A third generation Hoosier journalist, Howey has deep roots to Northwest Indiana.
Howey has been writing his weekly political column since 1985 and has worked for the Warsaw Times-Union, Elkhart Truth, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and NUVO Newsweekly.
He began publishing Howey Politics Indiana in 1994 at www.howeypolitics.com. Howey resides in Indianapolis and Nashville.
There will never be a movie about the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.
Leonard Nimoy will not play Dick Lugar.
The reason is that over the course of the program that has been in place for two decades, arguably one of the greatest legislative achievements ever, no one died.
There were no mushroom clouds over American cities or London. Tens of thousands of people were not stricken with sarin gas at Wrigley Field. We didn’t watch images of scores of bodies being removed from the Metro. Weaponized smallpox did not sweep over a continent. We don’t have a radius of thousands of miles of American land unusable due to radiation as seen around Chernobyl.
To the masses and even Hoosier Republican primary voters, Nunn-Lugar is boring. That’s because the “action” was nuanced and played out in obscure places deep in Siberia and in invisible Soviet cities that only appeared to the masses with the advent of Google Earth.
Those attending the talk by Lugar and his Senate partner Sam Nunn – “Diplomacy in a Dangerous World” moderated by NPR’s Steve Inskeep – Tuesday evening at the University of Indianapolis were able to witness and sense the depth of this achievement.
“You could sense a higher purpose and a seriousness of purpose,” said Inskeep, the Carmel native who hosts NPR’s Morning Edition. Inskeep called it the “most successful disarmament program” that rid the world of tens of thousands of weapons of mass destruction.
“Nunn-Lugar is being applied world wide,” Nunn said. “It was applied in Libya. It is being applied in Syria right now on the chemical weapons with the U.S. and Russia. The Nunn-Lugar program was for our security.” Literally, the technicians on the ground amid the vicious Syrian civil war, removing to date about 20 percent of the chemicals thus far, are Russians trained with Nunn-Lugar funding.
It wasn’t quite the same as Texas U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson wheeling from cocaine parties to House conferences where he figured out how to steer millions in appropriations to fund the mujahedin. That was the story in the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
After the Soviet collapse in 1991, Nunn and Lugar were able to attach an amendment to a funding bill for $400 million in funding. There was no way it would have survived a straight up-or-down vote. “What had been wildly opposed in September 1991 was passed in December 1991,” Nunn said.
Nunn and Lugar had spent years developing relationships not only in Congress, but also with the Soviets. Around a round table in Nunn’s Capitol Hill office, the two found themselves with Soviet military leaders who told them, “’You need to know that security is breaking down around nuclear weapons aimed at you. Our troops are not getting paid, and that’s why they are deserting’,” Lugar recalled.
The Indiana Republican and the Georgia Democrat found themselves in Moscow as it careened into financial crisis with unpaid military and weapon researchers overseeing an array of loose nukes, chemicals and biological weapons stored behind chain link fences with padlocks and in chicken coops.
“We went to see Boris Yeltsin and he told us in no uncertain terms” that Ukraine would have to give up its arsenal. Lugar and Nunn subsequently met with Ukraine President Leonid Kravchuk. The Indiana Republican suggested divesting the arsenal might bring a $150 million check from the U.S. “At a press conference with two reporters, one radio, one print, Kravchuk said he had just been offered $175 million,” Lugar said.
“I came to see President Bush and he was very sad over his election defeat to President Clinton, but he wrote a letter to Kravchuk offering $175 million. Every single one of those weapons went to Russia,” Lugar said, with much of the highly enriched uranium recovered shipped to the U.S. to fuel nuclear power plants. “It made a huge difference.”
At one point, President George H.W. Bush said, “Senators don’t do this.”
Pointing to Lugar, Nunn added, “This man is a remarkable leader.”
The senators got a glimpse of the huge stakes. “I visited a silo in Ukraine,” Lugar explained. “This is where a missile had been pulled out. I went down an elevator 13 floors where the guards stayed and on the walls around the table were pictures, beautiful pictures of American cities. These were identified as targets. I thought all the time I was mayor of Indianapolis from ‘68 to ‘75 we were targeted and could have been obliterated. There were enough warheads to knock out all of our major cities, plus the military installations. We were mighty lucky to make it through to that point where these Russians ended up around Sam’s table and they wanted our money, our people.”
Could a Nunn/Lugar partnership happen today?
“The voters are going to have to determine this,” Nunn said. “The voters are going to have to tell both the Republicans and Democrats they are going to have to find solutions. I think the answer is the voters have to understand if they send people to Washington that are basically saying they are not going to yield, you’re asking for dysfunction.”
Conflict and ideologies make for great movies. Nunn and Lugar forged a much more gratifying story.
The voters will not see the constitutional marriage amendment on the Indiana ballot until 2016, if ever.
For much of the past two months, House Joint Resolution 3 has dominated legislative and media attention at a time when Indiana's jobless rate is north of 6 percent, we have a methamphetamine and heroin epidemic, our health metrics are trending south, and we are potentially leaving on the table more than $10 billion in federal Medicaid money you taxpayers have already contributed. We have so much more work to do.
So what are the lessons of HJR-3?
There are many.
First, many Hoosiers came to recognize and oppose the second sentence, which the Indiana House removed and the Indiana Senate refused to restore. This second sentence would have prevented future legislatures from enacting any type of civil union or domestic partnerships.
The family groups told us it was essential to prevent the constitutional amendment from falling prey to legal challenges. The opponents told us it would almost certainly be challenged in the courts anyway. There was little agreement on what it meant. It was confusing and divisive.
Senate President Pro Tempore David Long explained after last Monday's vote, “Why would we send something to the voters that’s constitutionally questionable? I think HJR-3 in its original form could have crashed and burned this fall on the second sentence. I think the whole discussion would have been on that and not about what we’re really talking about, which is about traditional marriage and whether it should be in the constitution or not. It’s the right thing to do to send it to another vote before the General Assembly. If it passes again, it will be put before the voters in 2016.”
Second, independent media polling has revealed a shift in the public. In a 2005 Indianapolis Star/WTHR-TV Poll, 56 percent supported the amendment. In 2007, it fell to 49 percent. In October 2012, a Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll found 48 percent support. And in a Howey Politics Indiana Poll in April 2013, 50 percent favored the amendment. House Speaker Brian Bosma acknowledged HPI polling mirrored House Republican Campaign Committee surveys on the topic. Finally, a WISH-TV/Ball State Poll last December found 57.5 percent opposed.
Those numbers were based solely on an up-and-down vote on the marriage amendment. The Chesapeake Beach polling of legislative Republicans released in January revealed a classic dilemma. Long and Bosma would accentuate the fact that 80 percent of Hoosiers wanted to vote on the matter. But 54 percent opposed the second sentence concerning civil unions. And that was without a dime being spent against it.
Proponents of the marriage amendment openly fretted they had to pass it this year, because the support might not be there in 2016. Essentially, proponents of the marriage amendment wanted this General Assembly to tie the hands of future assemblies on the question of whether to allow state-sanctioned civil unions and domestic partnerships.
State Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, framed it most aptly during a late January interview with IndianaTalks.com. “We have to put the right question on the ballot,” said Leonard. “Many of the people don’t believe it would pass in 2016. Why would we want to put it in the Constitution today in 2014 if it would not pass in 2016? We would be binding future generations to something they would not want to do.”
Ultimately, that was the most telling question. In best case scenarios, constitutional amendments pass with clear, resolute majorities, as the lottery did in 1988 with more than 60 percent supporting and tax caps did two decades later with 70 percent supporting.
This shift in public opinion resulted in a loss of support in the House and Senate floors. It went from 70 votes in 2011 to 57 votes this year in the House. In the Senate, support fell from 40 to 32. This is a reflection on how things are changing on the ground, well beyond Bloomington and Broad Ripple and into places like Attica, Hartford City, Mount Vernon and now the two super majority packed legislation chambers. Folks in small town and rural Indiana have, generally, more of a live/let live mentality. They are also for fairness.
These votes in the General Assembly came without big swells of national media money influencing the vote that almost certainly would have happened if it had been on the ballot this November. What happened in the House and Senate became an intimate conversation between senators, representatives and their constituents. And their constituents were reconsidering.
This is how the process should work.
Will HJR-3 pass the Legislature and with voters in 2016?
Many, including Long, are not sure it will ever make it on the ballot. With federal judges overruling constitutional marriage amendments in Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio and New Mexico, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to take up the issue once again between now and November 2016.
The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees “equal protection” of all citizens in all states under the law. This will be at the crux of future debates either in the courtroom or on the ballot.
If you want to go to one of the most conservative places in Indiana where Hoosier Republicanism runs deep, I would recommend Wakarusa.
It's a lovely little town on Ind. 19 between Elkhart and Nappanee. It's a place where you can buy great Amish-made furniture, an RV or an apple pie. They have a wonderful maple syrup festival with amazing pancakes. The folks there are friendly and compassionate.
It was a place where Elkhart County Republicans would gather at Nelson's Golden Glo Port-a-Pit Hall for the annual Lincoln Day Dinner. One year I showed up as a reporter for the Elkhart Truth and Republican Vice Chairwoman Eloyse Forbes felt I looked too skinny (not a concern these days) and insisted I have dinner at the head table, much to the surprise of Gov. Bob Orr.
On another occasion, Tennessee U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, who was a White House aspirant, was the keynoter and didn't have time to finish his delicious plate of Nelson's Golden Glo Port-a-Pit chicken, so owner Nelson Gongwer traded his plate, then froze the original dinner. He would show it off to those interested in viewing a presidential campaign diet.
So, yes, this is a bastion of conservatism no one should doubt.
Thus, it caught my attention when on Feb. 4 the Wakarsua Town Board passed a resolution on Gov. Mike Pence's personal property tax repeal.
“None of the proposals being considered by the Governor or Indiana General Assembly contemplate any replacement revenues for those revenues they are eliminating via the full or partial elimination of the business personal property tax,” it stated. It further resolved, “that we oppose any proposal to eliminate all or any portion of the business personal property tax without a corresponding replacement revenue stream implemented by the state of Indiana.”
Why would the good leader folk of Wakarsua make such a statement? Because under this repeal, the town stands to lose $132,332, while Elkhart County would lose $60.9 million, or 27.5 percent of its property tax revenue.
