Scenes From A Texodus

In case you missed Houma Courier editor Keith Magill’s editorial from this weekend entitled “Where Is Everybody Going?” we’re excerpting a good bit of it here. But you really should read the whole thing, because it’s quite a good chronicle of Louisiana’s mass outmigration – we’re calling it a Texodus, since so many of the departed are heading across the Sabine – which is in full flight under John Bel Edwards.

Here’s a chunk of Magill’s opus…

Most of the noise Americans have heard about the 2020 U.S. Census has dealt with the partisan debate over whether it should include a question about respondents’ citizenship status.

The bickering is ubiquitous, so I’m not going there.

Instead, let’s consider one of the most important trends the census will reveal about Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

Comparing the latest headcount to the last one 10 years earlier will offer the best figures available showing whether the area’s population has grown or declined.

For the past few years, census estimates have challenged conventional wisdom that the local population has grown significantly. Advocates of this theory sometimes pointing to heavy traffic or new home construction as anecdotal evidence.

Both parishes did grow between 2010 and 2017, but just barely, census estimates show. The main reason was births outnumbered deaths, which the Census Bureau labels the “natural” population increase. And that increase was enough to offset the number of people who left the two parishes, a trend that has accelerated since a Gulf of Mexico oil bust began in 2014.

But the latest census estimates, through July 2018, show something different. Since 2010, Terrebonne’s overall population, now estimated at 111,021, has declined by 501 people, or 0.4 percent.

Over the same eight years, Lafourche’s population grew by 1,453 people, or 1.5 percent. But the total, 98,115, dropped by 311 over the year ending July 1, 2018.

In Terrebonne, the number of people who have left the parish has exceeded natural population growth over the past eight years combined as well as over the latest year on record. Specifically, a net 5,473 people left over those eight years, while births outnumbered deaths by 4,986. Between 2017 and 2018, the net number of people who left the parish, just over 1,000, outnumbered the natural population increase by almost 700 people.

Lafourche has shown growth over the eight years, but the number of people who left outnumbered natural population increase by 87 people between 2017 and 2018.

Magill offers some theories for why Terrebonne and Lafourche are draining population, the first one being the downturn in the state’s oil and gas industry. That’s a fairly obvious call, and it’s attributable in large measure to the current governor’s policies. Bel Edwards, after all, demanded that Terrebonne Parish sue its top private sector employers and set off a massive intragovernmental fight in Terrebonne in the bargain which will likely be litigated this fall in a contentious election for Parish President. And between tax and regulatory policy, even if Bel Edwards wasn’t orchestrating those coastal lawsuits Louisiana would still be decidedly unfriendly to the state’s historically most lucrative private sector industry.

Flooding is another issue Magill thinks is driving the loss of population in the Houma-Thibodaux area, and the loss of coastline in that part of the state does lend a bit of uncertainty to local opinions on how safe it is to live there. Thankfully there are examples indicating coastal restoration projects can mitigate if not reverse that loss when they’re engaged, so some of the flooding issues in Lafourche and Terrebonne can at least be addressed for future population retention, if not growth.

But the economics are the main drivers, and the economics of Bel Edwards’ term in office in Louisiana simply do not work. Over three years Louisiana has lost a net of 68,000 people through outmigration, and that’s a figure which appears to be accelerating – meaning that over the course of Bel Edwards’ first term you’re looking at potentially 100,000 more people leaving the state than moving in. That’s what happens when your state’s economy shrinks two years out of three (in the year it grew it grew by only 1.1 percent), when you have the highest unemployment rate in the South and when your business tax climate drops down to 44th in the country as a result of massive tax increases.

And columns by local newspaper editors decrying the loss of population in their readership area is what happens as a result.

It’s fixable, which is the good news. Changing this ugly reality starts by getting rid of Bel Edwards.

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