Monday Reads: Take our Governor, Please!!Posted: June 8, 2015
So, I’m going there.
I never really thought it possible for one politician holding one political office to do so much damage to one state but Louisiana stands out these days as an example of who not to elect as Governor. Kansas, Florida, Wisconsin, and Ohio also have governors that are doing an extraordinary job of tanking their economies, public institutions and services, and general standard of living. However, Bobby Jindal stands head and shoulders above the rest. It’s undoubtedly because the state puts a lot of power into the office via its Constitution and that he’s being enabled by some of the worst state legislators in my life time. Mind you, I come from Nebraska which has some of the most pathetic state government officials in the country so I do know bad elected officials when I see them. Bobby Jindal may go down in history as the worst elected official ever. He’s definitely got a shot at it.
Jindal’s most recent national headline is this: “As he nears a 2016 bid, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal hits political bottom”.
Just weeks before he is expected to announce his presidential campaign, Bobby Jindal is at the nadir of his political career.
The Republican governor is at open war with many of his erstwhile allies in the business community and the legislature. He spent weeks pushing a “religious freedom” bill that failed to pass, while having little contact with legislators trying to solve Louisiana’s worst budget crisis in 25 years.
Jindal is now so unpopular in deep-red Louisiana that his approval rating plunged to 32 percent in a recent poll — compared with 42 percent for President Obama, who lost the state by 17 percentage points in 2012.
Shorter Poll Results: We hate him here. And why not? His last few years in office have been more about his run for the presidency than for governing our state. When he does “govern”, his moves are calculated to please Grover Norquist or the Dinosaur Jeebus Vote.
In recent months, Jindal has focused his political energy here on trying to appeal to social conservatives nationally by pushing the Marriage and Conscience Act, which would have prohibited the state from taking “adverse action” against those opposed to same-sex marriage. But the measure died last month in the legislature amid opposition from major corporations that feared boycott threats by gay rights groups viewing such measures as sanctioning discrimination.
The legislature is also in the final days of grappling with the budget crisis, which was caused, in part, by personal and corporate tax cuts passed under Jindal’s watch that haven’t paid for themselves.
Yet he has kept up his thinly veiled 2016 travels, having appeared at political events Monday in New Hampshire and Tuesday in Florida. Jindal will announce his plans in New Orleans on June 24.
National news coverage of Jindal has been scathing but it appears he has reached that point of craving attention so badly that he’ll take anything that makes him look relevant and pseudo-tough. The oddest recent political remark made by Jindal is on Lincoln Chafee and the metric system. The manchild once hailed as a science wunderkin and policy wonk has stooped to allowing and enabling state schools to teach Dinosaur Jeebus stories as science and screeching on national TV about the perils of adopting a metric system. I’m pretty sure that no other Republican official quite represents the “stupid party” as well as the Governor who has made a total mess of our state.
According to a report in Politico published Thursday, a reporter asked for Jindal’s take on the metric system as part of a larger story about how Chafee had “inadvertently touched one of the more obscure third rails of American politics” when he announced he was running for president. The governor’s response, according to the report, came from Jindal staffer Mike Reed.
“Typical Democrat — wants to make America more European,” Reed said. “Gov. Jindal would rather make the world more American.”
Reed confirmed the response to Politico in an email. Vox called the comments “the greatest attack of the 2016 campaign so far.”
As Politico notes, the metric system has hardly been a pressing subject for presidential candidates. But in a huge field of Republican candidates running or exploring running for president, Jindal is indicating there’s no issue too small to outline his position on.
He has the scent of desperation about him. He’s made too many gaffes and too many dumb statements. It’s not just his nationally televised face plant in 2009, responding to President Obama’s speech to Congress (most recently ridiculed by Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show”); it’s a puzzling stream of gaffes and strange statements that usually seem to get him into the news for all the wrong reasons. For example, instead of making news for his foreign policy expertise, Jindal was ridiculed for a week or more over his strange and unsubstantiated allegations in London about European “no-go zones.” Most recently, there was his silly attack on former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee over the metric system. Jindal once lectured his party about the need to stop acting stupid. Too often, these days, Jindal looks like the leader of his party’s Stupid Wing.
Jindal’s cult-like devotion to Grover Norquist has been gathering more and more interest from politicians and locals alike. The entire state budget is hung up in a crazy attempt to keep some kind of “no tax” pledge while careening towards eminent financial disaster.
