At a time when red states should be unified in making sure the travesty of lockdowns never happens again, Indiana Republicans are entertaining an overfunded public health bill that would fortify the power structure that allowed state bureaucrats to control citizens with error-ridden “science.”
The gargantuan post-Covid plan, which would increase annual public health spending by a whopping $150 million per year, seems like something that might come out of California or Illinois, not a solid Republican state such as Indiana. Yet its biggest proponent is Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, already unpopular within his own party for his overbearing Covid policies.
More money means more influence, and that’s why the public health bill, which centralizes more power at the state level, is so threatening. The pandemic transformed the power structure around public health, giving the stage to self-proclaimed expert bureaucrats who considered their authority more significant than the U.S. Constitution and shut down dissenting voices in the name of “safety.” It would be naive to expect that such new-found power would not seek a foothold with which to expand.
It is no coincidence that similar projects to pump up public health systems are underway in Maryland, Ohio, Washington, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma. This is happening as the World Health Organization is pushing a global pandemic accord and labeling those unwilling to unite with its unilateral approach as narrow nationalists.
Despite dominating the Indiana statehouse with a supermajority, Republicans seem overly hesitant to just say no to a permanent increase in the state budget that could skyrocket public health spending at the local level by 22 times what it is now. The amount of money is outrageous, fiscally irresponsible, and completely unjustified considering how much damage public health inflicted on Indiana when the budget was only $7 million per year. Still, many legislators feel they “need to do something,” as the bill represents one of the governor’s priorities, and they continue to focus on using amendments to make the bill more palatable rather than scrap the obvious power grab altogether.
The state health department says it will direct much of its increased funding to local health departments around Indiana and has introduced a complicated and confusing system that requires counties to opt in to receive extra money. Some county officials, including me, testified that we worried the opt-in system would take away local control, especially after Indiana public health commission members made remarks linking grant money to the acceptance of state guidance, such as mask mandates. Members of the state Senate attempted to appease counties by making sure legislative oversight was tied into the money-granting process and by adding vague language that would appear to protect local authority.
Still, for several council members and commissioners in nearby counties I know, the trust is just gone. While many counties do believe their local health departments could use some help from the state, a modest increase could solve the problem without massive spending and added strings. Nothing can justify a $150 million raise when the state failed so badly in its Covid response and still won’t admit it did anything wrong.
Gov. Holcomb’s Record of Tyranny
Legislators should have no sympathy for Holcomb. The governor worked with the Senate to gut a House bill to protect workers from employer vaccine mandates. He also clung to his emergency powers a full two years after Covid emerged, despite pushback from legislators and the Hoosier public. He worked to preserve unilateral authority when he sued (and eventually won against) the General Assembly for passing a law to allow it to call its members back into session in the case of another public emergency. Holcomb also formed the Governor’s Public Health Commission, designed to study and grow public health, just a few months after the statehouse overrode his veto to rein in local health departments for their overreach.
Holcomb insisted on his health experts determining what was right for Indiana school kids, keeping them out of school and wearing masks, and quarantining them despite parent outcry and scientific evidence to the contrary. Hoosier parents saw public health take over the decision-making for their children, and as a result of those policies, more Indiana kids attempted suicide because of extreme isolation.
Furthermore, Holcomb’s health department continues to promote the risky and ineffective Covid shots as “safe, effective and free” for babies as young as six months, despite the fact that it doesn’t stop children from getting sick and has a safety profile that includes myocarditis. While other countries have banned children under 12 from receiving the Covid shot, Holcomb and the Democrats eagerly push it upon babies, despite a mountain of evidence that they suffer more risk than benefit by taking it.
With such an unwillingness to recognize the dangers of pushing these experimental jabs on kids — a population not even in danger of serious Covid complications — public health has lost all credibility. If they won’t even protect kids, why are we still listening to them?
Why Give a Failed Institution More Money?
When making their financial pitch, members of the governor’s commission bypassed Holcomb’s bungling of Covid, trying to convince legislators that a big public health buy-in could reverse dismal statistics that put Indiana near the bottom of the nation in areas such as tobacco use, obesity, diabetes, and mental health. Yet the idea of entrusting public health with even more responsibility makes no sense. Republicans should know better than to give heaps of money to a government organization with an awful track record and expect success.
Indiana’s Republican statehouse owes Holcomb and his state health department absolutely no compromises. The governor and his team forced Hoosiers to adhere to rules that harmed children. Rather than feed and grow an unapologetic agency that disrupted and damaged every sector of our society, Indiana legislators need to hold it accountable and say no to rewarding it with more money and power. If we can’t do that in Indiana, there isn’t much hope of doing it anywhere else.
Amy Drake is a stay-at-home mom, writer, and St. Joseph County councilwoman in South Bend, Ind.
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