Former Michigan Governor a Fan of Indiana Manufacturing

John Engler, a former governor of Michigan, spent much of his June 3 Economic Club of Indiana presentation doling out praise – for Indiana rather than his home state – when it comes to “getting it right” on manufacturing. Engler, current president of the National Association of Manufacturers, feels that Gov. Daniels and others in Indiana government have helped create an environment in which manufacturing can thrive. 

“As I go around the country and look at (manufacturing) data, Indiana stands out. Indiana is intelligent in manufacturing,” Engler said.

Engler noted business development tax incentives and the commitment to developing a skilled workforce as two areas in which Indiana is leading the way.  
Global competition

“In 1982, unemployment was 17%, but we could recover then without competition from a unified Europe or growing China. We have to be more strategic,” Engler explains.

Engler reminded the audience that the U.S. is still the largest manufacturing economy in the world but warns that any economic recovery will lag without a comprehensive manufacturing strategy in place at the federal level.

“It’s no longer governor vs. governor but governor vs. national leader,” Engler offered, adding, “The federal government has a role because states can’t compete when their incentives are dwarfed by the federal cost of taxes and regulations.”

Engler expressed particular disappointment with the recent expiration of a federal research and development tax credit – noting that the U.S. is now the only major economy in the world without a research and development incentive. He also mentioned the new 2.3% federal excise tax on medical device makers – a major part of Indiana’s economy – as an unnecessary burden.

“I don’t know of another country in the world that takes a leading sector (medical device manufacturing) and says, ‘let’s hit them with $20 billion in new taxes.’”

Education leading the way

Regulatory and tax policy changes may improve the U.S. business climate but education, according to Engler, is key to another of his stated goals – for the U.S. to become the best place in the world to conduct research and develop new products. He highlighted the industry’s need for engineers, computer programmers and other highly skilled professionals. Engler complimented Ivy Tech Community College in particular on its efforts to produce an advanced manufacturing workforce for the future.

Engler believes we can dramatically improve education on a national basis by building on currently successful initiatives – no matter how small or regional they may seem.

“We have solved every education problem in America. Every problem has been solved in some area. We are just terrible at replicating successful programs,” Engler explains. 

Engler’s luncheon presentation in Fort Wayne was the first of three stops on the Economic Club’s traveling summer series. The summer series continues with John Norquist, president & CEO of Congress for the New Urbanism, speaking in Evansville on July 15. Learn more.

Gov. Daniels Speaks of Past Accomplishments, Indiana’s Future at Economic Club

Governor Mitch Daniels spoke to a capacity crowd at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon today. Daniels, who replaced Steve Forbes as the original keynote for the event, had the audience laughing early by comparing himself to Forbes in a quip about his own future ambitions.

“He’s run for President of the United States…I’ll just leave it at that,” Daniels teased.

Daniels’ presentation came on the heels of a legislative session he characterized as hard-fought and the passage of a national health insurance reform bill he strongly opposes.

“It is fraudulent to assert it (health insurance legislation) will not add to the debt of this country,” Daniels stated. Asked if Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller would join other state attorneys general in pursuing legal challenges to the legislation, Daniels replied, “I believe he will; I’ve encouraged him to,” adding, “This is the first time the federal government has ordered citizens to purchase something.”

On the home front, Daniels spoke of previous accomplishments – receiving loud applause for reducing BMV wait times – and reiterated his administration’s stated mission from day one of making Indiana a better place to live and do business. He outlined why the state has achieved high marks for business friendliness and how everyone can help attract jobs to Indiana.

In looking forward, Daniels acknowledged some looming economic challenges, telling business owners, “If you think budgeting was difficult last year, just wait.” He stressed the need to meet these challenges by building on our strengths and continuing to stand out among our peers.

“Every month that goes by that we find a way to not raise taxes and other states raise them, Indiana gets a little more competitive.”

The next Economic Club event will be held on April 28 and feature C-SPAN founder and CEO Brian Lamb.

Economist/Presidential Advisor Bearish on Recovery at Economic Club Lunch

Martin Feldstein – one of the most respected economists of our time – spoke a cautionary message at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon in Indianapolis Tuesday.

“Reports of the economic recovery have been greatly exaggerated,” Feldstein said.

As a long-time Harvard professor of economics, Feldstein has educated many of today’s economic leaders. He has also served in top advisory roles for three of the past five U.S. Presidents. While acknowledging the consensus among professional forecasters that we are in an economic recovery, Feldstein remains skeptical about the sustainability of current growth.

“Many of the recent positive (economic) numbers are from temporary policy changes such as the stimulus package and first time home buyer tax credit,” Feldstein explains.

Feldstein supports the idea of using fiscal policy to end the recession but feels the Obama administration’s programs were poorly designed and ultimately failed. His long range concerns are based on the housing market – in which one-third of homebuyers owe more money on their loan than the home is currently worth – and the growth in national debt. 

