Imagine two wholly democratic institutions directly connected to the future wellbeing of yourself, your neighbors, your community, and your state. Two social/economic/political powerhouses that have propelled millions into the ranks of the middle-class, the rich, the famous, and even the uber-wealthy. Then imagine a seemingly mindless assault on these institutions, a tearing and pounding at the foundation of America’s middle class. Of course I’m speaking of labor unions, public education and the recent unpleasantness known as the 2011 legislative session.
Now, with Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman, let’s jump into the Wayback Machine and travel to February 21st, 2011. On that day, thirty-six Democrats of the Indiana House of Representatives participated in a walkout. Representative Sheila Klinker was one of those participants. On March 25th, the Journal & Courier published a guest column on that subject by Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb. I would like to speak to a few of the issues raised in that column.
The “right to work” legislation proposed by the Republican majority was seen by Democrats and organized labor as an attack on the middle class. Some saw it as an effort to choke off support and funding to the Democratic Party. Many viewed this as “forced to work cheap” legislation. When it became clear that the Republicans intended to push this legislation through even against the advice of Governor Daniels, the Democrats exercised the only option open to them. They initiated a walkout.
The use of the walkout has been a legitimate tool of the minority for generations. It seems that much of the ire on the part of Republicans is due to the success of the Democratic walkout. “Right to work” legislation is off the table, at least for now. Representative Klinker chose to represent her constituency using a tool available to legislators of either party, and she did so honorably.
Chairman Holcomb remarked that Democrats refused to do the job they were paid to do. On the contrary, Representative Klinker and her colleagues did precisely that. In extending the walkout Representative Klinker and her fellow Democrats chose to represent the public schools in their districts by trying to eliminate or modify legislation introduced in the name of “education reform.” Many of these bills had nothing to do with education reform and everything to do with blaming and hurting teachers. Two of those bills, the vouchers bill and the charter schools bill, do not seek to improve the quality of education in our public schools, but instead siphon public funds away from our children, potentially creating two “separate but equal” education systems. If we can’t fund one, I wonder how we’ll fund two. I thank Representative Klinker for her stand on behalf of public education. I also honor the efforts of the few Republican legislators who stood up and were counted as supporters of public education. I am speaking in particular of Senator Ron Alting.
Chairman Holcomb further asserted that Hoosier taxpayers were double paying Representative Klinker during the walkout since she is employed by a state funded University. Representative Klinker is under an eight-month contract with Purdue. Purdue begins paying her on May 30th. And so she doesn’t begin to receive her Purdue salary until a full month after the legislature adjourns. This was an easily acquired piece of information. I wonder that Chairman Holcomb didn’t care enough to discover this on his own.
Toward the end of Chairman Holcomb’s guest column he stated that there is a clear directive from voters in support of various issues, among which is “education reform.” To my knowledge few, if any, candidates for the legislature ran on a platform of denying teachers the right to collective bargaining. I doubt that any legislators ran on the platform of denying teachers the right to have dues automatically deducted from their paychecks as the Republican legislature attempted to do with House Bill 1585. I feel certain that legislators did not run on a platform of publishing teacher evaluations on line as seen in Senate Bill 1, a practice not done in any other profession. And I cannot imagine that any legislator ran for office on the platform of minimizing the profession of teaching, of actually discouraging self-improvement, by denying financial advancement for additional degrees and graduate credit hours as the legislature partially succeeded in doing in Senate Bill 1.
For our sake, I hope Republicans will come back to their senses and back to their jobs, for this is not Republicanism. This is more big government, less local control, and more interference in the lives of Hoosiers. I’m a liberal Democrat and today I’m a better Republican than Chairman Holcomb.
Time moves on. Change will happen. And what’s done can’t always be easily undone. I wonder if we’ll continue our rush to join the ranks of the lowest performing states. I wonder if we’ll shake the dust off our Nikes, leave this land we’ve come to, and strike out for the future. This coming May is the Indiana primary and then on to the November election. We have that time to think about what we want, what our values really are, and what kind of Indiana we see for ourselves and for our children.
Bankrupt Unemployment Fund Fix Balances Needs of Workers, Concerns of Businesses
Indiana’s General Assembly last week approved a plan to replenish the state’s bankrupt jobless fund. The bill, which passed the Senate 46-3, is a bipartisan compromise that preserves worker benefits, restores the fiscal integrity of the system, and prevents premium increases for employers who do not lay off workers – generally speaking, Indiana’s vital family-owned small businesses.
