Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category


Could Bobby Jindal possibly embarrass himself any more than he did on Monday?

Could he possibly have revealed himself any more of a calloused, uncaring hypocrite than he did on Monday?

Jindal’s outburst upon exiting a meeting between the nation’s governors and President Barack Obama Monday was a petulant display of immaturity that only served to underscore his disgraceful scorn for Louisiana’s working poor in favor of pandering to the mega-rich Koch brothers.

His shameless promotion of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project coupled with his criticism of Obama’s push for a minimum wage increase comes on the heels of word that Jindal is literally stealing from the blind in drawing down more than half of a trust fund established to assist blind vendors in state buildings to purchase equipment, to pay for repairs and to pay medical bills. http://theadvocate.com/news/8440065-123/blind-vendors-jindals-office-spar

That trust fund has shrunk from $1.6 million to about $700,000, apparently because of yet another lawsuit the administration finds itself embroiled in over the delivery of food services at Fort Polk in Leesville that has sucked up $365,000 in legal fees, of which the state is responsible for 21 percent, or $76,650.

(I worked for the Office of Risk Management for 20 years and $365,000 in legal fees is not unreasonable for a major lawsuit that involves significant injuries or death where liability is in question. But $365,000 in attorney bills in a lawsuit over who gets to run the cafeteria, a commissary and a grocery store would seem to be a tad high—even for the law firm Shows, Cali, Berthelot and Walsh, which is representing the state under a $500,000 contract with the Louisiana Workforce Commission.)

Rubbing salt into the wounds is the fact that the Blind Vendors Committee, which is supposed to have a say in policy decisions, has been left out of the loop over the Fort Polk controversy.

Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, justified the hiring of private attorneys to defend the litigation by saying his office’s staff attorneys are too busy to handle the contract lawsuit.

That brings up two questions:

  • Busy doing what?
  • And isn’t this the same administration that pitched a hissy fit when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East contracted with a private attorney to seek damages from 97 oil companies for destroying the Louisiana wetlands?

But back to the boy blunder. Jindal turns his back on a minimum wage increase for the working poor to stand outside the White House to chat up the Keystone pipeline which would have the potential of generating $100 billion in profit for Charles and David Koch?

Today’s (Wednesday) Baton Rouge Advocate ran this editorial cartoon that is certain to become a classic in that it symbolizes the defining moment of the Jindal administration:


Jindal said of Obama’s push for an increase in the minimum wage that the president “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” and that Obama’s economy “is now the minimum wage economy. I think we can do better than that.” And by “better,” he was referring to the Keystone pipeline which he said Obama would approve if he were “serious about growing the economy.”

Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy almost pushed Jindal aside in his eagerness to take the microphone to say, “Wait a second. Until a few moments ago we were going down a pretty cooperative road. So let me just say that we don’t all agree that moving Canadian oil through the United States is necessarily the best thing for the United States economy.” He said Jindal’s “white flag” comment was the most partisan of the weekend conference and that many governors, unlike Jindal, support an increase in the minimum wage.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, also a Democrat, was a bit blunter, calling Jindal a “cheap shot artist” as he walked off the White House grounds.

Jindal, of course, wants to be president so badly that he is perfectly willing to sell his soul to the Koch brothers and their organizations Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the apparent hope that some of their AFP money might find its way into his campaign coffers.

AFP is the same super PAC that recently hired professional actors to pose as Louisiana citizens claiming that Obamacare is hurting their families. The merits of lack thereof of Obamacare aside, this is politics at its very sleaziest and our governor is in bed with them.

But this is perfectly in keeping with his character as governor. He has attempted to rob state employees of their retirement benefits. He has attempted to destroy public education with a full frontal attack on teachers. His administration has handed out huge no-bid contracts to consultants as if they were beads at a Mardi Gras parade. He has handed over the state’s charity hospital system to private concerns, including two facilities that went to a member of his LSU Board of Stuporvisors. He has run roughshod over higher education. He has fired appointees and demoted legislators who dared think for themselves. He has refused to expand Medicaid despite living in a state with one of the highest number of citizens lacking medical insurance. He has crisscrossed the country making silly speeches designed only to promote his presidential ambitions by keeping his name before the public. He has written countless op-ed pieces and appeared on network TV news shows for the same purpose.

And still, whenever the pundits start listing the potential Republican presidential contenders for 2016, he name never appears as a blip on their radar. Even Sarah Palin’s name pops up now and then but never Jindal’s.

Even readers of his favorite political blog, The Hayride, which among other things 1), recently featured an infomercial touting a sure-fire cancer cure and 2), got taken in by a hoax video depicting an eagle swooping down and trying to grab an infant in a park, seem to hold Jindal in low regard. A couple of weeks ago The Hayride conducted its own poll of potential Republican candidates for president in 2016.

Here are their results:

  • Sen. Ted Cruz: 39.9 percent;
  • Sen. Rand Paul: 20.7 percent;
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: 10.1 percent;
  • Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: 5.8 percent;
  • Other/Undecided: 24.9 percent.

That’s it. No Jindal. And this from a decidedly pro-Jindal Louisiana political blog. We can only assume he may have shown up somewhere among the 24.9 percent undecided. But this much we do know: he was beaten by Sarah Palin.

At this point, we don’t need a poll to tell us that Jindal would be far better suited as the auctioneer in that GEICO commercial or as the disclaimer voice at the end of those pharmaceutical ads that tell us how we could all die from side effects of the drug that’s being advertised to help with our medical malady—or perhaps even better as the really rapid fire voice that absolutely no one on earth can understand at the end of those automobile commercials.

He has, after all, been auditioning for the part for six years now.

Read Full Post »

The photo in the Shreveport Times shows a grinning Gov. Bobby Jindal shaking hands with David Zolet, executive vice president and general manager of the North American Sector of Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) as the two jointly announced that the company plans to open a technology center at CSC’s national Cyber Research Park in Bossier City.


The company, partially owned by Lloyds Banking Group of London through its Scottish Windows funds, offers IT services, including cloud solutions, cyber security, technology consulting and, according to several sources, secret CIA flights for the purposes of interrogation and torture. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/may/06/lloyds-computer-sciences-corporation-cia-rendition

CSC will be the anchor tenant of the research park and will partner with Louisiana Tech University to account for 1,600 new jobs over the next four years, thanks in part to $14 million in state funding over the next decade to expand higher education programs to increase the number of computer science graduates per year.

Louisiana Tech is scheduled to receive the bulk of the $14 million as it plans to quadruple its number of undergraduate degrees in computer science, computer information systems and cyber engineering over the next five or six years, Jindal said, adding that Bossier City was selected over 133 other sites in the U.S. He said the company’s decision will help northwest Louisiana to become “one of America’s new technology hubs, enabling the region to attract technology partners of CSC as well as other technology companies attracted to the growing IT work force here.”

And while Louisiana Tech will get most of the initial funding, the lease payments for the 116,000 square-foot technology center that will be constructed and leased to CSC by Cyber Innovation Center will be paid with $29 million in state funds. City and parish governments will chip another $5 million each to purchase data center equipment for the building while CSC will invest in the servers and other computer technology.

While we are not sure of the identities of the other “technology partners” of CSC, it’s somewhat interesting to note that CSC customers are being urged to boycott the company over allegations that it took part in illegal CIA rendition flights in the U.S. “war on terror.”

