Mitch Daniels Discernment Update

screen-shot-2013-01-20-at-1-05-13-pm.pngIt has been a while since my last blog, and a lot of things happened in my life.  I passed my preliminary examines, so I am now a candidate of my PhD program.  I went on a 5-day silent Buddhist retreat at Spirit Rock, a Quaker New Years Gathering, and another Quaker gathering that I helped organize, midwinter in the midwest.  Then – I turned 30.  Now I am back at Purdue, working on my dissertation.

I wanted to fill everyone in on my discernment on the conversation with President Daniels. Two Quakers suggested that I look into the policies of Gov. Daniels more before the meeting, to understand him and his policies. I started my Mitch Daniels investigation by listening to his audio book. I did this on the train to Washington DC, for the FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation) public policy institute in November.

Daniels Audio Book 

Mitch Daniels’ audio book, Keeping the Republic, has made me more republican than I had ever been before.  I understood his side, though I don’t agree.  I see his core philosophies being embedded in the following paragraph:

“Americans who always thought that “public service” meant that the government works for them must now wonder if they had it wrong.  People who have salaries, benefits, and protections against layoffs that far exceed anything in the private sector are now issuing orders to them and making all kinds of choices for them: where and when they can build, what equipment they can add to their businesses, where their children can go to school, what kind of health insurance they must carry, what kind of credit card they may use, and so on. “ (p.47)

Two things I want to highlight on are: the entitlements of “public servants” and individual liberties.

Daniels sees a government employees should not be entitled to elite lifestyles at the taxpayer’s expense.  He sees the government worker’s role “rose from underpaid public servant to the position of a privileged elite” (p.39), stating that “the average public employee in the federal government earns on average $123,049 a year” (p.39); while “the typical worker” who pays the federal worker’s salary makes only $61,051.  (He sites Chris Edwards and a fact check that discredits this study can be found here). This ideology is behind his anti-union stance for governmental employees. I understand this thinking and I firmly disagree with it.  I see it lacking evidence, as the values are not correct, and it ignores the real value that governmental work provides.

When I was growing up, my father was an employee of the state.  He worked at a psych facility as a psych tech.  Although we did by no means live a lavish lifestyle, I grew up in a space of financial security, and we could go on vacations and had good health insurance. My dad said that the state gave him I-O-Us a few times when the state budget did not pass (it was California- they are not known for passing budgets on time), but the credit union still cashed the paycheck. Living in this type of household is a luxury in our modern economy. My family was not concerned about layoffs – I can say now- what a blessing. When we were older, he went back to school and got a better job. He now works as a lecturer at a private university, and is making probably three times as much as he did when I was growing up.

That is not the type of space Gov. Daniels’ plan would have created.  Though his thought is not about the lack of stability in the homes, he is fundamentally against governmental employees – like they are against all that is good in this nation.  He sees the world in a completely different way than I do.

The other thing is choice, and linking that to liberty and small government. In chapter 4 Daniels uses Elmer Kelton’s book The Time It Never Rained to describe his views on regulations.  The book is about a drought in West Texas in the 1950’s. The protagonist, Charlie Flagg, refused governmental assistance -“If you get to dependin’ on the government, the day’ll come when the damn federals will dictate everything you do.  Some desk clerk in Washington will decide where you live and where you work and what color toilet paper you wipe yourself with.  And you’ll be scared to say anything because they might cut you off of the tit.”  Daniels then goes on to put this fictional character in modern times, “Just imagine, for example, drought stricken Charlie’s reaction to the 2010 EPA rules that attempt to control the amount of dust farmers are permitted to create on their own lands.  Or his reaction to mandates that dictate how many gallons of water a toilet can flush or the type of light bulb one can buy.” (p.64) Daniels sees all benefits should come with personal choice, from health insurance plans that allows the individual to decide what type of medication to purchase and school vouchers, citing many stories and background for each.

There is even a picture of him in the book where he is riding a motorcycle in a parade without a helmet (legal) or glasses (illegal) – I assume to highlight his desire for small amount of government intervention.  However, he also mentions he is anti-choice when it comes to women’s rights. He has attempted to defund all Planned Parenthood because there are some that provide abortions.  This action seems to contradict his thoughts on personal liberty.

This is an interesting point of self-reflection.  What do I think about this self-liberty?  Well, I actually agree with some of his health care ideas.  I think a health care insurance plan should encourage you to spend less if you don’t need it.  So many people are over diagnosing in this country. If people were in charge of the way their money was being spent, I think they might think wisely. However, I am on a medication at the moment that needs the name brand, and so I would be concerned with someone not getting a generic brand just to try to save money – however, I don’t think that is my responsibility to make that level of choice for someone.

