Monday, July 7, 2014

Dodge City on the Central Canal

Posted By on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Seven shootings in Broad Ripple.

No, make that seven more shootings in Broad Ripple. As the Indianapolis Star reminded us over the weekend, four people were shot on Broad Ripple Avenue eleven months ago.

David Hoppe
  • David Hoppe
There’s really nothing new to be said about the now-chronic gun violence ripping at Indianapolis. A day after the Broad Ripple shootings, an Indianapolis cop, Perry Renn was killed in a gun fight on 34th Street by someone carrying an assault rifle.

But if there’s nothing new to be said about what seems to be the city’s new normal, there is certainly plenty to think about. Here’s a sampling of what went through my head while reading the Star’s weekend coverage, a story by John Tuohy and Tim Evans titled “Will 7 shootings bring changes to Broad Ripple?” on Sunday morning.

“Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said people carrying weapons are too quick to use them to settle minor skirmishes.”

So much for the NRA’s contention that more guns make us safer. But I’m sure that from now on some folks will make a point of packing when going to Broad Ripple for a night on the town.

“Rob Sabatini, who owns three bars on Broad Ripple Avenue, said friction in Broad Ripple is mostly caused by people who come to the area ‘and loiter in the street rather than going into the businesses.’”

Some people loiter. Some people hang out. Some are just pedestrians passing through. It’s a city, it’s a scene. If everyone who went to Broad Ripple dove straight into a bar or restaurant, the place would look like a ghost town.

“Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard, said there were plenty of police officers on the strip.”

Which doesn’t seem to count for much when you have a population that’s young, armed, and drunk. I remember talking to Mayor Ballard before he was first elected. He was standing at the scene of a shooting at 38th and Meridian and said he was going to get the criminals off our streets…

“’There are larger societal issues about why this occurs,’ Lotter said.”

So I guess we shouldn’t hold it against Ballard that things seem worse, not better. It’s society’s fault! What a relief.

“Officials have attributed the increase in homicides to a number of reasons, including a rising use of heroin, a huge number of people leaving jails and prisons, a high poverty rate and too many households with no strong authority figures.”

That’s right: All of these things are happening at once. Seems like a pretty combustible mixture. So what do we do? Add guns and stir. But wait, I forgot: Guns make us safer!

Apparently there is now talk about closing Broad Ripple Avenue to cars on certain nights, making the street a kind of pedestrian Mall of Inebriation. This way people with weapons will be less likely to bump into one another.

And maybe bars will start requiring patrons to check their guns at the door.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Freedom Summer

When Mississippi was like another country

Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 4:00 AM

It’s been a year of anniversaries. Muhammad Ali (when he was Cassius Clay) knocking down Sonny Liston. The Beatles invading America. Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act.

And Freedom Summer.

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What came to be known as Freedom Summer was actually a program called the Mississippi Summer Project. It’s also a documentary by Stanley Nelson that’s been running on PBS. Nelson’s film is stirring in many ways. It’s an important piece of American social history that, in looking back, is also a cautionary tale about a vein in our politics that keeps on throbbing.

As Nelson’s film reminds, less than seven percent of Mississippi’s African Americans were registered to vote in 1964, even though they accounted for roughly half of the state’s population.

Efforts by local civil rights workers to register more blacks to vote were met by organized intimidation and violence. The tactics used were so extreme, and so blatant, it was as if Mississippi had turned itself into another country, a country dedicated to the preservation of white racial supremacy.

Freedom Summer brought 700 white northern college students into Mississippi for 10 weeks to help register people to vote and conduct summer classes in African American history and culture. Most of all, it was hoped these students would act as shields, that their presence would, in effect, shame white racists into letting people have the rights they were owed under the Constitution.

Instead, Mississippi acted as if it were under a state of siege. In April, the Ku Klux Klan staged a mass burning of 61 crosses in towns across the state. Civil Rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner were murdered. Other Freedom Summer volunteers were terrorized.

It is now easy to see the Mississippi white establishment’s behavior in 1964 as a hateful overreach. They not only tarnished the state’s reputation throughout the rest of the country, sentencing it to seemingly permanent socio-economic backwater status; they also lost the power they were so intent on keeping — today, a majority of Mississippi’s elected officials are African American.

