Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

JINDAL STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS(FROM OUR ANONYMOUS CARTOONIST: CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

If there was any lingering doubt that Bobby Jindal has been committing payroll fraud, that doubt was erased in last Monday’s State of the State address to legislators at the opening of the 2015 legislative which, thankfully, will be his last such address.

Fraud is defined as:

  • The wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain;
  • Deceit, trickery, or breach of confidence perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage;
  • A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.

Payroll fraud is further defined as the unauthorized altering of payroll or benefits systems in order for an employee to gain funds which are not due. The person making financial gain could be the employee or could be an associate who is using the employee to commit the fraud while taking the funds for himself.

There are generally three types of payroll fraud but for our purposes we are interested in only one:

  • Ghost employees—A person, fictional or real, who is being paid for work he does not perform. In order for the fraud to work the ghost employee must be added to the payroll register. If the individual is paid a monthly salary this is easier for the fraudster, as once this has been set up there is little or no paperwork required. In order for the fraud to work, the ghost employee must be added elected to the payroll register. Once this has been set up, there is little or no paperwork required.

Under that definition, Jindal could certainly be considered a ghost employee. One person even suggested that it was not really Jindal speaking to legislators, that Jindal was actually in Iowa and they were being addressed by a hologram.

We maintain that Jindal is committing payroll fraud by vacating the state so often and leaving the details of running the state to appointed subordinates as inexperienced and naïve as he. The point here is this: No one on his staff was elected; he was. And he has not been at the helm of the ship of state and by absenting himself so frequently and so consistently as he gins up his presidential candidacy, he is committing payroll fraud, theft, and malfeasance. Others, like former Desoto Parish School Superintendent and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Walter Lee have been indicted and been prosecuted for payroll fraud.

Before we really get into his speech to legislators, JINDAL ADDRESS TO LEGISLATURE we simply must call attention to the feeble effort at humor he (or someone) injected into the third line of his speech:

“Well, here we are…at the moment that some of you have been waiting for a long time—my last state of the state speech.”

After an apparently appropriate pause, he continued: “No, that was not supposed to be an applause line…and I do appreciate your restraint.”

Seriously? You actually wrote that line in your speech? If you have to write that in, if you are incapable of ad-libbing that simple line, then we now understand that idiotic response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2009.

Before getting to the real meat of his legislative agenda for this year (if you can call it that), he touched ever-so-lightly on a few other points he generously referred to as his administration’s accomplishments. Our responses to each point are drawn directly from statistics provided by 24/7 Wall Street, a service that provides a steady stream of statistical data on business and government:

  • “We cleaned up our ethics laws so that now what you know is more important than who you know.” (A quick look at the appointment of Troy Hebert as director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control after the baseless firing of Murphy Painter could quickly debunk that bogus claim. So could several appointments to the LSU Board of Supervisors and the equally egregious firing of key personnel like Tommy Teague who did their jobs well but made the fatal mistake of crossing Mr. Egomaniac.)
  • “We reformed our education system…” (Louisiana is the fifth-worst educated state and we are the third-worst state for children who struggle to read);
  • “We reformed our health care system…” (Really? Is that why the privatization of our state hospitals remain in turmoil? That same reform ultimately forced the closure of Baton Rouge General Mid-City’s emergency room because of the overload brought on by the closure of Earl K. Long Hospital? Can we thank your “reform” for the fact that Louisiana still has the nation’s third-lowest life expectancy rate or that we enjoy the nation’s third-most unhealthy rating, that we are fifth-highest in cardiovascular deaths or that we have the highest obesity rate in the nation?);
  • “…Our economy is booming.” (Seriously? Louisiana is rated as the worst state for business in the U.S.; we rank sixth-highest among states where the middle class is dying; we remain the eighth-poorest state in the nation with a poverty rate that is third-highest, and we’re saddled with the fourth-worst income disparity in the nation and we’re rated the 10th-worst state in which to be unemployed.);
  • “We have balanced our budget every year…and have received eight credit upgrades.” (This one of those claims so preposterous one doesn’t know how to respond, but we’ll give it our best. Jindal has repeatedly patched budget holes by skimming funds from other agencies, like more than $400 million from the Office of Group Benefits reserve fund, from the sale of the tobacco settlement, from ripping funds for the developmentally disadvantaged (to fund a race track tied a political donor—what was that line again about “what you know, not who you know”?), by cutting health care and higher education, by selling state property, and now he’s trying to cover the current $1.6 billion budget hole by selling the State Lottery. As for those credit upgrades, we can only point to the February action by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s bond rating agencies to move the state’s credit outlook from stable to negative—and to threaten the more severe action of a downgrade.);
  • “The end result is a stronger, more prosperous Louisiana for our children. I measure Louisiana’s prosperity not by the prosperity of our government, but by the prosperity of our people.” (So, why are the fifth-most dangerous state in the nation? The 10th-most miserable state? Why do we have the eighth-worst quality of life? And the 11th-worst run state in the nation? And why have you never once addressed in your seven-plus years in office our ranking as the number-one state in the nation for gun violence or our ranking as first in the world for our prison incarceration rate?)
  • “We don’t live by Washington’s rules of kicking our debts down the road.” (For the love of God…);
  • “We have laid out a budget proposal that seeks to protect higher education, health care and other important government functions.” (And that’s why higher education and health care have been cut each of your years in office and why more cuts are anticipated that could conceivably shut down some of our universities. You really call cuts of up to 80 percent “protecting” higher education?);
  • “We have a system of corporate welfare in this state.” (Wow. After more than seven years of giving away the store to the tune of billions of dollars in corporate tax breaks, you finally come the realization that perhaps your generosity to the Wal-Marts, chicken processing plants and movie production companies may have been a bit much—that those policies may have actually hurt the state? What brought about this sudden epiphany? Bob Mann, in his Something Like the Truth blog, was all over that when he called attention to Jindal’s latest comment in the face of his claim a couple of years ago that we were “crushing businesses” with oppressive taxes. We’ll let him take this one.) http://bobmannblog.com/2015/04/17/bobby-jindal-is-now-against-corporate-welfare/
  • “We have identified over $500 million of corporate welfare spending that we think should be cut…” (Why the hell did it take you seven years?)

