Saturday, January 14, 2006

Federal Borrowing Note

As you know, I don't really cover federal issues, as I am a candidate for statewide office. Fortunately, there are plenty of Hoosier Libertarians who do keep an eye on our national issues.

Kenn Gividen's fascinating letter was printed yesterday in the Noblesville Daily Times. I knew that the deficit was being driven up by the irresponsible failure to cut the federal budget despite falling receipts, but I had no idea on the scope of the borrowing. From the letter to the Daily Times:
Little media attention has been given to the fact that President George W. Bush has borrowed more money from foreign governments that his 42 predecessors combined. The Democrats won't tell you, because they think it's great. The Republicans won't tell you because they are the culprits.

The silence from the conservative wing of the Republican Party is frustrating. I'm concerned that GOP's rank-and-file continue to buy into the Limbaughnic myth that their party is the guardian of everything conservative. It is not.

The dangling carrot that keeps the Republican faithful in line is the promise of a conservative Supreme Court. While Republicans may be lauded for their efforts to purge the court of liberal activists, it will be for naught if the Bush administration does to the economy what al-Qaeda did to the Twin Towers. Tough talk? Maybe. But the Keynesian economic agenda embraced by Republicans in Washington may well bankrupt the country, a dilemma far out of reach of a conservative Supreme Court.

An interesting perspective. After all, soon Judge Alito will be confirmed, and the dangling carrot will be gone. Hopefully, at that point, those fiscal conservatives who have supported the Republican Party will do either of two things: 1. Move the GOP back to the right on all things economic; 2. Realize that the GOP leadership has no commitment to fiscal conservatism, and support the Libertarian Party, which is deeply committed to fiscal conservatism.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My Take On Consolidation

At first blush, consolidation of government looks like a great thing to a Libertarian, because it stands to eliminate better than 1,000 elected offices. As always, the devil is in the details, and that's a problem, because the elimination of say, the township assessors, is not an issue that calls for a one-size-fits-all solution.

For instance, if I were a Marion County resident, in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Pike or Washington Townships, I positively would not want the Assessor's duties consolidated at the county level.

The reason? Political power in Marion County is concentrated in Center Township, which is the poorest township. It is easily foreseeable that a County Assessor from Center Township could be inclined to assess the outer townships differently (read: more highly) than Center, to suit political whims, and to redistribute wealth.

Want to try to vote out the County Assessor if this should occur? Good luck! Marion County is now firmly in Democratic control, even though Washington and Pike Townships largely vote Republican. At least with a Township Assessor, there is the greater chance (not certitude) of accountabilty.

In sum, the more centralized the government, the less responsive. Centralized government dilutes the local vote.

I truly believe that this is really another kind of gerrymandering. Just as at-large seats tend to be spoils for the dominant party in any jurisdiction made up of many districts, county elections tend to reflect the dominant party.

Democrats take note: The Republicans dominate the vast majority of Indiana's counties. While consolidation could be a great political victory for you in Marion County, it essentially shuts Dems out of local government in all but a few locales. The GOP will gladly cut Marion and Lake Counties loose in exchange for an iron grip on, well, most of the rest. Even Madison & Monroe Counties would swing Republican, despite their well-known Democratic tendencies in Anderson and Bloomington.

Republican officials at the township level are going to be screaming and probably fighting soon on this. Once Democrats check the intracacies, they should be too.

Libertarians should view consolidations with a wary eye. Of course, we look for less government, but it must not come at the expense of more powerful and distant, and less responsive government.
Kittle Resigns, No Surprise

I received several emails today asking me if I was surprised to learn that Indiana GOP State Chair Jim Kittle intends to resign. From the Indy Star report:
State Rep. Luke Messer, the Shelbyville Republican who recently announced his own decision to give up his post as the party's executive director, confirmed that Kittle has decided to give up his political post. A news conference will be held Friday afternoon at the GOP's downtown Indianapolis headquarters to formally announce Kittle's resignation and announce his replacement.

I am not surprised that he is resigning. I am only surprised by the timing.

I would have expected Kittle to wait a week or two at least after Governor Daniels' State of the State address for this action. That way, it could seem a little less like Kittle is running from the firestorm started by the Governor in suggesting that so many township and county offices by eliminated.

