Shreveport Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins, signaling his reelection strategy, has dropped any pretense that he won’t campaign and thereby govern ideologically from the hard left – as well as that he has any clue about economics.
Perkins in the main won in 2018 because he could present himself as a blank slate to voters. Having hardly spent any time in Shreveport as an adult, he magically appeared in town months before the election – just as he finished up law school, having spent his entire career either in school or in the armed forces – babbling about newness and change. With insecurity common in the Shreveport electorate, it was enough to convince many blacks, enough white Democrats, and some Republicans wearing rose-colored glasses to hand him the keys to the city.
Two years later, after a series of missteps and a disastrous U.S. Senate run, Perkins recently announced he wanted to keep the job after all, even as the city continued to hemorrhage residents without any resolution to economic development and other problems. Days later, he demonstrated his weakness by yanking a tax-increasing bond proposal he had floated less than a week earlier after it became clear he couldn’t muster a City Council majority to put it on the ballot.
In road cycling, the “desperation attack” is a tried-and-true tactic. If a rider in a group feels himself weakening and on the verge of getting dropped, he’ll launch an attack up the road and hope against hope nobody can or will follow. There’s nothing to lose, after all; you’re about to go out the back, so you’re no worse off if the attack fails and the group catches then spits you out.
So, Perkins launched a desperation attack. Already an early signatory attached to a group of mayors stumping for the universal basic income wealth redistribution scheme (along with Democrat New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell), the group upped the ante last week by asking that, at the very least, the federal government create a UBI with weekly payments until the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic abated. Perkins averred he’d like to see this made permanent.
The reason? “I majored in economics in my undergrad, it will 100 percent strengthen our economy and giving a lot of Americans households this relief, this money, at this time, they are going to spend it.” If Perkins stands out as an example of instructional effectiveness at the U.S. Military Academy in this field of study, one only can hope that West Point does much better at teaching its charges how to kill and break things than it apparently does in economics.
For one thing, people aren’t spending that much of existing “stimulus” checks. That’s for another reason Perkins doesn’t seem to understand: economic problems at present come from the economy being in a supply shock, with largely Democrats, including Louisiana’s Gov. John Bel Edwards, forcing businesses to operate below capacity, if at all, in a cynical attempt to combat the pandemic. Even liberal, demand-side economists play down the utility of the country going deeper into debt and raising future tax bills by showering all citizens except higher-income taxpayers with more greenbacks, because the slowdown isn’t a problem of too little demand.
Thus, not only does Perkins have no rational idea what he’s talking about, he also comes off as an ineffective hypocrite. Because over six months ago, as an early pledge signer, he heralded the coming of a privately-backed UBI pilot program to Shreveport. And, nothing has happened since. He had the power to do something like what he begs for now on a smaller scale, and has whiffed to date.
Understand that Perkins is a phony on that issue given his non-implementation of the program (which means he needn’t suffer any political blowback for its presence), so his statements purely are for political consumption. But it’s the rhetoric that counts and knowing, given his record and past statements, that he’ll get little in the way of centrist or crossover support for reelection, he sees a sprint to the left as his only option to stay in office.
In some ways, Perkins’ strategy mirrors that of Democrat former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who entered office through a fusionist coalition racially but after the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005 shifted campaign rhetoric to make subtle (although one not so) racial appeals that paid off with a 2006 victory due to heavy black support. Perkins draws upon the fact that his radical version of the UBI that doesn’t replace traditional redistributionist payments would go to lower income individuals (the pandemic version includes the middle class), a category disproportionately comprised of black citizens who collectively account for 59 percent of Shreveport’s electorate.
Note that the difference in mean income for 2019 in Shreveport between whites and blacks is a staggering over $26,000 ($44,274-$17,883). As a result, 45 percent of black households have an income below $25,000 while 81 percent of white households earned above that (the federal poverty limit for 2019 for a family of four was $25,750). Perkins must think that publicizing redistributionist rhetoric – even if he has no means of enacting that in any broad sense – can capture at least three-quarters of the black vote, which given a smattering of other race liberal voters would carry him to a voter majority.
It worked for Nagin (even as in Orleans then the voter rolls were 67 percent black registrants, black disproportionately had fled after Katrina with few voting under emergency displaced voter rules, so the actual electorate likely looked closer to Shreveport’s numbers today). In letting out his inner liberal to play, Perkins must think this strategy will work for him as well.