What is fascinating is that in Republican strongholds across the state, similar resolutions are passing on city councils at Peru, Portland, Munster, Warsaw, Fairmount, Noblesville, Garrett, Linton, Plainfield, Lebanon and Monticello. County councils have passed resolutions against the repeal in Wabash, Morgan and Hendricks counties. In Noble County, municipalities and county government fashioned a joint resolution against the repeal.
This winter of discontent is festering in the heart of the Hoosier Republican base.
Scanning through the 2012 election results, Gov. Pence – who won the election with just 49 percent of the vote with a 2.3 percent margin – carried Elkhart County with 57.9 percent of the vote, Hendricks with 61.2 percent, Morgan with 60.8 percent and Wabash with 60.4 percent. He won Vanderburgh County with 51.2 percent. In Miami County, Pence won with 54.5 percent.
It was the big city Republican mayors Greg Ballard in Indianapolis and Lloyd Winnecke, of Evansville, who generated headlines by pushing back at the GOP governor over the proposal in Senate Bill 1 that would repeal the business property taxes for companies with $25,000 or less in equipment. That price tag comes to $54 million, and that is too much for cities and towns that have already seen massive budget cuts due to the constitutional property tax caps most of y'all passed in the November 2008 election.
All tax cuts are good, right?
I guess, but now you're finding you can't afford to bus the kids to school, keep the parks maintained, and replace aging squad cars and fire trucks.
Last Tuesday, Pence announced that he will seek full replacement revenue for local governments from the state after meeting with mayors. “This would ensure that any reform of this tax does not unduly burden local governments or shift the cost of this tax onto hardworking Hoosiers," Pence said.
Where does the replacement revenue come from? No one knows.
But that seemed to cover just SB1. It doesn’t cover House Bill 1001, which Pence supports and calls for local option income taxes to make up the replacement. The governor does not support replacing that revenue for local governments because it would be “optional,” Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault told the IndyStar.
"Optional" as in "county option income tax." That means the corporations get a tax cut, and the replacement revenue comes out of your paycheck.
Could I find a cooler Republican head?
That would be Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, who reacted to the Pence replacement scheme by agreeing with me that perhaps it's time to step back and take a comprehensive review of all the tax reform, shifting and repeals we've had since 2008. SB1 calls for a blue ribbon study of the business tax repeal.
“I think he puts one of the difficulties on the table,” Kenley said of Pence’s move. “There’s been a revolution within an evolution as we’ve changed our tax system. The overall system needs a good, thorough review.”
In taking a step back and a time out, Sen. Kenley may be saving his Republican governor the unique Wakarusa experience. I'm not talking about a chicken dinner or a plate of pancakes with homemade syrup, though.
In the native Potawatomi tongue, Wakarusa means "knee deep in mud."
In small town and rural Indiana, you can see the gaunt, ghost people. They have rotting teeth. They drive beat up pickup trucks and old Pontiacs, sometimes with kids standing in the backseat. They can be tracked on a ritual tour of drug stores.
And when they do their work, the crude harvest is methamphetamine, or crystal meth. The cooking pots are often discarded behind the trailer, or down in the creek, or alongside the county road. Sometimes the motel they’re in explodes and burns.
In "Indiana: The Methamphetamine State!" 2013 was a despicable and banner year, following 2012 that had us ranked only behind Missouri and Tennessee in meth production.
According to Indiana State Police statistics, 1,808 labs were busted, up from 1,437 in 2011 and 803 in 2006. Of course, the cops don’t get all of the labs busted. There are probably four or five times that amount chugging out crystal meth at any given time.
In 2004, when Our Man Mitch had barnstormed across the state in his RV1, there were 1,137 lab busts and the future governor heard all about it from the local cops and social agencies. 2006 was a bit of an anomaly, as the Indiana General Assembly passed laws trying to crimp the bitter harvest by limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine purchased over the counter at CVS or Walgreens.
By the time Gov. Mitch Daniels left office there were 1,726 lab busts and the county jails were filling up with broken cooks and their pregnant old ladies.
The remedy is not working.
The 2013 stats are particularly appalling because 458 kids were found on the lab premises, up from 388 in 2012, 185 in 2009 and 125 in 2007.
When it comes to death inside a meth lab, 27 adults were killed, including four in police action shootings, two in pursuit crashes, 10 in explosions, two suicides and three homicides.
There were two kids killed and 13 injured, including seven burned in fires, one chemical burn, four exposed to chemical vapors and one poor young soul who swallowed chemicals.
There were 100 law enforcement officials injured in Indiana’s meth industry. Repeat, 100 cops injured.
All of this mayhem and action could make a great Hoosier version of “Breaking Bad,” the TV show that entertained so many of us over the past several years.
How had the Indiana General Assembly dealt with this so far this session?
Three bills that would have required prescriptions for the purchase ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, reclassifying them as controlled substances, appear to have died in the House Public Health and Courts and Criminal Code committees, and another in Senate Correction & Courts. Only one bill — HB1248 by Rep. Ben Smaltz — got a hearing. It appears there wasn’t enough time to deal with the legislation, the House having been quite busy with the constitutional marriage amendment and feral cat bills.
Terre Haute Police Sgt. Chris Gallagher and Officer Ryan Adamson testified on HB1248 about how rescheduling pseudoephedrine as a controlled substance will reduce the clandestine production of meth. “I don’t think the issue is going to go away,” Gallagher told the Tribune-Star, “and I can only hope that each time I testify, a few more legislators will get turned around on the issue.”
And Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt told the Tribune-Star, “It’s our problem as far as the meth epidemic in this area, and if we can get our local officials to make it prescription-only by local rule, then it takes that decision out of state hands, and we can deal with it here.”
Indiana prosecutors, pubic defenders, police chiefs and the Indiana State Police Alliance all favor the restrictions. The Consumer Health Care Association opposes, and they have one hell of a lobbying team at the Statehouse.
According to Justin Swanson of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, Tennessee now allows 18 local communities to restrict over the counter sales and meth lab production has been reduced between 44 and 77 percent in those locales. A Vanderbilt University Poll in December revealed 65 percent support across all party lines.
But the rescheduling in Indiana is not to be.
Asked about the statistics on Thursday, Gov. Mike Pence said, “Clearly we have work to do. We have no higher duty than public safety.” He added, “It’s going to take a coordinated effort.”
Just not this year.
The House did pass a bill by State Rep. Wendy McNamara that requires that property that was once a site for meth labs or a dumping ground for the drug be listed on a website until 90 days after it was certified decontaminated. McNamara sponsored the bill after a home appraiser was sickened by a former meth lab in the course of his work.
It’s kind of a CarFax for homes. It attempts to address a symptom of the epidemic. It is not a cure.
Nothing against the McNamara bill, but in essence, the General Assembly this year is prepared only to deal with the fallout of crystal meth, as opposed to doing something to stop or limit its production.
But let’s give the General Assembly credit. At least we’re making some inroads on the feral cat issue.
In the past month, I feared Gov. Mike Pence and legislative Republican leaders had a rude surprise for us middle class working stiffs.
They want to repeal the business personal property tax in an effort to improve what is already one of the best business climates in the nation. They are attempting a phase-out on new business equipment this year, with the goal of a total repeal a few years down the road.
This is good, right? Aren't all tax cuts good?
Perhaps, unless the tax cut for businesses and big corporations comes out of your pocket. A local option income tax means they want individual counties to make up the $500 million to $1 billion or so in revenues lost to local governments, libraries and schools by dinging your paycheck.
Earlier this month, Pence said in his annual State of the State address, “To make Indiana more competitive let’s find a responsible way to phase out this tax. But let’s do it in a way that protects our local governments and doesn't shift the burden of a business tax onto the backs of hardworking Hoosiers.”
That is the dilemma facing the governor and legislative Republicans. The constitutional property tax caps passed by voters in 2008 have already sliced away significant portions of municipal budgets. Cities like Terre Haute and Muncie have had to slash budgets by millions of dollars. What mayors and city councils are now facing is cleaving into bone.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, a Republican, told the Tribune-Star it could lose $4 million of a $33 million general fund budget. ”We can’t sustain another $4 million hit on the general fund.” Bennett said that without replacement revenue, the city would be forced to cut 150 employees. “A big portion of that would be policemen and firemen,” he said. “We’ve cut all of the other areas to the bone, basically.”
Think of it like this. You can create the sexiest business climate to lure companies to Indiana. Geico is bringing not only its British accent lizard (or is that an Ausssie accent?) and hundreds of jobs to Carmel, but that city also has great parks, a new performing arts center, a revived downtown, trails and an improving road system. Companies wanting to set up shop in Indiana look for those amenities to attract good employees.
What the tax caps, and now a potential business personal property tax repeal, could end up doing is to create communities that can't afford to bus their kids to school, keep the streetlights on, plow the snow and fix the streets. We've seen the police chief in Knightstown tase himself in a publicity stunt to buy new squad cars.
Two bills in the General Assembly — House Bill 1001 and Senate Bill 1 — begin the repeal process, but neither has replacement revenue for municipalities and counties, other than a slow phase-out and the income tax. SB1 would form a summer study committee while eliminating the tax for businesses with less than $25,000 in property.
There are about six weeks left in this session, and the replacement part of this equation is sketchy at best, and revealing when you consider how ill-prepared the governor and legislative leaders have been to find a replacement solution.
Last week, Republican mayors Greg Ballard of Indianapolis, Jim Brainard of Carmel, Lloyd Winnecke, of Evansville, and Democrat mayors Greg Goodnight, of Kokomo, Tom Henry, of Fort Wayne, and Peter Buttigieg, of South Bend, met with Pence to express their alarm at what cities would face with a repeal and no replacement.
Pence sent a letter to mayors later in the day, saying, “I want to assure you that I understand your concerns. You provide essential services to your citizens, and I can see why some believe the phase-out of the business personal property tax could threaten service delivery. I have said that we cannot phase out this tax in a way that shifts the tax burden to hardworking Hoosiers. You may be assured that I will stand by these commitments to your community and your citizens.”
Winnecke told the Evansville Courier & Press afterward, “He reiterated to us that he would not sign any legislation that was not revenue neutral to communities. He reiterated that point several times during the meeting.”
