Gov. Bobby Jindal’s head cheerleader, the Baton Rouge Business Report, keeps churning out those feel good blurbs about the various surveys that put Louisiana in a good light.
That’s understandable, of course. After all, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister served as Jindal’s campaign treasurer, then as chair of Jindal’s transition team, later as director of Jindal slush fund organization Believe in Louisiana, and finally as treasurer for Jindal’s Stand Up to Washington PAC.
As reward for his loyal services, Jindal appointed McCollister to the LSU Board of Stuporvisors where he promptly proceeded to vote with the remainder of the board in the decision—dictated by Jindal, of course—to fire LSU President John Lombardi, to resist the release of candidates for LSU president—so much for the Fourth Estate standing up for the public’s right to know—and to allow Jindal to give two LSU hospitals to a fellow LSU board member. As an added bonus, Jindal appointed McCollister associate Julio Melara, Business Report President, to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome) Board of Commissioners.
And we won’t even discuss campaign contributions to Jindal from McCollister and Melara.
That should be sufficient assurance of objectivity and even handedness, so why should anyone question all those wonderfully warmed-over success stories about business climates, job growth, economic development, etc.?
So when the Business Report recently ran a story that proclaimed to the world that Thumbstack.com’s third annual Small Business Friendliness Survey ranked Louisiana as fifth in the nation in the all-important overall friendliness with a grade of A+, we were appropriately ecstatic.
But then on June 12, came the report from 24/7 Wall Street that identified the top 10 states in economic growth.
Louisiana was a no-show on that list.
While the U.S. economy grew at a rate of only 1.9 percent, down from the 2013 growth rate of 2.9 percent, the 10 states experienced growth rates of between 3 percent (Nebraska) and 9.7 percent for North Dakota.
Louisiana? Our economy grew by a whopping 1.3 percent, according to the Associated Press, .6 lower than the national rate.
You would never know that to hear our esteemed presidential candi…er, governor, boast about the great strides our state has taken under his mostly absentee leadership.
But leave it to our friend Stephen Sabludowsky, publisher of the blog Bayou Buzz, to call Jindal out on his misrepresentations with his post, “Louisiana GDP facts: ‘Jindal miracle’ or mirage.’”
Sabludowsky noted that Jindal told CNBC’s Jim Cramer (appropriately, a former hedge fund manager) that Louisiana is “doing what Washington, D.C. is not doing.” Jindal said, “Our economy is growing 50 percent faster than the national economy.”
On a roll, he continued: “Louisiana’s state GDP has grown by $36 billion since 2008 and it’s growing at nearly twice the rate of our nation’s GDP.”
Sabludowsky, not impressed, noted that economic numbers released by the federal government did not square up with Jindal’s claim.
“Every chance he gets,” he said, “whether on national TV, while campaigning for President or while sharing broiled chicken with the Chamber of Commerce, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal touts the Louisiana economy—as glowing and out performing almost all competition. Some conservative commentators have described the state’s economic ascendency as the ‘Jindal miracle.’”
Conservative commentators. There is your key. Jindal is very careful to spew his rapid-fire statistics—with little or no basis in reality—in interviews held only in the friendliest of environments where they are accepted at face value and are never challenged. You will never—we repeat, never—see him venture into hostile territory where such claims can be vetted.
Not that anyone in the media would ever challenge him. Where are the old-fashioned, cynical reporters who, like Peter Falk’s character Columbo, always asked one more question, never satisfied with hearing what politicians say but who listen instead to what isn’t said? Where are the journalists who challenge authority—like the late David Halberstam who, as a reporter for the New York Times, called out the American generals for lying when they repeatedly insisted we were winning in Vietnam? His audacity resulted in attempts by the U.S. military to demonize him and to have him thrown out of Vietnam and off his war coverage beat—a distinction he bore with honor.
Sadly, those guys just don’t exist anymore. They are all too busy rewriting press releases and never asking probing questions that might lead to real answers.
What reporters practice today is what Glenn Greenwald, author of No Place to Hide, his book about Edward Snowden, calls “an obvious pretense, a conceit of the profession.”
That’s how Jindal became governor: not one reporter asked the questions that needed to be asked when he ran in 2003 or again in 2007. By 2011, it didn’t matter; he was too firmly entrenched.
And that’s precisely how he plans to get elected President if not in 2016, then in 2020 or 2024.
All he has to do is schmooze a few more news executives.