Bobby Jindal’s ‘economic miracle’ is a mirage

By Robert Mann

Did you know that Louisiana is an economic paradise? Are you aware that business executives stampede here with a fervor not unlike that of the 1849 California gold rush?

I know what you’re thinking. Like me, you’re skeptical. You’ve noticed that Louisiana has the nation’s fourth-highest unemployment rate, some of the deepest poverty, the worst health outcomes and an incarceration rate that is the envy of Uzbekistan. Despite overflowing prisons, violent crime plagues us. Our roads crumble, our coast vanishes and chaos reigns in public education.

The state’s economy is so decrepit it does not produce enough tax revenue to support higher education, health care and other vital services. As you read this, Louisiana lawmakers are trying to avert disaster and eliminate a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

Well, you and I have been reading all the wrong publications! Earlier this month, “Chief Executive Magazine” declared Louisiana the seventh-best state for business. “During 2015, Louisiana showed strong improvement in attracting and retaining technology businesses, while also benefitting from a downstream position in oil and gas,” the publication declared. “CEOs are pleased with the Southeastern state’s industrial incentives, cheap energy and non-union workforce.”

That’s not all. Last year, “Site Selection” magazine dubbed Louisiana as the nation’s second-best business climate. Earlier, “Business Facilities” magazine ranked our business climate as the nation’s best.

Among other things, these rankings gauge Louisiana’s corporate tax rates, its proximity to transportation hubs, its non-union workforce, and, most of all, as “Chief Executive Magazine” noted, our “industrial incentives.” Some of those “incentives” are what Gov. Bobby Jindal now calls “corporate welfare.”

Such profanity won’t please the people who run these publications. Jindal needn’t worry. He will have vanished from Baton Rouge long gone before their editors take notice and issue downgrades for our newfound aversion to “corporate welfare.”

Still, the question remains, how does a state that so many observers claim has a robust business climate fail to generate enough revenue to balance its budget? The answer, of course, is that our governor and his legislative enablers have handed big business the keys to the state treasury for seven years. They eagerly bestowed enormous tax exemptions and direct state appropriations on dozens of out-of-state corporations, all after recklessly slashing income taxes for the wealthy in 2008.

And what did these income tax cuts and governmental largesse for business get us, other than nice reviews in magazines that no one reads? According to a report by the congressional Joint Economic Committee, not much. “In March, private-sector employment in Louisiana fell by 2,000 jobs,” the committee staff reported. “Over the past year, Louisiana businesses have added 19,400 jobs. This compares with an increase of 35,200 jobs over the 12 months through March 2014.” The unemployment rate in Louisiana was 6.6 percent in March 2015, down 0.1 percentage point from February. The rate was 1.1 percentage points above the national rate of 5.5 percent.”

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

A few simple debate questions for Louisiana’s gubernatorial candidates

By Robert Mann

I propose some simple debate questions for the candidates for Louisiana governor:

Do you support a revenue system that taxes the poor at twice the rate of the rich? If so, why? If not, what will you do about it?

Data from Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Jan. 2015
Data from Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Jan. 2015
Data from Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Jan. 2015
Data from Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Jan. 2015
Data from Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Jan. 2015
Data from Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Jan. 2015
Data from Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Jan. 2015
Data from Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Jan. 2015

For more details see the report, “Who Pays: A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States,” by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Jan. 2015.

Can a Democrat win this year’s Louisiana governor’s race? Not likely

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By Robert Mann

At the risk of kicking a dead donkey, I will expound upon my recent controversial column in the Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, in which I argued that a Democrat almost certainly cannot win this year’s Louisiana’s governor’s race. If Democrats want to defeat David Vitter — a questionable proposition considering the amount of self-delusion I’ve witnessed in the past five days — I believe they must get behind one of the other Republicans in the race, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne or PSC Commissioner Scott Angelle. That’s not likely to happen, but the numbers suggest it’s the best chance of stopping Vitter from being sworn in as Louisiana’s 56th governor next January.

