Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Democrats Echo Mayor Ballard's Committment to Corporate Welfare

I regularly read Terry Burns blog, Indianapolis Times. I think Terry has the best layout of any of the local blogs and does a superb job of using graphics. Content-wise I think Terry makes some good points, even occasionally gets the inside scoop on meetings and other events in advance of anyone else. But Terry is also a Democratic partisan though, through and through. Never once have I seen him criticize a Democrat on his blog. I don't think he has ever once said a good thing about a Republican. When I go to Terry's blog I know I'm getting about as close as you can get to the the Democratic party line, without going to the official website of the donkey party.

In his blog recently Terry did a two part analysis of Governor Mitch Daniels. The analysis also Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard hard. Terry spends considerable time talking about the differences between former Mayor Peterson and current Mayor Ballard.

While he attempts to point to differences, what I see instead are frighting similarities between Peterson and Ballard. Let's take a couple excerpts from the two part series:

My Man Mitch: Part I
•In 2005, Mayor Bart Peterson brought a plan to the General Assembly to expand the Convention Center and build a new multi-purpose stadium.

•Peterson proposed using gaming revenues, along with increases in several visitor taxes, to pay for the project.

•Oh yeah, Peterson also factored in operating expenses (the very thing we’ve been talking about for months).In a nutshell, whether you agree with the Convention Center and Stadium plan to begin with, Mayor Peterson at least had a
plan to pay for all of it.

My Man Mitch: Part II

Even though the Colts, Pacers, hotels, conventions and the hospitality industry provide thousands of jobs and billions of dollars into our economy, let’s set that aside for a second.One group getting hit hard by all this than most is the Central Indiana arts community.

Why is this important? Because the arts provide jobs. They provide entertainment and culture for CEOs, visitors, students and families. And here’s the kicker, (we’re looking at you, Mayor Ballard!): virtually all of the arts organizations have programs that help keep kids out of crime and out of trouble. That’s public safety, Mr. Mayor.

Why are they getting hurt? A double whammy. First, Ballard slashed the arts budget claiming the need for belt tightening – even though the city’s contributions to the arts are about 0.009% of the city budget. Second, the CIB is one of the biggest funders of local arts. When Daniels hijacked the CIB and stadium, he not only screwed up the Colts, Pacers, NCAA and conventions, but he did serious damage to all the arts organizations the CIB supports.

Now let's go through and highlight some problems with these excerpts:
  • Peterson did propose an Indianapolis casino to help pay for Lucas Oil Stadium. While this is a difference with Ballard, the fact is Peterson knew full well that an Indy casino was DOA at the legislature. The proposal didn't get to first base. The fact the Democrats still cite this as evidence of Peterson's fiscal responsibility is pretty laughable.
  • Peterson wanted to "increase several visitor taxes" to pay for the project. That's exactly what Ballard has proposed. The idea of "visitor taxes" is a joke. Rental cars, for example, are rented mostly by local people, not visitors. And even if it truly is a "visitor tax," those taxes still greatly impact the local economy, by decreasing economic activity which leads to lost jobs and stagnant wages. Further increases in the hotel tax would give us among the highest combined hospitality taxes in the country. How exactly is that good for the tourism industry and the convention business? Peterson and Ballard are singing from the same page on this one.
  • Burns brags how Peterson had a plan to pay for operating costs. Yeah, his plan was to borrow the operating costs. In what universe is paying for your utilities on your home by borrowing money a good idea? The Indiana General Assembly, not just the Governor, rightfully rejected such a boneheaded proposal.
  • I quote "Even though the Colts, Pacers, hotels, conventions and the hospitality industry provide thousands of jobs and billions of dollars into our economy." This is exactly the same dishonest semantic trick Mayor Ballard uses when discussing the CIB bailout. You take something that is not profitable, the Colts and the Pacers, and you attach them to something that is profitable, i.e. the convention business. Then you talk about how, they all together, are critical for the hospitality industry and the local economy. The academic studies almost universally show that large subsidies for professional sports is a bad investment for local government. All you're doing is moving spending from one part of the metro area to another. There is no net gain. The convention business, which chiefly brings in people from outside the metro area, is something else entirely.
  • Despite the complaint about Ballard and the arts in Burns' blog, the fact is the City continue to funnel millions into arts groups like the Arts Council of Indianapolis. I have exposed that organization on this blog previously for the putting its wishes first by paying bloated salaries, having excessive administrative expenses, and stashing away millions in cash while having their hand out begging for more. Very little tax money actually trickles down to the true starving artists of which Burns complains. But instead of taking on the bureaucratic entities that are wasting tax dollars, the Democratic argument is we need to simply give more money to the Arts Council. Uh, no thanks.
  • The Arts are crime fighters? Well, we did give the Children's Choir a crime fighting grant under Ballard. Personally I still have visions of local gangs being taught to sing and dance like the Jets and Sharks in West Side story. I'm pretty sure though that is not going to happen.

What I find disconcerting is that there is no loyal Democratic opposition to Ballard's insistence of yet more corporate welfare. None. I have not seen a single locally elected Democrat stand up for taxpayers and against giving their hard earned money to sports billionaires like the Simons. In fact, Democrats seem totally on board with every Ballard corporate welfare proposal.

The Libertarian dogma is that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans is an exaggeration. But when it comes to Indianapolis politics, the slogan is dead on accurate. Indianapolis elected officials in both local parties have signed on to taking more taxes away from the hard working men and women, in order to make the wealthy elites wealthier. In 2007, we thought the era of Indianapolis corporate welfare was over when Mayor Ballard promised the end to country club politics on Election Night. Then he went out and practiced it with reckless abandon. I still believe the end will come though. Given the populist outrage that exists, it is inevitable that the tide will turn.


guy77money said...

Excellent Post! I read Terry's blog and you are right on it's slanted to the Demo left. Maybe this is the problem with politics in America, there are few politicians and the hacks that run the party that will look objectively at both sides of an issue. Thank God for Advance Indiana and your blog Paul. I have been disallusioned by Ballard's about face on many of the issues that he ran on. At least you knew where Peterson stood he had no problem with raising taxes to pay for any pet project he wanted to tackle.


I follow Terry's blog because I like the style and get inside scoops. I know he'll never say a bad thing about the democrats and expect that from him.

I do hope one day, however, he becomes more independent in this thinking. A mind is a terrible thing to waste and it seems that Terry has a good one. Surely, he can't possibly agree with every single thing the dems do.


And Paul...thanks again for pointing out a few days ago that the Indianapolis Arts Council spends 57% of its taxpayer granted income on its administrative costs and only 43% on its arts programs.