Making a handful of policy recommendations free of data on economy

This week a reader’s email upbraided economists who use data to point out problems but fail to make policy recommendations to resolve those problems.

This is not a novel complaint; we’ve all heard it before. Yet when responsible economists do make policy recommendations, they face criticism for considering only economic factors and not recognizing broader issues. Often we hear economists are too idealistic and do not understand the realities of policy making.

With this stimulus, I will now make several policy recommendations to the Indiana General Assembly without any data to support my views. In politics, my unqualified thoughts are worth the same as those of any other citizen.

1. Designate the firefly as the Indiana state insect. This step, recommended by elementary students in West Lafayette, may help protect the firefly from a fragile future. It will demonstrate the utility of natural power sources with minimal carbon emissions. Finally, fireflies could enlighten legislators and guide them to more wise decisions in the years ahead.

2. Do not raise the tax on gasoline. Although this tax has not changed in many years, it is the wrong way to fund our roads and bridges. Autos and trucks should be taxed on the basis of weight, physical footprint and distance traveled.

Yes, we don’t have the technology yet in place to track distance traveled, but in time we will.

Meantime, we can measure the weight and footprint of all vehicles on Indiana roads. Autos and light trucks are easy; just take the data from the manufacturers’ original measurements.

Trucks with cargoes are more difficult, but INDOT is working on new techniques to measure weight-on-the-go. Laws must be changed and funds allocated to enforce new methods.

3. Impose new or higher taxes on admissions to all professional sporting events. This would be a state tax, not local, distributed to public schools for art, music, English and history studies.

4. Prohibit any person found guilty of defrauding the IRS, the Indiana Department of Revenue, Medicare or Medicaid from receiving any state or local public assistance, including property tax exemptions and deductions, for a period of 10 years.

5. Pass the legislation needed to repeal the caps on real property taxes.

6. Pass meaningful legislation to raise Indiana’s D- minus score on the ethics index provided by the national Center for Public Integrity. This would require far greater transparency in government budgeting, increased accessibility to government information and improved electoral oversight.

7. Prohibit the Indiana Commission for Higher Education from using graduation rates in its decision making for the allocation of funds to institutions or programs. Graduation is not an indicator of learning, and such rates distort the integrity of the education process.

8. Authorize the sale of the Indiana State Fair to the private sector. The state has a valid role in the safety of such exhibitions, but not in the ownership or management thereof. Let Marion County levy property taxes on the land and buildings.

Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana

University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to