On Wednesday, Rep. Edwards has published a response to my column in the form of a letter to the editor of the Times-Picayune. I urge you to read it and note that he does not actually refute my argument with facts (if, by “facts,” we mean statistics or evidence). He simply repeats his boilerplate campaign message (and it’s a very good message) and suggests that my column was “offensive.”

“To say that . . . voters won’t care because of the letter behind my name, is offensive,” Edwards wrote. “Louisiana wants and deserves change, and that won’t come from candidates who want to duplicate the same broken policies that got us here.” Edwards is also thankful that “Louisiana’s future is not determined by the opinion of political pundits, it’s determined by the people. I firmly believe the people of Louisiana see more than just a letter behind the candidate’s name.”

I agree that pundits don’t decide election. If this pundit had the power to decide the governor’s race, I would anoint Edwards as the winner. Sadly, I don’t have that power and my column was not an attempt to do anything more than point out some obvious facts that Democratic voters might consider if they wish to keep Vitter out of the Governor’s Mansion.

First, let’s review the basis for my argument, which I briefly mentioned in the column. Since 2000, white Democratic Party voter registration has declined by 362,000 (and by about 225,000 in the past 10 years). Overall Democratic Party voter registration during that period (whites, blacks and other) declined by almost 300,000.

That means that white voters have abandoned the Louisiana Democratic Party in alarming numbers while the numbers of black voters increased by about 50,000.

Screenshot 2015-05-17 15.28.27 Overall, the Louisiana Democratic Party has gone from being a majority-white party to its current status as a majority-black party.

One reason Democrats like John Breaux, Bennett Johnston, Edwin Edwards, Mary Landrieu and Kathleen Blanco were once able to win statewide elections is that they consistently received 90 percent to 95 percent of the black vote, while earning 30 percent to 40 percent of the white vote.

For decades, that was a winning combination that made Louisiana a fairly solid Democratic Party state. Contrary to current popular opinion, Barack Obama’s election as president did not start the sudden decline of the Democratic Party in Louisiana, nor did Hurricane Katrina.

The voter registration numbers suggest that the exodus of white voters from the party began long before Obama and Katrina. From 2000 to 2004, the numbers of Democratic white voters in Louisiana dropped by almost 100,000. During that same period in which overall Democratic registration was dropping, Republican registration was increasing. From 2000 to 2015, the numbers of Republican voters in Louisiana rose by almost 200,000.

Screenshot 2015-05-16 13.13.08 As Republican ranks were growing and Democratic ranks were dropping, the ranks of “no party” — or independents — grew by 250,000 voters from 2000 to 2015. Continue reading

A day of agony, anger for Louisiana’s gays and lesbians

Screen shot from WBRZ-TV of Gov. Bobby Jindal and state Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, announcing a
Screen shot from WBRZ-TV of Gov. Bobby Jindal and state Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, announcing a “religious freedom” executive order on Tuesday.

By Robert Mann

By now, much of the United States knows that our governor has formally sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians in Louisiana. Bobby Jindal is trying to put Louisiana on the map as nation’s most bigoted state, all under the guise of “religious freedom.”

I’ll let the business executives, tourism officials and others comment on the damage Jindal’s executive order will do to the state’s economy.

Today, however, I’m thinking about the pain that so many Louisiana gays and lesbians are enduring. Their governor, ostensibly on behalf of the people of Louisiana, has issued an executive order protecting any business that choses to discriminate against gays and lesbians based on that business owner’s “religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”

Jindal, in effect, has issued a license to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

In December 2013, after Phil Robertson of the TV show “Duck Dynasty” made his abhorrent comments about gays and lesbians, I wrote a column about the pain that Robertson’s remarks likely inflicted on Louisiana’s young gay people, many of them still in the closet, not yet out to their family members or closest friends.

Jindal’s full embrace of bigotry on Tuesday made me think again of the pain that so many gays and lesbians are feeling across our state — all for the sake of Jindal’s hopeless presidential aspirations.

