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Friday, September 30, 2022
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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. 

  • WASHINGTON – When I started contributing to the Howey Political Report in 1997, it launched my journey from Capitol Hill to journalism. One of my most reliable sources was Mark Souder. I wasn’t sure how well I would be received by the Indiana congressional delegation as I moved from being Sen. Richard Lugar’s press secretary to reporting for what is now Howey Politics Indiana.  Of course, Lugar was deeply respected by his Washington colleagues. But I was concerned that that feeling of good will wouldn’t necessarily transfer to one of his former aides who was now calling Hoosier lawmakers pursuing stories that weren’t always flattering to them. It wasn’t the potential occasional awkwardness of the revolving door that gave me the most worry. It was the concern that Hoosier members of Congress and their staffers simply would ignore me. When I joined HPI, there were several Indiana regional reporters who covered the D.C. delegation aggressively and daily, led by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette’s Sylvia Smith. Why would someone like Souder deal with me when he talked to Sylvia all the time and also was sometimes quoted in the Indianapolis Star as well as other Hoosier media outlets? Souder didn’t lack for media coverage.

  • SOUTH BEND – We laughed at the QAnon crazies. At their wacky predictions of a storm coming, with military force to restore Donald Trump’s presidency and publicly execute Satanic pedophiles now cannibalizing kids and controlling the nation. We laughed when Q believers waited in the rain in Dallas for the predicted appearance of John F. Kennedy Jr. He would become vice president upon Trump’s return. Kennedy couldn’t make it, perhaps because he died in a 1999 plane crash. Some believers hung around for weeks, figuring Kennedy was just delayed for some reason. We laughed at predictions of the storm coming on Inauguration Day to prevent Joe Biden from taking the oath. He and other leaders of the Satanic cabal – in government, business, entertainment and news media – would face capital punishment. Trump would stay. But then Trump left. So, QAnon believers said the storm would come instead at a later date when inauguration was observed in decades past. Nothing on that date either. We laughed when QAnon first came to national attention. Pizzagate! 
  • ANDERSON – Maybe the politicians talking about the border crisis ought to meet Albeleis Arteaga. He traveled for nearly two months with his wife and 4-month-old child just to get to the United States. “If I had any money right now, I wouldn’t be out here putting my family through this,” the 29-year-old told reporter Uriel J. García of The Texas Tribune. “My head throbs not knowing what to do next or how to get out of here.” Arteaga is among thousands of Venezuelans pouring across the southern border. He, his wife and child arrived in El Paso, a Texas border community that is already overwhelmed. Many of the migrants are returned to Mexico under an emergency health order known as Title 42, but that’s not an option for Venezuelans. They’re on a list of nationalities Mexico won’t accept, and they can’t be sent back to Venezuela because the United States severed diplomatic ties with that country in 2019. So, the immigrants wind up in shelters – or on the street.
