‘It’s cold out here,” Sorethroat complains. “Why are we under the east stairs of the Capitol building?”

“Because I can’t go into the Statehouse as casually as I’d like since the legislative gators started their security checks,” I tell him.

“Well, what do you want to talk about? Be quick!” he shivers with the cold.

“We have several good folks from both parties in the General Assembly, yet when one Senator proposes a cockeyed bill preventing Indianapolis and other cities from ever changing their names, the Senate approves it 36 to 11. Why?” I ask.

“Oh, that’s just Jack. Grandstanding. He’s stirring up some bluster about Native Americans objecting to derogatory names beyond sports teams,” Sorethroat says, taking another drag on his mini-cigar.

“Don’t take that bill seriously,” he says. “Senators know it’s a joke and the members are just having a little fun. They know the bill dies in the House or in a conference committee.” He flicks off a bit of cigar ash to demonstrate the insignificance of the issue.

“What about the serious matter of redistricting?” I ask.

“Dead,” he says. “You don’t think the Reds will let the Blues have any chance of gaining seats in the Legislature or Congress? Indiana’s gerrymandering is so good that 11 of the 25 Senate seats up for election in 2020 were uncontested by one or the other major parties. In the House, 41 of 100 seats were uncontested.”

“That’s a tragedy for democracy,” I moan.

“Yeah,” he agrees, “but these guys ‘n’ gals can’t be persuaded to change their minds on anything. Gun safety? Never! Local governments having a say on issues concerning the big utilities, like the power or phone companies? Forget it! Wetland and waterways protection plus environmental improvement? Not unless the Feds insist. The same for worker safety.”

Sorethroat’s breath is freezing fog as he says, “The status quo is the way to go, except when there’s a chance for legislators to take power from the locals or from the governor. Indiana’s one of 23 states where the legislature can readily override a governor’s veto. Seven of these states are Blue, 16 Red. You think Covid is a pandemic? Think about gerrymandering.”

I’m getting hot under the collar despite the cold. “And Hoosiers put up with this for years on end?” Am I asking or decrying?

“Most do,” he says. “Remember, there are Hoosiers who sincerely believe Covid is a hoax.”

“Death is no hoax,” I insist. “CDC data for 2020 show 10,780 ‘excess’ deaths in Indiana over and above the total number expected from past experience with all other causes. The State Dept. of Health has the Covid total through February 3, 2021 as 11,231. They’re consistent.”

“Well, aren’t both part of the conspiracy to fund Big Pharma?” he says, shivering as he goes back indoors.

Morton Marcus is an economist. Reach him at mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com. Follow his views and those of John Guy on Who gets what? wherever podcasts are available or at mortonjohn.libsyn.com