Did Joseph Goebbels Write The Advocate’s Editorial On Taxes And Surpluses Today?

If the long-dead Nazi propaganda expert didn’t leave some material behind for the Advocate editorial staff to cobble together the utter hogwash that paper published this morning, then that’s our mistake.

But it’s a reasonable one to make, because what appeared at Louisiana’s leading minor newspaper (the state no longer has any major ones) this morning reads like something from Goebbels’ greatest hits.

Titled “Better a small surplus than a big deficit,” it’s a fact-free paean to high taxes and budgetary incontinence meant as a response to Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder’s reaction to news last week that Louisiana will be running a $300 million budget surplus for the second straight year.

We opined that two years of a $300 million surplus while the state’s economic performance brings up the national rear is not evidence of strong fiscal management, it’s rapacious and destructive government. Taxes should have been cut after the first year of surpluses, and John Bel Edwards’ opposition to bills purporting to do that, most notably Rep. Lance Harris’ bill to phase out the state sales tax increase over a period of years in this year’s legislative session, is a good indication that he thinks your money actually belongs to the government. There’s a word for that attitude, and the word is tyrannical.

Schroder was a bit more polite. He simply asked the question: “are the hardworking people of Louisiana paying too much in taxes?”

For his trouble he was slapped down by the unnamed Advocate editors, who accused the Treasurer of having a “problem of mathematics comprehension.” And then the Advocate proceeded to drop this bomb…

The experts on this subject are not those allied with Gov. John Bel Edwards or his administration. Rather, the nonpartisan and generally conservative Tax Foundation has consistently found that Louisiana’s state and local tax burden is one of the lowest in the country, akin to that of bigger states like Texas and Florida, although collected in different ways.

WRONG.

This contention used to be correct. At one time Louisiana ranked as a low-tax jurisdiction – that was when Bobby Jindal was governor. But not any more. The Tax Foundation put out their 2019 State Business Tax Climate Index a little less than a year ago. Here’s the bottom 10 states on the list, meaning the worst abusers of tax policy where businesses are concerned…

  1. Vermont
  2. Ohio
  3. Minnesota
  4. Louisiana
  5. Iowa
  6. Arkansas
  7. Connecticut
  8. New York
  9. California
  10. New Jersey

Now – in 2012, the last time the Tax Foundation put out a state and local tax burden index, Louisiana was 45th in tax burden – making the state the sixth-lowest in the country.

That’s a good number. It’s also not a number Bel Edwards can take credit for. Jindal was governor in 2012. Taxes have gone up significantly since then, so much so that in April WalletHub did a similar study and Louisiana is no longer sixth-lowest but 22nd now. That’s a fairly precipitous change in seven years.

The Advocate’s editors aren’t so stupid they don’t know this. They know it. They’re just flat-out lying about it.

Then there’s this…

For critics of surpluses, including many like Schroder who backed the disastrous budget policies of then-Gov. Bobby Jindal over eight years, any surplus would be too high. In fact, almost any tax level would be too much. That’s political rhetoric of a profoundly simplistic level.

But in the real world, the notion that Louisiana’s taxpayers are overburdened would be laughed out of court because of statistical reality.

First of all, Schroder was a member of the “fiscal hawks,” the group of House conservatives who served as a colossal thorn in Jindal’s side where it came to using one-time money and budget sweeps to paper over deficits. This went on for nearly Jindal’s entire term and The Advocate covered it extensively. To turn around now and accuse Schroder of supporting Jindal’s fiscal policies is an act of journalistic fraud. It is an outright, indefensible lie.

But if you’re going to insist that because Schroder may have given in and voted one or twice for a final budget during Jindal’s time in office, then you have to account for the fact somebody else who was in the legislature during that time also “backed the disastrous budget policies of then-Gov. Bobby Jindal over eight years.” That would be Bel Edwards, who voted for at least six and maybe even seven of Jindal’s budgets.

Which is a fact that never makes it into this editorial.

We aren’t the only ones who saw this and found it noxious in its dishonesty. Former state representative Tony Ligi was also quite perplexed

The Advocate Editorial Board showed its ignorance this morning in stating that State Treasurer John Schroder “backed the disastrous budget policies of then Gov. Bobby Jindal over 8 years”. I can tell you first hand, having been involved in many meetings concerning those budgets in my 5 years in the legislature that then Rep. Schroder was one of, if not the fiercest opponent of those policies. I believe that anyone in the legislature on both sides of the aisle would agree with that. If you are going to render opinions, please don’t misrepresent facts upon which you base them. And don’t ignore the fact that approximately $84 M was lost in Medicaid fraud in one year. The failure of our state, year after year after year, to set present day priorities and to keep funding sacred cows, is the budget charade that this Advocate opinion encourages.

There’s more to the editorial, which is mostly a raft of insults thrown at people who don’t believe our money should be poured into the maw of a wasteful and ineffective state government. The Advocate actually quotes the old Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in saying taxes are the price we pay for civilization, which is offensive in its obtuseness – the issue isn’t that we pay taxes at all, it’s that we’re asked to pay more for the same crappy governmental product we were getting at a lower tax rate with zero increase in ROI. Nothing else in the piece is worthy of comment.

If this is the kind of analysis Louisiana’s leading minor newspaper is going to produce on a day-to-day basis, it won’t be long before a new leading minor newspaper will emerge. Newspapers simply cannot survive without credibility, and The Advocate’s editorial staff simply cannot claim that anymore.

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