An image
Login | Subscribe
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
An image
An image
Thursday, December 5, 2019 2:55 PM

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

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

  • INDIANAPOLIS  — This week there’s nothing but good news to report about Indiana. Many readers will say this is long overdue. Rightfully, they want to feel good about our state, to read about our achievements and opportunities. Enough with ugly clouds of statistics, let’s celebrate the sunlight. We open with a report from the cheery folks at the Tax Foundation who discovered, in the depths of data from the Bureau of the Census, federal aid was 38% of Indiana’s total state general revenue in FY 2017, the most recent year of data available.  The national figure was a mere 23%. Indiana ranks 10th highest among the 50 states in reliance on federal funding. After years of complaining about not getting our fair share of federal aid to states, we’ve broken into that elite quintile, just behind West Virginia and a fraction ahead of Kentucky. Still, some Hoosiers yearn for those days in the 20th Century when Indiana refused to seek or accept federal funds. But now we’re hep, we’re woke.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — Owen Greene lives a quiet life in Southwestern Indiana. He’s learned not to challenge the opinions of his neighbors. Yet, this past week he called me with a question: “Are wages lower in Indiana because our cost of living is lower than in the rest of America?” “No!” I said in my most controlled manner. “Employers like to tell workers that’s the reason wages can be lower here than elsewhere, but that’s not the truth.” “You mean they’re lying?” Owen looked surprised. “They’re not lying, Owen,” I said. “They just accept a popular fiction, an easy story to believe.” “But it makes sense,” Owen insisted. “Workers won’t demand as much in wages, if the cost of living is low.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — Most folks have an intuitive understanding of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They know GDP measures the current activity of the nation’s legal economy. The change in annual GDP is the definitive statement about our national economic performance. It’s far better than the monthly unemployment rate or the jobs numbers to assess that performance. At the same time, Hoosier politicians seem unaware that GDP figures from the US. Bureau of Economic Analysis are now out there for states and counties. Indiana’s GDP figures don’t tell the same story as we get from those officeholders. Simply put, in the last 20 years (1998 to 2018), Indiana has exceeded the national GDP growth rate only six times. And not once since 2014. We have seen Indiana’s share of national GDP fall from 2.05% to 1.77%. Doesn’t seem like much? That insignificant 0.28% was $57.6 billion in 2018 alone, an amount which would have raised our state GDP by 16%.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — One night recently, in a moment of unusual calm, I sat down to read the 2019 Annual Report of the Indiana Department of Revenue. It’s handsomely produced. Lots of pictures with employees saying “cheese.” Far too short on meaningful data, as far as I’m concerned, but loaded with numbers only administrators could love. However, I was able to figure out that Indiana personal income taxes (state and local) amounted to $8.9 billion and accounted for 42% of the state’s $21 billion in revenue in fiscal 2019 (July 2018 to June 2019). Add to that sum $8.1 billion in sales taxes collected and you have households paying 81% of the Revenue Department’s collections. This, of course, doesn’t count gambling, motor fuel, and other taxes passed along to customers by the businesses building taxes into their prices. The direct tax on corporate income is a spectacular 4.7% of total tax collections.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Ever buy hamburger? You pay more for less fat and more beef. I think of that whenever I hear about the blatant incompetence and arrogant ignorance of state or local government workers. Want less fat and more beef? Pay for it! The surprising element is so many excellent government workers remain diligent, dedicated and on the job. Some of these outstanding public servants report to unprepared elected officials or their political appointees. We don’t have sufficient numbers of people who understand their jobs and appreciate their responsibility to the public that pays them. But there is a light shining in the Governor’s office. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a range of pay increases for existing state employees. Based on merit reviews, employees can receive two, four, or six percent increases, beginning next month. That’s good. But recognize how bad it has been for so long and getting worse. In 1998, 20 years before our latest data, on average, Indiana paid state workers 22% less than the national average for state employees. In 2018, our state employees were paid 27% below the U.S. average. Indiana sank from 46th to 48th place among the 50 states in paying state workers, ahead of only South Dakota and West Virginia.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  —  As Gaul was to Caesar, so too is personal income divided into three parts by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). This is important because political leaders have latched onto per capita personal income (PCPI) as a favorite measure of economic well-being. They are wrong, but it takes generations for old ideas and politicians to be retired.   The first and biggest part of Hoosier personal income is what we earn as workers. That’s 64.3% for us (15th among the 50 states), slightly higher than the nation’s 62.6% in 2018. Both figures are down from their 2008 levels; about two percentage points nationwide and 1.5 points in our Hoosier Holyland. The second part of personal income is composed of what we “earn” on our investments: Dividends, interest, and rent. Note: Neither the growth of your holdings in the stock market nor the increased value of your house is included.

