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CONSEQUENCES OF VOTING

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR:

Melvin L. “Kip” Holden (DEM)             Defeated         506640            45%

“Billy” Nungesser (REP)                     Elected            628876            55%

Turnout: 40.2% 

We’re not yet halfway through the 2016 legislative session in which lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards are struggling to close a $2 billion budget gap for the coming fiscal year but attention has been diverted from that knotty problem by one of the most bizarre political behavior since Earl Long’s mental crash of 1959, accompanied by a whirlwind tour of the Southwest and his fling with stripper Blaze Starr.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser fell for a phishing scam that’s been around at least three years and in doing so, proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that Louisiana’s electoral legacy of a revolving door for scalawags, con men, thieves and clowns is securely intact. And while we’re at it, let’s not leave out outright idiots and demagogues.

You’d think we had at least partially rid ourselves of that ilk with the exit of Bobby Jindal, but you’d be oh, so wrong. There apparently is no shortage of egos or stupidity to go around and sadly, we keep electing them. The legislature is riddled with those who have set themselves apart from reality.

Thanks to the diligence of Baton Rouge Advocate reporters Rebekah Allen and Richard Thompson, we are now assured that Billy Nungesser is heir-apparent to the title of Chief Clown in residence—a worthy successor to Jindal, we might add.

The two reporters on Sunday (April 10) broke an astonishing story that Nungesser, abetted by state Republican Chairman Roger Villere, not only fell for a huge scam involving a supposed agreement between a Delaware-based corporation, a Lake Charles refinery, and the Iraqi government, but he did it without the knowledge or consent of Gov. John Bel Edwards on whose behalf he claimed he was acting. http://theadvocate.com/news/politics/15398751-125/lt-gov-billy-nungesser-gop-chairman-roger-villere-work-to-recruit-unlikely-iraq-to-louisiana-busin

For sheer audacity, it even surpassed Huey Long’s classic “Round Robin” pledge by 15 senators to block his impeachment back in 1929. Huey, after all, was battling for his political life while Nungesser was only feeding his inflated ego like a ravenous wolf devouring a fresh deer carcass. And he fed it with a story that had no basis in fact. And he did it for all the world to see. And then he apologized. Sort of.

While Baton Rouge was metaphorically wiping its eyes and laughing at this buffoon, we did a quick Internet search and found that a former East Baton Rouge parish councilman and failed mayoral candidate fell for a variation of the same scheme involving the same Delaware corporation three years ago. More about that later.

First, here is what has transpired thus far:

  • Villere, the state GOP brain bust…er, trust, apparently approached Nungesser for a new billion-dollar deal that involved a plan by Alexandros, Inc. http://alexandrosinc.com/index.html to partner with Pelican Refinery of Lake Charles http://www.pelican-refinery.com/index.html in signing a 25-year agreement to become the exclusive shipping company for the Iraqi government’s oil marketing arm, interchangeably called the State Organization for Marketing Oil and the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO). The plan called for the transporting of up to 150 million barrels of Iraqi oil each month. http://www.alexandrosinc.com/shipping.html
  • Alexandros, headed by CEO Markos Fuson of California, proposed reopening the former Avondale Shipyard on the Mississippi River near New Orleans. The facility shut down in 2014.
  • Alexandros also proposed building more than 40 new ships, “super-tankers,” capable of hauling 200 million barrels of oil per month.
  • Fuson supposedly committed to investing 100 percent of his profits from the venture in Louisiana’s motion picture industry and to then invest his share of film profits into an as-yet-to-be-created charitable foundation that would provide education, health care and housing assistance to Louisiana’s minorities.
  • Pelican Refining’s role in the scenario was unclear, given the fact the Lake Charles facility only produces asphalt and road oil. It has not processed sweet or heavier crude oil in more than a decade, The Advocate quoted the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources as saying.

