"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"

"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"
aka "Miss Victory"

Monday, January 28, 2008

Indiana's Political Caste

SJR8, May, November?

Their paternal tones, crash land in the ears of their peers- their constituents. Unaware and disconnected; the state housed, wax on in the clubby tongue of the rotunda, about property tax "reform." Roaring like lions, they trap mice (township government, state wide a 2% "problem" or $332M of $15.3B), while avoiding the difficult, brave work, of herding elephants (Indiana's excessive bond debt). Best figures available (LSA & DLGF updates welcome!), indicate that Indiana's bond debt is something like $21.6B and GROWING; a statewide problem, 65 times greater than that of township government... meow.

Add 17 floors to the tallest building in Indianapolis, the 48 story Chase Tower, to create a structure that is 65 stories tall. Imagine this 65 story version of the Chase Tower, standing next to a single story White Castle, and you'll get the idea (comparison). Unless you're crave impaired by a slider fixation, you'll notice the tallish building. So, what's with the phantom appetite for township government, when Indiana's bond debt is a problem sixty-five times its size? The answer is special interest. Welcome to the state capitol of Myopolis, where special interests trump general welfare. How do you eat an elephant anyway?

In the absence of good faith or appropriate disclosure by the STATE of Indiana (ahoy staties, let's see some numbers); we'll dart throw an estimate of $21.6B, in total bond indebtedness; assuming, ¢30 of each property tax dollar committed to bond debt is multiplied, by the annual PT collection of ~$6B, and then by a factor of 12 (economist's estimate of the blended rate and terms of total current bonds, again, in the absence of any disclosure by the STATE). Let's be clear, Indiana's excessive bond indebtedness is an undisclosed, perpetual, unspecified lien (ain't that term oxymoronic) on private property; which is unconstitutional. The purpose of law is clarity, not obscurity. The Constitution is every American's document; written as such, and not the loopholed refuge of lawyers who fail to hear their higher calling.

Nationally, the President and Congress are busting a speedy move to avoid election woes, 'er recession (two or more consecutive quarters of negative growth in GDP). One economist, a true friend of the citizen, and reasoned proponent of repeal, estimates the current quarter (Q-1 of 2008, factored for a margin of error), will range between negative growth of 1.3%, to barely but hopefully positive growth of .1%. While folks in D.C. scurry to "package" the appearance of a solution (sound familiar?), they ignore the historic, tried and true solution of cutting marginal tax rates, a la JFK / Johnson / Reagan. In the beltway, the pulse of flashing barricades is routinely confused with club strobe; a place where principled proaction is traded away and devalued, in exchange for political reaction, dancing to the tunes of special interests. Rather than address the problem, our economist friend explained, "They're [D.C.] going to drop cash from helicopters on the American people." Symbolism over substance, sound familiar? Government continues to insist on problem making with the excuse of "having an answer," when the real answer is government getting out of the way, not acting as a free market barricade.

As a citizen, it's difficult to understand or accept, the profound disconnect between Hoosiers and their government. It was detachment on display at the State of The State Address (Tues, 1/15); as some legislators leaving the chamber, felt obliged to make comments in paternal tones, to the 200+ supporters of repeal, assembled outside the chamber. "You don't want to pay for anything," mischaracterized one legislator (never minding that it's citizens who pay for everything). Citizens assembled that evening with a simple purpose; to be heard on the issue of repeal, and insist that it get a fair hearing on floor of both houses. The failure of this legislature, to allow open discussion and a vote on the floor of both houses, is the absolute denial of free speech.

Yet another legislator refused to give his name or clarify several comments that he made; specifically his suggestion to this observer that he was from the "other side of the aisle" (vs. those unwashed, assembled outside the chamber door). As he continued, his party affiliation became apparent and I stopped my less than ten second, quick count, at 6-7-8, members of "his" party, within direct view and our assembled ranks; realizing that he and his colleagues are completely unaware, that the repeal movement is omnipartisan. His unwitting arrogance and disconnectedness were suddenly familiar, in a November 2007, east end of Market Street, sort of way.

Add to these episodes, the Senate Republican caucus' recent denial of free speech and representative government, to all Hoosiers; by their abandonment of SJR8 (Thur, 1/17), the bill for repeal, killed by their decision to study it to death, in a "summer study." How many more years of summer study are required, before these folks GRADUATE?!? How many summers have these same Senators spent, studying the plan (HB1001) which was created last year and just passed in the Indiana house? Which, if any, elimination plans did those Senators truly study during the same period? Doesn't the elimination idea go back several years (Indiana Farm Bureau, etc.)? There's a profound sincerity deficit here.

Indiana's beloved, former Governor, Otis "Doc" Bowen, wrote a recent editorial, "Time for action is now." Doc explains that "visible, lasting and substantial" property tax relief was a primary goal of his first year in office (1973), in a similar environment of rapid tax increases and runaway spending. While his editorial is an endorsement of House Bill 1001; the very architect of Doc Bowen's property tax relief plan, the guy with the numbers, was Dr. Bill Styring; a well credentialed economist (see utube feature on this website) who tells us that the only rational solution to the property tax problem, is total elimination, everything else, he says, is a "radical idea." Exactly what's going on here is hard to say (Gubernatorial etiquette, an editorial written by a fine man to calm the fears of seniors facing homelessness, or?). Remember however, that until very recently, and for a very long time (like last fall, after the State Fair and before the election); Farm Bureau Co-op (that's right they had an entire booth at the State Fair devoted to the ELIMINATION of property tax, but don't worry their members are also confused), held a position firmly in favor of REPEAL. So much change in such a short period of time reminds us that change is indeed the true constant.

Asking our representatives to exhibit the courage of their convictions and expose them to open process (floor discussions and votes on the repeal issue, in both houses) is not too much to ask. It's the right thing for them to do and the conscious (in touch) among them know it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What Governor Bowen actually said was that Daniels' plan "...IS THE BEST PLAN ON THE TABLE...." Daniels, et al, have pretty well cleared the table of real solutions. Bowen's 1973 plan put controls on the levies, not cosmetic, un-constitutional caps on variable assessments.