MARCUS: Some things must be repeated

August 29, 2009

Some things need to be repeated over and over again. Repetition is required when a concept is hard to grasp or when narrow interests are allowed to override the public interest.

• Interstate 69 from Indianapolis to Evansville is not intended to connect only Indianapolis and Evansville.

The I-69 extension was designed to provide significantly improved access to the many communities in southwestern Indiana, including suburban Indianapolis, Martinsville, Bloomington, Washington, Petersburg and a host of other towns. Every necessary study has been made. More delay only increases the costs and pushes the benefits further into the future.

• We have a moral obligation to our fellow citizens to see that they receive necessary and appropriate health care.

Insurance is but one means of financing such care. Insurance need not be related to employment. There is no substantial reason for employers to finance health care. Some people will argue that it is in the interest of employers to protect their work force through health insurance. This is as fallacious as arguing that employers should see to it that their employees have auto insurance so workers can get to the job.

The prime beneficiaries of basic health care are those who require such care. Secondary beneficiaries are the families of those people. In select instances, entire communities benefit from containing the spread of infectious diseases.

This is akin to the benefits of education. The prime beneficiaries are the students. Current and future families are the secondary beneficiaries and the public in general is a tertiary beneficiary. Would any rational person deny basic education to our citizens because they cannot afford to pay for it? Public financing should not be confused with public provision of the service.

How much education? How much health care? These questions never will be resolved. We agreed long ago, however, that society in general has a responsibility to bear much of the cost of education. Now we must recognize that the same is true for health care.

• Restrictions on pollutants should be encouraged.

If Indiana benefits from polluting the air by burning coal, there are at least two solutions. First, we could pay the rest of the United States to accept our pollution via the cap-and-trade proposal. Second, the nation could pay us to stop polluting and to move to another energy source.

Without alternative scientific answers, Indiana is in no position to argue that solutions to the global-warming issue should exclude those that hurt us more than other states. Would we hesitate to condemn other states that pollute our air and water? Political opposition to cap and trade is narrow-minded pandering to our short-term self-interest and rejection of the global interest in reducing pollution.

• Local issues should be decided by locally elected governments.

Should Wishard Hospital issue bonds to build new facilities? This is an issue for local government in Marion County. Instead, the Legislature, which should have no say in the matter, chose to have a decision by popular vote. This single-issue special election will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Should there be a transit district for Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties? Again, the Legislature determined there would be a special election in those four counties on the issue. The costs are staggering to decide what should be settled by the governments of those counties.

The Indiana General Assembly does not believe in local representative government. It decides by itself when issues should be determined by plebiscite, by local government, or by its own fiat.

Remember how “Unigov” was formed in Marion County? The people of Marion County did not vote on it. It was a creation of the Legislature. Did the citizens of northwest Indiana create the Regional Development Authority? No, the Legislature did that.       

These are a few of the issues that we will face repeatedly until more people have a clear understanding of our opportunities and obligations.•


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.


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