Something Like the Truth


Bobby Jindal

Donald Trump unites Louisiana GOP leaders and David Duke

By Robert Mann

It was a nightmare scenario. In 1991, Democrat Edwin Edwards and Republican David Duke faced each other in a runoff for Louisiana governor. At first, state GOP leaders couldn’t imagine supporting Edwards for a fourth term, regarding him a corrupt libertine.

And, yet, these Republicans knew the detestable Democrat was better than the repugnant Republican. So, they rescued their party – and the state – from the Neo-Nazi and former Ku Klux Klan leader. They held their noses and supported Edwards.

You might remember the bumper stickers from that campaign: “Vote for the crook, it’s important.” That captured the prevailing view among those horrified by Duke: No matter what one thought about Edwards, electing Duke would have been cataclysmic.

Thank God sensible heads prevailed. In retrospect, it wasn’t a daunting challenge for Republican leaders who knew they must save their party and the state by choosing the crook over the klucker.

So, why is it that so many current Louisiana GOP leaders cannot see the obvious peril that Donald Trump poses to their party? Is their hatred of Hillary Clinton so intense that they will surrender their party – not to mention the country – to a reckless, misogynistic bigot?

It wasn’t that long ago that then-Gov. Bobby Jindal warned voters about how Trump threatens the Republic. “Donald Trump is a shallow, unserious, substance-free, narcissistic egomaniac,” he wrote on in September 2015.

Until about 10 days ago, Jindal was still assailing Trump. But when the last of Trump’s GOP opposition dissolved after the May 3 Indiana primary, Jindal changed his tune. “I think anyone who says they cannot support Donald Trump needs to understand that one of the consequences is that will make it easier for Hillary Clinton to win and I don’t think we can accept that as a country,” he said the following day.

By May 8, Jindal’s pathetic transformation from Trump enemy to Trump supporter was complete. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, he acquiesced to the man he once derided as “a madman.”

“I do not pretend Donald Trump is the Reaganesque leader we so desperately need, but he is certainly the better of two bad choices,” he wrote.

Jindal, you may recall, warned Republicans in 2013 to “stop being the stupid party.” So, as one keen observer wrote on Twitter, “Jindal went from ‘We can’t be the stupid party’ to ‘I’m with Stupid’ in four years.”

Continue reading on at this link.

Jindal’s voucher program is an appalling, slapdash boondoggle

By Robert Mann

Imagine you live in a dilapidated house. The roof leaks. Windows are broken. There’s no heat in winter. One day, however, a government official offers a lifeline. “We’ll give your family a much better home,” he says. So, you agree, hopeful for a better life.

But after a few years, your situation is no better. In fact, it’s worse. The roof of your “new” house also leaks. The windows? They’re broken, too. Not only does the new place have no heat; there’s also no air conditioning.

This disappointing housing arrangement is analogous to the educational lives of thousands of Louisiana families deceived by former Gov. Bobby Jindal and his state education superintendent, John White, when they persuaded the Legislature to create the Louisiana Scholarship Program in 2008.

The scholarship program covers 7,100 students who are enrolled in 119 private and parochial schools, all subsidized by $42 million in state vouchers. Jindal and White encouraged these low-income families to leave their so-called “failing” public schools for supposedly superior private schools. It turns out they sent the children, instead, to a rag-tag collection of mostly substandard church schools that barely meet the state’s education standards

The controversy over the scholarship program erupted anew in recent weeks after an anti-public school organization with an Orwellian name – the American Federation for Children – began running TV ads attacking Gov. John Bel Edwards, saying he’s undermining the program by cutting its budget by $6 million. Edwards responded that, in tough budgetary times, the voucher program must take its share of the cuts. Edwards promises to maintain the program for current enrollees.

The governor’s reluctance to push for repealing the program has won him no credit from the corporate, anti-public-school crowd. “He lied to me. He lied to my child,” a mother says in one of the spots, suggesting that Edwards is trying to kill the scholarship program.

