Anyone who still wonders why Gov. Bobby Jindal trots around the country uttering his venom-laced attacks on Washington in general and the Obama administration in particular should understand something. It’s all about politics; he is simply pandering to what he perceives as his base which is, at best, an illusion.
His foaming at the mouth courtship with his invisible support group is something like playing with an imaginary friend. In Jindal’s case, we have it on pretty good authority that he had two imaginary friends as a child but they would go to the other end of the playground and never let him join them. You will notice he never shows up in any of the lists of potential major GOP presidential candidates. That’s because the Republican Party just doesn’t want to play with him.
We have to give Jindal credit for one thing, however; he backs his rhetoric with action.
In his steadfast resistance to anything Washington, we have seen him:
- Reject $300 million in federal funding for a Baton Rouge to New Orleans high speed passenger rail connection because he doesn’t want federal control;
- Pretend to reject $98 million in federal stimulus funds for recovery from the 2008 recession while quietly taking the funds and handing out checks to municipalities during his highly-publicized visits to Protestant churches in north Louisiana;
- Reject $80 million in federal funding to expand broadband internet service into rural areas of the state, primarily in north Louisiana;
- Reject $15.7 billion in federal Medicaid expansion funds because he incorrectly claimed it would cost Louisiana taxpayers up to $1.7 billion over 10 years. He provided no figures to back that claim but did defiantly say Obama “won’t bully Louisiana.” Meanwhile, more than 200,000 low-income Louisiana residents are still without medical insurance.
- Reject the Common Core State Standards Initiative after previously voicing his wholehearted support for the standards, again saying, “We won’t let the federal government take over Louisiana’s education standards.”
- Prevail upon the legislature to reject an increase in the minimum wage, to reject tightening regulation of payday loan companies, to ban discrimination against gays, and to reject support of equal pay for women—most probably because all such proposals have the ugly thumbprints of Washington all over them.
So, taking into account his polarizing negativity against Washington, it’s pretty easy to see that things might have been different if we’d never had this little demagogue as governor.
But then we got to wondering how Louisiana might have fared down through the years if we had always been saddled with a Jindal on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. We would probably have beaten South Carolina in being the first state to secede from the Union.
But for the sake of simplicity, let’s just go back to Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. That’s pretty fair because U.S. Sen. Huey Long (whom Jindal often seems to be trying to emulate) was about as anti-New Deal then as Jindal is anti-everything federal is today. Moreover, the nation was reeling from the Great Depression, thanks to Wall Street’s greed, just as America was suffering from the Recession of 2008, thanks in large part to Wall Street again gone amok.
Works Progress Administration projects:
- Big Charity Hospital in New Orleans where many Louisiana physicians received their training for decades (including Congressmen Bill Cassidy and Charles Boustany, Jr.);
- Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which brought electric power to Louisiana’s most rural farm communities (and without which, to paraphrase the late comic Brother Dave Gardner, they’d all be watching TV by candlelight);
- State Capitol Annex across Third Street from the State Capitol;
- More courthouses were constructed under the program from 1936 to 1940 than in any other period in state history. They include courthouses in the parishes of St. Bernard, Natchitoches, Iberia Parish, Caldwell, Cameron, East Carroll, Jackson, Madison, Rapides, St. Landry and Terrebonne.
- Mumford Stadium, Bradford Hall and Grandison Hall at Southern University;
- Himes Hall, the faculty club, and the geology building at LSU;
- Two buildings at what is now the University of Louisiana Monroe, three on the McNeese campus, seven each at Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana Tech, a water tower at Grambling State University, eight additions at Northwestern State University and 12 at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, all of which significantly extended the reach of higher education in the state.
