The General Assembly has gone home; Hoosiers are breathing easier again. Although our legislators did a few sensible things, this session will be remembered for the continuing irresponsible behavior of basically decent people.
Lacking as I do the background to understand the deeper forces at work in Indiana politics, I turned to the pre-eminent Indiana psychiatrist, Victor VonNutt, Ph.D., M.D., M.B.A., J.D., DJ and Knight of the Garter.
“Victor,” I said, “what’s going on in Indiana? It seems we are at odds with ourselves.”
“Classic political schizophrenia,” he pronounced in his distinct Cass County dialect. “Members of the Legislature, as individuals, believe in the sanctity of local government and the virtue of small business. However, when they gather in caucus and don the scarlet and purple robes of office, they swear allegiance to the supreme wisdom of the State and the supremacy of corporate giants.”
“You mean?” I asked.
“Yes,” he smiled, “they are certifiably wacko but nonetheless walking the streets. Unfortunately we have no medication to ameliorate their condition.”
I must have looked depressed.
“Oh, cheer up,” Victor said. “Indiana has endured this situation for many decades and will survive despite the 150 representatives and senators we elect and re-elect.”
“Is survival our goal?” I asked. “Don’t we have higher aspirations? Will we continue to be a backwater of the nation, a punch line in the scripts of TV comedies?”
“My friend,” he said kindly, “the borders are open. Our children can leave, and no one can be forced to live here. But most of the disaffected have no real desire to leave their families, friends and memories.
“If we wanted local control of schools, we never would have allowed the state to take over financing education. If we wanted strong communities, we would not have voted for property tax controls starting with Otis Bowen and ended up supporting a constitutional amendment capping those taxes.
“On the other hand,” he continued, “if we wanted economy in government, we would have eliminated township governments, merged adjacent cities and towns and merged underpopulated counties.
“Then,” he went on, “if we truly believed in the virtues of small business, we wouldn’t yield our tax policies to the imagined desires of out-of-state corporations, hoping they will bring any kind of jobs to Indiana.
“We would stop shifting taxes to households and away from the big corporations. Remember, many small businesses are basically households not paying corporate taxes. We would not be anti-union since small businesses are not likely to be unionized.”
“What can be done?” I asked.
“Hoosiers,” he answered, “need to retake control of state government. This requires voting and reforming the way voting districts are set. This will be a drawn-out process, possibly taking the better part of two decades. Meanwhile, citizens could finance local initiatives through contributions to community foundations to improve schools and libraries and restore services local governments have seemingly abandoned.”
“That means,” I started to say.
“Yes,” Victor said, “individuals dedicating themselves to the concept of community, becoming active citizens rather than passive residents.”