An image.
Login | Subscribe
Thursday, December 12, 2019
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  —  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.
     
  • INDIANAPOLIS – It’s been a while since we looked at state and county labor market changes. So, I pulled up the number of persons employed and the number unemployed as reported by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The latest month I found was May 2019 for counties, June for states. But I dare not use unmatched months for fear some partisan critic would say I was cherry-picking the data by not using the same month. Of course, I’ve been doing this long enough to realize it doesn’t matter. Critics will carp regardless of the starting and ending points of any analysis. Anyway, from May 2017 to the same month in 2019, the number of persons employed rose by 3.7 million (2.4%) in the U.S. During the same time, the number unemployed fell by 1.1 million (a healthy decline of 16.7%).
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — The 2020 Census is coming! Yes, that’s going to be more fun than the 2020 elections. We’ll learn something from the decennial Census. Dyspepsia is all we can expect from the quadrennial elections. The Census will give us a better understanding of our communities compared with others in the nation. Nonetheless, we are not suffering from a lack of data. Unfortunately, too few Hoosiers know what is to be known about our communities. For example, the nation has 383 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Indiana has eight of those metros entirely within our borders. In addition, we can count Evansville as a ninth, although it does have a Kentucky county included. Furthermore, Indiana has four counties in the Chicago MSA, three in the Cincinnati MSA, and five in Louisville’s MSA. How do we compare with metro areas in other places? Consider population. In 2017, only the Indianapolis MSA (I am leaving off the names of other places in the MSA titles) was in the 100 most populous metro areas, ranking 34th.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — Last week, the governor of Missouri was interviewed on NPR and stated that farming was the number one industry in his state. I’ve heard the same claim from Indiana politicians. In fact, one Hoosier solon claimed farming was “the backbone of Indiana’s economy.” I responded, “Every corpse has a backbone.”  Why do people in Missouri and Indiana believe such exaggeration? Perhaps, at one time (in the 19th century) it was true. Farming does take up a lot of the land we see when traveling from one place to another. Plus, the farm lobby is still disproportionately strong. How important is farming? Folks from Purdue love to say, “If you eat, you’re are part of farming.” Oh, so true! Plus, if you eat, you’re part of trucking, dentistry, and waste disposal. Let’s look at three different measures not provided by the biggest farm lobby of all, the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
     First, value added, the part of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), our basic measure of economic activity, attributed to Agriculture nationally (including farming, forestry, fisheries and hunting) is 0.8%, or 19th of 19 private sector industries. Number one is (drum roll… ) real estate, rental and leasing at 13.3%, followed by manufacturing at 11.4% of GDP. To be blunt, total value added from farming is less than 0.8% of the U.S. economy.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – You don’t want to hear it, but fractions are important. They guide our lives. The unemployment rate. The pollen count. The interest rate. The speed of a car. All are fractions with numerators (the numbers on top) and denominators (the numbers on the bottom). Per capita personal income (PCPI) is a fraction that became the holy economic grail for Hoosier politicians. What do they know of that annual numeric stew cooked by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis? PCPI is personal income divided by population? Yeah, but personal income is not the amount you report to the IRS. The top of the fraction (personal income) includes money paid by employers for Social Security, unemployment insurance and other sums you don’t see. Plus there’s dividend, interest and rental income “imputed” to you. Also included is the value of government payments you get (Social Security) or made on your behalf by government (Medicare and Medicaid).
  • INDIANAPOLIS - Once upon a time, in the Hoosier Holyland, our focus was on companies. How can we convince them to move to or expand in Indiana? What do they want? What can we give them to induce their capital expenditures within our borders? We could hear that wonderful Fats Waller song: “Find out what they like, and how they like it, and let them have it just that way.”  Proximity to a golf course, an interstate highway, an open sewer? We have it. Tax breaks? We’ll break every tax in the book. Compliant workers? You’ll never hear a mumblin’ word. Every county has a building just waiting for your company. Regulation is not the Hoosier way. Safety is a personal matter. Our motto is “No frills, no bills.” We’re comfortable being close to the bottom in most state rankings for education, environment, and economic progress.
Looking for something older? Try our archive search
An image.
  • The Azar, Verma feud festers
    "The federal agency I lead, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is taking swift action to implement it." - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director Seema Verma, in  Chicago Tribune op-ed. That same day, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar went on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fix News — one of President  Trump’s favorite TV shows — and claimed credit for driving the same initiative. “POTUS and I envision a healthcare system with patients in the center,” Azar tweeted from the Fox News set. “We’re fighting powerful interests to deliver honesty and transparency in healthcare.” The feud between these two Hoosiers who control more than $1 trillion in annual federal spending has transfixed The White House West wing and Washington. President Trump has asked Vice President Mike Pence to quell the Azar/Veerma feud.
An image.
  • Into the impeachment vortex ...
    Here we go. Where America ends up in early 2020 after the fourth presidential impeachment that got underway this week is anyone's guess. 

    When I wrote the Sept. 19 HPI cover story - "The Double Dog Impeachment Dare"  - the Ukraine quid pro quo scenario was just beginning, becoming a full congressional/media vortex suck. Regular Hoosiers I know aren't paying much attention and are polarized by President Trump.

    We'll restate past thoughts on these alleged high crimes and misdemeanors: 1. Impeachments are messy and unpredictable. 2. Impeachment is an American tragedy. 3. Impeachment will result in unintended consequences. 4. Hoosiers are prepared to render a verdict on President Trump at the ballot box next November. 5. If we get into a mode where we're impeaching an American president every 20 years, the fragile American experiment will be doomed. 
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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
© 2019 Howey Politics, All Rights Reserved • Software © 1998 - 2019 1up!