Commentary and Opinion and Mickey Maurer

MAURER: Legislators finish hatchet job

April 29, 2011

Mickey MaurerAccording to Aesop, a woodsman went into the forest and petitioned the trees to provide him a handle for his ax. It seemed so modest a request that the principal trees granted it right away, and they declared that the homely ash should furnish what he needed. No sooner had the woodsman fitted the staff for his purpose, however, than he began chopping down the noblest trees in the woods. By the time the oak grasped the entire matter, it was too late. He whispered to a neighboring cedar, “With our first concession, we lost everything. If we had not sacrificed our humble neighbor, we might still be able to stand for ages.”

The woodsman and his ax have been unleashed upon our forest. Suspecting that serving up a majority of Hoosier Republican lawmakers would resurrect debate on social issues in spite of recent pronouncements of the governor, we nonetheless furnished the ax handle. This good-faith effort to support the governor’s sound fiscal policy sacrificed the homely ash. We elected a host of wild-eyed radical woodsmen who would splinter the noblest trees of our society—our rights and the rights of our fellow men.

Appreciate the cruel irony. We elected this Legislature and gave them that ax handle to be fiscally responsible, but each of the following actions (either passed or on the road to passage as of press time) has the opposite effect on the budget.

• The marriage rights amendment not only prohibits the union but the other incidences of marriage attached to any unmarried couple. It is nothing less than hate legislation—an unnecessary trampling on the rights of an innocent minority. It shamelessly panders to the homophobic fringe element of our Hoosier population. The amendment will have an adverse effect on business and economic development. Some businesses that may otherwise consider moving to Indiana will not. Indiana will undoubtedly lose convention business and many of our finest citizens will find friendlier communities in which to live.

• The amendment to make Indiana the only state to defund Planned Parenthood curtails, if not denies, the right of access by the poor and uninsured to needed health care. Countless patients will find themselves without access to birth control and to life-saving tests to avoid the tragic outcomes of cervical and breast cancer and sexually transmitted disease. This irrational assault on sound public health policy is a blind attempt to reduce abortion. By causing a greater number of unwanted pregnancies, the amendment would likely have the opposite effect. Cutting off Planned Parenthood jeopardizes millions in federal planning dollars. Denying access of the poor to birth control would increase the Medicaid-covered births in Indiana—already one of the highest rates in the country.

• The failure to enact a comprehensive smoking bill callously denies the right of a smoke-free workplace to countless Hoosiers and perpetuates the death march of these workers from cancer, emphysema and heart disease. Our neighbors Ohio, Michigan and Illinois have joined most states to enact a ban. We are now the ashtray of the Midwest. This, coupled with an attack on the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation agency that halves the budget for smoking prevention and terminates that independent organization, shows utter disdain for the health of Hoosiers, particularly our children. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, almost 7,000 more state kids will grow up to become addicted adult smokers because of the cut in tobacco prevention funds. Curtailment of Indiana’s quest to reduce smoking and the effects of secondhand smoke costs Hoosiers. According to the research department of the ITPC, tobacco use costs the state $2.08 billion in health care costs every year. Withholding significant funding to statewide tobacco prevention and cessation programs would not only kill Hoosiers but continue to drive up these costs.

And the moral of this story: The electorate that surrenders the ax handle to a radical few—no matter the reason—will feel that ax as it is used in wanton destruction of the rights of everyone in the forest.•

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Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal.  His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to mmaurer@ibj.com.

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