I often criticize the media for its unbridled support of liberal policies and our governor, but this Sunday Mark Ballard’s editorial in the Advocate was a brilliant examination of the modern history of failure to take advantage of opportunity that is Louisiana. Mr. Ballard’s editorial lays open the raw truth about our state and its failure of leadership, leadership at all levels though leadership that by default lays at the feet of governors.
Fundamentally Ballard’s beliefs appear to align with those that I have expressed for a very long time; Louisiana is not a poor state, Louisiana is a state rich in assets and resources, just full of poor people. And with our incredible natural resources and manmade assets why are we so besieged by poverty, social ills, and lack of opportunity?
Ballard traces our really bad outcomes that follow a history of leadership satisfied with wasting untold riches on keeping themselves ingratiated to voters. In other states, not favored with such wealth, their leaders recognized that only way that they could satisfy the people was through good economic and social policy. In Louisiana leaders could just spend their way to keeping people happy and keeping themselves in power.
Perhaps the most damning observation that Ballard makes are his comparisons to Texas and North Carolina. Texas, like Louisiana, has uncountable wealth but Texas recognized the value of a booming business sector and focused their wealth and policies on creating an economic environment that helped them become a business powerhouse. That decision has made Texas the state to be compared to, even as Louisiana is the state to be avoided.
Ballard cites North Carolina for a different reason. North Carolina was a poor agrarian state, but years ago they sought the one vision that could create opportunity and prosperity for their people. That vision was knowledge. They built the famous Research Triangle by pouring their scarce wealth and committed leadership efforts into education. They linked their major institutions into a knowledge powerhouse that today attracts major corporations and all the prosperity creating jobs that flow from them.
Meanwhile back in Louisiana we are hearing re-election rhetoric telling us that certain politicians are committed to helping families. Promises that are code words for we will just keep doing those same things that we have always done. As alluded to in the Ballard editorial the difference is that since petrodollars have dried up, those failed glittering promises can only be funded by taxing more and more. And as we know increasing taxes on businesses and people without a corresponding vision for a path to a better future is counter-productive to creating real opportunities for prosperity for Louisianans.
As we move into this election cycle remember Mr. Ballard’s words. His words offer incredible insight into our own record of failure to capitalize on our innate assets, assets that still remain available to us. They offer hope that if we only learn from the prologue that has been our history, we too can become a prosperous and successful state.
In a sense we have three people competing for our support. They all have different perspectives, ranging from Einstein’s definition of insanity (doing the same things over and over and expecting different outcomes) to a vision of taking advantage of our resources to lead us to emulate Texas and North Carolina.
Only Louisiana voters can make the choice for their and their children’s future. Despite slick promotion efforts to obscure the truth the choices are clear. And Mr. Ballard has set out the inevitable results of allowing the same old leadership practices guide our fate.