  • MUNCIE – The Russo-Ukrainian conflict is now firmly in a new phase. The Russians lost the strategic element of the war long ago, but now they have managed to lose operationally and tactically. There are two important economic lessons to be learned from this war – one is about public spending on services, the other about free trade. In its desire to befriend Western Europe, Ukraine agreed to participate with the NATO forces in Afghanistan. To do so, they needed training to reform their Soviet-style army into a modern, western army. Thus, in 2007, they began training a new style army. The Soviet-style army, which Ukraine inherited, is wholly unsuited to the modern battlefield. These armies have virtually no sergeants, or non-commissioned officers. Junior leaders are not promoted from the ranks; that would be too politically dangerous. Instead, leaders are appointed from among a politically reliable officer corps. Technical competence takes a back seat to political reliability. In contrast, western armies reward talented leadership, technical expertise and innovative problem solving by promoting soldiers to the ranks of non-commissioned officers. It is these people who train new soldiers and young officers. Ukraine’s government fully embraced this new army, and spent a decade and a half restructuring their forces.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – “The [Indianapolis] Department of Metropolitan Development (DMD) envisions Indianapolis as a growing, vibrant, and beautiful city where people are [sic] businesses thrive in an inclusive, world-class community.” That’s about all one can learn about DMD from its obtuse website. I doubt Bob Kennedy would have written such empty words. He certainly would laugh at the Freudian slip where DMD says “people are businesses.” Bob is a former director of DMD, an active, questioning voice on the Development Commission, and, during his long career, the architect for the city/county public library. His style is direct and material. Fluff and bluff have no place in his approach to urban development.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – In terms of political “stunts,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has hit the motherlode! His decision to fly 50 Venezuelan immigrants from not Florida, but Texas to poshly liberal Martha’s Vineyard has earned him pub, man, pub. It also means that the two current Republican presidential frontrunners – DeSantis and Donald Trump – are both now under criminal investigation. Speaking Monday on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News hours after the sheriff of Bexar County, Texas, announced a criminal investigation into the flights, DeSantis said, “It’s really frustrating. Millions of people since Biden’s been president, illegally coming across the southern border. Did they freak out about that? No. You’ve had migrants die in the Rio Grande – you had 50 die in Texas in a trailer because they were being neglected. Was there a freakout about that? No, there wasn’t.” The other “immigration” governor, Republican Greg Abbott of Texas, had a 47-38% lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke in a Dallas Morning News poll. The problem with the DeSantis Martha’s Vineyard stunt is that this is a crisis for those seeking a better life in America, as well as Texas and Arizona border towns that have been engulfed by more than 2 million apprehensions so far this year.
  • ANDERSON – At first glance, Lindsey Graham’s abortion bill almost seems reasonable. The measure calls for a ban on abortions after 15 weeks, but it provides exceptions for pregnancies brought about by rape or incest and for situations in which the mother’s life is in danger. How you react to such a measure might depend on where you live. Indiana, for example, now bans nearly all abortions. Under a law that took effect Thursday, the state allows the procedure during the first 10 weeks of a pregnancy brought about through rape or incest. It allows a woman up to 20 weeks to end a pregnancy under conditions that threaten her life. Pro-choice Hoosiers might well support a measure that would ease those restrictions, but Graham’s bill doesn’t do that. The South Carolina senator’s proposal would not affect the more stringent laws already on the books in states across the country, but it would impose restrictions in states where no such limits now exist.
  • MUNCIE – Many across the United States will have spent this week watching coverage of the British Monarchy. Millions of Americans from all walks of life will read, watch and listen to coverage of the Queen’s funeral. This is quite a stunning turn of events, after all we endured considerable discomfort to rid ourselves of that crown. There are two important lessons in her life and position that merit considering. The British Monarchy does not enjoy a lengthy period of support here. My ancestors arrived on this continent as refugees from the restoration of King Charles II, having recently fought against the Crown. Their disdain for the monarchy surely led their grandsons to fight throughout our Revolution. This is a common history that belongs to millions of Americans. The foundational document of our Republic was hate mail to King George III. It is splendid irony that the most important sentence in the English language comes from our Declaration of Independence. It begins “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…” I need not finish it. The Declaration rejects not merely the king, but the idea of a kingdom itself.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” bellows State Senator Puffy Stuffy. “Wages, Wages, Wages,” shouts State Representative Roberta Righteous. “It’s like the Sinatra song, ‘Love and Marriage,’ you can’t have one without the other,” retorts the Senator. “What world do you live in?” asks the Rep. “Indiana has 2.1% of the jobs in the U.S. and 1.7% of the wages. Only two other states have a larger negative difference in those figures. Simply put, Puffy, we’re 48th in the nation.” “Now, Bobbie, consider who we represent,” the Senator pleads. “We in the General Assembly protect the Hoosier way of life. I’ve seen the list with California and New York at the top. They make movies and money. We make steel and soybeans.”

