The mid-terms are over, the gubernatorial race has begun in earnest. Social media is replete with Gov. John Bel Edwards and his minions taking credit for all sorts of great accomplishments some real, some imagined. The main theme that is emerging from all this chatter is “are you better off today than you were three years ago.”
How ironic! A liberal Democrat governor generating the theme of his re-election by absconding the theme of the greatest of all conservative icons, President Ronald Reagan. A president whose conservative fiscal policies resulted in one of the greatest economic expansions and personal wealth creations in the history of our country. Ironic, because the Governor’s policies are the absolute opposite of President Reagan’s.
So what is “better off” anyway? I suppose that definition is in the eye of the beholder. To President Reagan better off was clearly deeply rooted in personal and economic freedom. His belief was that when the American people were empowered by reducing Federal intrusion into their lives they would flower. He believed that when the American economy was unleashed by reducing strangling taxes and government regulation then prosperity would surely follow.
And we all know what happened. Our nation responded to his philosophy and we all benefited from a powerful and long lasting economic expansion. In fact we became so economically strong that he had the ability to force an end to the enslavement of Europe by the Soviet Union. Reagan’s beliefs from back then are being once more sustained as we see in two short years the explosion of economic prosperity that has been unleashed by the implementation of the same philosophy by our now President Trump.
This same Trump economy is dragging John Bel Edwards’ Louisiana along. We are seeing GDP growth, not because we are such an economic powerhouse, but mainly because the products the we extract, manufacture, or transport are in such high demand in other states and countries. Despite the claims of our current governor, the growth of Louisiana’s GDP is not because of what he has done, it is because much of our GDP is linked to the growth of national GDP. In effect we have industries that produce a type of goods and we extract our natural resources both of which are in high demand due to national GDP growth; but our industries – as in the petrochemical sector, mineral extraction and our ports, rather than finished goods of which we produce few – employ relatively few workers as compared to the manufacturing elsewhere that utilizes these goods and products.
The proof is found in the rest of Louisiana’s economic numbers, statistics that the governor’s pals are glossing over. We are one of the worst-performing states as measured by employment. Our largest region, New Orleans, has literally the highest unemployment in the nation among large metropolitan areas and the state as a whole has lost jobs for the last two years.
Now if one measures “better off” in terms of the growth of government and the growth of government support then I suppose that definition applies. Since the Medicaid expansion of 2016, we now have nearly 1/3 of our people enrolled in Medicaid. That means that 1/3 of our people have an income barely above the Federal Poverty Level. Let me make this clear, this is not a measure that anyone should be proud of. The statistic that we should be striving for is how many people have grown more prosperous and do not qualify for Medicaid. But the governor wants us to accept that permanently extending government support is a good measure. Government support is a good practice as long as for working or work capable citizens it is viewed as a short term social safety net. But in Governor Edwards’ Louisiana economic opportunity is not a high priority, so to him poverty and Medicaid is a way of life.
Are we a state that is better off in the last three years? Yes, if growing government services instead of reducing high poverty is the goal. Yes, if higher taxes to support those government services is the goal. No, if better education, better civil justice, better infrastructure, and better job opportunities is the goal. No, if having a leadership vision of prosperity is the goal.
Clearly the definition of “better off” will be the battle line drawn in the upcoming election cycle. Gov. Edwards will do his best to obscure what President Reagan would have considered better off. He will do his best to convince voters that the big government, high tax philosophy of the Democrat Presidents who proceed and followed President Reagan will somehow make life easier for Louisiana’s people.
The outcome of President Reagan’s America is history. We all know that in following his ideas America and the whole world became a better place. Co-opting President Reagan’s campaign slogan is not the same as adopting his beneficial policies. If our people buy the argument that we are better off after three years of the Governor’s leadership, even in the face of statistics that totally undermine that argument, we are assured that they will suffer ever more of the same high poverty, low opportunity Louisiana that we have had.