Here’s a couple of closing thoughts. First, over the past 10 years, Indiana has dramatically altered its tax structure. Who are the winners and losers? I'm not sure anyone can tell you. We need a timeout, and a comprehensive study of what's been accomplished and whether the winners have won too much and the losers are just poor schmoes.
Second, Pence is on record saying he understands the dilemma, and that replacement revenue will be found.
We need to hold him to that promise.
In the post-Mike Pence world of gubernatorial politics – either 2016 or 2020 – Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma is positioned as the heir apparent.
That's not to say another Republican, such as Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann who has just traveled to all 92 counties, won't be there to compete. But it is Bosma holding down the most powerful legislative perch in the state. He has the most clout, has raised more than $10 million for GOP House candidates, and has potential IOUs from House Republicans all over the state.
He was one of the masterminds that took a minority caucus in 2009 and forged a 60-seat majority a year later, positioning the GOP to write the new district maps resulting in his now 69-seat super majority.
As speaker, he has done some fascinating things, like appointing Democrats as committee chairs and taking transparency to a new level with the webcasting of not only House sessions, but committee hearings as well. You can be sitting in Whiting, Elberfeld or Lawrenceburg and watch the people's business on your Mac or PC.
But Bosma is now rolling the dice of the marriage amendment in a way that could define his career.
Throughout the summer and fall, he vowed not to become a "dictator" and said HJR-3 – the marriage amendment – would be "treated like any other bill."
Last summer when I asked about the marriage amendment, the powerful Indianapolis attorney acknowledged the amendment's second sentence was troublesome. It precludes any kind of civil unions. He preferred it not be included.
I know Indiana pretty well, and it's not hard to believe that when asked whether marriage should be between one man and one woman, as is current state law, a majority of Hoosiers would agree. But the second sentence – “A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized” – is not only a potentially huge legal problem that begs court challenges if passed, but it also strikes many as simply unfair and mean.
On Jan. 13, when HJR-3 was debated in the House Judiciary Committee, that second sentence was a lightning rod. When Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp Jr., testifying for the amendment, was pressed on whether the second sentence would "prohibit" any type of civil union in the future, he agreed.
So flawed is that second sentence that House Republicans came up with House Bill 1153, which in clunky fashion attempts to "explain" what the "framers" of the amendment really meant. The problems with it are immense. The companion legislation wasn't in the version passed by the legislature in 2011. That right there almost guarantees a legal challenge.
The end result of the Jan. 13 Judiciary hearing was gridlock, with three Republican members so concerned about the second sentence they either planned to vote against the amendment, or were undecided. HJR-3 was in danger of going down to defeat in a Republican-dominated committee.
This is where Bosma made a decision to "own" HJR-3 and become its face. And it is where his political fate is now intertwined. Last Tuesday, he calmly announced HJR-3 and HB1153 would be moved to the House Elections Committee. And about 30 hours later, by a party line 9-3 vote, it was passed on to the House floor where it will be heard this coming week.
State Rep. Eric Turner, who sponsored the bill, testified, “The constitutional amendment we are proposing simply protects existing state law.”
But when Fort Wayne Democrat state Rep. Phil GiaQuinta asked, “This will outlaw civil unions, correct?” Turner responded, “Yes.”
So it isn't really the same as the state law that was passed with bipartisan support in 1997 and signed by Democratic Gov. Frank O'Bannon. It will outlaw civil unions at the very time when polling shows that most Americans and most Hoosiers believe same-sex couples should at least be accommodated with property, benefits, taxation, hospitalization and deathbed rights.
Bosma, along with House and Senate Republicans, released a poll last week by Chesapeake Beach Consulting that showed most Hoosiers want to vote on the constitutional amendment. They favor the concept of marriage between one man, one woman with 58 percent support.
But the devil in the polling details was this: 54 percent favor removing the second sentence.
Why wouldn't attorney Bosma, acknowledging the amendment is flawed with the second sentence, insist on its removal? If this is important enough to enshrine in the Indiana Constitution, shouldn't it be done correctly?
The problem is, Gov. Mike Pence, while a long-time advocate of the amendment, doesn't want to run for re-election in 2016 with HJR-3 on the ballot. And he should know how hot button social politics can impact a campaign. He became the first governor in 50 years to win office with less than 50 percent of the vote in 2012, and it happened because another candidate on the ticket made outrageous remarks about abortion and rape, and it sent female voters fleeing the Republican ticket in droves.
And now we watch the state's second most powerful Republican caught in an issue fraught with legal problems and consequences yet unknown.
One of the most unique places in Indiana is Mount Baldy on the southern rim of Lake Michigan.
In a state with no mountains and southern Indiana ridges that rise only 1,000 feet above sea level, Mount Baldy is conspicuous as a rounded sand dune towering over the Michigan City harbor. This is my hometown, and as a child, climbing Mount Baldy and rolling down through the squeaky white sand was a summer ritual and one enjoyed by other kids growing up there, like Scott Pelath, Don Larsen and John G. Roberts.
It became a generational thing when I took my two sons up to the top to teach them a lesson. To the east was Michigan City and Long Beach. To the west was the Chicago skyline and Gary’s steel mills. Looking north, there was 380 miles of fresh water sea stretching all the way to Manistique, Mich. This was a view of “freedom and unparalleled opportunity, adventure and danger.”
To the south was the Indiana State Penitentiary, a massive Civil War era chamber of punishment, assault and despair. If you happened to have been atop Mount Baldy on Sept. 26, 1933, you might have heard the pops of a gun battle as John Dillinger sprang his gang.
To my sons, Mount Baldy was a lesson of choices, opportunities, challenges and consequences.
Eight decades later, on July 12, 2013, there was the antipodal event, when 6-year-old Nathan Woessner, hiking on Mount Baldy with his father and a friend, disappeared, as the Associated Press described it, “without warning or sound.”
During his State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence picked up the narrative. “Michigan City police and fire raced to the dune and were joined by beachgoers using their bare hands as local businesses rushed machinery to clear away the sand. Even reporters covering the story were seen using their notepads to dig. For nearly three hours, no one out of the nearly 140 people on that sand dune gave up until a firefighter felt a hand beneath the surface and pulled little Nathan to safety. They called it the Miracle on Mount Baldy.”
Nathan was limp and cold, with no pulse, no breathing. LaPorte County Deputy Coroner Mark Huffman ordered the boy into the back of a pickup truck, and he was taken to a waiting ambulance. As the truck bounced over the dune, the AP reported, a medic noticed something astonishing: The boy took a breath. Then a cut on his head started bleeding. The jolt apparently shocked Nathan’s body back to life.
When Gov. Pence called the hospital to talk to the family, he said, “I told him I thought it was a miracle. Greg (Nathan's father) told me, ‘Governor, this is everyone’s miracle.’” And so it is.
“That’s the Indiana way. We are strong and good people, but we are never stronger than when we work together,” Pence said.
While Pence made a push for his business tax repeal, his pre-K education program, he also waded into the controversies of the day including the marriage amendment. But it was this last part of the speech that Pence does best. He has the Clintonian gift of empathy. He maintains a positive outlook.
His vigorous brand of conservatism brings out the critics from the center and left. But when the topic of Pence comes up, the preface is nearly always “he’s a nice guy.”
Polling over the last year finds the political ground quaking on a number of social issues that tend to be moving away from the governor. But with his approval in the 60th percentile, the Hoosier governor along with his super majorities in the Indiana General Assembly are in an enviable position to continue to move this state into the conservative worldview.
There also was Pence’s tribute to Karen Sauer, the “single mom who felt called to adopt,” as he put it. This was fascinating because it was a breakaway from the Pence worldview of whole families with a mom and dad. Here was a single woman who fished Neven and Dusten out of the foster care system and provided a durable, loving home, even if it doesn’t meet the Ward and June Cleaver threshold.
“Adoption is a beautiful way for families to come together forever,” Pence said. “We can better support families like Karen’s by expanding and improving adoption in Indiana. Let’s make it our aim to make Indiana the most pro-adoption state in America.”
There is so much to do for kids in a state where 22 percent of them live in poverty and 34 percent live in single-parent households. But it also is an acknowledgement of what many of us know: Same-sex couples and untraditional family units can provide nourishing environs for Hoosier kids. That nuance is often unrecognized in the current polarized debate over “traditional marriage.” The reality is there is a lot of gray area in real lives.
The other thought is, there is much work to do on this front, and Pence’s adoption call is a good place to start.
But there was a lot of work to do, too, when Nathan Woessner slipped below the sands of Mount Baldy.
In 1988, with 20 years into the Republican gubernatorial dynasty, there stood the ideal candidate — Lt. Gov. John Mutz. He was of excellent pedigree, having served with distinction under two-term Gov. Robert Orr. He had been a successful state senator and a corporate executive.
But political dynasties come to an end, and when the votes were counted, Mutz had lost to a 31-year-old Democrat named Evan Bayh, the son of a U.S. senator.
There was a precursor to the end of this dynasty, and it occurred two years earlier when the powerful House Speaker J. Roberts Dailey was defeated for re-election. There were some of the usual barnacles and chinks a speaker picks up, even in his own district. But there was something below the surfaced that had changed. Dailey was an ardent opponent of gambling, and there had been a growing appetite in Indiana for a state lottery, which the state Constitution prohibited.
Finally, upon Dailey’s defeat and after more than a decade of the issue festering in the Indiana General Assembly, it passed two successive legislatures and was placed on the ballot.
And despite widespread opposition from the Republican establishment over those years, it passed with 62 percent of the vote. A landslide.
The lottery wasn't the lone factor in Mutz's loss to Bayh. Dynasties run their course, sometimes at the hands of a fresh face. But it did add a new dimension into that election, and brought out an array of single-issue voters more aligned with Bayh and Democrats.
I conjure this history from a file bearing this title: "Unintended consequences."
Former Fortune Magazine economics editor Rob Norton gives a fascinating historical review. The most recent example was the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in 1989. In its messy wake, many American coastal states enacted laws placing unlimited liability on tanker companies. Royal Dutch/Shell responded by hiring independent shippers. The use of “fly-by-night operators with leaky ships and iffy insurance” actually increased the odds of spillage as a consequences of the new laws.
