’Tis a dreary day indeed when our senior politicians behave like politicians rather than the wise men they could be. It saddens me to see the short and narrow view extolled over a long and broad perspective on our state’s economy.
To argue that Indiana’s economy is thriving is to ignore reality in favor of blatant partisanship to influence an election.
True, we have enjoyed the bounce back from the depths of the recession.
Where our economy took a greater plunge than the nation, our recovery does look strong. It resembles the temporary, exhilarating upswing of the roller coaster after a heart-stopping fall. But such turmoil leaves many emotionally and fiscally sick in its wake and cannot be considered thriving.
The broadest measure of the economy is Gross Domestic Product. Economists and politicians of all persuasions agree GDP has not grown with the vigor we desire. Those desires are based on our understanding and experience with more ordinary recessions since World War II. This downturn was more like the great depression, a financial trauma where conservative fiscal and monetary policy was insufficient to accelerate recovery.
In the downturn (2007 to 2009), U.S. GDP declined at an average annual rate of 1.6 percent; Indiana’s GDP fell at a 3.5 percent annual rate, the sixth hardest-hit state in the nation.
In the first three years of the recovery (2009 to 2012), Indiana had the 12th strongest performance at 2.2 percent (U.S. was 1.8 percent). Thereafter (2012 to 2015), we slipped to 17th place and a 2.0 percent annual growth, while the nation advanced slightly to a 1.9 percent growth rate.
Thriving? Exemplary? Robust? Please, get real.
We have been misled by our political leadership for many years. Democrats, Republicans, it does not make a difference. When convenient, employment figures are used. When advantageous to the incumbent administration, data are cited isolated from time and context. Since what date to what date? And how were other states doing in the same period?
Evidence from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation is taken at face value. Does no one look at the face of the IEDC? It is a contorted mask, a creation of the government and private businesses designed to evade public scrutiny. Distinguished appointees, instead of acting in the full light of openness, hide in the shadows behind the “need for confidentiality.”
This is the same dodge used at the county level throughout the state. “We can’t tell you what we are doing; it might cause potential businesses to turn away from us.” “We cannot give you verifiable information; it might infringe on the competitive positions of firms.” “Trust us; we act responsibly on your behalf, whether or not you can judge based on what we tell you.”
As a recent letter in an Indianapolis newspaper proclaimed, “Hoosiers deserve a factual representation of Indiana’s economy.” Where are they expected to get it when press releases are foisted on the public as economic news and letters to the editor offer a whitewashed truth? Here, but where else?
Morton Marcus is an economist, writer and speaker who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.