What would Louisiana look like in 2023 if John Bel Edwards were somehow to be re-elected as governor?
To answer that question, we must look at two characteristics swirling around this election. First, we must look at what Edwards has done in his political life before and after being governor. Today’s Edwards is, just as was the first Governor Edwards, not unlike so many of the Democrats on the national stage. They promise everything to everyone. Free healthcare, free college, free…free…free!
Like that first Governor Edwards, the crook that held our state back for decades, today’s Edwards is an old school Democrat populist. He knows how to promise, and he will deliver to win votes no matter the long-term impact on the state. Where his vote winning pyramid schemes break down are that nothing is free, someone, someday must pay for them. And, as we know too well, when the bill comes due people and businesses just leave.
So, should he win a second term we would have a lame-duck liberal populist who would stoop to anything to expand his reach over our state. Being a lame duck, he will in no way be limited by a potential political future. Therefore, based upon his history and on a total lack of concern for his own future he will double down on his tactics of fear and jealousy to get what he wants and to spread patronage to all his supporters. A term-limited populist is a dangerous creature indeed.
The other characteristic of a possible Edwards’ second term is based on the recent political history of Louisiana. It tells us that our people have come to understand the relationship between unsustainable policies of free political goodies and their loss of job security and wage growth; a loss that results in out migration of their children and friends.
Over time Louisiana’s people have become much more like other southern conservatives in their beliefs and voting habits, ignoring puffed up promises and instead,demanding results. Because of changing popular beliefs Edwards would be faced with an inability to govern. In the primary election of a few weeks ago, voters replaced most old-school populist legislators with true conservatives. As a result, unlike in his first term, today both Houses of our legislature are composed of a majority of members who oppose Edwards and what Edwards stands for. The same holds true for our state school board, BESE.
So, if Edwards were somehow to get re-elected, we would see the collision of a liberal, populist governor running headlong into a modern conservative legislature; one that was elected to drain the swamp of politics as usual and to change bad outcomes into pro-growth success.
With our new conservative legislature, he has few options. To reach accord with the legislature, he could suddenly change his ways and adopt some conservative principles such as lower taxes, less government dependency, tort reform, and so forth. That won’t happen! Or the new legislature could adopt his liberal principles and go along with higher taxes, more government dependency, and so forth. That won’t happen!
As my opening question asked, what would a second Edwards term look like? In my opinion, we will see a state mired in constant conflict between a governor desperately trying to hold on to the successes he had in a first term before the legislature changed its political complexion, and an aggressive legislature trying to wean Louisiana of all things he holds dear. In other words, I believe that we will see four years of gridlock, associated with an incremental reduction in his first-term policies.
The main problem with this may not just be the gridlock itself. We have been in gridlock in this state often, so we should be used to failed leadership. No, the real problem is the ticking time-bomb of spending in excess of revenue growth that Edwards’ first term left us burdened with.
Edwards first action was to contract this state with President Obama in order to implement Medicaid Expansion. Now whether you believe that socialized medicine is good or bad, you must face the reality that sometime soon we will not be able to afford Medicaid expense growth and still pay for any other state priorities. Medicaid expenses are growing so rapidly that they will soon eat up all available state funds. We are already seeing symptoms of this – no infrastructure money, no money for other state priorities, no money for anything.
That Is why Edwards is setting us up with a clever deception in order to bail himself out of trouble. It started when he tricked us by proclaiming a fiscal cliff, only for us to be “surprised” when we found ourselves with a huge surplus. With that serendipitous windfall he will try to escape scrutiny when over the next few years of a second term Medicaid costs explode. Under a renewed Edwards’ regime, next Spring he would have the Revenue Estimating Conference “recognize” the half billion-dollar surplus as recurring revenue, locking in the taxes he forced through in his first term. By that we will have just funded Edwards’ Medicaid shortfall though the end of a second term. After that he doesn’t care, as he will have kicked the can to the next governor, and he will be long gone.
So, if by chance Edwards is re-elected, Louisiana will look pretty much as it does today four years from now. Last in most metrics of socio-economic success, metrics driven by low economic growth and high taxes, resulting in increasing pressure on people and businesses to out-migrate…… pretty much all just as today! And because he will attempt to trick us into locking those higher taxes, he will have plenty of money to spread around in his lame-duck time remaining.
There is one other serious issue that I have been warning about. Should the nation slip into recession, Edwards’ first-term policies will assure a deeper and longer financial collapse in Louisiana. It took us nearly 11 years to recover from the 2008 recession that was followed by Obama’s weak economy, but that recovery will look strong compared to what we will face unless we change Edwards’ anti-growth policies. If he remains as a second term governor and we face a recession, because of the policies that he has bestowed upon us, business will flee our state and not return. Jobs will become scarcer and lower paying. Medicaid will grow out of control even as we have dramatically reduced state revenue coming from a crippled business sector and low personal incomes to pay for it. Edwards’ legacy will be of a devastated Louisiana economy and families in ruin. But he would be lame duck, so no accountability.
On the other hand, a Rispone win will find a new governor aligned with a friendly legislature that will work with him to change our state into a pro-growth economy. We will see jobs and incomes increase, even as we see people and businesses reversing the out-migration trend and moving into Louisiana. In the case of a national recession, Rispone’s pro-growth climate coupled with good government practices will assure that the negative effects of recession are mitigated.
A second term for Edwards assures gridlock and lurking economic danger. A first term for Rispone guarantees a reasonable expectation that our state will dramatically improve and an assurance that the benefits of a stronger economy would reduce impacts from recession.