Court documents have linked CSC to the rendition of German citizen Khaled El-Masri who was abducted on Dec. 31, 2003, after being mistaken for a known terrorist by the CIA. http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240160206/Customers-urged-to-boycott-CSC-over-CIA-torture-flights

El-Masri was blindfolded, beaten, imprisoned for 23 days, stripped, sodomized, chained, drugged, flown to Afghanistan where he was again beaten and imprisoned for another four months, interrogated, threatened, denied legal representation, force fed and finally flown in a CSC-chartered plane to Albania, where he was left on a remote road in the middle of the night some 1500 kilometers from his home.

CSC was contracted for the flight as well as for other illegal CIA renditions, according to human rights charity Reprieve. CSC has so far refused a request by Reprieve to sign a pledge of “zero tolerance to torture,” and has also declined to respond to questions from Computer Weekly about the allegations.

Documents provided by Reprieve include invoices that show that CSC chartered N982RK, a Gulfstream jet, on the date El-Masri was abducted and logs provided by the civil-military air traffic safety regulator EuroControl show that N982RK few in stages from Washington to Kabul on May 26, 2004, and then to Kucova air base.

Aviation authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina called attention to the unusual flight patterns of the plane which had requested diplomatic permissions under a CIA identifier.

The U.S. has since admitted the abduction to German premier Angela Merkel.

“We think CSC was at the top of the contracting tree for this (CIA operation),” said Reprieve researcher Dr. Crofton Black. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that CSC was the prime contractor between the government and the companies that ran the flight operations.”

German ministries have been sharing IT services with the CIA and NSA and now it is learned that the German government does business with a company involved in abduction and torture—at a pretty handsome profit. http://international.sueddeutsche.de/post/67143760611/outsourcing-intelligence-sinks-germany-further-into

For years, CSC was one of the CIA’s largest contractors and records show that the CIA paid the firm $11 million to have el-Masri picked up in Kabul and subsequently tortured for months on end before finally being released as a victim of mistaken identity.

One online news story about the company notes that CSC is a “massive company,” with at least 11 subsidiaries in 16 locations in Germany alone. CSC and its subsidiaries are part of a secret industry, the military intelligence industry but do the “traditionally reserved for the military and intelligence agencies,” but at cheaper rates and under “much less scrutiny.

Germany has paid the company some $405 million since 1990 and over the past five years, the country has awarded more than 100 contracts to CSC and its subsidiaries.

The story said it is “no coincidence” that the company’s various German offices are often located near U.S. military bases.

Cyber Research Park and Barksdale AFB, home of the U.S. Air Force’s 2nd Bomb Wing and Global Strike Command, and nearly adjacent in their proximity to each other, with the proposed CSC facility and Barksdale separated only by I-20.


We certainly hope so.

Read Full Post »

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have suffered a mass exodus of sorts in the wake of its Stand Your Ground mantra that led to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, but ALEC is far too strong to let a few defections stand in the way of its political agenda in such areas as public education (even to borrowing from John White’s playbook), weakening workers’ rights, diluting environmental protections, healthcare and now even in the way U.S. senators are nominated and elected.

For that reason alone, the upcoming legislative session which begins at noon on March 10—less than two months from now—will bear close watching for any bills that might appear to have originated at ALEC’s States & Nation Policy Summit last month in Washington, D.C.

ALEC, while striving to change laws to meld with its agenda, nevertheless denies that it is a lobbying organization. That way, corporations and individuals who underwrite ALEC financially are able to claim robust tax write-offs for funding ALEC and its companion organization, the State Policy Network (SPN).

ALEC has a strong presence in Louisiana. Former legislator Noble Ellington, now a deputy commissioner in the Louisiana Department of Insurance, is a former national president of the organization and Gov. Bobby Jindal was recipient of its Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award a couple of years ago when ALEC held its national conference in New Orleans.

Current Louisiana legislators who are members of ALEC are:

House of Representatives:

  • Rep. John Anders (D-Vidalia), Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force;
  • Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans),      attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting;
  • Rep. Timothy G. Burns (R-Mandeville), Civil Justice Task Force Alternate;
  • Rep. George “Greg” Cromer (R-Slidell), State Chairman, Civil Justice Task Force (announced he was resigning from ALEC and from his position as Alec state chairman of Louisiana on April 17, 2012);
  • Rep. James R. Fannin (R-Jonesboro), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Franklin J. Foil (R-Baton Rouge), Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Rep. Brett F. Geymann (R-Lake Charles), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Rep. Johnny Guinn (R-Jennings);
  • Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray), State Chairman, member of Education Task Force; (solicited funds for “ALEC Louisiana      Scholarship Fund” on state stationery July 2, 2012);
  • Rep. Cameron Henry, Jr. (R-Metairie), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville);
  • Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R-West Monroe), ALEC Education Task Force;
  • Rep. Girod Jackson (D-Marrero), (resigned last August after being charged with fraud);
  • Rep. Harvey LeBas (D-Ville Platte),  ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force;
  • Rep. Walter Leger, III (D-New Orleans), ALEC Education Task Force;
  • Rep. Joe Lopinto (R-Metairie), (attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting where he spoke on “Saving Dollars and Protecting Communities: State Successes in Corrections Policy”);
  • Rep. Nicholas J. Lorusso (R-New Orleans), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force;
  • Rep. Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge;
  • Rep. John M. Schroder, Sr. (R-Covington), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport);
  • Rep. Scott M. Simon (R-Abita Springs), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force;
  • Rep. Thomas Willmott (R-Kenner), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force;


  • Sen. John A. Alario, Jr.(R-Westwego), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force;
  • Sen. Jack L. Donahue, Jr. (R-Mandeville), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member;
  • Sen. Dale Erdey (R-Livingston); Health and Human Services Task Force;
  • Sen. Daniel R. Martiny (R-Metairie); Public Safety and Elections Task Force;
  • Sen. Fred H. Mills, Jr. (R-New Iberia), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member;
  • Sen. Ben Nevers, Sr. (D-Bogalusa), ALEC Education Task Force member;
  • Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Sen. Gary L. Smith, Jr. (R-Norco), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi)
  • Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, Jr. (R-Central), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force.

All ALEC meetings are held under tight security behind closed doors. During one recent conference, a reporter was not only barred from attending the meeting, but was actually not allowed into the hotel where the event was being held.

Apparently, there is good reason for that. It is at these conferences that ALEC members meet with state legislators to draft “model” laws for legislators to take back to their states for introduction and, hopefully, passage. Some of the bills being considered for 2014 are particularly noteworthy.

We won’t know which proposals were ultimately approved at that December meeting in Washington, however, because of the secrecy in which the meetings are held. We will know only if and when they are introduced as bills in the upcoming legislative session. But they should be easy to recognize.

One which will be easy to recognize is ALEC’s push for implementation of Louisiana’s Course Choice Program in other states. Course Choice, overseen by our old friend Lefty Lefkowith, is a “mini-voucher” program which lets high school students take free online classes if their regular schools do not offer it or if their schools have been rated a C, D or F by the state.

Course Choice has been beset by problems in Louisiana since its inception first when companies offering classes under the program began canvassing neighborhoods to recruit students and then signing them up without their knowledge or permission. Vendors offering the courses were to be paid half the tuition up front and the balance upon students’ graduation, making it a win-win for the vendors in that it didn’t really matter if students completed the courses for the companies to be guaranteed half the tuition. Moreover, there was no oversight built into the program that would ensure students actually completed the courses, thus making it easy for companies to ease students through the courses whether or not they actually performed the work necessary to obtain a grade. The Louisiana Supreme Court, however ruled the funding mechanism for Course Choice from the state’s Minimum Foundation Program unconstitutional.