In total, Feldstein feels that the economic outlook is a mixed picture – with the decrease in value of the dollar versus other world currencies making American goods more affordable and reducing trade deficits. He believes the prospects for a recovery are based largely on the household savings rate in 2010. An increased savings rate – while typically seen as beneficial for individual families – would delay the overall economic recovery by slowing consumption. The current national savings rate of 4-5% is double what it was immediately prior to the recession.

Stossel to Economic Club: Innovation Will Die as Government Grows

John Stossel, former ABC journalist and soon-to-be host on Fox Business Network, has won 19 Emmys for making viewers think. He did just that today as well, addressing nearly 950 attendees of the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon.

The key focus of today’s discussion was health care reform. Stossel notes his hesitation at referring to "Obamacare" as reform due to his contention that it won’t really improve anything. Prior to the speech, a video was shown in which he points out that Lasik eye surgery costs have dropped significantly over time in the free market, and tied that to the fact that the surgery is not covered by insurance (adding that costs of procedures that are covered have climbed over the same span).

"Obama says the current (health care) system is unsustainable, and he’s right," Stossel offered. "Medicare is $36 trillion in the hole."

Stossel referred to the program as a Ponzi scheme, adding, "We locked Bernie Madoff up for this."

He contended that though some may claim Europe has been successful with its government-oriented health care, the continent is reaping benefits of American innovation when it comes to procedures and technology.

"If you ask doctors what have been the most significant developments in the past 20 years… most are from the United States," Stossel said. "Europe is freeloading on American innovation. If the government gets more involved, the innovation will stop."

Additionally, he offered an indictment of community rating, quipping, "If they did that for car insurance, you’d be paying the same as Lindsay Lohan."

Possible solutions from Stossel included allowing insurance companies to offer different types of plans for different people, allowing those plans to cross state lines, and to promote tort reform (touting a "loser pays" system, something he claims the rest of the world already does).

When asked how he developed his "brand" as a libertarian and contrarian in the media, he claimed, "I think it comes from not going to journalism school. I just thought about what I would want to watch." 

For more from Stossel on these and other matters, see his July op-ed from Reason magazine and check your local listings for his new show.

Economic Club Speaker was Chided for ‘Outlandish’ Economic Predictions — That Came True

Patrick Byrne, CEO of, was widely criticized by financial professionals and journalists for predicting a global financial crisis more than two years ago. Byrne, a native of Fort Wayne who received his education from Cambridge and Stanford, warned of a market meltdown perpetrated by cheap credit and writing checks on the bank accounts of future generations. The man who took from a half-million dollars in annual revenue to nearly $1 billion annually, takes little pleasure in accurately predicting our current economic situation but continues to advocate for what he feels are positive reforms – specifically to the controversial practice of short selling stocks.

Byrne will appear at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon in Indianapolis on November 5. Get your tickets today.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Speaks at Economic Club in Evansville

Jim Morris, president of Indiana Pacers Sports & Entertainment, spoke to an audience of nearly 170 at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon held in Evansville yesterday.  

Morris began with humor – issuing the same promise he claims Elizabeth Taylor made to each of her seven husbands: “Don’t worry honey, I won’t keep you long.”

It was clear from the outset of his presentation that few in the audience would have minded if Morris, one of the most accomplished humanitarian and business leaders of our time, had indeed run long, though he did not.

Morris spoke with eloquence and expertise on the contributions of Evansville to Indiana and the world, noting the ideas for Riley Children’s Hospital and the Smithsonian Institute came from the city. He also spoke of work with the United Nations’ World Food Program – which he led from 2002-2007, and, of course, leading the Pacers – which he says is “just as difficult” as his UN gig but “not as important.”

Morris addressed the problem of world hunger and its impact on children by analogizing that the number of children dying from hunger equates to 45 fully-loaded 747 aircrafts crashing — every single day. He thanked Sen. Lugar and other Hoosiers for some powerful contributions in the fight against hunger but reminded the audience that much work remains and spoke of his own “haunting feelings of insufficiency at not getting enough done.”

Morris spoke of the upcoming basketball season. He told of a conversation in which Pacers Team President Larry Bird (known as a player for his legendary work ethic) credited 2009 Pacers draft pick Tyler Hansbrough with being the hardest working player Bird had ever seen. When Morris pressed with “as hard as you worked?,” Bird replied, “even harder.” 

Overall, Morris’ presentation was both insightful and reflective – describing life as being about the search for community and insisting that, “We all need to work harder at being advocates and working for each other.”

Be sure to follow the Economic Club of Indiana on Facebook.

Juan Williams Discusses Rise of the American Woman, Changing Culture at Economic Club Lunch

Juan Williams, a veteran journalist now known best for his roles with National Public Radio and Fox News, addressed nearly 700 in attendance at today’s Economic Club of Indiana luncheon in downtown Indianapolis.