And then there was American sociologist Robert K. Merton, who wrote “The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action,” in 1936. Merton identified five sources of unanticipated consequences. The first two – and the most pervasive – were “ignorance” and “error.” These were followed by the “imperious immediacy of interest” as well as “basic values” and then “self-defeating prediction.” Undeveloped by Merton was the bookend, “self-fulfilling prophesy.”
The “imperious immediacy of interest” is fascinating, as it prescribes to the notion in which someone wants the intended consequence of an action so much that he purposefully chooses to ignore any unintended effects.
Now, on the eve of the full manifestation of House Joint Resolution 3, Indiana’s constitutional marriage amendment – the issue that dominates the 2014 Howey Politics Indiana Power 50 list which you can read in full at www.howeypolitics.com – some of these theories will get a full public testing in this state, with a national audience not only watching, but also making contributions into our own internal affairs.
It will likely be the most compelling social referendum to go before Indiana voters since the 1988 gaming amendment. Two polls Howey Politics conducted in October 2012 and April 2013 saw the marriage amendment as a dead heat. And that's without either side spending a penny on the issue. By November, there will be millions spent trying to convince you.
There’s an even more recent example of unintended consequences. As U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar was facing a formidable primary challenge from Treasurer Richard Mourdock, his Republican congressional colleagues were neutral. In the spring of 2012, I asked a staffer on Mike Pence’s gubernatorial campaign whether they were concerned about the probable primary defeat of Lugar, the most prolific Republican vote getter in Hoosier history.
The answer was, “No, we’ll be OK,” even though Howey Politics Indiana polling had shown a fall matchup between Lugar and Democrat Joe Donnelly a 51-29 percent GOP rout, while the Mourdock/Donnelly matchup was a dead heat. We all know what happened. The landslide victory many anticipated for Pence became a nail-biter and, at 49 percent, the first governor elected in 50 years without a majority. The reckless Mourdock imploded in the final weeks of the campaign and female voters fled the GOP. Had the steady Lugar been on the ticket, Pence probably would have had his landslide, or at least a comfortable win.
At this point, HJR-3 (renamed last week) looks like it will pass the General Assembly.
It will attract outside money. Without a presidential, gubernatorial or U.S. Senate candidate atop the ballot, the marriage issue will fill a vacuum.
Yes, Eric Miller’s Advance America group will get the church buses rolling on Election Day, as he did against the 1988 lottery amendment. Advance America began running TV ads in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis this week.
The issue will almost certainly bring out an array of moderate and left of center voters who, in the wake of President Barack Obama’s problems, might have been inclined to stay home.
There is already a state law stating marriage is between one man and one woman. Social conservatives want it embedded in the Constitution. They may get more than that.
The legal sale of recreational marijuana began Wednesday in Colorado and will be followed later this year by Washington state, but Hoosiers shouldn't hold their breath about that happening any time soon in Indiana.
Even though recent polling shows rapidly evolving views from a majority of Hoosiers, the political establishment in Indiana appears to be firmly moored to the drug war era that has seen more than 160,000 residents charged with various criminal and misdemeanor violations over the past decade.
In the past, voluminous public support on issues such as a state lottery and casino gambling well before the Indiana General Assembly allowed a referendum on the lottery in 1988 (which passed with a landslide 62 percent) and the passage of riverboat casino laws in 1993. It took the defeat of Republican House Speaker J. Roberts Daily in 1986 to pave the way for the 1988 referendum. Daily had been a vociferous opponent of any gaming expansion.
During a 2012 gubernatorial debate in Zionsville, Gov. Mike Pence said he opposed any marijuana law reforms and viewed marijuana as a "gateway" drug. His Democrat opponent, John Gregg, generally agreed, but added that medical marijuana would be worth studying. And then there was Libertarian Rupert Boneham, who observed, “It’s a plant.”
But public opinion in Indiana is shifting. In the October 2012 Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll, for the first time in decades the marijuana question – in this case decriminalization – was tested. The question was, "Currently it is a misdemeanor crime in Indiana to possess a small amount of marijuana. The Legislature may consider making it an infraction rather than a crime to possess a small amount of marijuana. Do you favor or oppose making possession of a small amount of marijuana an infraction rather than a crime?"
The response was 54 percent favored decriminalization and 38 percent opposed. When the April 2013 Howey Politics Indiana Poll asked the same question, 56 percent favored and 37 percent opposed.
In a Ball State University Bowen Center Poll in December, 52 percent agreed cannabis “should be regulated like alcohol” and 45 percent opposed. On the taxation question, 78 percent said it should be taxed and 19 percent opposed.
An October 2013 national Gallup poll showed 58 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal, an all-time high (pun inadvertent, but intended).
In 2013, criminal code reforms that originally would have downgraded low-level marijuana possession were amended to actually increase possession from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Currently, possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less is a misdemeanor in Indiana, but fines can be as high as $5,000 with incarceration up to a year. In Kentucky, it is a misdemeanor to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana.
In late March 2013, in response to Pence’s criticism of legislation that rewrites Indiana’s criminal code to lower drug penalties, a Senate committee amended the criminal code reform bill to make punishment for marijuana crimes tougher. House Bill 1006, which rewrites Indiana’s criminal code to lower drug penalties and toughen punishment for violent and sex offender, contained language that made most of the state’s marijuana crimes into misdemeanors. Bill supporters said the intent of the bill is divert drug users out of state prisons and into treatment programs, while reserving the prisons for the worst offenders.
Pence waited till mid-March to weigh in, saying, “I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties.”
In 2011, a bill sponsored by State Sen. Karen Talian, D-Ogden Dunes, created a summer study committee on the issue. “Just look the polling on this issue,” Talian said last year. “The public is in favor of this. The governor is the only one who’s been talking about tougher penalties for drug crimes. Across the country, the train is moving in the opposite direction.”
There have been some Indiana officials ranging from police chiefs and prosecutors willing to have the discussion on marijuana issues. Most notable was Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell, who told members of the State Budget Committee in December 2012, “If it were up to me, I do believe I would legalize it and tax it, particularly in sight of the fact that several other states have now come to that part of their legal system as well.”
Marijuana laws around Indiana are changing.
Michigan passed a medical marijuana law in 2008 via referendum with 63 percent support. In 2013, the Illinois legislature passed a medical marijuana law by a 61-57 margin in the House and 35-21 in the Senate. In August, Chicago implemented a civil ticketing of marijuana offenders possessing under 15 grams in an effort to reduce jail overcrowding and the need for police to concentrate on violent crime. Chicago ticketed nearly 400 offenders by December, while its homicide rate dropped 18 percent, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In Ohio, petitions have been submitted and approved by the state ballot committee to legalize medical cannabis.
With Republicans holding super majorities in the Indiana House and Senate, as well as most statewide offices, advocacy for marijuana law change will need to come from Republicans, who look and act like Republicans, and who can deliver a new message: The times they are a-changin'.
Maureen Hayden of CNHI contributed to this column.
As we pull away from 2013, what is the state of the Hoosier condition?
The statistical data from 2010 through this November tells the story of a state steeped in automobiles, agriculture and a changing landscape.
We ranked 16th in the U.S. in population at 6,537,334, or 2.08 percent of the nation. Indiana ranks 16th in total households, 17th in single parents, 17th in people living alone, 17th in total housing united and ninth in the nation in home ownership (at 72 percent).
Indiana ranks sixth in manufacturing, seventh in durable goods and nondurable goods, 16th in total gross domestic product, 10th in warehousing and storage — coming in a state that bills itself as the "Crossroads of America," eighth in chemical manufacturing, sixth in transportation equipment and furniture, and 13th in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. We ranked 13th in 2011 in exports, sending out to the world $32.29 billion worth of goods.
Hoosiers rank 39th in per capita income, with residents making 87.2 percent of U.S. income $38,119, and 33rd in household income at $46,974, down from $47,399 in 2011 (32nd). In 2002, we ranked 24th at $53,482. That is a 13.6 percent decline in the last decade, ranking us 48th.
The Indiana General Assembly passed and then-Gov. Mitch Daniels signed Right to Work legislation in February 2011. Union membership declined from 11.3 percent of the workforce in 2011 (302,000 workers, or 15th in the nation) to 9.1 percent in 2012 (246,000 workers). Only 10 percent of the workforce is represented by a union, ranking us 15th, down 2.4 percent from 2011.
Indiana ranks 10th in bankruptcies over time in 2012, and sixth in the rate per 1,000 people. We rank third in methamphetamine lab busts (1,429 in 2012) behind Missouri (1,825) and Tennessee (1,585) while Kentucky ranked fourth with 919.
But we are industrious. Indiana ranks second in automotive employment at 102,000 workers. We produce 11 percent of autos in the United States and are home to 630 automotive companies. With Honda, Subaru and Toyota in the state, Indiana has the highest level of Japanese investment per capita in the United States.
Nearly 17 percent of Hoosiers in the nonfarm workforce are employed in manufacturing, the most of any state according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since 2010, Indiana has added the third-most manufacturing jobs of any state in the country — an impressive 9 percent growth rate.
We rank seventh in coal production producing more than 36 million tons annually, and coal-fired electric power plants provided 82 percent of our net electrical generation in 2011.
Indiana ranked 20th in the number of patents granted in 2012, with 1,963 awarded. We ranked second in prosthesis patents, seventh in surgery instruments, eighth in power plants, second in communications, fifth in internal combustion engines and sixth in drug, bio-affecting and body treating compositions.
Gentlemen and women, start your engines!
Indiana ranked 26th in venture capital deals, and second in the United States in adjusted dollars per deals. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, we ranked 21st in giving, with Hoosiers donating an average of 4.5 percent of their discretionary income to charity. We are generous in giving of our time: Three in 10 said they volunteered at a nonprofit organization.
The 62,000 Indiana farms ranks 14th in the nation in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We rank first in the nation in ducks; second in popcorn, ice cream and processed tomatoes; third in spearmint; fourth in eggs and peppermint; fifth in hogs, soybeans, corn, cantaloupe and watermelons; sixth in turkeys; seventh in cucumbers; 10th in blueberries; 14th in milk cows; and 17th in marijuana.
Our state forester, Burnel C. Fischer, observed that 200 years ago, 85 percent of Indiana was covered with forests. A century ago, much of that had been cleared for our farms and industry, and in 1922, state Forester Charles Deam predicted Indiana would be treeless in 15 years. "I’m pleased to report that as we enter the 21st century, forests have rebounded and now comprise almost 20 percent of the state (4.5 million acres)," Fischer reported.