He’s not, but he should. The scholarship program is an appalling misadventure and a slapdash boondoggle originally implemented to burnish Jindal’s presidential bona fides. Most likely, it also was designed to curry favor with the state’s evangelical voters.

In the beginning, some were schools in name only. One, in Ruston, didn’t have teachers. It relied on DVDs for instruction. If you don’t believe that many of these voucher schools are disgraceful and that Jindal’s and White’s standards were appallingly low (or nonexistent), just Google, “Light City Church School of the Prophets.

Continue reading on at this link.

Are Louisiana GOP lawmakers budget hawks or chicken hawks?


By Robert Mann

After eight years of enabling then-Gov. Bobby Jindal as he mismanaged Louisiana’s budget process, isn’t it remarkable that some prominent Republicans in the Legislature have suddenly grown a backbone? Apparently, the gestation period for valor among certain Louisiana lawmakers is precisely eight years – and birth occurs only when a Democrat is governor.

To briefly recap, Jindal slashed taxes on upper-income taxpayers and gave away generous tax exemptions to various industries. He shifted the burden for much of that lost revenue onto college students by cutting their schools’ budgets and raising their tuition. Faced with enormous deficits, Jindal wouldn’t consider the slightest tax hike. Instead, he stuffed his budgets with embarrassing amounts of one-time money from every trust fund he could pilfer or every state asset he could peddle.

In 2008, Jindal inherited a budget surplus of almost a billion dollars. Eight years later, he left his successor, Democrat John Bel Edwards, a mid-year budget shortfall of about $750 million and a shortfall of almost $2 billion for the next fiscal year.

For much of Jindal’s two terms, GOP lawmakers rarely opposed Jindal – and when they did, their protests were often halfhearted and brief. Most legislators knew Jindal and his aides were selling them phony numbers, but they passed his budgets anyway. As he decimated funding for universities, they did little beyond approving tuition increases (by 66 percent since 2008).

Last year, Jindal’s budget mess threatened Louisiana higher education and public health care. So, legislators sensibly did what they could to raise revenue to keep Louisiana’s schools and hospitals open (for only half the fiscal year, it turns out).

Now, many of these lawmakers have not only found their voice and independent spirit; they have also been born again as unrelenting fiscal conservatives. Many of these intrepid souls insist the problem can be – must be – solved with budget cuts alone.

Although he offers no specifics about what should be should cut, Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, said recently that he would reject “a budget that raises taxes on Louisiana families or businesses. Despite what some in Baton Rouge may think, we cannot tax our way out of this hole.” Hollis arrived in the Legislature in 2012, so he may have missed the news that almost $1 billion in income tax cuts(bipartisan legislation that his party supported in 2007 and 2008) is partly, if not largely, responsible for Louisiana’s revenue shortfall.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, is even more pugnacious – and arrogant – in her determination to resist tax increases. “We don’t need concessions,” she told a gathering in Baton Rouge recently. “We won.”

Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, also opposes any tax increases. Unlike Hollis and Hodges, however, Henry has an idea about where lawmakers should cut – higher education. “Though higher ed general fund dollars have been cut a little bit,” Henry said recently, “they’ve matched those with self-generated tuition increases and some fees.”

Henry is badly misinformed. He and his colleagues cut higher education substantially. For example, in 2009, the total of direct state appropriations and tuition to LSU was $797 million. In 2016, it is $691 million. At LSU alone, 363 teaching jobs (almost 8 percent of the faculty) were eliminated; another 1,561 staff members were laid off or not replaced. But Henry thinks LSU and other universities need deeper cuts?

Continue reading on at this link.


Let’s demand truth about Louisiana’s budget for a change

Former Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols

By Robert Mann

Clearing off my cluttered desk the other day, I came across an op-ed by Kristy Nichols, the financial con artist who was former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s commissioner of administration. Last April, as the Legislature debated revenue measures to prevent higher education’s collapse, Nichols wrote an opinion piece for that was breathtaking for its mendacity. Nine months later, I’m still gobsmacked by her ostensible estrangement from reality.

