Morris: Captain Holcomb Sets Sail

January 28, 2019

by Leo Morris

I hired someone to do something around my house recently, and when the job was done, I texted a message of appreciation: “Good job at a fair price. Thanks.”

Don’t know what I expected – perhaps a hearty “You’re welcome” or a cheery “Don’t mention it, that’s what we’re here for” – but I heard nothing back.

That bothered me until I finally realized they had probably felt insulted. In these days of hyperbolic blarney, “Good job at a fair price” undoubtedly sounds like faint praise indeed. Nothing less than “Super effort! Nobody in the history of the universe has ever done a more excellent job!” will do.

But they’re lucky I didn’t say what I could have:

“That was satisfactory, a really earnest effort. And I am sure you are ready to take your achievement to the next level. Of course, it will require long-term commitment and focus and perhaps new resources and new ways of doing

That’s how Gov. Holcomb talks. I took it from his third State of the State address, which I have been trying to fathom for days and days. He spent a long stretch at the beginning talking about how utterly wonderful things are here in Indiana.

More Hoosiers than ever are working. Foreign investment has tripled. Tourism is up, wages are up, in-migration is up, home sales are hot, building permits have surged, and our tech ecosystem is growing. And all that has been achieved while making government more efficient and fiscally sound, balancing the budget and keeping nearly $2 billion in the bank.

Whew. After all that bragging, what could possibly come next?

Me, I would have concluded right there with “Good job at a fair price” and sent everybody home. But the wheels of the public engine can never be stilled – ever forward they must roll. So, the governor had no choice but to promise to take the state to the Next Level, a phrase he likes so well he has described his whole agenda with it.

The governor wasn’t too clear on exactly where that level is or how we will know when we are there, but getting to it will certainly keep state government active, doing things like “cultivating a strong and diverse economy,” building and rebuilding our infrastructure, “strengthening our human infrastructure,” ending the opioid crisis, thwarting hate crimes, making schools safer, ensuring universal connectivity and on and on.

Busy, busy, busy.

Apparently, Gov. Holcomb and his cohorts are going to bring all this about, which means I don’t have to do a damn thing. That is fortunate, since I expect I will be busy trying to take my own life to the Next Level. Or, as I like to put it, “building and rebuilding my personal infrastructure.”

My personal goal is to be smarter, younger, handsomer and richer when I reach my Next Level. Alas, I haven’t found any historical evidence of anyone ever reaching such a level, so I suppose I will just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing and try to do it better. To (slightly) paraphrase the governor, even if I burst off the starting line and put the pedal to the metal, I cannot just maintain my course but must throttle up.

That sounds a lot like what Indiana will be doing to reach its Next Level. As the governor says, our ship of state was taking on water so quickly that it was dead in the water, but we have turned that sucker 180 degrees so now we just have to sail that better course. (Aha, that’s where that pesky Next Level is – behind us.)

I look forward to the State of the Union address, the details of which have been shrouded in doubt by the government shutdown (talk about a good job at a fair price). I am anxious to know whether the country is a car or a ship so that we can determine if we have to put the pedal to the metal or turn the course around 180 degrees.

And I’ll do my Level Best to pay attention.

“If our private sector isn’t doing well, then surely our public sector will be first to be strained.”

Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at


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