I could not find recent statistics in where we rank in limestone production, but the Indiana Geological Survey reports we produce 2.7 million cubic feet of limestone annually. The Great Lakes region of steel production that includes Chicago and (mostly) Northwest Indiana produced 676,000 tons of raw steel in a recent week in October. This region generally ranks first in the nation.
How educated are we?
Indiana ranks 43rd in people with bachelor degrees, 44th in total degrees, but we rank 14th nationally in college enrollment with 457,824 students in 2012, and we rank eighth in in out-of-state students. U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Notre Dame, No. 17; Purdue University – West Lafayette, No. 65; Indiana University – Bloomington, No. 83; and Ball State University, No. 184.
We have a natural advantage in location (80 percent of the U.S. population is within a day's drive at applicable speed limits), great resources, fertile soil, world-class universities, a love of the automobile, and a great upside. The key to our success is to forge a better educated and prepared workforce.
"Let the people decide." We have heard this cry from Gov. Mike Pence and a number of Republican members of the Indiana General Assembly when it comes to House Joint Resolution 6 — the constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage.
While Indiana already has a law that says state-recognized marriage is to be between one man and one woman, proponents of HJR 6 want to place this in the state's most sacred document, the Indiana Constitution.
The proposed amendment states: “Only marriage between one man and one woman will be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”
Unless House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long — both Republicans and both lawyers — convince their respective caucuses that not only is this amendment vague, but that the second sentence will almost certainly collide with the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states that no American can be denied “equal protection of the laws,” it will likely go before voters via a referendum in November 2014.
Pence is straddling the dynamic here. The echoes of his own past career of public service include his oft stated self-description: “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order.” Yet his emergence into the gubernatorial sphere finds Pence at odds with his own historic mission. He has sought separation during his 2012 campaign and his first year in office, persistently saying his priorities are jobs and education.
Yet he is set to watch his state enter perhaps the most divisive chapter in its modern history. The wink and a nod opt-in by Pence and his social conservative allies in the Indiana Senate and House is to “let the people decide.”
Now, what is wrong with the notion of letting the people decide?
We are only a year past the 2012 U.S. Senate race which cost $51 million. It ignores the lesson where Dick Lugar, Richard Mourdock and Joe Donnelly essentially lost control of their campaigns and messaging, as more than $30 million of national money spilled into the state from an array of special interest groups.
While job creation is largely agreed upon as the most emphatic mission at hand, the nation and world will get a front row seat to division and policy that half the population supports, and the other half finds regressive. HJR 6 will be debated in the Indiana General Assembly between January and March during a political lull across the nation, which will mean America’s eyes will be affixed to the Hoosier state.
The second aspect of "let the people decide" is that the people don't always get it right.
Imagine in 1953 the General Assembly attempting to write the Supreme Court decision Plessy vs. Ferguson into law. This was the 1896 ruling that affirmed the notion of separate but equal schools for blacks and whites. In that era, a black legislator from the region or South Bend couldn't even find an Indiana restaurant to eat in on the way to the Statehouse.
There probably would have been ample support for a separate but equal amendment to our Constitution a year before the high court's Brown vs. Board of Education overturned the notion and set in motion the American civil rights movement.
Howard County Republican Chairman Craig Dunn writes of anti-miscegenation laws, which outlawed marriage between the races. A national poll in 1958 found 98 percent of the American people to be against interracial marriage. The Indiana General Assembly wouldn't abolish those laws until 1965, two years in advance of a Supreme Court ruling that did the same.
Dunn observes the Republican Party brought us emancipation and was the first to support women's suffrage. "Republican leaders in Congress led the intense fight to pass the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution which outlawed slavery, guaranteed equal protection under laws and secured voting rights for African-Americans respectively," Dunn observed. "Now that is the right side of history."
Times change. Morals and ethics evolve. Intolerance gives way to tolerance.
So in the first months of 2014, as Pence watches passively, the General Assembly will decide whether to amend our Constitution on marriage.
Long and Bosma tell us HJR 6 isn't even the most important issue facing our state with a persistent high jobless rate, over-populated jails and prisons, potentially 2,000 meth lab busts this year, where 40 percent of our high school graduates need to take college remediation courses, and our overall health rates as among the worst in the 50 states.
Yet they appear willing to let a third-rate issue be amended to our Constitution.
If Pence and legislative Republicans really think HJR 6 is worth the division, the outside money and a national audience, they ought to call for the elimination of that second sentence in the resolution that lawyer Bosma has flagged as a problem, then advocate its removal, pass it this year and next, and then run with the referendum on the 2016 ballot.
If you believe it, defend it. Advocate for it. Own it.
Indiana is the “Crossroads of America.” We are the second ranking automobile manufacturer in the nation.
Five years ago, we just about lost much of the industry that helped forge the Hoosier middle class.
Our leaders, from then-Gov. Mitch Daniels to Treasurer Richard Mourdock, were indifferent to whether General Motors and Chrysler survived as they teetered on the brink of oblivion. When the Bush 43 and Obama administrations infused Toxic Asset Relief Program funds to help these two companies survive the Wall Street meltdown, the ensuing Great Recession and their own mismanagement over the previous generation, the political reaction was the Tea Party, which opposed the “bailouts.” There was widespread skepticism from Indiana Republicans.
On Monday, General Motors announced it was making a final payment on the $49.5 billion it borrowed from the U.S. government in 2008 and 2009 to keep it out of liquidation. Taxpayers lost $10.5 billion on that deal.
But of the $80 billion in TARP that went to automakers, about $93 million has been paid back. NBC News reported that of the $421.8 billion spent on bailouts, $432.7 billion have been recovered.
“With the final sale of G.M. stock, this important chapter in our nation’s history is now closed,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said.
"It’s been a long, hard road with the label of ‘Government Motors’,” said GM North American Division President Mark L. Reuss.
“When things looked darkest for our most iconic industry, we bet on what was true: The ingenuity and resilience of the proud, hardworking men and women who make this country strong,” President Barack Obama said Monday. He and Vice President Joe Biden made a rare joint trip to a Kokomo Chrysler transmission plant in November 2010, and the president said then, “We decided to make a stand. We made the decision because we had confidence in the American worker.”
As GM and Chrysler stood on the brink in 2008, analysts from the Brookings Institute and the Center for Automotive Research told a forum in Indianapolis that a bankruptcy and liquidation could have cost up to 150,000 Indiana jobs — including 40,000 at GM — and billions of dollars in wages, as well as personal and corporate tax revenue. According to a white paper released by U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, Indiana had 102,000 workers in the auto industry, or 5 percent of the total workforce in 2008. Within a year, 30,000 of those jobs were gone.
Asked where Kokomo would be now without the auto rescue, Mayor Greg Goodnight observed, "It's hard to say, but we'd be in much worse shape. How much worse is anyone's guess."
Today, 102,000 Hoosiers are working in the auto industry, back to 2008 levels. At GM, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, Subaru and Cummins Engines, the direct employment is 31,703. Scattered across the Hoosier prairie and dozens of cities and towns, more than 70,000 of us produce auto parts and sell cars at dealerships. Factor in the multipliers — businesses ranging from restaurants to construction, to services — and you see the huge impact of the industry.
It is hard to calculate where Indiana's economy might have fallen had GM and Chrysler liquidated. Some brands of the two companies such as Jeep would likely have survived. But Indiana's jobless rate spiked at 12 percent in 2009 — rose to close to 20 percent in Kokomo — and stayed in the 8 percent range up through this autumn. Had 150,000 Hoosiers been forced out of work, Indiana's economy certainly would have sunk into depression.
Today, these six companies mentioned have invested in the $2 billion range in Indiana facilities, including $1.6 billion at Chrysler’s Kokomo complex and $467 million at GM plants in Bedford, Marion, Fort Wayne and Kokomo.
The decisions Obama made in 2009 — initially pumping in TARP funds, rejecting an outright bailout in the spring, forcing an expedited bankruptcy that summer and a restructuring that saw Chrysler merging with Italian automaker Fiat and the UAW pension fund gaining partial ownership — were controversial here in Indiana, even with so much investment and legacy.
Mourdock tried to thwart the Chrysler/Fiat merger, saying it perverted two centuries of bankruptcy law, with the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting the case. Daniels characterized the bailouts as "good money chasing the bad" while GM was in the “handout business.”
Republicans such as former U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, with the Fort Wayne GM plant in his district, reluctantly backed the deal. “As long as they have a fighting chance, I’m willing to give them a fighting chance,” Souder said at the time.
In times of crisis, American presidents have made tough calls, ranging from Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, to FDR’s misguided internment of Japanese-Americans. They have also leaned on our steel and production. During World War II, the auto industry became the “arsenal of democracy.” And it will still be with us in the future.
The payoff for Obama on this particular issue will come in the history books and his second term decision to increase fuel use levels to over 50 mpg within the decade, even though he lost Indiana to Mitt Romney in 2012 with only 42.4 percent of the vote.
Larry Bucshon is a heart surgeon, a Republican and a congressman. He has had employees who have reached lifetime insurance caps and ended up on Medicaid. He has seen thousands of poor Hoosiers on Medicaid denied access to health care. He paid about $40,000 a year in medical malpractice insurance, a figure that is much lower than in most states. And he is a vociferous critic of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and has consistently urged its repeal.
Tim Brown is an emergency room doctor, a Republican and as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives, chairs the powerful Ways & Means Committee.
What do these two public servants think of Obamacare and what lies ahead in the next several years?
“We clearly need health care reform," said Bucshon, punctuating it with, "Absolutely."
He backs some aspects of the ACA that allow people with pre-existing conditions to be insured, does away with lifetime caps and allows adult children to stay on their parents' plans through age 26. "Those are things in the ACA that I think everybody agreed on beforehand," Bucshon said. "But at the end of the day, the ACA is not going to accomplish the main goal which is to get the cost down so that everybody can afford health care."
He backs a set of Republican alternatives laid out by the Republican Study Committee and U.S. Rep. Tom Price's HR2300 that include GOP staples such as tort reform and allowing companies to sell insurance across state lines.
