THE BATTLE TO DESTROY SOCIAL SECURITY – FDR’S SUCCESS STILL RANKLES THE REPUBLICANS

As the recent mind numbing memories of fiscal collapse diminish and the public readies itself for the next round of infighting over another potential shutdown and debt ceiling crisis, Social Security is high on the hit list for the Republican penchant to privatize.  They won’t achieve a dismantling of the system – yet – but what they will try to do is leverage small bits and pieces to chink away at what has been one of the most successful programs in U.S. history.

Social security was established in 1935 by President Franklin Roosevelt during the Depression.  Since that time, ending Social Security has been a “raison d’etre” for various cobbled-together factions in the Republican Party.   Their continued failure to engineer its demise certainly weighs heavily on their minds as each year rolls around and Social Security is still in place and operating as it should.

The following video highlights the efforts by the Koch Brothers and their supported Think Tanks – and I use the word “think” loosely – to implant into the minds of the public that Social Security is a failure and is bankrupt.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Social Security fund has somewhere between a $2.6 trillion and $2.9 trillion balance, depending on the source consulted.

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BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK – BUT THERE’S GOT TO BE A MORNING AFTER

Need I say anything about yesterday’s election results?  Probably not, but I will anyways!  The morning after elections is always full of disappointments for the losing party and candidates, but it is also a time to regroup and understand that there is hope.  So here is my assessment – purely personal of course – on the Indiana races:

Senate – Sheriff Ellsworth vs. Carpetbagger Coats:

Coats was hand-picked to drop back into Indiana after Evan Bayh decided to self-limit his senate terms.  Coats and his wife were all set to retire in North Carolina – review the clip where he stated “if you don’t tell the good people of Indiana” referring to his plans to get out of Dodge permanently (although he hadn’t lived in Indiana for over a decade) and make his retirement home in North Carolina.  He even noted how excited he was at the prospect of registering and voting in North Carolina.

Of course, the issue of residency reared its ugly head, so he followed what is becoming an all-too-common path to running for office – he rented a space in the appropriate jurisdiction –  in this case, Indiana – to establish residency.  I would imagine it is a studio or something not too expensive since he likely will not be here much, if at all.

Odds are Coats has not sold his home in North Carolina – heck – I would bet the farm he hasn’t sold his home.  He will be an absentee Indiana senator, commuting to North Carolina during his term where his real home is located.  Any bets on how often he will actually step foot back in Indiana – the state he abandoned years ago?

This race is one of the most puzzling, but it shows that Hoosier values is an empty phrase to all those who voted for Coats.  I mean how is it he runs on Hoosier values when he hasn’t been a Hoosier for 12 years?  Shouldn’t he have been espousing North Carolinian values or lobbyist values or Washington, D.C. values?  Any values but Hoosier values.

At any rate, look for Coats, now 67, to run one term and then get back to his original retirement plans away from the “good people of Indiana”, which makes it almost certain he won’t spend much time in Indiana during his senate term.  Why would he?  He will mosey back to North Carolina, live in his $2 million dollar home, more than likely return to lobbying, and never give the “good people of Indiana” a second thought.

Both parties have probably already started thinking ahead to 2016.

House of Representatives – Hayhurst vs. Stutzman:

No surprise that this is the most disappointing of the races for me.  After beginning on Tom’s campaign in September 2009, the loss is extremely discouraging.  I watched Dr. Hayhurst traverse this district, walking door-to-door, speaking at events, participating in parades, and running a heart-felt campaign to be this district’s representative in Congress.  Hayhurst did not jump from one race to another – he focused on the congressional seat for Indiana’s Third District and would have made a great representative for the Third District.

Stutzman was selected in June, did very little campaigning, and probably looked at the race as an “entitlement” and pretty much a given.

I have to wonder whether Stutzman’s desire for the congressional representative’s seat was sincere or simply opportunistic. Since the age of 26, Stutzman has run for or held one office after another:  Indiana House of Representatives, Indiana Senate,  U.S. Senate, and now U.S. House of Representatives.  One gets the sense that “any old office will do.”