After all was said and done, after his hit-and-run sideswipes at all his purported “accomplishments,” Jindal devoted the bulk of his address to only two issues: Common Core and religious liberty. Of the latter issue, he said, “I absolutely intend to fight for passage of this legislation.”

Jindal was referring to Bossier City Republican State Rep. Mike Johnson’s HB 707 which would waste an enormous amount of time and energy—time that could be better spent on far more pressing matters, like a $1.6 billion deficit—on preventing the state from taking “any adverse action” against a person or business on the basis of a “moral conviction about marriage.”

Despite claims by Jindal and Johnson to the contrary, the bill is nothing more than a clone of the Indiana law that constitutes a not-so-subtle attack on gays or anyone else with whom any businessman deems a threat to his or her definition of marriage.

So, after eight addresses to the legislature, Jindal has yet to address any of the issues like inadequate health care, violence, poverty, pay disparity or equal pay for women, increasing the minimum wage, poor business climate (his rosy claims notwithstanding), our highway system (we didn’t mention that, but we are the seventh-worst state in which to drive, with the 15th-highest auto fatality rate), or our having the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Instead, the thrust of his address is aimed at Common Core—he called it federal control even though Common Core was devised by the nation’s governors and not the federal government—and something called the “Marriage and Conscience Act.”

And he expects those two issues, along with something he calls “American Exceptionalism,” to thrust him into the White House as leader of the free world.

And, of course, attacking national Democrats like Obama and just today, Hillary Clinton, on her claim of having immigrant grandparents. Jindal, of course, wants exclusive rights to that claim and says so with his oft-repeated platitude: My parents came to this country over 40 years ago with nothing but the belief that America is the land of freedom and opportunity. They were right. The sad truth is that the Left no longer believes in American Exceptionalism.”

Well, to tell the truth, if Bobby Jindal is the example—the standard-bearer, if you will—for what is considered “American Exceptionalism,” then frankly, we don’t believe in it either.

Read Full Post »

U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle could well be running for governor of Texas instead of Louisiana, if campaign contributions through March 31 are any indication.

That’s because between the two, there have been 69 contributions from donors in the Lone Star State totaling more than half a million dollars, according to campaign finance reports on file with the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

In fact, it might even appear to some that there is a disproportionate amount of out-of-state money that has already been invested in the four major candidates for governor—and the Oct. 24 primary election is still six months away.

Besides the 317 out-of-state contributors who have combined to pour $900,000 into the four campaigns, 954 special interests (corporations, political action committees, etc.) have funneled more than $3 million of the total $6.1 million contributed to the campaigns of Republicans Vitter, Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards, records show.

