When I was a 21-year-old freshman on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, I often found myself stumbling through the early morning haze of Dunn's Woods on my way to a 7:30 a.m. class.
Sometimes the stumbling was caused by the ancient, uneven brick pathways that ran throughout Dunn's Woods. And sometimes the stumbling was caused by residual alcohol in my system.
Why would an over-age freshman, reeking of alcohol, stumble through a densely wooded area at the crack of dawn?
Answer: To go to an Economics class. Of course!
Sitting in a sterile classroom before sunrise, in a muddled mental state, listening to an equally confused teaching assistant mumble through a lecture on macro and microeconomics is not among my favorite college memories.
At least I learned why economics is referred to as the dismal science.
Of course, all of the foregoing occurred prior to the arrival of Morton J. Marcus at Indiana University.
Morton Marcus is a business economist and a leading expert on Indiana economics and public policy. For over 30 years he was Director of the Indiana Business Research Center of Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.
Marcus now writes a column on economics and policy issues that he syndicates to a number of midwest media outlets, including The Shelbyville News. He has a knack for distilling complicated economic issues into understandable and often entertaining essays.
His most recent column should be required reading for public officeholders at all levels of government, not just our "shameful state legislators".
Read his column below. If you agree with the content, don't hesitate to share it with elected officials.
Our Legislature: 'The Shame of Indiana'
By MORTON J. MARCUS
INDIANAPOLIS - Most of the 150 men and women who sit in the Indiana General Assembly are fine people. This column, however, is too short to detail how they become a collective disgrace.
They continue to vote along strict party lines. Virtually every Democrat and Republican is in lock-step with the caucus leadership. Even their web sites are segregated. House Republicans and Democrats have their own websites as do Senate Democrats and Republicans. Four websites announcing to all that party is the over-riding organizing principle for these puppies.
Are your interests being represented or are they being sacrificed to the interests of partisanship? When we read that all the Democrats in the House voted against all the Republicans in the House on a given issue, we know that independence has been cruelly killed by the leadership of each party. The same applies to the Senate.
The result is a stalemate over the budget. Once more we are seeing our state's future stretched on the rack of politics by the masters of the legislature. Each party ignores the governor's attempts at moderation by attempting to sell out our future for votes in the next election.
We can do something about this. We can elect a legislature in 2010 that is committed to nonpartisan redistricting so that elections are contested with greater vigor. This may be the best way of getting rid of the deadwood that leads to deadlock. Otherwise we might have to demand legislative term limits to eradicate the infestation that afflicts us today.
Consider this: The legislature is seeking to cover the financial disgrace of the Indianapolis sports facilities under the Capital Improvements Board (CIB). Sweetheart deals at Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Colts) and Conseco Fieldhouse (home of the Pacers) left CIB without enough cash to cover expenses.
Solutions proposed in the legislature: Increased taxation and a new casino for downtown Indianapolis (possibly on the White River or on a moat surrounding the Statehouse).
Long ago legislatures nationwide decided that sports facilities are public goods. Economists normally define public goods as those where people can not be excluded from use. While there are no "pure" public goods, traffic lights and street lights are good examples. The safety I gain from those lights is not diminished by your use of them. Whereas, if I can afford a seat at a Colts game, someone else can not use it.
Indianapolis, Gary, South Bend, and Fort Wayne have been convinced that new professional sports facilities "deserve" public money. The same cities do little of substance to support the arts, but shell out for athletic entertainment. The argument is that downtown will benefit; restaurants will flourish, tourism will be increased, and kids will have fun.
Now, to help out the CIB, our Indiana General Assembly is seeking to increase existing taxes and find new sources of revenue. That an Indianapolis casino would spell the death of casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville, while diminishing the attractiveness of other gaming venues in the state, is not of concern to the proponents of the bill.
This legislature wants to define school days in terms of teachers instead of students. When the superintendent of public instruction wants snow days made up in full, the legislature is willing to have teachers engage in other activities as a substitute for teaching. Meeting with parents and improving skills are important; perhaps teachers should have separate compensation for these activities, but not at the expense of teaching.
This is the legislature that cut unemployment taxes while raising benefits, squandered a surplus and now faces a massive deficit. We, the people of Indiana, must demand a legislature whose purpose is not politics but the public welfare.
Posted: Monday, April 20, 2009
Article comment by:
Up in Smoke
I'm with you, Morton....
But people have been writing those messages and saying those things for decades - and we still have a pathetic state legislature.
People run for these offices not to be public servants - but to improve their personal upward mobility.
Until people are elected who have it in their hearts to serve other human beings rather than to use them for selfish gain - then nothing is really going to change.
Of course, this all applies to our national Reps. and Senators as well. Are you listening, Dan Burton and Luke Messer?