The Forest and the Trees


     Pleading today for the elimination of local government, Mitch Daniels makes the point that there are just a heckuva lot of trees out there: “It’s an unfortunate irony that Indiana, with our reputation for keeping government lean and accountable, is awash in elected officials (emph. mine) and layers of local administration.”

  Some of you may know that there is currently a push, a big push, going on in Indiana to eliminate township governments and to streamline and consolidate county governments and service units, such as fire departments, public schools and libraries.  This is of course not unique to Indiana.  Other states are jumping on the progressive modernization bandwagon.  There are just too doggone many elected officials out there duplicating services, clogging up the system, engaging in cronyism and nepotism and a….decent respect to the opinion of progressives everywhere, demands that we stamp them out and get in the 21st century, or so the theory goes.  See the link below for Mitch’s latest offering on the subject.

So that we are clear on our objectivism here, Mitch Daniels was probably the best thing possible to come along for the State of Indiana in 2004.  Without a doubt, he kept the Ship of State afloat in perilous times, especially in the runup to and during the recession.  Much like G.W. Bush was a rock for America at a crucial juncture.  However, as has been tossed back and forth on these pages and others, there is some concern about Mitch’s (he gives us leave to call him that) stance on social issues and the concept of ‘big government’.

Well, who knows what is in his heart, but everyone should know by now that Mitch is a budget guy, a wonk, and administrator, an “executive”.  Oh, and how we did harp on Barry’s lack of “executive experience” in the 2008 campaign!  In retrospect, maybe that should have been way down on our list.  At any rate, what is becoming more and more apparent is that the narrative is being controlled, in many venues, by the ‘trucers’.  What is happening is the ‘budget trumps all’ argument is winning, not only on the national scene but here in formerly conservative Indiana, to the point that not only are social issues cast aside, but apparently, from the rhetoric of Mitchell B. Daniels, your republican form of government you formerly thought so much of is negotiable as well.  Yes, indeed, my fellow Hoosiers, says Mitch, the Constitution of 1851 is a relic, and we are ‘awash’ in elected officials.  Note that Mitch doesn’t say we are ‘awash’ in bureaucrats, ‘awash’ in policy wonks, ‘awash’ in lobbyists.  No, we are ‘awash’ in elected officials, here in Indiana.  This is not just a minor item in his agenda.  He has joined forces with the Press and the Professors to make this an all-out crusade.  He established a Commission with the expressed goal to reform local government in Indiana and the willing accomplices came out of the woodwork to sign up.

     So why should you care?  “About time for those hick Hoosiers to get with the 21st Century,” you might say.  Well, maybe.  Indiana has 92 counties containing 1,008 townships.  Boy that’s just a lot of government isn’t it?  No; it’s a lot of people in local government, but there’s not a lot of governing going on there.  There’s a lot of lookin’ out for the folks going on there.  Our issue today is not debating particular constitutional constructs.  It is bringing the question of the outlook and governance-view of Mitch Daniels to the fore and suggesting that its apparent Progressive bent might be instructive as we evaluate him for national office.

     Mitch Daniels can balance a budget.  Mitch Daniels can make the daring executive decision when it comes to finance. Mitch Daniels  has been in Washington in the thick of the bureaucracy.  Yes, he was there…in the thick of the ….bureaucracy.  He was right in the middle of it.  A whole…..forest of bureaucrats.  Yet a major problem in Indiana, as Mitch sees it, is a ….grove? …. of elected officials.  Just too many elected people getting in the way, inefficient and outdated, outmoded.  Can be replaced with maybe just a few elected  people with the power to appoint people to do the actual work of governing, or, shall we say, ruling?

When Mitch was in Washington, in the middle of that forest of bureaucrats, perhaps there were just too many ….elected officials…clogging his view.  Heavens, wouldn’t maybe just one or two Congress critters from each state be enough to consent to what the executive has in mind?  Is Washington ‘awash’ in 535 ‘elected officials’?   Is this an apples-oranges argument?  Are we trying to balance a budget or are we trying to save the Republic?

     There are too many ‘layers of administration’ in Indiana, Mitch says.  And one of those ‘layers’ are people who are ‘elected’, out there in the hinterlands, by people who know them.  We are right now in the middle of what almost every thinking observer realizes, at least in our Republican circles, is a near constitutional crisis over the issue of Barry’s use of the bureaucratic apparatus to thwart the will of the people by doing end-runs around Congress.  And Mitch is positioning himself to be considered by the people of America by ranting about being ‘awash’ in a sea of ‘elected officials’ here in his home state?  Well, yes, perhaps America should consider that.