But what is just as easy to overlook is the role that a strident belief in states’ rights played in encouraging many Mississippi whites to pursue their self-destructive path. Like their Confederate forebears, they considered the Constitution and Bill of Rights provisional documents they could choose to ignore.

Black Mississippians worried that the northern students who volunteered for Freedom Summer were in for a shock; that nothing could prepare them for how different Mississippi really was from the rest of the country. If you see this film, you can understand their fears.

You might also be reminded of our latest crop of politicians — those who make states’ rights a reason to deny some of us health care benefits, a decent wage, or the chance to marry someone we love. Freedom Summer leaves you wondering how it is states’ rights wound up being just another way for some people to holler, “No!”

Click here see Freedom Summer.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Gay marriage bash(ing): Indiana flips (and flops)

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 1:52 PM

What a weekend it wasn't.

David Hoppe
  • David Hoppe

Over a break when many gay couples should have been celebrating their finally having the chance to declare their love and commitment for one another through marriage, the State of Indiana chose to blow a loud and particularly acrid raspberry.

As we all know by now, U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that Indiana's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional on Wednesday, June 25. This was news gay couples had been waiting for, in some cases, for decades.

My friends Van Kirby and Dan Detrick have been together for over 40 years. I helped Van write his memoir, On the Table By the Window: The Journey of a Gay Dad In Indiana, about fighting for, and winning, custody of his four kids. That court battle took place in 1976. Today Van and Dan are great grandparents.

On Thursday night, the day after Judge Young's ruling, I spoke to Van on the phone. He sounded elated and exhausted. That morning he and Dan had gotten up at 5 a.m., looked at one another, and decided to go down to City Hall to complete the circle of their lives together.

Van had told me he didn't want to get married unless it could be in Indiana. He considers this his place; it's where he came of age, created a successful business, and found Dan, his soulmate.

Van and Dan are a true partnership. They've shared victories and defeats, cared for each other in sickness and in health. Their relationship doesn't need to be sanctioned by the state; its validity speaks for itself.

In fact, you could say that, by their example, Van and Dan bring more to the meaning of marriage in the State of Indiana than the State of Indiana brings to them.

They were fifth in the line that formed in front of County Clerk Beth White on June 26. There were jokes about the suddenly outdated rigamarole regarding who was supposed to be "husband" and whom the "wife." In a few minutes the deed was done. Van and Dan were as hitched as any other married couple in this woebegone state.

Even then, Van couldn't help feeling somewhat dubious about the whole thing. He said it felt a little like they were being served crumbs from Indiana's table. There'd been no time to anticipate the kind of celebration most marriages inspire. Better to get married quickly, before Indiana bared its teeth.

Sure enough, Indiana bit. On Friday night, Attorney General Greg Zoeller did Gov. Mike Pence's bidding and got a stay from a Court of Appeals in Chicago. Van and Dan may have lived together for over 40 years, but their Indiana marriage lasted less than 48 hours.

This has been proclaimed as being good news by those who say marriage must be defended, who claim that Indiana's sanction of Van and Dan's relationship somehow infringes on their religious freedom.

But for everybody else, the State's reaction looks and smells like bigotry. It stinks.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Trigger warning: The real world is sick

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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A lot about college may have changed over the years, but one thing remains the same: many students still refer to life-after-graduation as happening in a place called "the real world."

The real world supposedly exists outside the campus bubble. It's filled with strangers of different ages, backgrounds, expectations and demands. If the real world can be a place of great opportunity, it can also be unforgiving. There is no grading on a curve.

Most college students are all too aware of the differences between the real world and the lives they lead. That's what makes the growing push among some students for trigger warnings in classrooms so troubling.

Trigger warnings, according to the Urban Dictionary, are intended, "to alert people when an internet post, book, article, picture, video, audio clip, or some other media could potentially cause extremely negative reactions (such as post-traumatic flashbacks or self-harm) due to its content."

At the University of California, Santa Barbara, students recently passed a resolution that trigger warnings be posted for classes using materials dealing with "rape, sexual assault, abuse, self-injurious behavior, suicide, graphic violence, pornography, kidnapping, and graphic descriptions of gore."

