Bobby Jindal’s Hot Tub Time Machine

Screenshot from C-SPAN of Gov. Bobby Jindal's recent speech to CPAC in Washington, D.C.
Screenshot from C-SPAN of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent speech to CPAC in Washington, D.C.

By Cyril Vetter

I was born and raised in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. When I grew up in the 1950s, it was cool to be stupid. Smart kids, kids who studied, were “fruits” — but if you acted stupid (whether you actually were or not), smoked cigarettes and didn’t try in school, you were cool. If you aspired to more than slamming Falstaff and Sloe Gin at the Town and Country Club on Friday and Saturday nights (after eating delicious rabbit spaghetti you could buy for a quarter at the Knights of Columbus hall), you had no place in the “in crowd.”

In many ways, the Donaldsonville of the 1950s has been writ large by our state and its governor.

On a drive West last summer, I overnighted in Las Cruces, New Mexico. On University Avenue, banners proudly trumpeted New Mexico State University as a U.S. News Tier One University. Tier One — in a place that is so barren, so hot, with no water, no oil, no fisheries, no agriculture . . . no anything. Except a Tier One public university.

We should be ashamed and embarrassed. I am. The tired trope that Louisiana is a “poor state” is a red herring and a copout for incompetence, greed and corruption. We’ve been gifted the richest patrimony of any state in this country. Maybe of anyplace in the world. Yes, it gets hot and humid in July, August and September, but that’s offset by Creole tomatoes.

How did we screw this up so badly? It’s like inheriting a fortune and frittering it away buying racehorses or playing video poker. We pay dearly, and continuously, for our dissipation.

We have one of the highest HIV rates in America — New Orleans and Baton Rouge rank second and third among U.S. cities, respectively — and an administration that refuses to accept the bounty of the Affordable Care Act to address the need for medical care for working class citizens. So they go to emergency rooms, increasing the cost of health care for us all and ultimately forcing closure of some ERs — or they go without medical care and call in sick, which costs their employers.

Our state likewise ranks high on other “bad” lists — for rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, infant mortality, teen pregnancy, illiteracy, high school dropouts, low birth weight babies and more. We also have the highest incarceration rate in the civilized world and marijuana laws that imprison a disproportionate number of young black males for doing the north Louisiana equivalent of drinking beer.

In the face of all this, we have a governor who, although he is a graduate of an Ivy League university, continues to demonstrate his solidarity with 1950s Donaldsonville by championing policies that are not future focused and seem oblivious to the competitive realities of today’s globally connected economy.

These policies have been perpetuated for centuries by dreadful governors who, with a few exceptions, would be challenged to manage a small business, much less an enterprise the size of the State of Louisiana.

Our current governor is so in thrall to the Grover Norquist concept of the common good, which demands reducing the size of government until it can be drowned in a bathtub, that he wouldn’t even tolerate renewing a modest sales tax on cigarettes in 2011.

Signing a “no tax under any conditions” pledge is a total abdication of the responsibility that we, the citizens of Louisiana, elected him to carry out. Instead, it cedes that responsibility to a Washington, D.C., zealot who is funded by billionaires and corporations who don’t give a flip about the people of Louisiana. Jeb Bush won’t sign it.

For all his “Ivy League policy wonk” cred, Bobby Jindal reeks of 1950s Donaldsonville.

But wait, there’s more.

Our infrastructure is crumbling, public funding for higher education has been gutted, we have the environmental sensibility of Chad, and K-12 public education in many school districts is in shambles.

At the same time, we subsidize refinery and industrial plant projects that would be “NIMBY” anyplace else in the country. Valero wants to build a refinery in Santa Barbara? I don’t think so. Many of the subsidized projects should be paying us to locate here. They need our natural gas and our access to the Mississippi River.

I often ask myself, “Why do I still live here?” I live here because I love it. I am of this place. And I want to do what little I can to change it.

I wish there were more of my fellow citizens who understand that diversity, education, and future-focused thinking represent the way out of the poverty and ignorance that dog our population, but I’m resigned to the truth that it will take more generations than mine to escape that legacy. That legacy, by the way, prevents us from being more than just a natural-resource-rich state exploited by people smarter than we. Sadly, it wouldn’t take much to make smarter choices than our current governor.

