Jindal’s Fine Where He Is, Regardless Of What His Dishonest Critics Say

Over the weekend we were treated to yet another example of a media-driven narrative Gov. Bobby Jindal has for whatever reason allowed to persist without much resistance.

Namely, this business about “Jindal is out of the state hitting the campaign trail while everything goes to hell in a handbasket.”

This is partially true, though not in the way the editors of the Times-Picayune – the latest speakers in the “We Miss Bobby” caucus – present it. Sunday’s editorial

Louisianians have to look back to the days surrounding Hurricane Isaac to find Gov. Jindal firmly planted on state soil. And, to his credit, he was impressive during the disaster. Honestly, no one handles a crisis like Gov. Jindal. He channels his inner wonk and provides a dizzying amount of information to the public. He exudes confidence, which is a comfort when the world is topsy-turvy.

That is the governor Louisianians need to see every day, but that is not possible with Gov. Jindal on the road so much. The administration has repeatedly argued that the governor’s travels outside the state do not distract from his work in Louisiana. That simply can’t be true.

These are not easy times in Louisiana. This week alone, the state announced massive cuts in the health care LSU provides to the poor and started moving mentally ill patients out of Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville in preparation for closing the hospital.

The community and advocates for patients continue to protest the closure. Sign-wielding protestors gathered outside the hospital gates Tuesday. St. Tammany officials, including some of the governor’s legislative leaders, say they were blindsided by the administration’s decision to shutter the hospital. And they have offered to kick in money to help the state offset its budget deficit.

Gov. Jindal’s health secretary met with parish leaders, indicated the administration would be happy for a private operator to take over and then proceeded with the shutdown.

The cuts announced Thursday to LSU’s public hospital system are steep: 1,487 jobs eliminated statewide; a $49 million reduction at the interim hospital in New Orleans, which will cost 432 jobs and reduce the number of beds from 201 to 155. The move raises concerns not only about the short-term consequences for patients but for the long-term viability of the massive new public hospital being built downtown.

It was left to Dr. Frank Opelka, the new head of the seven-hospital system, to lay out the administration’s plan. That is understandable to a point. Department heads generally have the best handle on the nitty-gritty details of a policy.

Our governor, though, is as versed in policy — particularly health policy — as any department head could be. The public needs to hear the governor make a case for these actions, and he needs to hear Louisianians.

Naturally, this is a one way street. Because if the Picayune’s editors had the same opinion of our President, whose ratio of campaigning, fundraising, golfing and carousing is far more gratuitous in relation to governance than is Jindal’s, we haven’t seen it.

Perhaps the Picayune’s editors believe that an Obama in Las Vegas with Jay-Z and Beyonce is more plugged into his job than is Jindal on the stump for Mitt Romney in Iowa or Ohio. Maybe if Obama were to travel to China or Gaza to thank his campaign donors they would take more notice.

Where Jindal is concerned, though, the criticisms are only warranted by the fact that, as we noted last week, Jindal isn’t in Louisiana to counterattack against his critics.

The governor needs to give a speech laying down the law on the Charity Hospital System, for example, and explaining to the people of Louisiana that nobody else delivers health care through a state-run system of brick-and-mortar enterprises. And because nobody else does that, Louisiana is at a disadvantage. And with health care reaching something of a critical mass in which even nationally, where it’s not as fraught with inefficiency and obsolescence as Louisiana is, the money just isn’t there to provide everything that people expect for free, running the better part of a dozen full-service state hospitals complete with all the bells and whistles just isn’t going to work anymore. And that Louisiana can deliver the same basic-quality health care by doing what other states do; namely, have the money follow the patient and use private-sector providers.

Blueprint Louisiana made essentially this exact case last week. Jindal needs to make it as well. By doing so, he’ll tamp down all of the grousing and screaming from legislators who are trying to look like they’re protecting their constituents but who can’t outline a strategy for health-care delivery any better than what Jindal is refusing to articulate.

But Jindal is choosing to stay quiet and just implement the strategy. That has nothing to do with his jet-setting travel agenda; when he’s been in Louisiana he’s opted to keep his mouth largely shut about what’s going on with the Charity Hospitals.

And if Jindal was in Louisiana 24/7, and if he was on the stump here in the state to run a campaign in favor of healthcare redesign the same way the Louisiana Progress leftists are out there defending the status quo, you can bet the criticism won’t go away anytime soon. It isn’t like the Times-Picayune’s editors would champion the dissolution of the Charity system regardless of how vigorously Jindal advocated for it.

Nor would the rest of the state’s Democrat establishment. They regard it as solid administration for the governor to stay home and raise taxes to support an ever-increasing welfare state.

For example, LSU professor, partisan Democrat and former Kathleen Blanco flack Bob Mann took to snickering about the left-wing Des Moines Register opining against Jindal’s campaign speeches in favor of conservative Iowa Supreme Court candidates over the weekend. That state’s Supreme Court created gay marriage out of whole cloth in 2009, and three members of that court have already been thrown out by the voters as a result. Another is subject to a similar fate this fall and Jindal has spent some time in his travels stumping against him.

Mann’s old boss never left the state. And when the chips were down during Hurricane Katrina we saw precisely how effective she was with all that “focus” she brought to the table. Jindal has spent the summer and early fall out on the hustings, and he flew in to manage the worst disaster since Katrina with a competence and smoothness Blanco could never dream of – which even the Picayune’s Sunday editorial had to admit.

No matter, though, because howling at Jindal for stumping for Romney and other Republicans during campaign season while screaming about “$6.8 billion in tax breaks” in the state’s tax code, as though Louisiana would actually realize that revenue if all the tax breaks were to go away (the real answer being that our economy would collapse and our neighbors in Texas and Florida and other states would reap a major windfall in economic development wins), is much more diverting.

But at the end of the day, Jindal is still plugged in to governing the state – whether his bully pulpit is active now or not.

It’s just that Louisiana doesn’t have anything going on internally which is as important to the long-term future of the state as the outcome of the presidential election in Iowa, or Ohio, or Florida, Michigan, Nevada or Pennsylvania.

Mitt Romney needs to win next month or Louisiana is going to suffer for it.

If Romney doesn’t win, you can bet that federal regulation in the oil and gas industry will drive domestic producers away. And since they’re already shutting in wells in the Haynesville Shale due to a glut of natural gas caused by bad federal policies (see the failure to support LNG exports, for example, or the willy-nilly emphasis on electric cars when it’s obvious they’re not economic compared to natural gas, or the refusal to look at methanol as a transportation fuel despite its low cost and increasing use in other countries), that will stall out what should be an energy boom in Louisiana.

If Romney doesn’t win, Obamacare goes into full effect, and you can bet that the current “draconian” cuts to health care in Louisiana will be nothing compared to what’s coming – not to mention inevitable tax hikes to cover the cost of the de minimis system we’ll be left with when the president’s policies kill private health insurance across the state.

If Romney doesn’t win, our trade policy will continue to atrophy and put Louisiana’s export industries in jeopardy – not to mention dry up traffic at our ports.

If Romney doesn’t win, there will be defense cuts beyond anything we can imagine. Think there’s any hope of finding a use for Avondale Shipyards in a second Obama term? Think again.

We could go on.

This idea that Jindal stumping for Romney is all about Jindal is myopic if it isn’t thoroughly disingenuous. Obama supporters who make that case are simply trying to deny the Romney campaign someone who might be an effective surrogate.

We’ve already seen their performance in and out of office in the state, and it’s why they’re in the obvious state of disrepair they inhabit. That’s life as a Louisiana Democrat – on the campaign trail and off.

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