The resolution was proposed by a student, who was herself a victim of sexual violence. She said a movie depicting rape, screened by a teacher without advance warning in one of her classes, caused her to have a post-traumatic stress reaction.

Her proposal was intended to protect other students.

Across the country, a Rutgers student, Philip Wythe, echoed this desire, writing in his college newspaper that trigger warnings can help make the classroom a "safe space."

At first blush it is easy to dismiss the call for trigger warnings as yet another PC campus indulgence. A misguided attempt to keep the real world at bay.

But that world keeps crowding in - and it's twisted. As reported in Not Alone, the first White House Task Force report on sexual violence on American college campuses, one of every five collegiate women has been the victim of sexual assault. In most cases, the perpetrators are men these women already know. Too often,these crimes go unpunished.

Now combine this slice of campus life with that laundry list assembled by the students at UC Santa Barbara, the one ending with "graphic violence, pornography, kidnapping, and graphic descriptions of gore."

In other words, the primetime cable menu for any night of the week.

Sexualized violence is our version of the ol' soft shoe: it's what we call entertainment. Given the casual ubiquity of this stuff, it's no wonder, first, that the number of victims reported among us keeps growing and, second, that more and more of us (and not just college students) will go for a safe place wherever we can find it.

Trigger warnings, of course, are no solution for the deep cultural dysfunction that ails us. They're like a white flag hoisted by students who have already felt enough of the real world to know it needs fixing.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kicking and screaming about climate change

Earth Charter Indiana's better idea

Posted By on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 2:48 PM

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A little leadership would be nice...

But Gov. Mike Pence's knee-jerk response to the EPA's proposal to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 16 years was all too predictable. Rather than leadership, Pence let out a howl for things as they are.

That's because the EPA regs represent a major step toward weaning the country off coal, and Indiana is addicted to the sooty stuff. Only West Virginia, Kentucky, and Wyoming use more coal than we do. Indiana relies on coal for 84 percent of its energy needs.

Now we've known something like this was coming for some time. Over the past three years the EPA has enacted a Mercury and Air Toxics Standard and a Cross-State Air Pollution rule. Given the ever-mounting evidence regarding the threat of climate change, and the role fossil fuels like coal play in contributing to that threat, you'd think Indiana would have gotten its rear in gear and started taking steps to diversify its energy portfolio in a cleaner, more sustainable direction.

But that would have taken leadership.

Indiana could have been making headlines by enacting policies and procedures aimed at making our air quality among the best in the land. Instead, our governor is looking for legal means to circumvent the new regulations - and perpetuate Indiana's "good enough" air quality, which ranks in the bottom tier of states. Gov. Pence seems to think that by digging in his heels, he can will the smokestack chugging days of the 1950's back into existence. He thinks that cheap energy will trump environmental responsibility when it comes to economic development. What he fails to realize is that this kind of retrograde posturing sets Indiana apart in a way that's likely to hurt rather than help the state's future development.

It doesn't have to be like this. Earth Charter Indiana and its youth program, Youth Power Indiana, have initiated a legal process, a Petition for Rulemaking, aimed at getting the state's Environmental Rules Board to enact a climate action plan for Indiana. Thirty-four states, including Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky have already adopted similar guidelines.

The plan the petition calls for would aggressively reduce emissions of greenhouse gases; pursue long-term solutions, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy resources to prevent further degradation of the atmosphere while creating quality local jobs; and help Hoosiers adapt to and prepare for climate change impacts.

Rosemary Spalding, a former IDEM executive and president of the ECI board, says, "I understand the need for a coordinated statewide effort and the importance of basing regulatory decisions on sound scientific principles, accurate data and information... to effectively address climate change in Indiana." Spalding believes the Environmental Rules Board has the authority to make an effective Climate Action Plan a reality in this state. With the governor's support, this plan could represent a major step toward making Indiana a model climate citizen, for a change, rather than a recalcitrant outlier. And that would be a kind of leadership Indiana could really use.

Click here if you would like to read and/or sign the Earth Charter Indiana petition.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

America the weird

Posted By on Wed, Jun 4, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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Our son Graham and his longtime lover, Amy, were married in Chapel Hill, North Carolina over the Memorial Day weekend. It turned out to be a wondrous occasion, taking place in the open air, before a stately grove of evergreens. That night there was a bonfire and fireflies speckled the dewy air with countless exclamation points.

