MARCUS: Grandson learns facts of Hoosier life

Morton Marcus
December 5, 2009
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Morton Marcus

My grandson, Nathaniel, recently had his first birthday. Soon thereafter, I took him to a doughnut shop to teach him the facts of life. If he is to become an adult Hoosier, there are things he must learn.

With sugary icing on his little fingers, he gave me that smile that softens the most curmudgeonly of senior citizens. I, however, would not be deterred from my course.

“Young man,” I said, “you may not understand all I say to you today, but you will recall and value my words in the future.” Nate continued to smile.

“Soon,” I went on, “the Indiana General Assembly will meet. They are our representatives in state government. They are not our voices. They are elected to do what is right for our state, even (and particularly) if we do not have the willingness to do it ourselves.”

Nate reached for a jelly-filled doughnut with strawberry icing. After an initial exploration, this caloric bomb exploded and I wiped up the debris. He then went for a plain cake doughnut and I proceeded.

“You will hear,” I said, “that the Legislature wants to cut taxes, particularly property taxes. Your task as a citizen is to ask, why? What services will you reduce? If no services are to be cut, where will you get the money to keep them operating? If you need no offsetting revenue, how would you change government operations?

“These questions will make you unpopular and disqualify you for public office. The greatest uproar will come from asking, why? You will be told that Indiana’s taxes are too high, that old people are suffering and losing their homes because of our inequitable tax policies. Maybe no one can name any such old people, but that is beside the point. In politics, claims do not have to be substantiated. Fear, not fact, stimulates action.”

This was the moment Nate decided to demonstrate how he plays the bongos. With both hands, he struck the tray of his high chair in a series of complex rhythmic motions. I grabbed his hot chocolate and looked about to see if others were enjoying the concert as much as I was.

“Yes, my little friend,” I said. “Your generation will have its hands full of goo left over from the legislative sessions of my generation. Each year, these 150 good men and women meet in Indianapolis and leave a web of conflicting, unstructured instructions (laws) that no self-respecting spider would weave.

“They talk of reform, but they never achieve simplification. They pontificate about fairness and set up complex practices that are discriminatory in favor of this group here and that group there.”

Nate made a face. I could not tell if he was in agreement with me or had to burp. Unfazed, I went on. “The worst of it is that they believe in their own wisdom and superior morality. In their eyes, no local government, no school corporation, no library district, not at the city, town or county level, is their equal. That is why, in each legislative session, the powers of these “lesser” governments are reduced. There is no trust in or respect for local democratic institutions.

“At the same time, our state government officials complain bitterly about the restrictions and measures of accountability required by the federal government. Because localities cannot meet their own needs from their own revenue sources, they must depend on the largess of higher-level governments. The result of being treated as incompetent is childish behavior at the local level.”

Nate gave me a thoughtful look. “The problems we face together through government are serious and complex. Often, only a few people know enough to resolve them. Yet we cannot marginalize those who are closest to the problems.”

Nate now was sending signals to my eyes and nose that told me our conversation was over.•


Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I am so impressed that the smoking ban FAILED in Kokomo! I might just move to your Awesome city!

  2. way to much breweries being built in indianapolis. its going to be saturated market, if not already. when is enough, enough??

  3. This house is a reminder of Hamilton County history. Its position near the interstate is significant to remember what Hamilton County was before the SUPERBROKERs, Navients, commercial parks, sprawling vinyl villages, and acres of concrete retail showed up. What's truly Wasteful is not reusing a structure that could still be useful. History isn't confined to parks and books.

  4. To compare Connor Prairie or the Zoo to a random old house is a big ridiculous. If it were any where near the level of significance there wouldn't be a major funding gap. Put a big billboard on I-69 funded by the tourism board for people to come visit this old house, and I doubt there would be any takers, since other than age there is no significance whatsoever. Clearly the tax payers of Fishers don't have a significant interest in this project, so PLEASE DON'T USE OUR VALUABLE MONEY. Government money is finite and needs to be utilized for the most efficient and productive purposes. This is far from that.

  5. I only tried it 2x and didn't think much of it both times. With the new apts plus a couple other of new developments on Guilford, I am surprised it didn't get more business. Plus you have a couple of subdivisions across the street from it. I hope Upland can keep it going. Good beer and food plus a neat environment and outdoor seating.