All the while, Stutzman continues to allege he is a “fourth-generation” farmer – but  more likely he is  a “FINO” – a “farmer in name only.”  I mean, how do you run for four offices in eight years, participate in legislative sessions, and farm full-time? And, now as a full-time legislator, how will he keep claiming he is a farmer?

Anyone who has been involved in farming knows that you don’t climb down off a combine for a photo shoot,  go back to campaigning, and then call yourself a full-time farmer.  Farming is hard work and requires long hours – even with the advent of technology those agricultural products don’t magically appear on your table or the store shelves.

My guess for Stutzman’s future?  He will attempt to stay in the House of Representatives until the opportunity for the 2016 senate race raises its head.  He will then switch gears again and go for the open senate seat which I predict Coats will vacate to return to North Carolina.  Opportunism at its height!

Local Races:

Morris vs. Wyss

What a disappointment – citizens complain and complain about career politicians yet continue to send the same politicians back year after year in a self-fulfilling cycle.  While Wyss may be a likable guy – he is a career politician with 25 years under his belt. Maybe the voters see part-time politicians differently than full-time politicians.  I have to wonder if all those voters who whine about career politicians have taken a look in the mirror and understand they are the very reason these politicians have careers in politics.

In the Indiana Senate race for District 15, the voters had an opportunity to send new blood to the state senate.  Jack Morris was well-informed on the issues confronting our state while Wyss tends to author or sponsor laws that are pretty much negligible and may be difficult to enforce.  Many of his efforts have been referred to as “nanny-state” legislation.

On the bright side, this race did force Wyss to campaign and remind voters who he was and what he looked like – something he hasn’t had to do much of with little competition in the past.

Ross vs. Dodge

This one was a real shocker – Codie was an excellent candidate following the path of Ed Roush’s campaign style and was well-informed on issues, especially those involving education.  As a previous teacher, his background would have been valuable in the area of education and its trials and tribulations.  With Daniels now poised to privatize our public schools, we need representatives who understand just what is at stake in this arena.

Dodge was also forced to campaign to keep his seat.  A small business owner who is now retired, Dodge has had very little impact in the Indiana House and prefers to maintain a low profile.

Indiana General Assembly:

Daniels’ Dangerous Tri-Fecta:

With the Indiana House of Representatives a 58 to 42 majority for Republicans, Daniels will now have the trifecta of power.  Republicans have whined about Obama’s trifecta for the past two years, so now let’s see if they acknowledge the danger in the trifecta they now will possess.  Bet you won’t hear a peep out of them.

With Daniels’ Republican minions now in control of both House and Senate, you can kiss goodbye any hope for Indiana’s environment, education, and social services.  With Daniels now in charge of two kowtowing legislative bodies, his privatization plans – even though terribly flawed in some cases – will kick into high gear.  Remember Daniels’ earlier reactions when he didn’t get his way on what he wanted;  he sometimes acted like a spoiled child and often was not involved in the legislative process.

In the area of environment, he has already diminished IDEM’s enforcement powers to the point of extinction along with attempting to do away with environmental regulations that protect our Hoosier air, waters, and lands.  Daniels sees Indiana as one big factory farming lot and will continue his efforts to increase the number of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) regardless  of the detrimental impact on air, soil, and water.  But that is of no import to the pro-big business minded Daniels.

Daniels contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates through his “Aiming Higher” PAC, so look for a number of representatives to be in Daniels’ pockets when it comes to key votes. Look for a new and energized Daniels to steamroller through his destructive privatization plans for our state during his remaining two years.

Sarah Palin may have considered herself a lame-duck in her first term, but you can bet Daniels will go with the label “game-duck” as in ” I am game to destroy Indiana’s environment, education, and social programs.”