With nearly half the total contributions coming from special interests—the numbers do not include donations made by individuals and family members affiliated with corporations—it is evident that the decision of choosing political leaders has been taken away from the citizenry in favor of moneyed power brokers.

Elections now go to the candidate who has the most money to spend on the slickest image building and most damaging character assassination of the opposition—all with little or no attention given to real issues or genuine political ideology. It’s as if every candidate has adopted the sales adage that says you don’t sell the hamburger, you sell the sizzle. To create that sizzle, politicians have shamelessly sold their souls to people like the Koch brothers, financier George Soros, Amway founder Richard DeVos, Las Vegas casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

Voters would probably be wise to examine the issues more carefully, question candidates on their positions and reject the big money the way the old 1960s-era print advertisement for the Volkswagen Beetle which shows two men campaigning from convertible vehicles, one photo has a candidate standing in the rear seat of a luxury vehicle (it appears to be a Cadillac) trailed by a marching band, and the other from the back seat of an economy Beetle with a lone bass drummer behind him—with the caption “Which man would you vote for?”

1de860b7f87d9e7b14f5e5a00dbb9b49[1]

Indeed, Louisiana, which man would you vote for? It would behoove us to take long looks at the candidates and what they stand for and not vote for the one who can best saturate TV ads with photos of him and his beaming family as he prattles on about how much he loves corporate donors and PACs this state.

Julia O’Donoghue, writing for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, noted that each of the four leading candidates for governor said he will not be signing the “no-tax” pledge of Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/post_584.html

“As Louisiana’s next governor, I’ll make fiscal decisions that are best for Louisiana, not based on what a Washington group dictates,” says Vitter, the top money-raiser of the four. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/grover_norquists_no_tax_increa.html

But though Vitter says he would not sign the pledge as governor, he already has, as U.S. Senator.

That’s why it is so crucial to watch what the candidates do and not what they say. As you watch the polished TV ads in the coming months remember that old expression “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you are saying.”

That’s especially true of Vitter and Angelle. One has somehow survived not one, but two, extra-marital scandals, either one of which would have destroyed the political careers of other men, and the other is nothing more than Third Term Jindal—an appointee of and anointed by the man who single-handedly wrecked higher education, the Office of Group Benefits, the state’s hospital system, the state’s infrastructure and the state’s economy while on his way (he somehow still believes) to the White House.

LouisianaVoice received a most interesting web post about so-called “dark money” in political campaigns. The post, entitled Be Afraid of the Dark: How Dark Money affects elections, is the creation of Accounting-Degree.org and though dated, provides a thorough explanation of how $200 million in dark money—money not covered by federal disclosure rules intended to inform the public of who is paying to influence its vote—was expected to be spent in the 2014 Congressional elections last fall. http://www.accounting-degree.org/dark-money/

It goes into a detailed explanation of:

  • The 1976 U.S. Supreme Court Decision Buckley v. Valeo, which allowed unlimited campaign expenditures by individuals;
  • The Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision by the Supreme Court allowing unlimited outside campaign expenditures by corporations and labor unions;
  • The 2010 Speechnow v. FEC Appeals Court decision allowing unlimited contributins to political action committees by individuals;
  • Super PACs, the political action committees that accept and spend unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions (donors publicly disclosed);
  • 501(c)(4) Committees, the nonprofit campaign committees regulated by the IRS, not elections officials. Though not political in their primary function, they may accept and spend unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions and may then funnel money to super PACs (donors not publicly disclosed).

With an estimated $5 billion poured into last fall’s federal election campaigns, one has to wonder why the contributors, those who love power and love using it, would not be satisfied with using that money for the greater good—feeding the poor, paying teachers more, building infrastructure, health care, etc., rather than using it for the more sinister purpose of buying candidates and elections.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the campaign contributions from Jan. 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015 for the four leading gubernatorial candidates:

DAVID VITTER (Rep.): VITTER CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 1,158 totaling $3.7 million (Ave. contribution: $3,195);
  • Total contributions of $5,000 maximum: 592 at $2.96 million (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest (corporations, PACs, etc.) at $5,000 maximum: 328 at $1.64 million (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of all amounts: 532 at $2 million (more than half his total contributions of all amounts from all sources) (Ave. contribution: $3,759);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 186 at $490,835 (Ave. contribution: $2,639) (including Texas: 54 for $201,500; Virginia: 19 for $38,500; Washington, D.C.: 12 for $27,000).