If all that sounds implausible enough, consider this: Nungesser, salivating over the prospects of establishing himself as the state’s economic emancipator, then took matters into his own hands. In quick succession, he:

  • Issued a press release in March saying that Iraqi’s export agency had signed off on Alexandros’s request to partner with Pelican Refining to purchase light and heavy crude oil from SOMO.
  • Inexplicably sent the press release only to the Washington Post which, recognizing a con when it saw one, chose not to publish the release.
  • Represented himself in the news release as well as in letters to representatives of the Department of State and to Iraqi officials as Louisiana’s economic development recruiter (he’s not; that duty falls to the Secretary of Economic Development, in this case, Donald Pierson). “The honorable governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, has given me a directive to expedite economic stimulus for the state of Louisiana,” Nungesser lied in his letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, adding, “This request for Your Excellency’s advocacy is part of my office’s effort to fulfill that directive.”
  • Wrote similar letters to Stuart Jones, ambassador to Iraq, and to Secretary of State John Kerry in which he again passed himself off as the state’s key economic development leader. “It is with sincere gratitude that I, Billy Nungesser, as the lieutenant governor of the state of Louisiana, respectfully request the Department of State’s additional advocacy to the Republic of Iraq on behalf of the state of Louisiana,” he wrote to Kerry and Stuart.
  • Said in his letters that he copied Edwards with all correspondence. Not so, said a spokesman for the governor’s office, who said Edwards never received a copy.
  • With egg all over his face, denied reading, let alone writing the letters that he signed. Instead, he officially kicked off the blame game, saying first that Villere, an old friend and political ally, had told him he wanted a letter expressing the state’s interest.
  • In the lowest of lows, blamed his staff, saying the letters should never have made their way to his desk. “We’re changing the way some things flow in my office to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he was quoted as saying by The Advocate.
  • Apologized to Edwards. “I would have never used the governor’s name without his permission,” he added.

Falah Alamri, SOMO director general, said the entire deal was a scam, “a hundred percent not real,” The Advocate story says.

But wait. Jeff DeRosia, operations manager for Grand Isle Shipyard in Galliano, says otherwise. “I know they’re real. One hundred percent,” he said. DeRosia, it should be noted also is executive vice president of domestic sales for Alexandros, according to Alexandros documents.

So just where does Villere figure in this entire sordid mess? Who knows? He did, however write his own letter back in February to the Iraqi prime minister and the minister of Oil, Adil Abd al-Mahdi in which he laid out the “urgent next steps that the state of Louisiana and the United States insist upon.” Some of those steps included SOMO’s granting legal authority and the issuing of contracts to Pelican Refining.

It’s still unclear how Villere considered himself in a position to insist on anything on behalf of the United States or Louisiana governments.

The three—Nungesser, Villere and DeRosia—would have been wise to do even the slightest bit of investigation before going off the reservation the way they did.

Our own quick search found a Web site called Ripoff Report in which a Baton Rouge writer in February 2013 warned of a similar scheme by Alexandros. http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Alexandros-Inc/Highland-California-92346/Alexandros-Inc-Attempt-to-Defraud-with-Fake-Documents-Highland-California-1053139

In that report, Terry Easley produced a letter purportedly from the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization attesting to a professional relationship between Alexandros, Inc., Fuson, and the Iraqi government. The letter was signed, supposedly by Sarmad H. Abd, SOMO general manager of contracts, and John Percy de Jongh, Jr., governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Easley pointed out discrepancies in the letterhead of that sham letter, comparing it to one he received on April 29, 2013, from SOMO Director General Alamri. The Alamri letter, he said, was on the correct letterhead, complete with correct logos, addresses and contact information in both English and Arabic. Here are the contents of that letter:

TO: Mr. Terry L. Easley

Email: [REDACTED]

Subj./Fraud Document

Reference to you letter dated 26th April 2013.

Please note the following:

1-The Document attached to your above letter is fraud and has never been issued by SOMO.

2-SOMO has no business relationship whatsoever neither with a company named “Alexandros, Inc.” nor with a person called “Sarmad H. Abd”.

3-Our policy is to deal directly and exclusively with End Users (refining system owners) and not through traders or middlemen.

