Tuesday, January 16, 2007

State of the State Review

Big thanks to Abdul Hakim-Shabazz for including me in the tri-partisan panel on WXNT 1430-am this evening. I was joined in studio in reviewing Governor Mitch Daniels' "State of the State Address" by the Executive Directors of the other parties- Mike Edmonson from the Dems and Jennifer Hollowell from the GOP. So, here are my thoughts:

This was The Kumbaya Speech. Governor Daniels repeatedly made clear overtures to the Democrats, urging bi-partisanship and cooperation. He could have sounded these themes before the Republicans lost their majority in the Indiana House this past November, but it wasn't necessary then as it is now if he wants his agenda advanced. Interestingly, Democrats had been calling for bi-partisanship, but here Daniels called for it and they played it cool, remaining seated while Republicans gave an ovation on the cooperation tone.

But that's not the substance. For me, it was impossible to miss the idea that Mitch Daniels, alleged arch-conservative, clearly believes in government as the best solution to so many of our problems.

While Dems snipe about 'selling' assets like the Toll Road, Daniels has really privatized very little and eliminated nothing. It's nice that state government is off the hook for a handful of employees on the Toll Road, and potentially at the Hoosier Lottery. It's a good start, but a very short list, and nowhere was he talking of eliminating departments or even cutting budgets.

Daniels could be at the fore of getting government out of the business of education, but instead works to expand the role of the state in calling for full day kindergarten. He could be at the fore of moving Hoosiers towards self-responsibility in the area of health care, but instead reinforces budding socialized medicine by working to impose another tax on cigarettes and earmarking the proceeds for providing care to those who choose to be uninsured. The speech was a complete abdication of the principle of self-responsibility, and typical of today's Republican.

Indeed, the worst thing is the predictable, badly misplaced invocation of Ronald Reagan. While the late President was more a smaller government man rhetorically than in reality, at least he had rhetoric. Daniels actually said that he is eager to"reinvest our bonanza". Both in word and deed, the man is about growing the size, scope, and expense of government. He may balance the budget, thereby claiming the phrase "fiscally responsible", but clearly Mitch Daniels is no "fiscal conservative".

"Investment," curiously enough, is the word Democrats currently use when they want to talk about spending, and Daniels is using their word. It apparently never crossed his mind to cut the budget and taxes, to return the money to the taxpayers.

It's time to retire Mitch's nickname, "The Blade", or at least modify it for some truth in advertising. Make we can call him "The Penkife", or "The Clippers". Many of us had hoped in 2004 that we would see "The Chainsaw" slashing through the budget behind a deep commitment to smaller government. Alas.

So, I expect the new era of cooperation and bi-partisanship to move full steam ahead. Democrats have long been in favor of more government. They have just the man to help them to that end.

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