I must say though, I don’t know how I feel on personal liberties on everything.  I am very much for low flush toilets, and energy efficient light bulbs.  I was an energy consultant for two and a half years where I calculated the savings from such things.  I see the benefit to the earth. I consider it government’s role to set such guidelines to reduce energy waste. I love California’s policies on energy efficiency, and I wish more states would follow suit. An energy efficient light bulb can produce the same amount of light with lower wattage. If there are reasons like ambiance for a restaurant, I understand that, and the codes have such things built in.

Also, I am a “you better not tell me what to do with my body” kind of gal, very pro-choice.  Does someone feel the same way when they say “don’t tell me what kind of light bulbs to use”? In my worldview legislating a person’s vagina is much more inappropriate than legislating a person’s light bulbs.

As I see it, those two things – over entitled government workers and personal liberty have dictated a lot of Gov. Daniels philosophies on government.

My Time in DC


As I mentioned above, I listened to his audio book on the way to FCNL policy institute in November. I realized Mitchell Daniels is very much loved by republicans, especially in Indiana. So when I got to D.C. I though the best argument for a Hoosier on the rational to reduce government pentagon spending would be to say it was in the name of “fiscal responsibility”, that we do not have a balanced budget, and the military is wasteful spending.  There has never even been an audit of pentagon spending, and the tax cuts should have ended.  I was actually all for completely falling off the “fiscal cliff,” allowing tax cuts to expire for everyone and the drastic spending cuts to take over.  This was FCNL’s plan, and I thought it made sense and would actually get us out of the budget deficit.  And that is the argument I made to the staffer of Congress representative Todd Rokita, and in the note I left a note for Senator Dan Coats. The staffer seemed to brush me off as transient to the state, since I was at Purdue and not a true Hoosier.

I can’t say I disagree with him.  I do not see myself living in Indiana much longer after I receive my diploma, and as I was going through the list on which participants were talking to which congress person, I saw people signed up to speak to the senators of my home state of California – Boxer and Feinstein who I first voted for.  I longed to talk to them.  I do not know if it is actually true, but I felt that they would listen to what I really wanted to say.

Upon reflection on the time in D.C., I realized I had spoke too much with my head and not enough with my heart.  My heart thinks military spending is wrong, because killing is wrong.  Killing in the name of freedom is wrong.  Humans are humans no mater what country they belong to.  If you think that it is the “terrorist” that must die, try putting yourself in the terrorist shoes. Military contracts that bring money to cities, that embed local economies is wrong. We do not need an economy that is rooted in violence.  Lets take those jobs and make a better world with them. Information here.

We need diplomacy to prevent war at all cost.  We need to be a nation that cares about our vets, and gives them, and all people, the help we all deserve.  I am interested in talking about the role of peace troops to prevent war- “What should the role of peace troops be?” “Should the UN prevented Rawanda when they had the chance?” … I think that these are the debates we should engage in as a country, and not “Should we stop financing war because of fiscal reasons.”  I am not an “ends justify the means” kind of gal.

My Discernment Now

Going to DC let me see that my heart was the important topic. I contacted Parker Palmer and sent him my blog. He has agreed to talk to me on the phone next Thursday. Yay!

I care about the ethical issues, but am now thinking that the most ethical issues were with the board of trustees and not Daniels. I am thinking of writing an op-ed at some point regarding the shift that has been happening with trustees through out the country, and also investigate the history. However, with Daniels I have realized that my main issue is his skepticism to global warming.  I am not the only one who is concerned. Daniels has vocalized his skepticism on TV  and said that the “ debate, so far, has been dominated by “experts” from the University of Hollywood and the P.C. Institute of Technology,” while giving a speech at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. This concerns me. As Bruggor, the author of the blog above, points out it might just be have been a political statement – but as a leader of a top university, I believe Daniels should be educated on the true debate.

As mentioned above, Mitch Daniels’ described the environmental policy as limiting personal liberty. A professor I know said that a colleague in agriculture asked him a direct question on his support of climate change support, and he avoided the question – changing the conversation to the benefits of natural gas.  That is a political move, but not one that the president of a top University should make. My next blog will look at his stances on issues on the environment, and understand his thoughts more.

Also, when I meet with him I would like to take the opportunity to take advantage of the fact that he is not an academic by mentioning some of the issues that some graduate students face like being required to work more hours then they are paid, and the manipulations of some faculty towards international students. This too will be thought out in more detail in a later blog.

Okay, now back to work on analyzing data for my dissertation.