  • INDIANAPOLIS — The moving van pulls away leaving new people and their strange possessions next door. There is something different about them and the things they own. Something strange that suggests they are not quite like us, long-time residents of this place. Where do those strangers come from? We’re fortunate the U.S. Bureau of the Census has studied that question concerning persons who were one year of age and older in 2018. They found 84.9% of Hoosiers were folks who lived in the same house as they did in 2017. But that’s below the national average of 86%, and we rank 32nd among the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia). Hoosiers are less homebodies than other residents of this nation? Where did those strangers come from? Take heart! Indiana ranks 10th in the nation (12.4%) in terms of persons who moved within the same state in the last year. Those strangers may be from just around the corner, or as far away at Angola, Aurora, Mt. Vernon or Whiting. Thus, they’re not really strangers. Take them a welcoming casserole. Make sure you exchange cell phone numbers and don’t hesitate to give them your email address.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — Watch out!” Sorethroat said. “They’re coming back and, if the past is prologue to the future, we’re in danger.” He and I were in the parking garage opposite the Statehouse. As usual, this long-time state employee was smoking. In addition, he was fuming. “The Indiana General Assembly,” he continued, “will gather for Organization Day on Nov. 19. Ha, it’s more like disembowelment day.” “Why do you say that?” I asked. “It’s when they remove whatever guts a senator or representative may have,” he answered. “You know, most of them are really good people who want to do what’s best for Hoosiers. But the leadership wants them to be gutless followers of the party line. “’Surplus over Service,’ that’s the mantra they have to chant,” he declared.

  • INDIANAPOLIS  — Just a few more weeks and we’ll be in 2020. Incumbent office holders will discover numbers showing we are better off than four years earlier. The out-of-office wannabes will have their data showing we are worse off. How can both be telling the truth? As economists love to say, “It all depends…” What data are you using, Indiana in a national or regional context? Real per capita personal income, a favorite measure of some political leaders, shows Indiana with an average annual increase of 1.82%, between the second quarters of 2015 and 2019, after adjustment for inflation. The United States grew by 2.12%. That “little” 0.30% average annual difference is worth $575 for each Indiana resident in 2019 dollars. That’s if we were just “average” instead of 29th in the nation. But let’s put this in a regional context and we’ll see if Indiana shines as bright as that moon over the Wabash. The Great Lakes region includes Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin, along with Indiana. The region as a whole saw real per capita personal income rise of 1.89%. Sad to say, only Ohio at 1.80% came in lower than our 1.87% growth rate. But, take heart! Kentucky managed only a 1.36% average rate. As you know, any time we beat out Kentucky, Hoosiers are winners.

