Every now and then over the course of an election cycle, there comes a day when a candidate can’t help thinking “if it’s going to be this bad all the time, I probably should just go fishing.”
Today was that kind of day for John Bel Edwards.
First, the Bureau of Economic Analysis put out a report on state-by-state GDP growth for the full year of 2018, and to put it kindly Louisiana didn’t fare all that well. According to the BEA, Louisiana grew by a paltry 1.1 percent for the year, and just 1.3 percent for the fourth quarter of 2018.
Compare that to the 3.2 percent figure Texas put up – 6.6 percent growth in the 4th quarter – and the 3.5 percent Florida grew by (just 2.0 percent in the fourth quarter), and Louisiana’s 1.1 percent is dangerously slow. Other Southern neighbors also beat the Bayou State – Tennessee grew at 3.0 percent in 2018, Georgia at 2.6 percent, Alabama at 2.0 percent. Louisiana did beat Mississippi (1.0 percent) and Arkansas (0.9), barely.
The national average was 2.9 percent. The national economy is growing at 2.9, and your economy is at 1.1. Not good. Louisiana was 41st in the country in economic growth last year.
Worse, there was this bit of information from page 2 of the report…
Mining increased 38.0 percent nationally and contributed to growth in 49 states. In addition to Texas, this industry was the leading contributor to the increase in real GDP in Wyoming, Oklahoma, Alaska, and New Mexico—the second through fifth fastest growing states.
Mining, as tabulated in BEA statistics, includes oil and gas.
Guess what that 50th state was where mining, including oil and gas, did not contribute to growth. Just guess.
The industries that saw the most growth in Louisiana in 2018 were wholesale trade, up 0.24%; real estate, up 0.23%; and professional, scientific and technical services, up 0.21%. Mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction fell 0.10% last year in Louisiana, while agriculture dropped 0.02%.
And this on a day where Edwards was scheduled to speak at a forum put on by the oil and gas industry on the state capitol grounds.
The governor attempted to spin the terrible GDP numbers, and did a pretty suspect job of it…
“This latest news marks nine consecutive quarters of GDP growth in Louisiana including increases across many different business sectors and is indicative of the strength of our people and our economy,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards in a statement. “Businesses are opening and expanding and our workforce is developing and improving each day. We know there is still more work to do but as evidenced by this report, we are on track and headed in the right direction.”
On Twitter it was even weirder…
Great news! Louisiana’s latest GDP growth outpaces the nation and is at a record high of $255.5 billion. Our economy grew annually at 5.1% between 2016 and 2018, outpacing the U.S. of 4.7% rate. #lagov #lalege
— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) May 1, 2019
Where Edwards got his numbers is a complete mystery, as Louisiana’s economy actually shrank in 2015 and 2016, grew by 0.1 percent in 2017 and by 1.1 percent in 2018. How that amounts to a 5.1 percent annual growth on this planet and not the one in Edwards’ head probably deserves some explanation.
And then Edwards’ fight against Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry over Landry’s Obamacare lawsuit was front and center this morning at the Louisiana legislature – where a bill Landry and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon are pushing that would provide a state remedy for the treatment of insurance customers with pre-existing conditions in the event Obamacare is found unconstitutional was heard in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. That bill, SB 173 by Health and Welfare chairman Fred Mills, passed unanimously despite Edwards having griped about it when Landry introduced it. Even the three Democrats in the committee room voted yes on the bill.
Another bill on the subject, HB 237 by Democrat Rep.Chad Brown, was Edwards’ pre-existing conditions bill. That one was a far more punitive approach to forcing insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and it met with a bloody end in the House Insurance Committee on a party-line 8-6 vote after committee vice chairman Alan Seabaugh moved to involuntarily defer it.
Edwards didn’t like that much…
— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) May 1, 2019
But those setbacks were nothing compared to what happened when the Grow Louisiana Coalition’s Oil and Gas Industry Day got started. Edwards was the first of the three gubernatorial candidates slated to speak, but before he got his chance at the microphone Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove took to the podium to deliver a spirited diatribe about how crucial oil and gas is to the economy of his parish and how opposed he is to the coastal lawsuits Edwards has been ginning up against the oil and gas industry. It was a fairly direct affront to the governor, who was sitting five feet away.
Then Edwards took to the mic and proceeded to ignore the coastal lawsuit issue completely, instead lecturing the crowd about how well oil and gas is doing at the moment. It was a bit of a surreal experience, and some of the looks Edwards got from the attendees were priceless.
But not as priceless as the one on Edwards’ face after what happened next. Which, as you can see on the video, was this…
Abraham’s stunt brought the house down, and Edwards’ communications director Richard Carbo went ballistic behind the scenes – approaching event organizer Marc Ehrhardt and demanding that Edwards be allowed to speak last to rebut Abraham. That demand fell on deaf ears.
And it didn’t get better from there. Next up was Andree Begneaud, owner of Begneaud Manufacturing, Inc. in the Lafayette area, who introduced Eddie Rispone. And Begneaud took her opportunity to lament the loss of jobs in the oil patch over the past few years and voice a demand for something to be done about it. Then came Rispone, who gave his usual stump speech about being an outsider, a conservative and a businessman who can do for the state’s economy what a professional politician like John Bel Edwards couldn’t.
And then Rispone’s money quote: “We’re not going to let the plaintiff attorneys kill oil and gas in the state. It’s too important.”
And throughout all of this Edwards sat there with an embarrassed scowl on his face – the ultimate in bad optics and poor planning. It was as if he expected to be allowed to rebut all of the speakers at the end of the event and was disappointed.
What you would have expected was that Edwards would have spoken, and then made his excuses that he needed to go back to work at the Capitol so that he wouldn’t have to endure getting trashed by every other speaker on the dais. He didn’t, and so several hundred people saw Abraham and Rispone dress him down to his face. Nobody at that event still thinks Edwards is unbeatable or that he has more gravitas than his Republican challengers.
It was that kind of day for the governor. Too many more of them and he can start counting the days until he’s relieved of duty by the voters of this state.