It’s been nearly three years since he was elected Governor, and honestly, I still don’t understand Bobby Jindal’s prerogatives. He opposed the stimulus and then traveled the State posing for pictures handing out oversized checks from the stimulus. He (essentially) fired his own Secretary of the DOTD, William Ankner, right after Mr. Ankner said Louisiana would attempt to compete for funding to construct a high-speed rail line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Jindal, as you may recall, used the proposed rail line between Las Vegas and Los Angeles as an example of wasteful stimulus spending during his infamously awful and nationally-televised Republican response to President Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress.
Despite the worthiness of the proposed project in Louisiana, Jindal had to reject it, and apparently, he felt compelled to fire (force into resignation) his own DOTD Secretary for publicly announcing that Louisiana was considering to apply for federal funding for a commuter rail project. Mr. Ankner was way off-message. In Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana, notwithstanding the fact that New Orleans has one of the oldest streetcar systems in the world, we don’t believe in commuter rail. Nope. That’s all pork. Funding Interstate and highway construction, however, is a different story.
This week, Governor Jindal topped himself. Louisiana is now applying for funding under the health care reform act that we’re currently challenging as unconstitutional.
So while Jindal and company debate the need for the stimulus and health care reform, they’re quietly attempting to use both as stop-gaps for our own growing deficits, and whenever it’s politically appropriate, Governor Jindal seems more than willing to swoop in and claim the credit.
I believe in calling it like I see it: During the debate over the stimulus, Bobby Jindal was one of its most outspoken and well-known opponents, but once the bill was passed, he had no problem posing for pictures, doling out stimulus checks. That’s just blatant hypocrisy, plain and simple. As much as it pains me to say it, if Bobby Jindal actually believes the health care reform bill was unconstitutional, then he should oppose any attempt by the State of Louisiana to access the “unconstitutional” funding opportunities provided by the bill.
I recognize that, right now, the man is popular in Louisiana; I just wish he’d stop pretending to be such a hard-liner for the national media and begin behaving like a real governor for the people of Louisiana. In all honesty, even though I adamantly object to the vast majority of his policy stances and believe he’s severely short-changed the Central Louisiana region during his short tenure, I find the guy likable, a goofy nerd, and I believe he is capable (even though I would never vote for him). That is, despite the fact that I oppose his policies and his practices, I’ve never questioned his competence.
Here’s the main problem: Louisiana is a poor state with a struggling educational system. When he campaigned for Governor, Bobby Jindal repeatedly attempted to convince the people of Louisiana that we were, in fact, a “rich state.” Soaring rhetoric, but unfortunately, it’s just not true. We’re poor. Unlike my friend representing the Tea Party of Louisiana, I don’t believe it is appropriate to lay the blame for this on the 117-year-old ghost of Huey P. Long, and I think any honest historian would acknowledge that Huey Long did more for LSU than any other Governor, tripling its budget during the Great Depression and championing the construction of its campus. In modern terms, Huey Long may be considered an out-and-out socialist, but I don’t believe there was anything nefarious or socialistic about supporting public education. I believe access to a quality educational system should be considered a fundamental right for all Americans.
Right now, in Louisiana, we don’t want to have the difficult conversations about the repeal of the Stelly Tax Plan. We haven’t really discussed the fact that a tax plan that was approved by the majority of Louisiana voters, through a referendum on the ballot, was later repealed by the State legislature. We all voted to approve the plan, but we weren’t given the opportunity to vote to repeal the plan. And today, because of the State legislature’s actions, we lost nearly a half of a billion dollars in revenue just last year.
No one enjoys being taxed, but sometimes, people lose track of what their tax dollars are supporting: infrastructure, sanitation, electricity, police and fire, and, of course, health care and education.
And right now, Governor Bobby Jindal, Republican of Louisiana and the author of the forthcoming book Real Hope, Real Change, is ordering massive cuts in education funding, cuts that severely undermine the integrity, stability, and credibility of Louisiana’s system of higher education, cuts that pose a significant challenge to Louisiana’s long-term sustainability.
Precisely because we are a poor State, Louisiana relies on our institutions of higher learning to provide and expand opportunities. Right now, more than anything, we should be investing in education, because we need an educated 21st century workforce in order to remain competitive.
I’m burying the lede here: Throughout the State, Student Government Associations are protesting the massive cuts being made to education. Just yesterday, two students were arrested during a protest at the University of New Orleans. I’ve been told, through well-placed sources, that these protests will only intensify and become better organized. SGAs throughout the State plan on protesting for a Constitutional Amendment to the Louisiana State Constitution, which would better protect educational funding and ensure that it is no longer treated as discretionary spending by the Governor. While they’re at it, I hope they will also advocate for the reform of the State retirement system, which could free up tens of millions of dollars every year and unshackle local and parish governments from massive burdens. (It’s one thing to demand more money, but it’s much more effective if you can demonstrate where to find that money).
Either way, I hope these kids will remain peaceful, avoid arrest or confrontation, and speak truth to power.