  • INDIANAPOLIS  — Do you linger over your morning coffee wondering how to do something meaningful? While the commercials are on TV during your favorite program, do you ponder the current condition of your county, our state and nation? Then listen up! You can make a difference within the next two weeks. VOTE in the Nov. 5 election, either in person, at an early-voting station, or by mail-in ballot. Vote for local officials who show some energy in their campaigns. We’ll need that energy in the coming months of 2020. Your community/county should have a vigorous Complete Count Committee for the 2020 Census. Local effort to encourage participation in the census is one important means of protecting our constitutional rights and our self-interest. Every Indiana resident must be counted. Why? The number of persons recorded in our communities statewide will determine our representation in U.S. House of Representatives in the 117th Congress. Right now, we have nine representatives. It could go down again, as it has four times in the last 100 years.
  • INDIANAPOLIS –  Indiana’s public forests are primarily south of I-70, yet our population and industry are located primarily north of that interstate. Preserving existing public forests while developing new forested areas throughout the state would correct this imbalance. At the same time, enhancing the urban forest canopies, the linear street forests in our cities and towns, needs to be encouraged. These are long-term components of Indiana’s essential infrastructure that offer significant benefits on at least six levels: 1. Forests are silent workers cleaning the air of harmful substances while providing oxygen. They also are habitat for innumerable plants and animals. Trees stabilize ground water levels, reduce land erosion, and protect properties from flooding. The benefits of forests are local and world-wide. In cities, they not only improve the air we breathe and provide shade to reduce air-conditioning expenses, but they raise property values as a desired amenity. 2. Indiana has an undesirable image as a place lacking natural attractions of mountains and a seacoast. Forests can provide a place rich in opportunities for healthy, stimulating outdoor recreation, exploration, and education. Tourism and corporate investments are determined by the image we project.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — Here’s a simple fact. In 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average wage or salary (AW&S) in Indiana was $46,897. At the same time, the figure stood at $55,463 for the United States as a whole, or nearly 19% above Indiana’s average. It’s easy to get into a tizzy about this. Loyalists would boast, “Our cost of living is lower than average.” Rebels might quote me saying “What Indiana produces is less valued than what is produced on average in the U.S.” However, right now, I would like to challenge that national figure. The data for the U.S.  include the District of Columbia, which is not a state. The AW&S for D.C. in 2017 was $91,720, 65% above the national figure and nearly double Indiana’s more modest level.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — Newspapers and television news have pointed to declines in the shipments of recreational vehicles as a warning signal of a forthcoming national recession. It’s true that nationally RV shipments are down. They have been declining, compared to the same month a year earlier, each month from August 2018 through July of this year. For the year as a whole, shipments in 2018 were 4.1% below 2017. However, 2017 was a bonanza year for the industry, shipping 504,600 units, up 17.2% from 2016. Yet that does not tell the story well; in March 2018 alone, shipments reached 50,600 units, a vertigo height for RVs. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS — This November Hoosier voters will make important decisions about the future economy of our state. They will choose the mayors and council members who will determine the members of local zoning boards and planning commissions. The choices of those boards and commissions will set the course of the state for 50 or more years. We have many examples of good and bad land use in Indiana’s past; let’s look at some recent developments. Boone County and Lebanon have guided development along their portions of I-65. Warehouses, heavy machinery sales and services, retail trade, and highway traveler services will be found adjacent to the interstate. Crown Point, in Lake County, has allowed housing right along I-65, north and south of the 109th Avenue (Exit 249). This breaks the line of commercial, industrial, and institutional uses adopted by Merrillville further north.