The governor has threatened to veto any budget plan or tax bills that don’t meet Norquist’s “no tax” requirements. Currently, the governor is pushing the Legislature to adopt a controversial higher education tax credit — commonly called SAVE — that Jindal says will make the budget comply with Norquist’s wishes.
Robideaux and others don’t like SAVE and have argued the tax credit could lead to tax hikes in the future. Through the letter, they are asking Norquist to push back on the SAVE legislation.
“We are deeply concerned about the clear and present danger posed by this bill. As conservative Republican legislators, we firmly believe SB 284 is the biggest threat to fiscal responsibility our state has ever faced,” wrote Robideaux, head of the Legislature’s tax-writing committee, in his letter to Norquist.
If passed, SAVE would set up a new higher education tax credit to cover a nonexistent student fee. In spite of the name, the credit wouldn’t save families and students money on college bills. Primarily, it would create the illusion of a tax break, which Jindal can say will “offset” other tax increases in the budget pan.
“SAVE is a misuse of the tax system. The purpose of a tax system is to generate revenue to support needed public services. SAVE does not generate dollars for the state. … It is being used merely to masquerade and promote tax increases,” said the Louisiana’s Public Affairs Research Council, a nonpartisan state think tank, in a recent report.
In his letter, Robideaux argues SAVE would create a dangerous precedent. The legislation would give future lawmakers a loophole for raising taxes, without being held accountable for doing so, he said.
“If enacted into law, this bill would successfully and irreparably establish the precedent that future legislatures and Governors can raise taxes on a nearly unlimited basis, and then claim revenue neutrality solely based on the creation of a purely fictional, procedural, phantom, paper tax credit,” wrote Robideaux in his letter.
Robideaux asked that Norquist consider Louisiana’s record over the last five to seven years when evaluating Jindal’s “no tax” pledge record. The Legislature and the governor may raise taxes this year — to help close a $1.6 billion budget gap — but they have cut taxes more, when their record over the last few years is taken into account.
“A five-year look on the tax cuts we have already passed, would more than suffice to offset this year’s activity,” wrote Robideaux.
The Governor created a lopside state income statement nearly from the get-go by allowing the legislature to gut a tax policy passed by the voters and designed to even out a tax burden that has always placed the highest burden on the poorest in the state. Then,he’s spent the last few years robbing all kinds of rainy day funds and selling off state assets like we need a fire sale to make ends meet. I actually think he thought he could fool us all until he was well out of office. However, when you refuse to consider anything remotely “revenue enhancing” you are left with accounting tricks and fire sales. He’s robbed every Peter to enrich Pauls like the film industry.
These days it’s hard to think of anyone who has as much influence over what Jindal’s willing to do than Norquist, whose rigid rules for what constitutes a tax increase line up perfectly with Jindal’s. In practice, that means the governor has insisted that the budget be balanced without tax increases, despite the prospect of devastating cuts to higher education and health care, the two main areas that don’t enjoy constitutional or statutory protection.
And it means some revenue-enhancing ideas the Republican-dominated legislature might support, specifically a reexamination of giveaways to specific industries, are off-limits—because eliminating a tax exemption without an offset that reduces another tax or cuts spending, according to ATR, is raising a tax.
That’s how the inventory tax wound up in everyone’s crosshairs, despite the fact that eliminating the rebate but not the underlying tax would hurt businesses, and getting rid of the tax would devastate some parishes (that’s Louisiana for county). Many companies, it turns out, receive rebate checks that exceed their state tax liability, and in Jindal’s view that makes eliminating the payouts a spending cut, not a tax increase. “Corporate welfare,” he labeled it in his opening address to the legislature, prompting chuckles from those who’ve watched him promote business incentives for years.
In fact, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the frustration with Jindal is that it transcends partisanship.
It’s not just the Democrats who are bristling. It’s many a Republican.
Louisiana Blogger Lamar White–writing now for Salon–believes Jindal’s been crippling the state economy and doing extremist whacky things to capture the “Duggar vote”. Given that Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have spent decades trying to sew that up I can’t imagine Jindal will be able to peel off any of those tighty whities. Jindal appears to be launching his campaign in New Orleans to basically tout the state’s post Katrina efforts to break teacher unions and send children to christianist Madrassas and failed and failing for profit McEducation franchises. This plays right into the heart of the paranoid right. It’s always amazing to me that Jindal finds ways to position failing policies as Reaganesque anti-government successes. These things are not successes. They are state-funded embarrassing failures.
“Bobby Jindal. No one is more popular,” Stephen Colbert joked a few months ago. He meant it literally. “No one” polls higher than Jindal does.
As Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight recently pointed out, Jindal enjoys support from only 1 percent of evangelical, born-again Christians, which seems staggering. This, after all, is the same core constituency he has been aggressively courting since the day he took office.
One of the very first bills he signed into law, the Louisiana Science Education Act, was intended to promote the teaching of new earth creationism, under the rhetorical guise of “intelligent design,” in the public school science classroom. When 78 Nobel laureates and the world’s leading scientific organizations publicly urged Jindal to repeal the law, he instead doubled down. The law represented a major victory for the religious far-right, which had worked for more than three decades to find a way around the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard (a case that involved, perhaps not coincidentally, a Louisiana statute requiring the teaching of creationism).
This year, with the state facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, Jindal, in a speech to the Legislature, announced his support for only one specific piece of legislation, a bill that would have, among other things, allowed private businesses to refuse to serve anyone who supported marriage equality. Not a single legislator — not even the bill’s own author — applauded when Jindal waxed poetic about the existential threats to religious freedom. After the bill failed in committee by a 10-2 vote, Jindal immediately attempted to resurrect it via executive order, and a few minutes after issuing his order, he was on television talking about religious freedom.
No one has worked harder than Bobby Jindal for the support of evangelical Christians. He even invented an award just so he could give it to Willie Robertson; and, in exchange, he became the subject of an entire episode of “Duck Dynasty.” Heorganized a prayer rally on the campus of LSU, which was officially hosted by the American Family Association, a noted anti-gay hate group. He traded in his khakis and buttoned-up polos for belt buckles and cowboy boots. So far this year, he has already tweeted two different photos of himself holding a gun; his Christmas card was of him and his family, dressed in camouflage, posing in a golf cart on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion as if they were somehow on a hunting expedition. On the increasingly rare Sunday mornings that he spends in state, he is usually in the backseat of his helicopter, shuffling between church services in North and Central Louisiana.
None of it seems to have made any difference. But it could, eventually. He intends on defying conventional wisdom, and he has a plan.
There are so many Republican politicians in the presidential race that all it takes is success with one of its many cults to get to the small amount it would take to win a state primary. My guess is that Senator Aqua Buddha can mind control the cult of Crazy Uncle Liberty much better than Jindal will be able to harvest the fecund quivering. The Republican establishment and money continues to look for its great white hope and may be coming up with Scott Walker with a little Rubio VP on the side. They realize the need to add some kind of flavor to their angry old white man brand. Jindal just really has no place to go. They polls indicate this. So, the question is wtf is he up to?
There have been a variety of hypotheses floating around by those of us in the state that care about such things. Some people argue that he may have actually swallowed the koolaid and that he is now a full fledged member of the Krewe of Dinosaur Jeebus. Others feel he is trying to find a job on K Street where he can get his kids into some posh private schools so they don’t have to learn the crap that Jindal is allowing the Krewe of Dinosaur Jeebus to teach here. Then, there’s a few that think he’s actually aiming for the VP spot. Frankly, I’m beginning to think he’s totally lost it and is surrounded by sycophants whose job it is to keep him as far away from reality as possible. He thinks his destiny is the White House and no one is going to deter him from finding out about the strawberries. Cue the rattling of steel balls in manic hands.
Whatever his goals or delusions, he’s taking an entire state down with him. It’s also apparent that much like an unwanted reality show, we’re going to have to watch the entire thing play out on TV and media. Meanwhile, I was one of the first ones signed up to protest at his announcement on the 24th and I invited everyone I know. Let it be known, at least, that New Orleans didn’t sign up for any this.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to finally reveal his presidential ambitions this month. Last week, his adviser Timmy Teepell told Politico.com that Jindal will appear at an event in New Orleans on June 24 to, most likely, formally announce he has thrown his hat into the ring for the Republication nomination.
That week, Christopher Williams made a Facebook event — no location, no time, just June 24 — to “Protest Bobby Jindal Presidential Announcement.” It attracted a few hundred attendees in the first couple of days. By Friday, there were 600. As of this post, there are more than 1,700 people who clicked attending. That number keeps climbing. “I knew there was disgust with Jindal,” Williams told Gambit in an email, “but I didn’t realize that it would lead to this much attention.”
Last month, the “Bobby Jindal Exploratory Committee” was formed, and it’s hosting two major events this month — one’s a fundraiser (requesting $2,700 per person) and the other is a reception at the Governor’s Mansion with special guests Les Miles of LSU football and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton. Those events are Saturday, June 27, a few days after Jindal’s New Orleans event.
End of rant.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?