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Friday, April 19, 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.
  • SOUTH BEND – Cold and pouring rain usually is viewed as nothing positive, even as a disaster, for planners of an outside event. But those conditions were a factor in the positive national news coverage of the announcement of presidential candidacy by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. The announcement was planned for Sunday at a major downtown intersection, with nearby streets blocked off, providing space for a crowd of up to 10,000. It seemed likely that the crowd would be the largest in 51 years for a political rally in downtown South Bend. Maybe it would even top the crowd of an estimated 6,000 at the legendary 1968 Dyngus Day rally as Bobby Kennedy spoke on the steps of the courthouse. That has been regarded as the largest gathering ever for a downtown political speech. Then came the forecast for terrible weather. The forecast proved accurate. So, the decision was made to move the event inside, but not to some auditorium. The announcement was switched to an inside site that hardly seemed inside at all. No heat. Leaks in the roof getting many members of the audience wet as the rain continued.
  • MARTINSVILLE — As the Indiana General Assembly begins to put a wrap on the 2019 session and prepare to leave Indianapolis, I am somewhat sorry to see them leave town. I fell in love with the Indiana General Assembly in the fourth grade when I paged for Rep. John Thomas of Brazil. Rep. Thomas is my model of what a legislator should be. He was thoughtful, a smart lawyer, and a great example for the next generation. If my path had included legislative service, l would have tried to be a conscientious legislator like he was. Legislative watching is a bit of a passion for me, the same as bird-watching or rock-collecting is for normal people. Spending free time watching the committee work via webcast and, of course, the full chamber sessions for both the House of Representatives and the Senate is better than watching the news on television.  
  • BLOOMINGTON – I became active in politics in the late 1950s, got elected to Congress in 1964, and have remained engaged in one way or another every year since then. I’ve had a ringside seat for a long time. So I suppose I should not be surprised that I get asked a lot these days how American politics have changed over the last six decades. A few things stand out. When I first arrived in Congress, Americans had faith in the institutions of government. President Lyndon Johnson had actually run on a platform that we could successfully wage a war on poverty — and been elected. It seems inconceivable today that a politician of prominence would be so bold and so naïve as to propose such a thing, let alone believe that we could do it. Today, Americans have little confidence in government’s ability to deliver. And with reason; Congress can’t even pass a budget on time, and even the most routine matters get bottled up. A war successfully waged on anything domestic seems beyond its grasp.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Helping our communities grow is one objective of governors, mayors and their economic co-conspirators. We might thrive better if they focused on helping our communities develop. Development, as one of my co-conspirators reminds me, is a precursor, a foundation for growth. If diversity of ownership is considered development, then foreign direct investment (FDI) has many virtues. When a foreign-owned company invests in a local city or town, it does more than build or repurpose an existing structure. It hires local labor to do that work and may exhibit different expectations about construction methods and timing. This can be an improvement or a degrading, but it is a difference.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – One way to know you’re picking up political traction is when opposing partisans begin to take notice; when you are no longer ignored. That is the prelude to 2 p.m. Palm Sunday when one of the most unlikely presidential campaigns kicks off in South Bend. That’s when Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially joins some 20 Democrats seeking to take on President Trump and Vice President Pence. Buttigieg is now showing up, sometimes in double digits, in state and national polls. In several surveys he trails only septuagenarian front runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. He’s been a piping hot commodity on the cable and network talking head circuit. Last Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press and at the LGBT Victory Fund brunch less than an hour later, Buttigieg got the attention of Republicans. In discussing his sexuality, Buttigieg told the Victory Fund, “It’s hard to face the truth that there were times in my life when, if you had shown me exactly what it was inside me that made me gay, I would have cut it out with a knife. If you had offered me a pill to make me straight, I would’ve swallowed it before you had time to give me a sip of water."  In retrospect, he said, his marriage to his husband Chasten has moved him closer to God. And it brought him in proximity the political battle lines involving Vice President Mike Pence, a longtime foe of same sex marriage. “That’s the thing that I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand,” Buttigieg said. “That if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” That has now fully placed "Mayor Pete" on the Republican radar.
  • SOUTH BEND – The Buttigieg Boomlet continues. Here are five significant things about the explosion in national attention for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. 1. Mayor Pete now gets more space in the New York Times — lengthy articles from all around the country, frequent favorable columns, big photos — than in the South Bend Tribune. This doesn’t mean his hometown paper neglects him – not at all. But the definition of a national political boomlet includes lots of attention in the national news media. The Times, with its size and resources, competes with the rest of the national news operations to cover the Buttigieg Boomlet. And the coverage and analysis add to the boomlet. For example, columnist David Brooks writes: “Pete Buttigieg has some kind of magic right now.” He notes the mayor’s surprising showing in polls, book sales and fundraising. 2. Buttigieg has raised enough money to collect a lot more money for his presidential bid. His report of raising over $7 million means he will attract the attention of more potential donors and can afford more fundraising efforts.
