For perhaps the first time ever, but for different reasons, I am in agreement with a recent Times-Picayune editorial by Robert Mann. In his piece he laments the lack of economic opportunity for Louisiana’s best and brightest and muses about how we can lure them back to save Louisiana. He couldn’t be more correct in his premise, but he fails to acknowledge that his often expressed political philosophy is a major driver of the problem!
Incredibly, in his article he has identified the exact failures that forward-thinking Republican leaders in our state identified years ago. Low income jobs, bad quality of life, bad healthcare, bad educational outcomes, and so forth. Where he and I diverge is that I understand that the underlying causes of these problems must be viewed through the lens of history. Until fairly recently it has been the populist, anti-growth policies promoted by the Democrat Party through their exercise of general control of this state that have created a socio-economic structure that is unattractive to ambitious young people. Perhaps because it doesn’t suit his philosophy, Mr. Mann fails to acknowledge this inconvenient truth. In this, as in all cases, history is a prologue and we must always evaluate our future decisions in light of the failures of our past.
An example of one such lesson from history had been our education policy which had resulted in Louisiana’s failure to rise above the bottom when measuring educational outcomes. This number one impediment to our state’s prosperity had been the failure of our system of education delivery. When we Republicans proposed sweeping reforms to restructure what was, in truth, a disaster for our citizens, the Democrats in the legislature allied with the unions and other beneficiaries of the existing system in order to undermine our efforts. Amazingly, if our state was ever to prosper in the 21st century, serious reform not only could have been done, it had to be done. Mr. Mann fails to note that this alliance against change chose not to work with us to make the reforms better; instead they chose only to do everything that they could to maintain the status quo. The great irony of this political decision was that these reforms were primarily designed to support to the poor and middle class citizens of our state, the very people that Mr. Mann’s friends would claim to be fighting for. Success breeds success and by identifying and overcoming this one historic failure, we have toppled one of the obstacles to drawing back our best and brightest.
If Mr. Mann and the Democrat Party genuinely want to help make Louisiana a place that our children will want to build a career and raise a family, I have some simple advice. First, they must recognize that business as usual is not the way to “lean forward” as they like to say. It is a new day in Louisiana; the people recognize that big government programs and handouts will never create a viable society.
Second, the way to create a beacon of success, one that our best and brightest will want to return to, is to make Louisiana a pinnacle of wealth creation. Despite how much the Democrats revile at acceptance of the fact, America has become the shining star throughout the world simply because it is underpinned by that simple maxim; “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
The key phrase is the “pursuit of happiness.” Americans who through their liberty choose to work hard and are socially and fiscally conservative all have a reasonable expectation of wealth creation and the achievement of happiness – assuming, that is, that the government does not confiscate their earnings guised in some notion of “fairness.” Mr. Mann has but to look at history to see the countless beneficiaries of this, America’s promise to her citizens. When applied to Louisiana’s future strategies, this underlying philosophy is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and to attracting and, more importantly, keeping our best and brightest. The acknowledgment of the benefits of wealth and the freedom to pursue prosperity without government interference attracts the best and brightest, period!
My final piece of advice, such that it is, is one that truly applies to everyone across the political spectrum of our state. Louisiana has been governed from the extremes for too long. Until a very few years ago, in order to be elected to office, one had to be in lock step with antiquated Democrat policies, many of them throwbacks to the time of Huey Long. There has been a sea change and now my party, the Republican Party, dominates the political landscape. We bring new ideas; ideas built upon limited government, family values, and fiscal conservativeness. These philosophies will take time to overcome the failed policies of the past but expectations are, and short term results support, that generations to come will see the benefits of our state becoming ever more like the other states that are recognized as being attractive to young people. That is the good thing.
Where we, the guardians of our state’s future, must be careful is that we cannot give into political extremism. We cannot allow political expediencies, as the Democrats have done in the instance of the education reforms, to blind our goal of creating that beacon of socio-economic success.
It is our duty to lead by example by being conservative. The very definition of being conservative means not to extreme. This is my lesson for Mr. Mann. We must abandon the ways of the past and move the state to a more conservative place, but not to extreme. Our state must appeal to a broad cross section of ambitious Americans, a group of citizens who have come to see Louisiana as a place where the pursuit of happiness can actually turn into success in their pursuit of the American dream.
I wait with anticipation to see if Mr. Mann joins the fight, or chooses to continue to snipe from the sidelines.