A Lack of Choices in Indiana

Sink-Burris, Ellsworth, and Coats

(Post-Bayh Indiana, 10.26.10) The contest between worst and next to worst in Indiana continued last night in Vincennes, Indiana, as Dan Coats (Republican) and Brad Ellsworth (Democrat) engaged in their third and final debate.  The men had engaged in two previous encounters, October 10 in Indianapolis and October 22 in Fort Wayne. Libertarian Rebecca Sink-Burris, who also participated, failed to provide a viable third voice.

The third debate offered nothing new for anxious Indiana voters but we should examine where this OK Corral-style debate leaves Hoosier Democrats.

The economy, no surprise, was the main bone of contention between the two men. Coats, of course, defended NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement he voted for when a U.S. Senator in the halcyon days of the ‘90s. Ellsworth said the pact was a failure and that it cost Indiana 50,000 jobs.  In their first debate, Ellsworth accused Coats of wanting to ship American jobs overseas.

Coats retorted that “The worst thing this country can do is enter into a trade war.” Foreign trade, he says, is good for Indiana and that one-in-five Hoosiers have jobs because of exports.  Coats asserts, in what is hardly a surprising riposte, that the true enemy – the real enemy of a healthy Hoosier economy – is corporate taxes.

Sink-Burris agrees. She helpfully offered the opinion that lowering taxes would make the situation better for American companies. We now know where to file her opinion.

I’d like to ask Coats and Sink-Burris if they are aware that 60% of US companies pay no income taxes. I do, you do, but 60% of U.S. companies do not.

But Republican spin is that corporate taxes are bad. Libertarians agree. Don’t let facts get in the way, either of you. Where have you been since Reagan? Trickle down doesn’t trickle down. It trickles up – into corporate pockets.

Government regulation is also the enemy, Coats says. And of course, he had to take a shot at healthcare reform too.

Never mind that unregulated capitalism brought us the Great Depression and the Crash of ’08 which two years later continues to dominate world headlines. Yeah, those regulations must be bad, Dan.

And healthcare? You don’t want healthy workers? Because I’m sure if we’re all sick and dying the economy will get along just fine. It’s hard to see a healthy citizenry as a threat to the economy.

Sink-Burris seems to have lived her life in a bubble. She thinks the best way to reduce healthcare costs is to allow the industry to be unregulated by the government.  Of course, we know what happens then: they don’t cover anything because they don’t have to.  There is a big difference between cutting red tape and giving corporations carte blanche to rob and kill Americans. Sink-Burris seems unaware of it.

In their first debate, Coats said to Ellsworth, “You passed massive spending programs and you turn around to Hoosiers and you say ‘Now you’ve got to pay for them,’ when they have resisted these programs from the very start.” Coats forgets that Indiana voted for Obama in ’08 on a ticket of giving us healthcare.

Ellsworth correctly pointed out that Coat’s lobbying firm was up to its neck in the bailout, that it represented companies that benefited from both stimulus funds and healthcare reform.  So when Coats says “we” he should be clear who he is talking about. Clearly, he cannot be talking about himself, unless he is somehow not also his lobbying firm, which would be a neat trick.

There were the usual accusations of hypocrisy. Coats, typical of Republicans these days, is trying to present himself as an “outsider” – the old Maverick Gambit that was such a colossal failure for McCain and the one embraced by such Tea Party favorites as Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle.

Ellsworth wasn’t letting this one slide. He has pointed out that Coats had spent 30 years in Washington and he only four. We might mention too that Republicans have been in control of government for eight of the past ten years, and twenty of the past thirty (Reagan ‘81-89, Bush Sr. ‘89-93, and Bush Jr. ‘01-09). Republicans are hardly outsiders to government. Reagan spending doomed Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. spending is dooming America. We wish Republicans were government outsiders.

Ellsworth’s narrative is that Coats is a lobbyist, and he is. A lobbyist cannot be an outsider, and can certainly not be considered a much-needed breath of fresh air. The conflict of interest issue is one that must be faced squarely, and Coats must somehow prove to Indiana voters that it is not an issue. How he can do this, I don’t know, because it is an issue.

On the immigration issue there was not much to set the candidates apart. Sink-Burris says illegal immigrants should not be allowed to become U.S. citizens; Ellsworth didn’t really answer the question; and despite a vote for amnesty 26 years ago, Coats says “Since then, I’ve had about 12 or 15 votes that oppose amnesty, and I oppose amnesty now.”

Sadly, both candidates are on record as stating that marriage should be defined as being between one man and one woman. Both oppose abortion rights. Sink-Burris has proven herself out of her depth. She says sending her to Washington will shake things up but it appears she needs to be shaken up first, because she strikes me as completely irrelevant.  For Democrats, this is a case of bad and worse. Ellsworth, while hardly the ideal liberal or progressive candidate, assumes the role of the lesser of two evils. Sometimes, that is the best we can hope for.

A poll released Monday by WISH-TV in Indianapolis doesn’t offer much hope for Hoosier Democrats. It shows Coats favored by 53 percent and Ellsworth by 35 percent, with Sink-Burris at 5 percent. The Rasmussen Report dated October 24th shows the breakdown to be 52/34. Evan Bayh was not a liberal’s dream, but the sad truth is that the grass is not always greener.

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