Daniels Shows Obama How It’s Done

March 5th, 2010 at 12:04 pm | 3 Comments |

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Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’s recent statements that he was “open” to a 2012 run should keep the Obama administration up at night.  In office, Daniels has managed to do what Obama has not: create new jobs and extend health benefits to the poor all while trimming government and keeping taxes low.

Since he became governor Mitch Daniels has been obsessed with getting jobs for the people of Indiana. Companies like Honda, Nestle, and BP among others have invested more than $15 billion in the state since he became governor. A typical announcement of the governor runs like this:

Governor Mitch Daniels says economic development deals announced today continue a diversification of Indiana’s economy and serve as a buffer from the turmoil in the nation’s financial and credit markets. This morning, health care equipment manager TriMedxsaid it will expand its national headquarters in Indianapolis, creating more than 100 jobs over the next five years. This afternoon, Italy’s Brevini Co. will confirm plans to re-locate its U.S. headquarters from Illinois to Delaware County. The company will also build its first U.S. manufacturing facility there, creating approximately 455 jobs. Brevini will manufacture gears and components for use in the wind power sector.

In his campaign for reelection in 2008, Daniels was keen to show to audiences a powerpoint presentation that I believe he probably used in meetings with business leaders.  The presentation pointed out that Indiana ranked

#1 in the Midwest and #12 nationally for business climate in the country, #8 for overall cost of doing business and #1 in international investment in our country in 2007.  CEO Magazine has rated Indiana #4 in the Midwest and #8 nationally for the best place to do business.  Since taking office 60,000 new good-paying jobs have been committed by 2012 and now 50,000 more Hoosiers have jobs than in 2005.  New jobs created in Indiana have an average annual salary of more than $39,000 which is about $5,500 more than the average Hoosier salary.

None of this of course was accidental. Since Daniels became governor he followed a very meticulous path in order to restore the finances of the state and keep taxes low. He cut more than $250 in spending and renegotiated state contracts saving another $190 million. A tax amnesty bill brought in another $224 million and he reduced the state government payroll by five thousand employees. He reduced the growth of government spending from 5.6% to 2.8% and eventually an $800 million deficit became a $1 billion surplus. For the first time in its history Indiana got a AAA rating.

One of his most important decisions was to privatize the toll road connecting Chicago and Ohio in northern Indiana.  Selling a 75 year lease to a European company proved initially a very unpopular decision. In a MitchTV video available on YouTube, Daniels gets an earful from an elderly voter in a diner. He calmly and attentively explains the benefits of the decision. The old system generated only $130 million in profits for the state in over 50 years of operation. A figure that would be surpassed in one year only from the interest generated by the $3.85 billion Indiana got the private company.  Over time the vast majority of Hoosiers came to see the deal Daniels’s way.

But Daniels proved to be something more than the typical business-friendly Republican governor. In 2007, he passed the Healthy Indiana Plan which covers Hoosiers who earn lees than 200% of the federal poverty level.  The plan established a health savings account where the state contributes $1,100.00 and the individual up to 5% of his income to provide for basic health benefits. If the funds are depleted catastrophic coverage kicks in.  It’s a plan that covers the uninsured while it helps them develop healthy habits and it does so by keeping the costs of the state down and introducing consumer choice in the healthcare system. The Healthy Indiana Plan is very popular with Hoosiers.

It’s a great example of how Republicans can find a way of providing conservative solutions for the problems that the voters face today. As Daniels said to National Review’s Mark Hemingway:“Our health-care plan is health savings accounts for poor people. Our telecommunications policy is deregulation. Our infrastructure policy was the biggest privatization in state history.”

Hoosiers gave him an 18% reelection victory in 2008 at the same time as they were voting to elect Obama for president. Daniels won by gathering an unusual electoral coalition for a Republican in that year. As Mona Charen noted, Daniels’s “margin of victory included 24 percent of Democrats, 20 percent of African-Americans, 51 percent of the youth vote, 67 percent of the elderly, and 57 percent of independents.”

His Indiana record and his appeal to groups that Republicans don’t seem to do well with recently have brought Daniels to the spotlight for the 2012 presidential election. It also helps that Daniels has solid Washington experience having been Reagan’s policy director and George W. Bush’s budget director. Add to that his private sector resume of having been head of Eli Lilly’s North American operations and chief executive of the Hudson Institute and you’ve got yourself a very attractive candidate.

Simple, direct, knowledgeable, effective and conservative. Sounds like the man that Americans may be looking for in 2012.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Stewardship

    I admit I was skeptical. Living just two miles from the Indiana Toll Road, I thought tolls would sky-rocket, maintenance would plummet, etc. So far, so good. In fact, the private company updated the system with EZ Pass.

    Governor Daniels embraced clean and renewable energy as part of his economic development plan. The wind farms in Benton and White counties comprise the largest wind energy installation east of the Mississippi. Of course, parts makers and supplies to that industry are going to be attracted to states that are committed to clean energy for the long-haul. I also get the impression that the economic development effort is spearheaded by the governor–not some agency or department or fractious local organizations–and the buck stops with him.

    Regarding the Indiana health plan, the participants get to keep the balance remaining in their HSA’s….a strong incentive to be very careful with health care spending and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  • mbowdoin

    recent reports suggest that daniels’ great job creation record is smoke and mirrors. they’ve been counting unhatched chickens, i.e., jobs promised but not delivered. daniels’ ‘success’ is a fraud.


  • sinz54


    Most of those setbacks were due to the national recession, which hit the entire Midwest hard. From the news report you cited:
    For many companies, a brutal economy caused by turmoil in the housing, automotive and banking industries is to blame.

    “It’s been an extraordinarily difficult time because companies haven’t been able to borrow the money they very often need to have these factories and jobs become a reality,” said Marcus. “It’s not surprising a lot of these jobs did not work out.”
    In such an economic climate, the best any governor of any state can do is cushion the blow, not hope to have real prosperity while the other 49 states are mired in a deep recession.

    Mitch Daniels has done that.
    As America climbs out of the recession, the foundation that Daniels has laid should enable Indiana to do quite well, compared to some other states like Michigan where Governor Granholm is hard at work creating the worst climate for doing business in America.