Trying to figure out where Bobby Jindal has been coming from has been baffling for both his detractors and even some of his more ardent supporters at times. I think people who dislike his policies tend to lump him in too easily with tea party folks, which is an image he has eagerly, if undeservedly, embraced. Those same supporters have tried to embrace Bobby Jindal and his seemingly incongruous policies, trying to claim him as one of their own as his political star was rising. At one point Jindal was so flush with political capital that the Democrats in Louisiana didn’t even bother to field or endorse any candidate for governor against him. Bobby took full advantage of this collapse of will at home for opposing him to campaign relentlessly for out of state politicians and a tragically flawed presidential candidate (for what seems in retrospect a completely unrealistic chance for getting a VP nod out of the deal), and to ram through a number of constitutionally flawed education and pension reforms.
The power of a Louisiana Governor is virtually unprecedented among the states in the Union. He appointed the head of the Senate and Legislature, and through his appointees he has tossed off any legislators on all committees that even question any of his policies, let alone vote against them. His line item veto power allows him to threaten and cow every legislator and institution, even theoretical public watchdog institutions like LPB (Louisiana Public Broadcasting.) Bobby can and has appointed members to almost every board and commission in the state as well as the heads and senior personnel of almost every state agency. In the wink of an eye he has removed appointees who even blink wrong when testifying under oath about whether his policies will be cost neutral, good for the state and citizens, or the people served by given agencies. He can and has disbanded agencies with reckless abandon and sold them off to private companies and campaign donors, like the Office of Risk Management we are on the hook for 75 million to benefit campaign donors, the Office of Group Benefits, the entire Charity Hospital system, most of the Department of Corrections, most of our mental health hospitals, hospice care, Elderly Affairs, and now much of our public schools systems, which were locally owned and operated are being divvied up and sold off to private companies that give contributions to Jindal and his handpicked BESE (state board of education) members. Jindal alone can and has repeatedly turned down 15 – 40 billion dollars over 10 years in Medicaid funding for 400,000 thousand of our roughly 2.5 million citizens, and has turned down 80 million in federal funding for rural cable service expansion, 60 million in federal Pre-k funding, squandered 400 million dollars on BP sand berms that stopped maybe a 1,000 barrels of the 5 million barrels of oil that poured into the Gulf.
One might think that such a privatization pioneer has reaped untold gains, and set the state on firm financial footing. One might think that all of these sacrifices, all of these hardships that disproportionately fall on the poorest, oldest, mentally encumbered and least among us are setting us on a course of prosperity. However all that has happened is more people suffering and dying and Jindal’s supporters and contributors are getting richer and state budget is even more out of balance. One time funding sources have been exhausted, even ones for coastal restoration that are supposed to be constitutionally protected for their allocated purpose. When Jindal finally does leave office, what will he leave in his wake but a desolate wasteland of suffering and even less educated people?
But perhaps he has a bigger strategy at work here than anyone even thought? Jindal’s recent proposal to eliminate income taxes in favor of the most regressive tax structure in the nation with an additional 3 to 4 cent sales tax seems to pit him against the poor and least among us once more. These taxes will fall hardest on those least able to avoid them, those unable to purchase things out of state and those who have to spend most of their income on things to support their family and survive.
When I actually wrote down the list of things Jindal has rejected, many of which would have been yielded economic spending and growth to our economy I began to wonder if maybe something else wasn’t going on? I mean, when you start to add up all those 10s and hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars, it starts to come to some real money for a state that only takes in about 3 billion annually in income taxes. How could Jindal afford to squander and reject such large sums of money that would go to help many of the poor, the sick, the children, and elderly? Then I recalled some of the tactics being used in other Republican states to drive out illegal immigrants such as the self-deportation laws touted in Alabama and Arizona. The idea behind the laws passed in those states was to make life so miserable for illegal immigrants, and even many legal ones, that they would self-deport, or at least go elsewhere and become someone else’s responsibility.
Now for someone that is trying to lower taxes for Louisiana citizens and looking out for all of our citizens, does it make sense to turn down all that funding for infrastructure, education and healthcare? The tax payers of our state will still have to shoulder the bills in higher insurance premiums and higher service costs to account for all the folks having to show up in emergency rooms for treatment, and unable to pay and thats why Jindal has proposed raising our sales taxes to 15%, the higest in the nation. (Bear in mind, mom and pop shops that might not have made enough money to pay income taxes will have to pay this sales tax on anything they purchase, regardless of how well their business does. If most of the new jobs come from this sector, does that sound like a recipe for growth to you?) We will have to pay for more jails to house children who were unable to receive a quality education. We will have to pay in a rapidly shrinking coastline, declining health, and fewer government services. We will all have to pay for Jindal’s presidential aspirations, many of us with not just our money, but with our lives and the lives of our friends, grandparents, neighbors and children. Or I suppose we could all just self-deport? I suppose that is one way to increase the average income of Louisiana citizens, to kick-out, bus-off, imprison and kill off the poor ones. It might even be effective, and that’s all that is important, right?