  • SOUTH BEND -  Forecasts of red and blue waves in politics are about as precise as winter warnings of where lake effect snow will hit. Shifting winds off Lake Michigan determine whether South Bend is buried in white or accumulation dwindles a few miles west. Political winds shift as well. Political forecasts early this year were for a big red wave, darn near a Republican tsunami, sweeping away Democratic control in Congress, certainly in the House, very likely in the Senate. Make sense? Sure. Democrats in Congress were shooting at each other over things they couldn’t do. President Biden’s approval ratings were plummeting. Republicans were winning cultural war battles, especially in pinning a “defund the police” label on Democrats at a time of rising concern over crime. Redistricting and the history of midterm election trends were with the GOP. But the political winds shifted. 
    Enough for Democrats to keep control of the House? Probably not. Republicans need only to pick up about five seats to gain control. Earlier Republican goals of an additional 50 seats now seem unreasonable. A dozen-seat gain is more likely.

  • WEST LAFAYETTE – During the closing minutes of a podcast with The Bulwark’s Mona Charen last week, Mitch Daniels once again speculated on his tombstone epitaph: “He raised four wonderful daughters and reformed the BMV.” By Sunday, the Frugal Hoosiers for Mitch Twitter feed appeared to revise its intent: “#runmitchrun … for Governor … or President would be great too.” That’s in “President” as the one living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., in the District of Columbia, and not at Purdue University’s Westwood. With the federal debt and the earth’s oceans swelling to unprecedented levels, with the nation reeling from the Jan. 6 insurrection and FBI searches at Mar-a-Lago, and with the Grand Old Party on a troubling and doomed authoritarian – no, “fascist” – trajectory, it is time to dust off those green “Run, Mitch, Run” signs 11 years after they were unceremoniously stuffed into the nether reaches of the closet. This came after Gov. Daniels suffered his only electoral defeat (in the Daniels Family Female Caucus). If there is a “draft Mitch” movement percolating here in Indiana, it should be for the 49th governor of Indiana to become the 47th president of the United States. His daughters are older now. Former First Lady Cheri wouldn’t face the kind of scrutiny she did in the pre-Trump era. Or as Washington Post columnist George Will put it on MSNBC’s Morning Joe when host Joe Scarborough asked him who might be the best post-Trump Republican to run in 2024, he responded, “Mitch Daniels was the president we should have had.” Watching “President Daniels” do a “Fireside Chat” with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Sen. Todd Young and Gov. Eric Holcomb Tuesday morning after touring Purdue’s emerging semi-conductor ecosystem was seeing this executive in his proper element, talking big picture horizons with the world’s biggest players. After the tour, Sec. Raimondo pronounced herself “blown away” by what she saw while Sec. Blinken unabashedly predicted that “America is back.”
  • LOGANSPORT – It stands to reason. Remember the state that held out against a money mountain in a state lottery, and it didn’t get approved until 1988 when voters demanded it and kicked out a House speaker from Muncie? It stands to reason. Remember a “religious freedom act” former Gov. Mike Pence signed that soon became an expensive, apologetic campaign to defend the honor of the state’s citizens who were compromised by political grandstanding that fuels the fires of the Ron DeSantises of 2022? It stands to reason. A state that has one of the lowest college attainment rates in the country plays politics with the forgiveness of student loans by taxing the forgiven amount as income. The single parent, the working family, the people who aspired to be the first in their family to earn a college degree – let their good deeds not go unpunished. Let’s punish them again by getting Indiana’s hands in their billfolds and purses. Yes, Indiana, the state with a declining number of men in four-year colleges, the state that ranks 40th in education ahead of only the Deep South states, the state where personal incomes lag behind the nation along with population growth because so many of its “jobs” it is gaining don’t require college degrees, says once again, “We don’t care about college attainment.”