Williams, known mostly for his political prowess, delved into the topic of culture and outlined some key points that Americans must recognize as the nation moves forward. For one, he says the growing American population will change the way we interact in the future.

"Right now, the U.S. has over 300 million people — but in 10 years, we’ll have over 400 million," he says. Williams adds that is largely due to the booming growth rates of immigrants.

He also offers some surprise at the increasing power of women in America. While researching for a story on American teens in Minneapolis, he asked a longtime teacher’s aide what was the greatest difference between the 1960s and today. She then explained that out of the very best students, 8 out of 10 were girls, and 5 out of 10 of the best athletes were girls, as well (based on who was likely to compete at a Division I NCAA level).

"Women are now the majority in American graduate programs," Williams adds. "And when John McCain needed help (during the 2008 presidential election), he got Sarah Palin."

He adds there are 16 female U.S. Senators and one-fourth of Congress is female, noting the power of Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.

Williams also discussed the rise of political polarization (explaining only 24% of Republicans support the job Pres. Obama is doing versus 88% of Democrats), and is concerned the deterioration of newspapers will only contribute to that as Americans look to media sources that simply validate their previously held opinions.

The Economic Club of Indiana lunch series will head to Merrillville, Evansville and Fort Wayne this summer. Check the web site for details.

Juan Williams to Present Insider’s View at Economic Club

Juan Williams — one of the most accomplished and respected journalists in America — will share his powerful insights with the Economic Club on May 1 (at noon in the Indiana Convention Center’s Sagamore Ballroom).

Williams’ storied journalism career includes 23 years with the Washington Post, a bestselling book on the Civil Rights movement and an Emmy. He currently works as a senior national correspondent for NPR and analyst for Fox News — where his professionalism and candor through spirited debate has become well-known.

Join us on May 1 as Williams presents an insider’s view of politics, the economy and other current affairs. Get your tickets now.

School Choice Expert: It’s Not Just Low Income Students Struggling in the U.S.

Lance Izumi, senior director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy and co-author of two books on school choice, addressed those in attendance at the Economic Club of Indiana lunch today.

Izumi’s primary warning to Americans is that, despite perceptions, it’s not just low income students who are struggling in the public school system. He also offered many eye-opening statistics about higher education, stating that on a national level, 6 in 10 community college students must complete remedial courses.

He advocates private school vouchers, and explains that President Obama attended a private school in Hawaii and credits his experiences there as helping to shape his ambition and talents. And yet, Izumi notes, Obama opposes public money being allocated for private vouchers.

Izumi contends it is important to separate the connection between residential location and schools, noting that many middle class parents end up bankrupting themselves in an effort to live in a nice area, yet are still let down by the public schools. He touts the successes of voucher programs in cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland, and says competition has been a boon to schools in Sweden, of all places.

Initiated in the early 1990s, Sweden’s universal voucher program has been successful, according to testimonials offered by Swedish administrators in a video shown by Izumi. In fact, they were so popular that even when a "socialist" government gained power in the mid-1990s, the program was kept in tact due to its popularity, he asserts. 

You can view the four-minute video on the New York Times web site here.

The next Economic Club of Indiana speaker will be Juan Williams on May 1. Williams is best known for his 21-year career at the Washington Post and for his work as a Fox News contributor. Get your tickets while they last.

Constitution Scholar Speaks at Economic Club Lunch

Gordon Lloyd, coauthor of three books on the American founding and author of two forthcoming publications on political economy, addressed over 600 Economic Club of Indiana luncheon attendees yesterday.

During his speech, Lloyd surmised the Constitution could be broken down into a four-act drama:

  • Act I – The Alternative Plans (Madison-Sherman’s exchange; Hamilton’s Plan, etc.)
  • Act II – The Connecticut Compromise
  • Act III – The Committee of Detail Report (structure and power of Congress; the issue of slavery)
  • Act IV – The End (the eventual signing of the document)

When discussing the problems facing today’s America, Lloyd makes one point above all else: America’s greatest detriment is the crisis mentality. He contends that patience is often sacrificed when presidential advisors and others panic, and language then turns to "a language of war" — and supercedes cerebral debate.

He also makes the distinction that greed needn’t be part of capitalism, and that self interest is more the goal. Lloyd added that skewing toward socialism will only exacerbate our problems, not end them — a point he made to the applause of those in attendance.

When asked about the role of the presidency, he offered that both Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt were too tempted by progressive movements of the day to grow the presidency beyond its intended scope of power. According to Lloyd, this power has come at the expense of Congress and thrown off the balance in our system.

Lloyd’s web site on the founding of the Constitution is used by schools across the country to teach about the Constitutional Convention and the document itself. Peruse the site here.

The Economic Club’s next lunch will be held on Tuesday, April 7 and will feature education policy expert Lance Izumi. For more info or to order tickets, visit the web site.