Redistricting:

The issue of partisan redistricting now leaps to the front and center.  The redistricting will occur in 2011 based on the 2010 census.  Todd Rokita, the soon-to-be ex-Secretary of State, has put forth a plan called “Rethinking Redistricting” under the guise of helping us poor, uniformed Hoosiers better understand the redistricting process.

I understand it quite well, thank you – redistricting is political – always has been and always will be.  The party in power in the Indiana House of Representatives attempts to draw and re-draw lines to better enhance its chances of retaining control of the federal congressional legislature.

If the Republicans decide they would rather oust Joe Donnelly in the 2nd congressional district and not worry about keeping Marlin Stutzman in the 3rd congressional district, then a map will be designed to shift either all or part of the red county of Kosciusko into the 2nd district thus creating  a larger Republican voter base.

Since Donnelly barely hung on in this race, a shift could cause major problems for his re-election in 2012.  But what may be bad for Donnelly could be good for Third District Democrats.  Removing Kosciusko County means that the Third District will need to pull in voters – most likely from the south in what is now Pence’s 6th district – as it was in the days of the old 4th district, which was somewhat more Democrat-friendly than the current 3rd district.

Indiana State Elected Officials:

Secretary of State:  Vop Osili vs. Charlie “I don’t know where I live or vote” White

Who’d have thunk Hoosier Republicans would vote in a guy who is under investigation for voter fraud, and who, if convicted, probably will be removed from office?  Obviously, either Republicans have again abandoned those “Hoosier” values which so often drip from their lips, or they just don’t get it.

Sure, he is innocent until proven guilty, but he has already acknowledged his “error” by resigning from the Fishers’ town council he represented.  He was involved in drawing the council’s boundary lines, so his “oops, I didn’t know” act has little credibility.  His resignation is one of those “I got caught” moments requiring action.

Vop was a great candidate.  I got to know him back in the late winter when I asked him to speak at our Third District Breakfast Club.  A graduate of Carnegie-Mellon and Columbia University, he is a small business owner.  He is thoughtful, well-informed, articulate, and energetic.  My prediction?  Watch for Vop to continue to be a rising star in the Indiana Democratic Party, and, perhaps at the national level.

Treasurer:

Pete Buttigieg vs. Richard “I like wasting taxpayer money” Mourdock

Another rising star in our party, Pete Buttigieg, is the son of educators and grew up in South Bend.  He was valedictorian of his high school class and went on to earn a degree from Harvard before studying economics at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

Before leaving his job to campaign full-time, Pete’s career as a businessman took him across the country and around the world. Providing analysis and insight to key decision-makers, he has worked in a variety of areas including economic development, retail strategy, energy and logistics.

Sam Locke vs. Tim “I like campaigning on the taxpayer’s dime” Berry

Sam was born and raised in Connersville, Indiana, and graduated from Connersville Senior High School.  He went on to attend Indiana University – Bloomington on a ROTC scholarship and graduated with a BS in Secondary Education and BA in Political Science before being commissioned an officer in the Air Force.   He earned his Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Wyoming while serving in the Air Force at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base.

Sam is another young and rising star in our party.  We are truly fortunate to have had three great candidates for our state offices, and who I hope will continue to grace the Democratic party with their achievements and efforts.

Some Final Thoughts

While yesterday was a tremendous defeat for Democrats here at home and nationally, I have been around long enough to know that this is not the demise of the Democratic party.  This is a cycle in our country’s political process.  We watched the huge democratic victories in 2006 and in 2008, and now the victories – at least some of them – have swung back to the Republican column.

The Republicans will be no more successful at pleasing the American voter than the Democrats.  And, the Tea Partiers will find they are such a small number that they will really have no impact on policies or the direction of our country.  I can’t wait to hear the bellow of Rand Paul in the Senate that “we have come to take back our country” only to realize that his voice is a mere mouse squeak in the scheme of things.

Voters are becoming ever more a crowd that wants something done immediately despite the fact that most issues require time – and sometimes a lot of it.  They refuse to understand that our system was created with a check and balance factor that makes the wheels turn slowly.

