Failed States And Failed Columnists

Yesterday something happened we’ve been anticipating for some time. The Times-Picayune, which is beginning to resemble a failed newspaper, jettisoned former Louisiana Democrat Party spin doctor and LSU journalism professor Bob Mann as a columnist.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time speculating on the real reason why Mann was fired as a Picayune columnist. It might well be that the paper doesn’t have the budget for him – that would make sense given that often there wasn’t a whole lot of difference in perspective between what Mann would write and what Jarvis DeBerry, the T-P‘s other bomb-throwing leftist with a penchant for name-calling and demonization of those with whom he disagrees, belches forth onto the paper’s editorial page. One of those two is de rigeur for a legacy media operation like the Picayune; two is a luxury. And the T-P certainly couldn’t jettison its black leftist columnist living in New Orleans in favor of its white leftist columnist living in Baton Rouge while still calling itself the New Orleans Times-Picayune, could it?

But we can’t help but wonder if Mann’s “success” in bomb-throwing didn’t find him out yesterday.

We didn’t do much of a writeup – though Sen. Conrad Appel referenced it Friday – about the New York Times piece by David Leonhart last week calling Louisiana a “failed state.” That column was substantially correct in its main point and yet got every particular wrong in its argument. Leonhart parroted the Democrats’ line that Louisiana’s fiscal woes mimic those of Kansas – namely, that tax cuts failed to generate economic growth and “broke” the state in both cases.

It’s a simplistic and rather clumsy attempt at argumentation, of course. From a fiscal standpoint tax cuts will work to generate revenue over the long haul but they have to be accompanied by budget reform; not just cuts but a reorientation of how government services are provided with an eye toward efficiency and competition/privatization where possible, so that government is as out of the way of the private sector as can be. And even then, at the state level nothing is guaranteed; you’re still at the mercy of national and even regional economic trends you can’t control.

In Kansas’ case not only were they saddled with a bad national economy, but the Midwest is amid a period of pronounced economic stagnation everywhere that oil and gas isn’t booming. Louisiana has had less of a problem with regional stagnation; we’re now the smelly kid in the Southern class. But for a time when Bobby Jindal was governor that wasn’t true, and he can claim that some $170 billion in planned and/or executed industrial expansion investments came as a result of the business-friendly tax environment he fostered as governor. That didn’t ultimately result in a good state economy once the price of oil took a dump, and since people are never really all that curious about the causes of economic trouble it was easy to blame the downturn on Jindal and his policies.

What Jindal can be blamed for is not putting Louisiana on a budget diet immediately after taking office, and then riding surplus dollars to invest in things like infrastructure along the way. Instead he made incremental cuts to the state’s budget as the post-Katrina and Obama stimulus federal money fell off and took the political hits every year, including the frequent indictment that he was spending away the state’s assets – something he should have pushed back on by questioning why Louisiana’s government should have hundreds of millions of dollars squirreled away from past overtaxation of its citizens while those citizens lacked capital in their own bank accounts.

Nevertheless, when Jindal had whittled Louisiana’s budget back down to $25 billion, TOPS was funded. Its universities’ doors were open. Roads existed, as did hospitals. Police and teachers were paid thanks to money raining down on local governments from Baton Rouge. Jails were open, housing more prisoners than anywhere else in the world per capita.

Jindal left Louisiana with a corrupt and incompetent, but more or less functional, government at the price of $25 billion per year. Louisiana now has a corrupt and incompetent, and no more functional, government at $30 billion per year under John Bel Edwards two years later.

That looks and sounds like a failed state, as Leonhart wrote at the New York Times, but for entirely different reasons than Leonhart thinks.

And of course David Leonhart knows diddly poo about Louisiana government or politics. As he admits, he got his “failed state” narrative from Bob Mann.

Who less than a week later is now out of a job at the Times-Picayune.

That might be a coincidence.

But to us, it’s fascinating. At some point there had to be enough pushback from the Picayune‘s readers, perhaps in the suburbs or exurbs, to the tune that enough was enough. You can’t continue pushing a national Democrat agenda, complete with the endless accusations of bigotry and ignorance among those with whom you disagree, without driving them away as your customers. There aren’t enough hard-core leftists in the New Orleans area to support a major newspaper without drawing people from other ideological persuasions as well, and if you’re not a hard-core leftist Bob Mann’s columns weren’t even amusing idiocy; they were indecipherable gibberish mixed with hostility bordering on sociopathy.

So now he’s been relegated to the flotsam and jetsam of the internet, tending to his blog and his frenetic Twitter feed. We imagine he’ll likely become even more unhinged now in his public pronouncements, and heaven knows what he’ll subject the students to in his classes at LSU.

But in any event Mann won’t be using the pages of Louisiana’s most prominent newspaper to spew his diatribes. That may be slight progress, but we’ll take it for now.

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