By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – The Indiana Democratic Party’s statewide campaign to highlight the benefits of the American Rescue Plan stopped in Warsaw Tuesday night, June 16.
A room packed with Democrat-leaning people at Mad Anthony’s party room in Warsaw heard a recap Tuesday night of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan and were urged to get involved on the local level in determining how the historic influx of spending will be used.
Democrat leaders have been scouring the mostly conservative landscape of Indiana in an attempt to shed light on the benefits of the American Rescue Plan plan that was opposed by all Republican lawmakers.
Very little fanfare or celebration surfaced as individual towns, counties and schools learned how much they would be receiving as a result of President Joe Biden’s pandemic rescue plan.
The recent tour through many parts of the state has included local leaders as well as former Sen. Joe Donnelly and former legislative leader John Gregg.
Warsaw’s event, hosted by the Kosciusko County Democratic Party, featured former Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson who was born in Warsaw. After serving for six years in Congress as Indiana’s 4th District Representative, she served as undersecretary for rural development in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Joining Long Thompson in the discussion was State Sen. Eddie Melton.
Long Thompson is the author of “The Character of American Democracy”, published by Indiana University Press in 2020.
Some officials at the meeting claimed Republican lawmakers are taking credit for different aspects of the relief plan when that credit goes strictly to Democrats.
Long Thompson credited Biden for helping move the country out of the pandemic – for the most part – and for the multi-faceted spending plan to lift the economy.
“The American Rescue Plan has set us up to truly build back better,” Long Thompson said.
Long Thompson and other Democrats are highlighting the fact that not one Indiana Republican elected official voted to support the Rescue Plan despite the law delivering $5.8 billion in relief to the state, Indiana’s schools receiving $2 billion in aid, and more than $250 million being used to expand broadband internet access across Indiana.
Republicans, nationally, say they worry more spending will result in inflation and add to the growing national debt.
“It’s sad but not surprising that President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, often referred to as the infrastructure bill, is getting opposition – not because the plan is not good for the country – but for political reasons,” said Long Thompson.
In Kosciusko County, the county is expected to receive $15.4 million, the city of Warsaw will see $3.1 million and public schools will get another $11.8 million for education. Local towns will also get sizeable checks over the next year. Those include: Milford, $330,000; Claypool, $90,000; Silver Lake, $190,000; Pierceton, $210,000; North Webster, $240,000; Mentone, $200,000; Syracuse, $600,000; and Winona Lake, $1.02 million.
Local boards have taken possession of some of the money already, but have not developed local plans. Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said he intends to work with the county to determine how best to use the money.
Democrats said supporters need to get involved in helping determine how the money can be spent on the state and local level.
“We rely on you all to get information out. We rely on you to advocate downstate. To call legislators. Don’t underestimate the value of your voice,” Melton said.
The speakers were asked if they were losing the messaging war.
Messaging can be challenging, Long Thompson said, adding that it’s easier to criticize and attack.
“Because the Democrat Party is the party that looks to the future and a party that looks for solutions, it makes us more of a target for criticism than if we were just criticizing somebody else for what they are doing,” she said. “It’s a challenge, but I think we’re up to it.”
Melton countered by saying the very fact they’re out touting it shows they’re on offense.
Much of the talk also focused on infrastructure.
Long Thompson also agrees with a wider definition of infrastructure. Republicans complain much of the bill is targeted to areas beyond what is viewed as traditional infrastructure – roads, bridges and sewer.
She says the term refers to all of the things in society – basic systems and services – needed to move society and the economy forward.
“As society changes and technology changes, what’s defined as infrastructure and what is critical changes as well,” she said.
“All of these things are needed for our state and our country. Investing in the future is one of the smartest things we can do,” Long Thompson said. “What the American Jobs Plan will do is invest in our communities with a payback that we will feel for generations to come.”
How do Democrats explain concerns over inflation, which has begun to creep upward in many sectors?
Long Thompson said the Biden administration is well-suited to respond to a changing economy.
“I have great confidence in the cabinet that’s been assembled by President Biden, including Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury. She is a very respected and renowned economist.”
Over time, she said the country will see the fiscal and monetary policies are working.
She added she thinks some of the concerns over inflation are manufactured “because of some temporary circumstances that are the result of COVID.”