I commend this column to you again, because I think it is worth pausing for a few moments to consider the potential consequences of what Jindal has done and the repercussions among our state’s young gays and lesbians:

Does she know it will get better? She won’t hear it from the Duck Commander

Somewhere in Ouachita Parish, just a few miles from the rural home of Phil Robertson of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” fame, lives a teenage girl. As she drives about town, she probably spots signs sprouting in neighbors’ yards. They proclaim, “Freedom of Speech. I support Phil Robertson.”

Of course, there are no signs that say, “I agree with Phil. Gays are evil” or “Phil’s right. Jesus can cure your homosexuality.”

The messages are clear, nonetheless. These people declare solidarity with a man who said, as recently as 2010, that gays are “ruthless,” “full of murder,” “arrogant” and tend to “invent ways of doing evil.”

In addition to his more-recent hurtful remarks about homosexuals in a GQ magazine interview, an unrepentant Robertson told members of his West Monroe church last Sunday, “Jesus will take sins away. If you’re a homosexual, he’ll take it away. If you’re an adulterer, if you’re a liar, what’s the difference?”

That young woman knows what Robertson has said. It’s the talk of the town. She also understands that thousands of people in her hometown support him and his views. Perhaps she’s heard her own pastor denounce homosexuality from the pulpit.

The episode has been painful and troubling to her in ways she cannot express. That’s because her parents, her siblings and her friends aren’t aware of something important about this lovely, lonely young woman.

She is a lesbian.

For years, she’s heard schoolmates snicker at tasteless jokes about people like her. She knows many of them believe homosexuality is a perversion.

When she experienced her first stirrings of attraction to girls, it scared her. She denied her feelings. At first, she dated a few boys to ensure that no one would suspect that she is anything but “straight.”

But she knows the truth about herself and cannot tell a soul. In her small town, she fears the consequences of coming out. She’s afraid friends might shun her. Worst of all, she worries her family may banish her.

So, she suffers in silence, trying to suppress her sexual feelings. Sometimes, late at night, she cries herself to sleep,begging God to make her “normal.” She doesn’t want to be gay, not in Ouachita Parish, now home to one of America’s most famous anti-gay activists.

But she is who she is. She knows that Jesus himself cannot change who she was born to be.

More than anything, she wants her family to know her – the real her. She wants them to accept her and love her for who she is.

She dreams of the day when she can escape Ouachita Parish for New Orleans or New York, or any place where she might find acceptance and tolerance. She longs to experience the joy of sharing her life with someone she loves deeply.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Louisiana Democrats’ best chance to beat David Vitter? Vote Republican

U.S. Sen. David Vitter
Screen shot of U.S. Sen. David Vitter announcing his candidacy for Louisiana governor.

By Robert Mann

Last week, I argued that Sen. David Vitter – the undisputed leader in this year’s governor’s race – should be nervous because of our electorate’s long history of punishing frontrunners and promoting also-rans.

Now, a counterpoint to that argument: Unless the state’s Democrats acknowledge their unprecedented unpopularity, Vitter may coast to victory. If they are smart, Democrats might decide the campaign and defeat Vitter, their bete noir.

A new poll by Southern Media & Opinion Research shows Vitter with a commanding lead of 38 percent. The lone Democrat, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, trails him with 25 percent. Farther behind are Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, at 16 percent, and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, at 5 percent.

Assuming most Democratic voters will support Edwards, he appears poised to claim a runoff spot with Vitter. If you’ve paid attention to state elections over the past 10 years, you’ll understand why Vitter craves this scenario.

Let’s get to the point: A Democrat – even one as effective, honest and politically moderate as Edwards – cannot win a Louisiana statewide election. Twenty years ago, someone like Edwards would have been unbeatable. Today, however, a vote for the Amite Democrat is, for all practical purposes, a vote for Vitter.

For this column, I consulted a dozen political observers, Democratic operatives and former elected officials, none of them affiliated with Edwards’ campaign. Not one of them believes Edwards stands a chance against Vitter.

