Way back in 2008, Politico columnist and part-time Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed the controversial Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) into law. For those who may be unfamiliar, the LSEA allows public school science teachers the ability to lie to students about science. It’s an insidious, absurd, and likely unconstitutional law that undermines the integrity of Louisiana public education in order to advance and legitimize Christian dominionism. It was written by a creationist “think tank” based out of Seattle. And it was enacted, perhaps ironically, by Bobby Jindal, a Rhodes Scholar with a degree in Biology from an Ivy League school.
Laws like the LSEA have fostered and enabled a climate of religious intolerance; they have served as a permission slip for public school teachers to bully and proselytize to students, as evidenced in the recent case in Sabine Parish. There, an 11-year-old Buddhist child was humiliated and bullied because he didn’t believe in Christianity by his “science” teacher, a woman who taught students that Buddhism and evolution were “stupid” and who penalized him on science tests for failing to praise the “Lord.”
Governor Jindal is ultimately responsible for providing cover to these liars and for selling out Louisiana public schools to a small faction of radical right-wing evangelicals who earn tax-exempt fortunes by peddling and packaging creation myths with forgiveness every Sunday morning. Louisiana is one of the most religious and least educated states in the entire country, and while correlation does not always mean causation, laws like the LSEA are designed, purposely, to conflate religion- specifically evangelical, New Earth Creationist Protestantism- with science.
I mention the LSEA for a reason: Until now, that law, in particular, was the clearest example to me of the disastrous consequences of Bobby Jindal’s intellectual dishonesty and political opportunism. Jindal, as a Biology major and a Catholic, surely knows and accepts the theory and the fact of evolution. If we are to all believe that he is, in fact, educated, as his resume reflects, he would almost certainly support science and the theory of evolution, just like Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis. So, Jindal’s apparent belief that our public science school classrooms and laboratories should be transformed into stages for creationists seems, at best, cynical, and, at worst, corrupt.
Still, though, Bobby Jindal’s pandering on science education pales in comparison to the brazen, cavalier lies that he recently published about health care reform and Medicaid expansion in his now monthly Politico column. As dangerous as it is to allow Louisiana public school teachers to lie to our students about the fundamentals of science, it is exponentially more dangerous and more egregious to lie to citizens about their health care options.
Bobby Jindal, once known as a wunderkind because of an impressive whitepaper he wrote when he was only 23 years old on health care reform, is now reduced to peddling lies and blatant distortions of his record and the basic facts. This may be lost on the national audience at Politico, an audience that often cares more about a soundbite than substance, but it’s not lost on anyone who has followed Louisiana during the last six years: We know now, definitively, that Bobby Jindal is a liar.
Two days earlier, we learned the president’s health care law is discouraging Americans from working, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The report makes for bracing reading. The law will reduce the labor supply by the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers, the CBO says — up from an estimated 800,000 just three years ago.
First and perhaps most importantly, Governor Jindal is implicitly mischaracterizing the CBO’s report. Quoting from the Los Angeles Times (bold mine):
“Q: Will 2.5 Million People Lose Their Jobs in 2024 Because of the ACA?
“A: No, we would not describe our estimates in that way.”
The CBO goes on to underscore what it did say, which is that the total number of hours worked would decline by 1.5% to 2% by 2024, “almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor.” As we explained at the time, that signifies a combination of workers cutting back hours to raise their families, leaving jobs to retire before they’re eligible for Medicare, or giving up employer-provided healthcare to start new businesses. Americans are newly empowered to make these choices because the ACA ensures that they no longer have to give up health insurance to make them.
The Affordable Care Act will better empower citizens to make their own choices; it will allow Baby Boomers the ability to retire with dignity and ensure that they don’t need to work themselves to death just so they can afford health care; it will incentivize younger Americans to innovate and create, because they are no longer as beholden to long hours in thankless jobs just so that they can keep their health care; it will allow mothers and fathers the opportunity to scale back on their hours so they can raise their children. It’s a perversion of the facts to imply, as Jindal does repeatedly, that the Affordable Care Act somehow disincentivizes “work” or that it is somehow a massive giveaway to able-bodied Americans. Health care coverage incentivizes health care, plain and simple. Importantly, according to the CBO, the American workforce will expand regardless; we just won’t be working people to death as much. Quoting again from the Los Angeles Times (bold mine):
“To be clear,” the CBO concluded, “total employment and hours worked will increase over the coming decade, but by less than they would have in the absence of the ACA.”