Best Regards,

Dr. Falah J. Alamri

Director General

/04/2013

Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) Fax: + 964 1 7726 574 / + 964 1 7742 979

PO Box 5118 Email: info@somooil. Gov. Iq

Baghdad – Iraq Web: www.somooil. Gov. Iq

The fake letter that precipitated the above response from Alamri, Easley said, was also copied to one Darrell Glasper of Baton Rouge. Glasper, for those outside the Baton Rouge area, was a member of the Baton Rouge Metro Council and ran for mayor-president against incumbent Kip Holden in 2008. He later admitted to paying for a campaign flier during that election which included doctored photos depicting Holden after being severely beaten by the husband because of an affair between the two.

Ironically, seven years later Nungesser would defeat Holden in an election for the lieutenant governor’s office.

The Baton Rouge media and a prominent blogger lost no time jumping all over the hapless and apparently clueless Nungesser.

Reporter Stephanie Grace, saying on Tuesday (April 12) that Nungesser had gone rogue, pointed out that in a 2011 forum between lieutenant governor candidates, Jay Dardenne pounded Nungesser on the duties of the office while Nungesser countered by saying he was one who followed his gut and “thinks outside the box.” http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/15457076-133/stephanie-grace-nungesser-goes-rogue-on-whacky-economic-deal

Grace said in his first big move after taking office in January, he “proved he’s thinking much further outside the box than anyone could have imagined.”

Saying that Nungesser “has no authority over economic development, no right to speak for the governor, and no place contacting the U.S. government, a national news organization, or a foreign head of state” on behalf of Edwards, she did give him a backhanded compliment in noting that he “basically fessed up to have had no idea what he was doing.”

She suggested that Nungesser make a call to Dardenne, who now serves as Commissioner of Administration. “I’m guessing he’d (Dardenne) would be perfectly happy to, once again, school Nungesser on what the day job entails—and what it doesn’t.”

Political blogger Lamar White wasn’t quite as kind.

In his post today (April 12), White suggested that far from being funny, Nungesser’s actions are impeachable. https://cenlamar.com/2016/04/12/lt-gov-nungessers-scam-deal-isnt-funny-its-impeachable/

I disagree. I think to save himself further humiliation, he should take it upon himself to resign.

Even more biting, however, was White’s quote from Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, another political blog: “I always used to wonder what kind of person fell for those Nigerian prince email scams. This says a lot.”

White called Nungesser’s actions “an enormous embarrassment to Louisiana, a blatant usurpation of the statutory power of the Lt. Governor’s office.” He said it also “demonstrates both an enormous disrespect to Gov. John Bel Edwards, for whom Nungesser deliberately misrepresented as working under his authority and blessing, and a fundamental and damaging misunderstanding of the duties of his office.”

He referred to Nungesser’s claim of never having read the letters he signed and his blaming of his staff as “pathetic.”

Not overlooking the role of the state GOP chairman in the fiasco, White said Villere’s “intimate involvement, at the very least, warrants an investigation into criminal conspiracy.”

But then he observed, perhaps correctly that Nungesser need not fear the consequences. “Louisiana is too busy laughing at him to worry about actually holding him accountable.”

There is a lot of stupid to go around in Baton Rouge but with this stunt, Nungesser may have laid claim to franchise rights.

And that is particularly pathetic.

CLOWN IN CHIEF

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Regular readers of this site know our disdain for the undue influence of lobbyists and special interests over lawmakers to the exclusion of the very voters who elected those same lawmakers to represent them and their best interests.

Our opposition to political decisions made with priority given to campaign contributions over what is best for the state is well-known—and uncompromising. Money should have no place—repeat, no place—in political decisions.

Unfortunately, we know that is not the case. Politicians for the most part, are basically prostitutes for campaign funds and those who choose to remain chaste usually find themselves at a serious disadvantage come election time.

To that end, you can probably look for State Rep. Jay Morris (R-Monroe) to attract strong opposition when he comes up for re-election in 2019. And that opposition, whoever it might be, is likely to have a campaign well-lubricated by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), the Louisiana Chemical Association, and the oil and gas industry.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, we have gone on record on numerous occasions as saying the voters are merely pawns to be moved about at will by big business in general and the banks, pharmaceutical companies, Wall Street and oil companies in particular. It is their money that inundates us with mind-numbing political ads that invade our living rooms every election year telling us why Candidate A is superior to Candidate B because B voted this way or that way and besides, good old Candidate A has always had the welfare of voters uppermost in mind.