  • LaPORTE  —  I have to give credit where credit is due – my daughter Margaux – who bought me Mayor Pete’s book and asked me why I hadn’t yet gone “all in” for his campaign. She and her Millennial buddies had taken a shine to Pete as a potential candidate for president some time ago after reading “Shortest Way Home.” I was one of Pete’s earliest donors to his state treasurer campaign in 2010 and have long respected his basic decency and integrity. I’ve admired his solid work as mayor and have always been a fan, even though I might occasionally disagree with his decision-making, such as the fact we’re on opposite sides of the 2019 South Bend mayor’s race – Pete siding with his longtime friend and city department head James Mueller, while I and many others in politics and labor in our area are supporting former Democratic county chairman Jason Critchlow, widely viewed as one of the top two or three county chairs in the state for his success at party-building and inclusion. Candidly, you can color me as someone, like many other veterans of Indiana politics, who was somewhat skeptical when Pete first announced his exploratory committee for president, figuring it might be a tad too ambitious, surprised as we were that he wasn’t angling for a cabinet position with one of the early frontrunners.
  • MUNCIE – Over spring break, I read a Bryan Caplan’s very popular book, The Case Against Higher Education. Many readers of this column might suppose I’d like this book. I tend to support smaller government, and am a frequent critic of higher education. Recall that I’m the professor who thinks tenure is mostly counterproductive to good research and teaching. While I’d strongly recommend this excellent book, the central policy prescriptions are mistaken. Worse still, they are unwisely becoming a faddish part of the education debate. Let me explain. Caplan argues that the value of a college degree is split between actual learning and signaling to employers that you are conscientious and intelligent. He makes a very compelling case, concluding that 80 percent of the wage benefit of a college education is signaling, and 20% actual learning. While several reviewers have tried to poke holes in his analysis, I will not. Because even if he is right, his policy prescription of eliminating public support of higher education is deeply mistaken. Here’s why.  If the learning that results a college degree is only worth one-fifth of its total value, it is still by far the best public investments most state or local governments make. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Landmarks does a commendable job of historic preservation. They recognize the structures worth restoring because of certain events or persons of the past or for their architectural significance. Saving neighborhoods, however, by zoning them with strict standards designed to keep them looking as they did in some bygone day is contrary to good sense. Yes, others have different values and I’m supposed to respect them. It doesn’t make it easier for me or them when we insist the government be used to enforce our values. Not every Indiana courthouse is a gem worthy of eternal existence. Just because we grew up with it doesn’t mean succeeding generations should be burdened with our nostalgia. Public buildings constructed before 1920 were, in most cases, more charming than those erected in the past 100 years. But charm alone cannot accommodate the present or the future.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – Indiana now has a hate crimes law. How credible the law Gov. Eric Holcomb signed on Wednesday will be determined by the courts at some future date. In signing the law, Holcomb explained, “Our goal was to achieve a comprehensive law that protects those who are the targets of bias crimes, and we have accomplished just that. We have made progress and taken a strong stand against targeted violence. I am confident our judges will increase punishment for those who commit crimes motivated by bias under this law.”  But this came after weeks of muddled messaging. Holcomb signaled late last year that a law with a list of the potentially afflicted was one of his top priorities. He was moved by the defiling of a Carmel synagogue last summer. He vowed to be vocal. Many of us believed that this popular governor wouldn’t hestitate to use his ample political capital to achieve a high priority goal. From a practical and legal standpoint, should Johnny Himmler spray paint “Heil Hitler” on a synagogue or defile a home with a rainbow flag on the porch and a car with an equality sticker in the driveway, judges have the ability today to sentence while considering the aggravating circumstances at hand. Speaker Brian Bosma believed that to be the case before this session ever began, but Holcomb changed the equation.