After all, the majority of Indiana counties and townships are Republican dominated. The Republican Party would sacrifice many hundreds of elected officials. If the internal war hasn't started already, it will soon. The Star also reported on the Governor's follow-up press conference, from this morning:
The plan also would change the way property is assessed for taxation, taking it out of the hands of 1,008 township officials and giving the responsibility instead to the state's 92 county assessors.

Asked whether this was a first step toward elimination of township government, Daniels said: "Let's just say it's a first step toward the extreme makeover that I spoke of last night of local government."

So, Kittle walks. He gets out while the getting's good. He can take credit for turning his party into a fundraising machine, earning legislative majorities in both houses, and electing a governor under his watch. Someone else who will be handpicked by, and puppet to the Governor, will get to spend their time as chair trying to put out fires inside the GOP's house.

I'll have comment on the elimination of township posts shortly.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Quick Reaction to State of the State

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels just finished his second State of the State address. Here is an instant Libertarian response:

Governor Daniels repeatedly touted the bold initiatives undertaken in his first year, but in reality, these moves were splashy and not substantial. Moreover, the most stunning of his moves were carefully omitted from his speech.

Daniels spoke of the many ways Indiana government was made more efficient. He cited a litany of savings, all of which are excellent and very well appreciated.

But that the efficiencies were the best to be bragged on of the first year points to the troubling realization that beneath it all, the Governor is every bit as committed to big government as his Democratic predecessors were.

No departments were cut. In fact, departments were added. The budget wasn't reduced. In fact, it grew. Indeed, the Governor never called for an actual budget cut. All Daniels called for was greater efficiencies. Great that he delivered, but too bad he under-promised.

The boldest, most substantial thing a man knicknamed "The Blade" could have done to help restore fiscal sanity to Indiana would have been to urge at least a 1% reduction in the budget. Instead, he urged a 1% hike in income taxes on the wealthiest Hoosiers. In the first year under Daniels' watch, spending continued to climb, but at a slower rate than before. It's progress, I guess, but not nearly as strident as the Governor's tone would have led one to believe, and certainly not indicative of a deep commitment to smaller government and lower taxes.

Daniels urged the legislature to allow Indiana municipalities greater ability to manage their finances. With so few leaders willing to be so bold as to recommend cutting budgets at any level, the Governor has, in effect, asked for the legislature to give the green light to cities who would raise taxes rather than cut spending. With Republicans like these, who needs Democrats?

Daniels chose not to mention Daylight Savings Time. I can't blame him. Why gash a festering wound, right? Nor was the BMV closings a cause for patting himself on the back this evening. The Colts Stadium project, which Daniels dramatically wrested away from Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson was also conspicuously absent, and not surprisingly given the public outcry against the planned theft of the NK Hurst land by the state.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the Governor's call for a 25-cent per pack hike in the taxes on cigarettes. For all the Republican rhetoric in opposition to using taxes as a means to change behavior, there was Daniels, sounding very much like a liberal Democrat.

On a purely political note, Daniels may have set a fire in his party's house by urging the elimination of some township offices. While this will handicap Indianapolis Republicans, who are fighting consolidation in Marion County, it will create enemies of the numerous elected Republican township assessors, trustees, and board members. If Daniels has his way, many of these people will face having their political careers ended, along with the growth of their pensions. How entertaining it will be to watch the GOP devour itself!

Just wait until tomorrow's press conference, when he discusses eliminating other elected county offices, such as surveyor, auditor, recorder, and commissioner. The loudest calls for a one-term Daniels Administration may well come from the very people who worked hardest to elect him.
Great Result on Eminent Domain

I was positively delighted to learn that House Bill 1010, which provides restrictions to the commercial use of eminent domain in our state, emerged from Committee, passing on a 10-0 vote. Moreover, in support of the NK Hurst Company, the bill was made retroactive to November, which means the Stadium Authority's attempt to steal the Hurst land via eminent domain proceedings would be foiled.

There are many worthwhile articles to read on the subject. I recommend these few:

Inside Indiana Business news report with audio from Jim Hurst.
Indianapolis Star article with the pertinent details.
Shall Not Perish's commentary, from Rob Beck.
Mike Sylvester's first person account of his testimony given to the Committee at the Statehouse.

To those ready to celebrate, I urge caution. Now that the bill has left the Committee, it enters that phase of the game which earned the comparisons to making sausage, which specifies that you don't want to see the process. In fact, now is the time that the opponents of eminent domain abuse, and the supporters of the NK Hurst Company, need to be most vigilant. Citizens need to continue to contact their State Senators and Representatives with letters, emails, and phone calls, to let them know that they need to stand firm on curtailing eminent domain abuse. If legislators only hear from lobbyists on the other side, the other side will be effective.

