Bobby Jindal and David Duke may be different fish, but they swim in the same fetid pond

By Robert Mann

What do former KKK leader David Duke and Gov. Bobby Jindal have in common? They have both used the same language to describe and demean Louisiana’s working poor.

In April 2013, Jindal wrote an op-ed in the Baton Rouge Business Report, explaining why he refuses to expand Medicaid for the state’s working poor under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

By expanding President Obama’s healthcare law, 41 percent of Louisiana’s population would be dumped into Medicaid. Soon there will be more people riding in the cart than people pulling the cart. The President is gradually turning the world’s greatest health care system into the world’s largest welfare system. The left has been very clear—their end goal here is to make all healthcare in America government health care. [emphasis added]

A few months later, in another op-ed on NOLA.com, Jindal wrote, “we should design our policies so that more people are pulling the cart than riding in the cart.”

At the time, I wrote that while I did not believe Jindal is a racist, I do “believe that Jindal and some opponents of Medicaid expansion are employing nasty racial stereotypes and ugly coded language to defeat it.”

What has always bothered me most about Jindal’s opposition to Medicaid expansion is the demeaning way that he has spoken about these hardworking individuals who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid under current state law, but earn too little to qualify for Obamacare. They are families caught in the middle, without health insurance and, as far as Jindal is concerned, without dignity.

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The day Bobby Jindal told the truth about his health care proposal

By Robert Mann

Let’s be honest. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s best quality is not honesty. For years, he’s peddled fictional accounts of his fiscal conservatism, his devotion to education reform, his commitment to religious liberty, his concern about the state’s environment and his belief in government transparency.

When Jindal is talking, he’s usually spinning, which is why I was shocked to read that Jindal had spoken the truth about his ideas for the nation’s health care system. Of course, when I realized that Jindal’s remarks were made in private, it all made sense.

As described in a new book by conservative author Philip Klein, Jindal met last April in Washington, D.C., with a group of conservative journalists and policy experts. He was there to tout an Obamacare alternative created by his pre-presidential campaign organization, America Next. (Jindal’s proposal is an “alternative” to Obamacare in the same way that the Cliff’s Notes version of “War and Peace” is an alternative to Tolstoy’s original work.)

As the group peppered Jindal with questions about his health care proposal, Jindal reportedly paid President Obama an unexpected compliment. Jindal said Obama had been willing, as Klein wrote, “to pay a political price to advance his agenda and [Jindal] said Republicans needed to be willing to do the same.” Obama was willing to risk losing the Congress and derailing his other important legislative priorities. “He said Republicans should be thinking the same way and [be] willing to risk political blowback to repeal Obamacare and push a market-based alternative,” Klein reported, ignoring the fact that Obamacare is, in fact, market based.

And what bold, politically risky proposal did Jindal proffer? Why, Jindal suggested Republicans abandon the notion that every American deserves decent and affordable health insurance coverage.

“If we start with the premise that we’ve gotta give every single person a card,” Jindal reportedly said, “and that’s the only way we can be successful, we’re done. We’ve adopted their metric of success … if the metric of success is gonna be which plan can say ‘we’ve given people more cards,’ they always win.”

Oh, the shame of helping people to get health insurance! How do those dastardly Democrats sleep at night?

Jindal does seem quite eager to revoke those insurance cards. “I do think it’s a mistake if we argue we can’t take back what Obama has already given,” Jindal told the conservative group.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Politicos should think twice before attending Jindal’s prayer rally

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By Robert Mann

I don’t know if any public officials will join Gov. Bobby Jindal at LSU for his Jan. 24 prayer rally, sponsored by the Mississippi-based American Family Association. For anyone thinking of attending, here’s some advice: Take a lesson from Rep. Steve Scalise’s 2002 speech to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) and stay away.

By now, everyone knows Scalise has acknowledged his appearance at that infamous EURO conference in Metairie. The House Republican whip — then a state representative — says he had no clue that the group he addressed was a white supremacist organization headed by neo-Nazi and former KKK leader David Duke. If only Google existed at the time (it did), Scalise suggested he would have known better. 

Regardless, the news has caused Scalise and his party considerable embarrassment. Yet, barring any new, damning revelations, Scalise will probably keep his leadership position. But he is damaged goods, and he knows it. Scalise also knows that speaking to a Duke-affiliated group was politically stupid (not to mention morally repugnant).

However, it’s not clear that he knew this in 2002. Suburban Jefferson Parish, which Duke represented in the Legislature, is not widely known as a bastion of racial enlightenment. In other words, to an ultra-conservative Republican state representative from Metairie, attending a Duke-affiliated conference was not exactly a huge political risk. Scalise is, after all, a politician who once reportedly bragged to a journalist that he was “David Duke without the baggage.”

Talk about changing times. Duke, who earned 60 percent of the state’s white vote when he ran for governor in 1991, is now almost as detested as the U.S. Congress. No reputable politician would wish to have even the hint of an affiliation with him.

