IT seems depressingly familiar to anyone who lived through the Reagan administration--but then I've long urged future historians to dub the past thirty years The Era of Depressing Familiarity--to consider how Mitch Daniels became a budget hardliner, an economic genius, even, by massively increasing public indebtedness. It's also telling that he didn't get away with it during the first Bush administration, but soon figured out how--and where--he wouldn't get called to account: Indiana! Daniels will leave state government with accounts at best no better than they were when he arrived (though so rearranged that no one will ever be able to tell the difference), and at worst, well...
(This, by the way, ignores the $8.8 billion effect of Federal stimulus money, which doesn't count against a 63-year-old Rand fanboy the way a closetful of methed-up male prostitutes don't count against a televangelist: if you're theologically opposed to a thing, practical experience is inconsequential.)
Daniels left OMB in 2003, having presided over the worst recession in American history since the last Republican administration, with a "popular" "wartime" President and a Vice-President ineligible to succeed him (due to that special copy of the Constitution only he could read specifying that the President must be human). I have nothing beyond blind contention to prove that Daniels saw an opportunity to take his rightful Randian command of the planet, but it was clear from the beginning that there was going to be a determined PR effort to "balance" Indiana's budget, beginning with declaring the state in debt, which it wasn't. * It was, mirabile dictu, all solved in a single session of the Indiana General Assembly (and by the way, if any problem can be "solved" in a single session of the Indiana General Assembly it cannot rightly be described as having been a problem). Daniels and his henchlegislators examined state accounts, and determined the amount of shin that needed to be amputated to fit the bed. This is, of course, something you can try at home, except you might find that in your case lying won't get you through missing meals. But if you manage to get through that, say, if Barack Obama gives you $8.8 billion, and you find a few million "misplaced" by your own budget office, you might rely on the fact that signs of mismanagement and inadequate nutrition often don't show up until your two terms are over.
Anyway, now we've reached that tricky little point where Daniels' fan base, fer instance the cremains of the Indianapolis Star, are forced to point out a few shortcomings here and there (without blaming the Guv) so that incoming Governor by Acclamation Mike "Choirboy" Pence has some wriggle room. So all the sudden now we don't have the money required to actually build I-69, and that coal gasification plant might not actually make money for anyone not already on the Republican Train O' Gravy, and such. It's even possible our $2 billion arrears to the Feds will turn back up on the spreadsheet next spring, just in time for the legislature to declare ketchup a vegetable, declare vegetables a luxury item, and sell our share of Lake Michigan. And cut taxes.
Meanwhile, though, a couple matters have come across the wire. Indianapolis turns out to be the eighth-most expensive city for tourists, thanks to all the taxes we've put on hotel rooms, restaurant meals, rental cars, and the like (y'know, things actual residents never, ever use). The news brought Indiana Senate budget czar Luke Kenley out long enough to explain that this was really good news, because revenue. Kenley did not explain how it was that any American in his right mind, if there is such a thing anymore, absent a case of NFL fandom crossing into psychosis, couldn't find at least thirty cities he'd rather visit that the mere tax savings wouldn't get him to.
The second was a report on the indebtedness of Indiana cities, led by Indianapolis' $1.8 billion ("that's billion with a 'B'", one helpful local teleprompter reader explained), followed by our neighbors-to-the-Solid-White-North, Carmel, at $895,135,486. The talking hairdo did not point out how close this came to A Billion With A Bee, nor that it belongs to a Land of Dreams with 10% of Indianapolis' population. The matter did come to the attention of the Carmel city fathers though--and we do mean "fathers"--who pointed out that debt was just ducky in Carmel's case because "we can afford it". I am not making that up. They also claimed that the debt calculation program was flawed, as it mixed in all sorts of things (like "water improvements" and "huge White Elephant Performing Arts Centers designed to attract Sheryl Crow and--I am not making this up, either--'Supertramp's Roger Hodgson'") which aren't paid for by taxpayers, just people who choose to use water.
I just wanna point out that I've been watching this for forty years, in the Reddest of Red States north of Dixie** and east of the Great American Desert, and I've yet to see any area under complete or essentially complete Republican control that has any problem whatsoever with deficit spending. Just other people's ideas about deficit spending. Not news, I know. I just wish they'd fucking admit it.
* Not according to the way the books had been kept for at least a generation, and may I remind you that the first of two Democratic administrations which had a hand it that was Evan Fucking Bayh's. This is Indiana, fer chrissakes. People had not been flocking here for the plush interiors of our Welfare Cadillacs and our featherbed socialist unemployment "benefits". Or the quality of our schools, for that matter.
** Depending on your definition.