Monday, March 24, 2014

GOP Mayors' Support of Corporate Welfare Is Causing Irreparable Damage to Indiana Republican Brand

Indianapolis Mayor
Greg Ballard
Over the past several years, Indiana cities have been increasingly led by GOP mayors.  But these are not your typical conservative, limited government Republicans.   They are elected officials who have embraced the Hamiltonian notion that it is the role of government to pick the winners in the American capitalist system  To implement that philosophy those mayors have utilized tax increment districts, tax abatements, and direct subsidies to businesses..  In return for the taxpayer giveaways, those mayors have seen their coffers filled with contributions from companies, developers, and law firms which reap the benefit of corporate welfare.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard
But that money that is given away by Indiana's mayors does not grow on trees.  Given that money has to be obtained from somewhere, the obvious answer is to reduce the dollars going to basic city services.  But those Mayors can only short services so much, eventually they need more revenue.  Where do those mayors go for that revenue?  The answer inevitably is increasing taxes on working men and women and/or borrowing from future generations to fund current operations. No better example exists than Republican Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who during his six year tenure, has proposed raising virtually every tax and fee, including local income taxes and property taxes.  Recently Mayor Ballard has gone the route of borrowing from the next generation with a proposal to float a 30 year bond to pay for mostly short-term infrastructure
Westfield Mayor Andy Cook
improvements, things like paving roads, during the months leading up to a possible re-election bid in 2015.   Lest anyone think Mayor Ballard is alone in this approach to government, he or she only look north to Carmel Mayor James Brainard, Westfield Mayor Andy Cook and Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold.  All have enthusiastically embraced corporate welfare.

Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold
The huge campaign contributions that those Republican mayors receive in exchange from handing out corporate welfare has insulated them somewhat from the vagaries of political competition, both in primaries and in the general election.   But as a long-term strategy for building the party, it is a disaster.  Corporate welfare is very unpopular among both Democrats and Republicans. Taxing people more, especially when those tax dollars are being given away to politically-connected companies, angers a lot of people.  In fact, it is exactly that approach to government which led to the rise of the Tea Party on the right and the Occupy movement on the left.

At the end of the day, the approach of the Republican mayors nets considerable contributions but little popular support.  If the Republicans are going to grow the party, they need to take a populist approach to the issues.  Looking out for wealthy corporations will result in considerable campaign contributions, but it does little in the way of gaining popular support among working men and women for the GOP brand.


Mike Kole said...

Brilliant article, Paul. I've been jumping and down about this in Hamilton County for 10+ years now. It's hard to convince people now, because things are shiny and new. But sooner or later, the piper must be paid. Hamilton County is built on people who left higher tax jurisdictions, so it won't be a surprise to you or me when the same people move out of HC for the same reasons they were drawn. Reinventing the flat-spotted wheels of so many other jurisdictions. Just wait- Fishers is getting a mayor now too. We had escaped the Brainard/Cook 'crowning jewel syndrome' for years, but with the giveaways on the Town Center land, we have fallen prey- without a mayor. Let the games begin here too.

Greg Fettig said...

Excellent post Paul. With republicans like these, who needs democrats.

Power and Money, politics is always about this and nothing else. Look what Cook has done in Westfield with his pet project Grand Park. He has the city partnered with a private firm to operate a sports complex. Picking winners and losers, all the while padding his reelection campaign war chest with donations. When his failed model crashes the citizens will be left holding the bag.

Pete Boggs said...

For Republicans, the key indicator or metric, of principles (advertising claims) matched to governance (performance), is whether government was enlarged or reduced significantly, in real, net measurable terms.

There's better measure of leadership; that which is inextricable from principle. Government is either bigger or smaller- jurisdictionally it's one or the other.

The problem; states & municipalities, import DC problems, rather than generate local solutions. By design & at best, government is a limited use tool, hence the enduring sanity of enumerated powers; from which it has unconstitutionally departed at all levels.

Let's hope the establishment can be awakened from its self destructive addiction to OPM (Other People's Money).

Rick Wilkerson said...

Very good observations, Paul. You stopped short of drawing conclusions as to the implications of the Democratic Party, though.

Mayors like Ballard should be easy pickings for a credible Democratic party nominee, but it is increasingly clear that the mainstream D's also embrace the corporate welfare policy to such a degree that they won't challenge Ballard on this issue. Which means they end up hoping to win because of demographics rather than issues. Right now I'd say Ballard is a cinch for a 3rd term unless a candidate emerges who is not controlled by the corporate D's. And that is not likely.

Nicolas Martin said...

Republican crony capitalism is hardly a new thing.

Greg Purvis said...

Well, THIS Democrat has been complaining about this kind of crony capitalism/ corporate welfare for a few years up here in Fishers. But it seems some folks are finally starting to listen.

Blog Admin said...

The only part I disagree is that it causes damage to the Republican brand and thus, is harder to elect Republicans in state-wide elections.

Indiana is still very much a red state and, unless your name is Bayh, any time a Democrat wins a state wide office it is described as an upset.

I mean people, even Carmelites, complain about Brainard all the time. But he's, as far as I can tell, never had a serious challenger in any campaign, primary or general. Seybold too has been in office a very long time, though there seems to be some discontent with the council of Marion.

Flogger said...

Our own Eugene Debs said it very well, "The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles."

We have here in Marion County a good example of that - We have the Republicrat Party. Other than fighting over the spoils for the most part their is no difference. Both parties embrace Crony-Capitalism, which determines the winners and losers.

The goal of our elected officials is quite simple - stay in an elected office and get a share of the spoils for themselves, family, or friends.

John Accetturo said...

Business finds political contributions to be cheap way to obtain millions in taxpayer money. Jim Brainard is the poster boy

for doing business this way. Businesses wouldn't give me a dime in my run for Carmel Mayor in the last election, because they knew where I stood on corporate welfare.Is Mayor Brainard really a Republican?