Dysmey Post Archive > Pages for 2004 > New Year 2004 Edition

New Year 2004 Edition

painful weather

The new year started out warm and pleasant, got nastier in turns, and is now so painfully cold. It's just winter come to remind us in Indiana just who is master here.

That is the price we Hoosiers pay for living in a land of climatic extremes. There is nothing to block winds either from the Arctic in winter or from the Gulf of Mexico in the summer. So it's either very cold or very hot. Then there are the summer storms with the tornados they spawn. Mind you, in recent years it has been somewhat clement.

The gas bill came yesterday and was also painful. If, though, the weather was normal for last month, it could have been worse. It is a good thing that I built credit with the gas company over the past summer and fall, or I would be in serious trouble now.

probing mars

Martian probes from the USA and the European Union have come to the big red planet. They all have one goal: Was there life (or at least water) on Mars, or has it always been a big ball of rust? We will likely never get any answers from the first surface probe, Beagle 1, because it seems to have landed in a ditch…or worse. The second probe, Spirit, has landed successfully in a very flat crater. People think it may have been a lake bed once, and that is what Spirit is there to discover. Spirit's twin, Opportunity, will land on the other side of Mars later.

indiana scandal

I currently draw unemployment insurance, as the state DWD has found I haven't been booted out for just cause. In a fit of irony, this same DWD tried to hire Tata Consultancy to write a program that processes unemployment claims. It dumped Tata after word of this became public.

Tata, FYI, is a global software company based in the land known to its natives as Bharat and to the rest of us as India.

With outsourcing of information technology (and other white-collar) services becoming a major political issue, the news made into my new issue of Software Development as "Your Tax Dollars At Work: States Save At The Expense Of The Jobless".

The Tata scandal has spurred a state senator to introduce a law, which would let no more than a fifth of state work be handled by noncitizens. Pro-business legislators say the bill as unrealistic. No, what is unrealistic is trying to lift Indiana out of its dependence on manufacturing (which keeps the state in recession long after the rest of the country recovers), while exporting white-collar jobs and so making sure there is nowhere to lift the state to.

what's in 2004 for us?

elections in the USA

The nation gets to elect a president this year. Indiana also gets to elect a governor, a senator, and its ten congressmen.

El Dubya gets to be reelected, making the rest of us glad a president can serve only two terms of office. Then we will get even more expansion of the federal government and a bigger budget deficit, all because the Muslim Attacks have filled our hearts with fear.

Opponents? I don't think the Libertarians have ever fielded a viable candidate, or at least one that has caught the media's attention. It's a hard thing for me to say, for I'm one myself.

Oh, I'm sorry, you mean Democrats? Let's see: Their leading candidate is a fount of arrogance (physicians tend to be like that) who acts remarkably like El Dubya, at least in covering up his past and thinking that the, um, "po' folks" are a viable Democratic political bloc. Meanwhile, the rest of the mob is playing catchup.

Don't write off the rest of the mob, though: One of them might become your president. The Glorified Redneck (remember him?) was a blob in the mob in 1992, but then he won the presidency…twice. And few (or maybe none) of the current mob of Democratic candidates are burdened with the moral repulsiveness of the Glorified Redneck, so maybe there's still a hope.

summer olympics

There will be a summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. What do I care? After the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics I have lost all interest in the Olympic Games.

Track and field (including the marathon) is the Olympics' true reason for being. The other events are sugarcoating in enough amounts today to induce a diabetic coma. And the USA can't compete in most of those events, anyway: Our government won't sponsor any team; universities are too busy spending money on football and basketball because they're what make alumni and fans happy and generous; and the recession has made private efforts less and less possible.


Nobody in the Beltway seems to realize that just because politicians, economists and the stock market say that the recession is over does it mean that the recession is over. It is not over, at least in Indiana.

Whether Indiana will recover in 2004 is debatable. Most of the jobs lost in this recession—both manufacturing and white-collar—won't be coming back. The weight holding the recovery down is not so much the pay (Indiana is cheap compared with most everywhere else in the USA) but health insurance, which now comprises most of a worker's compensation.

In the short term, this means a lot less spending by both workers and jobless alike. It means fewer will buy houses and cars and RVs, so fewer will take out mortgage and consumer loans, and so the banks will get hit hard this year. (Maybe it is a good thing that I did get the boot last year.) This also means less tax revenues for the state, and so more cutbacks in services when the state legislature meets this week.

In the long term, this means that the young will be discouraged from college training for white-collar jobs (software, engineering, accounting) in favor of vocational training in network administration, building maintenance and franchise management, for which there is still demand and whose jobs cannot be exported. This trend has been going on since the late 1990's, and which the recession has quickened. Those youth who do go to college will likely intend to leave Indiana after graduation, because there is nothing for them here. There are programs funded by Lilly grants to colleges to encourage their grads to stay in Indiana. But most of the programs are in vain since none of them (except Purdue's) focus on the lack of available jobs in Indiana. All this, in turn, will ensure that Indiana stays at the bottom of the barrel for years to come.


As I have noted above, white-collar jobs will keep going overseas to India, China, eastern Europe and other lands of cheap educated labor. And the middle class will make this an election-year issue, no matter how hard the Republicans try to suppress it.

The foolishness of exporting jobs will be made clear when Taiwan holds its referendum on Chinese missiles aimed at the island. China will no doubt scream and froth at the mouth, trying to scare the Taiwanese. The screaming will in fact terrify American business.

Indo-Pakistani peace talks are going well, but you never know with these two countries. They still divide Kashmir and each claims it all. The radical Hindu party might reassert itself, or radical Muslims might topple Pakistan's dictator, and it's 2002 all over again. Then there's Sri Lanka with its long-term civil war. No matter how well-educated are India's programmers, engineers and other white-collar workers, they still live in a region as unstable as the Middle East.

But enough of that!

Fairmount will do somewhat better. The recovery in the rest of the nation could open up donations to the reconstruction of Fairmount High School. This will make more likely its reopening as a public library and office center in September. The James Dean Galley will move to Gas City's I-69 interchange this year, too. That won't harm Fairmount's tourism: James Dean was raised and is resting here, not in Gas City, so visitors to the Gallery will visit here, too.

grant county follies

But both Fairmount and Gas City will get hurt if the county government does not get itself in order.

It was bad enough when the county council miserily crippled the courts by dropping health insurance for public defenders—who then all resigned en masse, because it was the insurance that made them willing to work for chump change. State aid last month fixed that problem.

Now the council is in a legal fight with the assessor because it cut funding for one of the assessor's clerks. Worse, some of the councilors are apparently spoiling for a fight by claiming falsely that the council is unanimous agreement.

Folks, this is the sort of childish behavior that has reduced Jonesboro, where legal fights during the 1990's have saddled the village with high taxes that caused one citizen in ten to leave since 1990 and burden those who remain. Now this chest-pounding pride and incompetence threatens to turn the county into a greater Jonesboro.

Why are we tolerating this? Why is Fairmount—why is Marion—why is even Gas City putting up with this nonsense? The county can ill afford a fight like this, which will drain resources that could be put to help any coming economic recovery. It is time to take the county council and government by the scruff of the neck and make them responsible again, no matter how much they kick and squeal.

Copyright © 2004 by Andy West. All rights reserved. Last updated 06 January 2004.