At the Christmas holiday’s end, droning on somewhere over east Texas he thinks of his family. As sleep slowly releases him from the sadness that always comes from being ripped from them, he knows his leaving is torture for his mom. She doesn’t understand what happened to her life, her children. But reality dictates his life and there is no option. Sleep, sleep, he must find refuge in sleep. In a short time he will be back in Austin and he must escape from the gloom of leaving all that he has known as he must once again fly from his loved ones.
Before long he is back to reality. A booming city, full of opportunity for young people such as him; a place where, unlike the home that he loves so much, he knows he can start a family and build a future. Christmas happiness is banished for another year but there is always Facetime, after all he can talk to his mom as often as she wants to. But a faintly glowing image on an iPhone screen is to her no substitute for his touch and his reality.
So many Louisiana families suffer the emotionally draining reality of bidding farewell to children as they have no option but to leave to seek a future that is not available at home. It has been said that the city with the largest LSU Alumni Association isn’t in Louisiana, it is Houston. There is an underlying reason for that dismal statistic; so many cities and states offer a booming economy that has eluded our state forever. Our best and brightest have decided to vote with their feet and leave for that promise. Can one blame them?
Let’s play a mind experiment. Let’s imagine that for the next eight years we had a leader that wasn’t focused on his or her prospects, one who has a vision of what a booming future would look like. Well, maybe I am dreaming – but this is after all a mind experiment!
So now we have a leader who gets it, a leader with a vision and the courage to achieve it. What would that vision look like? First, it would be structured in time; five years, ten years, twenty years. Then very specific goals would be established to fit time linked benchmarks. That all sounds like common sense, but we must realize that Louisiana has never had any leader that governed this way. Instead of defining and executing a strategy for the betterment of the people, we have been cursed with leaders who only plan a future for themselves; be it running for national office or, in the extant case, just being re-elected governor.
Note that this vision would be based upon the collective success of our citizens, not the governor’s success in whatever goals he sets for himself. Using fear and jealousy to grow government dependency has always been the method that all governors have used to create a reason why the people should keep them in office. But that approach is, as we know through our history, fatally flawed and therefore cannot be included in our mind experiment. So our imaginary leader’s vision must be based upon a system of government that creates opportunity and prepares its citizens to take advantage of those opportunities.
The metrics in this vision would be compartmentalized into specific goals. In five years our poverty level, our education outcomes, our GDP, and so on would be on par with the southern average; in ten years they would be equal or exceed the national average; in twenty years we would attain a net in migration of at least 5% and our poverty rate would be cut in half.
You have never heard anything like this? Of course you haven’t, politicians are risk-averse, being conceived with an inborn fear to take risks. It is safe to make the people believe that as a state we are doing the best that can be done; it is politically dangerous to explain to the people that we can’t solve problems until we acknowledge them and then undertake a dedicated effort to solve them. To a politician acknowledging problems is akin to admitting that they have failed, perhaps the biggest risk of all.
As we look forward to a new year which will bring the choice between recycled leadership and perhaps a fresh start, let’s conclude our mind experiment with a goal that will make all Louisianans happy. Let’s resolve to end the Texodus out-migration of our young people by creating a state of opportunity. Let’s do that in five years and let’s make Louisiana the envy of the whole country in ten years. Perhaps we can’t hold this generation but certainly we can retain the next generation.
Such a new Louisiana will make Southwest Airlines change its program of flights from one of strong holiday demand to one of strong year round corporate demand. Instead of all those tears at the airport as our young citizens fly off to jobs elsewhere, business people will flock into Louisiana to meet with our people in our home state.
Now that would be something to make every mom happy.