Columnists

Are Democrats Gaining Ground in Indiana?

The older I get the more stock I put into the law of unintended consequences.

Look at energy. The U.S. has cut back on energy production. Not sure why, but that forced us to buy energy from foreign powers. Probably not what was intended. But it goes further. The idea was to battle global warming. Instead we may have made it worse because many of the other countries who produce energy are harder on the environment than we were.

Unintended consequences.

Take the red wave being predicted in the mid-term elections. The thinking is that President Biden’s growing unpopularity, the continued movement toward socialism, the increased prices for everything from a loaf of bread to aluminum siding and now this skyrocketing cost of a gallon of gas all combine to doom the Democrats. After all, the party in power tends to pay the price when voters are unhappy.

And boy are they unhappy. Thus, the predicted red wave.

But in the immortal words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend.

Let’s leave the nation out of it and focus on Indiana – a red state that has shown a few hints of blue here and there. The increase in the gas tax last week, coupled with the explosive abortion issue, could well end up costing the Grand Old Party at the polls.

The Democrats may be in control nationally, but the GOP is solely in charge with a super majority here. Under their watch, we are having a special session that was first designed to figure out what economic relief might be offered Hoosiers. Now, after the Supreme Court opened the door on states setting their own abortion laws, legislators will address that issue as well.

Those are two mighty big subjects to tackle – and the GOP might find itself wading through a mine field.

Those exploding gas prices have caused questions for the governor and legislators on gas taxes. In addition, some Hoosiers looked down their noses when Gov. Eric Holcomb said each taxpayer was going to get $225. One snarky reply said a couple hundred bucks might take care of two trips to the gas station – not exactly the kind of gratitude Holcomb was probably hoping for. Add to that the free-for-all over abortion and well . . . unintended consequences.

Let’s get a couple of things straight.

First, the 5 cent increase you are hearing so much about didn’t come from a recent vote to raise the gasoline use tax 5 cents. The nickel is simply a monthly adjustable number based on the current retail price of gas. As one lawmaker explained it to me, if you bought a refrigerator two years ago and it cost $1,000 you paid $70 in state sales tax. If you bought one today for $3,000, you are paying $210. But if that refrigerator cost $800 today then you paid $56 in taxes. The rate is 7 percent on all purchases. So as the retail prices go up and down, so does the tax. Ditto on gas.

But reality sometimes has little to do with perception and it’s long been contended in this space that Democrats are much better at spinning public relations than their red counterparts. As usual, the blues are hammering all the above for everything they can. Democrats are good at that, and too many times we media types pick up on it without figuring out what Paul Harvey called the rest of the story.

How does the GOP do better? Well, an argument could be made that since Indiana Republicans have led the state to the third-highest tax rate in the U.S. it might not hurt to suspend the gas tax temporarily – especially since the state has a few billion in savings. After all, the tax has been suspended before.

Republican lawmakers haven’t agreed. They say that a suspension does not necessarily mean that gas stations will follow suit and lower prices. They also say that the tax goes to fix roads. Those supply chain woes we’ve been hearing so much about have not only resulted in shortages, prices are up. That means those tax dollars don’t buy as much tar and gravel.

Fair points all.

But a point to consider are the optics. By not suspending the gas tax and by offering Hoosiers a couple hundred bucks, the GOP is leaving the door wide open for the Democrats to keep touting a message that just might resonate with voters.

Unintended consequences.

Perhaps this special session will yield better answers? Perhaps the Republicans will find a new PR firm? Perhaps they will do a little thinking outside the box and impress voters?

There are a lot of questions and not many answers right now.

The only thing crystal clear is that the Republicans have been large and in charge for a while, and Hoosiers are growing more unhappy. So, good, bad or indifferent – abortion and pain at the pump are giving the Democrats something to hang their hat on when a month or two ago they had very little. It may be unintended, but the consequences at the ballot box could be very real.

– Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Thursdays in The Times. Timmons is the chief executive officer of Sagamore News Media, the company that owns The Noblesville Times. He is also a proud Noblesville High School graduate and can be contacted at ttimmons@thetimes24-7.com.