Which brings us back to “The Response,” the name Jindal has given to his scheduled prayerpalooza. To all but the most sympathetic observer, Jindal’s rally is obviously a kickoff, of sorts, to his nascent presidential campaign. Jindal rejects that. “It’s not a political event,” Jindal insists, “it’s a religious event.”

Whatever the case, before any Louisiana politico with eyes on higher office wanders into LSU’s basketball arena that day, he or she should consider the Scalise/EURO affair and examine the radical beliefs of the American Family Association (AFA). Next, ponder the wisdom of spending time with an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center labels a “hate group.”

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

A New Year’s resolution for Louisiana’s college leaders

By Robert Mann

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Might I suggest a New Year’s resolution for the leaders of Louisiana’s colleges and universities? Not only for the presidents and chancellors, but also the provosts, deans, associate deans and senior faculty members?

Let’s resolve to raise our voices in boisterous, sustained opposition to the deep budget cuts that Gov. Bobby Jindal will undoubtedly propose to address the anticipated $1.4 billion budget shortfall for fiscal year 2016.

Briefly, it appeared the worst cuts were over. Now, we learn that the cruelest year of Jindal’s tenure as governor is ahead. Despite his boasting of an economic miracle, Jindal cannot balance a budget without massive infusions of one-time money and deep cuts to higher education and health care. The Jindal economy is apparently one in which low unemployment and robust economic activity produces little in the way of tax revenue to educate our children, maintain our roads and bridges and support health insurance for the working poor.

Because most of the state’s budget is constitutionally protected from deep budget cuts, higher education is particularly exposed. Every other area of state government is seemingly more important than that which educates our young people and gives them an opportunity for a more prosperous life.

Through it all, from the first day when Jindal and his legislative pawns began hacking away at higher education, most leaders at the state’s universities kept silent. At LSU, Jindal and his Board of Supervisors fired or chased off those brave souls who did speak out. Then, Jindal and his staff spent several years trying to rid the state of its higher education commissioner, Jim Purcell, who was particularly outspoken about the cuts. They finally succeeded last March.

Continue reading at NOLA.com at this link.

Bobby Jindal’s Prayerpalooza: ‘Jesus would have been horrified’

By Robert Mann

There is a fascinating and instructive cover story in the new edition of Newsweek on how most believers know almost nothing about the Bible.

As author Kurt Eichenwald writes near the beginning of the piece,

“Newsweek’s exploration here of the Bible’s history and meaning is not intended to advance a particular theology or debate the existence of God. Rather, it is designed to shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don’t read it, in the process creating misery for others. When the illiteracy of self-proclaimed Biblical literalists leads parents to banish children from their homes, when it sets neighbor against neighbor, when it engenders hate and condemnation, when it impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement, the topic has become too important for Americans to ignore, whether they are deeply devout or tepidly faithful, believers or atheists.”

The story is well-researched and well worth reading. Eichenwald’s conclusions won’t be shocking to anyone with a passing knowledge of Bible history. Still, he does a fine job of presenting the plethora of contradictions and outright fraudulent language that constitute some of what many people regard as the inspired word of God. In other words, he helps separate some of the wheat from the chaff.

What  caught my eye, however, was Eichenwald’s sharp commentary on what Jesus might have thought about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Prayerpalooza, scheduled for Jan. 24 on the LSU campus.

In August 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry hosted a massive prayer rally in Houston at what was then known as Reliant Stadium, where the city’s pro-football team plays. Joined by 30,000 fellow Christians, Perry stepped to a podium, his face projected on a giant screen behind him. He closed his eyes, bowed his head and boomed out a long prayer asking God to make America a better place. His fellow believers stood, kneeled, cried and yelled, “Amen.”

Recently, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced he would be holding his massive prayer rally at a sports arena in Baton Rouge. More than 100,000 evangelical pastors have been invited.

Jesus would have been horrified. At least, that’s what the Bible says.

It is one of the most incomprehensible contradictions between the behavior of evangelicals and the explicit words of the Bible. Prayer shows—and there is really no other word for these—are held every week. If they are not at sports arenas with Republican presidential hopefuls, they are on Sunday morning television shows at mega-churches holding tens of thousands of the faithful. They raise their arms and sway, crying and pleading in prayer.

But Jesus specifically preached against this at the Sermon on the Mount, the longest piece of teaching by him in the New Testament. Specifically, as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke of those who made large public displays of their own religiosity. In fact, performance prayer events closely mimic the depictions in early Christian texts of prayer services held by the Pharisees and Sadducees, two of the largest religious movements in Judea during Jesus’s life. And throughout the Gospels, Jesus condemns these groups using heated language, with part of his anger targeted at their public prayer.

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If Bobby Jindal runs for president, does he have a prayer?

By Robert Mann

Gov. Bobby Jindal says he is praying about running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. While it’s certainly possible Jindal wants heavenly guidance, color me skeptical. From all appearances, Jindal’s fervent prayers have always been more along the lines of “please let me win” than “should I run?”