Three other education proposals by ALEC appear to also borrow from the states of Utah. The first, the Early Intervention Program Act, is based on Utah’s 2012 law which has profited ALEC member Imagine Learning by diverting some $2 million in tax money from public schools to private corporations. But Imagine Learning did not offer test scores for the beginning and ending of the use of its software, little is known of what, if any, benefits students might have received. The Student Achievement Backpack Act and the Technology-Based Reading Intervention for English Learners Act also appear to be based on Utah’s education reform laws.

The former provides access to student data in a “cloud-based” electronic portal format and was inspired by Digital Learning Now, a project of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education when he was Florida’s governor.

Not all of ALEC’s proposals address public education.

For example, do you like to know the country of origin of the food you place on your table? More than 90 percent of American consumers want labels telling them where their meat, fruits, vegetables and fish are from, according to polling data. ALEC, though, is resisting implementation of what it calls “additional regulations and requirements for our meat producers and processors,” including those that would label countries of origin.

ALEC’s “Punitive Damages Standards Act” and the accompanying “Noneconomic Damage Awards Act” would make it more difficult to hold corporations accountable or liable when their products or practices result in serious harm or injury.

The organization’s “Medicaid Block Grant Act” seeks federal authorization to fund state Medicaid programs through a block grant or similar funding, a move that would cut Medicaid funding by as much as 75 percent. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has pushed similar block grant systems for Medicaid in several of his budget proposals.

In what has to qualify as a “WTF” proposal, ALEC for the second straight year is seeking approval of a bill to end licensing, certification and specialty certification for doctors and other medical professionals as requirements to practice medicine in the respective states and to prohibit states from funding the Federation of State Medical Boards.

Then there is the “Equal State’s Enfranchisement Act,” which is considered an assault of sorts on the 17th Amendment. For more than a century, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures, a practice which often led to deadlocks and stalemates, leaving Senate seats open for months on end. But 101 years ago, in 1913, the 17th Amendment was ratified, changing the method of choosing senators to popular vote by the citizenry.

While ALEC’s proposal doesn’t mean full repeal of the 17th Amendment, it does mean that in addition to other candidates, legislatures would be able to add their own candidates’ names to ballots for senate seats. ALEC, apparently, is oblivious or unconcerned with a national poll that shows 71 percent of voters prefer electing senators by popular vote.

To keep track of these and other ALEC bills introduced in the upcoming session, just keep an eye on the member legislators and the bills they file.

And keep reading LouisianaVoice.

Read Full Post »

Even as Bobby Jindal continues to bombard us with glowing reports about the best this and most favorable that—surveys by all the right organizations, at least from the administration’s perspective—which advance the governor’s agenda, other reports don’t paint such a rosy picture.

For every claim of a favorable business climate, there is a one that reflects one of the highest pay disparities between men and women in the nation. For each boast of low taxes, national comparisons point to one of the highest poverty rates in the U.S. For all the laudatory praise of the state’s recreational facilities, we still have the second highest obesity rate in the country. In the face of the administration’s trumpeting of all those surveys rating Louisiana as having a favorable business climate, there is no escaping the fact that we are near the top in the number of citizens without health insurance. Yes, we have a deep labor pool, one survey cheerily reports even as another chides Louisiana for its dearth of skilled labor.

Of course if one listens to Jindal or reads his news releases, you hear only that the glass if half full, never than it’s half empty. Balance in reporting is not in the governor’s vocabulary.

All the so-called good news from the conservative think tanks that have the same political philosophy as Jindal and obediently do all in their power to put his best face forward does little to offset the reality of a state beset by problems too many to enumerate.

The latest bit of adverse news comes in the form of credit ratings for the individual states that show to virtually no one’s surprise, with the possible exception of Jindal and his Secretary of Economic Development Steven Moret (and probably Rolfe McCollister, a member of Jindal’s very own LSU Board of Stuporvisors and one of Jindal’s most vocal cheerleaders), that Louisiana is second only to Mississippi (a familiar position in most other negative surveys, as well) as having the worst credit rating of the 50 states.


Southern states in general have the lowest credit ratings, according to the credit bureau Experian. And while living in one of the states with low credit scores does not mean individuals have low credit scorea but the credit scores are employed as one means of evaluating the risks in extending consumer credit and to determine how much interest to charge borrowers, the report says.

The latest credit rating is for the last quarter of 2013 and the 10 lowest scores ranged from a low of 707 for Mississippi to a high of 729 for New Mexico—well below the national average of 748 for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The survey reveals that southern states have some of the lowest credit scores in the nation, according to calculations from the credit bureau Experian.

The ratings are designed to reflect applicants’ ability to repay debt and lenders use credit scores to assess the risks in extending consumer credit and to determine what interest rates to charge borrowers which means that the state ratings have a direct bearing on consumer credit.

In Mississippi, recently named as the poorest state in the nation, Gov. Phil Bryant has proclaimed that 2014 would be a breakout year for the state’s “Creative Economy,” noting that somehow the state’s claim to be the birthplace of blues might be the springboard for the state that has an unemployment rate in excess of 10 percent. We suppose the thinking could be that as the nation’s economic anchor, there is only one direction to go: up.

Louisiana, with a credit rating of 720, wasn’t much better. Like its poorer neighbor to the east, the state was hit hard by the double whammy of Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

Still, the administration, in grasping at any straw to enhance its image, leans heavily on a report by the Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program that said both Baton Rouge and New Orleans have made great strides in recovering from those twin disasters and the New Orleans ranks as “one of the best cities in the nation for business development and economic growth.”

Overlooked (deliberately, perhaps?) in that optimistic report is the fact that the Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program is part of the Louisiana Office of Community Development’s Disaster Recovery Unit—a creation of the administration.

No conflict of interest there.

Other bottom 10 states in credit rating and their scores are, in order, Georgia (721), Nevada and Texas (722), Arkansas (725), Oklahoma and Alabama (727), South Carolina (728), and New Mexico (729).

Read Full Post »

Gov. Bobby Jindal has this cool web page on which he is conscientious about posting the latest updates about all the wonderful things going on in Louisiana, thanks in large part to his diligent work on behalf of the state.

The web page, of course, has the requisite “donate” button on which to click to make contributions—ostensibly for his long-anticipated presidential campaign since his last run for governor was more than two years ago and he’s term limited from running again.

The web page is paid for by Friends of Bobby Jindal, Inc., AKA the Committee to Re-Elect Bobby Jindal, Inc. Records filed with the Secretary of State indicate the agent for the organization is David Woolridge of the law firm Roedel, Parsons, Koch, Blanche, Balhoff, and McCollister. Officers include Alexandra “Allee” Bautsch, finance director (also Jindal’s campaign finance director), deputy finance director Erin Riecke, and Melvin Kendal.

Strangely enough, even though Friends of Bobby Jindal solicits contributions through the web page, there apparently have been no campaign finance reports filed with the Louisiana Ethics Commissions. All contributions and expenditures are listed in Jindal’s name individually and not in Friends of Bobby Jindal or the Committee to Re-Elect Bobby Jindal.

You can check out his page right here  http://www.bobbyjindal.com/ to see glowing reports on the following projects:

  • The South African energy company Sasol’s integrated gas-to-liquids and chemicals project n Louisiana was named Foreign Direct Investment Deal of the Year (no mention of how many jobs that would actually produce for the state).
  • Industrial Valve Production Co. Cortec will build a new distribution facility in Louisiana which will create a whopping 70 jobs.
  • A New York Post editorial has praised Jindal for his efforts to crack down on abuse in the state’s food stamp program (abuse, by the way, which pales in comparisons to the costs of that CNSI contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals, corporate tax breaks and legislators recently exposed for using campaign funds to pay for private vehicles, auto insurance, and LSU football tickets).