If New Mexico were blessed with the climate, the agriculture, the timber, the fisheries, the oil and gas, the water, the culture, the food, the music, the tourism, the transportation resources and all the other blessings we have, that state would be richer than Saudi Arabia. It wouldn’t be mired in the psychic Petri dish of backward thinking that we lovingly call home.

But it’s not fair to just kvetch and not offer a solution. Being Louisiana, there is an easy fix.

Right now with the collapse of crude prices and the accompanying dramatic reduction in pump prices, the Legislature could (and should) muster the moral and political courage to pass a veto-proof temporary increase in the gasoline tax. Or restore the Stelly Plan, or tax cigarettes or some combination of those options — at least until we can elect someone who cares about us and has the vision to develop a sustainable budget in place of the serial ad hockery legerdemain of this administration.

Gov. Mike Foster fully funded LSU when oil was $11 a barrel; you’d think this governor could do it at $50 a barrel — and not put our bond credit rating in danger of being downgraded.

We have the ninth-lowest gas pump price in the nation and we are tied with Texas for the ninth-lowest per gallon gasoline tax in the nation. A temporary gasoline tax increase could at least keep higher education, especially our flagship university (a main driver of economic development), from being gutted by a lame duck “presidential aspirant” who cares more about the people of Iowa than he does about us.

Cyril Vetter is an attorney/businessman and a lifelong resident of Louisiana. He has written and produced books, music, film and television projects with a Louisiana cultural preservation theme. He is currently executive producing “After The Spill,” a documentary by award winning filmmaker Jon Bowermaster on the health of the Gulf five years after the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster. 

28 thoughts on “Bobby Jindal’s Hot Tub Time Machine

  1. Stephen Winham March 1, 2015 — 7:34 am

    With all due respect, TEMPORARY solutions are what got us into this mess to begin with and are the LAST thing we should consider.

    Our 20 cent per gallon gasoline tax goes for transportation and public safety. If consumption goes up as the price goes down, the Transportation Trust Fund should be getting more money right now because of low prices. One reform that would help with our crumbling infrastructure would be putting the approximately $60 million per year of gasoline taxes going to State Police into roads. Each 1 cent increase in gasoline taxes should result in revenues of $28 to $30 million per year, all of which could be put on our crumbling infrastructure.

    The restoration of the income tax provisions (everybody conveniently forgets the Stelly Plan also eliminated sales taxes on necessities and those cuts are still in effect) could bring in around $600 million, even though our present growth in personal income has slowed significantly.

    I cannot emphasize strongly enough the need to eliminate the wishful thinking that results in TEMPORARY fixes. We need to match recurring revenue with whatever level of government we want to support. We need to stop ignoring the laws that require presentation and adoption of a balanced budget that does not rely on speculative revenue (the reason we would up dead broke in 1987 and the reason the Revenue Estimating Conference was created and the reason we are in the mess we are in now) and one-time money and do so PERMANENTLY to the best of our ability to forecast revenues and expenditures..


    1. Richard Ehrlicher March 1, 2015 — 8:19 am

      I think in this case the “temporary” is just until Jindal is gone. Maybe the next governor will listen to reason. It’s clear Jindal will not. In fact, he KNOWS what he’s doing is bad for us, he just thinks it’s good for his (delusional) presidential aspirations. If he had a whisper of integrity he’d resign, move to Iowa, and let jay Dardenne try to pick up the pieces of his failed administration.


      1. Stephen Winham March 1, 2015 — 8:44 am

        There is NO doubt the governor and legislature will use temporary means to make it until the end of this administration IF it is at all possible to do so. The only way to do so, based on what is currently known, is to once again enact an unbalanced budget, increasing future problems.. As far as Jindal’s presidential aspirations are concerned, given the results of the straw poll following the CPAC event after a spate of negative national media coverage, even he should find it hard to believe he has a chance anymore. It is very unlikely he will step down as governor, but in an ideal world, the legislature would rear up on its hind legs and begin to legislate responsibly and in the interest of the public good. They have the power to do so no matter who the governor is. They just won’t as long as we allow them blame everything on the governor. One question: Who has the power to appropriate? Answer: The Legislature, NOT the governor. The governor proposes laws, only the legislature enacts laws.