For industries with layoff histories, typically big business, any premium increases would be phased in over two years to help ease the impact during these troubled economic times. Regardless of size, if a business never lays off workers, a decrease in premiums should result.
To further empower business and restore the integrity of the system, House Enrolled Act 1379, which we co-authored and advocated, launches a series of sweeping reforms to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse and creates new on-going oversight to prevent future problems with Indiana’s unemployment insurance fund.
For some time, premiums paid by businesses – which fund unemployment benefits for laid-off Hoosiers – have failed to keep pace with benefits paid-out to workers. As a result, Indiana’s fund is now partially sustained by a more than $800 million interest-free loan from the federal government, an amount estimated to top $1 billion by year’s end.
If lawmakers failed to find a fix in the near-term, we risked facing a federal government takeover of the fund – a move that could have resulted in a massive, permanent expansion of Indiana’s unemployment insurance system and additional premium increases on top of those required to balance the fund.
Thirty states have jobless funds which are already insolvent or at risk of insolvency, according to the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. But many of these states are placing the burden to replenish their funds solely on the shoulders of businesses without looking to find efficiencies in their systems. No general tax revenues are used to fund the UI system. All proceeds are paid in via insurance premiums paid by employers, and all of the premiums in the UI fund are used only to pay unemployed worker benefits.
Common Sense, Cost-Saving Reforms
Indiana’s solution, HEA 1379, balances nearly dollar-for-dollar up to $302 million in cost-savings and reforms to the system with approximately $315 million in premium increases for 2010.
Reforms to the system include the creation of a compliance center tasked with monitoring the fund to prevent improper and overpayments to unemployment insurance claimants and an oversight committee charged with making future recommendations for reforms to the system.
Common-sense, cost-saving reforms will require jobless Hoosiers receiving benefits to actually apply for one job per week, not just look for one as current law provides. Workers fired for poor attendance, working under the influence of alcohol or stealing from their employers will no longer be able to claim benefits.
Fairer, Yet Competitive Premiums
Just as high-risk drivers pay higher premiums for their auto insurance than motorists who rarely have accidents, businesses more likely to lay off workers should pay higher premiums than those that never lay off workers. Consequently, nearly 40,000 Hoosier employers who have never tapped the fund will actually receive a slight decrease in premiums, while those who use the fund more frequently will see increases – but only to levels that maintain Indiana’s economic competitiveness with other states.
Even businesses experiencing the largest increase in their annual, per employee contributions – those who draw down the fund’s balance the most by laying off the most workers – will still pay lower premiums than the Midwest average of $1,042. New premiums will also be phased in over the next two years, giving businesses still recovering from the recession relief from approximately $100 million in 2010 premiums.
A Forward-Thinking, Innovative Solution
Lawmakers went into this session in need of an unemployment reform bill that would work for all Hoosiers — our employed and unemployed, our small businesses and large industries. Senate Republicans worked in a bipartisan fashion to author and pass a comprehensive bill that closes loopholes, protects many small businesses from premium increases and positions Indiana as a forward-thinking, innovative leader in tackling this nationwide problem.
Ron Alting Brandt Hershman Dennis Kruse
State Senator State Senator State Senator
Lafayette–District 22 Wheatfield–District 7 Auburn–District 14
[OP-ED] INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) and Department of Treasury actions hold potential for helping solve our small business credit crunch by offering incentives to lenders to provide capital to small businesses, and by reducing the cost of borrowing for small businesses.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees loans that are made to small businesses by lending institutions such as banks and credit unions. Upon request by a financial institution, the U.S. Small Business Administration can assume a major portion of the risk of lending to a small business. This is an incentive for the lender to make loans; particularly to start-up businesses and businesses in new industries.
The Recovery Act provides SBA with $730 million in total funding. This includes $375 million to cover the costs of temporarily eliminating loan fees for borrowers and raising guaranty limits on some loans; providing extra funding for SBA-backed Microlenders; and targeting $255 million for a new loan program that is being developed to help viable small businesses with immediate economic hardship make payments on existing loans.
For SBA lenders, the Recovery Act supports guarantees of up to 90 percent on most types of SBA 7(a) loans to qualified small businesses. SBA 7(a) loans can be used for a wide variety of business purposes. With a 90 percent guaranty on a $100,000 loan, for example, the financial institution will be at risk for only $10,000. This level of risk-sharing will be a substantial incentive for a financial institution to make capital available for small businesses.