SCOTT ANGELLE (Rep.): ANGELLE CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 430 at $1.5 million (Ave. contribution: $3,486);
  • Total contributions of $5,000 maximum: 230 for $1,150,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: 130 at $650,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions, all amounts: 213 for $800,500 (Ave. contribution: $3,758);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 84 for $339,000 (Ave. contribution: $4,036) (including Texas: 74 at $316,000, an average contribution of $4,270).

JAY DARDENNE (Rep.): JAY DARDENNE CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 409 at $597,000 (Ave. contribution: $1,460);
  • Total contributions at $5,000 maximum: 46 at $230,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: 16 at $80,000 (Ave contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions, all amounts: 115 at $111,825 (Ave contribution: $972);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 24 for $36,350 (Ave. contribution: 1,515) (Texas: 13 for $20,320 for an average contribution of $1,563).

JOHN BEL EDWARDS (Dem.): JOHN BEL EDWARDS CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 198 at $299,700 (Ave. contribution: $1,514);
  • Total contributions of $5,000 maximum: 15 at $75,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: 5 at $25,000 (Ave. contribution $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions, all amounts: 94 at $94,250 (Ave. contribution: $1,003);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 23 at $24,200 (Ave. contribution: $1,052).

QUICK SUMMARY:

  • Out-of-state contributions: Vitter with 186 for $490,835, compared to 131 for $399,550 for the other three candidates combined;
  • Special interest contributions: Vitter with 532 for $2 million, compared to 422 for $1,006,375 for the other three candidates combined;
  • Special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: Vitter with 328 for $1.64 million, compared to 151 for $755,000 for Angelle, Dardenne and Edwards combined;
  • Contributions of the $5,000 maximum: 592 for $2.96 million while the remaining three candidates combined for 291 contributions totaling $1,455,000.

Finally, it might be worth mentioning that in 2011 Bobby Jindal raised a whopping $12 million for his re-election campaign.

And you see what that bought us.

 

Read Full Post »

Before going any further, let’s establish a few facts:

I am straight, white, happily-married (for 46-plus years) male, a recovering Republican (40 years was more than long enough), in fairly good health. And while far from wealthy, my home is paid for and we live in reasonable comfort. My children are successful professionals and my grandchildren do well in school.

I am not a malcontent who bemoans every misfortune that comes my way. Linda Ronstadt’s Poor, Poor Pitiful Me is simply not my theme song.

Nor am I one of those oblivious optimists unable—or unwilling—to see or acknowledge the injustices meted out on those less fortunate. I will not allow myself to become blind to the suffering and hardships of others. Just as I do not want others judging me, I am likewise acutely aware that it is not for me to judge others.

I cannot, in good conscience, turn my back on someone because of gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or skin color. To do so would go against everything that the smartest man I ever knew taught me: my grandfather who had only a sixth-grade education but was smarter than any Ph.D. I ever met.

That is why my blood boils when I see those in positions of power deny the creature comforts to the less fortunate, or judge the lifestyles of those who do not think and act the way they do, or reject equal gender pay, or deny adequate medical care for the indigent or to even refuse to raise the minimum wage of the struggling working poor.

Bobby Jindal insists that those coming to live in this country should subscribe to his idea of “American Exceptionalism.”

But for someone who preaches freedom of choice, doesn’t such a requirement necessarily restrict that same freedom?

He even manages somehow to link his opposition to Common Core to the teaching of American Exceptionalism in our schools even though the Common Core curriculum is limited to English and math, not history. http://www.foxnews.com/transcript/2015/03/19/bobby-jindal-responds-to-criticism-from-muslim-activists/

But Bobby, you need to answer this question: where is your ideal of American Exceptionalism when you deny health care to 250,000 Louisianans or when your lap dogs in the Legislature vote to block an increase in the minimum wage so the single mom having to work two jobs can make a decent salary?

HB 645 VOTE

Talk is cheap and you, Bobby, are even cheaper. You’ve been bought and packaged by the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist and their ilk. And you know what, Bobby? When they’re through with you, they’ll toss you away like a disposable diaper, which somehow is a uniquely appropriate metaphor.

And lest anyone think that I am singling out Bobby Jindal for verbal abuse, let me assure you there is plenty blame to go around, beginning in Indiana and moving on to Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and to every coward who brandishes a Bible and wraps himself in the American flag in the name or religious freedom.

