By BRIAN A. HOWEY
In April 2022, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced $189 million for 154 Next Level broadband expansion projects, this coming atop a $100 million program in 2019. But on a helicopter flight coming back from Evansville in late June, there was yet another high-five moment. The governor had received word from U.S. Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo that Indiana would be receiving $868 million to extend high-speed internet to the proverbial “last mile.”
“What this announcement means for people across the country is that if you don’t have access to quality, affordable high-speed Internet service now – you will, thanks to President Biden and his commitment to investing in America,” Raimondo, a former colleague of Holcomb’s when she was governor of Rhode Island, said. “Just like the Rural Electrification Act a century ago and the Interstate Highway System that followed it, this is our generation’s opportunity for a transformational infrastructure investment.”
Holcomb was ecstatic, calling this motherlode of federal funding a “game changer.”
While 92% of Hosier households use devices to connect to the World Wide Web, 14% of Indiana households do not have access. That $868 million comes atop Gov. Holcomb’s Next Level program that has spent $575 million to connect 72,000+ homes and 83 counties,” Holcomb posted following the announcement. “The new federal funding will empower the program to expand broadband in the coming years and give more Hoosiers the power of connectivity.”
These were funds forged by Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) passed by Congress on party-line votes and signed into law in late 2021, which only Indiana Democrat Reps. Andre Carson and Frank Mrvan helped pass.
But this latest $868 million is only a fraction of federal funds flowing into Indiana since Biden took office in 2021.
Last month, it was announced Indiana’s Family Social Services Administration would receive $29 million in funding for opioid crisis response and substance use disorder services.
There is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is expected to bring Indiana $6.9 billion over five years in Federal highway formula funding for highways and bridges.
And then there is the American Rescue Plan, passed in 2021 as part of COVID-19 pandemic relief. Its Indiana impact include:
It funded the $500 million first round of Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), which has generated billions of dollars in additional investments.
The state’s unemployment rate has fallen from 4.7% in January 2021 to 3.1% in December 2022 (it stood at 3.2% in June).
There have been a record 170,000 new small business applications in Indiana.
ARP provided direct pandemic recovery funds to all 625 Indiana towns, cities and counties — avoiding cuts and investing in public safety, housing, workforce development and other critical areas.
Over 280 school districts in Indiana were provided funding to support academic recovery and student mental health and reopen safely.
3,270 child care programs in Indiana received support to help keep their doors open, impacting up to 157,000 children.
Working family tax relief through the expanded child tax credit totaled 822,000 for Indiana families with 1.4 million children.
There were 1,188 Indiana restaurants that received vital relief through the American Rescue Plan’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Then there are national trends. June numbers show inflation has been cut by more than two-thirds from its peak — down to 3% year-over-year from 9.1%.
Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is “driving a boom in large-scale infrastructure,” wrote Ellen Zentner, chief U.S. economist for Morgan Stanley.
Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, co-authored by U.S. Sen. Todd Young (but without the support of most of the Indiana GOP congressional delegation) in August 2022. The Semiconductor Industry Association cites four Indiana projects since Biden signed the CHIPS Act, including Skywater in West Lafayette ($1.8 billion in investments and 750 jobs), Trusted Semiconductor Solutions in Oden ($34 million invested and 40 jobs), NHanced Semiconductors of Oden ($236 million invested with 413 jobs); and Everspin Technologies (also of Oden, which is located about five miles from the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center) which is expected to generate 35 jobs.
The Nasdaq-100 finished the first half of 2023 with a gain of 39.4%, compared to the S&P 500’s gain of 16.9%. According to CNBC, the Dow closed at 35,438.07 on Wednesday, its 12th consecutive daily gain, but a tad below its historic high of 36,799.65 on Jan. 4, 2022.
So far, all of this economic news isn’t translating into solid political support for Biden, who led former President Trump 49%-44% in a hypothetical general election Quinnipiac Poll matchup last week. The Real Clear Politics polling composite on Biden’s overall job approval stood at 41.8%. On the RCP direction of the country, just 23.8% say the U.S. is on the right track, compared to 67.2% saying it’s on the wrong track.
Clearly, the White House and Biden reelection campaign have a messaging dilemma. This prompted Axios to observe on July 14: “If you spend your life looking at economic data, these look like the best of times: Inflation is a mere 3%. Unemployment is hovering near 50-year lows. But that’s not how the bulk of Americans see it. Americans’ views of the economy are colored by their politics as much as the actual state of the economy.”
Bringing home the bacon … doesn’t it mean what it used to.
-Brian Howey is senior writer and columnist for Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.