an economy ravaged by COVID-19, Trump abruptly switched gears on Tuesday and called off negotiations. That change of heart forced Young to modify his own position on getting a recovery package through Congress before the election. He was looking forward to that outcome a few days ago and completely abandoned hope as of yesterday morning. Young’s gyrations were evident in two meetings with reporters – one on Zoom on Friday, Oct. 2, and one on a conference call on Wednesday morning. “I think we’re getting closer to an agreement between [Treasury Secretary] Steven Mnuchin on one hand, who’s representing the administration in these negotiations, and Nancy Pelosi on the other to try and reach a reasonable agreement to provide relief for our small businesses, our health care providers, our school corporations, our childcare centers – all the other entities and individuals within this ecosystem that makes our society operate,” Young told reporters on Oct. 2.
  • ANDERSON – On Thursday, researchers at Cornell University released a study identifying the largest driver of misinformation about the coronavirus as the president of the United States. Before the sun came up the next day, that same president had tested positive for the virus. In the wake of the news about his diagnosis, the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said his boss was experiencing mild symptoms. “The great thing about this president is not only is he staying committed to working on behalf of the America people,” Meadows said. “We have a president that is not only on the job, will remain on the job, and I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery.” Medical experts note that the president is in a high risk group because of his age and his weight. And it’s almost anyone’s guess how the virus will progress. The president might recover quickly, the experts say, or he might develop more serious symptoms weeks down the road. This is no laughing matter, and no one should wish the president ill. Still, you have to at least shake your head at the timing. One day, the president is called out for his lies. The next day, he tests positive for the virus he’s been lying about.
  • SOUTH BEND — So often in a political debate, it’s not something said on issues, the actual words, that has the most impact with voters. It’s how a candidate looks and acts while saying it. Thus it was that the first presidential debate, although ridiculed as a train wreck, a miserable mess, and justifiably so, was a campaign event with potential impact on the presidential election. While analysts focus now on what President Trump said about the Proud Boys and what former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t say about expanding the Supreme Court, most of the millions viewing the debate focused on neither. Most never had heard of the Proud Boys and didn’t hear the reference amid the chaotic exchanges of three people talking at the same time. Most weren’t waiting anxiously to hear about the number of justices. Trump lost an opportunity to gain support he desperately needs to catch up when he looked so angry, so red-faced, as he acted in such a bullying way, shouting over efforts of Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News to be heard. It wasn’t what he said  that was rambling, hard for viewers to follow. It was how he said it as he raged at Biden and Wallace.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — Calm down! It’s been like this for a very long time and it won’t get better because you just discovered you don’t like it. The revelations about Mr. Trump’s tax returns fomented great indigestion. But why? Your neighbors down the road are doing the same, just on a different scale. Every tax season, big retail accounting chains – can you say H&R Block? – guarantee every credit, deduction and exemption you’re entitled to. The problem is, your life is so uncomplicated, there are hardly any credits, deductions or exemptions you’re entitled to. Mr. Trump says he is a real estate developer. He puts together deals with other people’s money (and a bit of his own) to reshape our cities and countryside. Hotels, offices, condos, retail space, restaurants, golf resorts, and other new facilities are his specialties.
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  • Walorski congratulates Justice Barrett
    “I want to congratulate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the newest member of our nation’s highest court. Justice Barrett is a woman of strong faith, a dedicated mother of seven, an exceptional jurist, and a fellow Hoosier. I have no doubt she will faithfully uphold the rule of law, defend the Constitution, and protect the life and liberty of every American.” - U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, congratulating her 2nd CD constituent, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, after she was sworn in Monday night at the White House.
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  • Beau Bayh makes campaign debut
    “The first home I went home to in Indianapolis was the Governor’s Mansion, which is proof that Democrats can win in Indiana.” - Beau Bayh, campaigning on behalf of Democrat gubernatorial nominee Woody Myers. He is the son of former governor and senator Evan Bayh. In October 1984, a young Evan Bayh barnstormed the state with underdog gubernatorial hopeful Wayne Townsend ("Go get 'em, Wayne"). When the pair appeared at the Elkhart Truth, reporter (and future Bayh) staffer Phil Schermerhorn asked Bayh, "Evan, what are you running for?"). In 1986, Evan Bayh won the secretary of state's office, then ended the GOP's 20-year gubernatorial dynasty two years later. With Hoosier Democrats barely above the Libertarians in the party pecking order (Donald Rainwater is running TV and radio ads; Myers isn't), the young Bayh's appearance will stoke up speculation that it may take a third-generation Bayh to restore Indiana Democrats to major party status.
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