“Fearless. Brave. Determined,” Nichols wrote, quoting a Times-Picayune editorial that demanded the aforementioned characteristics from Jindal and lawmakers. “In fact,” Nichols wrote, “those qualities are on display every day as Louisiana’s leaders work to solve a shortfall created by declining oil prices and corporate welfare.”

Nichols’ op-ed overflowed with such claptrap. She claimed Jindal’s budget proposal “included more than $650 million in new revenue solutions that would fully protect college and university funding across the state.” Ignoring her boss’ eight years of reckless budgeting, Nichols wrote these words with no trace of irony: “[L]eadership requires the ability to see past the short-term and create sustainable solutions that make our state better.”

Nichols bragged that under Jindal, “we’ve seen unprecedented growth in our economy and today have more people working than ever before. Raising taxes is not the answer. Asking our citizens to subsidize business will not help our state.”

Nichols’ piece is worth re-reading if only to remind us that Jindal’s budgeting was so dishonest and irresponsible that his accounting practices should be made a crime, punishable by a few months in the slammer. Although she and Jindal claimed their budget would fund higher education and other important services until the fiscal year’s end (June 30), we now know their budget was an epic sham.

State government faces a mid-year budget shortfall of $750 million. Despite Jindal’s false assertion that the “new revenue” didn’t come from tax increases, almost everyone but the former governor’s family and staff acknowledged the truth. Lawmakers and the governor raised taxes – just not nearly enough to keep state government open through the fiscal year.

Nichols’ mendacious piece is more than just a maddening blast from the past. It’s a cautionary tale worth remembering as Gov. John Bel Edwards and his commissioner of administration, Jay Dardenne, deal with Jindal’s budget chaos.

The lesson? All of us – citizens, journalists and legislators – should view every statement from any governor and his or her Division of Administration with healthy skepticism.

Continue reading at this link.

Louisiana Politics: The Good, Bad and Ugly Awards, 2015


By Robert Mann

The past year was the wildest and most unpredictable in my 30-plus years of observing Louisiana politics. Besides the entertainment value, 2015 was a humbling 12 months, especially for those of us who were certain that a Democrat could never be elected governor. (I’m happy I’m not a betting man.)

With the year almost done, it’s time for my second annual Good, Bad and Ugly in Louisiana Politics Awards. The competition was fierce. In almost every category, I could have chosen any of three or four nominees. I present here my choices for achievement in 10 categories. (Thanks to those who submitted nominations.)

Most CourageStephen Perry. In May, under the guise of “religious freedom,” Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an appalling and legally questionable executive order purporting to give state and local officials license to discriminate against same-sex couples. While most convention, tourism and chamber executives initially dived for cover, one valiant leader stood tall and set the pace for the few souls who eventually spoke up. Perry, CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (also one of Jindal’s appointees to the LSU Board), promptly issued a strongly worded condemnation of the order.

Most Cowardice: Louisiana Legislators. During the 2015 legislative session, most legislators opposed an immediate expansion of Medicaid for Louisiana’s working poor under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Ben Nevers pushed the bill in the Senate while state Rep. John Bel Edwards proposed the same legislation in the House. Now that Edwards is governor-elect and Nevers is his chief of staff, many of those cowardly legislators have suddenly seen the light. Most cannot wait to expand Medicaid.

Shameless Ambition: Bobby Jindal. For abandoning Louisiana for most of his second term while he indulged the folly that was his embarrassing and poorly managed presidential campaign, this category will hereafter be known as the “Bobby Jindal Shameless Ambition Award.”

Most Embarrassing Statement: Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. When I heard his concession speech on election night, my first thought was that Caldwell was sloshed. It appears he was not drunk, only belligerent. Prospective political candidates should study his bitter, rambling and incoherent speech as a master class in how to end a campaign in the most insolent manner possible. Among Caldwell’s incomprehensible statements was this jewel: “Out of the largest pile of manure, grows the prettiest flower.”