So, Governor Jindal’s argument is specious; it should be readily obvious to anyone that in a country in which 47 million citizens are uninsured and millions more are underinsured, expanding access to health care coverage and services will result in marginal decreases in projected full-time employment hours. But this doesn’t mean people are somehow less inclined to work and contribute; it just means that around 0.7% of Americans will be more capable of choosing what works best for themselves and their families.
That point is completely lost on Bobby Jindal, a man who has been collecting a government paycheck for nearly two decades.
Jindal believes, astonishingly, that “Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion doesn’t just discourage work; it also prioritizes coverage for able-bodied adults over the needs of persons with disabilities.” He lives in his own echo chamber.
As a Louisianian who was born with a disability and who spent years attempting to qualify for Medicaid coverage, this is deeply and personally offensive to me. And as someone who has closely followed Governor Jindal’s policy proposals and decisions on Medicaid spending, I think his newly-adopted perspective is hypocritical, hateful, and hyperbolically partisan.
Consider this, a press release from Governor Jindal’s Department of Health and Hospitals from November of 2008 (in the waning hours of George W. Bush’s presidency) (bold mine):
First, the Louisiana Health First initiative focuses on expanding health insurance in the state:
A statewide expansion of Medicaid financing for parents and caretakers of Medicaid-eligible children. The current eligibility level is 12 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and the expansion would include those who live at or below 50 percent of the FPL, including roughly 60,000 more individuals statewide. Parents and caretakers were chosen because studies have proven that children in Medicaid whose parents or caretaker also have insurance coverage have better health outcomes than those who do not have coverage.
A federally-supported demonstration program in Region 5 (Lake Charles region) that will offer full access to affordable coverage to virtually all residents of the region. This area of the state has the highest rate of uninsured people in Louisiana (approximately 28 percent of the population), making it the ideal place for implementation. First, Medicaid financing will be expanded to all who earn up to 200 percent of the FPL. Next, those who make over 200 percent and up to 350 percent of the FPL will be eligible to contribute to a premium matched with federal matching dollars. As personal income goes up, the federal match goes down. This program should help relieve pressure on low-income families and employers resulting from rapidly increasing health insurance premiums.
Dear readers of Politico, dear citizens of Louisiana, dear Iowa Republican caucus voters, this was Bobby Jindal’s own proposal only two years before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare): A pilot program in Louisiana that would provide Medicaid coverage to “virtually all residents of the region” and a massive statewide expansion of Medicaid, all financed by the federal government. And guess what? This is almost exactly the model that our neighbors in Arkansas are now using to implement Medicaid expansion (a model that is now at risk because of Republican obstructionism).
Bobby Jindal could accept $16.1 billion in federal funding in order to expand coverage for more than 256,000 Louisiana citizens, and he could make it work under the model that he first pitched six years ago. But it’s easier and more politically convenient for him to dishonestly pretend as if the President and the Democrats care more about perpetuating dependency than ensuring that all Americans are able to access heath care coverage without risking financial ruin and bankruptcy. Jindal writes:
In other words, Obamacare’s incentive structure places a greater emphasis on expanding coverage to these able-bodied adults — the vast majority of whom could be working or preparing for work — than helping the individuals with disabilities Medicaid was initially created to serve.
No other Governor in Louisiana history has done more to undermine care and coverage for the disabled than Bobby Jindal has. That is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of fact: Jindal has vetoed funding for the very programs that he disingenuously accuses President Obama of sabotaging. The President and the Congress, as the facts show and as history will ultimately reflect, provided Bobby Jindal with the once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionize Louisiana health care services and to infuse the system with more than $16.1 billion (and as much as $25 billion) over the next decade. Governor Jindal could have been innovative; instead, he chose to be a charlatan. Louisiana has the nation’s worst health care outcomes; we remain at the bottom of all of those “bad lists” that Governor Jindal promised to change when he was first elected.
Louisiana voters thought they were electing a change agent. What they got instead was a Beltway blogger.