  2. Wipe your jindal


  3. Yes yes and yes…what will we do now? Laissez les bon temps roule doesn’t work…we’re about to kill the bon temps!


  4. I have noticed how “elite” or as it is otherwise known…educated, has become such a bad word. As I see it, if you keep the masses uneducated, them they are non-the-wiser to the corruption and greed of those people in charge. It is a ploy that has been used many times throught history. It seems to be working pretty well now.


  5. David L. Wiley March 1, 2015 — 8:46 am

    Louisiana currently has high rates of HIV . . . bad lists for rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, infant mortality, teen pregnancy, etc.? But how could this be? After all, in the 1990’s LA had a 24-year old whiz kid in charge of its health agency. I think his name was . . .


    1. Yes, and his legacy of a failing health care system will haunt us for years after we have forgotten him.


  6. West of Marathon Tx. is a border town lots of Mexican immigrants. The sign coming in says 10,000[?] population 1 OF TEN BEST SCHOOL SYSTEMS IN TEXAS. If Arkansas or Mississippi had Louisiana’s natural resources they would be a top tier state. We are like a OBESE CHILD WE WANT EVERYTHING[movies businesses] and neglect education and health [physical& mental] care. Jim Mayer


    1. Not sure that’s true, because you have your own share of dumb politicians.


  7. Well and truly said…


  8. GREGORY FOREMAN March 1, 2015 — 2:08 pm

    Mr. Vitter
    An ironic, actually hypocritical, action taken by Jindal in the 2011(Ref 1) legislative session was Jindal’s refusal to support exempting bottled water from sales taxes. Now, in “Bobby’s World” renewing-not even a new tax, but a renewal of an already existing tax-is wrong and can’t be tolerated, ala Grover “the monster”(how appropriate) Norquist. But reducing a tax on a necessity for life, water, can’t be tolerated. In “B.J.’s”, which is the only thing he’s given the state for the past seven years, mind, drinking water is less important for human survival and preservation than cigarettes. I’ve bought my ticket for the “Second Louisiana Hayride”. Have you?


  9. It sounds like all of you who have taken time to reply to this shallow article should pack up and move to somewhere like NYC or maybe California, the land of fruits, nuts and flakes. Why would anybody in their right mind want to push for more taxes? Don’t you think we already pay more than our fair share? I have an idea I’ve often suggested to all the bleeding Liberals who want the 1% to pay more — just write a check and send it to the State and one to the Federal Government if you think paying more taxes is the answer. All of you know politicians are going to spend more with the more you give them. How about some of them taking pay cuts to help with the high debt? Taxes are not the answer, good stewardship of the taxpayer’s money is the answer and no one seems to mention the high cost of Welfare. If something was done to reign in Welfare, it would save a ton of money in Louisiaina as well as other States.


    1. GREGORY FOREMAN March 2, 2015 — 10:22 am

      I’m always intrigued by such selfish attitudes. First, Louisiana belongs to all of us. Your juxtaposition of “Louisiana, love it or leave it” total misses the subject matter and illustrates how out of touch with reality are such advocates are.
      It’s not that anyone is advocating for tax increases but we simply are tired of Jindal literally “giving away the farm”. You are obviously ignorant of or prefer not to take into consideration the fact that under “T-Bobby’s” administration corporate taxes decreased over 59% since 2008-09, from $614 M in 2008-09 to less than $255 M in 2012-13. Did your income taxes decrease by 59%? Corporate franchise taxes over the same period have decreased 60%, from $213 million in 2008 to less than $85 million in 2012-13.(REF: ANNUAL TAX COLLECTION REPORT 2012-13, PGS 24-27, LA DEPT. OF REVENUE) Such decreases occurring over a period for which Jindal has bragged and gloated about the tremendous increase in industrial expansion in Louisiana. A claim recently exposed as a misrepresentation if not a down right lie. (REF:THE BEST (AND) WORST STATES FOR BUSINESS, 24/7 WALL ST.COM, FEB. 27, 2015) The 24/7 WALL STREET article ranked Louisiana as the worst state in the union for business-even worse than Mississippi.
      Furthermore, such revenue decreases fail to take into consideration LED “business incentives such as ITEP, the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, which alone will cost Louisiana parishes an average of $1.50 billion a year in lost property tax revenue and will remain in effect for the next ten years. (REF: 11 BILLION LATER: LOUISIANA’S TAX INCENTIVES HAVE FAILED, LEE JURICK, FEBRUARY 5, 2015.) Because of this one “incentive” many of the parishes “blessed” by such industrial expansion have seen property tax increases of 40-50% since 2009.
      The long and the short of the fiscal situation is Jindal’s “give a ways” have resulted in painting Louisiana into a revenue coroner leaving the legislature with only one alternative, higher taxes on the citizens of Louisiana. Like it or not, there is no other source to draw from. This was Jindal’s goal from day one.