  • BLOOMINGTON – There are two especially striking aspects to the “Inflation Reduction Act,” the sprawling climate-change/tax-reform/health-care legislation that just passed Congress and was signed into law by President Biden. The first is that it passed on strict party-line votes. And the second is that in an unexpectedly productive Congress, this makes it unusual. The measure was the product of a year’s worth of patient negotiation and compromise in the Senate. And while there are portions of the law that might have had appeal across the aisle – the idea of allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare was also proposed by former President Trump – most of that work took place within an ideologically diverse Democratic Party. In particular, the Democratic leadership of the Senate and President Biden had to be willing to give up on some of the more far-reaching aspects of Biden’s “Build Back Better” initiative, including long-sought goals like investing trillions in care for children and seniors, and establishing universal preschool. Instead, in painstaking negotiations, perhaps the most conservative member of the Democratic caucus, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hammered out a bill that for the first time commits the U.S. to billions in spending on climate and energy investments; allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for the first time; extends Obamacare subsidies; strengthens IRS enforcement (which in the last few decades has withered); and requires a 15% minimum tax for big corporations.
  • MUNCIE – Colleges and universities started classes a couple of weeks ago. I am hopeful the nation will see a slight bump in enrollment following the deep COVID declines. Many students stayed home during COVID, while others took advantage of rising wages for high school graduates. These facts make it a good time to outline the benefits and costs of a college education. These benefits are both private and public. The public benefits to education are straightforward. States and cities with a higher share of adults who’ve graduated college are more prosperous, grow faster and have less volatile recessions. These benefits extend to residents who’ve not been to college. Indeed, the best economic opportunities for people without a college degree are in cities with lots of college graduates. This is one reason the most or prosperous states spend the most on education, and vice versa. There’s a private benefit to education as well, which is why everyone should pay some part of their college degree. There is also a cost to attending college. These costs can be divided into two broad categories that will be surprising to many readers. The first and most obvious cost of college is the tuition, books, fees and technology expense of college. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS – An economist at IU-B was often heard to say, “He who has a number is ahead of he who does not.” George Wilson then would apply pencil to any available piece of paper and rapidly produce a number. Most often they were remarkably consistent with the best estimates available. But, when George performed this magic, he did not always share that number. He knew the power of numbers. He understood how a weak number could be used to shape a weak policy. Today, let’s take two numbers and see what mischief can evolve. The first number is the change in the number of jobs in Indiana between 2007 and 2019 (both years before major downturns). The second number is the change in the number of residents of the state employed between the same years. The first number is 251,568 jobs compared to 226,215 employed residents. The difference is 25,353. What can we make of that?

  • SOUTH BEND - Once upon a time and not so long ago, Republicans were described as conservatives or moderates. And Democrats were viewed as conservatives, especially if Southern Democrats, or liberals. Now, some would describe moderate Republicans and Southern Democrats as having gone the way of the dodo bird. There is the perception today of two tribes, Red vs. Blue, each unified in hatred of the other, rather than diverse political parties. Lines really can’t be drawn that distinctly, although votes in Congress would seem to show virtually no room for diversity. Lines weren’t as distinct in the past either between wings of the parties, although congressional votes often reflected those differences within the parties. Republicans today around the nation do have differences. There are MAGA (Make America Great Again) Republicans, those proclaiming loyalty to Donald Trump, and the more traditional conservatives who wish Trump would go away and let the party concentrate on future conservatives causes rather than past grievances.

  • MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. - On Sept. 15, about five weeks after the male-dominated Indiana General Assembly passed and Gov. Eric Holcomb signed some of the most sweeping abortion restrictions in the nation, SEA1 goes into effect. Some of the reactions have been predictable. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit to block the new law and, in a second filing, claims that SEA1 violates Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Carson Gerber of CNHI reports that SEA1 will send more kids into the state's swamped foster care system, observing that 10 out of every 1,000 children will enter that system (the national average is 6 out of 1,000). "The projected uptick comes as the state’s child welfare programs face ongoing strain from a severe worker shortage that has forced some agencies to delay critical services," Gerber reports. "The strain is tightened by the lack of foster families available to take in about 13,000 children who need homes. More children coming into the foster system would add to an already large pool of kids who need help in Indiana, which consistently ranks among the top five states for the number of kids being placed in foster care. Then there are new political realities. A late August Wall Street Journal poll revealed that 60% of respondents believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, up 5% from March. “Republicans were cruising, and Democrats were having a hard time,” said Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio. “It’s almost like the abortion issue came along and was kind of like a defibrillator to Democrats. Male independents did not really change. Female independents, because of the abortion issue, changed their opinions and their votes." According to Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democrat-consulting group TargetSmart, Indiana has seen a 6% female gender gap in new voter registrations since the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling on June 24.