And while we certainly appreciate his dedication to keeping us informed, we can’t help but notice that he missed a couple of recent developments. And because we’re here to help, we are more than happy to fill in the blanks so that you, the reader, may remain informed about our state.

  • Speaking of CNSI, writer Michael Volpe penned an interesting story on Friday, Nov. 22 when he wrote that CNSI, one of the subcontractors working on the Obamacare website, is currently under investigation by the FBI in Louisiana and is currently embroiled in legal disputes over services provided to the states of South Dakota, Illinois and Michigan. Jindal’s former DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein was formerly employed by CNSI and it has been revealed that he was in constant contact with company officials in the days leading up to its selection for the $800 million contract. http://dailycaller.com/2013/11/22/subcontractor-working-on-obamacare-site-under-fbi-investigation/
  • While Mississippi was chosen as assembly sites for Airbus Aircraft and Nissan and Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai have built assembly plants in Alabama, the five facilities employing thousands (compared to 70 for Industrial Valve Production Co. Cortec), GM closed its Shreveport truck assembly plant.
  • For anyone who has ever wondered what the job of the Louisiana Attorney General is, consider this: the Evangeline Parish Police Jury, obviously with little to do about road maintenance in Evangeline, has asked the AG’s office for a legal opinion as to whether or not a rooster is a chicken (brings to mind the story about the child asking his mother if chickens are born. “No, chickens are hatched from an egg,” his mother said. “Was I hatched from an egg?” “No, you were born.” “Are eggs born?” “No, eggs are laid.” “Are people laid?” “Some are; others are chicken.”). State law, it seems, prohibits staging fights between “any bird which is of the species Gallus gallus. Proponents of cockfighting maintain their birds are of a species other than Gallus gallus and the AG has been asked to weigh in on the matter. (Sigh.).
  • That sink hole in Assumption Parish continues to expand with no indication from the fourth floor of the State Capitol that there is any concern on the part of the governor for the plight of all those displaced residents.
  • Our friend Don Whittinghill, who provided us the information on the auto assembly plants in Mississippi and Alabama, also provided another interest tidbit missing from Jindal’s web page: Last year, 91,215 people moved to Louisiana while 95,958 left for greener pastures—a net loss of 4,741 people. This could be related to Louisiana’s construction job growth of 8.3 percent compared to a 19.1 percent gain by Mississippi.
  • Louisiana is ranked as the seventh-worst governed state in the nation, according to the financial news site 24/7 Wall Street. The survey’s results are based on financial data, services provided by the state and residents’ standard of living. The state’s budget deficit of 25.1 percent was the fourth largest in the nation, ranking behind (in order) New Jersey (37.5 percent), Nevada (37 percent), and California (27.8 percent). The national average budget gap was 15.5 percent. The percentage of citizens living below the poverty line (19.9 percent) was third highest, surpassed only by Mississippi (24.2 percent) and New Mexico (20.8 percent), and the state’s median household income of $42,944 was eighth lowest in the nation. Moreover, nearly 500 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012 made Louisiana one of the most dangerous states in which to live.

So, Governor, we know you are a busy man, flitting all over the country to appear on CNN and Faux News, writing all those provocative op-eds in the Washington Post about how all the other Republicans (except you, of course) are a bunch of children whose hand you feel compelled to hold while leading them out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land.

We know you have all you can do in your efforts to climb from the bottom of the pile of potential GOP presidential contenders and that your sending Timmy Teepell to help get Neil Riser elected to Congress kind of blew up in your face—like that governor’s race in Virginia.

So, we want you to know, we’ve got your back.

We promise to keep a dutiful watch on your web blog and when we discover an omission in your superb coverage of all that’s good and wonderful in this state, we’ll be sure and jump in and fill the gap.

That’s the least we can do.

Read Full Post »

It’s easy to sit back and take pot shots at those in charge so when I recently said Gov. Bobby Jindal was out of touch, perhaps I was remiss in not offering solutions as to how he could regain the connection with the average working people of the state he purports to govern, often from the New York studios of Faux News or the latest conclave of Republican governors.

You know the people I’m talking about: those who congregate each Sunday in the Protestant churches of north Louisiana—those same churches that Jindal used to visit during his first term of office but hasn’t since—and who returned to the drudgery of their workaday jobs on Monday morning while Jindal basked in the glowing praise of the usual cast of sycophants.

My neglect in offering suggestions for Jindal and Co. to overcome their respective psychopathic behavior was brought home to me by Robert Mann in his recent blog Something Like the Truth about Jindal’s “Poverty of Compassion,” in which he said he has often wondered why Jindal “is so apathetic about the plight of the working poor.”

Mann said Jindal, speaking at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) during its “American Comeback” project, said when he was born his dad had no medical insurance and paid for little Bobby’s delivery on the installment plan. “And the doctor was willing to do that,” he said in explaining why Daddy did not need health insurance. “He didn’t want help from the government,” he told his fellow GOP governors, to what almost certainly was enthusiastic applause.

So the obvious lesson here is if you need a heart, lung, or kidney transplant or if neurosurgery is necessary, you don’t need insurance. All you need is an understanding surgeon, team of nurses, anesthesiologist and other OR personnel who are willing to tote the note for a few decades—or longer.

Well, that little episode certainly sheds a glaring light on Jindal’s psyche. Perhaps he was taking his cue from Texas Republican Congressman Steve Stockman’s aide Donny Ferguson, who in June boasted that he took the challenge of trying to feed himself on the $31.50 per week level of SNAP food stamp benefits under the Farm Bill—and actually got by on $27.58.

Anyone can pull that off—for one week, as this clown did. A gallon of milk, peanut butter, crackers a few canned biscuits, sardines, bologna and bread, and anyone can get by for a week.

But why doesn’t Ferguson try that little ploy for a year or longer? Why doesn’t he do it permanently, the way the real people on SNAP do? The Spam might lose some of its appeal as a publicity stunt. He might switch the peanut butter for a package of those Kraft American Cheese slices—you know the ones that used to advertise five ounces of milk in ever two-thirds-ounce slice (I actually called the Kraft advertising agency once to ask how they did that. There was a long pause on the other end of the line before the Madison Avenue shill declared, “Oh, you want American; I’m in cheddar.”). But even those cheese slices will get old before too long.

So, after making that suggestion to Ferguson, I’ve decided to offer the same solution to Jindal and his minions. All he and his cadre of confidants have to do is get back to the roots they never knew: the hardscrabble life of long hours and low pay of 19.9 percent of Louisiana citizens living in poverty (second highest in the nation), many of whom do work but at minimum wage jobs with no benefits.

