I wish that we lived in a world where the legitimacy of a personal relationship commitment wasn't connected to whether or not a given government or institution was willing to recognize it as such. I wish that the sanctity and significance of marriage or other forms of commitment were derived solely from the care, intention and hard work that its participants (perhaps including their families, friends and surrounding community) invested to make and maintain those vows.
But that is not the world we live in, at least not anymore, or yet. For now, we ask and allow our state and federal governments, religious institutions and cultural leaders to tell us what kinds of personal relationship commitments are legitimate and what kinds are not.
Continue reading Toward less discrimination in Indiana
(This blog post has been updated since the original publishing - see details below.)
This coming Wednesday at the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce candidate debates I'll be participating in some post-debate analysis with my colleagues on the Palladium-Item Editorial Board.
As a part of researching for that and for my own voting, I went in search of information that state and county candidates have made available online about themselves and their views, especially in contested races.
What I found was disappointing: state and local candidates are barely making any information at all about themselves and their views, plans and credentials available to voters.
Continue reading Wayne County 2012 election candidate information
The Indiana General Assembly is advancing the so-called "Right to Work" legislation, with the state Senate expected to vote on the proposal Wednesday that the state House approved a version of last week.
Putting aside the substance of the legislation for a moment, the whole debate has been a fascinating exercise in political framing:
Using "Right to Work" as a label is a clever and strategic way to frame what the legislation is about. If you are "for people having jobs," how could you dare be against their "right to work"? Any critic of "right to work" laws has to try to find some other meaningful label to use for themselves that isn't derived from the original name, but in doing so they lose some of the attention of voters. (From what I can tell, the phrase "right to work" was introduced when a group of business owners in the southern U.S. formed the National Right to Work Committee in the 1970s to try to work against union efforts.)
The "Big Labor" bashing that happened last year across the Midwest set the stage for the "Union" label itself to be tainted to some degree in the minds of many voters ("Wait, are those unionized teachers really just trying to squeeze out every last taxpayer dollar while they sit around in luxury doing nothing? Golly!"), and so at least in part because of this association, I don't think unions have succeeded in being the rallying point for those who oppose these proposals.
Continue reading Framing and Right to Work
Indiana Senator Mike Delph from District 29 has introduced Senate Bill 146 which would remove the option of straight party ticket voting from Indiana election ballots. As Doug Masson notes, this change would probably favor the Republican party in most districts.
I think straight party ticket ballots generally only do a disservice to Indiana voters.
At best, it enables a kind of impulsive loyalty to a vague label that can mean very different things to different people.
Continue reading Removing straight party voting in Indiana - SB146
The state of Indiana recently discovered it had lost track of $320 million in taxpayer dollars, payments collected from corporations over the last couple of years. This during a time when the state was cutting funding in the millions of dollars for superfluous things like education. The problem was attributed to a "programming error," presumably in the software used to manage state accounts.
Here were some of the phrases state administrators and legislators are using to describe the error:
- we maybe need a "fresh set of eyes"
- "bank error in your favor"
- "We drew the Community Chest card"
- "It did seem...those payments were light"
- "Christmas came early"
- "We know what happened and we're correcting it."
Am I the only one who's a little bit disturbed at this trivialization of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars being hidden away for years, even if through omission or oversight?
Continue reading When you lose track of millions in taxpayer dollars
In 2007, organic prepared food producer Really Cool Foods announced that it would be building a multi-plant production complex in Cambridge City, Indiana and investing over $100 million in the area. The announcement was met with great joy and significant incentives from state and local governments:
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Really Cool Foods up to $3.05 million in performance-based tax credits, up to $165,000 in training grants and will provide Cambridge City officials with a $200,000 grant to assist in off-site infrastructure improvements needed for the project. Wayne County officials offered the company 50 acres of land, $165,000 in grants and a 10-year property tax abatement.
The facility opened in October of 2008 with 250 of the projected 1,000 jobs to start, and over the last few years the company has had numerous challenges reaching initially estimated milestones of investment and jobs created.
Today, the company told workers who showed up for their morning shift that the facility was closing, and in a press release sent after 9 AM, announced the company is shutting down.
A couple of initial thoughts and questions about this unfortunate announcement:
Continue reading The closing of Really Cool Foods
That title really roped you in, huh? Allow me to explain.
Earlier today I attended the Indiana University 2012 Business Outlook Panel in its visit to Richmond. It's a group that "has presented national, state, and local economic forecasts for the coming year to business, political, and community leaders of Indiana" for the last 38 years. I attended the same gathering back in 2005 and I have to say that today's commentary wasn't much different from what it was six years ago: "things are not great with the economy, but there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic."
As I noted in my reflections from the 2005 event, there were a couple of troubling ideas that permeated the remarks, especially from the panelists looking at global and national trends.
Continue reading Quantitative easing and structural unemployment