There he sits, sipping an iced coffee, the Hero of Hammond, the Sage of Shelbyville, the Larynx of Logansport, the Tutor from Terre Haute, Indiana’s third U.S. Senator, Phinneas Phogghorn.
“How’s the campaign going?” I asked.
He throws back his massive mane and gives forth his loud laugh, “Fine, fine, just as fine as it’s been these many years. Today, I met the adult grandchildren of folks who first voted me into the Upper Chamber of our great U.S. Congress.
“Preparation and education, that’s what does it,” he says. “Yesterday, my economic advisors helped prepare my platform planks on that slippery subject.”
“What did they recommend?” I ask.
“The Song Book of Success,” he says. “Those old refrains voters have heard before, familiar tunes used to good effects by both parties.”
“Like what”? I query.
“Population growth, higher per capita income, and smaller government; the recipe for a comforting confection voters can’t fail to consume cheerfully,” he smiles.
“You see, son,” he continues, “as we attract more people to Indiana, our per capita income rises. Growing places attract high income people and high income people then attract more people and more jobs. It’s the roller coaster to success.”
“Senator,” I say, “National evidence disproves that idea. From 2000 to 2015, that wasn’t true. Not true for the 50 states or for the 381 metropolitan areas. Population growth and growth in per capita income are not related.”
“Further,” I continue, “you can raise per capita income or average wages just as much by giving ten low-paid workers an extra $5,000 a year as you can by giving a $50,000 bonus to one highly paid worker.”
The Monarch of Middlebury looks perplexed. “Indiana’s problems are long term,” I say. “They won’t be resolved by bringing in a new set of people. What are today’s Hoosiers, your voters, going to think when you suggest they’re the reason our state ranks 38th in per capita income and 47th in its growth since 2000?
“But,” he butts in. “Don’t we have to attract high-paying jobs and the people to fill those jobs from elsewhere?”
“Nothing wrong with that,” I say. “But how can we justify spending state and local funds to subsidize a company moving next door from Carmel to Fishers? What’s the benefit there?”
“Nothing’s perfect,” Phinneas answers.
“Perfect?” I sputter. “The uninformed contentment of Hoosier citizens is our leading public policy threat. Just yesterday a friend emailed me, ‘We have too many governments, yet Indiana is probably better than most in this regard.’”
The Senator squirms; I carry along. “Indiana ranks 18th among the 50 states in number of government units per person. Plus, we’re 10th highest in governments per square mile.
“Son,” he confides, “we’re not going to resolve any problems going against the collective satisfaction of Hoosiers with their existing ways.” Then he grins, “Maybe it’s time you converted …. to decaf.”