Here are some choice jobs I’ve found for Jindal and select members of his cabinet:

  • Superintendent of Education John White: Since Wal-Mart is out front in bankrolling pseudo education reform, White seems the ideal candidate for a Wal-Mart greeter as he forgoes his $275,000-a-year salary;
  • Jindal’s Assistant Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin: Pizza delivery boy for Domino’s because he already carries Jindal’s water for him and the Domino’s pay would be closer to his actual worth instead of the $110,000 he now makes;
  • Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols: Her $162,700 salary is completely disproportionate to her actual worth at her new job as a hostess for a Cracker Barrel Restaurant.
  • Dr. Christopher Rich approves workers compensation claims at a pathetically low rate of 14 percent—at $225,000 per year. He appears more qualified to transport claimants as a passenger van driver for a cut-rate chiropractor’s office;
  • Jimmy Faircloth has raked in more than a million dollars while losing court cases for the state, making him more realistically suited to run cheesy TV ads as a personal injury lawyer in Paincourtville (that’s a real town in Assumption Parish, by the way—and aptly named);
  • Jan Kosofsky, Executive Director and Deputy Director Carol Nacoste of the Capital Area Human Services District have received raises of $21,000 and $15,000, to bump their salaries up to $189,500 and $142,000, respectively, since 2011 while the remaining 200 agency employees received no salary increases. For that little indiscretion, they are infinitely more qualified to work as worm counters in a bait stand on Bayou Corne (site of that expanding sinkhole in Assumption Parish). My first job as a 12-year-old growing up in Ruston, LA., was counting worms at a bait stand out on Cooktown Road. Clarence Cooley paid me five cents per each 100-count carton filled (He sold them for 50 cents each) and my standing instructions were to always throw in a few extra to keep the customers happy. I generally made about $5 per Saturday;
  • Public Service Commission (PSC) member Scott Angelle, who resigned his $129,000-a-year job as Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in the wake of that sinkhole at Bayou Corne to run for the PSC rather than stay and address the problem. He is hereby reassigned to clean porta-potties at construction sites around Baton Rouge;
  • Joe Namath once called sportswriters “$125 a week jerks.” That seems a tad inflated for Timmy Teepell, but he can be the sports editor of the Grand Coteau Weekly World News Guardian Tribune Shopper.
  • And saving the best for last, Gov. Bobby Jindal hereby relinquishes his $130,000-a-year job in favor of plucking chickens at that Foster Farms poultry processing plant in Farmerville in Union Parish—the one for whom Jindal orchestrated a $50 million infusion of state money as repayment for a generous campaign contribution so that 65 percent of the plant’s 950 employees can drive the few miles from Arkansas to Farmerville to work in the Louisiana taxpayer-supported plant.

I haven’t attempted to assign all of Jindal’s cabinet members with special employment because jobs are scarce and not everyone can find employment. Accordingly, those who are not assigned jobs are going to have to accept meager unemployment benefits—and apply for food stamps.

These new assignments should put officials of this administration in touch with those who put them in office—the people who thought Jindal represented a new day in Louisiana politics only to find that the man they elected cares first and foremost for his own political fortunes and little for those who elected him.

Jindal has forgotten those who believed in him—if he ever thought of them in the first place. Perhaps living their lives—for more than a week the way Donny Ferguson did—might make him more appreciative of the great unwashed.

Or perhaps not.

Read Full Post »

While we normally do not delve into national politics (we have quite enough to do to keep up with the jesters on the fourth floor of the State Capitol), we have decided to offer up our solution to the impasse in Washington, aka the federal government shutdown.

If the board of a larger corporation like, say, Wal-Mart disagrees with the company’s CEO or president, there are no closures of Wal-Mart stores. That would be self-defeating in every respect. Corporate profits would plummet, consumers would buy elsewhere and the stockholders would elect new board members and new officers.

So how is it that Congress—America’s corporate board—can shut down company operations because of disagreements among themselves and with the President—the country’s CEO? Is our national company that near bankruptcy, financial collapse, that hysteria is now the order of the day when it comes to running the store?

To borrow a line from the television sitcom Two and a Half Men, our elected representatives appear to have the emotional stability of a sack of rats in a burning meth lab. Come to think of it, the analogy might not be that far off.

When either side of the aisle in Congress, whether Republicans or Democrats, takes it upon itself to hold the entire country hostage over its inability or unwillingness to compromise, drastic measures are in order.

When 535 men and women can cancel services to more than 300 million Americans on a whim, the system is broken and is in immediate need of repair.

When either side of the issue comments that it is “winning” and that it “doesn’t matter” to them how long the shutdown lasts—and please remember that there are cancer patients and wounded veterans who run the risk of not receiving needed medical treatments—then arrogance has supplanted diplomacy and common sense in our nation’s capital and something must be done.

When Rep. Randy Neugegauer (R-TX) can publicly insult a park ranger for doing her job in closing access to the temporarily closed World War II Memorial in Washington because of the government shutdown—a shutdown brought about by congressional stupidity and not by any action of the park ranger—then he, not she, should be ashamed.

And then we have Rep. Lee Terry (R-NEB) who said he cannot afford to give up his salary during the shutdown. He was dismissive of those who are declining their pay, saying, “Whatever gets them good press.” Good press seems the do-all, end-all for elected officials these days but they often miss the mark by a wide margin. “I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college,” Terry sniffed in refusing for relinquish his salary. “Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) expressed similar sentiments, saying he’s keeping his money because he’s “working to earn it.”

Certainly not like those federal employees who also have houses and kids in college and credit card debt and utility and grocery bills but who aren’t working because they were furloughed as a result of increasingly recurring—and tiresome—congressional gridlock and 535 megalomaniacs jockeying for “good press.”

Unfortunately, the solution to this idiocy cannot be implemented overnight; it will take several years.

Nevertheless, here is our solution:

Fire every damned one of them.

That’s right. Put them on the street for a change. Let them struggle to make ends meet each month. In short, put them back in touch with their constituents by making them one of us. We at LouisianaVoice have long felt that if we sent the politicians into battle before sacrificing our young men and women, there well might be fewer unnecessary, foolish, and costly wars like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and possibly Syria that benefit only the defense contractors.

So why not take that idea further and whenever federal employees are placed on furlough because of a federal shutdown resulting from sheer pigheadedness and some philosophical point, stop the pay for members of Congress and put them on furlough—permanently.

Constitutionally, it cannot be done in one fell swoop. Senators are elected on a rotating basis—one-third every two years. But in 2014, we could fire 468 of ‘em—all 435 members of the House and one-third, or 33 senators. Two years later, in 2016, send another one-third of the senators home and the final one-third in 2018. (Somewhere along the way, of course, there would be 34 senators up for re-election to account for all 100, but it should be just as easy to fire 34 as 33.)

None are righteous, no not one. All 535 have lost touch with the American people. Witness the shabby way in which 5th District Congressman Rodney Alexander “retired” with little advance notice, all so that (a) Gov. Bobby Jindal could install his choice, State Sen. Neil Riser, into Alexander’s seat and (b) Alexander could be rewarded for opening the door to Jindal’s boy via his appointment as head of the State Department of Veterans Affairs, a position which, incidentally, will bump his state retirement from his tenure in the state legislature before his election to Congress from approximately $7500 to about $82,000 per year.

He’s not alone, of course. Far too many members of Congress have parlayed their time in Washington into small—and not-so-small—fortunes.

Jindal, for example, spent a tad more than three years in Congress and emerged a multi-millionaire, a status he was far from enjoying when he entered.

And at least four of our own former congressmen—Sen. John Breaux and congressmen Bob Livingston, Richard Baker and Billy Tauzin—simply retired and moved over to K Street as highly paid lobbyists. There are others, but those come to mind quickly. Tauzin, it should be noted, used his position in Congress to set up his future employer—and himself—in a way we can only dream of. He rammed through a Medicare bill that prohibited the federal government from negotiating the cost of prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies, meaning that the pharmaceutical companies set the prices—and that was that. And then he resigned and went to work as a lobbyist for (you guessed it) the pharmaceutical industry.

Other members of Congress (and some governors) establish non-profit, tax-exempt foundations that allow well-heeled donors to circumvent laws that limit campaign contributions to $5,000 per election cycle. Donations to foundations such as the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children and Jindal’s Believe in Louisiana, however, have no such restrictions placed on them.

As might be expected, contributions to these foundations from individuals seeking lucrative appointments and corporations seeking favorable legislation tend to spiral out of control.

And there are members of Congress, Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid among them, who use their positions to garner inside information that allows them to anticipate and profit from stock market fluctuations or to make property investments that enrich them personally.

There is less controversy in Congress over the issue of the NSA’s spying on American citizens—an issue that should prompt outrage on the part of the American people.

