Media editorial writers have been out in full throat this week in response to the revelation that somehow after two years of preaching doom and gloom the governor now is doing a masterful job at managing the state of Louisiana’s budget. Let me explain why this is a suspect concept.
Using questionable fear tactics he prodded the legislature into giving him an increase in state taxes of about one billion dollars. This increase has allowed him to increase spending by about five billion dollars and growing. Suddenly we now have a surplus of $300 to $400 million, so is there any wonder that conservatives are skeptical about his management of the state’s fisc, or of his intentions to control taxes, or of where he thinks we are heading?
The media is missing the fundamental reasons conservative members of the legislature are afraid of what the future as defined by the governor’s policies holds. Granting them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it is a fascination with controversy alone that precludes the opinion writers from even inquiring into the conservative mindset. So for their edification I will try to define our fundamental differences with the current Administration.
First, we conservatives do not inherently dislike the governor. He is a nice guy, a clever politician. What we don’t like is his persistent drive to double down on the philosophy that has kept Louisiana in last place in every measure of success. To us it is very simple – if we keep doing the same things over and over, but just fund them at ever higher amounts, NOTHING will change.
Another issue we have with the governor is his seeming total lack of vision. All our people, but especially we in the legislature, want to be led. But we all want to be led to a place that we can see is obviously better than the one which we are in. The key is the phrase “that we can see.” After three years no one has any idea of how the governor thinks we can get out of that last place in all those public policy metric rankings that we have been mired in. Not once have we heard how he would suggest that we attack the cycle of poverty that has its insidious fangs in our throat. If he has a suggestion, we conservatives would love to hear it and we would probably love to follow him. We don’t dislike the governor; we dislike operating without a vision or a plan and we dislike policies that guarantee only continued future failure.
In another vein we conservatives are not all about “no taxes.” What we are about is that government tax as little as possible to meet the demands of a clearly-defined and universally-accepted strategy to improve the state. We believe that responsible use of taxpayer money is inherent to good government. Wasting money on just loading up funding for a status quo government does not sit well with us.
How would we like to see this state operate? Well, simply, we want to hear a plan that sets goals built upon effective and efficient priorities. The governor actually tried this once when, without any input from conservative legislators (actually from any legislators), he accepted President Obama’s Medicaid expansion. Certainly healthcare is a valued priority but the governor’s unilateral action dramatically failed on two counts. As noted he accepted carte blanche just what the President offered. He made no effort, as had been done in many states, to negotiate a better deal for Louisiana. He made no effort to insist upon any fiscal restraint or a safety net should Congress withdraw funding. The result is an exploding program of socialized medicine that created a substantial and open-ended ever-growing cost. Keep in mind that this growing cost will continue to eat up state revenue for as far as anyone can see, thus crowding out other important state functions.
The other great failure of the governor’s Medicaid decision is that he had no input whatsoever from any legislators. By cramming the program down he missed the opportunity to gather ideas and input. Worse, he has basically burned a bridge to any conservative support for his actions. Would conservatives have gone along? Simply because he accepted the President’s package with no protections for Louisiana most probably would not have. But had he engaged the legislature and at least tried to negotiate a better deal for our state he probably could have won over a number of legislators. Unfortunately he chose not to and in doing so created a deep valley of distrust. We legislators don’t like, but clearly understand, losing a vote in the legislature. What we really don’t like is any governor making unilateral decisions that have incalculable impact upon our people!
As has been reported so many times Louisiana resides in last place in the US for economic growth potential through business attraction/growth. It is interesting to note that almost all of our currently active economic projects were actually developed under the Jindal Administration. With the exception of the potential of one high tech project in NOLA that may grow into something and the potential that the Avondale site project may also grow into something this administration has nothing to brag about. So this governor’s track record in creating a growth economy is abysmal even though a favorite talking point is “we need opportunity for all.” Ironically it is only through business attraction/growth that we can EVER expect to create true opportunity for all. The rest is just phony rhetoric.
Conservative philosophy is very clear on this point. The myriad of social ills that derive from poverty will never be solved by government largesse; in effect these expensive government programs act only as a bandage over a festering sore of economic malaise. Government cannot create prosperity – only business and jobs can. And business will not come or grow here as long as we have leadership and policies that are contrary to business’ best interests. We conservatives believe that only through economic growth do the people have any chance to break the cycle of poverty and to truly prosper.
Further, we can clearly see that the administration’s failure to grow the economy is fundamentally a function of its adherence to the populist practices that were handed down by Huey Long; practices that are, in the 21st century, an anathema to business growth. In other words anything other than a clear acceptance of basic 21st century economic principles and a vision of how to align our policies with those principles is pure folly. Sadly our state’s philosophy is the exact opposite of what is desperately needed to bring prosperity to Louisiana. We don’t dislike the governor; we just dislike his inability to grasp that to positively change Louisiana he must break the mold of the “Louisiana Way” that has held us back.
The final difference that we have with the governor is his clear allegiance to heavy campaign donors. He is not alone in this as Governor Jindal and many in the legislature have sold the people out just as well. But nevertheless there is nothing as harmful to the future of our people as a governor and legislators acting not in the best interest of the people, but at the behest of financial supporters. We don’t dislike the governor; we dislike special interests to which he and others kowtow.
So there it is. Unlike the Democrats in Washington we Louisiana conservatives are not the “resistance;” we fundamentally don’t dislike the governor and we don’t fight everything he does just because of who he is. But we do have our own beliefs and concepts and it is no wonder that we are not at all enthralled with the direction that this state is headed in. We conservatives represent the majority of voters in this state and we should not, will not support proposals that we are convinced are not in the best interest of the people.
This is a conservative state yet we cannot say that we have ever adhered to conservative principles. To borrow a line, we must become a very “progressive” state but one based upon conservative principles if we ever are to find our place in the sun. It is not the socialist “progressive” that is currently in vogue with Democrats that I am referring to. It is the original, dictionary definition that I refer to – “happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.”
We must become a people who want a better life and are willing to proceed in accordance with a step by step plan to achieve it. We must be willing to pay taxes to drive such a plan but not to support the wasteful status quo. That is the “progressive” that I cite; doing the same things over and over at a higher cost will bring only prolonged misery.