  • AUSTIN, Tex. — While half the field of Democratic presidential candidates are busy arousing socialist passions, the other half seems ready to take an ideological chill pill in favor of practicalities. Pete Buttigieg is mostly in the latter camp. Notwithstanding his “porn star presidency” sound bite — a Molotov cocktail of a meme that sent our Twitter feeds spinning — Buttigieg most often comes off as the affable, studious problem-solver we’re starving for, as he did at last month’s CNN Town Hall at South by Southwest. Columnist David Brooks, writing about Mayor Pete in this week’s New York Times, notes that we like Buttigieg because he “deftly detaches progressive policy positions from the culture war” and “eschews grand ideological conflict.” Case in point: Mayor Pete’s statement at the CNN Town Hall about one particular policy will, I predict, emerge as a credible tool for bipartisan movement on the 800-pound gorilla called climate change.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Super majorities have consequences. If there is any lesson to be drawn from the headline news item of the 2019 General Assembly session – the hate crimes legislation without a specific list of the potentially afflicted, which reached Senate concurrence Tuesday and is headed to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk – it’s that.  The pipsqueak Democratic minorities protest with the voices of mice and the super majority Republicans just grin and do what they want, often in caucus, away from public view. There is no presumptive Democratic gubernatorial standard-bearer in the wings who should be the focal and vocal point of resistance. And the true rising star of the Rooster Party, the openly gay South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, is too busy running for president. In February, when Mayor Pete conducted a book reading at IUPUI, there seemed to be a strange bedfellows alignment between Buttigieg and Gov. Holcomb on SB12, which had just cleared the Senate without a list. Holcomb declared it “unacceptable” and said there was plenty of time to forge a list. “I will continue to fight for the right ultimate outcome for our state and citizens this year so we’re not right back here in the same place next year,” Holcomb said.  HPI commented at the time: It is unclear how Holcomb will use his considerable popularity to bring his recalcitrant GOP into line. Now we know.
  • SOUTH BEND  — We’ve got an Iowa surprise. And it’s nothing to do with a forecast on when corn will be knee-high. Too early to measure the corn crop. A lot to do, though, with measuring the crop of presidential candidates. The Iowa survey released last week by Emerson College, showing South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in third place among likely Democratic caucus goers, was a big surprise. It’s another indication that Buttigieg has become a candidate to be taken seriously on the national political stage,  even before he is officially a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Q: What’s next? A: Buttigieg plans on campaigning in New Hampshire this weekend. Q: So, he’s already looking beyond that first-in-the-nation test in the Iowa caucuses next year?
  • BLOOMINGTON — Here’s a surprise: The skills that can be used to win in politics are increasingly the skills needed to produce good policy. I know. You look at the policy stalemates in Washington and wonder how this could be. The people who arrived there by winning elections haven’t shown much in the way of policy-making prowess. But let me explain. Politicians running for office have a choice. They can appeal to their base and count on it pushing them over the top, or they can try to build a coalition of voters. The former approach gives us more of what we already see, politicians who don’t show much interest in crafting broadly acceptable policy. But if they choose instead to run their campaigns by reaching out to a broader swath of the electorate, and if we as voters reward them for this at the polls, then they come to Washington with exactly the skills needed to make our representative democracy work.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – You probably are familiar with Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), groups of counties around cities of 50,000 or more persons. Sometimes an MSA is only one county, but often an MSA includes nearby counties because there is considerable commuting between the core county and the outlying counties. Bartholomew is the only county in the Columbus MSA. However, the Evansville MSA includes four counties, one of which is in Kentucky. In all, 43 of Indiana’s 92 counties are part of 14 metro areas, some extending into each of our four neighboring states. But do you know Indiana also has 26 Micropolitan Statistical Areas involving 27 counties? The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says “Micropolitan Statistical Areas have at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000, but less than 50,000 population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.”
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – President Trump hasn’t read the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Neither has Vice President Pence, U.S. Sen. Todd Young, nor anyone in the Indiana congressional delegation, or Congress for that matter. No one on “Fox & Friends,” “Morning Joe,” Wolf Blitzer, Sean Hannity, the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post or any member of the vast right/left wing conspiracies have read the report. We don’t know the thrust of what Mueller gleaned from what Wired has reported, which includes: A team of 19 lawyers; 40 FBI agents, analysts, forensic accountants, and other staff; more than 2,800 subpoenas; nearly 500 search warrants; 230 sets of communication records; details from nearly 50 pen registers used to track telephone calls; 13 requests of foreign governments and law enforcement agencies for additional evidence and interviews; along with around 500 witnesses. Beyond Mueller’s team and Attorney General Robert Barr, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and DOJ staffers, no one knows what’s in the report, beyond Barr’s four-page memo released on Sunday. On Friday, Barr said the report numbering more than "400 pages" will be made public soon. “Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own,” Barr wrote ton Congressional leaders on Friday.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — The political tribes have succumbed to confirmation bias and the illusory truth effect in the wake of Robert Mueller’s conclusion that there is no evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Given his character and background, as well as the importance of the assignment and resources committed to its pursuit, if Mueller could have brought a criminal case against Donald Trump or anyone else in his orbit, then he would have done so. Those doubting this conclusion reject both facts and logic. Like a Japanese soldier stranded on a Pacific island who refuses to stop fighting after the surrender, anti-Trump partisans cling to Trump-appointed Attorney General Barr’s brief summation of Mueller’s key findings rather than the likely voluminous report itself. “We need to see the report!” Agreed. The American public should see the report for the health of our body politic, but partisans are not seeking Mueller’s full report to understand the truth of the matter; they are seeking a new beachhead from which to assail a duly elected president. They seek the potter’s clay of impeachment. 
