For as long as anyone can remember the tradition in Louisiana has been for the governor to lead and a complacent Legislature to meekly follow. As I have written many times the simple fact is that invariably governors are elected because they are good politicians, they are cute, or, worse, it’s their turn, has resulted in leadership that is focused on politics not success for the people. The results have been desultory for our people, last in most things, a state where poverty is the rule not the exception.
Most political pundits would have thought that current history would be no different. The difference now is that we have a governor who, though good at managing natural crisis, only applies responses that feed the flames of economic retrenchment. COVID-19, a terrible disease, comes with an evil twin in the form of economic disaster. From the beginning of the epidemic the governor demonstrated his management skills in the name of empathy as he shut down the state and followed the many confusing guidelines emanating from all over the place.
But unlike the medical oath “First do no harm”, the governor’s actions did great harm. Months into the crisis the medical statistics are down, even as the economic statistics soar. Those statistics are an indication of the damage that ignoring systemic damage while only narrowly focusing on the virus has caused. Hundreds of thousands out of work, unemployment funds dried up, poverty of body and spirit abounds, business failures accelerating, and a wave of evictions about to drive untold thousands out of their homes.
It did not have to be this way. There are a number of states, generally with Republican governors, that have struck a fair balance between managing the epidemic and managing the economy. Medically these states did not fare any worse than Louisiana, but they have managed to save their economies and are now in a good posture to move forward as the disease wanes. Louisiana will not be in that number. Perhaps fear after the sudden outbreak after Mardi Gras caused such dramatic responses from the governor, perhaps getting carried along by the liberal national media did it, who knows but this is where we are.
Incredibly, or perhaps not so, the media has absolutely ignored the significance of economic disaster. They have never questioned the governor about his plans to save Louisianans economic future as they sheepishly recycled his press releases and talking points. There is absolutely no voice of reason emanating from the media, no voice of opposition to a feckless response. They are good at reporting the emotional impact of a failed economy, but they have never bothered or do not have the ability to look at the causes and remedies of it. As a result, the people that trust them have no idea of the tentacles of despair that are slowly enveloping them.
Economists on the other hand have been more forthcoming. Assuming nothing changes, the state will slowly start to recover over the next few years. But major cities such as New Orleans will take far longer, if ever, to recover. And key to their points, when they speak of recovery, they are talking about recovering to an economic level that pre-COVID was one of the worst in the country. They are not talking about making economic progress, ending poverty, creating prosperity, they only speak to a return to the pre-COVID status quo.
At last the legislature has grown weary of the governor’s lack of action in the face of the evolving economic crisis. They have finally accepted that leadership from the Administration is only in the short term and offers no options to get our economy and the peoples’ jobs back on track. Nothing! So, the leaders of the Legislative bodies have taken it upon themselves to call a Special Session to address the evil twin of COVID.
Thank goodness someone has finally seen the problem. Every day that the governor fiddles and the media lets him slide the problems grow exponentially worse. No matter what is done, it will still take many years to recover from the governor’s inactions. But if the Legislature is successful that time should be shortened, and the amount of economic damage lessened.
The state will owe a great deal to a successful outcome of the Legislature’s efforts. Of course, all of that depends on whether the governor gets out of the way and does not insert his personal politics into such a desperately needed rescue.