Jewish World Review Nov. 28, 2005 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan,
Small cuts, big ideas
INDIANAPOLIS Indiana likes having the nation's
highest portion of workers 20 percent in
manufacturing, so five days before Delphi, the Michigan-based
automobile parts maker, entered bankruptcy, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a
Republican who believes "conservatism can be active," called Delphi
and praised Indiana as a paradise for even more Delphi operations
than are already there.
Michigan's Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, responded to
Delphi's travails differently, denouncing Delphi's executives,
Washington and globalization. In the game of entrepreneurial
federalism states competing to lure businesses score
one for the Hoosier State, which in the four years before Daniels
became governor had a net loss of jobs.
In the division between social conservatives, who emphasize
nurturing virtue, and libertarian conservatives, who emphasize
expanding liberty by limiting government, Daniels is with the
latter. For example, regarding immigration, an issue that dramatizes
this division, many social conservatives
are restrictionists, but Daniels, whose state's population is, he
says, "getting older and not growing," welcomes immigrants, who
usually are "young people with dreams a good development."
After graduating from Princeton and Georgetown law school, Daniels
came home to this city to work for its then-mayor, Richard Lugar.
After eight years as chief of Lugar's U.S. Senate staff and two
years as director of political operations in President Reagan's
White House, Daniels came home again, to work in business and for a
think tank for 13 years.
In 2001 he returned to Washington as President Bush's director of
the Office of Management and Budget. As the government's designated
grinch, he said Congress's motto apparently is "Don't just stand
there, spend something." Sen. Ted Stevens was not amused. The Alaska
Republican, who then chaired the Appropriations Committee and has
cornered the market on curmudgeonliness, urged Daniels to "go home
to Indiana." Daniels did, not to soothe Stevens but to run for
Hoosiers seem suspicious of metropolitans, but in 2004 Daniels
became the state's first governor from this city. Knowing that the
devil is in budget details, "the Blade," as Daniels was known at
OMB, set about:
Ending bottled water for employees of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles
(annual savings, $35,000). Ending notification of drivers that their
licenses are expiring; letting them be responsible for noticing
(saving $200,000). Buying rather than renting floor mats for BMV
offices (saving $267,000 this year). Initiating the sale of 2,096
surplus state vehicles (so far, $1.95 million in revenue from 1,514
sales). Changing the state lottery's newsletter from semimonthly and
in color to a monthly and black-and-white (annual savings, $21,670).
And so on, and on, agency by agency.
Such matters might be dismissed by liberals who think government
spending is an index of government "caring," and perhaps by a new
sect called "national greatness conservatives" who regard Daniels's
kind of parsimony as a small-minded, cheeseparing exercise unworthy
of government's great and stately missions. But it seems to be an
What is it about Indiana? In this annus horribilis for
conservatives, one of their few reasons for rejoicing has been the
ascent to influence in the U.S. House of Representatives of the
Republican Study Committee, more than 100 parsimonious members under
the leadership of Mike Pence, a third-term Hoosier from a few miles
east of here. The RSC's doctrine, a response to a one-third increase
in federal spending during the current president's first four years,
might be called Danielsism, which is: There is more to limited
government than limiting its spending, but there will be nothing
limited about government unless its spending is strenuously limited.
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This tenet of traditional conservatism, although more frequently
affirmed than acted on, is producing fresh plans for action. A
24-page RSC proposal calls for rescinding $25 billion in pork
spending from the transportation bill, saving $30.8 billion by
delaying for one year the start of the Medicare prescription drug
entitlement, and much more.
Daniels believes that Danielsism, far from being an exercise in
small-mindedness, actually serves a large vision. He subscribes to a
distinction made by Virginia Postrel in her book "The Future and Its
Enemies" the distinction between advocates of stasis and
advocates of dynamism. The former believe in managing the unfolding
of the future.
The latter believe in minimal management of that unfolding; hence
they believe in minimizing government, which has
a metabolic urge to manage and a stake in preserving the status quo
that government's bureaucracies are comfortable serving.
So, what is it about Indiana? As the home of Danielsism, and of
Penceism, it with its bought, not rented, BMV floor mats
is the wave of the future.
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