HITHER AND YON: Joe McCarthy Would Have A Ball With Louisiana’s Newspaper Editors

We’re not saying that communists run the editorial staffs of Louisiana’s two major newspapers.

Then again, the mentality expressed when the editors of those papers set to discussing tax and economic policy could give us pause.

The media markets in Baton Rouge and New Orleans aren’t particularly left-wing, but the papers reflecting them might as well be in Boston or San Francisco given the love affair the Advocate and Times-Picayune seem to have with government spending.

In the Picayune’s case, maybe it’s not Leninism which prompts the demand for taxing and spending. Maybe it’s Edwardsism – as in, all the T-P’s editors really needed was a pep talk from the governor and out comes his agenda for higher taxes to be passed in the special session which begins tonight just minutes after the regular session begins.

In a meeting with the NOLA.com | Times-Picayune editorial board Wednesday, Gov. Edwards said he believes legislators have a better appreciation for the need for more revenue now. “The sense of urgency was not there in February. It is there in June,” he said.

Let’s hope so. Some House members still seem to think the budget will balance itself with a sprinkle of fairy dust.

House leaders wanted to wait until the fall to go back into special session in hopes that tax collections would pick up. Gov. Edwards called that irresponsible, and it would be.

College students and higher education institutions need to know now how much money they will have to work with. In fact, no agency should be left guessing about that. Louisiana had too much fiscal uncertainty over the past eight years under former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Perhaps Jindal should have held more meetings with the Picayune’s editors. Anybody believe that the former governor would have found them to be quite so pliant?

The Picayune editorial demanding more taxes – tax increases on business in the midst of a statewide recession, the removal of the deduction of federal taxes on state income tax returns and a few other goodies which would make Louisiana less competitive with Texas economically and lead to a 1980’s-style exodus from the Bayou State – reads like a regurgitation of Edwards’ talking points about developmentally-disabled children being fed to alligators in the swamps and the loss of college football in the fall. As though anything less than the $9,400 per year Louisiana spends at the state and local level, some $2,200 per year more than the Southern average, would result in disaster.

And then there is the Advocate, whose editorials read as though they’re drafted in the headquarters of the Louisiana Democrat Party

But if the Legislature votes for key elements in the Edwards package in the special session, we’ll have at least a year of relief from crises that have dogged the state during the terms of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

One crisis every year or two is better than one crisis every three months.

Edwards’ plan includes two bills that will raise income taxes, in part rolling back some of the big tax cuts under Jindal in 2008 — now seen as going too far, by just about everybody except Jindal.

The most anti-tax members on the Appropriations Committee tried to cut the budget instead of raising more taxes. They failed, as even the GOP-majority House rejected the idea that state should close public hospitals or make other dramatic cuts that close more institutions and put more people out of work.

The Senate rightly rejected another dose of Jindalnomics: The House proposed a shell game to tap some dedicated fees and divert them, we think unconstitutionally, into the operating budget. This is neither conservative nor prudent financially.

The governor concedes that he doesn’t like the cuts he’s already made in state spending, or raising the sales tax to cover the immediate crisis left by Jindal in January.

The main budget measure is House Bill 1. “We have an HB1 that I don’t think anyone is happy with,” Edwards said ironically.

But he’s also aware that Wall Street is downgrading the state’s credit rating because expenses exceed revenues, and Louisiana’s colleges are facing their 16th budget cut in a decade.

If lawmakers put aside politics and pass the key parts of Edwards’ package — maybe not all of it, but enough to patch the budget hole — it won’t be the end of debates at the State Capitol. A long-term tax reform plan is being worked out by a panel of experts set up by the Legislature.

And then, a punch line…

But we believe what business wants more than anything else is some level of predictability. Everyone who can operate a calculator knows that our taxes have to go up, because Jindal left the budget in a catastrophic situation. Services have been cut, often severely, in areas from mental health beds to college classrooms.

The Advocate’s parroting of the Democrats’ narrative that Jindal “destroyed” a Louisiana budget that was $16 billion before federal post-Katrina recovery dollars all but doubled it and must remain at those record levels without the federal dollars to sustain it was too much for Jindal’s former political guru Timmy Teepell to take, and he wrote a letter to the paper’s editors over the weekend…

Your editorial page’s repeated reference to former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s “presidential campaign-driven fiscal policies” in making your case for raising taxes is intellectually lazy. It is true that Jindal refused to raise taxes, and it is true that Jindal did, in fact, run for president.

However, your editorial board’s insistence that his dogged opposition to raising taxes was motivated by his campaign for president is completely wrong. This may come as a surprise to you, but there are many good people in this country, including Jindal, who believe in small-government conservatism because they believe it represents the best governing philosophy, not out of a nefarious ulterior motive.

If you want to discredit small-government conservatism and make your case for raising taxes, then make the intellectual policy case on why we should use the force of government to take more money from the pockets of some people and put it in the pockets of others. Avoiding that policy argument by making specious attacks on your opponent’s motives is a disservice to your readers and demonstrates a lack of ideological diversity and intellectual rigor within your editorial board unbecoming the state’s paper of record.

Anybody who wasn’t convinced that Louisiana’s two main newspapers were in the tank for the Left should have been disabused of that notion when they openly electioneered for Edwards in the governor’s race last fall, but since then we’ve heard nothing but dutiful fealty to his story that Jindal mismanaged the state’s budget and destroyed Louisiana’s public fisc, and massive tax increases are the only way to restore the state to good working order.

