By Morton Marcus
In the past week, the Committee on Elections and Apportionment failed to move HB 1014 along to the full House.
That anti-gerrymandering bill calls for establishing a commission to oversee redistricting. Unless bold action has been taken since this writing, the bill is dead for this session.
There is no other bill of greater importance before the Indiana General Assembly. A redistricting commission would help correct the corrupt practice of providing safe seats for Indiana’s congressional representatives and those holding positions in the State Senate and House.
However, our self-serving, one-party legislature has no interest in promoting democracy. Even those in the minority party have little concern for fair primaries and elections.
Indiana will continue to have a legislature that is not representative of the people and not focused on the future of our economy. Instead, the General Assembly will persist as an instrument of the powerful and the privileged. The priorities of slumbering and backward industries will prevail, subjecting Hoosier communities and workers to a spiral of weak and mediocre economic performance.
Let’s look at just one example of how it works. In January 2011, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce issued “Right to Work and Indiana’s Economic Future.” The report suggested a grim future for the state, if Right To Work did not pass. It was as impressive as the performance of a stage magician, a masterpiece of misdirection.
At that time, Right to Work was in place in 22 of the 50 states. With the U.S. and Indiana in the massive Great Recession, the General Assembly, grasping at anything which promised more jobs, passed Right To Work in 2012. The law did not clear the Indiana Supreme Court until November 2014.
The Chamber’s 2011 report showed the growth of Indiana’s gross state product and per capita personal income lagged well behind both the 22 Right To Work states and the 28 non-Right-To-Work states from 1977 to 2008. Clearly, the Hoosier experience was due to more than the presence or absence of the legislation. This may have come as a surprise to legislators who had been dozing for the past three decades.
What then happened without Right To Work during the period 2008 to 2015? In terms of gross state product, Indiana had the 24th best growth, ahead of 12 of the Right To Work states. In terms of per capita personal income, Indiana had the 25th best growth rate, ahead of 11 of the Right To Work states.
In effect, Indiana’s economic performance from 2008 to 2015 without Right To Work was very average, traditionally mediocre, but better than the 1977 to 2008 period. The legislature had been bulldozed again by special interests and their specious, ideological onslaught.
Redistricting should bring about more careful consideration of facts by improving the quality of representation, removing the deadwood and reducing the impact of special interests.
But can it be done with the current low quality of representation, the accumulated deadwood, and the dominance of special interests?
Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.