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.

3 thoughts

  1. Jindal is a super intelligent guy, with the potential to be a great Governor. Unfortunately, his national ambitions have him kowtowing to the National Republican Party line, regardless of the detrimental effect on our State. He is missing a golden opportunity to fix what ails us, if only he would focus on Lousiana.

    1. Mung, I completely agree. I’ve never questioned the man’s intelligence. When he was fresh out of Brown University, he had to choose between Yale Law School, Harvard Medical School, and a Rhodes Scholarship in Oxford. He may be the first and only person in America to have faced that choice. Jindal, of course, elected to take the Rhodes Scholarship. He never became a doctor or a lawyer; instead, he became the youngest-ever Secretary of Louisiana Health and Human Services and, a few years later, he ran for Governor, lost in a run-off, and then ran for Congress and won. It’s easy to overlook, but Governor Jindal’s not even forty years old. He’s obviously very ambitious, but like I said in the post, I still don’t understand his actual policy prerogatives. To me, he seems all over the place, despite the consistency of his conservative rhetoric.

      You’re absolutely right: He is missing a golden opportunity. He seems to be much more interested in building up a national media reputation than a record of unquestionable accomplishment here in Louisiana. If he continues to eliminate funding for education, particularly higher education, then he is in real danger of making that his lasting political legacy. Years from now, no one will remember the tax cuts provided to a small handful; no one will remember the chicken plant giveaway; no one will remember his opposition to a commuter rail line: They’ll remember the massive cuts that threaten to dismantle our educational system, cuts that have occurred not only as a result of the recession we’re currently in but also because of a rigid intransigence about and allegiance to a fundamentally flawed economic paradigm.

  2. Very well written lamar. i agree 100%.

    In addition to re-examinating the retirement plans of our public employees, we should also have a serious look at the $7 Billion in corporate tax exemptions (which i consider de facto giveaways or subsidies) that are buried in the LA tax code. The LA Budget Project, under the auspicies of LANO, the Louisiana Association of Non Profits, did an excellent peice about these tax breaks a few months ago. That’s where our health care and education money can be found.

    It’s sad that many of our most talented social service and education professionals, instead of providing services or teaching or doing research, have to spend so much of their time scraping and searching for funding, fighting over small pots of tens of millions of dollars, when literally billions are being given away in these tax breaks. Not to even mention the Stelly Plan repeal, which was pure cowardice, in my opinion.

    So the question remains: Who is going to run against Jindal and call him out publicly? Who is going to do the very hard work of pushing a LA Constitutional Convention or Amendments? Who is going to do the political plank-walk of introducing a new Stelly Plan bill? Who is going to dig out the un-sunsetted tax exemptions, put them into the sunlight, and have them repealed?

    That’s a campaign I’d donate to and work for. Haven’t seen one like it yet, though.

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