It might be time to rehabilitate Jindal to an extent, because whatever “crises” he inflicted were localized to Louisiana’s public sector and not to the state’s economy at large. Louisiana didn’t suffer wholesale job losses under his term, at least not until the price of oil collapsed last year, and Louisiana didn’t suffer a massive drop in economic competitiveness rankings either. Both are proceeding at an alarming pace in the first six months of Edwards’ governorship, and the current man in the Mansion seems not to care a whit.

That’s a true crisis. We’ll be interested to see whether the papers are as dutiful in reporting the coming exodus as they were in touting the policies that caused it. Then again, did Pravda and Izvestia report defections from the Soviet Union?

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Surprise, surprise (volume I).

Jeff Landry asked the Legislature for budgetary independence from Edwards and his Division of Administration. Why? Because he knew he’d be getting punished for taking an opposing role on matters legal and constitutional. Joining Texas in the lawsuit against the Obama administration’s tranny-in-the-bathroom mandate for public schools, for example.

And last week, we saw why. The current budget which came out of Edwards’ pet Senate cuts Landry’s budget by $13 million.

Edwards made it all but clear he was punishing Landry for following his own mandate from the Louisiana voters – more of whom voted for Landry than voted for Edwards – last week.

“I don’t blame him for wanting more autonomy, but I’m not going to give up the authority I have in order to increase his,” Edwards said of the budget fight, specifically. “Not when I’m the governor and the constitution makes me responsible for proposing budgets and keeping them in balance.”

Landry largely has avoided directly talking about whether there is a political battle brewing between the two or admitting that things are tense.

His spokeswoman, Ruth Wisher, said in an email to The Advocate that the attorney general had no comment to add about the relationship between the state’s chief executive and its top legal officer.

“The people elected their constitutional officers last November,” Wisher said in a statement. “They elected the attorney general to uphold their principles, the constitution, and the rule of law. To be clear, Article 4, Section 8 of the Louisiana Constitution declares the attorney general as chief legal officer of the state. Under our constitution, the person tasked with the authority to make decisions on the legal business of the state of Louisiana is the attorney general. His ultimate clients are the citizens, not the Governor’s Office.”

Edwards begs to differ.

“The way this works, the state is the client and he is the lawyer,” Edwards said. “The client makes the decisions about the scope of litigation, the purpose and whether a particular compromise should be accepted or not. The state is me. As the chief executive officer of the state of Louisiana, I decide what the policy for the state will be.”

There will certainly be an escalation of this fight, but Landry and his staff might need to bring portable generators to work and set up wi-fi from their mobile devices in order to carry it on. Because by the time the governor is through with them there might not be any funding to pay the electric bill at the AG’s office.

Wonder if the papers will report any of that when it happens.

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Kenny Havard is in trouble again, this time from the bicycle crowd who are angry that he helped to kill SB 171, a bill which would create the crime of “infliction of serious injury or death on a public road user.”

In other words, if you’re driving a car and you get in an accident with a guy on a bike and he gets hurt, you’re criminally liable. It’s not enough that you’re probably going to get sued; the bill would have made you out to be a murderer.

Havard had the right instincts on this bill, just like he had the right instincts on the stupid age requirement for strippers he found himself in such trouble for offering a poison pill amendment for. This time he had a little more fight in him, and was successful in helping to kill it.

Havard fought the bill on the House floor on grounds that he objects to exposing drivers in his East Feliciana Parish district, where bicyclists often ride recreationally, to increased civil and criminal penalties. His constituents shouldn’t have to worry about increased penalties against them if they hit bicyclists, Havard said in an interview, if the bicyclists were ignoring rules of the road.

“They are they there by the hundreds, riding bicycles in the street for fun, and they are riding them on very dangerous roads,” Havard, R-Jackson, said of the bicycle situation in his district. “If you go ride your bike in the street, you run the risk of something happening to you.”

Members of the Facebook Group Bike Law Louisiana took after Havard for his efforts to kill the bill, but unlike with the fight over the strippers this time he was ready. An email castigating him over his opposition to the bill and threatening not to visit his district in retaliation was met by some rather dripping sarcasm…

havard response to biker

 

And other group members took screenshots of a back-and-forth with Havard over the bill…

havard response to biker 2

 

Havard is correct, of course. There is no reason for a state law criminalizing road accidents with people on bicycles, even if the penalties are discretionary. Truly egregious driver conduct causing the death of a biker is vehicular manslaughter, and Louisiana has lots of local jurisdictions capable of settling on rules for how bike riders can be treated within their borders. Cluttering up state law with more and more potential criminal liability for average citizens who get in accidents simply chills freedom.

So again, we say thanks to Rep. Havard – and the 50 other House members who told Democrat Senator Gary Smith, whose family owns a motorcycle dealership (that was the one which made news after Katrina for getting the infamous $200 million FEMA trailer contract through contacts with Mary Landrieu), to go ride a bike on his stupid bill.

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How about a Today’s Last Thing? Given that we’re in the midst of a massive college baseball binge, we should have some college baseball for our Today’s Last Thing.

And you won’t have a more appropriate Today’s Last Thing item than an inside-the-park-grand-slam home run video, will you? From last night’s LSU victory over Rice, here was Greg Deichmann’s once-in-a-lifetime feat…

That was Deichmann’s ninth home run of the season, tying him with Jordan Romero for the team lead on an LSU club which doesn’t hit a lot of homers this year. It’s a good thing he got it; that hit represented all of the offense the Tigers could manage against a salty Rice pitching staff last night.

Rice and Southeastern Louisiana will have a rematch at 2 p.m. today, with the loser eliminated and the winner taking on the Tigers at 7 p.m. for the championship of the regional. If Rice or SLU wins tonight, there will be an all-the-marbles game tomorrow. LSU has only lost one of those in a regional once since the current format was instituted; that happened in 2014 when Houston pulled it off.

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