It is customary following such events for the bride and groom to get away for what is called a honeymoon. But my wife and I - or, in wedding parlance, the MOG and FOG (for Mother and Father of the Groom) decided to follow suit. It's not every day you gain a daughter-in-law (a DIL?).

So we went on a road trip.

From Chapel Hill we drove to the 18th century town of Savannah, Georgia. A day later we were walking among sea turtle nests in Palm Beach Shores, Florida. From there it was up to Louisville, Kentucky, where we were knocked out by a heady mix of contemporary art, southern hospitality and what will probably be the best chicken I'll ever eat.

It is easy to think of the American road trip as a kind of antique. What began as a pioneering blend of adventure and ordeal in the 1800s became a means of self discovery, national and personal, through the first half of the 20th century. Then Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway system, which made the experience faster, more efficient and generally forgettable.

Interstate travel is based on the premise that the journey is a hassle. Forget process, the sooner you get to your destination the better. With their node-like clusters of franchise eateries and brand name beds, Interstates rub the rough edges off the sense of place.

It turns out, of course, that we pretty much like it this way. The fact is that those brand names provide predictability. Think a Hampton Inn is boring? Try sleeping at the Bates Motel.

But as homogenous as the Interstate experience can seem, there are still ways in which regional differences make themselves felt. It starts with billboards. South of the Mason-Dixon line certain themes - defending the unborn, lip smackin' barbeque, and opportunities to buy guns enough to turn even your Volkswagen Golf into a War Wagon - are bound to impress. And as tempting as it is to rely on your smart phone or Garmin for navigation, keep an old-fashioned road atlas near at hand. How else are you going to know about that cemetery for Confederate dead that's perched to the right of Exit 57?

It also helps if something not too major goes wrong. Upon arrival in Savannah, we discovered one of our tires was shot. We were lucky it wasn't a blow-out. But what was luckier still was that, as one thing led to another, we had to turn, as the great Tennessee Williams would have said, to the kindness of strangers. In the course of a single morning we formed attachments, connections we could never have imagined.

Then away we went.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Mitch and Mike: Riding the Hoosier Tiger

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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First Mitch. Then Mike.

Has a ring to it, no?

Indiana's gubernatorial tag team is like its own echo chamber. First Daniels, now the prez of Purdue University, attends a conference of like-minded movers and shakers, including Dick Cheney, Paul Ryan and (no kidding) Apple CEO Tim Cook, in Sea Island, Georgia. While there, he sits on a panel called "How to Fix the States" with two of his biggest fans, governors Rick Scott of Florida and Rick Snyder of Michigan.

Pence shows up at a conference called The New York Meeting, where he speaks to a kind of rightwing Who's Who, with the likes of Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots and Katie Pavlich of Fox News' "Outnumbered."

Daniels, predictably, draws fire from his critics for taking part in a seemingly political event after promising Purdue to stay out of politics.

Pence, predictably, draws fire from his critics for taking part in a seemingly political event, although he claims his New York adventure was all about economic development.

In both cases, those critics sound distinctly whingey, as if they expect both guvs, the once and current, to pretend they're not what they are and always will be: political animals.

There is, of course, another echo playing here. It was at this time about four years ago that many on the Republican side were fervently hoping Mitch Daniels might be cajoled into running for president. New York Times columnist David Brooks called Mitch his party's "spiritual leader."

A Daniels candidacy was not in the cards. But this hasn't kept people from speculating similarly about a potential run by Pence. "If Mike got in the race, I'd probably endorse him immediately," said Republican poobah Dick Armey, going so far as to compare Pence with Ronald Reagan, who, as conservative spiritual leaders go, ranks just to the right of the bald eagle.

It is tempting in 2014 - as it was in 2010 - to say this Republican infatuation, first with Mitch, now with Mike, reflects nothing so much as their party's lack of a truly formidable front runner.

But something else is happening. The fact is Republicans think Indiana is a real success story. As far as the GOP is concerned, we're the Hoosier Tiger, a state they wish all of America could emulate.

