Earl Long is generally credited with the following quote:
“Don’t write anything you can phone. Don’t phone anything you can talk. Don’t talk anything you can whisper. Don’t whisper anything you can smile. Don’t smile anything you can nod. Don’t nod anything you can wink.”
And so it came to pass that one day just before the Christmas season in the year of our Lord 2010, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and his Chief of Staff Little Timmy Teepell were sitting across from one another at a table heavily laden with seasonal food winking at each other.
It was the governor who, breaking political protocol, interrupted the silence first.
BJ: I’m bored.
Little TT: Bored?
BJ: Yes, bored. I’ve been stuck here in the state for three whole days now.
Little TT: What do you suggest, Governor?
BJ: A road trip.
Little TT: But governor, all the elections are over. There’s no one to campaign for. And we’ve done the book tour thing.
BJ: Well, I’m bored. What can we do?
Little TT: Well, Governor, the natives are pretty restless. They think you should remain in the state a couple of weeks and work on the budget deficit.
BJ: TWO WEEKS!!!!?? Bor-ring!
Little TT: Seriously, Governor, we need to discuss ways to raise revenue for the state to offset an anticipated $1.6 billion budget deficit next year.
BJ: Isn’t there a hurricane or an oil spill or some other disaster that can give me face time on the TV cameras so I can act governorential?
Little TT: Governorential?
BJ: Yes. You know, where I go on TV and blame the federal government for everything.
Little TT: No there isn’t anything like that right now. Let’s talk about the budget.
BJ: I know! I can take the state helicopter to a little Baptist Church up in Shongaloo and give ‘em a stimulus check.
Little TT: We can do that on Sunday. Today’s Tuesday. Let’s talk about the budget until then.
BJ: All right. But it’s boring. There’re no TV cameras.
Little TT: That’s okay. You’ll get all the TV coverage you want if you solve the budget crisis.
BJ: Really? Oh, boy! What do we have to do?
Little TT: We need to take measures to raise cash to erase next year’s budget deficit.
BJ: That should be easy. I’m a Rhodes Scholar and (laughing) you’re a Roads Scholar. Isn’t that what you said in your interviews, you’re a Roads Scholar?
Little TT: That’s right, Governor, but remember, we were both absent on pothole day.
BJ: That’s funny. A Roads Scholar. Pothole day. I get it. What does that mean?
Little TT: Don’t worry about it. It was just a joke. Now to generate some revenue, we need to sell off some state assets.
BJ: Like what?
Little TT: Well, we can sell all those new state buildings that Governor Foster built and then lease the space back. That should gives us about a hundred million or so up front.
BJ: But didn’t I read somewhere once that selling any fixed asset on a sale-leaseback basis is an act of desperation triggered by cash flow problems?
Little TT: But that’s precisely where we are: We’re desperate because we have cash flow problems.
BJ: But it would place us, the seller, in the position as a long-term lessee. Isn’t that the same as a debtor or bond obligor? That seems like a quick fix to a long-term problem. It’s just deferring a permanent resolution to a problem and not fixing the underlying problem.
Little TT: Governor, you’ve been reading your old campaign literature again, haven’t you? You need to eighty-six that. Drop the rhetoric; you won the election.
BJ: Oops, I forgot.
Little TT: We can also sell a couple of state prisons—those in Winn and Allen parishes. That should bring in about $64 million or so.
BJ: Won’t the buyer just work the mortgage payments back into what he charges the state to house state prisoners?
Little TT: Governor, have you been talking to legislators and not telling me?
Little TT: Governor, you’ve got to stop that. Legislators aren’t your friends. Now focus. We can also draw against future lottery revenue to get another infusion of cash.
BJ: But what if somebody living in a trailer park wins the lottery? I don’t want him knocking on the front door of the governor’s mansion asking for his money.
Little TT: Don’t worry about that. Listen to me. These are all short-term solutions. It will give us one-time money to cover recurring expenditures but it doesn’t matter. By the time those people in north Louisiana who elected you figure it out, you’ll be well on your way to running for president.
BJ: And you’ll be my little Karl Rove. TT, I see where you’re going with this and I like it. Hell….I mean heck, we can sell the state police cars and put them on bicycles. That should work. When I was in Oxford doing my Rhodes Scholar bit, they had Bobbies on foot. We can call ‘em Bobbies on bicycles. Voters will love that.
Little TT: That would be pretty drastic. The state police would probably need cars….
BJ: How ’bout if I just sold my soul?
Little TT: You already did that to get elected.
BJ: How about selling some of the state golf courses?
Little TT: That’d probably look pretty bad. We just bought the Tournament Players Club in New Orleans and took over the Poverty Point club up in Delhi and we’re in the process of building a couple of others. How could we explain the sudden change? Those golf courses are viable investments. Even as we speak, we’re in the process of taking bids on the construction of a miniature golf course at City Park in New Orleans. What I’m saying, Governor, is we’re committed on these expenditures.
BJ: How about selling the Pentagon Barracks?
Little TT: Can’t do that, either. We have legislators living in them and the new owners might raise their rent from the $300 they’re paying now to a level comparable to other apartments. The legislature is already mad enough. We can’t risk that.
BJ: How about cutting higher education and health care benefits then?
Little TT: Now you’re thinking like the governor I know and respect. Let’s sing some nice Christmas carols:
Jindal Bells, Jindal Bells,
Jindal all the way;
Oh how sad
Is his wishy-washy way—HEY!
Jindal Bells, Jindal Bells,
On another flight
Oh how nice we all do feel
When he is out of si–ight.
Away at a fund raiser
No one does he dread;
Not running for president,
At least that’s what he said.
But from afar
We know what they say,
Move over Obama,
Jindal’s on his way.
Oh, little state of Louzian
How sorry is your plight;
With Bobby selling all our jails,
Citizens now feel pure fright.
While in our dark streets linger
A refracted gleam of light;
From guns and knives will lives
Be lost in thee tonight.