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123 Articles

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Parting thoughts on Indiana's strengths, weaknessesRestricted Content

August 20, 2007
The nice thing about economics is that we never really figure anything out. That hasn't stopped folks like me from writing about economics and papers like this one from printing what we have to say. As I often have said to those who have remarked on these writings, nature abhors a vacuum. Someone else will be filling that vacuum next week, because this is my last column-for Indiana readers, at least. I am happy to leave you in the capable...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: State economy began year with an impressive spurtRestricted Content

August 13, 2007
The economy constantly is serving up complex puzzles for us to solve. Have energy prices peaked? How much longer will mortgage markets continue to bleed? How will the dollar's decline affect the low prices for imported goods? These are complex issues, and some of us actually earn a living trying to sort them all out. But sometimes we need to step away and address the simpler questions-such as: How does the economy grow? Of course, some might say "not at...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: How tax reform could fix ailing health care systemRestricted Content

August 6, 2007
Will a new president and the next Congress finally take meaningful action to address the financial storm looming for health care? Perhaps. In the meantime, the pressures created by rising health care costs have been too strong for everyone else to wait. Businesses have been adapting to rising premiums for employer-provided coverage in predictable ways. And beginning with Massachusetts, states are responding to rising Medicaid costs by crafting solutions of their own. But much of the solution, whatever shape that...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: The link between taxes and high health care costsRestricted Content

July 30, 2007
"Things that can't go on forever don't." If those famous words of the otherwise obscure Nixon-era economic adviser Herbert Stein apply to anything, it is health care spending. Most of us recognize that health care is expensive, breaking the budgets of many households, pressuring businesses and even challenging the spending capacity of giant federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid. What is less clear is why this is so, and what can, or should, be done about it. We spent more...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Band-Aid approaches won't resolve property-tax fiascoRestricted Content

July 23, 2007
Well into my career as an economist, I used to have a recurring conversation with my now-departed father, who had wanted me to become a doctor. What would you have to do, he would say, if you decided today that you wanted to be an MD? Somehow, the list of actions I would tick off-quitting my job, taking several years of chemistry and biology, years of medical school and internships-never seemed to faze him, and he was always eager for...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Big Three carmakers' slide will not be easy to reverseRestricted Content

July 9, 2007
The last writings of the late novelist Kurt Vonnegut portrayed the Americans of today as "drunk" on fossil fuels. Of course, that's only partly true. What we're really addicted to are the machines we pour the fuel into, especially the automobile. We have more registered vehicles in this country than we have drivers. In 2005, we collectively drove more than 3 trillion miles in our vehicles-15,000 miles for each of the nation's 199 million drivers. And the numbers go up...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Long spoiled by low rates, nation now faces increaseRestricted Content

July 2, 2007
It wasn't long ago that writing an economic analysis column meant-surprise-that you analyzed the ups and downs of the economy. And if you came of age in the 1960s and '70s, there were plenty of ups and downs to keep track of. Volatility in just about everything was higher then, with strikes, inflation and more frequent recessions the order of the day. And even though that environment has changed remarkably since the mid-'80s, the habit of peering at the data...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: What's your favorite economic indicator?Restricted Content

June 25, 2007
If you like to hear news about the economy, the information age has been a boon. Leave your television set on one of the financial networks, and you'll see tickers, graphs and animations whizzing by as talking heads digest and dissect every morsel of market and economic information. Tell your computer to alert you to any news about a company, a country or an industry and it will pop up with tidbits all day long. And for a few bucks,...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Will state's job growth always trail nation's?Restricted Content

June 18, 2007
You usually have to swallow your pride when it comes time to forecast the growth of the Indiana economy. That's because no matter what your heart says, your head tells you what the best forecast will be. That is the one that pulls up well short of growth in the rest of the country. There are a lot of talented people working hard around the state trying to change that. And if the full truth be told, most of our...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Focusing on factory jobs misses the big pictureRestricted Content

June 11, 2007
There's been something peculiar going on in the business media in Indiana over the last few weeks. We've been beating ourselves up because the state is losing manufacturing jobs. Headlines about the decline are popping up, and state and local development officials are facing the bright light of media scrutiny. The chatter on Internet "talk-back" forums serves up plenty of people to blame-the governor, the unions, the Chinese and even our neighbors who buy imported goods. But if I could...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Taking the ultimate step in K-12 accountabilityRestricted Content

June 4, 2007
Everyone in business today knows that customers have choices, and that making and keeping customers happy with your product has always been a big part of the game. These days dissatisfied customers have many more options than simply walking away-they can go online and blast your product in cyberspace, attacking the image and reputation you may have spent a lifetime trying to build. That's the daunting prospect American businesses face every day. Yet as difficult as that sounds, here's one...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Scoring political points can cost state in long runRestricted Content

May 28, 2007
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about economic cycles-the boombust patterns of everything from housing to commodity prices-is that they keep economists and forecasters gainfully employed. John D. Rockefeller tried to eliminate them by controlling production and distribution. Franklin Roosevelt tried to cut them short by using the federal government checkbook. And Alan Greenspan, and now Ben Bernanke, keep trying to talk and cajole financial markets in the direction they think they should go. It hasn't worked. Or,...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Wireless world making research more difficultRestricted Content