"I spent my career trying to make people healthy," Bucshon said. "I was a tertiary care doctor. I've seen the worst of diabetes issues, weight issues. If we can find a way to do better ..."
Bucshon agrees with Gov. Mike Pence on not opting for traditional Medicaid expansion, saying that not only is it "not good insurance," but it actually denies access to people. But he believes that opting out and maintaining any sort of the status quo is not a viable option.
"As a doctor, my goal is for everyone in the country to have access to quality, affordable health care in a reasonable time frame," said Bucshon, who was first elected to Congress in 2010.
"The big issue in health care in my view is how much it costs," Bucshon said. "I mean, you provide insurance for people, but if the overall cost of health care continues to grow at the pace that it has, the insurance is not going to be affordable because the overall cost of health care is still going to be too high, whether it's the government providing health insurance through Medicaid or Medicare, or the private sector."
"One of the areas we don't do a very good job on is preventive care," Bucshon said. "You want to save money in health care in the long run? Prevent people from getting sick in the first place."
"We need to do things that bend the cost curve," Bucshon said. "One of the big things I talk about a lot is price transparency in the health care market. What I would call consumerism, which needs to drive the cost of health care. Consumers need to understand what things cost.”
Brown sees Obamacare as a financial reform. "The federal laws is just changing the financing of health care," said Brown. "There will be a lot more people covered and it is financed it differently. Indiana has taken the position to have consumer driven initiatives. We have seen the evidence where that makes a difference."
What the chairman is keeping an eye on is the insurance exchanges, which have dominated the news over the past month and a half. Brown says the federal and state exchanges will evolve over the coming year, and Indiana should keep an open mind about establishing its own exchange.
"The exchanges will change," Brown said. "Whether they improve or digress will be in eye of beholder. The functioning of the exchanges will be different next year than this year. Indiana has a chance of getting into an exchange business."
As for the troubling health metrics that I’ve outlined over the past two months, Brown said most come about for three reasons: smoking, lack of exercise and being overweight.
"I would say they are not really health care expensive," Brown explained. "They are personal behavior, liberty and choice. To make the biggest dent, we have to tackle the three."
Will Obamacare survive?
Bucshon isn’t sure. "To be totally honest, I really don't know," Bucshon acknowledged. "From a political standpoint, if the health care law starts losing a lot of Democrat support, I think there will be either substantial changes in the law or most of the law will be repealed, other than the things I mentioned, the good things. But honestly, because of what is happening in private sector health insurance and the companies are planning for three and a half years, it's not an easy thing to reverse. That's why I'm saying I really don't know how to fix it."
Drifting back in time, I can see my family loading up the Rambler for that Thanksgiving trip up to Grandma's house in Mishawaka.
We became "motorists," leaving Peru in the Wabash Valley behind, climbing up the ridge to Mexico on old U.S. 31. Another 20 miles later, we would come to a stoplight. There was a one-lane bridge spanning the Tippecanoe River north of Rochester, and in this place, the main north/south U.S. highway in Indiana became a travesty.
My father, a mild-mannered newspaper editor, would whip off his eyeglasses and quietly seethe about the U.S. 31 of the late 1960s. Twenty miles to the north it was a one-lane bridge. Twenty miles to the south it was Stoplight City.
"A complete embarrassment for the state," he would grumble.
As of this past Tuesday, U.S. 31 took a further step of evolution as the new Major Moves-era Kokomo bypass opened, and for one bright shining moment, as the Elkhart Chamber's Kyle Hannon observed, turned into a brief traffic jam.
Within the next two or three years — once freeway exchanges are finished between Lakeville and South Bend, and through Westfield and Carmel — the chief grumble prompter will be the left lane Larrys that never learned that "passing lane" concept in driver's ed.
You can thank Purdue President Mitch Daniels and his current station, high above his university's famed Road School, for accelerating the U.S. 31 evolution. As governor, he was all about "asset management," and he parlayed a $3.8 billion lease of the Indiana East/West Toll Road into Major Moves, what he would describe as a "fully funded 10-year road plan."
Many folks along the Toll Road counties seethed over what they called the "selling" of that highway, even though their counties received millions of dollars to which the other 85 counties never had access. At one point in his first term, Daniels saw his approval rating plummet below 40 percent.
But Daniels was a potential presidential candidate from the school of "good policy makes good politics." He weathered his approval crisis, won re-election with 58 percent of the vote, and was rewarded when he revved up his Harley and took the first cruise on the new I-69 extension between Evansville and Crane Naval.
It was successor Gov. Mike Pence presiding over the U.S. 31 bypass opening. “This road is not a bypass,” Pence said. “This road is a freeway of opportunity for Kokomo and all of north central Indiana.”
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight, who will now see tens of thousands of motorists slip by his city to the east, finds a new transportation canvas to continue his adroit innovation.
“We need to make sure we develop it properly … to make it an asset not just for Howard County, but for the entire state,” Goodnight told the Kokomo Tribune, adding that the new Ind. 931 corridor running through Kokomo needs to be protected. “We need to make sure anything we do to develop this road doesn't detract from the investments made by our businesses there.”
When I look at the potential for my hometown of Peru — where per capita income has stagnated at levels of my high school graduation in the Class of '74 — I see the state's longest runway at the Grissom Aeroplex nestled along the emerging U.S. 31 freeway, just an hour's drive from the toll road and I-465, with access to the Port of Toledo. It all screams, "Economic development!"
While it is pleasing that Indiana's famed "Crossroads of America" is evolving, we have many challenges, far beyond those who will hog the new U.S. 31 left lane.
Anyone who drives I-65 from Gary to 465, or from Southport to Columbus, knows we are at or near capacity, with gridlock just a few years away.
Pence has to figure out how to build and pay for that I-69 gap between Crane and Bloomington, and its terminus at 465 (as well as some rest stops for the meekly bladdered at a proper pee break interval, say, 90 minutes north of Evansville).
It appears to be a priority. He noted the 2020 Fund was included in the current biennial budget. “It was $400 million in highway funding,” Pence said. “That will take legislation for us to deploy those resources. We’ll be going to the General Assembly with a plan to put those resources to work. Roads mean jobs, and I don’t just mean road jobs.“
Pence continued, “I’m committed to finishing I-69 all the way to Indianapolis. My inclination is to look at other infrastructure needs around the state and see where we can enhance infrastructure in the short term as we finish the longer term projects.”
So there you have it. Tens of thousands of Hoosiers will glide across the northern Indiana prairies on the U.S. 31 freeway this weekend. Pence can dream that some day before he leaves office in three to seven years, he can make a two-hour drive to Evansville, following all applicable speed laws.
And you've got to think that when the temperature rises, Our Man Mitch might retrieve the Harley from Ross-Ade Stadium and do a quick spin around Kokomo.
INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana needs a comprehensive, statewide health strategy.
When it comes to the relative health and well-being of the 6.5 million Hoosiers — collectively rated as the 41st most healthy population in the U.S. and down from 37th a few years before — there is a surplus of empathy.
Gov. Mike Pence explained, “The issue of infant mortality, the issue of childhood poverty in Indiana, are two that weigh heavy on my heart. We’re going to continue to assemble the information and identify” solutions.
There is the policy debris field we know as the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, that has muddled and obfuscated a clear path forward. On Monday, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma observed, “Rarely can you use ‘fiasco’ or ‘debacle’ with respect to government action. You might disagree with it, but the ACA is now a fiasco and a debacle.”
And there is a recognition that if Obamacare collapses — and it is far too early to make that determination — it will mean Congress and the state legislatures will enter a health policy triage.
“The fact is that we can’t afford the health care system that we had,” said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City and human resources director for the Swanson Center mental health facility. “You can’t sustain 20 to 25 percent premium increases every year."
Senate President David Long explained, “Twenty-five states have done just like Indiana” in rejecting a Medicaid expansion. If those states band together ... and say, ‘We’re going to have a plan ... I think you could have something there.”
The political reality is that the Indiana Republican Party controls virtually all the policy levers in this state.
This emerging scenario begs for a comprehensive statewide approach in a potential three-year time frame that Obamacare establishes for a Medicaid expansion. The state has world-renowned research universities, life science, orthopedic and pharmaceutical clusters and consumer-driven policy innovation that resulted in a post-IBM “hybrid” safety net program at FSSA to the forging of the fledgling Healthy Indiana Plan.
Asked about a potential blue ribbon commission pulling the various areas of expertise together to forge a state-based health care approach for Hoosiers, Pence said, “I take your point that if we have the opportunity to continue to advance the kind of health insurance innovation that is in the interest of Hoosiers’ health, then I’m open to doing that.”
Pence has asked the various state agencies to assemble an array of health metrics.
The factors Indiana Republican leaders face are an aversion to any notion of a tax increase, as opposed to extending service to constituents.
Pence cited the $25 million annual cost of running an Indiana-based health exchange. “My decision was based entirely on our analysis in the immediate days following my election that for the sum $25 million it would cost to operate, it would gain very little control over and above what Hoosiers would gain if the federal government operated the exchange,” Pence explained.
The federal exchange has forced Hoosiers to seek coverage in a logistical cul de sac. While the Kentucky state exchange enrolled 33,561 in Medicaid and 7,011 in private insurance by mid-November, Indiana Republicans used the 701 who had successfully traversed the federal exchange as an “I-told-you-so” moment.
It begs the question for the Indiana GOP: Now what?
Bosma observed, “This debacle needs to shake out a little bit. I know there is federal money being dangled out there. I know there are people without insurance we have to address, but this needs to be thoughtful..."
Long acknowledged the “uninsured is a problem,” but said a traditional Medicaid expansion would cost the state $2 billion.
This places the Indiana Republican Party at a crossroads, balancing the cost of a healthier population with the economic benefits it would bring. This is a state with a huge and growing prison population opposite of national trends. Citizens are paying vastly higher sewer bills than previous generations because it neglected to fix the problem decades ago. The state has an unhealthy population because it did not adequately invest in nutrition, early education, health care and insurance access.
With such a poor historical track record, the development of a comprehensive health strategy should be a compelling notion up for vigorous debate.
With the constitutional marriage amendment looming just over the horizon, the Indiana Republican Party is hardly one happy family living in a big tent.