Continue reading on at this link.

Edmonson’s reappointment casts doubt on Edwards’ commitment to ethical governance

“I Will Not Lie, Cheat, or Steal or Tolerate Those Who Do.” — John Bel Edwards

By Robert Mann

Any hopes that the election of Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards would signal a change of direction at the ethically troubled Louisiana State Police headquarters were dashed on Wednesday when Edwards announced that he was re-appointing Col. Mike Edmonson to the job he held for eight years under Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Col. Mike Edmonson

Edmonson earned widespread scorn and derision for his involvement in a shady amendment, passed in the final hours of the 2014 legislative session, that gave him and one other state trooper substantial increases in retirement income. It was never clear just how much Edmonson stood to gain by the sneaky, illegal arrangement, but it appears that the figure was, at least, $30,000 a year. Edmonson was eventually forced to turn down the money.

In bestowing upon Edmonson my “Villain of the Year” award last year, I noted that the ignominious honor was shared by him and “state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, who feigned ignorance about the origin of an amendment that provided Edmonson and one other state trooper a generous, unearned boost in retirement income. After refusing to admit authorship, Riser finally fessed up and admitted his role in the scheme. Edmonson insisted the idea originated with his staff.” Continue reading “Edmonson’s reappointment casts doubt on Edwards’ commitment to ethical governance”

Why so many silent college faculty? Here’s one reason

2402200306_46c12818a6_o (1)By Robert Mann

I sometimes wonder why more faculty members at LSU and elsewhere don’t speak up about how their schools have been defunded over the past eight years. It frustrates me that teachers and students only marched on the Capitol once — and after it was almost too late to save anything — to express their outrage over how Gov. Bobby Jindal and legislators had picked apart their institutions, running off hundreds of great faculty members and putting a college education out of the reach of thousands of families.

But after someone pointed out this Facebook comment to me, I’m reminded why so many are so timid.

Screenshot 2015-12-16 10.09.59

This guy is insignificant and ignorant and I truly worry about him about as much and as long as I’ll worry about the gnat buzzing around me as I write this.

But it reminds me that there are too many out there like him who see any comparison of the state’s treatment of academics versus athletics as treasonous. And they are willing to attack you viciously. If you dare to suggest our priorities are totally screwed up — no matter where the money comes from — you’ll be told that you’re basically worthless for working in the teaching profession.

The critics will tell you to leave Louisiana if you don’t like it — as if dissent in the United States is somehow treachery.

If you have tenure, like me, perhaps you won’t worry so much about speaking out. But if even if you do have tenure and maybe one day think you’d like to be an associate dean or some kind of administrator, you might keep quiet because you know you’ll be singled out for attacks like this. At the very least, you know the higher ups won’t care for this kind of talk. And it probably won’t make you attractive if you should ever decide to move to another school. Continue reading “Why so many silent college faculty? Here’s one reason”

Bobby Jindal’s ghostly ‘accomplishments’

Screenshot 2015-06-12 08.28.34
Gov. Bobby Jindal in the House chamber on the 2015 legislative session’s final day. (Screenshot of WWL-TV coverage)

By Robert Mann

With his job approval rating at a dismal 20 percent, how will Gov. Bobby Jindal spend his final days in office? Why, he’ll waste state resources touring Louisiana to tell us that, despite whatever you’ve read in the papers, he was really a marvelous governor.

Never mind that the state’s fiscal affairs are a catastrophe and only getting worse. Forget that Jindal abandoned us for two years while he waged an inept campaign for president. Please don’t note that under his watch college tuition skyrocketed and the state’s universities were almost shuttered. Ignore the legions of working poor he denied health care. Overlook that we still have crumbling roads and bridges and endure some of the nation’s worst crime and deepest poverty.

