APPEL: There Would Have Been Money In That Unemployment Fund, But NOOOOO…

At the end of June, in crafting amendments to the state’s budget, the Senate Finance Committee set aside about $85 million as a reserve for the unknown fiscal impact of COVID-19. Unheard of under the regime of Governor Edwards, the Senate took this action because they did not know what the future held. Theirs was a good government effort to establish a reserve of funds in the more than likely case we needed them.

Did I say unheard of? After all Governor Edwards legacy will be as the governor who promised that he would not raise taxes, and then promptly forgot his promise and pursued the highest tax increase in Louisiana history. A tax increase that he used to fund his ballooning of state spending by billions, that to the highest level ever also. But such is all old news that our incurious media will never remind you of.

Not unexpectedly the governor used his line item veto power to cancel the Senate’s prudent savings measure, returning the $85 million to the general fund. And then, despite hundreds of thousands of unemployed Louisianans and countless failed businesses, he used those funds to grant pay raises to state workers. Gone into the maw of a constantly growing Edwards’ government was our important reserve funds. Gone was the nascent efforts of the Senate to do the prudent thing.

As perhaps the Senators understood, the twin disaster COVID and the failed state economy has continued to grow and shows no sign of abatement. In a bold effort President Trump overrode Congress’ failure to act and took Executive action to implement a $300 unemployment bonus to help the American people. The hook is that the state will have to find $100 per person to match the President’s contribution. Our media is echoing the governor’s carefully articulated talking points, intimating that the state cannot find the money and that the President should have known better than to ask the state to support its own people!

Can you imagine though, a media not asking one question as to why we could have had most of the match money if the governor had just listened to the Senate and had not vetoed it. And why ours is a media that never wants to question anything the governor does and rarely gives any weight to his opposition.

So here is what I suspect will come.

This governor is good at strategy. But he really needs a good one to distract the people from demanding to know why he frittered away the pot of money that could have been used to match the President. So, the people are being offered two shiny objects dangled by him. These shiny objects are blaming the President because his program is too “complicated” for our Workforce Commission to be able to process the claims for Louisiana’s unemployed and blaming the President for not forking up all the money. This shiny object strategy is the governor’s modus operandi, the one that he always employs when he gets caught in a tight spot. And never has there been such a tight spot like having to cover up that he frivolously wasted what could have been a security nest egg for our people.

In strategic operations, timing is everything. To that end, since it was announced the governor has been steadily telling the media that the President’s plan is too “complicated” and of course the media has reported such. Now if Congress does not act soon on another plan, then the President’s money will start flowing. Tactically, if unable to find the match money, the governor will just build on the “complications” diversion that he has already put into action, playing it up to a media that blindly loves the opportunity to blame Trump for anything. The people will get stiffed because we had, but no longer have, the match, the governor will subtly blame the President, and then, unless his strategy goes awry, the governor will get off free and clear.

The governor’s strategy is the stuff of political legend. Create a diversion, employ the media to support your case, and completely absolve yourself of a bad decision.

Perhaps I will be wrong. Perhaps the governor will find the money (really that should be easy in a budget that went from $27 billion to $35 billion in just 4 years). Then I presume the governor will take credit for his swift action and we will hear no more about the purported complications that supposedly would have caused problems for the bureaucracy.

In the end the Senate was right and the governor so very wrong. But I does not matter, after all it is the unemployed people of Louisiana that desperately need the money to see them through to the end of the artificial shutdown of our economy. I hope that the governor can take credit for the implementation of the President’s program. After all it is not credit that matters, its succor for the unfortunate Louisianans that we should all care about.



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