And now these self-righteous hypocrites beat their breasts as each side waits for the other to blink—all over the issue of ObamaCare which, good or bad, passed Congress and was ratified by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American people should be asked to tolerate only so much from these miscreants. Our patience should be wearing a bit then with these spoiled brats.

The only reasonable solution, therefore, is to fire them all.

No exceptions.

Read Full Post »

BATON ROUGE (CNS)—Poor Gov. Jindal; he just can’t catch a break.

No sooner does he try to put a positive spin on six straight months of increased unemployment rates in the state than 24/7 Wall St., the financial news and polling firm, publishes a survey showing that Louisiana is second only to Tennessee among the worst states in American in which to be unemployed.

Even Mississippi, at 10th worst, ranks eight notches higher than Louisiana.

Jindal, who loves to cite any survey that puts Louisiana in a favorable light, is likely to overlook the latest 24/7 findings which indicate the following for the state:

  • The 24.6 percent of average weekly wage covered is lowest in the nation (the national average is 33 percent);
  • The average weekly payout of $201 is second lowest;
  • The 30 percent of unemployed who are receiving benefits is tied with Tennessee for fifth lowest (again, the national average was 45 percent);
  • The 1.1 percent one-year job growth is 19th lowest;
  • The state’s unemployment rate of 7 percent puts it in the middle of the pack at 25th lowest—but Louisiana is one of only a handful where the unemployment rate actually rose from the previous year.

Jindal (through Lansing, of course; he never takes tough questions from the media) denies that the increased unemployment rate and the 3,800 state employees who received their pink slips in the last budget year are linked in any way.

Wow. As they say, figures don’t lie but liars figure.

Claiming that many of the state employees found new jobs with the private companies that took over state services, Sean Lansing, who apparently has taken Kyle Plotkin’s place as lead Jindal apologist, said, “Louisiana’s economy is continuing to thrive as we consistently outperform both the national and Southern economies. Suggesting otherwise can only be done by ignoring a slew of statistics and metrics that prove just how well we’re doing.”

Speaking of ignoring “a slew of statistics,” figures released by the Louisiana Workforce Commission indicates there were 146,800 unemployed in June in Louisiana, or 7 percent, up from 6.8 percent in May and the sixth straight month of increased unemployment.

Unemployment rates, it should be noted, count only those unemployed who continue to seek jobs, not those who have given up looking. That said, the fact that only 30 percent of the state’s unemployed (tied with Tennessee for fifth lowest) are receiving unemployment benefits would seem to contradict the administration’s rosy outlook.

Lansing, of course, fell back on certain business surveys which seem to come out every week painting the state as some kind of idyllic garden spot for business climate—all while Louisiana’s college graduates continue to leave the state in droves in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

If Louisiana is such an attractive magnet for business and jobs, someone please explain how this state has managed to go from eight to six congressmen (congressional representation is based on population, remember) and is projected by some experts to drop to five with the next census. (If all those people who have left the state had stayed, we can’t help but wonder what the unemployment rate would be.)

Lansing also pointed to decreases in Medicaid and food stamp enrollment and improved per capita income statistics to bolster the administration’s claim that Jindal is some sort of economic miracle worker.

But wait! Let’s take the food stamp enrollment first. “A state can have a great program, but if they make it really, really hard for people to qualify for benefits, then it’s just a great program sitting there that no one can use,” said Rebecca Dixon, policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

And those decreases in Medicaid were brought about in large part by the administration’s policies that have drastically reduced payments to doctors for treating Medicaid patients. As their own push back, many doctors have simply quit accepting new Medicaid patients. One doctor recently told LouisianaVoice that he can see a Medicaid patient “but if I have to order any procedures on that patient, Medicaid won’t pay, so I just don’t take any more Medicaid patients.”

Likewise, Baton Rouge area hospitals have very quietly begun laying off nurses and other personnel—a move directly attributable to the cutback in Medicaid payments approved by the Department of Health and Hospitals under the Jindal administration.

Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, took issue with Jindal’s claim that the climb in unemployment was not related to state layoffs.

“It can’t be the only factor, but to say they’re unrelated seems to be unrealistic and mathematically it can’t be,” he said. “I don’t think you can say the unemployment rate is not influenced by government employment layoffs.”

Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret, ever the optimist at $320,000 per year (and who wouldn’t optimistic be at that salary?) said he expects the unemployment rate to drop because the state has thousands of jobs “in the pipeline” because of a large number of “just huge” projects in the works across the state. “As I look at the next few years, I see tens of thousands of new jobs,” he said. “I’m quite optimistic about the future.”

Tens of thousands? Wow again. Dude, there are people in this state who can’t hold out for the future, even for a “few years.”

Let’s go back to that 24/7 Wall St. report:

Job growth was relatively slow in the worst states to be employed because new job opportunities were taking longer to materialize. “In most of these states, the number of nonfarm jobs grew slower than the 1.3 percent national rate between June 2012 and June 2013,” it said.

In Louisiana, the nonfarm jobs grew at a whopping 1.1 percent during that time frame. So much for that healthy business climate.

Tens of thousands of new jobs on the horizon?

That’s a lot of guys standing on street corners dancing around like a dog in need of worming while playing air guitar on a cardboard pizza store sign.

That’s a lot of burgers and soft drinks.

You want fries with that?


Read Full Post »

For five long years now we have patiently (or impatiently in some cases) awaited the arrival of all that transparency touted by Gov. Bobby Jindal upon his part time occupancy of the governor’s office.

Now it seems that heretofore elusive aspect of the Jindal administration has finally arrived.

No, it wasn’t Superintendent of Education John White telling News Corp. Senior Vice President Peter Gorman (aka “Dude”) that he is White’s “recharger.”

Nor is the LSU Board of Supervisors which has refused to release the names of applicants for LSU president on the grounds that the applications are conveniently (convenient for the board and the administration, that is) submitted to a Dallas consulting firm which, being a private entity, is not subject to the public records law.

It wouldn’t be the Louisiana Office of Economic Development either. LED a couple of years back refused to surrender records to the Legislative Auditor’s office so that the state auditors could perform the function with which they are charged—auditing the state’s books.

And, needless to say, it is not Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who found a way to punt on our request for assistance in prevailing upon the Department of Education to comply with the Louisiana public records law (the law, the AG’s office informed us, says it can intervene on behalf of the public meetings law but there is no provision for it to assist with public records).

That’s a classic case of legal hair splitting, but hey, the attorney general’s office is the official legal counsel for state agencies (a veritable horde of state-contracted legal counsels notwithstanding), so who are we to argue? We’re just the low-lifes who work, pay taxes and vote in this state. Never mind some 80 or so (we finally quit counting when we reached that number) legal opinions by the AG issued to various state agencies which opine that public records must be surrendered.

But we digress (as we often do).

No, it’s none of those. The shocker here is that the transparency that has suddenly and without warning opened up before our very eyes originates in none other than the governor’s office.

Yep, chalk one up for Bobby, our part time, absentee governor who would rather run for president than run the state.

Don’t believe us? Still harboring some doubts as to the veracity of our claim?
Well, we have the proof.

Jindal is proposing scrapping the state personal and corporate income tax and replacing it with…well, something. He hasn’t the vaguest idea what (he said earlier this month that he’s still working on details of his plan).

In general terms, Jindal is talking about an increase in the state sales tax and a dollar increase in the cigarette tax (remember when he refused to sign the renewal of the 4-cent cigarette tax because, he said, he was opposed to “new” taxes?).