Jindal went first to Shreveport Tuesday (Dec. 8) to brag about bringing new jobs to Louisiana. He claims he’s created 91,000 new jobs and secured $62 billion in capital investment. Jindal touts those two numbers because he has little else to hype.

Even if it’s true (Jindal offers no substantiation for that jobs figure), what he omits is the painful price of those “investments” and their legacy costs. The new business Jindal boasts about didn’t materialize because he turned Louisiana into a Utopia. They mostly came because of overgenerous tax incentives and other subsidies that he and legislators forked over as inducements.

In other words, during Jindal’s term, the state gave away hundreds of millions in tax credits and exemptions and direct appropriations to businesses. It’s one reason we’re in a fiscal ditch and why the Legislature last spring began the difficult process of suspending and repealing some of those costly tax giveaways. Even Jindal finally admitted that he enabled “corporate welfare.”

What’s left is a battered revenue system that has never produced a budget that was balanced without the creative accounting of the con artists who run Jindal’s Division of Administration. Jindal wants us to believe he transformed the state’s economy. He transformed it, alright – into a state with a budgetary black hole that annually threatens to obliterate higher education and health care.

It is true that Jindal induced some companies to locate or expand here. That clearly resulted in some new jobs – although given Jindal’s pattern of dissembling about budgets and other numbers, I doubt the real figure is anywhere near 91,000.

Regardless, shouldn’t a transformed, supercharged economy with tens of thousands of new jobs generate enough revenue to fund health care and higher education? If Jindal had transformed our economy into a juggernaut, would we still have the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation?

Eight years ago, we handed Jindal the keys to state government. Like a reckless teenager entrusted with the family car, Jindal is returning our vehicle in deplorable condition. It’s now a banged-up jalopy, missing a couple of wheels. Like the charlatan he’s always been, however, Jindal tells us the car doesn’t have a scratch. In fact, he says, it’s now a Ferrari. The message of Jindal’s tour is, essentially, “When it comes to my record as governor, who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?”

Continue reading on at this link.

Leonard Fournette, lobbyist?




To: LSU President F. King Alexander

From: Robert Mann

Re: A Bold Strategy for Restoring LSU’s funding

It’s time to shake up LSU’s lobbying strategy. Persuading legislators with facts is hard work. Instead, it’s time to play politics like the contact sport it is. That means getting our football team into the game.

Our chronic financial woes have hobbled the school. With the election of Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards, however, there is hope. Unlike Gov. Bobby Jindal, Edwards understands the value of higher education. As a legislator, he was a friend to college students. Edwards has promised to reverse the cuts and reinvest in schools like LSU.

That said, persuading legislators to restore hundreds of millions to our colleges will be difficult, if not impossible. The new governor must also close a budget shortfall anticipated to be as much as $700 million in the coming fiscal year.

Your recent strategy of telling the hard truth to students, faculty and the public – that budget cuts might force LSU to close for an academic year – was bold and effective. It might work again, but that strategy is not sustainable. Eventually, you will become “Chicken Little.” If you continue to warn of the sky’s collapse and legislators narrowly avert disaster each time, your credibility will suffer; your apocalyptic warnings will wear thin.

You need a new, bold strategy. My idea may seem unconventional at first, but I hope to persuade you of its wisdom.

In previous years, you have cajoled legislators by giving them information about LSU’s value to the state. I don’t have to tell you that approach is challenging. Only 21 percent of Louisianians have graduated college. Many legislators and their constituents do not understand the importance of higher education to the state’s future.

Lobbying legislators with facts might eventually work. I believe, however, there is a more effective way to sway lawmakers. We have on our campus enormous, untapped power and influence. We should use it. What I mean is this: Instead of lobbying lawmakers, you must lobby our coaches and football players.

If star players could be persuaded to demand greater funding for our school, the public would listen and respond. Better yet, if your lobbyists could persuade the football team to threaten a strike until the governor and legislators fully fund the university, we could achieve transformational change.

Continue reading on at this link.

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