The governor of Louisiana says we are the right track. But do facts back that up?
Perhaps the best determinant of the validly of his talking point is the mobility of our population. Why would you ask if that is so? The answer is simple, in a free country whose economy is based upon free market principles people follow their dreams to places where they believe their own strengths stand the best chance to assure success. In other words, the best, brightest, and most entrepreneurial among us will vote with their feet and move to where they believe that they can prosper.
In most circumstances this practice drives domestic migration from places of low economic opportunity to places of high economic opportunity. But what does this have to do with the veracity of our governor’s claim?
The inconvenient truth that the governor will do his best to cover up is that we are suffering a large out-migration of Louisiana citizens during a time of strong national prosperity.
According to US Census estimates, during the final six years of Governor Jindal’s terms a total of 7,248 people migrated from Louisiana to other states. I use six years because the Census data only covers the years 2010 to 2018. Now we must remember that these years corresponded to the Great Recession and the anemic Obama recovery during which national GDP barely grew.
During the three years of Governor Edwards’ term Louisiana citizens totaling 68,478 departed for other states. Yes, that right, nearly 10 times more people left Louisiana in the first three years of the Edwards’ administration than left in six years of the Jindal administration.
Those are shocking numbers but even worse is that the Edwards’ out-migration of our sons and daughters occurred during three years of the great American economic boom that started when President Trump cut taxes and regulations on a national level. The lowest national unemployment in history, the highest employment of minorities and women, strong GDP growth – yet 68,748 Louisianans couldn’t see a positive future for themselves in our own state and pulled up stakes to seek their opportunities elsewhere.
By comparison, during those three Edwards’ years in which we suffered large out-migration many southern states benefited from positive domestic in-migration: Texas – 288,329; Tennessee – 113,721; Georgia – 120,281; Florida – 512,419; North Carolina – 205,571.
A few other southern states have suffered net out-migration but none as large as ours. However, unlike our state, these population-losing states are poor in assets and natural resources and, unlike our asset-rich state, have never had good prospects for growth.
So, is the governor right? Are we on the right track?
Economic and demographic trends should not be analyzed in short periods. However, with outside economic drivers at all-time highs the governor’s three years is more than adequate to define this out-migration as a trend. And that trend is devastating. Those 68,478 Louisianans are calling into question the governor’s talking point by their quiet reaction.
They just left. How many more will follow is the question.
Let’s take a different approach to the governor’s re-election rhetoric. What does the “right track” mean anyway? To a political leader it means “trust me, I know what I am doing.” To you and me it should mean that politician’s priorities and policies offer us a better chance at prosperity.
So here is my summary: Our best and brightest are leaving in large numbers because they believe that they have a far better chance to prosper somewhere else than in a state that is being led down John Bel Edwards’ “right track.” Sadly, perhaps the only hope that we can arrest this out-migration is for the entire nation to enter a period of economic recession. The governor’s policies offer continuing erosion of our state’s economic prospects and so only if opportunities diminish in other states will our own people not feel the pull to move away for a better life.
To Governor Edwards we are on the “right track” to maintain himself in office, a strategy that keeps our people trapped in policies long ago abandoned by prospering states. To 68,478 Louisianans and countless more to come, his “right track” is the wrong track.