Anyone with even a passing interest in the Louisiana governor will note that if Jindal has been praying for guidance, it’s been at 35,000 feet on his way to Iowa. Perhaps Jindal is using Delta to launch his supplications into heaven.

Whatever the case, Jindal will soon announce God’s will for his life. However, the real question when it comes to Jindal’s unmistakable White House ambitions is, does he even have a prayer?

Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s close adviser and former chief of staff, argues that his boss can win the nomination. “He’s an undervalued stock,” Teepell told the Washington Examiner in October, arguing that Washington pundits have devalued Jindal because of his disastrous nationally televised speech in response to President Obama’s first address to Congress in 2009. “Fortunately,” Teepell observed, “DC pundits don’t get to decide elections.”

Teepell has a point. Voters make those decisions. Unfortunately for Jindal, voters are as underwhelmed by him as are Washington pundits. At home, Jindal’s 33 percent approval rating ranks him among the least popular governors in the nation. That’s not exactly a launching pad for a successful White House campaign.

Jindal and Teepell no doubt are praying that the issues that have hobbled Jindal in Louisiana — including bungling the state’s budget and his ineptitude on health care and higher education — won’t matter much to voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.

So far, however, Republican voters in those early primary states haven’t acknowledged Jindal’s enormous talents. In national surveys of GOP voters, Jindal is the perennial cellar dweller.

In the Real Clear Politics national average of polls, Jindal now sits dead last at 2.8 percent, well behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (14.3 percent), Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (11.2 percent), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (10.8 percent), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (10.8 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (9.7 percent), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (6.6 percent) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (5.8 percent).

Jindal doesn’t fare any better in the individual state surveys. He’s at an average of 2.3 percent in Iowa, 3.3 percent in New Hampshire, and 1 percent in Florida.

Jindal surely has persuaded himself that he might eventually catch on in Iowa and New Hampshire. I can imagine he believes that a good debate performance, some inspired television advertising and gaffes or scandals that sink one or more of the frontrunners might just propel him into frontrunner status.

It’s a nice thought and a dream that inspires many an underdog. There’s only one problem with this scenario: No one has ever surged from the back of the pack to capture the nomination in the history of Republican presidential primaries.

Continue reading at NOLA.com at this link.

Want to keep hurting Louisiana college students? Here’s how you can do it

By Robert Mann

At first glance, two ill-conceived constitutional amendments on the November ballot might not appear to harm Louisiana college students. Their passage, however, would be further proof that the wellbeing of Louisiana’s young people remains among our lowest priorities.

It’s a complicated issue, explained well in a voter’s guide published by the nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR), but the basic situation is this: the state imposes a fee on nursing homes, intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled and community pharmacies. That money goes into the Louisiana Medical Assistance Trust Fund and is used as a state match to draw down federal dollars, much of which goes to compensate the nursing homes and other facilities who provide services to the poor and others who qualify for Medicaid.

Good so far.

Amendment one, however, would give the trust fund, in PAR’s words, “the more protected status of a constitutionally established fund, which could be altered only by another constitutional amendment. It could not be raided for other spending purposes in the annual budget process or during mid-year budget cuts.”

Worse, the amendment would lock in current reimbursements paid by the state to providers. Payments could go up, but would never drop below a “floor” established by the amendment.

In other words, this is a sweetheart deal carved out by legislators for the very powerful and politically connected nursing homes.

It gets worse.

Amendment two would create a similar arrangement for the state’s hospitals, allowing a new fee that would go into a Hospital Stabilization Fund and then be used to draw down federal money. Similar to amendment one, this amendment would create a floor for reimbursement rates.

“The amendment would eliminate the government’s ability to make targeted cuts to hospital providers,” PAR notes. The amendment, as PAR further observes, would permit a decrease in hospital rates “only to address a state budget deficit and only if two-thirds of the Legislature agrees during a session or two-thirds of the joint budget committee agrees out of session. Even then, the rate reduction could not be more than the average reduction experienced by other types of providers in the Medicaid program.”

In other words, a very inflexible state budget, already overloaded with constitutionally protected funds, would become even less flexible.

Nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities will be guaranteed their funding, even if fees are insufficient to match the payments they receive. If hard budget times hit us again – and they will, eventually – the nursing homes and hospitals will be paid first.

The only way to mitigate the mess created by these amendments would be a two-thirds vote of a Legislature already controlled by the nursing homes and hospitals. In the case of amendment one, it could only be changed by a vote of the people.

In the meantime, you know what will be cut during the hard times? Other health care providers, like doctors and home-care providers, colleges, state police and other critical services. That’s because they don’t have special budget protections, like that which these amendments would give to hospitals and nursing homes.

No one is suggesting that nursing homes and hospitals don’t deserve adequate funding. It’s just that programs for our youngest citizens are almost always the ones that get shortchanged.

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