This started with Daniels, who slashed government regulations, privatized services whenever he could, cut corporate taxes, eviscerated the unions through "right-to-work" legislation and attained that most revered of all conservative fetishes: a balanced state budget.

Indiana incomes fell during Daniels' tenure. New jobs tended to pay less. But such details do not bother Republicans - it's what they think needs to happen if we're going to compete with the Chinese.

Pence not only inherited Daniels' Indiana, he added wrinkles of his own: another corporate tax cut, as well as stands against the Common Core curriculum and gay marriage. A Medicaid overhaul could be next.

The next echo you hear will come straight from the Republican Party's boiler room.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Adios, Common Core; hello, Hoosier Core

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2014 at 11:00 AM

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So Indiana's finally figured out what makes a good education.

Whew.

Glad that's done.

In case you didn't know it, Indiana is a beacon when it comes to education. Nobody, it seems, is as good at reading, writing and arithmetic as we Hoosiers.

Never mind that a large part of our workforce is considered ill-equipped for 21st century jobs. That, apparently, is just a rumor spread by our jealous competitors in Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky.

Mitch Daniels, remember him? He used to be governor; now he's president of some university. Anyway, Daniels wanted to go all New World Order on Indiana by adopting the Common Core curriculum.

I guess we taught him a think or two.

The Common Core, by the way, was supposed to be another example of the Federal Government stuffing something down the throats of us states. Kind of like what those French do to geese.

Actually, it was what's called a c-o-l-l-a-b-o-r-a-t-i-o-n. State governors and education commissioners from around the country, Indiana included, met with teachers and parents and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to figure out a core curriculum that all kids should be able to master - no matter where they live - by the time they graduate from high school.

But that wasn't good enough for Indiana.

We wanted a curriculum written "by Hoosiers for Hoosiers," as now Gov. Mike Pence put it.

So what did we do? We assembled a group of educators, teachers and parents and even business people to figure out a core curriculum that all kids - Hoosier kids, that is - should be able to master by the time they graduate from high school.

But let's go back to that "by Hoosiers for Hoosiers" bit for a moment. What, exactly, does that mean?

Could it be that Hoosiers need their own curriculum because our kids are so far ahead of the rest of the country that a curriculum that's good enough for 45 other states will hold us back?

Or is there something about our Hoosier culture that is simply so extraordinary - a kind of Hoosier Way - that we need to inculcate it into every little Hoosier skull in order to insure that little skull's ultimate success in a big unHoosier world?

Speaking of which, maybe we need our own Hoosier curriculum to battle the Brain Drain. You know how our kids keep growing up and leaving Indiana for other places? Our Hoosier curriculum might be a way of training our kids so that they either cannot or will not ever want to leave us. The Chinese bound women's feet to slow their mobility; a curriculum by Hoosiers for Hoosiers might do the same thing, only above the shoulders.

In any event, it's a relief we've worked it out. Hoosiers have a curriculum we can call our very own. Teachers have the whole summer to figure out how to teach it. No problem: apparently our state has money to burn. According to Indiana's Legislative Services Agency, bringing teachers up to speed could only cost us, oh, $125 million.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

The cost of income inequality

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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Most of us know something's wrong with our economy. If you're a CEO, things are ducky. But the rest of us are barely keeping up with the cost of living. We depend on two-income households and credit to get by. I just passed a bank advertising vacation loans.

So it comes as no surprise that politicians who base their careers on promising tax cuts have generally gotten our votes. Owing less makes us feel like we're doing better.

For a little while, at least.

Americans have a built-in reluctance to talk about income inequality. Maybe that's because we believe so fervently in fair play - that if you do your best and stick to the rules, things will work out. The idea that the game could be rigged against us hurts more than we want to admit.

But like everything else, income inequality comes with a cost. And that cost keeps getting higher.

One place where this cost gets calculated is our country's nonprofit sector. Nonprofit organizations help to weave what's called our social fabric. Nonprofits use funding from grants and donations to try and fill gaps the government can't or won't. As government services are cut back (those tax cuts), more and more people rely on nonprofits for food, shelter, education and healthcare services. The cultural institutions that provide our communities with living links to their histories and arts are also nonprofit.

