The Outstater: The Hoosier Political Emigrant

January 19, 2015

(For the use of the membership only.)

THOSE WHO MAKE THEIR LIVING at the politics’ edge must guard against resentment and despair. Yet it is difficult to hide dislike for a man who, finding indoor work representing the democratic interests of his neighbors, cashes in his pension, unused campaign contributions and whatever else he has been able to grab from a hapless constituency to flee the state for the company of a better sort of people — or worse, and continue to “fight” for us as a Washington-based appointee or lobbyist.

The rationales don’t bear examination, all of them along the line of “wanting to be in a better position to serve Hoosiers.” Nor do you need a list of the politicians who fit the profile; you can tell them by the cut of their suits (your tax dollars at work).

Representative democracy in such cases is reduced to a jobs program for the tricky and glib. So, campaign ploy or not, we applaud former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s proposal for a “part-time” Congress. The pay of congressmen and the budgets for their offices would be cut in half. This is Perry spilling the political beans:

“We have a lot of well-intentioned members of Congress, but they have become creatures of Washington. They get paid more than three times the average American family, and they have doubled their own budgets in the last decade. They are completely detached from the people, who are struggling to get by and can’t vote to raise their own pay.”

HOW DO YOU DEFINE CRONY CAPITALISM? Let us help. The governor’s economic development director was in my town this week developing his own economic development, one that drew suspiciously bipartisan support from our Democrat mayor.

The project, set in a square mile of heavily subsidized downtown “growth,” will encumber $7 million more in city money for 167 apartment units (do the math). There also will be the contribution of land for the obligatory parking garage to serve apartments that rent for as much as $1,400 a month.

Promoters say it will be a “transformational” step forward, a description that should illicit a grab-your-wallet reflex among the middle-class. But “general” property taxes will not be used, and impropriety is not suspected. No, it’s just run-of-the-mill insider baseball rather than exceptional insider baseball.

THIS FITS NICELY into what we have come to see as a pattern of building Potemkin villages around the state. It results from what the local progressives imagine is the way things are done in the Big City. Most of the ideas, though, are decades old, overheard during Babbitt-like trips to the East Coast.

Such is the case in Carmel, Bloomington and the like where they have discovered Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist, and his “creative class.” Dr. Florida’s big idea is that downtown development is predicated on high concentrations of young people, artists, musicians, the hip-cool, alternative thinkers and those delicately described as “high bohemian.”

And now even staid Fort Wayne has bought in to this idea. The city’s savvy are gathering every eco-devo dollar they can find to encourage suitable digs for such alternative lifestyles — all in a downtown stuffed with tax-financed projects from the last eco-devo fad.

But oops, the idea is suddenly passé, or so suggests a New York Times essay with the unsettling headline, “Is Life Better in America’s Red States?” Jim Geraghty of National Review Online explains why an Indiana city might be better off remaining backward:

“On close inspection, talent-clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits. Its benefits flow disproportionately to more highly skilled knowledge, professional and creative workers whose higher wages and salaries are more than sufficient to cover more expensive housing in these locations. While less-skilled service and blue-collar workers also earn more money in knowledge-based metros, those gains disappear once their higher housing costs are taken into account.”

And Joel Kotkin of Forbes magazine, quoted by Geraghty, dares rain on Dr. Florida’s parade:

“The sad truth is that even in the more plausible ‘creative class,’ cities such as New York and San Francisco, the emphasis on ‘hip cool’ and high-end service industries has corresponded with a decline in their middle class and a growing gap between rich and poor.”

AN ECONOMIST told me some years ago that the local impact of a professional football team was no greater than three Wal-Mart stores. That, combined with the fact that a team and its coaching staff rarely include anyone from the marketing area and that ticket pricing is pegged above most of our heads, makes it difficult to explain a rabid local fan base. They might as reasonably pick their favorite team by jersey colors, mascot or numerology.

I pick mine by the quality of ownership, believing that the principle of private property is at least a principle. That is in a sport in which the commodity is so scarce you need a lawyer to determine the completion of a forward pass, the eligibility of a receiver or the pounds per square inch of air in a football.

And no, I wasn’t a Colts fan this season.

— Craig Ladwig



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