Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Daniels develops an obsession with us

I’m starting to wonder if Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels seriously wishes he were “one of us.”
DANIELS: Put a cork in it, guv!

By us, I mean a Chicagoan, or at least an Illinoisan.

FOR AS MUCH as he seems to like talking about our state in recent days, he has paid far more attention to Illinois than we ever pay to Indiana - which might as well not exist once one goes east of Indianapolis Boulevard.

What gives guv? Are you really that envious of us? Or are you just trying to gain some attention by dumping on the president’s adopted home state in hopes that it might draw some juice for your own alleged presidential aspirations?

For what it’s worth, I’m referring to comments made last week by Daniels in an interview with The Times, a Munster, Ind.-based newspaper that covers the border region where our two states converge. Those were followed up by comments he made Tuesday during a live interview with WLS-AM where he turned his serious criticism of Illinois’ financial state into jokey rhetoric.

How else to explain his description of Indiana’s proximity to Illinois as being the same as living near Homer Simpson. “You know, the dysfunctional family down the block,” Daniels said while on the air of the Chicago radio station powerful enough that he likely was heard in his own capital city of Indianapolis as well.

THE SMART-ALECK IN me wants to say that if Illinois is the Simpsons, then I would guess that makes Indiana the Flanders family. You know, widower Ned and his two sons, Rod and Tod, whose religious devotion is just so over the top that it puts them out of touch with the real world – and also usually manages to annoy the likes of The Simpsons pastor, Rev. Lovejoy.

They just sort of take up space without contributing much. It can be said for both Flanders AND Indiana.
There's a reason 'Illi' comes before 'ana' in the phrase 'Illiana'

Or perhaps if the dysfunctional Simpsons from Springfield are representative of Illinois, then Indiana is best represented by Shelbyville – the fictional town on the television show whose only significance is that it is near the television version of Springfield.

In short, I could go on and on with wisecracks about Indiana being a second-rate copy of Illinois lacking the very things that make our state one of the most significant in the nation and Indiana just a part of the land mass that comprises the Great Lakes states.

BUT I’M NOT all that interested in making wisecracks. I’ll leave that to Daniels, who is showing us a willingness to use our state to try to bolster his own political standing.

Not that I’m surprised to hear Illinois bashing. It is fairly routine. In fact, some of the nastiest comments I ever have heard have come from Illinois residents themselves – although it usually falls under the guise of Chicago-bashing, and it comes from those residents in the distant outreaches of the state who are too isolated from the city to appreciate the benefits it brings us.

On a serious note, Daniels is bringing up a legitimate issue. Our state’s financial situation is a mess, in large part because too many of our political people have been unwilling to accept the fact that an elected official’s job includes moments when they have to make an “unpopular” but “essential” vote on some issue.

A vote along the lines of the significant increases in income and corporate taxes being suggested to raise the kind of money needed to come close to balancing out the state deficit (that could reach as high as $15 billion by July if NOTHING is done this spring) is something that should have been done years ago.

IN FACT, IF it had been done years ago, the chances are great that such a large increase (looking to raise 66 percent more money) would not have been needed. Chances are also great that if our legislators didn’t act on Tuesday (the final day of activity for the old Legislature), they would have been asked some time this spring to approve an even greater increase.

So in a sense, our political people are worthy of some ridicule – even from someone like Daniels, who seems determined to use it for political spin.

Daniels was the guy who last week was going around saying that the tax increases would be good, FOR INDIANA. He thinks many of those border residents will merely move across the state line, and that many businesses will seek a Hoosier address to get around paying certain taxes.

I know for a fact that some people do think this way. I was born in the part of Chicago and grew up in the surrounding suburbs where Indiana is a daily reality (it’s just the other side of State Line Road), and I know people from my childhood who now live in places like Munster, Merrillville and St. John – because of the perception that it is cheaper.

IT MAY BE by a few bucks. But it also seems that any time those individuals need some unique item or service, they have to resort to coming back to Illinois. My argument is that you get what you pay for, and living in Indiana means you pay a little less because you get significantly less.

There are also too many people who need that proximity to Chicago (even if it’s in the outer suburbs of the collar counties) in a way that Indianapolis will never be essential (personally, I think Peoria is a more significant city).

Daniels’ rhetoric may work on some. Then again, state Sen. William Brady, R-Bloomington, tried using similar rhetoric during one of the debates that was part of the most recent Illinois gubernatorial campaign.

Brady lost. Daniels should learn a lesson from that if he thinks that a Chicago/Illinois bashing will gain him any significant support. If he keeps it up, it will cost him significant (Illinois, even at 20 votes in the Electoral College, still stomps on Indiana’s 11) support.

OR MAYBE DANIELS is just miffed by that one Simpsons’ episode where Homer gets all excited about going to India to train replacement nuclear power plant workers. “Woo Hoo! The Simpsons are going to India! Home of the Indianapolis 500!”

The punch line to that gag being that Indiana isn’t even significant enough to get credit for hosting the one event for which it should receive annual national attention.


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