These are the people who, secure in their own insulated cocoons, insist that others less fortunate should be happy to live on minimum wage, go without health insurance, receive sub-par educations from deteriorating public schools while their own kids go to charter schools and all the while, expect the working poor and middle class to bear the burden of higher tax rates, thanks to generous exemptions and incentives written for—and by—the wealthiest of the wealthy, the membership of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Indiana unbelievably, has passed a law removing the protection from discrimination by private entities against gay and lesbian citizens of that state—and Arkansas followed in short order.

Are you kidding me? Indiana and Arkansas seriously want to deny basic human rights and protection under the law for people simply because they are gay or lesbian? What’s next, burning witches at the stake?

The act does not restore religious freedom; we already have that. Instead, it rejects other basic freedoms for a class of people. That is discrimination by anyone’s definition.

Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence is trying to say the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was not intended to enable discrimination, but try telling that to the owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton. http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/04/01/3641622/indiana-pizza-discrimination/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tptop3

Crystal O’Connor, one of the owners of Memories Pizza, in defending the decision to refuse to provide pizzas for same-sex couples’ weddings, sniffed, “We are a Christian establishment.”

Oh, really? Well then, Ms. O’Conner, here are a few Bible verses for you to chew on:

  • Matthew 7:1-3: “Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.”
  • Matthew 25:40: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
  • John 8:7: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.”
  • John 13:34-35: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

The Indiana law comes with a potential high cost. All four coaches of the Final Four NCAA Basketball Tournament, scheduled to be held in Indianapolis April 4-6, have endorsed the NCAA’s position that discrimination should never be tolerated under any circumstances. Joining them are NASCAR, the Big Ten Conference, the NBA Indiana Pacers, the WNBA Indiana Fever, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, UConn Coach Kevin Ollie and USC Athletic Director Pat Haden. http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/ncaabk/final-four-coaches-release-statement-on-indianas-new-law/ar-AAajTKT?ocid=iehp

You’d think that would be sufficient but even as Arkansas legislators were passing their own version of RFRA, major corporations, including Apple, Angie’s List, Cummins, Inc., Eli Lilly, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and Arkansas-based Wal-Mart have called on Pence to repeal the Indiana law and for Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the law. Hutchinson first said he intended to sign the bill into law though he has since buckled to pressure to send the bill back to lawmakers for tweaking. http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/31/politics/arkansas-religious-freedom-anti-lgbt-bill/

Even Republicans in Indiana have seen the light and are beginning to backtrack on their support of the law. http://www.thenation.com/blog/203001/even-indiana-republicans-are-telling-mike-pence-his-discrimination-law-wrong#

But even as they do so, lawmakers in North Carolina and Georgia have similar bills under consideration and former Florida governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush has expressed his support for the Indiana law. http://www.sfgate.com/nation/article/Jeb-Bush-defends-Indiana-law-as-he-seeks-Bay-Area-6171335.php

All of which begs the question: Have we as a nation gone stark raving mad? What happened to the great melting pot that was once America? This is what Jindal calls American exceptionalism? If so, stop the bus and let me off. I want no part of it.

I have worked with gay people find found them to be exceptionally intelligent and talented at what they do. As a newspaper editor, I once had a lesbian reporter working for me. She never hid her sexual orientation but neither did she flaunt it or let it interfere with her work as a professional reporter and we have remained friends for more than 35 years and continue to communicate by email on occasion. If I were a newspaper editor today, I would not hesitate to hire her. In fact, I would be proud to have her on my team again.

(I would be less than honest if I claimed I always felt this way. The truth is, in high school I joined with others in making life miserable for a gay classmate. He eventually dropped out of school because of our cruelty. I will carry the regret and shame for my act to my grave. That was most definitely not what my grandfather taught me.)

And even as I write this, State Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) is considering introducing his own RFRA bill (the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act”) for consideration during this year’s legislative session. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/lgbt_louisiana_religious_freed.html

And then there is that arrogant Republican State Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Tennessee.

After his committee voted to deny 280,000 state residents access to health care by rejecting a plan to expand Medicaid, a-la Jindal, a play by the way that would have cost the state nothing, Gardenhire, who works as a wealth manager for Morgan Stanley, was confronted by an advocate for expansion.

