24 January 2011

Indiana Wants Me (But I Can't Go Back There)

Scott K. Walker can sleep a little easier, as he's not alone in the political world's Limited Horizon Club. Meet the newest member, Indiana commerce secretary E. Mitchell Roob. First, Wisconsin "opened for business" (catchy catchphrase, that), now Indiana has proposed it's own (final?) solution to the vexing problem of The Rent Is Taxes Are Too Damn High: "Solution Indiana". Stirring. Reminds me of the many other problems Indiana has sought to solve over the years. For instance, excitement, interestingness, and diversity.

It's comforting to know that politicians are willing to look outside their state's own boundaries for ideas, so long as those ideas are dedicated to political theater. It's also very reassuring to know that two of Illinois' neighbors are apparently dedicated to driving our state even further into economic turmoil. Missouri, you'd better get in on this quick. I'm not entirely certain what effect the administrations in Wisconsin and Indiana think that a bankrupt Illinois would have on their own states, but I can tell them that it would not be a positive one. Chicago is undeniably the finance capitol (the capital capitol?) of the Midwest, if Illinois defaults (not likely, but also not out of the realm of possibility considering the massiveness of the budget hole), lines of credit extending from Chicago around the region would seize up. Farm financing in particular would be hard hit, and you can just imagine the national crisis if already-tenuous family farms start going under.

I have to admit, I feel bad for Pat Quinn. I don't think the guy ever really wanted to be a politician, and that would explain why he hasn't been a very effective one. He's made numerous missteps since taking office, but he's faced with a pretty unenviable job. And like it or not, he does seem to at least be trying. He inherited a state government that has been slowly decaying for decades. It's not his fault that the bulk of state legislators are either incompetent, beholden to special interests, or both. Voters keep electing these clowns and apparently don't see the irony when they don't do a good job. It's bad enough for Governor Quinn to be assailed by Republicans in Springfield, but now he's getting it even harder from across statelines.

I'm actually pretty torn up about this. On one hand, if the state goes under, then maybe we can have a chance to reimagine regional governance and maybe even redraw the boundaries. On the other hand, it would be an enormously painful process, politically and economically. I keep talking up Richard C. Longworth, but I really hope some of these politicians start listening to him before it's too late. There needs to be cross-border cooperation, not competition. Otherwise, you'll need to ask yourself just how "United" these States are? Policy decisions tied to the political cycle can only offer short-term gains, I would like to think there there are fewer people buying them.

Furthermore, I've been to Indiana. And seriously? Do businesses believe that they will be able to recruit star talent from the world's top MBA programs and engineering schools to live in Elkhart or Kokomo? Maybe one out of a hundred will go for the small-town milieu, but New York City has taxes just as high as Chicago's, yet I don't see Indiana trying to get anybody to relocate from midtown Manhattan. Indianapolis might be better than it used to be, but it's still not all that great. It's easy for Republican governors in neighboring states to play the Illinoisan-bashing card, given that we're seen as the Midwest equivalent of Massholes. But I've got news, Chicago ain't Illinois.

Don't feel too bad, Hoosiers. I have many dead relatives buried beneath your fine state, and there's even a Tinkey Road in what I can only assume is thrill-a-minute Kosciusko County. Also, I will always love Reggie Miller.

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