Prior to our economic downturn, many of the loans guaranteed by SBA were pooled and sold to investors on the secondary market. This mechanism placed more capital into the marketplace for additional lending. In the past several months; however, this secondary market has stalled. To further assist SBA lenders, particularly smaller community banks and credit unions, the Treasury Department will commit up to $15 billion in TARP funds to help unfreeze the market. The Treasury will use the TARP funds to purchase existing and new SBA-backed loans made by our lenders. This is viewed as a major step toward increasing the opportunity for SBA-backed lending to our small businesses.
Another SBA program is the 504 Certified Development Company Loan Program (504). This program is used to finance purchase or construction of a building or for purchase of long-lived, major equipment. A change to the 504 program under the Recovery Act is its use to refinance existing fixed asset loans as part of a business expansion project. As further incentive for lenders, the Recovery Act temporarily eliminates 504 loan fees they had been paying. The Recovery Act also authorizes SBA to use its guaranty authority to establish a secondary market for bank loans made under the 504 loan program; and to make loans to broker-dealers who buy SBA-backed loans from lenders and pool them for sale to investors on the secondary loan market.
The Recovery Act enables immediate savings for small business borrowers. Prior to the Recovery Act, loans with an SBA guaranty had an upfront fee charged to the borrower. Money collected from the upfront fee had been pooled and used to help pay the guaranteed portion of the loan to the lender if a small business defaulted on a loan. Elimination of the borrower loan fee under the Recovery Act represents a substantial savings to the small business. For instance, if a small business borrowed $100,000 from a bank under the SBA 7(a) guaranty program, the upfront loan fee would have been $1,700.
With the help of our resource partners: SCORE, the Indiana Small Business Development Center Network, and the Women’s Business Centers; the SBA Indiana District Office can assist Indiana entrepreneurs with their business planning, assist with preparations for seeking financing, and help analyze strategies and techniques that will guide the business through challenges and for planned growth.
The temporary loan fee eliminations and 90 percent guarantee provisions will apply to approximately $8.7 billion in 7(a) guaranteed loans and $3.6 billion in 504 loans across the country. SBA estimates that its allotment from the Recovery Act will cover lending in both programs through calendar year 2009.
While it is a challenging time for prospective and current business owners, our Indiana entrepreneurial spirit will help us rebuild our economy. The American Recovery and Reinvention Act of 2009 holds opportunities for re-starting lending and promoting investment in our nation’s small businesses. Now is the time to take advantage of the many elements in the Recovery Act. Contact SBA at 317/226-7272 or www.sba.gov/in for more information and assistance.
WASHINGTON, DC — At a time of soaring unemployment, the Indiana State House of Representatives is blocking legislation that would help prevent employers from filling jobs with illegal aliens. Senate Bill 580, which the Senate passed by a 37-13 vote, requires state and local governments to use the federal E-Verify system and provides incentives for Indiana businesses to do the same. The bill would also allow the state to punish companies that knowingly hire illegal aliens, and even suspend their business licenses. Gov. Mitch Daniels has pledged to sign the legislation if it is sent to his desk.
E-Verify is a federal program that allows employers to electronically verify that new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States. The program is free to employers and has a 99.6 percent accuracy rate. Over 100,000 employers already use the program and new employers are signing up at the rate of 2,000 per week.
SB 580 has been assigned to a House committee chaired by Rep. Earl Harris (D-East Chicago) who has indicated that he will not allow a vote on the measure. Despite the fact that Indiana’s unemployment rate has reached 9.2 percent, and Elkhart has the dubious distinction of having the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 18 percent, Rep. Harris is blocking common sense measures that would help keep jobs for legal residents. “No, I don’t think this session. I really don’t think this is the year we should do that,” said Harris.
“Rep. Harris and the Indiana House do not think this is the year they should act to protect Indiana jobs?” asked Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). “Indiana has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, parts of the state have already reach Depression era unemployment levels, and the state is spending $1 billion a year on unemployment benefits. What, exactly, would it take for Rep. Harris to defend Hoosier workers?”