I worked 17 years for U.S. Sen. John Breaux, perhaps the most popular member of Congress from Louisiana in the past half century. No disrespect to Breaux, but I wouldn’t bet $100 that he could beat Vitter today in a head-up race for governor. This is not about the impressive political skills or moderate ideology of Edwards (or Breaux); it’s about the hard right turn the state took over the past 10 years.

After former Sen. Mary Landrieu’s crushing defeat last December, it should be evident that Louisiana is hostile territory for Democrats. Landrieu had every advantage: money, seniority, decades of campaign experience, policy gravitas and the gavel of the powerful Senate Energy Committee. None of that mattered more than the shrinking ranks of the Democratic Party (down by more than 225,000 voters) since 2004.

Evidence of the Democrats’ collapse is that their party – for the first time in more than 145 years – does not hold one statewide elected office.

Democrats must face facts. This is a GOP state, not just in national elections, but statewide contests, too.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

You didn’t ask for snake oil, but neither did The Hayride’s readers: Introducing Vaxadrone

Screenshot 2015-05-13 20.35.10

By Robert Mann

Why should The Hayride get all the money for phony Alzheimer’s treatments, diabetes cures and gold scams? It’s time for Something Like the Truth to get in on this lucrative action.

Screenshot 2015-05-13 20.29.36

Screenshot 2015-05-13 20.29.58

I attempted to unlock the recipe for Hadacol. I even tried a sip from the 50-year-old bottle in my office, but all it did was impair my eyesight and make me vomit for three days.

So, I have signed on with Prescott Pharmaceuticals (you may remember them from “The Colbert Report.”)

For a limited time only, I am offering Vaxadrone to my most valued readers (yes, that includes you.)

Do you suffer from low-self esteem? Vaxadrone will give you the confidence you lack.

Do you suffer from egomania? Vaxadrone will destroy your self worth.

Do you suffer from male-pattern baldness? Vaxadrone will sprout hair on a bowling ball.

Do you suffer from flatulence? Pop just one Vaxadrone after your next enchilada plate and say goodbye to gas (as well as your lower intestines).

Continue reading

Louisiana needs its own “GI bill” for higher education: Matt Higgins

By Matt Higgins

The Louisiana Legislature is yet again debating whether higher education should be properly funded. Such narrow thinking used to not be part of the American psyche. Seventy years ago, the U.S. government provided direct aid to World War II veterans to attend college, and 70 years later, the program is still going strong because of its record of success.

Louisiana voters should demand the same level of support to properly fund higher education from their legislators; and if legislators fail to do that, even if it means overriding an executive veto, then voters should “cut” them from the state payroll in this fall’s elections.

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II is upon us — VE Day was May 8 and VJ Day is Aug 15. Despite the jubilee associated with the end of the war (remember the iconic photo of the sailor kissing the woman in Times Square?), our nation had a serious problem on its hands: How would we as a nation transition from a war economy to a peace economy? What to do with the millions of young men leaving the service, returning home and looking for jobs?

The memories of the Great Depression were still etched in Americans’ minds, so this question was not just one for government policy wonks.

On June 22, 1944, Congress passed, and President Roosevelt signed into law, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill. The G.I. Bill provided among other things, tuition assistance to World War II veterans returning home. According to a 1998 survey, 54 percent of WWII vets said that the G.I. Bill is what made a college education possible for them. Many scholars argue that the large American middle class of the second half of the 20th century would not have been existed without the G.I. Bill.

No doubt the G.I. Bill was flawed, as it discriminated against African-Americans and did not include women. Nevertheless, this government program did result in large-scale tangible benefits. According to a 1967 U.S. Census report, even after adjusting for price of living increases, the average family had a 61 percent income gain between 1947 and 1965.

The G.I. Bill is not the sole reason for that increase but it’s not hard to see the correlation among higher education, home ownership and a higher standard of living. In addition to providing GI’s with higher education funding, the G.I. Bill also provided them with low-interest home loans. Continue reading