May 21, 2007
If you're thinking of getting a job as a researcher, you should know it is a lonely life we lead. The world outside our offices sees issues in black and white that appear to us as infinite shades of gray. And when we occasionally emerge from our cubicles to deliver our results to the public, we are told either that we have a stranglehold on the obvious or that we have no concept of the real world. But the world...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Employers hope to save by promoting healthy livingRestricted Content

May 14, 2007
"Mandates are a form of love," a state legislator once said, explaining a vote that added requirements to privately funded health insurance programs statewide. And our governments evidently love all of us-businesses, individuals, and even other governments-very much. Our legislatures tell us the lowest wage we can pay our workers, the questions we can and cannot ask during job interviews, and how many gallons of water we use to flush our toilets. To the admittedly narrow-minded thinking of an economist,...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Signs of economic trouble are beginning to surfaceRestricted Content

May 7, 2007
There is a character in an old Hunter S. Thompson novel who shows up in every scene sweating profusely. Halfway through the book, he finally explains it-sweating is normal. It's when he stops sweating that the alarm bells should sound. It's a little like that with bankers. Except it's not literally sweat, but worry. Bankers are always worried-about loan quality, interestrate spreads, renewed inflation, you name it. After all, the banking business is really business in general. How we collectively...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Does growth in health care drive our state's economy?Restricted Content

April 30, 2007
Indiana households, businesses and governments spent more than $33 billion on health care products and services in 2004. We don't have current data yet, but you can be sure the amount is higher today. That's because growth in health care expenditures in the state has averaged a whopping 8.6 percent per year since 1980. In 2004, spending on hospital care, physician services, prescription drugs, nursing homes, and every other kind of health care product or service gobbled up 14.4 percent...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: State's growth in incomes is still lagging the nation'sRestricted Content

April 23, 2007
It was 1980 when then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan asked audiences whether they were better off than four years earlier. It was smart politics-1980 was a recession year. But politics aside, it's always a relevant question. For if the economy is not growing the pie that we all share, then those who manage it, not to mention those in political leadership roles, have cause for concern. But how do we answer such a question? With the due date for tax filings...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: The Great Society meets fiscal realityRestricted Content

April 16, 2007
Someone wise in matters of politics once said programs for the poor are poor programs. It remains true today-initiatives aimed at helping the most vulnerable in our society, be they privately or publicly funded, seem to be perpetually starved for funds. And so the genius of those who created the Social Security system-originally aimed at older Americans whose assets were devastated by the Great Depression in 1935-was to make the program available to all, regardless of income. In a few...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Jobs news is negative however you slice itRestricted Content

April 9, 2007
What's the news on Indiana employment? Odd as it might seem, that phrase is almost a contradiction in terms. For while we do receive very timely, detailed information on how many jobs are carried on Indiana employers' payrolls each month, the practical challenges in keeping close tabs on the latest zigs and zags in the 3 million-strong Hoosier labor force make the interpretation of the fresh data difficult. Only after the data have sat on the shelf for half a...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Why economists don't get invited to partiesRestricted Content

April 2, 2007
To borrow a phrase from religion, there are among us a number of people who can be called "supermarket economists." These are individuals who pick and choose the portions of economic doctrine they like, and ignore the conclusions of economics that do not suit their purposes. In public discourse, supermarket economists so greatly outnumber genuine economists that when one first encounters the real animal-usually in a college classroom-the reaction can be a mixture of shock and disappointment. Maybe that's why...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: How Hoosiers who smoke are hurting state economyRestricted Content

March 26, 2007
For those who have gone through life shying away from anything involving numbers, the demonstration of the principle of compound interest is usually an eye-opening revelation. It's quite simple, actually. Money set aside today accrues interest, if it is wisely invested. But so does the interest on what you set aside yesterday. Over a long time span, this snowballing of interest on interest can build up to a sizable nest egg. That's why financial advisers always tell you to start...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Ideas needed for fixing health care financingRestricted Content

March 19, 2007
It's been 15 years since third-party presidential candidate Ross Perot briefly captured the nation's attention with his crisp, witty promises to "look under the hood" to fix the problems in Washington. Since that time, some problems have gotten worse, some have gotten better. But in this era of political polarization and legislative gridlock, the idea of a new face coming to town to actually fix some of the problems we face today is as appealing as ever. What would such...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Turnabout is fair play in evaluating educationRestricted Content

March 12, 2007
Much has been made in recent years of the performance of our state's secondary schools. In particular, the recent revisions made to high school graduation statistics, suggesting that as few as three out of four ninth-graders graduate with their class have sounded an alarm. People are saying something is wrong with K-12 education in Indiana, and they would appear to have plenty of ammunition to support their arguments. But turnabout is fair play in the business of evaluating education. Since...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: How consumers respond when paper profits vanishRestricted Content

March 5, 2007
Most market sages know it already, but there is always a new generation of investors that needs to relearn the lesson taught by this latest financial market volatility. Namely, that paper wealth is subject to change. Turning your financial wealth into something else of value-like a house, or a car, or even a bond-always contains an element of uncertainty. If you want to take it literally, more than a trillion dollars of wealth was wiped out in the first five...

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Markets pay a premium for the college-educatedRestricted Content

February 26, 2007
Nothing erases the thrill of getting a raise from your employer faster than the news that someone else got a bigger one. We care about how much money our friends, neighbors and coworkers make-not always in a benevolent sense-even though there is usually little we can do about it. The trappings of material wealth are all around us, and it is almost impossible, it seems, not to get caught up in the game. But despair over disparities in income and...
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  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.