      1. What none of you supporting higher taxes for Louisiana and blaming everything on Jindal are forgetting is your POTUS has robbed us and run up more debt in his time in office than ALL the other POTUS have in history. Why is this alright but Jindal’s methods aren’t????


    2. Some of us are simply asking for an honest budget. If we don’t want to raise revenue, let’s be honest about it and make the cuts necessary to bring recurring spending in line with revenue that, by existing law, can be officially forecast and legally used. Instead, we pretend revenue is there that isn’t and use other means to patch together a budget that is speculative at best and then we stay in a state of turmoil so that planning or making efficiency moves are impossible because we are constantly trying to put out fires. Until we solve our structural budget problem this mismanagement is going to continue and, as our bond ratings drop, we are going to have to pay higher interest rates on the debt necessary to maintain our infrastructure. As our infrastructure continues to crumble, it costs more to maintain. The current method of financing our government is just plain stupid. Taking a “no new taxes” policy is neither bold nor courageous if you are unwilling to face the reality cutting expenditures to match recurring revenue – it is, rather, the ultimate cop-out and head-in-the-sand approach to governing. As a matter of fact, it isn’t even governing. I could easily make the same argument the late, great, Jackie Mason: “I have enough money to last the rest of my life……As long as I don’t have to buy anything.”


      1. GREGORY FOREMAN March 2, 2015 — 7:33 pm

        Stephen, until Jindal came along Louisiana’s fiscal “road map” was fine-not perfect, but it was getting the job done. Hell, Blanco left Jindal with a revenue surplus of over $850 million dollars.(REF: LAWMAKERS LEARN LA HAS $875 MILLION SURPLUS FROM LAST YEAR, Melinda Deslatte, October 20, 2008” The financial fact is the revenue “would be” there if Jindal hadn’t given it, the revenue, away through excessive tax concessions to businesses.
        Remember Jindal’s fight against repealing or modifying the severance tax exemption for horizontally drilled wells? This cost Louisiana between $350-$450 million dollars in yearly revenue from 2010-2013. At one point, the exemption allowed tax free production for 68.51%, 2011, of natural gas produced in Louisiana. (Ref:Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Tables 9(Production) and #14(TAXED). Natural gas production exempted under the law averaged 63.65% a year from 2011-2013. At a time when Jindal was cutting higher education, cutting Medicaid benefits, reducing in any way he could benefits for the homeless, hospices, etc., the state was letting $350-$450 million dollars in state revenue evaporate into the pockets of those “poor” oil operators.
        The long and the short of it is Jindal had a “game plan” before he was ever elected governor. He knows Louisiana is one of the lowest-if not the lowest-per capita taxed states in the union. Louisiana’s property tax burden ranks 50th among the several states representing only 0.18% of the property’s value and ranks 30th in personal income taxes. (REF: 2014 THE TAX SOURCE 2014) Jindal, beginning the “aspiring” politician that he is, realizes as much and from day one of his inauguration knew exactly what he had planned for the state. Transfer revenue generating responsibilities from the state to the local parishes and governments. In effect “morphing” the revenue structure from a centralized pattern where Louisiana collects the bulk of the revenue then redistributes much of the collected revenue back to the parishes and local governments. Jindal see a “lot of room” to move from a revenue standpoint. He has counted on increasing property taxes at local levels to sublimate whatever revenue local governments received from the state.
        However, Jindal should have followed the idiomatic expression, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Of course, if he had done such, then he wouldn’t have been able to take his “dog and pony show” across the country selling his brand of “snake oil”. For now, he can tell everyone that he’s Louisiana’s savior and many people will believe his lies and misrepresentations. Unless, we preserve and put the truth before the public we may indeed be looking at Jindal as POTUS or VPOTUS. Of course, my vote is that he will appoint himself Senator to fill Vitters outstanding term, provided of course Vitter is elected governor.


