The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto, in a recent critique of Barack Obama's "bitter clingers" remarks, wrote something that Indiana's gubernatorial candidates should heed:
Obama's promise rests on a false premise: that it is within the power of the president to restore the Rust Belt's luster. Every incumbent president in living memory has sought at least one additional term, and the Keystone State has for decades been a key electoral battleground, both large and closely contested. If presidents had the power to make Pennsylvania's declining towns wealthy, don't you think one of them would have done so by now?
In truth, the decline of industries is simply a fact of life, like old age, sickness and death. Yet just as new generations supersede the old, a free economy produces innovation that gives rise to new industries. And while some places have declined, the nationwide economy has grown impressively for most of the past quarter-century.
Mitch Daniels is bragging about all the jobs Indiana has gained during his tenure, and Jim Schellinger and Jill Long Thompson are running around the state complaining about all the jobs lost in the last four years. All of them are right to a degree but misleading overall. We're living through an economic transformation as profound as the change from an agricultural to an industrial economy. We can't help but lose some of the old jobs, so we have to make ourselves as attractive as we can to the kinds of companies creating the new jobs. And that means concentrating on education and workforce development.
Which brings us to a small silver lining the big dark cloud:
At least one economist thinks central Indiana's life sciences sector can absorb the 500 people Eli Lilly and Co. plans to let go through early buyouts.“These aren't the 1950s factory workers that we have to worry about. These are nimble, highly skilled workers,” said Mike Hicks, director of the Bureau of Business Research at Ball State University. “They'll be able to find work elsewhere.”
How are we doing at creating those "nimble, highly skilled workers"? That's where the debate needs to be. We've been hearing some of that from the candidates, but I'd like to hear more.