Never mind that a sales tax would hit the low- and middle-income taxpayers the very hardest http://louisianavoice.com/2013/01/16/par-lsu-economist-richardson-cast-doubts-on-%CF%80-yush-plan-to-replace-louisiana-income-tax-with-state-sales-tax-increase/, abolishment of state income taxes has become the mantra of Republican governors nationwide because it would represent the ultimate tax break (read: political reward) for corporate campaign donors.

But rather than rely on the lack of merits in a weak proposal, Jindal has enlisted his minions to launch a letter-writing campaign in support of his as yet incomplete tax plan.

That’s correct: the plan isn’t even completed, much less polished and officially presented to the legislature and the public, but the letter-writing campaign has already started. Never mind that the plan has as yet progressed no further than a two-page outline pretentiously entitled “A Framework for Comprehensive Tax Reform.” It apparently suffices for the purposes of initiating a well-orchestrated PR campaign from the governor’s office or perhaps from Timmy Teepell’s OnMessage (Oops, we forgot; they are one and the same).

It officially began on Feb. 20 with the publication in newspapers statewide of a letter by LED Secretary and presumed future LSU President/Chancellor/High Potentate Stephen Moret.

Boiled down to its essentials, Moret’s 12-paragraph letter claims that Jindal’s undefined, unreleased, still-in-the-works, everything-still-on-the-table plan would somehow magically bump Louisiana from No. 32 to No. 4 in something called the State Business Tax Climate.

Fine for business climate, yes, but Moret conveniently neglects how that plan, still being formulated somewhere out there in the fog-enshrouded concepts of the policy wonks, would affect the working stiffs. An addition 2 or 3 percent on the sales tax for the purchase of say, a package of toilet paper won’t be such a burden. But tack that same 2 or 3 percent onto the cost of a new refrigerator, central air and heating unit or a new automobile and suddenly, in the words of the late Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen, you’re talking about real money.

But no matter; Moret obviously had his marching orders: write a glowing letter about how the Jindal Plan (not to be confused with the Stelly Plan that he repealed, at a cost to the state of about $300 million a year) would be great for business—and everyone knows, as President Calvin Coolidge said way back in 1925, “The chief business of the American people is business.” (The stock market crash, of course, was only four years away when he said that, which subsequently put a lot of American people out of business.)

Exactly a week after Moret’s letter, on Feb. 27, the Baton Rouge Advocate (and probably a few other papers across the state) published a second letter endorsing the still mythical tax plan. This one was written by someone named Matthew Glans, who identifies himself as senior policy analyst for The Heartland Institute in Chicago (described by The Economist last May as “The world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change,” according to the institute’s own web page) and which also describes itself as an advocate of free market policies.

Probably its greatest claim to fame, however, came in the 1990s, when it worked with Philip Morris in attempts to debunk the science linking secondhand smoke to health issues and to lobby against government public-health reforms.

(The Heartland Institute bears an eerie resemblance to the fictional “myFACTS” currently being lampooned by Garry Trudeau in the comic strip Doonesbury.)

Glans calls Jindal’s plan “a strong step towards improving the state’s economic competitiveness and returning tax dollars to Louisiana citizens and businesses.”

At the same time he cautions against a system “that allows the government to choose winners and losers.”

“A tax system filled with tax increases on targeted items such as tobacco or subsidies for certain businesses (read: tobacco, in states like North Carolina), however, is not sound policy,” he says, adding, “A system that lowers rates across the board, like much of Jindal’s proposal, would spur economic growth.”

Strange how Glans, sitting in Chicago, could know so much about the part time, absentee governor’s tax plan when Jindal himself confesses that his “plan” is still evolving and stranger still that he would single out tobacco (and tobacco subsidies) as a potential victim of increased sales taxes.

Curious, too, that he is so knowledgeable when legislators remain in the dark.

But, hey, we wanted transparency from our governor.

And this “independent” letter-writing campaign is about as transparent as it gets.

Read Full Post »

Last March, Piyush Jindal’s alter-ego Timmy Teepell (or would it be the other way around?) was a guest on the Jim Engster’s Show on Baton Rouge’s public radio station WRKF and in the course of that interview he denied any knowledge of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) agenda.

Another guest on Engster’s show, Public Service Commission Chairman Foster Campbell, this week took Jindal, the legislature and the entire Louisiana congressional delegation to task for not displaying sufficient backbone to back Jindal down on his proposals to eliminate the personal and corporate income taxes in favor of a 3 cent state sales tax increase.

Campbell instead called for the passage of a 3 percent processing tax on oil and gas which he said would generate $3 billion a year “and let the people who can afford a tax pay it.”

When one reads ALEC’s 5th anniversary edition of Rich States, Poor States http://www.alec.org/publications/rich-states-poor-states/, one has to wonder at the veracity of Teepell’s claim. The annual report devotes 15 of its 125 pages to demonstrating how bad personal income taxes for states’ economies—and that’s before it even gets to the five-page chapter entitled Policy #1: The Personal Income Tax.

Even after that chapter, state personal income taxes are mentioned at least once on 64 of the next 75 pages.

Likewise, corporate income taxes are also discussed on 10 separate pages before Policy #2: The Corporate Income Tax, another five-page chapter. Corporate income taxes are then mentioned on 56 of the remaining 80 pages.

As if that were not enough, Rich States, Poor States also zeroes in on its favorite tax, the sales tax. “We find that sales taxes have a neutral effect on state economies and therefore are a far preferable means for a state to raise needed revenue,” it said in the first paragraph of Policy #3, entitled (you guessed it) The Sales Tax.

In all, sales taxes are invoked on no fewer than 74 of the 125-page report which boasts that ALEC’s tax and fiscal policy is “to prioritize government spending, to lower the overall tax burden, to enhance transparency of government operations, and to develop sound, free-market tax and fiscal policy.”

And Teepell is unaware of this agenda. Really?

“When policymakers choose the levels and types of taxes for their state, they must confront not only the possible effects on the state economy, but the volatility of tax receipts as well,” the report says. “When tax receipts are volatile, that usually means an abnormally large shortfall of revenues when times are tough and spending needs are the greatest.”

Incredibly, the report claims that revenue generated from sales taxes “is the least affected by the boom and bust cycle—in fact, sales tax revenue changes only half as much as revenue from personal and corporate income taxes do.

“Not only does the sales tax do less to inhibit growth, it is a steady revenue source even during a recession,” says the report.

Then, ripping a page right of the Milton Friedman playbook, the report says, “Progressive corporate and personal income taxes do far more damage to the economy than do other taxes such as sales taxes, property taxes and severance taxes. In addition, they (income taxes) are substantially less reliable than those other taxes. How’s that for sound tax policy?”

Well, certainly inflicting a regressive sales tax on Louisiana’s poor is considerably more reliable than corporate income taxes when one considers all the tax breaks, exemptions and rebates this administration hands out to the tune of about $5 billion a year to corporate contributors.

But to address the sophomoric question, “How’s that for sound tax policy?” we turn to another publication entitled Selling Snake Oil to the States: The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Flawed Prescriptions for Prosperity.

A joint publication of Good Jobs First and The Iowa Policy Project, The November Snake Oil report takes ALEC to task for its Rich States, Poor States publication which, as might be expected, is heavily weighted in favor of its corporate membership.

“We conclude that the evidence cited to support Rich States, Poor States’ policy menu ranges from deeply flawed to non-existent,” Snake Oil says. “Subjected to scrutiny, these policies are revealed to explain nothing about why some states have created more jobs or enjoyed higher income growth than others over the past five years.

“In actuality, Rich States, Poor States provides a recipe for economic inequality, wage suppression and stagnant incomes and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain the public infrastructure and education systems that are true foundations of long term economic growth and shared prosperity,” it said.

