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I'll take the tote bag…
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
…and a free tote bag! Not to mention two decals to put in my car windows!
The fund raising letter came from Allen County Sheriff Dave Gladieux begging for money for the Indiana Sheriff Association so they could do the work “that benefits you, your family and property against crime.” Hmmm. Isn’t that what we already pay them to do? The letter read like a pitch for some charity. Give $250 to the ISA and you rank at the Gold Star level. You get a plaque, subscription to their newsletter, a membership card, credentials (?) for three people, and “many more great benefits,” perhaps real maple syrup at the pancake breakfast. My favorite contribution gift is the sticker for my car window, you know, the one that you put in the rear window driver side in the hopes that it will get you off cheap should you be pulled over. It is a wink and nod that some officers say does not factor into their decision making process at all…or so they say.
“You’re Gonna Make Me Cry
Those were the words one Court employee used to describe Magistrate Jerry Ummel as he retires after decades of helping people work out their differences, mainly over rent, in Small Claims Court. That comment was echoed by others. Magistrate Ummel has served our county with quiet, respectful dignity, hearing oh so many sad, sad disputes, and always, invariably, treating everyone in his courtroom with gentlemanly kindness and respect. Magistrate Ummel is one of those many reserved, dedicated government employees who kept our system functioning reasonably well. He will be missed.
Leadership matters. So, in the wake of the international uproar over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the scorn heaped on all of us by comedians and pundits, the loss of business, the impact on decades of economic development initiatives and the general comparisons of Hoosiers with bigots one has to point the finger at Governor Mike Pence, Senate President Pro-Tem David Long and Brian Bosma, the Speaker of the House, as having failed in their principle task, leadership. After all, each has the responsibility to guide lawmakers for the benefit of Indiana, not into a dark ally of scorn and ridicule.
With that in mind, Mike Pence can all but kiss his presidential or vice presidential aspirations out the window. Thanks to his appearance on This Week his negatives have put him at the same level as a congressman.
Beggin for Bucks
I received a personalized plea for help from Ted Cruz the other day. The word emergency was used a dozen times in the body of the fund raising letter. Apparently, in an attempt to get “out of the gate first” Brother Cruz had brushed aside a tenet of politics, that of showing financial strength as proof of viability. He announced about ten days before the end of the reporting period. Campaign balance sheets are scrutinized by big cat donors to avoid tossing good money after bad. Either Ted is truly short of money, thus the emergency, or is using tried and true tactics to scare little old ladies out of their life savings. I await my letter from Rand Paul.
America the Laggard
Is America the greatest country in the world? How would we measure that rather subjective claim? History? Individual wealth? Happiness? GDP? Certainly, we outspend the rest of the world in military spending. GDP, gross domestic product, puts us in the Number 1 spot ahead of China, Germany and Japan. GDP calculations, however, also includes car accident repairs, the cost of cleaning up after BP, and funeral expenses. Not exactly the clearest measures of “greatness.” Recently, the Social Progress Index was released by a group called the Social Progress Imperative, rating each country against a collection of social criteria. Call it the smile index, if you will. We did not fare so well. In fact, we come out Number 16, behind Canada at 6th, behind the Scandanavian countries, as well as Germany, Switzerland and a few other European countries.
We still, however, lead the world in top universities, and rank high for affordable housing, and freedom of speech, although not tops in either case. We get low marks for obesity, traffic deaths, early marriage, pollution, birth mortality, the school dropout rate, homicides, water quality, and too many more.
Our growing wealth gap is also noted.
The report is found at: Socialprogressimperative.org/data/spi/countries/USA
Taxes and Death
Gas taxes have long been a staple of Indiana’s mix of collections to fund our common wealth and are often dedicated to road and street repair. Gas tax receipts have sunk due to electric cars, more efficient gas powered cars, lower gas prices, and less driving. Fort Wayne officials have been pointing to the drop for some time, lamenting that road repairs are delayed because collections are simply not there. A couple years ago city council restructured our tax collections mix to push more money from the general fund to road repair. Problem is more electrics are coming, Detroit has finally seen the light, and young folk are increasingly opting for downtown living, instead of navigating snarled traffic. While this is all great for the environment, it makes repairing roads difficult. The temptation of backward looking government officials (city council) is to make up the gas tax shortfall with higher payroll taxes or property taxes. At eighteen cents a gallon, however, there is plenty room for raising Indiana’s gas tax. Kentucky adds 27 cents per gallon, Michigan 19, and Ohio 28. Better yet would be funding for programs and projects that reduce our dependence on streets and roads.