Indiana presents a textbook study of environmental quality being sacrificed so that wealthy business interests can grow even wealthier. Environmental writer Peter Montague notes that these so called “free marketeers” treat our environment as though it were an “inexhaustible supermarket for raw materials and a bottomless free toilet for wastes.”
Retired IU economist Morton Marcus has written scathingly that Indiana is a “national joke and environmental disgrace.”
Retired IU economist Morton Marcus has written scathingly that Indiana is a “national joke and environmental disgrace.” How dirty is Indiana? Various studies confirm that Indiana is a mess. • U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) published a report in January 2003 called “Toxic Releases & Health.” Our state ranked third in pounds of cancer-causing chemicals released by industry to the environment in 2000. Even more depressing, cumulative releases for the period 1987-2000 for these same cancer-causing chemicals found us second only to that Pollution Paradise — Texas. (Texas 245 million pounds; Indiana 225 million pounds.) • A report by the Institute for Southern Studies titled “Gold & Green 2000” ranked Indiana 48th in environmental health. The Gold & Green compared 20 environmental indicators (green) such as air, water quality, pollution subsidies, sprawl, etc. while the 20 economic indicators (gold) included workplace deaths, health insurance, wages, etc. Officials of both Texas and Indiana are famous for their business-friendly coddling of cowboy capitalists. These elected officials and their business patrons tell us that we must sacrifice our environment for “good jobs.” Let’s check the “Gold & Green 2000” report and see if that’s true. Environment (Green): Texas 46th and Indiana 48th while the economy (Gold) finds Texas 43rd and Indiana 40th. The report concludes, “States with the best environmental records also offer the best job opportunities and climate for long-term economic development.” Professor Paul Templet analyzed this study and others and found that dirty, degraded, economically unhealthy, high-subsidy states like Indiana provide an important benefit to wealthy, clean states: “In general, profits tend to leak from high-subsidy, low-income states to low-subsidy, high-income states ...” That leakage, concludes Templet, “goes to states where the owners live ... a situation analogous to colonialism in which the mother country draws resources and wealth from the colony ...” In other words, many people who benefit from polluting Indiana and its poor economy don’t even live here. A massive international study done for the World Economic Forum (WEF) confirms the conclusion of “Gold & Green 2000” that environmental performance does not “come at a price in terms of economic success.” It also offers a strong clue as to the cause of this sad situation: The level of government corruption had a “high correlation with overall-environmental performance.” Maybe government corruption is why an obscenely expensive, environmentally disastrous highway is being built in Southwest Indiana. The new terrain I-69 highway route, chosen by Gov. O’Bannon and endorsed by Gov. Kernan, delights a group of highway lobbyists, consultants and contractors. State officials choose to ignore the wishes of the legions of non-campaign contributors known as regular citizens. And what about the $214 million in recent tax abatements and infrastructure improvements from Hoosier taxpayers to super-profitable Eli Lilly & Co.? Lilly is a major emitter of those cancer-causing chemicals mentioned earlier in the PIRG study. Why cut into profits when Hoosiers will act as free pollution filters for a polluter’s waste stream? Lilly also emits another form of toxic pollution — campaign contributions to helpful, ever grateful elected officials. A recent university study shows that since 1991, Indianapolis has invested less public money in roads, schools and other infrastructure than the rest of the nation. The study’s author, Sam Nunn, predicts that “quality of life” in Indianapolis could slide if the trend continues. A report last fall by Self magazine shows that it can’t slide far. The report titled “The Healthiest Places for Women to Live” examined many factors, including life expectancy, crime, cancer, exercise, and rated Indianapolis 197th out of the 200 largest American cities. The mayor may think that the tens of millions he lavishes on corporate tax abatements and welfare to local team owners are responsible for Indy skyrocketing up from an ignominious 199th in 2002 to its present 197th slot. But does anyone voluntarily move to an unhealthy city to be near overpaid, publicly-subsidized professional athletes? Our entire system of elected officials has been captured by wealthy campaign contributors and lobbyists. Instead of exploring ways to end the extortion of “business incentives,” these officials waste precious tax dollars bribing polluting industries, wealthy team owners and other greedy interests, either to come here or stay here. Instead of listening to the needs of ordinary citizens, officials dance to the tune of their funders. We simply must end the legalized bribery of private cash funding public elections! Perhaps then we’ll see public money invested in public needs and not squandered on private greed. Jack Miller is a free-lance writer and co-author of To Market, To Market: Reinventing Indianapolis. He is the coordinator for the Indiana Alliance for Democracy and past president of the Hoosier Environmental Council.