Asked by one supporter of the expansion, Damien Crisp, if he would be willing to give up his own state-subsidized health insurance, Gardenhire responded by calling Crisp an “a**hole.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/01/todd-gardenhire_n_6986582.html

I believe it was President Truman who suggested if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Gardenhire obviously can’t take a little heat, especially after being caught lying when he earlier denied he received state-sponsored coverage.

The bottom line is this, just in case Jindal, Hutchinson, Pence, Bush, Gardenhire and Family Forum’s Gene Mills may have forgotten: Gays, lesbians, Mexicans, blacks, women, and the poor (along with others I may have missed) all belong to a group known collectively as human beings and as such, they have feelings, emotions, needs, families, dignity and rights.

They are American citizens and for anyone to try through legislation to deprive them of their rights and their dignity is nothing short of evil and even criminal—especially when it’s done so that some corporate CEO can get a bigger bonus and a better golden parachute that allows him to retire with a monthly pension many times more than the annual salaries of his employees.

If the Koch brothers, and their fellow CEOs from the corporate membership of ALEC would throw their combined talents and the money they spend on lobbying and dark money they funnel to super PACs behind a concerted effort to lift up those less fortunate, what a remarkable difference—for the betterment of all mankind—they could make.

As an alternative to pouring ever larger sums of cash into the lobbyist money pit that is K Street and into the pockets of self-serving, sanctimonious, out-of-touch politicians, work instead to bring jobs from overseas back into this country and make America the proud nation it once was, a title you long ago forfeited to influence and avarice.

The last time I went to church (which was last Sunday), I believe the lesson was that Christ was humble and that he aided the sick and afflicted. Perhaps if those among us with the resources and a true desire to help make this a better world would, instead of plotting how to gain even more wealth at the expense of the poor and the middle class, reach out to the weak and downtrodden, the experience might become a self-fulfilling prophecy of peace, hope and understanding.

Then and only then can we talk of exceptionalism.

Read Full Post »

JINDAL PRESIDENTIAL SWEEPSTAKES

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Bobby Jindal proved Wednesday that he still has a few tricks up his sleeve and the 2016 presidential sweepstakes have taken an unanticipated new look as a result.

With Texas Sen. Ted Cruz becoming the first to officially announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, Jindal, who had said he would wait until the 2015 legislative session ended in June to make his announcement, surprised all the experts by making his own announcement today—but not, however, to be the Republican standard-bearer.

Instead, Jindal announced that he will head the newly-founded Latin language-inspired Anas Party, the seventh political party that is expected in the November 2016 election, in a dual strategy to siphon off right-wingnuts from the tea party faction as well as disaffected mainstream Republicans in an effort to “do for the nation what I have done for Louisiana.”

Jindal denied that the timing of his announcement was a result of Cruz’s formal entry into the race. “I had planned to make this announcement at this time all along,” he said. “I referenced a timeframe of the end of the session only in order to be sure all the pieces were in place. As you know, I am results-oriented and every move I make is carefully thought out so as to take all possibilities into consideration. That is what has made my two terms as governor such a success.”

Eschewing a national convention—“that’s another area where waste can be eliminated,” he said, adding that money that normally would go for that purpose would be used to hold the most lavish and ostentatious inauguration in the nation’s history—Jindal announced that Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols will be his vice presidential running mate.

Going even further, he named several current aides and associates whom he said he will appoint as cabinet members and department heads when elected. Heading up his cabinet will be Secretary of Morality Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. “I realize there is no such cabinet position in existence at this time,” Jindal said, “but as I’ve said many times before, this country needs to right itself and embark on a course of morality and righteousness as determined by the only person qualified to set those standards—Phil Robertson.”

Jindal said that given his public stance on gays, women and blacks, “he is an obvious choice for Morality Secretary.”

Other appointments announced nearly two years in advance include:

  • Ruth Johnson: Secretary of Defense owing to her ability to jerk subordinates in line for the temerity of simply talking to someone not considered friendly to the administration;
  • Mike Edmonson: FBI Director because of his unflagging loyalty to Jindal and his background in law enforcement;
  • Troy Hebert: Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, for obvious reasons;
  • Stephen Waguespack: Executive Counsel, the same position he held in Baton Rouge for Jindal;
  • Timmy Teepell: Chief of Staff, likewise the same position he held previously in Jindal’s state administration;
  • Tim Barfield: Treasurer, following his tenure as head of the Louisiana Department of Revenue;
  • Stephen Moret: Secretary of Commerce, where he will continue in his efforts to lure business and industry….back to the U.S.;
  • Alan Levine, Bruce Greenstein, Kathy Kleibert: Secretary of Health and Human Services, because her record at Louisiana DHH speaks for itself;
  • Curt Eysink: Secretary of Labor based on the decimation of workers compensation claims in the state;
  • Kyle Plotkin: Press Secretary, a lateral move and closer to his New Jersey home;
  • Jimmy Faircloth: Special Counsel, in case Jindal ever gets in trouble with the House Judiciary Committee, which will be inevitable if he is elected.