  • INDIANAPOLIS — As the leaves begin to fall, young people are heading back to school. For many, this is the senior year of high school. For others, this is the first year at college, in the military, or working at a full-time job. For each, it means answering the question: “So, whatcha gonna do wit ya life?" Little do they know they will spend the next 60 years trying to answer that question. Whereas, at some distant date, schooling meant education; today it means occupation. Some policy-makers want to stress maximizing the future earnings of students as the goal of schooling. But all students, it is believed, should be “job ready” when they graduate from high school and/or college. They should be “trained” for the workforce, ready to meet the expectations of today’s employers, as well as prepared for an uncertain future.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — Sadly, America is already immersed in the 2020 national election. It would be better for our nation, our state, and our communities, if we could focus on the elections of November 2019. We are neglecting the Indiana municipal elections upcoming in November 2019. Those elected this year, as mayors and council members, will be in office in 2021-22 when new election districts will be formed on the basis of the 2020 Census. Want to stop gerrymandering? Want to end unwarranted one-party rule? Then pay attention to the 2019 election in your city/town/county. Insist candidates pledge to oppose the corrupt gerrymandering practices of the past. With inordinate attention to the 2020 campaigns, vital local public services are ignored. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS — We’ve all heard the Social Security Trust Fund will no longer be able to finance Social Security payments in full after 20xx. We say “xx” because the date keeps changing. When folks think about Social Security, what mostly comes to mind is the Old Age Insurance aspect of the program. But there’s also a vital role played by Survivors’ Insurance for spouses and children and important Disability Insurance for those unable to work.  Why is this safety net, this trust fund, running out of money? For several reasons: We are living longer than expected. People are retiring too early. Congress gave an increase in benefits that was too generous. Too many people are claiming disability benefits for which they do not qualify. There are more disabled people than we ever anticipated.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis is preparing to celebrate its 200th birthday or anniversary. But Indianapolis isn’t that village invented by the General Assembly on the banks of the White River. Fifty years ago, Indianapolis took an important step forward by establishing Unigov. It was an imperfect consolidation of governmental units which has remained virtually unchanged for half a century. Today’s real Indianapolis is a composite of nine counties with a host of cities and towns, most of them remnants of pastoral villages, each battling to be “something.” Today, the mayor of Indianapolis speaks of regionalism. His is a genteel appeal to overturn inequities, either created or endorsed by the Indiana General Assembly, that home of irrational and irresponsible 18th-century sentimentality.
  • INDIANAPOLIS - “You know you’re making something out of nothing,” Faye de la Forêt admonished me. She was back on the deck railing, but no longer the rustic forest nymph. No, in her sequined green tunic, she had acquired airs. “It’s not nothing,” I responded. “The Reynolds tractor Xmas light show, along I-69 in Fishers, is moving to Conner Prairie. I’m allowed to complain, not about a private company making a big donation to a not-for-profit history museum, but about the privatization of what used to be a public event.” “Wrong again,” she smiled her voluptuous smile. “That brilliant annual display was a hazard to traffic. Now it will not be a danger to the public, but it will have an admission charge.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — In this space we’ve discussed the plight of Indiana’s many smaller towns edging toward extinction as viable economic communities. This has even become a topic for political lip-service with emphasis on individual places rather than a systemic approach to a statewide problem. The stagnation and decline of once thriving mid-sized Hoosier cities cause hands to be wrung and construction projects to be initiated that have little chance to make substantive change possible. Terre Haute’s numbers are virtually unchanged in this decade. Evansville and Richmond had population declines of 2% and 4% respectively. Lake County saw 12 of its 17 municipalities lose population from 2010 to 2018. How has the state responded? Federal funds for the most part will be used to build a questionable nine-mile mega-million-dollar extension of a commuter rail line. The South Shore serves downtown Chicago, but job growth in the southern portions of the Chicago metro area may be far more important. No public transit from Indiana serves those jobs.
Looking for something older? Try our archive search
An image
  • Judy Sheets wins third ballot caucus for Frankfort mayor
    "It’s un-believable! It’s the best day of my life. I love it. It’s something I’ve always wanted and something I’ve always dreamed of. Never thought I was going to get to do it. They can expect me to be out there engaging them in some of these things in the city. I’m going to surround myself with good people and we’re going to move the city forward in a positive way.” - Frankfort Mayor Judy Sheets, who won a third-ballot Republican caucus on Saturday to replace Mayor Chris McBarnes, who resigned last month to take a job in Wyoming. Sheets is the former clerk-treasurer who becomes Frankfort's second female mayor.
An image
  • Pence, Holcomb, Buttigieg head 2020 HPI Power 50
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY in Indianapolis
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR., 
    in Washington

    As we unveil the 2020 version of the Howey Politics Indiana Power 50 List, Hoosiers appear to be relatively satisfied with their state government, unsure about the federals and specifically President Trump, and are most concerned about health care and the economy.

    These are the latest survey numbers from the We Ask America Poll conducted in early December for the Indiana Manufacturers Association. They accentuate the formulation of our annual Power 50 list headed by Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Eric Holcomb, former South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, and the state’s two Republican senators who will likely sit in judgment (and acquittal) of President Trump in an impeachment trial later this month. 

    As Pence appears to be heading off thinly veiled attempts by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to get him off the 2020 ticket, Hoosiers by 47.4% approve to 47.7% disapprove of President Trump’s job performance. This is consistent with 2019 polling by Ball State University and Morning Consult. On the national right/wrong track, just 37% of registered voters in Indiana feel that the country is headed in the right direction, while a majority, 52%, say that things have gotten off on the wrong track, including 51% of independents and 26% of Republicans. Among female voters, the right/wrong track split is 29%/58%.

An image
HPI Video Feed
An image
An image

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

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