By Robert Mann
Has Gov. Bobby Jindal ever seen a government program he couldn’t privatize? Jindal certainly has a reputation as a fierce advocate of relinquishing government functions to corporate interests. That said, could it be that he and state legislators are actually too cautious about privatizing Louisiana government?
In recent years, Jindal has turned over Louisiana’s public hospitals to private entities. He’s privatized the state’s Medicaid program, as well as the management of medical benefits for state employees.
Beyond health care, Jindal has diverted a substantial portion of the state’s elementary and secondary education budget to fund private-school vouchers and charter schools. By slashing the higher education budget, he’s virtually turned the state’s colleges and universities into semi-private institutions that subsist primarily off tuition and student fees. He’s handed over driver’s license renewals to a private company. He has even privatized budget cutting, paying the consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal $5 million to develop ideas for cutting state spending by $500 million.
As recent experience has shown, however, privatizing government doesn’t automatically improve anything except, of course, the bottom lines of the corporations that capture lucrative government contracts. The failure of Louisiana’s voucher school program should be exhibit A in any indictment against privatization. Turning over the state’s hospitals to private entities hasn’t gone so well either, now that federal officials have rejected Jindal’s financial arrangement for the program.
What’s remarkable about all this, however, is not what Jindal has accomplished, but why he hasn’t taken privatization to its logical conclusion.
For example, why should we spend millions each year on levee and flood control districts? Jindal and the Legislature are repealing the sensible flood control reforms passed after Hurricane Katrina that depoliticized a corrupt levee board system. The minute the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East sued Big Oil over its destruction of our coast, Jindal and the Legislature moved to demolish the authority’s independence.