“I’ve given much thoughtful prayer to this and I feel led to form a seventh party. After all, the world was created in seven days and I believe a seventh political party is symbolic of what God wants me to do,” Jindal said.

“In that same vein, I have formed seven separate super PACs through which illicit, illegal and immoral campaign funds may be funneled in order to protect the identities of my supporters,” he added. “In today’s political atmosphere, it’s critical that there be a sufficient number of super PACs to support a candidate’s efforts. There are those who would prefer that their names not be put out there for the public but who nonetheless wish to support my candidacy. The super PACs provide an avenue for them to do just that.”

As President, Jindal said he “will continue to implement the same programs nationally that I have in Louisiana. I am leaving Louisiana better than I found it. Three things:

  • “I have downsized government by reducing the number of state employees by 400,000; “Louisianans are earning more than anyone else in any other state;
  • I’ve created two million new jobs through incentives and tax exemptions;
  • “Our highways and bridges are in the best of shape;
  • “Our colleges and universities are funded at a higher level than at any time in Louisiana history;
  • “Our elementary and secondary school students have the highest scores in the nation;
  • “The bond rating agencies have bestowed the highest ratings on Louisiana;
  • “Our health care takes a back seat to no one, thanks to our wise decision to privatize state hospitals;
  • “I have given the state balanced budgets in each year of my term.

“Going forward, I am prepared and equipped to deal with radical Islam by cutting social programs, education and health care in order to quadruple the Pentagon’s budget. There will be no “no-go” zones in my presidency—except in New Orleans and certain parts of Baton Rouge and Shreveport. Obamacare will be but a distant memory and Americans can be proud of the fact that they will be masters of their own medical fate and not dependent upon federal giveaway programs fraught with corruption, fraud and waste. I will reduce the number of federal employees by 135 million, just as I did in Louisiana while getting the country moving in the right direction—again, as I did in Louisiana.”

For the remainder of his term as governor, Jindal said he will turn the House chamber on the State Capitol’s first floor into a full gospel church, complete with faith healing and exorcisms. “The chamber is never used except for three months a year during the legislative session,” he said. “If we fill the House chamber, we can move a spillover service into the Senate chamber. We will turn the governor’s mansion into a parsonage for visiting preachers because I’m never there anyway.”

Where Ted Cruz used Liberty College as his launching pad for the Republican nomination, Jindal said he will draw heavily on support from the American Family Association (AFA) in Tupelo, Mississippi, and from the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.

“We’re excited about the coming months of this campaign,” he said. “We feel that between Fox News, AFA, Westboro Baptist, and Duck Dynasty, we will sweep all the lunatic fringe crumbs off the table and onto our lap. It’s a great time to be doing what divine inspiration has called upon me to do for America.”

Read Full Post »

 

By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)

I became the state budget director in 1988.  Because we had consistently spent more than we had taken in since 1984, we faced a $1 Billion dollar budget and cash flow hole in a budget less than half the size of today’s.  We literally did not have the money to pay our day-to-day bills and, like too many of our citizens, had to hold off paying them until we had the cash.  We were flat busted.

In an effort to ensure this never happened again, we enacted a comprehensive package of budget reforms, including establishing  an official revenue forecast; prohibiting the use of one-time money for recurring expenses; requiring a balanced budget from initial presentation through enactment  and to be maintained throughout the year; providing that any interfund borrowing (the mechanism that enabled us to go totally broke in 1988) had to be repaid by the end of the year in which it was borrowed, and many others.

To address the immediate emergency, we took the unprecedented step of creating a special taxing district that issued bonds we paid back over 10 years by dedicating one cent of our sales tax to debt service.

We began to diversify our economic revenue base.  For example, we went from a 40% reliance on mineral revenues to a less than 10% reliance on them today.  We raised other taxes, including, most notably, sales taxes.

We took full advantage of a federal Medicaid program paying high rates to facilities serving a disproportionate share of poor people (we made an annual “profit” of $700 million from this program during its peak).