Multiple sources are telling me a distinct majority of the Indiana Republican Central Committee opposes HJR-6, the resolution that would place the marriage constitutional question on the November 2014 ballot. That amendment would make marriage between “one man and one woman.” But the second sentence – “Provides that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized” – essentially would make civil unions impossible.
There’s this pesky 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
In addition, there is a roiling debate in the majority House and Senate caucuses, sources tell me. While there is not a “tipping point” near where the issue could be sidelined, there is an ongoing, often emotional, internal debate over whether the GOP would suffer at the ballot box if the referendum moves forward.
Sources say both House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long are under relentless pressure from advocates of the referendum and those opposing.
Gov. Mike Pence told me on Wednesday he wants the General Assembly to act. “You know where I stand,” Pence said when asked whether it is a priority. “I think it’s important that we let Hoosiers decide. I have every confidence that the people of Indiana can take up this issue, hear all sides, respect all viewpoints. At the end of the day I think we should let Hoosiers decide, and I’ll continue to support efforts of the General Assembly to send this question to the people of Indiana.”
The Ball State/WISH-TV Poll conducted by Princeton Research showed opposition to the amendment increased from 54 percent in 2012 to 58 percent this past month, while support held steady at 38 percent. Opposition was at 77 percent among Democrats and 40 percent among Republicans.
In the April 23 Howey Politics Poll, 50 percent favored the amendment and 46 percent opposed. This compared to an October 2012 Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll that showed 48 percent favored the amendment and 45 percent opposed.
Last June, Bosma told me, “It will take 95 percent of the energy and 50 percent of the coverage,” adding, “If I had my druthers, Part B would not be there. I think the first part is very clear. Part B raises a question.”
Sources say Bosma is under intense pressure from referendum advocates such as Curt Smith, Micah Clark and Eric Miller from the family advocacy groups to pursue the final placement on the ballot.
But Republican Sens. Luke Kenley and Pete Miller, along with Reps. Ed Clere, Jud McMillin, Sean Eberhart and Ron Bacon have made public statements indicating they would not vote for HJR-6 during the 2013 session. There are at least a dozen other House Republicans, sources say, who are debating whether to support the measure again. Others are concerned about switching from a yea to no vote. The default position will likely be the “let the people decide” option.
Last week, Eberhart told the Shelbyville News the second sentence in HJR-6 is essentially “bigotry.”
Rep. Bacon, R-Boonville, called the second sentence “a step too far” during the 2013 session. Rep. McMillin said during the 2013 session it would be irresponsible to install an amendment to the Indiana Constitution when the U.S. Supreme Court could “rule on something that may alter our ability to do that.”
Sen. Miller, R-Avon, added, “It’s already illegal. What’s to be gained other than ostracizing a whole section of the population? If we’re trying to attract the best and brightest people to work in Indiana, this doesn’t help.”
Society and parts of Indiana government are already beginning to comply with federal regulations regarding same-sex marriage. On Oct. 3, the Indiana National Guard began issuing identification cards to its members on orders from the Pentagon. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel identified Indiana as one of nine states that did not immediately comply with that order when it was to be instituted on Sept. 3. The Internal Revenue Service is also changing tax-related rulings on a federal level that states will ultimately have to recognize.
There are two scenarios emerging in the Legislature. The mood within the Senate majority caucus is to deal with the issue in the opening days – if not hours – of the General Assembly, which commences Jan. 7. The second is to delay dealing with the issue until after the Feb. 10 primary filing deadline, when incumbents will learn if they have opponents in the May 6 primary.
Another option would be to delete the controversial second sentence, which essentially starts the entire process over again, putting off a potential referendum to 2016. Opponents of the referendum believe public opinion will overwhelmingly shift against the measure by then.
On the morning of Oct. 16 - with the federal government shuttered three weeks and just hours away from the first federal default in history - U.S. Sen. Dan Coats was incredulous.
Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said of Obamacare, “Well, everybody understands that we’ll not be able to repeal this law until 2017. We have to win the Senate and win the White House. Right now it is clear that this bill is not ready for prime time. It is clear the bill is unfair.”
It was Heritage Foundation, headed by former Sen. Jim DeMint, and the Heritage Action PAC that had fanned the flames of the Obamacare defund movement that found ardent disciples in Indiana -- U.S. Reps. Marlin Stutzman, Todd Rokita and Jackie Walorski. On the brink of the vote, Needham had revealed just how cynical, stupid and reckless things had become in Washington.
Coats heard that and thought, ‘We went through all of this for him to say that?’”
There were plenty of people who saw the defund movement take shape and knew that the math was not there. With President Barack Obama in the White House and Democrats controlling the Senate 55-45 after Republicans had booted away a Senate seat in Indiana and five other states, there was never a scenario for it to work.
Last summer, the Indiana congressional delegation met to discuss the scenario. Since Coats became the state's senior senator following Dick Lugar's 2012 primary defeat to Tea Party-inspired Richard Mourdock, he has gathered the delegation together to coordinate on state matters and talk through issues.
Asked to describe the Indiana delegation meetings as the defund effort gathered steam, Coats explained, “There was good communication. Obviously we didn’t come out as one vote in the end. I respect people’s difference of opinion because it was a complicated issue.”
Coats described delegation members who viewed the scenario through different lenses. “Some were looking at it from the default standpoint, raising the debt limit, and some were looking at it from a shutdown standpoint,” Coats said.
Stutzman, a close ally of DeMint, was an early advocate of the defund effort in mid-summer, and congressional staff sources tell me he addressed the delegation on his stance, though he declined to comment.
Coats explained, "We talked about this in July. I didn’t think the shutdown would work. I didn’t see the president bending, or Democrats in the Senate coming our way. The bottom line was those who thought the shutdown was the best strategy were able to test it. And it didn’t produce the results. So, I think what was unfortunate about the whole thing, the (Ted) Cruz strategy – which was really developed by Jim DeMint – has become the face of that. But it is the lobby group that has designed the strategy and enforces it through various means.”
In 1988-89, when Health and Human Services Secretary Doc Bowen’s catastrophic health care law was signed by President Ronald Reagan, public opinion shifted, and with President George H.W. Bush in office, Congress repealed the law. Coats observed Bush “had no stake” in the Bowen law.
That was the not the case with Obama, who for the next three years will defend Obamacare. “That’s the huge difference between Obama and Bush,” Coats said. “That’s what is so different with this situation. No one gave any kind of realistic assessment where the president would say, ‘Oh yeah, that was a terrible mistake. Give me my pen so I can sign this.’ That’s why the math just doesn’t add up because it would take 21 Democrats to override a presidential veto.”
“The goal was to try and convince Democrats of the inadequacy of this legislation,” Coats said, but the effort turned its guns on Republicans. On the day of Needham's admission, Heritage Action announced it would score the vote any way.
Coats observed 95 percent of Obamacare funding is mandatory, and only a mere 5 percent was covered in the continuing resolution.
It truly was a fool's errand.
While Reps. Walorski, Stutzman, Rokita, Larry Bucshon and Luke Messer voted against the bill that reopened the government and prevented default, Coats and Reps. Susan Brooks and Todd Young voted yea.
Coats is taking heat. He walked through a conversation he had with a constituent who advocated shutdown. “How long do you think we’ll have to shut down?” Coats asked.
The response was, "Well, it didn’t have enough time.”
Well, how much time would be needed? He heard, “As long as it takes.”
What if it takes a year? Again, the response was, “As long as it takes.”
But Obama will be in office another three years.
Coats heard this response: “If that’s what it takes, that’s what we should do.”
“And that is something I just couldn’t accept,” Coats said. “This society cannot function with the government closed for three years.”
This all brings to mind Russian author Leo Tolstoy, who studied the movement of the masses that can lead to upheaval and even revolution, sometimes quite suddenly.
As he observed in “Anna Karenina,” there is “not only the pride of intellect, but the stupidity of intellect, and, above all, the dishonesty, yes, the dishonesty of intellect. Yes, indeed, the dishonesty and trickery of intellect.”
As Obamacare careens into its second month of implementation, the one conclusion I am coming to is that we may have lost the ability to govern ourselves. My faith in government is eroding like a sand castle on a Lake Michigan dune.
In surveying the eroded leadership, partisan grandstanding, polarization and policy sclerosis, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats told me last week he is concerned by this loss of faith. Pew Research found only 19 percent trust the federal government, near an all-time low.
"That's a dangerous thing for democracy when you lose the opinion of people and institutions who sent you,” Coats observed. “That is a very dangerous thing."
In the decade leading up to the Affordable Care Act, I was personally confronted with my station on the "death spiral," an insurance industry connotation for someone with a pre-existing condition they did not want to serve. We watched as businesses and local governments — large and small — grappled with escalating health costs.
As a journalist, I've covered four separate chapters in health care reform.
The first was Doc Bowen's 1988 catastrophic health plan, which President Ronald Reagan signed into law, and then as public opinion collapsed, Congress repealed.
Five years later came first lady Hillary Clinton's complicated initiative that couldn't muster support in Congress.
It is fascinating that in its opposition to HillaryCare, the conservative Heritage Foundation created another option, and after gathering dust on the shelf for almost a decade, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney implemented what we now call "RomneyCare," generally deemed a success. That became the template for Obamacare, which Heritage opposes with historic vitriol.
Between the collapse of HillaryCare and the election of Barack Obama in 2008, little happened nationally to contain the escalating medical costs, or the inclusion of tens of millions of hard-working Americans — be they business owners or individuals — who could not access the system.
In this time span — for six years between 2001 and 2007 — Republicans controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. All that was accomplished in this era was the greatest entitlement expansion since the Great Society — Medicare Prescription Plan D — essentially a component of President George W. Bush's re-election campaign. After a fiasco rollout, it has since been deemed a success.
Obama and congressional Democrats controlling both chambers eventually filled this policy void in 2010, ramming through the Affordable Care Act on straight party line votes.
What we have seen since has been the polarization of American politics and, now, the chaotic rollout of Obamacare.
Obama's administration has not only botched the initial implementation of this sprawling reform with a dysfunctional website, but the president misled Americans into believing they could stay on existing plans, though many of these plans are rip-offs.
And we have watched Republican public servants — from our congressional delegation to Gov. Mike Pence (who could have championed market-based health care reform as a member of Congress from 2001 to 2012) — use their offices to undermine the reforms. Pence opted to put Hoosiers into the federal health exchange, instead of creating one of our own.
