Mitch Daniels Watch: Maybe We Need "Fewer Messiahs and More OMB Directors"

Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.) is rising in the chatterati polls. Russ Smith of Splice Today writes up the budget-cutting, hair-thinning Syrian American Hoosier as a plausible and much-needed corrective to both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.

The Wash Post's resident Bush apologist/retread and anti-dancer Michael Gerson writes of Daniels, who has called for a truce in the culture wars and full frontal warfare on outta-control spending and overreach:

"It is difficult to imagine Daniels’ rejection of uplift, ideology and activism appealing to the country at most times. But maybe, at this particular time, we are a nation in need of fewer messiahs and more OMB directors.”

And Andy Ferguson of The Weekly Standard (and some time in Indiana as well) writes a long profile of the guy.

He treats waste in government as a moral offense. “Government isn’t a business, and it shouldn’t be run as a business,” he said. “But it can be more like business. It has a lot to learn from businessmen.” Government operates without the market pressures that produce efficiency and increase quality. The challenge for government leaders is to produce those pressures to economize internally, through an act of will. “Never take a dollar from a free citizen through the coercion of taxation without a very legitimate purpose,” he said in an interview last year. “We have a solemn duty to spend that dollar as carefully as possible, because when we took it we diminished that person’s freedom.” When you put it like that, overspending by government seems un-American. 

When Daniels took office, in 2004, the state faced a $200 million deficit and hadn’t balanced its budget in seven years. Four years later, all outstanding debts had been paid off; after four balanced budgets, the state was running a surplus of $1.3 billion, which has cushioned the blows from a steady decline in revenues caused by the recession. “That’s what saved us when the recession hit,” one official said. “If we didn’t have the cash reserves and the debts paid off, we would have been toast.” The state today is spending roughly the same amount that it was when Daniels took office, largely because he resisted the budget increases other states were indulging in the past decade.

More here.

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  • Jeffersonian||

    Is it too soon to start talking about Daniels/Christie, Christie/Daniels 2012?

  • ||

    Christie just got there and still has lots to do. Daniels, though, seems to have straightened out the state and might be ready for an even bigger challenge.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Agreed, but Christie has my backing once he decides to.

  • ||

    Both Christie and Daniels are following a reasonable political strategy of doing the tough stuff early and hoping to get the rewards later.

    Christie's approval rating is down big now, but so was Daniels's at first. He won re-election impressively, though.

  • ||

    Get the pain over right away, rather than waiting until an election is imminent.

    Which is part of why the U.S. House is so dysfunctional -- there's always an election upcoming.

  • ||

    O good grief. The gubermint could be a zillion times more efficient and that would amount to...50 billion dollars - which is like 1/10th of 1% of the budget.

    Gubermint takes your money, and through zillions of programs gives it back to you through social security, medicare, and millions of other subsidies. Most get some back, many get a lot back, and a few get a lot more back than they put in. I don't agree with that - i think it misallocates resources, but as a scam it works beautifully.

    The problem with this idea of "efficiency" is that it is a big red herring. Seeing a politician tell people that seriously cutting taxes means seriously cutting these entitlements, and you might as well say you have seen a talking Easter bunny.

  • ChrisO||

    It all depends on how you define government "waste." I would include all transfer payments within that definition. I don't imagine many Republican officeholders do, unfortunately, since too many of their constituents get their own forms of transfer payments.

  • robc||

    Ummm...is the word "efficiency" written above? I dont see it, but it might be there.

    "Never take a dollar from a free citizen through the coercion of taxation without a very legitimate purpose,” he said in an interview last year. “We have a solemn duty to spend that dollar as carefully as possible, because when we took it we diminished that person’s freedom.”

    is not a statement of efficiency.

  • Sidd Finch||

    TFA: "When Daniels took office, in 2004, the state faced a $200 million deficit and hadn’t balanced its budget in seven years. Four years later, all outstanding debts had been paid off; after four balanced budgets, the state was running a surplus of $1.3 billion,"

  • Dave Weigel||

    “We have a solemn duty to spend that dollar as carefully as possible, because when we took it we diminished that person’s freedom.”

    This guy sounds like a rat-fucking tea-bagger.

  • Cathy||

    They forget to mention HOW he reduced the debt - he sold our highways to a foreign management firm!

    That's JUST what we need - NOT!

  • ||

    So were they swarthy foreigners in that foreign management firm?

    Acting all foreign and management-y in their big foreign management buildings, I'll bet.

  • Evil Libertarian||

    And then those horrible foreigners picked up the Indiana Toll Road and moved it overseas!

    Snark aside, Indiana still owns its highways. It just monetized an asset by leasing the right to operate and collect revenue from the toll road to a foreign joint venture. The lease payment is being used to pay for highway improvements, to the tune of $800 million or so IIRC. I'm not sure how else Indiana could have raised that kind of money given the state's fiscal situation when Daniels came in.

  • ||

    I have been telling you it is going to be Daniels for over a year now. Last year's commencement address where he blamed the greedy baby boomers for the problem was heard by the right ears. The money's behind him now, and He didn't sign Romneycare, and he's not a fat, Christian nanny stater either. Gary Johnson better kick it up a notch if he wants a shot at it.

  • cap||

    Ask any teacher how they feel about Mitch Daniels - he balanced the budget by firing a third of them! Why have a state with a balanced budget when it's full of mouthbreathing retards who can't read or write? As the bumper sticker reads: "Not My Man!"

  • Evil Libertarian||

    As a product of Indiana public schools, I would offer that depending on which ones he fired, that was a feature not a bug.

    And I'm guessing you're more concerned with scoring political points for Team Blue and not all that concerned about teh childrenz when you call them mouthbreathing retards.

  • Jordan||

    Show us how the quality of education in Indiana has declined since those teachers were fired. Oh wait, you can't.

  • Brett L||

    Some of my best friends are mouthbreather-Americans.

  • ||

    Why have a state with a balanced budget when it's full of mouthbreathing retards who can't read or write?

    Exactly, that's why he didn't just balance the budget, he also fired a third of the teachers. If he balanced the budget but a third of the teachers were still
    "mouthbreathing retards who [couldn't] read or write," he wouldn't have accomplished as much.

  • Eric||

    You make this complaint... on a libertarian site?

    Methinks your public school education is serving you well.

  • ||

    Hmmm ... from my experience with public schools, you could fire a third of public school teachers and get better educational outcomes.

    You just have to fire the RIGHT third.

  • ||

    I liked what I read in the weekly standard a lot. I'm a little wary of his personal faith, founding a school "rooted in Christ" and all that, but that seems to be a prereq to getting red team votes. I guess the Gipper smiled and danced for the religious wing while cutting gov't intrusiveness. With what I know currently I can say I would vote for Daniels.

  • Eric||

    I'd vote for him, assuming he continues to do well as IN's governor. Besides Gary Johnson (who I also really like, but who has no shot in the GOP primary), Mitch is the only serious potential Presidential candidate with a record of cutting government, rather than just waxing eloquent about it or using weasel phrases like "cut government growth".

    I also like Christie, but he's still unproven as NJ's governor, so I'd like to wait and see.

  • Joshua||

    What is an anti-dancer? That link has nothing to do with dancing.

  • ||

    Interesting: Mitch Daniels' Five Books...

    http://fivebooks.com/interview.....nservatism

    Hayek, Friedman, Murray, Postrel.

  • ||

    If it's so bad in Indiana why is no one leaving like in Mich, Cal and NY?

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