Indiana’s 2016 elections are important races in their own right despite being overshadowed by the presidential the election and the role played by Indiana Governor Mike Pence as Donald Trump’s running mate. This year’s Senate race is particularly important because outstanding conservative Senator Dan Coats is retiring and leaving the race to former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh and Republican Rep. Todd Young whom I enthusiastically support.
The Bayh family name is as renowned in Indiana political history as the Kennedy’s are in Massachusetts. Bayh’s father Birch served as U.S. Senator from 1963-1980 until he was defeated by Dan Quayle. Evan, continuing the family tradition of rhetorically masquerading as a centrist then voting liberal was Indiana’s Governor from 1989-1997 then served as a Senator from 1999-2010. While in the Senate, Bayh voted with Hillary Clinton 85% of the time and Barack Obama 96% of the time. Bayh left the Senate in 2010 expressing his purported discontent with the partisanship.
Over the subsequent six years, Bayh pursued various lobbying ventures which increased his net worth from $14-$48 million. When the initial Democratic Senate candidate, former Rep. Baron Hill dropped out of the race due to his inability to gain traction, Democratic Party bigwigs such as New York Senator Charles Schumer persuaded Bayh to enter the arena again. Living off the taxpayer was a hallmark characteristic of Bayh’s time in the Senate. Between 1999-2010 he billed taxpayers for 131 charter flights exceeding $220,000; a flight from a Nantucket vacation to Washington, DC; travel and per diemfor his family ski vacation in Beaver Creek, CO; a round trip flight from Washington, DC to Indianapolis and back to Ocean City, MD and a rental car to spend Memorial Day at a Delaware beach house, and taking three round-trip charter flights from Lafayette to Indianapolis instead of taking a one hour car trip each way. A car journey from Washington, DC to Ocean City is 146 miles and would have been a much better use of fiscal stewardship by Bayh if used his $174,000 senatorial salary instead of billing taxpayers.
Bayh has a preening sense of entitlement and thought he could seduce Hoosiers into believing he would restore bipartisan comity to Washington and bring back the purported bipartisan good feelings of his gubernatorial reign. During his previous two Senate races, Bayh encountered only token opposition. This time, however, Bayh faces a substantive, principled, and articulate conservative in Young who is effectively taking the fight to his false mystique of pragmatic centrist bipartisanship. Young and his campaign have effectively pointed out Bayh’s support for the failed Obamacare legislation which has drastically increased health care expenses for numerous Hoosiers beyond normal inflationary increases.
Besides lobbying for dubious causes such as Apollo investments which has received a multimillion dollar fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bayh has also built up a significant personal real estate empire which includes two houses in expensive Washington, DC, another high-priced property in Florida, and a seldom-used condominium in Indianapolis. If you seek to represent a state in the U.S. Senate you should spend at least a few months of the year living in that state so your neighbors can get to know you.
Unused to having his patrician Brahmin image attacked, Bayh and his campaign have petulantly responded by casting bogus aspersions on Young’s financial credibility and voting record. Bayh’s campaign has brought out the tired old leftist canard that Young and other Republicans seek to jeopardize Social Security when the facts of the matter are that Social Security faces serious financial sustainability problems within the next two decades according to sources as varied as the Social Security Administration and Heritage Foundation. If Bayh had any principles at all, he would frankly tell Americans the truth about Social Security’s structural problems and tell Americans that they must supplement Social Security with prudent personal investments and long-term strategic savings instead of making them dependent on an unstable entitlement program that does not accurately cover Americans increased lifespans. Unfortunately, appealing to fear and ignorance on these and other issues have long been staples of Democratic campaigning on critical public policy issues.
This same principle also applies in Indiana’s gubernatorial race between Republican Lt. Gov. Eric Holcombe and Democrat John Gregg. Gregg made a narrowly unsuccessful run against Pence in 2012 and is a former Indiana House Speaker. While Gregg was Speaker during the early years of this millennium Indiana went from a surplus of $2 billion to a deficit of $1 billion even though the Indiana State Constitution mandates a balanced budget. Despite this abysmal performance, Gregg decided to extend taxpayer subsidized health insurance coverage to retired legislators.
Gregg presents an “aw shucks” persona, but is really a skilled lobbyist whose “accomplishments” include working for Enron, the poster child for corporate ethical and managerial failure. Gregg has espoused the myth that the well-intentioned Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015 cost Indiana jobs when its intent was to give some legal conscience protections to businesses who don’t want to provide products or services they find morally objectionable. Since Gregg is a Democrat, however, he must supinely surrender to the perpetual group identity victim narrative of his party.
One of Gregg’s television ads blatantly appeals to xenophobic protectionism by citing the sad story of Indianapolis-based manufacturer Carrier which decided to move to Mexico to achieve greater economic competitiveness due to the hostile regulatory environment of the Obama Administration. The reality, which Gregg and other protectionist proponents conveniently, forget is that free trade produces job shifting which can be painful but eventually the Carrier employees will find high paying work that produces better wages and Indiana’s economy continues its transition into a digital era. In addition, Gregg’s protectionist bleatings fail to inform voters that Indiana exported more than $23 billion in goods and services between January-September 2016. We live in a global era and must compete for jobs and prosperity. Can you imagine John Gregg attempting to appeal to potential domestic or international investors with his ignorant protectionist mindset?
Indiana and other states need to vote for leaders such as Eric Holcombe who will educate their electorates about the need to compete in a global economy and develop the skills necessary to be a successful player on the international trade market. Clinging to a misplaced isolationist and protectionist nostalgia reflects demagoguery and poor political leadership which seeks to pander to the lowest common denominator. Our local, state, and national leaders should strive to aim our economic, political, and social aspirations higher. While Indiana’s economy is not perfect, the state is experiencing a budget surplus, it is able to maintain existing and develop new infrastructure products, and presents a favorable environment for individuals and businesses who want to maintain traditional moral values as well as promote economic growth.
Evan Bayh and John Gregg seek to appeal to our fears and ignorance while Todd Young and Eric Holcombe seek to motivate Hoosiers to take positive steps into the future as Indiana celebrates its bicentennial. The choice for U.S. Senator and Governor should be obvious to anyone with a scintilla or intellectual acumen or moral integrity!