Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What Republicans really want

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2013 at 4:00 AM

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During the course of the latest shutdown of the federal government, some people have been heard to wonder what Tea Party Republicans and their fellow travelers really want.

Is it to keep millions of Americans from getting health insurance? Perhaps it's just another in the long-running series of attempts to ruin the presidency of Barack Obama.

Or maybe it's about cutting the federal government down to size.

While all these possibilities pack a credible punch, I think Republicans are motivated by a larger, overriding vision: They want all of America to be just like Indiana.

Ain't God good to Indiana, old-time journalist William Herschell's folksy refrain, since emblazoned on a plaque hanging in the Statehouse, seems to strike a chord among those folks who today seem hell-bent on making the country as a whole practically ungovernable.

Of course, God has had less to do with what these people admire about Indiana than the tireless machinations of the state's Republican politicians.

It all started with the election of Mitch Daniels back in 2005. Affectionately known as "the Blade" from his days as GW Bush's budget director, Daniels took over a notoriously corrupt state government and... balanced its budget.

This was not an insignificant achievement. A balanced budget is an admirable thing, as anyone who can add and subtract will readily attest. A balanced budget is all Republicans behind the federal shut down claim they desire.

You see, for these politicians, a balanced budget is a kind of grail. It's the best way they can think of to keep the government small, which is the way they like it. As Mitch Daniels liked to boast, Indiana has the same number of state employees today as in the 1970s.

Okay. Here in Indiana, we're not spending money we don't have. That's cool. So what is this doing for us?

Is it making Hoosiers smarter? Apparently not. According to the Indiana Education-Workforce Innovation Network, an organization whose website says was "created to address glaring gaps between educational and economic development sectors," the state ranks 42nd in the number of 25-64 year-olds with an Associate Degree or higher.

Surely a balanced budget has paid off for our environment. But after looking at the quality of our air and water, Forbes Magazine ranked Indiana the 49th greenest state. The balanced budget must be making Hoosiers healthier. Er, not exactly. According to the United Health Foundation, we came in 41st in 2012, down from 37th the year before.

We're fat, we're still smoking... well, why not, given that we rank 40th among states for per capita income, and Hoosier women earn 73 cents for every dollar made by Hoosier men.

All of this is evidently so great, a lot of the same people who shut down the government wished Mitch Daniels had run for president. Today, many of them would like to see our current guv, Mike Pence, take a shot.

In the words of the poet, "Ain't God good to Indiana? Ain't He fellers? Ain't He, though?"

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