And guess what? As the gap between the One Percent and the rest of us gets wider, the demand for nonprofit services grows more intense.

Every year, an organization called the Nonprofit Finance Fund, supported by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and the Ford Foundation, takes the temperature of our nonprofit sector with a survey polling the leaders of more than 5,000 nonprofits nationwide. The 2014 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey was released in April.

For the sixth year in a row, 80 percent of respondents reported an increase in demand for services. Over half of respondents, 56 percent, said they were unable to meet demand in 2013 - the highest reported in the survey's history. More than half of nonprofits (55 percent) have three months or less cash on hand. And 28 percent ended their 2013 fiscal year with a deficit.

"The struggles nonprofits face are not the short-term result of an economic cycle," according to Antony Bugg-Levine, the Nonprofit Finance Fund's chief executive, "they are the results of fundamental flaws in the way we finance social good."

The survey indicated that nonprofits are doing a variety of things to stay afloat, from changing the ways they raise and spend money to collaborating with other organizations and creating better metrics to assess program impact.

But the larger message of this survey is chilling. As the gap between the rich and everyone else widens, the cost of what used to be called a middle-class life gets higher, putting people deeper in debt and making them more vulnerable to life-changing catastrophes.

These people aren't the so-called "takers" some politicians would like to blame. They're our neighbors, our friends, people you pass everyday in the street.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Hoosiers pay more for less

Posted By on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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There's an old story about a man who jumped out a window at the top of a 30-story building.

On his way down, people standing on the lower floors could hear him saying: "So far, so good."

I was reminded of this story when I read the news about how Indiana taxes have been eating up an ever-larger portion of Hoosier incomes over the past 10 years.

According to the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy research organization, we Hoosiers paid 9.5 percent of our incomes in state and local taxes in 2011, a 1.1 percent increase over a 10-year span. This amounts to a $313 per person tax increase. Meanwhile, our per capita incomes decreased by $1,064 during the same period. Indiana has gone from being the 43rd highest taxed state in 2001 to being ranked 22nd highest in 2011.

But we rank 38th in per capita income.

For years we've been told that our lowly income standing was no big deal because our cost if living, including taxes, are cheap.

"I think it's worthwhile to look at our attractive tax rates, as well as our low cost of living," Sen. Brandt Hershman, R- Buck Creek, told the Indianapolis Star last month, poo-poohing our comparatively low rate of per capita income.

Oops.

In fairness, it must be said that the Tax Foundation figures were collected before 2013's five percent cut in the personal income tax.

But that tax cut was accompanied by significant corporate and business tax cuts, which were added to a sweeping cut for corporations enacted in 2011.

The idea, it seems, has been that if Indiana can make doing business here as cheap as possible, the state and local economies will prosper. Being good to the so-called job creators is supposed to be good for everybody.

But what the Tax Foundation's numbers indicate is that while the past 10 years or so have been great for big business owners, those benefits haven't trickled down to rank-in-file Hoosiers.

Consider this: While Indiana has been cutting corporate tax rates, it has actually made its sales tax one of the highest in the nation. This is a tax that hits the lowest income folks the hardest.

And while we've been making it cheaper to do business here, Indiana cities and towns have been forced to deal with shrinking revenues by cutting services, including public safety, health and education.

It would be one thing if we had a state economy that was booming thanks to these policies. If Indiana was a national destination for high-end enterprise and great paying jobs.

But we know this is not the case.

Our low rate of pay, combined with corporate tax cuts and, it must be added, lax environmental regulations, have made us an economic bottom-feeder.

As to job creation, our unemployment rate may be dropping, but so have quality jobs, as manufacturers and service providers seek to enhance profits by replacing people with machines.

So Hoosiers aren't just making less money than workers in most other states, we're actually paying more for fewer services.

As the man said, "So far, so good... "

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hoosier Dems: Don't run away from Obamacare

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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Dear Indiana Democrats,

There's been a lot of speculation lately about how you should position yourselves in relation to the president. It seems that Barack Obama is making many of you nervous. The guy's popularity (never on solid ground in Indiana) has taken a nose dive. Republicans are expected to use the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) like a whoopee cushion to embarrass you.