The Snake Oil report said that results actually reflect just the opposite of the ALEC claims. “The more a state’s policies mirrored the ALEC low-tax/regressive taxation/limited government agenda, the lower the median family income; this is true for every year from 2007 through 2011.”

Jindal was elected in 2007 and took office in 2008 and his policies, Teepell’s denial notwithstanding, have certainly mirrored the ALEC low-tax/regressive taxation/limited government agenda and the state’s infrastructure and education systems just as certainly have suffered under staggering budgetary cuts.

Louisiana’s average median household income of $42,423 for 2010 was the nation’s 10th lowest and 29 percent of Louisiana’s children live in poverty, second only to Mississippi’s 32 percent.

The state’s working poor already pay little or no income tax, so elimination of the state income tax would have no effect on them. A sales tax increase, however, would hit the poor the hardest because they would be paying the same taxes on diapers, clothing, cars, gasoline, appliances and automobiles as the wealthy. Accordingly, they would be paying a much larger percentage of their income in sales taxes than higher income families.

Campbell, a former state senator and an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2007, was elected chairman of the Public Service Commission last year.

Accustomed to being a political lightning rod for his candor, Campbell was in rare form on Engster’s show on Tuesday, saying that Jindal typically works for the benefit of big companies and corporations. “He’ll do anything he can to help those at the top end of the income bracket.”

Appearing to consciously avoid referring to Jindal as governor, he said, “Mr. Jindal knows the solution. When I ran for governor, I wanted to get rid of the income tax which I still think we ought to do. Progressive states like Florida and Tennessee don’t have state income taxes and neither does Texas. They seem to be doing better than us. But you have to replace it with something and Mr. Jindal knows what to replace it with but you couldn’t get him close to it.

“Mr. Jindal wouldn’t touch the oil companies and that’s where to get the money. We just need some politicians with some plain old-fashioned guts to ask ‘em to pay their fair share. I’ve never seen anyone stand up to the oil companies. We don’t have a congressman who’ll do it. Mary Landrieu won’t do it. David Vitter is joined at the hip with them and he absolutely won’t do it.

“Mr. Jindal would run out of the Capitol screaming if you asked him to touch Exxon with a tax,” Campbell said.

Campbell, a Democrat, then heaped praise on Louisiana’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

“The most honest governor by far, who tried to do the right thing, was Dave Treen. When he ran against Louis Lambert (in 1979), business and industry supported him but when he went after the oil companies, they all turned on him and put Edwards back in,” he said.

“He was absolutely right when he had the Coastal Wetlands Environmental Levy (CWEL) and he wanted some kind of fee from the oil companies for tearing up our coast.

“I like oil companies for furnishing jobs,” he said. “That’s great. But we have let the oil companies absolutely take over our state, damage our coastline and never asked them to pay for it.

The BP spill, bad as it was, was miniscule compared to the damage oil companies have done to our coastline and all our congressional delegation wants to do is go ask Obama to pay for the coastal restoration and Mr. Vitter (U.S. Sen. David Vitter is the leading cheerleader for that. The government didn’t drill the wells and Mr. Vitter knows that but he doesn’t want to ask the people he’s close to to pay for the damage. And neither does Ms. Landrieu. You see the ads on TV praising Ms. Landrieu. Do you know who’s paying for those ads? The oil companies.”

“We need to ask the oil companies who are making billions to pay something rather than asking the people of Louisiana which has (one of the) poorest populations in the nation. Rather than asking people at the bottom to pay the big end of the tax, why doesn’t Mr. Jindal ask companies like Exxon, Chevron, and Shell to pay their fair share? Fifty percent of the coastal erosion in this state is caused by offshore activity.

“In 1926, when we put it into the constitution, we could tax only domestic oil. That was fine back then when 95 percent of our oil was domestic. Today, it’s 96 percent foreign and 4 percent domestic.

“We have to tax oil and gas coming into the state of Louisiana,” he said. “I agree with Mr. Jindal that we need to eliminate the severance tax because it has been dwindling anyway since the ‘80s. Instead of the severance tax, charge a simple 3 percent processing tax which would raise $3 billion a year.

Campbell said former Gov. Buddy Roemer wants to tax oil that’s still in the ground. “That won’t generate the money. I asked Roemer, Edwards and (Mike) Foster (about the 3 percent processing fee) but they wouldn’t help.

“I guarantee you it would pass by 80 percent. Mr. Kennedy (State Treasurer John Kennedy) knows that, Mr. Roemer, Mr. Jindal and especially Mr. (Dan) Juneau, the head of LABI (Louisiana Association of Business and Industry), know it. Mr. Juneau cannot stand a processing tax because the people who pay his bills don’t want it.”

Campbell said, “It’s the LABIs of the world who represent the big companies doing business up and down the Mississippi. LABI is not worried about the Mindens, the Homers, the Farmervilles, the Ringgolds, the Mansfields or the Rustons of Louisiana. They’re worried about the Chevrons, the Dows, the Exxons. Those are the people who put up the big money.

“Legislators who consistently vote with LABI are not representing their districts because LABI could care less about them.

“That’s who Mr. Jindal is dancing to. That’s why he wants to raise the sales tax on the people. Don’t put it on the oil companies that make billions,” he said in mocking the administration line. “They can’t afford it. They might leave the state.

“How are they going leave the state when they have 50,000 miles of pipeline that deliver oil and gas all across America? And they have the Mississippi River! They can’t leave the state. We need politicians with backbone who’ll say, ‘Now listen, you’ve had a great day in Louisiana, but it’s over. We have crumbling roads, poor education, pollution, a torn-up coast and now you’re gonna pay your fair share. Now get out there and start crying that you’re gonna leave the state and we’ll see what the people believe.’”

At that point, Engster finally got to ask, “Are you a member of LABI?”

“Absolutely not. They don’t represent small business. They say they do but they represent the big boys. Never forget that. Mr. Juneau takes his orders from the boys that put up the most money. They don’t worry about the hardware store in Mansfield. They say they do, but they’re fooling those people. They represent the biggest of the big, nothing more, nothing less.

“That’s who Mr. Jindal represents. Look what he’s doing: raising the sales tax on the poorest people living in America—and make sure, by the way, to get rid of corporate taxes.

“You haven’t heard Mr. Jindal say one word about Exxon paying its fair share and you won’t because he’s in their back pocket.

“Mr. Vitter won’t say anything about fixing our coast because he’s in their back pocket.

“Ms. Landrieu won’t say that because she’s in their back pocket.”

LouisianaVoice did a quick check of campaign contributions and found that Campbell may have been onto something when he talked about a lack of courage by the legislature and the congressional delegation and Jindal’s being beholden to the oil and gas industry.

Oil and gas interests contributed more than $1.5 million to 143 state candidates, including legislators and statewide elected officials since 2003, including Jindal, Kennedy, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Lt. Gov. and current New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain and former Secretary of Natural Resources and current Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle.

Moreover, oil and gas contributed more than $1.75 million to six of Louisiana’s seven congressmen since 2002 and $1.99 million to the state’s two U.S. senators since 1996.

The breakdown for the congressional delegation, with the dates each was first elected in parentheses is as follows:


• Mary Landrieu (1996)—$940,174;

• David Vitter (2004)—$1.05 million’


• Steve Scalise (2008)—$257,785;

• Charles Boustany (2004)—$641,605;

• John Fleming (2008)—$405,450;

• Rodney Alexander (2002)—$254,559;

• Bill Cassidy (2008)—$194,300;

• Cedric Richmond (2010)—$0

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,210 other followers