  • EVANSVILLE  – When President Joe Biden announced his student debt forgiveness plan, it brought both praise and criticism from all political corners. Under the plan, all student borrowers with household incomes of less than $125,000 for single people and $250,000 for married people would be entitled to $10,000 of debt relief. Those who went to college on Pell Grants would receive $20,000 in relief.  The plan would also cap monthly loan payments at 5% of the borrower’s monthly discretionary income and forgive remaining loan balances after 10 years of payments, provided the remaining balance is $12,000 or less. Biden also extended the pause on student loan payments first granted during the COVID emergency through the end of the year. Student borrowers would resume payments in 2023. But very little about the debate centered around the plan’s authority. Biden’s plan did not receive congressional approval, and by all accounts Biden does not intend to seek it. 
  • ANDERSON – In 1985, Rotary International launched an effort to eradicate polio. Three years later, when the effort became a global initiative, the disease was paralyzing more than 1,000 children every single day. Thanks to the efforts of more than 20 million volunteers, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunized, and the wild poliovirus now circulates in only two countries. Through October of 2020, Rotary International had contributed more than $2.1 billion to the effort, and it has committed to raising an additional $50 million every year. I’ve been a member of Rotary clubs in four cities over the course of the last 25 years, and like most Rotarians, I’m proud of what the organization has accomplished. The global incidence of polio has dropped by 99%. And yet, the fight to protect our children from this disease continues, even in the United States. Right here in Indiana, fewer than six in 10 children under the age of 3 have gotten the usual vaccinations aimed at preventing such diseases as polio, measles, hepatitis and chickenpox.
  • SOUTH BEND – Alas, we still don’t know why Donald Trump took all those top-secret documents. But we now know more about what happened and the extent of any possible threat to national security. Here’s a quiz about the saga of secrets.
    1. In the 15 boxes of materials Trump finally turned over earlier this year, federal agents found how many classified documents:
         a. Only a dozen, none top secret.
         b. 97, of which 11 were top secret.
         c. 184, of which 25 were top secret.
    2. The Justice Department then applied for the Aug. 8 search for more stuff hidden at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, citing information from:
          a. The housekeeper who dusts around storage areas.
          b. “A significant number” of witnesses.
          c. Melania.
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  • Morales denies sexual harassment allegations; Wells comments
    "As a husband and father, I understand sexual harassment is deplorable and can leave devastating scars. The claims being made against me are false and I unequivocally deny all of them. The women, who will not reveal their identity, cannot corroborate their stories. They have neither documentation nor sources to substantiate their defaming comments. The falsities stem from 15 years ago and were not brought forward until now. The timing is clearly politically motivated, especially considering one of the women mentions that she is now volunteering for my opponent's campaign. The claims were printed in a publication that uses a disclaimer stating, 'This is a compiliation of pure gossip, rumor and blatant innuendo'. I am appalled to be included in this publication (and) I was not provided an opportunity to respond to these falsehoods before they were printed." Republican Secretary of State nominee Diego Morales, responding to allegations published by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz at IndyPolitics. Democrat nominee Destiny Wells said in a statement: "Diego Morales' victims need to be heard and believed. It takes tremendous courage in coming forward, and the last thing I want is for their personal sacrifice to be for naught. While this race has been focused on safeguarding our right to vote, we too must safeguard a woman's right to exist in the workplace free of sexual harassment and assault. For weeks we have seen mounting evidence that Diego will say and do anything to get what he wants — as Hoosiers, I know this is not in line with our values — we have had enough."
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