We enacted the lottery, riverboat, and land-based casino gambling.

All of these kept us going until 1995 when our economy finally began to perform really well and did so through 1998.  Our economy slowed down in 1999 and it was necessary to pass more taxes.

In 2002, the legislature passed, and the state’s voters approved a plan by Representative Vic Stelly that substituted increases in income taxes for 4 cents of sales taxes on food and utilities and placed these exemptions, along with those on pharmaceuticals, in the state constitution.  The reason:  Because sales taxes are regressive and because income taxes generally respond better to our economy than sales taxes.  In my opinion, and that of many others, the Stelly Plan was the best fiscal legislation passed in our history.

We were doing pretty well until 2005 when Katrina struck.  Ironically, recovery from Katrina fueled our economy to the point that by the time Governor Jindal took office in 2007, we had a $1.1 Billion surplus.  Governor Blanco’s last proposed budget was $29.2 billion, of which over $8.0 billion was disaster relief money.  The legislature enacted a $32 Billion budget that year, including the $8.0 billion in non-recurring money.

So, what happened?

Well, remember those laws we passed to ensure we engaged in sound budgetary practices?  We began to ignore them and we spent the $1.1 Billion surplus and every other pot of one-time money we could find.  We repealed HALF, NOT ALL, of Stelly – the income tax increases that would be generating about what we lose in the sales tax exemptions still on the books today -about $700 million.

We cut corporate taxes in half – by a cool Billion.

We pretended we had a balanced budget every year, but using common sense and the letter of the laws we enacted, it is clear we, in fact, DID NOT.  And, although cuts were made – state funding to higher education, as one example, has been cut by $500 million – we NEVER made the cuts necessary to balance recurring spending with recurring revenue.  Why?  According to Kristy Nichols, Commissioner of Administration, as quoted in 2013, doing so would result in “needless reductions to critical services.”  WHAT?  Are you saying you didn’t cut the budget because you couldn’t?  Or, are you for cutting the budget, but you really don’t want to do so?

Governor Jindal continues to be widely quoted, to this day, saying we need to live within our means.  If that is true, why does he not present budgets that do so?  As long as projected revenues from reliable, stable sources do not equal projected necessary expenditures, we will NEVER have a balanced budget.

Could anything possibly be simpler, or make more sense, than balancing what you plan to spend with what is coming in so you don’t dig a hole for yourself?

It is certainly easy to understand why it is difficult to make hard cuts when cash is, or even may be available, but willfully allowing gross fiscal instability to continue indefinitely is a violation of the public trust and ultimately leads to wasteful spending and the inability to see true inefficiencies because the fiscal house is always on fire.  It is beyond time we were presented with an honest budget on which to make honest decisions.

So, you might rightly ask, “How would you fill the $1.6 Billion hole we read about every day in the papers?”

There are an almost infinite number of ways to do so.  Here’s one:

$1.600 reported gap

($0.160): Don’t Fund Inflation and other continuation costs. We rarely do, anyhow.

($0.180): Make cuts pursuant to consultant “efficiency” recommendations. We ought to get something for the $7 million we blew on this contract.

($0.100): Increase tobacco tax to the southern average

($0.700): Restore the income tax provisions of the Stelly Plan

($0.149): Eliminate the refundable tax credits proposed by the governor, except the inventory credit.

($0.100): Cap film tax credits at $150 million

($0.200): Eliminate exemption from severance taxes on horizontal wells. This was new technology when the exemption was granted. It certainly isn’t now, so no incentive is needed.

($0.011): A rounding figure, based on the Executive Budget. Or do $11 million of the $415 million in strategic cuts recommended by the governor – or, dozens of other possibilities.

$0.000 Remaining Problem.

Too simple, right?   And, perhaps, other holes could be poked in my scenario as well, but it proves it is possible to take a pragmatic approach, combining cuts with a limited number of revenue measures for a relatively simple solution.  We often make things a lot more complicated than they are.  I am convinced our government leaders often make simple things complicated in hope citizens won’t know and question what’s going on.

Regardless of what happens we must have an honest budget. If balancing recurring expenses with recurring revenues means making draconian cuts, so be it. Because they have been misled repeatedly, the bulk of our citizens will never believe we have a problem (or one that can’t simply be solved with cuts) until they experience the reality of a true “reform” budget that raises no revenues and cuts services to achieve balance. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that, but it may be the only path to real reform.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,851 other followers

%d bloggers like this: