In the past week, the Committee on Elections and Apportionment failed to move HB 1014 along to the full House. That anti-gerrymandering bill calls for establishing a commission to oversee redistricting. Unless bold action has been taken since this writing, the bill is dead for this session.
There is no other bill of greater importance before the Indiana General Assembly. A redistricting commission would help correct the corrupt practice of providing safe seats for Indiana's congressional representatives and those holding positions in the State Senate and House.
However, our self-serving, one party legislature has no interest in promoting democracy. Even those in the minority party have little concern for fair primaries and elections.
Indiana will continue to have a legislature that is not representative of the people and not focused on the future of our economy. Instead, the General Assembly will persist as an instrument of the powerful and the privileged. The priorities of slumbering and backward industries will prevail, subjecting Hoosier communities and workers to a spiral of weak and mediocre economic performance.
Let's look at just one example of how it works. In January 2011, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce issued "Right to Work and Indiana's Economic Future." The report suggested a grim future for the state, if RTW did not pass. It was as impressive as the performance of a stage magician, a masterpiece of misdirection.
At that time Right to Work (RTW) was in place in 22 of the 50 states. With the U.S. and Indiana in the massive Great Recession, the General Assembly, grasping at anything which promised more jobs, passed RTW in 2012. The law did not clear the Indiana Supreme Court until November 2014.
The Chamber's 2011 report showed the growth of Indiana's Gross State Product (GSP) and Per Capita Personal Income (PCPI) lagged well behind both the 22 RTW states and the 28 Non-RTW states from 1977 to 2008. Clearly, the Hoosier experience was due to more than the presence or absence of RTW. This may have come as a surprise to legislators who had been dozing for the past three decades.
What then happened without RTW during the period 2008 - 2015? In terms of Gross State Product, Indiana had the 24th best growth, ahead of 12 of the RTW states. In terms of Per Capita Personal Income, Indiana had the 25th best growth rate, ahead of 11 of the RTW states.
In effect, Indiana's economic performance 2008 - 2015 without RTW was very average, traditionally mediocre, but better than the 1977 to 2008 period. The legislature had been bulldozed again by special interests and their specious, ideological onslaught.
Redistricting should bring about more careful consideration of facts by improving the quality of representation, removing the deadwood, and reducing the impact of special interests. But can it be done with the current low quality of representation, the accumulated deadwood, and the dominance of special interests?
Let's check the scorecard right now in the world of politics.
The president of the United States now is on the edge of war with the nation's judicial branch. His angry tweets about a federal judge and now an entire federal appellate court have prompted widespread criticism from, among others, his own nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.
The president's counselor, Kellyanne Conway, now seems headed for an ethics investigation because it appears she broke a federal law by hawking products produced by the president's daughter on national television.
National security advisor Michael Flynn resigned Monday evening amid controversy. Flynn allegedly discussed with Russia's ambassador the sanctions imposed on Russia for attempting to influence the election before Trump was officially in office.
And Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, found herself stifled by Republican leadership and prevented from reading a 30-year-old letter from a civil rights icon on the Senate floor. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, utters a sentence that has become a new rallying cry for the feminist and progressive movements — "nevertheless, she persists."
Meanwhile, back here in the Hoosier state, far from the circus in the nation's capital, Indiana's leaders go about their work without much fuss.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, quietly addresses a decades-old injustice and pardoned Keith Cooper. And, with a similar lack of fanfare, Holcomb signed an executive order declaring a disaster emergency at East Chicago's SuperFund site and ended negotiations with Agile Networks to maintain and market the state's communications network.
The governor also, quietly but persistently, has been encouraging both legislators and citizens to start thinking of taxing and spending decisions the way grownups should — by looking exclusively not at cost or at benefit, but by considering the relationship between the two factors.
While the new governor has been going about his work the way adults do, the members of the Indiana General Assembly by and large have resisted the temptation to indulge in the needlessly bitter and divisive battles that have split the state in recent years and diverted our attention from larger and more pressing issues.
Instead, Hoosier lawmakers have focused their time and attention on trying to figure out solutions to long-term challenges, such as how to pay for the necessary repair and maintenance of Indiana's crumbling roads and bridges. They have continued to do so in the face of sputtering opposition from tea party-type activists, who find the notion that things have costs to be a disturbing revelation.
The governor thus far has refused to commit himself to any specific solution to the roads-and-bridges challenge. Possibly this is because Holcomb realizes a couple of things. The first is that, as governor, his moment of maximum influence on this issue will come later in the process, when his weight might tip the balance. The second is that, if there is a significant difference of opinion, he will find it easier to reconcile the sides if he serves as an honest and open broker from the beginning.
In short, while the federal government finds itself consumed by one embarrassing and confidence-sapping sideshow after another, Hoosier elected officials have eschewed exhibitionism for once and are simply going about their work.
Just like real people do.
Who would have thought that Indiana's state government would become an oasis of relative sanity in an increasingly crazy world?
My name is Morhaf Al-Achkar.
I am a family doctor at Indiana University and work at Methodist hospital. I am also a professor at the School of Medicine. Over the past five years, I have trained many family medicine residents, taught hundreds of medical students and physician's assistant students. They are now caring for thousands of patients throughout the country.
I am a proud Syrian and came to the U.S. as an immigrant ten years ago. My sister — a neuroscientist and professor at the University of California — and her family are refugees. My brother, a professor in Syrian and now an engineer in the UK, and his three kids who are studying pure math, physics, and medicine are refugees in Europe.
My dad, a 72-year-old economics professor, also found refuge in Maryland after he lost all his fortune to the war in Syria. His wife is now trapped in Saudi Arabia — he may not be able to see her. She can't come and if he leaves he can't return.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, I was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. My disease is so advanced that no treatment out there will cure me or even make me live longer. Patients in my situation are given 4 to 10 months to live.
I have metastatic cancer. I may not be here in few months and my family — because they are Syrians —can't come to visit me.
I can't speak on behalf of the Syrian refugees who have experienced the shelling and bombardments of their homes. My words cannot describe their unimaginable suffering. I can't look them in the eyes to try to understand their pain living with the loss of a mother, a father, a brother, or a sister, and facing imminent death every day — and now the hatred of the world. I can't see their side of the story. I can only look inside myself and try to imagine what they feel.
My suffering is not even close to that of the refugees who have faced death and the questions about the meaning of their suffering, and the longing to be just normal.
I don't expect anyone of you to be able to help me. It is my destiny and cancer is my battle. Syrians refugees, however, have the right to expect of you and me way more. We can do something for them and yes we should. We can let them in just like what we wish ours to do to us if we become victims of brutality and had to wander looking for refuge. Refugees should be welcome.
The attack on refugees, immigrants, and Muslims is part of Trump's war on the most vulnerable among us. It is an attack on our values and on the moral and the beautiful within us.
Closing our borders and building the walls is part of a self-defeating mindset — "Let's put America first and who cares about the rest of the world." If we believe this then tomorrow someone will call, "Let's put our state first; we don't give a shit about others." Another would say, "Let's put our city first." Then, "Let's put our neighborhood first."
Then someone will say, "I am putting myself first, who cares about my patients, who cares about my residents, who cares about my students?" or, "I am putting myself first, who cares about my children!"
This is not, however, a moral position that we can face the world with. This is not the America that we want as home.
I have metastatic cancer and my family can't come to say goodbye.
Syrians are not numbers. Our suffering has names and has a face.