Half Past the Month: A GOP Moratorium on Enterprise

March 13, 2015

“‘Bipartisan’ usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.” — George Carlin

PASSAGE IN THE INDIANA HOUSE of a moratorium on enterprise, in this case nursing-home construction, is cause to wonder why the Super Majority is such a big deal. Democrats could have done that by themselves and saved GOP donors tens of thousands in campaign contributions.

We asked a friend involved in the backroom discussions how nominally conservative Republicans could vote for such statist folly. “Easy,” he answered, “just leave philosophy, reason and accountability at the curb.”

And Matt Bell, lobbying on behalf of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, had a facetious suggestion for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: Maybe there should be a moratorium on new restaurants that can’t guarantee a 90-percent occupancy rate, thereby saving the state and local governments inspection costs.

He made exactly the right point. Indiana government, regardless of the market distortions of Medicaid on the nursing-home industry, must keep out of the business of determining the economic future of its communities.

The House, in defiance of both actuarial science and economics, sent a message to all investors that our state is not where they want to invest. Such players — unless they happen to have political connections in Indianapolis — prefer those states in which government stays off the field.

They won’t need to wait for the measure to take effect to make their judgment. For there are predictable but largely ignored effects of such government intrusion, well-intended though it may be. The economists file them away as “unintended consequences.”

Opponents of this particular moratorium hold compelling research showing the state would lose $463 million in economic impact over the next two years and $22.1 million in state and local tax revenue through 2017.

But let the wonks argue about whether those figures are high or low. Simply ask yourself how much you think the House GOP leadership knows about the nursing-home industry. Enough to micromanage your grandmother’s care for the next decade?

More important than your grandmother, the moratorium denies Hoosiers something presumed to be basic across the generations — the right to sell one’s labor. This would be the labor of low- and middle-class workers in a wide range of trades who, after a Great Recession, don’t have much else left to sell.

The moratorium will have the effect that its opponents predict: of decreasing choice; of removing the incentive for existing facilities to improve their physical environments or quality of care; and of dampening the transformative economic developments that new transitional healthcare centers could bring to the state.

So why, again, was it so important that we voted Republican?

— Craig Ladwig

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