TERRE HAUTE —
Sometimes it’s sincere. Other times, it’s sarcasm.
You cross paths with a friend, ask how they’re doing, and they say, “Ah, just livin’ the dream.”
Livin’ the dream. What exactly does that involve? Can it be defined?
Indiana’s new governor, Mike Pence, closed his well-prepared first State of the State address Tuesday night with a comment that challenges Hoosiers — including Pence — to define that concept.
“This is Indiana’s moment,” Pence said, at the tail end of a half-hour speech that touted his proposed 10-percent income tax cut, an expansion of the still-fledgling school voucher program, and upgraded vocational training in high schools. “We can put Hoosiers back to work and make Indiana first — first in job creation, first in education, and first in quality of life.”
Categories 1 and 2 seem pretty clear. In the first, existing employers expand operations and hire more people, while incoming businesses set up shop in Indiana and generate new jobs. In the second, kids reach their learning potential in vibrant, well-resourced K-through-12 schools, and further bloom in high-caliber colleges and technical training institutes. In both cases, the methods of achieving those goals stir constant debate, but the target remains reasonably obvious.
Then comes Category 3 — America’s best “quality of life.”
With job creation and education as separate considerations, what other criteria make up a great “quality of life,” or — in everyday terms — that feeling of “livin’ the dream”?
For some, cheap taxes alone amount to a dream come true, and that perk enhances all else in their world. If so, Pence’s idea to shrink Indiana’s already low individual income tax rate to 3.06 percent from 3.4 percent may single-handedly do the trick. After all, as the governor emphasized, by enacting his tax cut, “It will be official: Indiana will be the lowest taxed state in the Midwest. Companies who are here will have one more reason to expand and will give businesses outside Indiana one more reason to move to the Hoosier state.”
But that sounds more like Category 1, job creation.
One common quality-of-life element gets mentioned less by Indiana’s leaders than by typical Hoosiers — income levels. The state is far from first in the nation in those rankings. Indiana rates 31st in median household income — the combined incomes of adults living in one home. Indiana ranks 37th in per-capita income — a figure calculated by dividing the total income in a geographic area by the population, counting everybody.
Median household incomes here are $46,438, just 91.9 percent of the national figure of $50,502. In 2007, we ranked 30th. In 2004, 26th. In 2002, 23rd. The last time Indiana topped the national median household income was 1997 through ’99, according to an essay by Indiana economist Morton Marcus. From 1984 to 2011, Hoosier inflation-adjusted median household incomes rose 0.2 percent, while U.S. rates climbed 0.4 percent.
In per-capita income, Indiana ranked 17th in 1965, 33rd in 2000, according to a 2002 Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute report, “Indiana Is Falling Behind.” Again, the latest figures rank the state 37th. That report from 11 years ago stated the “national and international economy has changed fundamentally in the past 40 years. Indiana — by the standard of our citizens’ incomes and wealth — has not.”
Quality of life goes beyond incomes, in many folks’ definitions. A 2009 study by Gallup and the disease management company Healthways considered not only median incomes, but also poverty rates, life expectancy, and survey answers on life satisfaction, work quality, healthy behavior, physical health, emotional health and basic access to food and shelter, according to Forbes magazine.
To his credit, Pence acknowledged the state’s 22-percent child-poverty rate (which is persistently higher in Terre Haute), aptly calling it “heartbreaking” and “unacceptable,” and cited plans to assist kids in those situations and provide early childhood education to steer them away from continuing that cycle. If Indiana wants the nation’s finest quality of life, child-poverty reduction efforts must succeed.
Is a long life your idea of livin’ the dream? Indiana rates 35th in life expectancy, averaging 77.7 years.
Maybe it’s a healthy and contented family, peaceful relationships, clean air, clean water, low crime, good restaurants, quality state parks, safe places to hunt and fish, highways that aren’t crumbling, or a job that utilizes your full abilities.
The governor may have his own definition of “quality of life.” His view matters because he’s the chief policymaker.
But beyond an economy with peak job creation and top-notch educational opportunities, what does quality of life amount to for you? What would your “livin’ the dream” be? Send me an email response to the address below. (Just emails, please. And be sincere; sarcasm spoils the dream.)
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
Sometimes it’s sincere. Other times, it’s sarcasm.
- News Columns
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Meth labs so prevalent, test kits on market for homebuyers
Donetta Held knows how strange the world of methamphetamine is.
MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘The mind is a dark forest’
If you hadn’t noticed by reading this newspaper or hearing me crow about it myself, I have another collection of stories out in print.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Hoosiers’ priorities vs. legislators’ agenda
Every year at about this time, Statehouse reporters like me ask lawmakers what their priorities will be for the coming year.
MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Cheneys’ feud hits Indiana
Oh, it’s on.
If there was any doubt that the coming fight over the same-sex marriage ban amendment in Indiana was going to be elevated to the national level, it’s gone.
Chamber: Repeal ‘smoker’s bill of rights’
When Indiana lawmakers return for the 2014 session in early January, they’ll step into the highly charged issue of marriage equality as they debate the proposed amendment that would lock into the state constitution a ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Inching on toward a cold winter?
I’m not ready for snow and ice and the daggers of a north wind, but I have finally accepted the fact that winter is nearly here.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
Citizens fight for school funds
Never underestimate the power of high school band parents.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Pence eyes reducing infant mortality as key legislative goal for administration
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence opened the state’s Infant Mortality Summit last week by sharing a personal story: He and his wife had struggled with infertility issues early in their marriage, so the eventual arrival of their three children was met with deep gratitude and appreciation.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Pumpkins: Good for the fork and the (carving) knife
My wife and I are fairly frugal; we are budgeters and planners. In the fall, we set aside what we’ll need to heat the house and pay the doctor and buy sensible shoes for school. I think we’re going to have to open an account for pumpkins, too.
MAX JONES: Fight for public access among Dave Cox’s legacies
A group of Indiana newspaper editors who advise the Hoosier State Press Association on issues related to access to public records and meetings had the opportunity to meet new Public Access Counselor Luke Britt last week.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Déjà vu, courtesy of violinist prodigy
It’s been said that the longer married couples stay together, the more they begin to think alike. I can’t refute that, although, for my wife’s sake, I hope a similar theory — that they begin to look alike, too — is far from true.
America, falling behind global peers
As Congress was descending further into dysfunction last week, this discouraging piece of news emerged: Despite how we Americans insist that we’re the best and brightest people on the globe, we’re not.
MAX JONES: Ernie Pyle’s IU legacy should be preserved
As an alum of Indiana University-Bloomington, where I received a bachelor’s degree in journalism many moons ago, I’ve been watching with keen interest the ongoing discussion about merging the School of Journalism with other areas of communications, such as PR and filmmaking, inside the College of Arts & Sciences.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MIKE LUNSFORD: The beauty, spirit of a ‘lonely’ bridge
It was the best kind of day a few Saturdays ago: not quite 70 degrees, a slight breeze from the northwest barely pushed flat-bottomed white clouds around in an otherwise blue sky.
B.J. RILEY: Special Progress sections spotlight growth in Wabash Valley
Inserted in your Tribune-Star today is our annual Progress edition, “Community Update 2013.” This is the fifth year we have put together this type of publication, an effort months in the making.
MARK BENNETT: ‘The voice of the Democratic Party’
The ad stands as a campaign classic. Its scenario is part of history. Its narrator would be familiar to millions of Americans, yet anonymous, too.
Debate: Investing in early-childhood education
Should Indiana children wait until they are 7 years old before they step into a classroom?
Health care costs Hoosiers either way
In the war over the Affordable Care Act, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence won a policy victory when the Obama administration gave him a temporary pass to continue with the Healthy Indiana Plan, a high-deductible health insurance program that covers only 37,000 low-income Hoosiers.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.
Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.
OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits.
Same-sex marriage ban tests ‘Hoosier hospitality’
In a recent column I wrote when I visited Washington, D.C., as the city was preparing to host the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, I asked the questions: “Will we see diversity as a threat to our seemingly secure world? Or will we embrace it as a strength?”
MIKE LUNSFORD: It isn’t the end but it is the beginning of the end …
I had every intention of writing about Labor Day today; it has become a tradition of sorts for me because it seems as though my column and the holiday have an annual convergence. But as I thumbed through a number of other stories I’d written on the subject, I felt I had nothing new to say.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
Anniversary of March cause for introspection
Many years ago, when I was a high school senior visiting college campuses, I met with an adviser at Indiana University whose job included recruiting new students to campus.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
MIKE LUNSFORD: A long day’s journey into night
We arrived at the sprawling hulk of a motel well after dark, the parking lot pitch black except for a few spots illuminated by flickering blue lights that hummed a monotonous tune.
- More News Columns Headlines
- MAUREEN HAYDEN: Meth labs so prevalent, test kits on market for homebuyers