Americans have become conditioned to instantaneous gratification – partly as a result of technology and the fast pace of our lifestyles.  When I was offline with no internet for five days this past week, I had to talk myself down from the ledge.  Just kidding, of course.  But think about how we all demand everything immediately.  What is fast today will be slow tomorrow and on and on.

As we ramp up our expectations for speed, speed, and more speed, we are not willing to accept the notion that our Founding Fathers created a political system meant to crawl toward resolution of a myriad of issues – and those issues were not the same increasingly complicated issues we face today.

While yesterday was, indeed, a bad day for Democrats, I think of the song from the Poseidon Adventure “There’s Got to be a Morning After.”  Democrats will reinvigorate themselves as in the past, and the cycle will begin anew. With the outstanding slate of candidates we fielded this election, I have tremendous hope for upcoming elections.

And, indeed, today is that morning after, and I am already looking forward to upcoming campaigns!

 

 

 

 

UPPITY REPUBLICANS MAY CHALLENGE DANIELS’ FSSA MESS

The leaders of the insurrection are two Republican who just might introduce legislation to halt the roll out of changes to Indiana’s welfare intake process.  And, of course, the Guv isn’t happy about it.   Evansville lawmakers, state Sen. Vaneta Becker and Rep. Suzanne Crouch, are considering introducing similar bills in the upcoming General Assembly session that would affect changes in the way the state deems people eligible for food stamps, Medicaid, and other benefits.

The bills would stop the Family and Social Services Administration from taking the changes to 33 Indiana counties that don’t have them yet until it fixes some problems.  Both draft legislations received preliminary approval from two legislative study committees last fall.

Becker and Crouch said replacing individual caseworkers assigned to each household’s case with call center representatives and multiple case workers was part of the problem. The lack of continuity among officials on the phone makes complaints harder to resolve, and clients have complained of long lines at remaining county welfare offices.  Constituents are unable to determine just who is to be helping them when they call.  They simply get whoever answers the phone at the call center and that has led to all kinds of duplication.

Daniels, whose administration outsourced welfare eligibility in a $1.16 billion, 10-year contract with IBM Corp., Affiliated Computer Services Inc. and other companies wasn’t pleased that lawmakers from his own party were leading legislative efforts to put his program on hold.  Wah!

Photo Credit:  WTHITV.com

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Daniels really could care less about the needs of FSSA constituents.  His goal?  To privatize – for profit – everything he can get his hands on – whether it works or not.  The private entity takes whatever cost cutting measures it can, leaving the struggling and needy constituents in the dust.

But the two Republicans are only the newest in a line of those expressing concerns  about the Guv’s rush to privatize the state  Family and Social Services Agency.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture expressed serious concerns in July 2008, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in May 2008 to challenge Daniels’ rush to privatization.

As this year’s long session approaches, Daniels is, ironically, facing a challenge to his privatization efforts from two of his own party members.  How uppity can you get!

MITCH DANIELS – POSTER CHILD FOR BRAIN DRAIN

I guess one thing that confuses me about Governor Daniels is why on earth he returned to Indiana to wreak corporate privatization havoc on our state? Why did he return to exploit our land and our citizens?

A number of months ago, I wrote a post providing a summary of Daniels’ background. For those of you who missed that post, let me restate some of his biography:

  1. Born in Pennsylvania in 1949
  2. Spent his early childhood in Georgia
  3. Moved to Indiana in 1959 at the age of 10 with his parents
  4. Attended North Central High School in Indianapolis
  5. Skiddadled out of Indiana at the age of 18 to earn a bachelor’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in 1971
  6. Avoided the draft due to status as a college student
  7. Came back to Indiana and worked as part of Richard Lugar’s staff from 1971-1977
  8. Followed Lugar to Washington, DC and worked in various positions in DC from 1977-1987
  9. Earned a Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1979
  10. Returned to Indiana in 1987 and worked in corporate positions and corporate boardrooms from 1987-2001
  11. Returned to Washington, DC to “manage” the Office of Management and Budget and oversaw a $236 billion surplus turn into a $400 billion deficit in his 29-month tenure
  12. Decided to split from his unsuccessful stint as OMB Director and returned to Indiana to run for governor in 2003
  13. Put on a flannel shirt, hopped into an RV, and traveled the State with his “aw shucks” routine – playing the Hoosier he never was and never will be