We all know about the problems the ACA had with its roll-out. Not only that, the law was all but written by private health insurers and big pharma. This made it more about protecting these industries' profits than reforming our health care system. Finally, the Obama Administration has had to offer up so many tweaks, extensions and other revisions to the law, peoples' confidence in its reliability has been tested.

Republicans have made things worse. Instead of working to strengthen the law, they have engaged in a concerted campaign of misinformation in an effort to sabotage the law's chances for success. Remember Death Panels? That's not Obamacare. That's what you get when your private insurance company denies you coverage for a treatment or medicine.

As for Medicaid, thanks to our governor's decision to reject federal monies, many Hoosiers who need coverage will have to do without - or move to Kentucky.

You should call Republicans on this - and on their one-note threat to repeal a law that has already helped people with pre-existing conditions, kept young adults on their parents' plans, and enabled the self-employed to finally get coverage that really is affordable.

But this isn't all you should do. I know that many of you are probably relieved that the ACA passed its first real test on March 31. President Obama predicted 7 million people would sign up for coverage by that date, and that's what happened. While we still don't know how many of those folks were young, or previously uninsured, this is still good news. It shows that a substantial number of Americans want a better deal on health coverage than they've been offered under the old employer-based scheme.

That scheme is part of the problem. One of Obamacare's weakest links is the extent to which it perpetuates employer-based plans. This reduces company profitability and cuts employee take-home pay. For large nonprofit organizations, it's a budget buster. The ACA's unwillingness to cut the knot linking health care with employment was a huge failure of nerve.

You Democrats should admit this. Then say what needs to be done: Provide Medicare for everyone.

Scott Weiland is campaigning for universal Medicare as he runs for an open US Senate seat in South Dakota. Medicare is tried and true; ask anyone over the age of 65. By making it available to every American, we would automatically expand the coverage pool, driving costs down, while protecting providers through federally guaranteed payments.

We know this works. Why not make it work for everyone? Democrats, don't run away from Obamacare. Call it the first step on the road to security Hoosiers really want.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bringing guns to school makes us safer, right?

Posted By on Sun, Mar 30, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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As expected, Gov. Mike Pence has made it legal for adults to keep guns in their cars in school parking lots.

"Gov. Pence believes in the right to keep and bear arms," declared spokeswoman Kara Brooks in an email. "This is a common sense reform that accomplishes the goal of keeping parents and law-abiding citizens from being charged with a felony when they pick their kids up at school or go to cheer the local basketball team."

No one doubted Pence would sign this law. Throughout his political career he has consistently won gold stars from the National Rifle Association, one of his biggest institutional fans. And this law was positioned right smack in the NRA's wheelhouse.

The NRA believes that the trouble with guns is that there aren't enough of them. As NRA boss Wayne LaPierre said after the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Ergo, the more guns there are, including at places like schools, the safer everybody will be.

As far as the NRA is concerned, bringing a gun to school may actually be a kind of public service - it's just a shame adults aren't allowed to pack in the classroom. Yet.

This is what passes for reality in Indiana and any number of other states, like Washington, where lawmakers have introduced a bill that would exempt all firearms and ammo from state sales tax, or South Carolina, where the governor supports a law that would allow people to carry concealed firearms without permits or safety training.

The NRA's version of reality rhymes neatly with movies aimed at adolescent males. You know the ones: the good guys with guns always win.

But there's a problem with this version of reality. It's not based on facts.

If a proliferation of guns really made us safer, Indiana should be like Mayberry on the old Andy Griffith show. In 2013, the Indiana State Police issued 111,000 personal gun permits, up a whopping 83 percent over the previous year.

If the NRA is right, this should make for a peaceable Hoosier kingdom. But look what's happening in Indianapolis. As of March 23, there have been 34 homicides; 30 of them involving guns. At this rate, the city could top 2013, when the death toll hit 142.

A study done last year by Boston University confirmed the obvious, finding that between 1981 and 2010, states with more guns had higher homicide rates.

Since nobody's trying to take peoples' guns away - the Supreme Court settled that in the NRA's favor, thank you very much - you would think Gov. Pence and his friends in the gun lobby would at least try to tell gun owners to cool it when it comes to packing heat around public places, like schools. No such luck.

Makes us feel safer, right?

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