      2. It’s obvious all of you on this thread are bleeding Liberals and there’s no way to have a discussion with any of you.


    3. Brenda, you want get an argument out of me on that. If by having a “serious” discussion on this subject, you’re referring to “paper stamping” and blindly accept the platitudes and misguided attitudes people like yourself exhibit, then you’re right. People of such caliber approach issues such as this from “macro” standpoints with “micro” resolutions. After rolling all the perceived problems Louisiana faces into solutions revolving around those collecting Medicaid, the poor and indigent of the state, state workers(perceived as lackeys) such individuals produce what I call the “Marie Antoinette Solution”-feed’em cake. A brain is a wonderful thing-why have you wasted yours?


    4. Brenda Mauras: You’re right. It does seem impossible to have a discussion with you, but it would appear the main reason is you are of the opinion that you are right and we are all wrong, no matter what we say. What anybody else is doing to whomever or whatever elsewhere is absolutely no excuse for Governor Jindal’s utter failure to address Louisiana’s budget problems. I clearly wasted my time in my last post where I simply called for an honest budget. If it involves cutting services, let’s be honest enough to actually make the cuts, rather than threatening to do so and then producing a fake budget to avoid making them now and continuing to shove them into the future. We have government by chaos. Worse, we have a whole cadre of people complaining about various things, including taxes, without offering a single, positive idea as to the solution. What, exactly, do you want? It’s all well and good to provide your list of gripes, but it is not okay to use platitudes like “good stewardship” without saying what that is. What, exactly, would you do to rein in welfare and what, exactly, do you mean when you say “welfare”. Finally, do you have any original thoughts? Everything you have said has been repeated, ad nauseum, in the conservative media. Be very careful what you wish for. You may very well not like it when reality sets in.


      1. Brenda, one of your replies alluded to the fact that Obama’s administration has ran up the largest debt in the history of the U.S and granted such is true. Then, you posed the question, ‘Why is this alright but Jindal’s methods aren’t?’ Fair enough question, the answer can be found in the idiom, “two wrongs never, ever make a right”. One can never “justify” one wrong action by citing another “wronger” action. However, and correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t remember seeing Obama lobbying at the Louisiana legislature. Obama has little if anything to do with Louisiana’s revenue landscape. Such is Jindal’s job as governor of Louisiana. Unfortunately, he has abdicated(oh, how I wish he would) his responsibility with respect to protecting and fostering revenue sources Louisiana has depended on and benefited from for decades in favor of providing “tax incentives” for business that provide donations for financing his political aspirations.
        However, if you insist on chastising Obama, please keep in mind the following factoid: in the 2012 Louisiana budget of $25.483 billion dollars, federal sharing funds provided Louisiana with 43.70% or $11.136 billion dollars. The only state exceeding Louisiana in federal support was Mississippi (good ole Mississippi, keeping Louisiana off the bottom again). (REF: BALLOTPEDIA, LOUISIANA STATE BUDGET AND FINANCE) Now, if “big, bad” Obama decided tomorrow Louisiana would no longer receive such funds, where do you think such would leave Louisianans? The issue though is not Obama, but Jindal. The mess he had made in the state and for future years.


  10. Bob, do you mind if we pick this up?

    Sent from my iPad


    1. By all means. Please run with it.


  11. Like it or not, Louisiana is still a” Colony.” It never really became an American state in its attitude or comportment. Extraction is looked upon as benevolence, e.g. the rape of the great cypress swamps by the lumber barons and the ravages of its estuaries by the oil and gas companies.

    Educated people are still looked down upon.

    I grew up in Morgan City in the 1950s and have similar memories as does the author.


  12. Mr Vetter: there is no more Town And Country Club.
    Potential patrons have exited.
    Jindal had nothing to do with this.
    LBJ did.


  13. I grew up at the same time in north Louisiana (Bossier City). My parents were from central LA and were the first generation in their families to go to college. I grew up with the expectation of going to college and, as it turns out, also got a PhD from LSU Medical School in Shreveport. So, I am forever indebted to the taxpayers of Louisiana, who paid for that facility. Although government has an important role to play in helping people out of poverty, and I agree that Gov Jindal has been a disaster, the real problem is the culture of underachievement that you described so well. Government can’t fix that. I wish I knew what could.


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