Now, here is my point. Of course Indiana wants its students to stick around for college and afterward. In his State of the State speech this past January, Daniels stated, “Let’s make the dreary term ‘brain drain’ a forgotten phrase”. He followed that in February of this year with his proposal to offer $20,000 scholarships over four years. The proposal has a catch — recipients who leave the state less than three years after graduation will be required to repay the money. I don’t have a problem with that.

Look at items 5 and 9 in my chronological listing of Daniels’ career. Where did he go for his undergraduate degree? Was it an Indiana institution? Heck no – he jumped ship and went to Princeton – and that is not Princeton, Indiana. Where did he get his doctorate? Was it an Indiana institution? Heck no – again he chose an out-of-state school, Georgetown.

When Governor Daniels made the statement of “Let’s make the dreary term ‘brain drain’ a forgotten phrase” this past January, I bet he was surely hoping that no one remembered that he was part of the problem in 1967 when he became one of those very individuals who fled the State to obtain their education.

Now, 40 years later, he wants us to forget that he was part of the brain drain – just like he wants Hoosiers to again buy his down-home Hoosier act complete with his flannel shirt, his RV, and his pseudo-Hoosierese.

JILL LONG THOMPSON SPEAKS TO GRANT COUNTY DEMOCRAT WOMEN’S CLUB

Jill Long Thompson spoke at a meeting of the Grant County Democrat Women’s Club on Monday evening. The meeting was held at ALA Caters, 619 W. 37th Street with about 40 people from Grant County as well as Huntington County attending the event.

Long Thompson focused on several issues including Indiana’s outdated property tax system. She will also seek to end privatization and said she will revisit every privatized contract if elected. That includes the toll road lease.

“My concern and my reason for running is Hoosiers, not a foreign consortium,” she said. She also touched on the importance of unions, renewable energy, and not sacrificing the environment for economic growth.

Jill recently received encouraging news in the form of a poll showing her well ahead of her two Democratic primary challengers, Richard Young and Jim Schellinger. Although she only kicked off her campaign in July, well behind the time tables of Richard Young and Jim Schellinger, her strong showing in early polls reflects that Hoosier Democrats will make up their own minds and appear to not be swayed by the endorsements or campaign contributions already garnered by Schellinger and Young.

WESTWARD WOE? – MORE HIGHWAY DOINS’

Farther west of the U.S. 31 Route, State Representative Ed Soliday of Valparaiso, a Republican, is attempting to put the brakes on the Illiana Expressway – at least in the realm of financing. This past Friday, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) was to select from among three firms to prepare a study of the proposed Illiana Expressway – the smaller highway project which would connect Interstate 57 in Illinois to Interstate 65 in Lake County, Indiana. Since INDOT has neglected to return repeated calls to reporters seeking the information, no word as to the choice of firm has yet been announced.

The crux of the problem is INDOT’s focus on only one method of financing – the private tollway model championed by the head privatization guru himself, Governor Daniels.

The request for proposals INDOT put out in June appears to heavily favor the so-called “P3” funding – public-private partnership – highway model. The P3 model is better known as privatization, folks. The agency attempted to diffuse that concern Friday by releasing a Q & A form that informed prospective consultants, “INDOT is intending to determine the overall feasibility of developing the Illiana Expressway as a tolled facility, minimizing or entirely eliminating the need for state funding contributions.” How does that diffuse anything? It appears to simply reiterate the position that the highway will follow the path of the other private funding deals of the Governor by eliminating state funding and, in doing so, sealing a private funding alternative.

