Letters to the Editors: 2012 General Assembly
“Don’t just do something, stand there.” — William F. Buckley
The timid avoid the large, dramatic errors but are dragged down by the small, persistent ones. That is the story of the Statehouse leadership this year, even and especially with a Republican governor and majorities in both houses.
The high legislative offices, wrapped in compromise and purblind to absolutes, dictated the terms of debate for this General Assembly — and a sorry debate it was. Leadership’s scorecard:
- Personal freedom — Wasted political capital and reputation in an absurd stance against even outdoor “smoking kennels.”
- Taxes — Redefined a promised tax return as a deposit on unfunded and extravagant teacher pensions with the remainder distributed per capita. Assented to repeal the onerous inheritance tax ever so gradually but without understanding of the sanctity of private property and not until new revenue could be found (Internet commerce).
- Local government — Led a decade-long crusade to force Indiana’s small governments into larger ones.
- Education reform — Not only failed to challenge the Indiana Collective Bargaining Act but validated it.
- Labor law — Yes, a right-to-work law but only when it became politically convenient and then too little and late to swing jobs our way.
- Social issues — Managed to squash both academic and religious freedom in dead-ending a bill without full debate that would have permitted an individual school administration to choose — arguably or not — to teach alternatives to Darwinian theory along with the theory itself.
Tossed out with all the legislative bath water was something precious — individual liberty, the principle that could differentiate Republicans, the principle that constitutes the most powerful economic engine for all Hoosiers.
Certainly, there was an attempt to “get it” to the degree that “it” would preserve political careers in the midst of a great recession. Yet, the legislative rulers got no closer to a viable economic plan than neo-mercantalism with some Chamber of Commerce cronyism mixed in.
And you can take down the governor’s banner celebrating a cap on property taxes, in fact a judicial mandate that merely shuffled the chairs down to the lower decks. Or as our Dr. Eric Schansberg noted at the time, if this leadership had truly thought taxes were too high it could have cut spending.
It didn’t and it won’t. Here’s what it will do — and persist in doing — regardless of result:
- This leadership, constitutional insecure, must declare every problem a crisis, indifferent to whether a particular situation might right itself without government’s heavy hand.
- It will dismiss critics as simplistic, absurd or dishonest, especially if they present evidence that government’s solution will make things worse.
- Finally, when its policies collapse, insist that the problem would have gotten worse had government not acted.
Thomas Sowell uses a brutal, pluperfect example to illustrate this type of governing, a type routinely tolerated by too many senior Republicans:
“When a baby was killed in a tragic airplane crash in 1989 by being ripped out of its mother’s arms by the force of the impact and being sent hurtling through the cabin, a political ‘solution’ was proposed by having a federal law require babies to be strapped into their own seats own airplanes. But a study by economists indicated that such a law, requiring parents to purchase an extra seat, would divert a portion of the traffic to cheaper alternative modes of transportation on the ground — most of which have higher mortality rates than airplanes. Over a period of a decade, there would be an estimated savings of one baby’s life in airplane crashes, a loss of nine lives in alternative ground transportation and an additional cost of $3 billion.”
1. Thomas Sowell. The Vision of the Anointed, p. 8, Basic Books, 1995.
2. “An Impact Analysis of Requiring Child Safety Seats in Air Transportation.” Child Restraint Systems on Aircraft, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Aviation of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, House of Representatives, July 12, 1990.