Lobbyists will now besiege the members of the General Assembly, hoping to get amendments added that would water down, or even gut this very solid bill that the Committee just passed. Expect several mayors and town or city councilors to so lobby, and especially the increasingly villainous Indiana Association of Cities and Towns.

In a local note, I sadly observed that Hamilton County Attorney Mike Howard testified on the side of allowing municipal governments to steal land from property owners. From the Louisville Courier-Journal report:
Hamilton County Attorney Mike Howard said using eminent domain for economic development virtually would be ended if the legislation passes because the definition of blighted is too difficult to meet.

"I suggest to you that you may be taking the pendulum a little too far," he said. "Please think seriously about leaving this tool in the tool box of local government."

There is no "too far" when it comes to protect the rights of private property owner. The problem with leaving the blighted tool in the tool box is that the definition of blight is so regularly stretched by local governments in order to suit the desires of some elected officials and the developers they befriend. This is exactly the problem in the Kelo v. New London case.

Alas, Howard is just another Hamilton County Republican who wavers on private property, along with Luke Kenley and Meredith Carter. Shame!
Joke Making The Rounds

Here's one that was passed to me by a half-dozen friends. My only protest is that it should be broadened to include our state and local governments as well. They function in largely the same way, but the scale is only slightly smaller. Enjoy a chuckle!

Official Announcement

The federal government today announced that it is changing its emblem from an eagle to a condom because it more accurately reflects the general mindset in government today.

A condom allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you're actually being screwed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Special Program Alert

WXNT will do a special broadcast Wednesday night to provide coverage of Governor Daniels' "State of the State" address. The Libertarian response can be heard immediately afterwards.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, host of "Abdul In The Mornings," will have Libertarian Party of Indiana Executive Director Dan Drexler on as his studio guest. The show will pre-empt the Michael Savage show- always a good thing- starting at 6:00 pm with a preview of the speech. Following the live broadcast of the address, Abdul and Drexler will review the speech and take calls.

Tune in to WXNT on 1430 AM, or listen online to the streamed signal at

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Why Libertarian?

Because Libertarians are consistent with their application of principles.

This truth sometimes earns condescending sneers along the lines that Libertarians are incapable of, or unwilling to, compromise.

That condescension is a safe jesture when it comes from a distance, but consider when the application of principles directly affects you. Consider again the case of the NK Hurst Company.

Ask the Hursts, or any other property owner, if the idea of the right to their property is something that should be the object of a compromise of principle. That compromise results in the theft of their property, and an unfair, laughable compensation.

Two Republican lawmakers, Senator Jeff Drozda of Westfield, and Dave Wolkins of Winona Lake, had their letter published by the Indianapolis Star this morning. Together, they cite the impending theft of the Hurst property as the case-in-point for why eminent domain must be curbed in our state.

I agree with Drozda and Wolkins 100%. However, their stand illustrates the inconsistency in the application of principles within other political parties, and in this case, the Republicans. After all, the Stadium Authority that is poised to steal the Hursts' land is comprised mainly of Republicans, including Hamilton County office holders Meredith Carter (Hamilton County Councilor) and State Senator Luke Kenley.

Drozda and Wolkins are working hard to complete legislation that will curtail the use of eminent domain for commercial purposes, with a hearing at the Statehouse tomorrow morning. That does the Hursts little good, as the Stadium Authority would be exempt from any changes in the law because the motion was filed in 2005. It would have been better for the Hursts if Drozda and Wolkins were on the Stadium Authority instead of Carter and Kenley. Alas.

And that's the problem with Republicans. The talk is in the right place, but the action can be lethal. From one Republican to another, you really have no idea whether a principle such as the right to property will be defended or abandoned- until the moment of truth.

So: Why Libertarian? Because you can count on Libertarians not to compromise on principle. If Libertarians comprised the majority on the Stadium Authority, the eminent domain filing would never have happened. The issue would still be at the appropriate place for compromise- in the negotiations.

Libertarians on the Stadium Authority would have been looking for a way to redesign the project in such a way that a loyal Indianapolis company could have stayed put. Is it necessary to have so much area-devouring surface parking? Couldn't a less area-consuming multi-level garage, like the one at Canseco Fieldhouse, have been designed instead? That's the place for compromise.