SB 580, which was sponsored by State Senators Mike Delph and Dennis Kruse, was drafted with the assistance of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), FAIR’s legal affiliate. IRLI is the nation’s foremost authority on drafting state and local immigration enforcement legislation that does not infringe on the federal government’s authority over these policies.
“Enacting SB 580 will not magically solve Indiana’s unemployment crisis. What it will do is help ensure that remaining jobs go to U.S. workers, including jobs that may be created as a result of the economic stimulus package,” said Stein. “The Indiana House of Representatives has an obligation to implement whatever common sense measures it can offer to help struggling families in Indiana make it through this difficult period. This is the time to pass SB 580,” Stein concluded.
Founded in 1979, FAIR is the country’s largest immigration reform group. With over 250,000 members nationwide, FAIR fights for immigration policies that serve national interests, not special interests. FAIR believes that immigration reform must enhance national security, improve the economy, protect jobs, preserve our environment, and establish a rule of law that is recognized and enforced.
In his address to the joint session of Congress, President Obama said that “We cannot shun the negotiating table” in conducting our foreign policy. He’s previously elaborated that “if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.” And Iran’s president Ahmedinijad tentatively welcomes “talks based on mutual respect and in a fair atmosphere.”
The shared idea, evidently, is that our conflict with Iran stems largely from a past failure to use so-called diplomacy to settle disputes. Alluding to George W. Bush’s supposedly tough policy, Obama has said he wants to restore “the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years” ago.
Really? Thirty years ago this November, followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, who spearheaded Iran’s Islamic revolution, stormed the U.S. embassy in Teheran and took the personnel hostage. President Carter gently admonished Iran, but ruled out military retaliation. Instead his advisors spent months dreaming up schemes to bribe Iran into releasing the hostages–while bending over backward to enable the regime to save face. In the end Khomeini’s Islamist theocracy collected a handsome payoff for its aggression, and concluded, rightly, that if attacked, America would crumple to its knees.
Was Obama thinking of the 1980s? In April 1983 Iran’s jihadist proxies in Lebanon rammed a truck bomb into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut; the Reagan administration responded by doing nothing. Months later, encouraged by Washington’s inaction, Teheran issued a kill order–via its ambassador in Syria–to its allied groups in Beirut. Early one morning, an Islamist suicide bomber set off a massive explosion at the barracks where U.S. marines were sleeping and killed 241 of them.
Reagan spouted hot air about not backing down–and soon after ordered the U.S. troops to bug out. The jihadists wanted America out, they slaughtered our troops, and we caved in and gave them what they wanted.
Osama bin Laden, like jihadists in Iran and elsewhere, viewed our response to the Beirut bombings as further proof that their ideologically driven war was a viable cause. And so, inspired by Iranian aggression, the anti-American jihad kept ramping up.
Maybe Obama meant the fabled halcyon days of the 1990s, when President Clinton tried to mend fences with Iran?
In 1996 a team of jihadists–financed and trained by Teheran–blew up the Khobar Towers building in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American servicemen. Clinton’s administration learned that Iran was behind the attacks. But Washington brushed aside any notion of retaliating against Iran, in order to facilitate a “reconciliation” with that murderous regime. In an eerie parallel with today, Iran expressed its openness to U.S. groveling–an opportunity Clinton seized.
So, Clinton attended a speech by Iran’s leader at the U.N.; the administration also permitted the sale of much-needed aircraft parts to Iran, among other sweeteners. Granted the cover of respectability, Iran was emboldened to continue fomenting Islamist aggression and avidly pursue its then-embryonic nuclear program.
Obama’s appeasing diplomacy re-enacts the disastrous policy of the past. Our policymakers evaded Iran’s character as an enemy, and by rewarding its aggression with bribes and conciliation, they encouraged a spiral of further attacks.
No. Bush was no exception to this trend. After 9/11 his administration invited Iran–the leading sponsor of Islamist terrorism–to join an anti-terrorism coalition(!). Talk of an axis of evil was quickly abandoned, and Washington backed the European scheme to bribe Iran to halt its nuclear program. By late last year, there was talk of opening a U.S. Special Interests Section (a step down from an embassy) in Iran. Meanwhile Bush’s welfare mission in Iraq negated U.S. security and left Iran untouched to grow more powerful and resolute.
A genuinely new, rational policy toward Iran would turn away from the last 30 years and begin by facing up to Teheran’s ongoing proxy war against us.
Elan Journo is a fellow at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, focusing on foreign policy. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”