     
  • SOUTH BEND – They call it “flyover country.” It’s where the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee needs a safe landing if he or she is to stave off the reelection of President Donald Trump for four additional years. “Flyover country” is where Trump won key electoral votes for victory in 2016 and where he could win again. It includes states in the Midwest that were crucial. Trump pulled upsets in Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa and won battleground Ohio, obtaining needed electoral votes to win the presidency, even as he trailed nationally by 2.8 million in the popular vote. The “flyover” description comes from the way presidential candidates, especially Democratic nominees, so often fly over Middle America as they travel from one coast to the other for major campaign and fundraising events and national media attention. The name also refers to the perceived attitude of some nominees, especially Hillary Clinton, who was viewed in key Midwest states where she lost as flying above the concerns of voters in the middle of the country, the concerns of those in the middle of the political spectrum, the concerns of the middle class.
  • MUNCIE – A recent survey of economists posed two questions about the recently popular Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). The results were clear. Three out of four economists strongly disagreed with its central premises, and one out of four merely disagreed. Precisely zero survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the fundamental predictions of the theory. This was wholly unsurprising, as MMT is nonsense, but it caused me to think about the way economists discuss ideas that are politically popular yet have been proven false. The most obvious example of that, other than MMT, is modern supply-side economics. Indulge me in some musing on how these two ideas continue to have legs after being rejected by careful research using abundant data. MMT concludes that government debt does not matter and, as long as government can print money, it need not collect taxes. This would be a political panacea, of course. We could finance the building of the interstate highway system, World War II and the modern welfare state simply by printing money. It is absurd. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS - Americans seem indifferent to the level of personal debt and obsessed with public debt. My mother had an aphorism: “You had your fun, now you have to pay for it.” Debt, according to this view, is incurred for a lack of patience, a preference for current gratification over future comfort and security (health and other emergencies aside). As consumers, we put those concert tickets and those clothes on the credit card, which we do not pay off promptly. But in the public sector, we don’t want to build our streets and roads or operate our schools to a higher standard because we don’t want to pay higher taxes or user fees over time. In our homes we say, “It’s our money to do with as we please.” About government we say, “It’s the politicians and bureaucrats fault; they waste so much of our money on needless projects.” Neither statement holds up under examination.
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  • Pistole says DOJ policy saved Trump from indictment
    “There’s a lot of detail in there. It begs the question about if he wasn’t president, would he be indicted? That was much more powerful, and that’s why we saw some comments from the president’s team that did not accurately capture (Mueller’s) team’s findings.” - Anderson University President John S. Pistole, who served as deputy director of the FBI from October 2004 to May 2010, reacting to the Mueller report to the Anderson Herald-Bulletin. He was commenting on Department of Justice policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted, which was the rationale Special Counsel Robert Mueller used in not indicting President Trump on obstruction of justice charges. Pistole said the DOJ is not required to hold to its policy. “Again a policy is not a law. It’s not a statute. Policies are overruled,” he said.
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  • Sen. Birch Bayh memorial service set for May 1 at Statehouse
    A memorial service honoring the career of Indiana’s former United States Senator and House Speaker Birch Bayh (1928-2019) will be held Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at noon EDT in the south atrium of the Indiana Statehouse.  Among those remembering Sen. Bayh’s accomplishments will be Gov. Eric Holcomb, House Speaker Brian Bosma, Purdue President Mitch Daniels, former Congressmen Lee Hamilton and Baron Hill, and Federal District Court Chief Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson.

    Indiana’s former Secretary of State, Governor and United States Senator Evan Bayh and Indianapolis attorney Christopher Bayh will eulogize their father.  Former First Lady Susan Bayh will attend, as will their sons Beau (2LT, USMC) and Nick (2LT, USA).  Sen. Bayh’s widow, Katherine “Kitty” Bayh (née Halpin), will read a poem written by the Senator.

    The event is open to the public and no RSVPs are necessary.  Attendees should enter the Statehouse from either the upper east (Capitol Street) or lower west (Senate Avenue) entrances.  While the Indiana General Assembly is not scheduled to be in session, attendees should adjust for parking challenges in the vicinity of the Statehouse. 
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