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Column: Daniels, Pence’s plans for state disturb Santa’s helper

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The North Pole reports are true. Production is picking up, and Hoosiers might benefit from their own fiscal cliff.

I have it on good authority that Santa’s workshop is increasing gifts destined for Indiana hearths this year. In an exclusive interview with Elvin Elfenhauser, one of Santa’s premier helpers, I learned Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence have caused distress and consternation at the North Pole.

“Santa is frantic,” Elvin reported. “He sees the new year as a fiscal cliff unprecedented in Hoosier history. Individual income taxes in 2013 will fall by $111 for single taxpayers and by $222 for those filing jointly.

“Then,” Elvin’s voice trembled, “individual income tax rates for 2013 may be cut from 3.4 percent down to 3.1 percent, if Pence pushes his unneeded campaign promise through the tough-minded Indiana General Assembly.

“In neither case,” Elvin explained, “were the people of Indiana given a clear listing of how children and the poor are affected by the money not spent on them. Santa feels he must compensate for the neglect caused by the politicians.”

When asked why Santa’s emotional state is described as “stable, but fragile,” Elvin said, “Santa feels he cannot compete with money gift givers. The Old Man sees his task as providing for children and the financially disadvantaged.

“The Daniels tax refund is given independent of the number of children in the family, ignoring the value and needs of each child. Further, it is provided independently of income so that the rich and the poor get the same benefit.

“Surprisingly,” Elvin continued, “the Pence program has the same two characteristics. And this from the guy who speaks so fondly of the family.”

“Santa is suffering from a sense of futility,” Elvin confided, “because his chief economic adviser, Milton Eff, tells him that there are no gifts superior to money. The best way to satisfy a recipient is to give money, and that is what the great gift givers do. The recipient determines what he or she will do with the money.

“Money is not Santa’s way of giving. We don’t load the sleigh with cash or pre-paid credit cards. How can Santa compete in the eyes of Hoosiers with politicians who give monetary gifts?”

The result of this Arctic angst is a speedup of gifts stacking up in the Indiana bins at Santa’s workshop as St. Nick attempts to make up for the state’s past and future neglect. His aides are seeking a remedy for his psychological problem.

The solution has to involve special attention of Santa’s emotional triggers — children and the poor. “If,” Elvin said, “the standard deduction for each child and each adult were raised, both children and the poor would be better-off. Less of the Pence largess would go to the wealthy under this plan and it would highlight our concern for the well-being of children.”

Health coupons have been recommended for the Daniels plan. Instead of giving $111 and $222 credits against income tax payments, issue transferable health coupons in the same denominations. These could be used by the recipients or donated to children and others who have difficulty paying health care bills.

There is no indication that either the Daniels or Pence camps will negotiate how to implement better income redistribution schemes than the ones they have chosen.

Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

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