Representative Soliday is not hesitant in his course of action. He says he is willing to take the agency to court to ensure compliance with the law governing the Illiana Expressway. The law to which he is referring is Senate Bill 105, which gives the Indiana Department of Transportation two years to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed Illiana Expressway.

The law states that INDOT’s report must include:

(1) A description of the need for an Illiana expressway.
(2) An evaluation concerning the feasibility of an Illiana expressway, including the following:

(A) Projections for acquisition costs and eminent domain issues.
(B) Expected use of the proposed expressway and any toll revenues.
(C) Expected construction costs.
(D) Expected operating and maintenance costs.
(E) Options for funding acquisition, construction, operation, and maintenance costs.

(3) A description of the department’s recommended route for an Illiana expressway, including the following:

(A) Traffic projections showing expected use and relief of traffic congestion.
(B) Alternative routes.
(C) Economic impact studies on the proposed route and affected areas.

The following is what INDOT asked consultants vying to conduct the study to consider:

1. Should the Illiana Expressway be developed?
2. Can it be constructed and placed into used and useful service?
3. Can it be financed in its entirety as a tolled, public private partnership with
no capital contribution required of the State of Indiana? It is anticipated that no
federal funding will be used during any phase of the development.

Daniels makes no secret of his love for privatization; he hasn’t met a segment of government that, in his mind, could not be privatized. When questioned Friday about the apparent lack of alternative financing for the Illiana Expressway, Daniels said he doesn’t believe INDOT intended to violate the Illiana study legislation — Senate Bill 105, which he signed into law in May. So the Governor jumped to the defense of INDOT by saying:

“They may have misconstrued it,” the governor said of INDOT. “I did see (Soliday’s) letter yesterday and I told them: ‘Take a real quick look and let’s find out.’ If it needs to be broadened, it should.”

Daniels’ statement that INDOT could have misconstrued the law is ridiculous. If they “misconstrued” the law, then it is because the Governor makes his policies known and those working under him follow his chosen policies like lapdogs – that is not misconstruing anything; it is kowtowing to the administration (just as IDEM has done to support the Guv’s policy to increase pork production by backing off on CAFO requirements).

The law uses the word “options”, which indicates that more than one alternative is to be considered. The request INDOT put to consultants focused entirely on the P3 model (see #3 above under INDOT request).

Representative Soliday sits on the Illiana Expressway Proposal Review Committee, and he was instrumental in the passage of Senate Bill 105, which provided the impetus for the Illiana Expressway study. As a Republican, his first thought might be to back Governor Daniels’ position on financing the Illiana Expressway in whatever manner possible. However, Soliday is nervous about the slant toward the P3 model of financing.

What is also interesting is the composition of the Illiana Expressway Proposal Review Committee. The Committee is evenly split with four Republicans – two from the Senate and two from the House – and four Democrats – two from the Senate and two from the House. All members, with the exception of one – Terri Austin of Anderson – are from northwest Indiana. Yet the only member who questioned INDOT’s actions was Ed Soliday, a House Republican.

Although I applaud Representative Soliday’s challenge to INDOT and Governor Daniels, I see a bigger concern arising in the Illiana Expressway project. Anyone who has traveled to Chicago through northwestern Indiana knows that, once you hit Valparaiso, it is nothing but one long concrete strip mall.

While loops and bypasses are touted initially as relievers of congestion in specific areas, what they ultimately become is the harbinger of future congestion. The tendency is to expand outward and outward because zoning and planning boards and commissions tremble at the thought of clamping down on developers who are intent on turning every inch they can into residential subdivisions and more strip malls.

Just look at loops around major cities – they fill in and contribute to urban sprawl. And urban sprawl is urban sprawl – eating up agricultural land and bringing added environmental stressors to the area. Let’s hope that Soliday’s interest in the financial aspect of the Illiana Expressway will, in the end, translate into true concern for urban sprawl and its potential to destroy the environment of an already overburdened area.