The political universe is expanding | Bleader

Monday, February 19, 2007

The political universe is expanding

Posted By on 02.19.07 at 01:27 PM

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Indiana is best known for a lame Republican vice president (Quayle) and an invertebrate Democratic senator (Evan Bayh). But other politicians are expanding, not shrinking, the range of public policy options on the table.

The state's governor (a former Cheney administration budget official) has leased the Indiana toll road to the same Spanish-Australian consortium that's running the Chicago Skyway (he's taken some political lumps for it, not necessarily for good reasons). A similar arrangement may be the only way the much needed (or is it unwanted?) Illiana Expressway will get built.

Confronted with a similar dilemma, the state legislature is considering a radically different approach. Alarmed that NiSource, the holding company for the Northwest Indiana Public Service Company, is thinking of selling off the electric utility, it's moving in the direction of enabling local governments to buy NIPSCO. A committee of the house of representatives has reported out a bill that LaPorte County Commission president Barb Huston on Friday described as "an early victory in the fight for public power."

Read the story by Rick Richards in the Michigan City News-Dispatch (free registration required; additional coverage here). It's now possible to say in public that government, with all its failings, might serve the people of northwest Indiana better than an out-of-state holding company that can't tell Gary from Grayslake and couldn't care less. (I'm not convinced that government actually can, but the threat of an alternative seems to be the only thing that keeps big-time capitalists honest.)

With capitalist, socialist, and libertarian ideas all in play, things are sure to get interesting. (In Indiana, as in Illinois, the fates of Chicago and northwest Indiana will be worked out in the statehouses, for better or worse.)

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