A year ago, candidate Pence was saying, "I’ll fight for the right of every Hoosier to run our schools, buy our health care and build our roads the Hoosier way. ... To make Indiana the state that works, we must have a governor who’s willing to say yes to Indiana and no to Washington.”
On virtually every other issue, Pence has been critical of federal government involvement. This time, it was a strategy to kill off the reforms. His Department of Insurance became a fount of propaganda, inflating the potential costs of coming plans in a distorted and widely panned analysis.
Congress refused to confirm an Obama appointee to direct the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services, which play a huge role in implementation. Indiana University Professor Aaron Carroll, who heads its Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, wrote in a column for CNN: "When (HHS Secretary) Sebelius tried to shift money from other areas to help do what needed to be done, she was attacked by Senate Republicans. At every step, Republicans fought measures to get money to put toward implementation."
Having passed on bringing a Republican-based solution to the health care dilemma the country faced, Bush, Pence and his colleagues did virtually nothing. And since the passage of the ACA into law, they have used their offices to obstruct. Appearing before the Associated Press Managing Editors this past week, Pence urged journalists to join conservatives in suspending the law.
Instead of separating the widely accepted successful portions of the law — covering people with pre-existing conditions, ending policy terminations for the sick — and correcting the flaws, such as what constitutes full-time employment and coverage, and allowing insurers to sell across state lines, the partisans on both sides dug in.
There is an abject, widespread collapse of leadership here. The U.S. Capitol has become nothing more than an oozing white pustule of festering and corrosive partisanship.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll revealed 63 percent are willing to replace their own member of Congress. Little wonder voters are saying, “a pox on both your houses.”
As the focus turns from the manufactured shutdown/default crisis in Congress to the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, there is one thing Hoosiers should focus on. Indiana is not a healthy state.
Indiana ranked 41st in total health, according to America's Health Rankings. It was ranked 37th in 2011. In 2000, Indiana's obesity rate was 19.9 percent, ranking 42nd in the U.S. In 2012 it was 30.1 percent. Our smoking rate has gone down from 27 percent in 2000 to 21.2 percent last year, or 1.5 million smokers, but that is still high enough to rank us 44th. In 2001, our diabetes rate was 6 percent. Now it's 9.8 percent, ranking Indiana 33rd. We rank 38th in cardiac heart disease. Indiana is 49th in air pollution at 13.1 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter.
In the past decade, the percentage of children in poverty more than doubled from 10.8 percent to 23.6 percent of persons under age 18. Some 13.5 percent of our households are "food insecure," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the past year, the number of infectious disease cases rose from 7.8 to 11.7 cases per 100,000 population.
I've reported this before, but once again, 2.7 million Hoosiers (out of a 6.5 million population) walked into a hospital emergency room last year. Thirty Indiana counties have no obstetrics services. Because of this lack of pre- and post-natal care, Indiana's infant mortality rate is a stunning 7.7 per 1,000 babies, a full percentage above the national average. From 2006 to 2010, according to the Indiana Department of Health, 4,115 Hoosiers died by suicide.
Indiana State Police busted a record 1,726 meth labs in 2012, up from 1,437 in 2011. And we have a prescription drug overdose "epidemic," according to Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
So this resistance to Obamacare is baffling in a public health sense. Politically, it has drawn the most vociferous opposition since the Vietnam War. But from a policy standpoint, at least it is trying to address an overall situation that should induce a "crisis" atmosphere from our public servants.
Unfortunately, many of our public servants, from Gov. Mike Pence, to the congressional delegation, to the Indiana General Assembly, are more concerned about low taxes and the business climate.
State Rep. Ed Clere, the New Albany Republican who heads the House Public Health Committee, was quoted in the Anderson Herald-Bulletin during a health town hall meeting this past week as saying, "It's my party that needs to be convinced, to put it bluntly," on extending Medicaid coverage to an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Hoosiers who will lack coverage.
The political obstacle is a hatred and loathing for President Barack Obama.
But it is coming at the expense of making wise policy decisions that can impact this crisis.
I'll give you a prime example: Pence's decision to have Indiana opt into the federal health exchange, as opposed to creating one of our own. It was an interesting choice, given Pence (and many other Republicans) view the federal government as inefficient at just about everything it touches.
Kentucky opted for its own state-run exchange, one of 17 states to do so. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported last week that Kentucky's state-run implementation of health care reform — Kynect — has enrolled 15,000, while 272,339 people had visited the site. Kentucky had an uninsured population of 640,000.
Like Indiana, Kentucky is a so-called "red state" with a voracious opposition to Obamacare. Gov. Steve Beshear — a Democrat — has taken a lot of arrows over the exchange. “It's amazing to me that the folks who are challenging that are folks that usually think we don't want the federal government in here," he told WHAS-TV. "We would rather handle our own affairs."
Sen. Joe Donnelly, who has won races for U.S. House and U.S. Senate since he voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, told me, "We have over 900,000 uninsured Hoosiers. We have between 300,000 and some say closer to 400,000 who are in that gap that Indiana has no plan for at all right now. This is not meant disrespectfully, but government officials here have said, 'Well, they can go to the emergency room.' Well, that's not much of a health program.”
Donnelly also believes Hoosiers are not being well-served when Indiana opted not to run its own health exchange. Pew Research reported that in the 27 states with federally-run programs — including Indiana — 59 percent are aware of the exchange, compared to 72 percent in states with their own exchanges.
"We always talk about Hoosier common sense and Hoosier hard work and Hoosier exceptionalism," Donnelly said. "If Indiana folks had designed their own exchange, I personally think the Indiana exchange would have been the best in the country. I wish we had had that chance."
At a time when our governor should be having an established dialogue with Hoosiers over the health crisis he rules over, there is silence, and an emphasis on business. "For Indiana, our fiscal integrity is the foundation of our prosperity," Pence told me last summer when I brought up the health challenges we face.
Really, governor? Really?
When I scan the Washington horizon, I see few, if any, heroes, at least in their current stations.
There are good people who go there to change the world, then go native once they're in the club. They fail to accomplish the people’s business.
Heroes are often presidents and generals. But in World War II, it was the grunts and captains who kept the destroyers running or took out the Nazi artillery. I remember the shoe store owner on my paper route in Peru, Ind., who had a limp. I later learned he did so because of the frostbite he sustained near Bastogne. I had a grade school classmate in Michigan City 50 years ago who told me harrowing, seemingly unbelievable tales her family had endured. I later discovered she was a daughter of the Holocaust.
I watch members of the General Assembly name highways and bridges for their "heroic" members, when it's the troopers, deputies and EMTs who save lives on those berms and in the ditches.
I scan the horizon for heroes as Peyton Manning comes back to Indiana this weekend.
How can I compare a football quarterback to a Medal of Honor winner? Or to Rick Genth, the Elkhart firefighter who lost his life a generation ago trying to save people from a flash flood?
I do so when I ponder the other continents on our little planet. In many of these lands, the flesh and soil are torn by artillery and bomb-laden vests that sneak into crowded bazaars. Innocents are showered with sarin and mustard gas.
In 2011, I had the rare opportunity of coming face-to-face with "Victory," the beautiful statute that stands atop the Soldiers & Sailors Monument in the heart of Indiana. She was disassembled at Stout Field, as artisans repaired the cracks in her bronze castings after standing over our state for 117 years.
It’s appropriate that Victory stands astride a star-adorned ball while her flanks are guarded by statuary of Union soldiers. At about the time Victory was hoisted over Indianapolis’ emerging industrial skyline, the wars on the North American continent drew to a close. Americans were to take up their domestic quarrels and settle issues of pride on Big Ten gridirons and basketball courts. The war between the states became New Years Day dramas between Notre Dame and Alabama, or Butler and Duke as March Madness churned into April.
Indiana and Illinois don't shoot howitzers at each other. We shoot treys in our assembly halls. Our bombers are named Mount, Skiles, Alford and Macy.
The stars on the ball underneath Victory's foot in the minds of Hoosiers could be sports heroes named Robertson, Wooden, Bird and Miller. Or our patriots in the foreign battles we fight, Medal of Honor recipients named Antrim, Biddle, Shoup, Sterling and de la Garza, or a reporter named Pyle.
We project our values in our arenas where our athletes emerge from places like Plymouth, Bedford and French Lick.
On our benign fields of battle, individuals emerge who inspire us. Or agitate us.
Some become transformative figures. Drew Brees left Purdue University only to rally a city and bring triumph a few years after the New Orleans Katrina catastrophe. There's Evansville native and Purdue grad Bob Griese, who suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle in the fifth game of what would be an undefeated season for the Miami Dolphins. He would return that January and lead them to a Super Bowl.
Knute Rockne still inspires legions of young athletes more than eight decades after a plane crash took him from Notre Dame. Bob Knight revived the glory at old IU; Brad Stevens brought the echoes of Tony Hinkle back to Butler.
The kids on the sandlots still imagine that bottom-of-the-ninth homer by Ron Kittle. Larry Bird epitomizes the small-town kid who found the Big 10 too big, then captured the heart of an entire nation ... for decades. You can still go to Broad Ripple and have a beer with Bobby Plump.
We love the pugnacity of Tony Stewart, who not only toils at the legendary speedways at Daytona and Indy, but also on the dirt tracks from Ohio to Iowa mid-week.
Those of us born and raised in the region and across northern Indiana know NFL highlight reels of Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Walter Payton and Mike Ditka define the essence of toughness, speed, flexibility and true grit.
And then there's Peyton Manning.
I walk out the back door in Indianapolis, and a block away stands Lucas Oil Stadium. Babe Ruth built Yankee Stadium, and Manning built the home of the Colts. Without him, Jimmy Irsay might well be tweeting from Los Angeles. Manning transformed Indiana from a basketball state to one of a formidable gridiron stature that transcends all levels. Just a few weeks ago, the Brown County Eagles played on a Friday night at Lucas Oil.
In Manning, we find a man who is focused, prepared and intellectually superior. And we love how he bends the minds of those who oppose him. We name hospitals in his honor. Some day his statue will stand outside this stadium.
With luck (pun intended), perhaps this generation of Hoosier leaders will borrow these attributes from those who inspire us on these fields of dreams.
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