By Robert Mann Update: This post was written in late May. On Sunday, July 12, Jindal again asserted on “Fox News Sunday,” that “we have cut our state budget 26 percent, $9 billion.” Once again, the statement went unchallenged. Gov. Bobby Jindal on Sunday morning proved once more that the networks’ weekend morning “news” shows are nothing more than platforms for politicians to reprise their shopworn talking points and mendacities without challenge. This time, Jindal made the manifestly false claim that he has cut state spending by 26 percent. It’s an easy claim to disprove, which I’ll demonstrate. I know that declining ratings have forced media organizations like ABC to economize, but couldn’t they at least give George Stephanopoulos an unpaid intern or two to research a guest’s record before handing over five minutes of network airtime for that person to blather and twaddle? Or, did ABC forget to pay its cable bill last month? Maybe it had no Internet connection so George’s staff could not research and challenge the basics of Jindal’s prevarications. Lucky for you, I have paid my cable bill and still have access to amazing research tools, such as Google. First, let’s look at what Jindal said Sunday morning during his free campaign commercial, courtesy of ABC News. We’ll dip into the interview a couple minutes into Stephanopoulos’ questions about Jindal’s criticisms of Rand Paul and the Kentucky U.S. senator’s remarks about ISIS, which Jindal has attacked using his official press office. (In a press release, he declared Paul unqualified for president.)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rand Paul’s team hiit back pretty hard at you this week, calling you a flip-flopper on Common Core, saying you’ve cratered your state’s economy and budget. Your response?
JINDAL: Well, look, we have cut our budget — we measure our success by the success of our people, not the success of government. George, we’ve cut our budget 26 percent, over 30,000 fewer state government employees. Our economy has grown twice as fast as the national economy, three times as fast. Job creation, look, I think the senator is a little sensitive. . . .
Let’s examine Jindal’s budget-cutting claim (I’ll address his other statements in a subsequent post). He said categorically that he has slashed state spending by 26 percent. Perhaps it is not entirely Stephanopoulos’ fault for accepting Jindal’s questionable statement without challenge. Jindal has made this claim often in recent years – and no one has (to my knowledge) asked him to prove it. In November 2014, Jindal appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and said: “The reality is I was elected in Louisiana to make generational changes. Look at what we’ve done in Louisiana. So now, we’ve cut our state budget 26 percent, cut the number of state employees 34 percent.” A March 2015 op-ed in USA Today: “Our state budget is nearly $9 billion smaller, with over 30,000 fewer state workers, than when we took office in 2008.” In March 2015, he told CNBC’s John Harwood: “We’ve cut the size of government 26 percent.” The same month, according to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, “Jindal touted his conservative credentials Friday, saying he’s cut state government 26 percent, largely by eliminating 30,000 government jobs.” In May 2015, he told the Washington Examiner: “In Louisiana we’ve cut our budget 26 percent, we’ve got 30,000 fewer state government employees than the day I took office.” The problem with all these statements is that they are patently false, as demonstrated by the records of Jindal’s own Division of Administration. It is also not true, as Jindal wrote in USA Today, that he has cut the state’s budget by $9 billion. http://cf.datawrapper.de/cqmnB/2/ The 2007-08 budget that Jindal inherited from former Gov. Kathleen Blanco contained total expenditures of $28.59 billion, including $25.97 billion in general appropriations. That budget also included a surplus of $1.01 billion (which Jindal and legislators promptly spent during Jindal’s first year as governor.) Jindal’s first full budget year, however, was the 2008-09 budget, which had $25.06 billion in total state expenditures, including $23.3 billion in general appropriations. Jindal’s most recent, 2014-15 budget contained total state expenditures of $25.84 billion, including $23.81 billion in general appropriations. Calculating the difference between Jindal’s first full budget year and his most recent complete budget year (2008-09 to 2014-15), total state expenditures actually increased by $780 million ($25.06 billion in 08-09 to $25.84 billion in 14-15). But Jindal is certainly not comparing himself to himself. He is comparing his most recent budget to the last budget of his predecessor, Kathleen Blanco. So, let’s compare those numbers, because they are, in fact, much more favorable to him. Blanco’s last budget, which Jindal inherited (including that billion-dollar surplus), was $28.59 billion in total state expenditures. Jindal’s last complete budget is $2.75 billion less than that figure. That’s not bad, but it is nowhere near a 26 percent cut in state expenditures. If Jindal had actually slashed the state’s budget by 26 percent, as he claimed, his most recent budget would have been $21.15 billion, not $25.06 billion. The actual difference between Jindal’s most recent budget and Blanco’s last budget ($2.75 billion) is a mere 9 percent cut in state expenditures. And here’s the kicker: Whatever budget cutting Jindal has achieved appears to come primarily from a decrease in federal funding flowing into the state’s coffers (something largely out of Jindal’s control). Blanco’s last budget contained $12.88 billion in federal funds. Jindal’s last budget contains $10.07 billion in federal funds – a drop of $2.81 billion. That figure is greater, of course, than the $2.75 billion difference in Blanco’s last budget and Jindal’s most recent. So, where did Jindal get this 26 percent figure? Did he make it up? Apparently, the first time Jindal bragged about cutting the state budget by 26 percent was in his official statement introducing his 2012-13 state budget: “Additionally, while the overall state budget has decreased by about 26 percent over the past four years, the MFP has increased by nine percent.” This is where Jindal got the 26 percent statistic – from a budget he presented in the spring of 2012, more than three years ago. And he has continued to repeat this outdated and inaccurate figure ever since. It’s an inaccurate figure because the difference between Blanco’s last budget and Jindal’s 2011-12 budget was $4.98 billion. That’s a reduction of 17 percent. The difference between Jindal’s 2011-12 budget and his first budget was only $1.45 billion, a reduction of only 5 percent. To repeat, a 26 percent reduction of Blanco’s final budget would have amounted to a $21.15 billion budget, a figure never achieved during Jindal’s tenure as governor. Despite no evidence to back his budget cut claim, Jindal has repeatedly boasted – without challenge – this manifestly false assertion about his budget-cutting prowess. Did Jindal cut his state’s budget by 26 percent? Not even close. His own budget figures disprove his claim. The real question is, why do journalists like Stephanopoulos and other national media figures allow Jindal to keep making this false assertion without ever challenging him?