- Scores of new elementary and high schools (including this writer’s Alma Mater, Ruston High School), as well as high school science labs, gymnasium-auditoriums, home economics cottages, athletic fields, music rooms and vocational education shops;
- New buildings for the Hansen’s Disease Center at Carville;
- The Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans;
- Extensive improvements and updates to the French Market in New Orleans;
- Expansion of the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans;
- Paving of 40 miles of roadway on Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City as well as the clearing of 15 miles of bayous and drainage canals and the rehabilitation of 43 wooden bridges on the base;
- Improvements to the 1,300-acre City Park in New Orleans;
- The Louisiana State Museum in Shreveport;
- Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans;
- The old City Hall in Denham Springs;
- Construction of the Louisiana State School for the Deaf (now housing an administration building for the Baton Rouge Police Department);
- Post offices in Hammond, Plaquemine, Arabi; Arcadia, Bunkie, Donaldsonville, Eunice, Haynesville, Jeanerette, Leesville, Oakdale, Rayville, and Monroe;
- Conversion of a Baton Rouge swamp into the University Lakes around which many LSU professors, former U.S. Congressman Henson Moore and current Congressman Bill Cassidy now reside;
- Eradication program to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes near the New Orleans lakefront.
Huey Long did everything in his power to throw up roadblocks to FDR. His reasons? He planned to run for President in 1936 and he needed to incite opposition to Roosevelt and Washington in order to build a national political base. In fact, before his death in September of 1935, Long was quite effective as fewer than three dozen PWA projects were fully authorized for the state.
Following Long’s death and with his obstructionist policy abandoned by his successors, FDR funneled $80 million into Louisiana for roads, bridges, water and sewerage systems, parks, playgrounds, public housing, library and bookmobile programs and literacy drives. That’s $80 million in 1930s dollars. About what it would take to fund that proposed broadband internet expansion for rural north Louisiana today.
So, let’s ask Jindal to hop into our time machine and travel back to September 1935 where he will run and be elected governor just in time to revive the Kingfish’s anti-Roosevelt rhetoric.
Big Charity Hospital? Who needs it? But wait. Jindal wouldn’t have that facility today to give away in his privatization plan yet to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). And without Big Charity, there probably never would have been similar state hospitals in Houma, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreveport or Monroe to close or privatize.
All those courthouses? Shoot, just drop them in the Capital Outlay bill and sell some more state bonds. We can always raise the state’s debt ceiling.
As for all those buildings on the university campuses across the state, hasn’t anyone been paying attention? We’re cutting funding for all that. Who needs public colleges anyway? Let the students get a student loan and go to ITI Technical College.
And Ruston High School? We’ll just turn that into a charter and issue vouchers to the white kids—the smart rich ones.
All those New Deal programs created jobs for Louisianians? Well, so what? There probably wouldn’t have been an unemployment problem in the first place if the workers weren’t so greedy back then and would’ve agreed to work for 15 cents an hour. That’s what happens when you raise the minimum wage.
Fast Forward 30 years
And lest we forget, we probably need to include a couple of programs President Lyndon B. Johnson rammed through Congress.
The Civil Rights Bill opened the door of opportunity for African Americans as nothing since the Emancipation Proclamation had done. And of course there was bitter opposition right down to passage—and beyond. There are those, some in elective office, who would repeal the act today, given the opportunity. The irony is that LBJ had opposed every Civil Rights measure in Congress when he was a senator but when he ascended to the presidency upon JFK’s assassination, he told one supporter, “I’m everybody’s president now.”
And, of course, there is the precursor to the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.
Of course, that would be that radical Social Security Amendment of 1965 which created Medicare and Medicaid.
There was rabid opposition to Medicare by Republicans and the American Medical Association which insisted there was no need for the federal government to intervene in the relationship between patient and physician. Today, if any politician ever tried to terminate Medicare services, he would have a blue-haired riot on his hands and rightly so.
Medicare now provides medical insurance to 50 million elderly Americans and Medicaid does the same for another 51 million low-income or disabled Americans.
Perhaps someone should ask Republican Congressmen Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge (6th District and a candidate for U.S. Senate against incumbent Mary Landrieu) and John Fleming of Minden (4th District), and Charles Boustany, Jr. (3rd District) each of whom is a physician and each of whom opposes Obamacare, what percentage of their income as practicing physicians walked in the door as Medicare or Medicaid patients?
Then check with Jindal to see how that squares with his opposition to the welfare state and such socialistic practices.