INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana likes having the nation's highest portion of workers -- 20 percent -- in manufacturing, so five days before Delphi, the Michigan-based automobile parts maker, entered bankruptcy, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican who believes "conservatism can be active," called Delphi and praised Indiana as a paradise for even more Delphi operations than are already there.
Michigan's Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, responded to Delphi's travails differently, denouncing Delphi's executives, Washington and globalization. In the game of entrepreneurial federalism -- states competing to lure businesses -- score one for the Hoosier State, which in the four years before Daniels became governor had a net loss of jobs.
Well, George, some of us Hoosiers have noted that this time period roughly corresponded to Mitch's tenure at the OMB, but that's probably just a coincidence. I mean, the rest of the nation was experiencing raging job growth, so the problem was clearly with Indiana Democrats.
Maybe I've mentioned the Delphi business here. Mitch showed up for one of his patented marketing ops wearing a Delphi hat and his "jes folks" workshirt--See? See? I'm not wearing a suit like everyone else on the dais!--to lend a little moral support to the Michigan-based executives who were devastated by the news they'd have to cut average wages from $27 an hour to $9, which Mitch said "would still be considered by many Hoosiers excellent jobs, especially those who consider cardboard boxes and excellent form of shelter and know the nutritional value to be gained from local birdfeeders. And with my help there'll be a lot more of those Hoosiers in the future." Or something like that; I'm quoting from memory.
Anyway, I'm not sure about the political situation in Michigan, but if Jennifer Granholm thinks she can keep her job by pandering to constituents more power to her.
Hoosiers seem suspicious of metropolitans...
You can't blame us. They's allus comin' in here bustin' up our stills and preventing us from marrying our attractive cousins.
...but in 2004 Daniels became the state's first governor from this city.
And in 2005 he became the first Indiana governor from anywhere to post a negative approval rating after eight months in office.
Knowing that the devil is in budget details, "the Blade," as Daniels was known at OMB
He's gained several new colorful nicknames back home again in Indiana.
Oooh, wait for it:
Ending bottled water for employees of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (annual savings, $35,000). Ending notification of drivers that their licenses are expiring; letting them be responsible for noticing (saving $200,000). Buying rather than renting floor mats for BMV offices (saving $267,000 this year). Initiating the sale of 2,096 surplus state vehicles (so far, $1.95 million in revenue from 1,514 sales). Changing the state lottery's newsletter from semimonthly and in color to a monthly and black-and-white (annual savings, $21,670). And so on, and on, agency by agency.
Incidentally, I've been a licensed driver in Indiana for 35 years and I've never gotten a letter notifying me my license was expiring. I've lived with my wife for 27 years, and she's never gotten one. I've asked family and friends. Nobody's ever gotten one. Licenses are good for four years here, so best I can figure the state has a list of twenty people to be notified, and they slip a $40,000 check in each envelope.
Will, of course, has missed the real savings at BMV, which came from the wholesale closing of local branches, after which we held some localities upside down to see what change fell out of their pockets. It's ranked right up there in popularity with all but three teams pulling out of the F-1 race on race day.
And would that all these photo-op savings were coming from common-sensical belt tightening. The real plan is selling off state resources: hospitals, a five-fold increase in lumbering state forests, privatizing the Indiana Toll Road and Medicare, both contracts which will go to out-of-state companies. Of course, we need the money, 'cause Mitch has already created a dozen new state agencies with a $1M price tag for their top execs.
Such matters might be dismissed by liberals who think government spending is an index of government "caring," and perhaps by a new sect called "national greatness conservatives" who regard Daniels's kind of parsimony as a small-minded, cheeseparing exercise unworthy of government's great and stately missions.
Or, say, by the bomb throwers who think we shouldn't be slashing education budgets, or the radical syndicalists of both parties who have the crazy notion that passing all these costs onto county and local governments doesn't do much for the individual taxpayer.
But it seems to be an Indiana approach.
Yeah? See the comment about Daniels' poll numbers above.
This tenet of traditional conservatism, although more frequently affirmed than acted on, is producing fresh plans for action. A 24-page RSC proposal calls for rescinding $25 billion in pork spending from the transportation bill, saving $30.8 billion by delaying for one year the start of the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, and much more.
Um, those programs were enacted by a "conservative"-controlled Congress in the first place, and the "savings" are earmarked for spending on hurricane victims, which you couldn't pass on a voice vote if the lights were turned out. Rewarding yourself for being forced to do something seems a little like inventing a term for rapine that makes it seem principled. Say, "Danielsism", for example.
Daniels believes that Danielsism, far from being an exercise in small-mindedness, actually serves a large vision. He subscribes to a distinction made by Virginia Postrel in her book "The Future and Its Enemies" -- the distinction between advocates of stasis and advocates of dynamism. The former believe in managing the unfolding of the future.
The latter believe in minimal management of that unfolding; hence they believe in minimizing government, which has a metabolic urge to manage and a stake in preserving the status quo that government's bureaucracies are comfortable serving.
Yeah, swell sentiments, George. Here's one little problem we're seeing in practice: auctioning off community property on leases lasting longer than your possible term in office seems the very definition of "managing the unfolding of the future." Not that I'm suggesting so small a thing as a contradiction should spoil one of your elegant constructions.