Indiana Under Republican Rule

My latest article is in the Winter edition of American Affairs Journal. It's a detailed examination of Indiana under 16 years of Republican rule

Regardless of your own political orientation, you'll find things to like and things to disagree with in this piece. But I'm hopeful it will cause leaders in many northern states to rethink their approach to governance, even if they adopt somewhat different policy approaches than I do. 

A summary:

  • Indiana has had a Republican governor since 2005 and has been a GOP trifecta state since 2011.

  • During that time Indiana has implemented the full panoply of conservative policy solutions: low spending, low taxes, big surpluses, AAA credit rating, light regulation, extensive highway building. school choice.

  • The results have been bad: Indiana has grown poorer relative to the nation, population and job growth are weak (over half of counties are shrinking), wage growth is poor, educational attainment is poor, and the state is lagging in entrepreneurship and technology investment.

  • However, the same is true for an entire 23 state region I call the Old North. Red or blue, urban or rural state, large or small state, whatever demographic origins, whatever geography, VT or NH, IN or IL -> all anemic performers other than North Dakota (which has had a temporary oil boom). 

  • Indiana's GOP is not to blame for this. But it is to blame for siding with abusive industries over the needs and preferences of its own voters: slumlords, nursing homes, casinos, low wage employers, etc. 

  • Rather than an indirect strategy of business recruitment, Indiana should seek instead to directly improve the lives and promote the interests of its citizens, particularly the median citizen who is a working class, non-college educated conservative Republican.

  • There are three pillars of this: invest in citizen well-being, invest in the state's places, and protect citizens from abuse by bad industries and institutions captured by leftist ideology.

  • Undoubtedly investment in people and places is challenging in Indiana, which has a Jacksonian, folk libertarian culture. But the GOP has worked hard since the Reagan era to delegitimize the very idea that their voters should expect elected officials to do anything for them personally.

  • It will also be difficult for the GOP to adjust to defending citizens against other institutions, as it means standing up to abusive industries and woke capital, as well as universities, rogue prosecutors, etc.

  • In conclusion: "Neither woke moralism nor small-government dogma should absolve politicians of the responsibility to deliver tangible benefits to their citizens. Republicans, in particular, must take care of their actual voters."

Click through to read the whole thing

Note that after the issue went to press, Anthem insurance announced it was returning to the Obamacare exchange, addressing one specific point I had made in the article. My writing is so powerful, it changes things before it is even officially published.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Heartland Election Roundup

Here are the results from a few of the key races in the Heartland. It’s not intended to be comprehensive.

The biggest news is probably in Buffalo, where incumbent mayor Byron Brown handily beat India Walton, a socialist who had defeated him in the Democratic primary. New York has some odd election rules. Candidates can run on multiple party lines. But somehow Brown was unable to get on the ballot under a different party line or as an independent and had to run as a write-in. Having a write-in candidate, even an incumbent, win an election is unusual. However, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski also pulled it off a few years ago.

Detroit mayor Mike Duggan was reelected to a third term. Voters also approved the creation of a commission to study reparations.

South Asian immigrant Aftab Pureval was elected mayor of Cincinnati. Justin Bibb was elected mayor in Cleveland.

In Minneapolis, voters decisively rejected a ballot initiative to replace the police department.

Perhaps the most consequential vote may have been in St. Paul, where voters approved an initiative to implement a very strict rent control regime. Rent increases are limited to 3% per year, regardless of inflation, and can’t even be raised beyond that for a new tenant (though the city can grant an exception for this). It will be very interesting to watch how this effects the city’s housing market.

The Poor Places That Made Our Cities Richer

My latest column is now online at Governing magazine. It’s a further discussion of Howard Husock’s book The Poor Side of Town: And Why We Need It. For those of you who weren’t able to check out the recording of our AEI book event, this piece discusses some of the key points.

This was cheap housing, but that didn’t just mean cheaper rents. It meant the opportunity for ownership. A key characteristic of many of these neighborhoods was what Husock labels “owner presence.” Even in crowded neighborhoods, apartment buildings like the Boston triple-decker or Chicago two-flats allowed residents to buy the building and live in one unit, while renting out the other to earn income. A surprisingly high share of people who rented in these places lived in buildings where the owner was also living. The owners accumulated wealth in the form of equity in their real estate that was a key to their ability to move up economically.

One common factor in these places was a tolerance for housing that reformers judged substandard. Tenements on the Lower East Side, for example, often lacked baths. Levittown houses were tiny, identical boxes on concrete slabs. But the policy response to the legitimate problems of some of these neighborhoods was a cure often worse than the disease. Mass slum clearance and the construction of huge high-rise public housing projects are the most infamous examples.

The replacement of “slum” housing with public housing was not only a quality-of-life disaster, it also locked its residents into permanent rentership. Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood may have been segregated, but it gave Black residents the opportunity to own real estate and own and operate businesses. In public housing, Black residents could do neither, cutting off critical avenues of wealth creation.

Click over to read the whole thing.

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