If you want to know what’s wrong with Democrats, nationally and through a Louisiana lens, look no further than debate over the state’s fiscal year 2020 budget.
As the failure of liberalism’s economic bromides of divide, take, and redistribute became increasingly clear through their application under Democrat Pres. Barack Obama (and, except for wild deficit spending throughout, most of foundational damage happened in just his first two years when Democrats controlled Congress), the far left that has captured the national party simply refuses delivery of these facts. Instead of discarding their discredited theories, they wish to double down on them, such as through infatuation with the “Green New Deal” with its ruinous costs that would do next to nothing to (theoretically) reduce alleged catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.
Simultaneously, those elites have embraced identity politics with a vengeance, believing that creating a myth of oppression against numerous groups – principally women, racial minorities, those who act differently than their physical sex suggests, and non-Christians – with coercive policies supposedly to remand would construct a majority electoral coalition. The 2016 election results showed the jury out on that strategy, but they responded to that in the same fashion as they did on the economy by engaging in escalating shrillness.
With a population slowly turning against the state’s economic populism of the past but definitely conservative on social issues, liberal discourse in Louisiana occurs less frequently. Yet even diluted it comes through, as with the rhetoric surrounding the budget.
Due to renewing last year a good portion of a 2016 sales tax hike (on top of retracting sales and income tax exceptions the previous year, both of which have helped make the state’s economy almost the worst in the country), the FY 2020 edition featured little in the way of restricting programmatic growth and made forays into new commitments. But that didn’t stop a couple of Senate Democrats from echoing the party line in budget floor discussions.
From the category of minutiae, perhaps the most extreme leftist in the Legislature – and not coincidentally the state party leader – Democrat state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson spoiled the self-congratulation over spending more by saying not enough seemed set aside for “involuntary births.” Further interrogatory activity revealed she referred to a recently-enacted law that would, pending U.S. Supreme Court action, prohibit abortion in cases where a fetal heartbeat could be detected except if grave threat existed to a woman’s physical health.
She elaborated, shouting that “[i]f you’re going to force a 12-year-old child who has been raped to have a child, raise it for her,” and if the state would “control the uterus of a woman,” it should support the children born because of that decision. She offered amendments totaling $17 million to address supporting humans born of women who presumably didn’t want to let them live, all of which met with defeat.
The great stupidity of her remarks came from focusing on the very rare instances of abortion because of rape or incest. While the state does not track reasonings, it does give a raw number of abortions performed annually, 8,706 in 2017. National data (collected from a sample of several states including Louisiana) show that 0.13 percent of abortions occur for the reason of killing the preborn because it was conceived from rape or incest.
Translated to Louisiana, that would mean fewer than one instance a month. Setting aside the moral case that invalidates cost concerns for allowing the preborn in these instances a chance at birth – why should an unborn human have its life taken just because of a crime the mistaken solution to which would add another wrong in a futile effort to make something right – isn’t $17 million a year excessive to take care of 11 infants?
Then, in summarizing the budget in a more global sense, Democrat state Sen. Eric LaFleur cautioned against restrained spending, in the context of the Louisiana’s eroding economy during the governorship of Democrat John Bel Edwards and other indicators showing the state’s poor quality of life: “We will always be on the bottom of the list if we don’t choose to fund those types of programs that will interrupt that cycle and change things. It’s going to require more than what we’re doing today.”
Which only demonstrates that the term-limited LaFleur, who used to lead his party in the state House of Representatives, has learned nothing in his two decades in the Legislature. The notion of spending large amounts on government programs to reduce poverty has been discredited by 55 years of experience with the War on Poverty, approaching $20 trillion worth, with hardly any positive changes in poverty (keeping in mind that “poverty” in America means living large in most of the world.)
That’s because transferring more wealth to individuals creates disincentives for them to use their own resources to contribute to society through work, saving, and investing. Just a couple of Louisiana examples illustrate: in other states that have ended relaxed requirements for food stamps for able bodied adults without dependents – which Edwards won’t do – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program rolls have fallen precipitously while former recipients have seen increases in household earnings; and Edwards’ decision to expand Medicaid allowed an estimated 165,000 current enrollees to drop coverage paid for privately in favor of state taxpayers picking up the tab at the tune of over $46 million annually starting next year.
Government can’t spend its way out of poverty. Rather, it has to create programs that encourage self-sufficiency, a philosophy which has run against the grain of Louisiana politics for nearly a century. State Democrats steadfastly reject the truth of the matter and continue to pander for votes by promising to give stuff away.
Louisiana’s lousy economic and quality-of-life indicators show that attitude must change. As their remarks during budget consideration demonstrates, Democrats aren’t ready to do that.