The presence of that influence was never more clearly illustrated than in Tyler Bridges’ insightful story in Friday’s Baton Rouge Advocate. http://theadvocate.com/news/15225624-78/la-legislative-staffers-sort-out-changes-added-at-the-last-minute

In the very first paragraph of his story, Bridges wrote that a secret deal between Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego), House Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia) and lobbyists for LABI and the Louisiana Chemical Association.

We won’t bother to re-hash the details of that meeting and the agreement finally reached just before the closing minutes of the recent special session. You can read the details in the link to the Bridges story that we provided above.

But suffice it to say had it not been for Morris digging his heels in and threatening to kill his own bill when he learned of a manufacturing tax break that had been added to his bill, HB 61 that aimed at eliminating exemptions and exclusions on numerous sales tax breaks. Though a Republican, Morris feels that big business isn’t paying its fair share of taxes.

“I was not aware of the deal,” Bridges quoted Morris as saying. “I was not invited.”

Neither, apparently, were any spokespersons for consumers, organized labor, teachers, or the citizens of Louisiana.

Oh, but you can bet LABI President Steve Waguespack was invited to a meeting in Alario’s office earlier in the day, as was Louisiana Chemical Association chief lobbyist Greg Bowser.

Given that, we would like to ask Sen. Alario and Rep Barras why no one representing the people were invited to that little conclave. And don’t try to tell us that the Senate President and House Speaker were representing the people. You were not. You were representing the vested interests of the chemical industry and big business. Period.

Sen. Alario, Rep. Barras: the people of Louisiana are far more deserving of a place at the table in some furtive backroom meeting than LABI and the chemical association.

Either all factions are invited in or no one is. The playing field should be level.

By not excluding lobbyists or by not inviting those on whose shoulders are placed the greatest burden, the ones who placed you in office, you have not just failed at your job; you have failed miserably.

Our late friend C.B. Forgotston would have said of the meeting which produced that secret deal: “You can’t make this stuff up.”

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As it turns out, that quote was attributed to Einstein in error but the fact that he never said it doesn’t alter the accuracy of the definition.

And for at least three decades, Louisiana along with the rest of the South, has insisted on following the same outdated industrial inducement policies first warned about in a 1986 report by MDC, Inc. (Manpower Development Corp.) of Durham, N.C.

One of the members of the MDC Panel on Rural Economic Development which produced the 16-page report Shadows in the Sunbelt was Dr. Norman Francis, then President of Xavier University and Chairman of Liberty Bank in New Orleans. https://gri.unc.edu/files/2011/10/Shadows-in-the-Sunbelt-86.pdf

That 1986 report was followed up in 2002 when MDC published a 44-page report entitled The State of the South. http://mdcinc.org/sites/default/files/resources/MDC_StateOfTheSouth_2014.pdf

Both reports said much the same thing: that the market had dried up. There were, the reports said, 15,000 industrial inducement committees in the South chasing 1500 industries—and if they relocated at all, it would be whether inducements in the form of tax incentives were offered or not. “At best, the states have assisted businesses in doing what they wanted to do anyway,” the ’86 report said.

“The factors which once made the rural South attractive (to industry) are now losing relevance,” it said. That’s because the South, which once boasted an abundance of low-cost labor, can no longer complete in the global market. Where American apparel workers would earn $6.52 an hour (remember, this was in 1986, but the numbers are still comparable), their counterparts in Korea and Taiwan earned $1 and $1.43, respectively, and Chinese workers made about 26 cents per hour.

Shadows in the Sunbelt called southern states’ tax incentives to lure business and industry a “buffalo hunt,” an analogy to the great buffalo hunts of the 19th century which nearly wiped out the North American bison population. “Yet the hunters (states) continue in their pursuit, hoping to bag one of the remaining hides,” the report said.

The stampede actually started in Mississippi 80 years ago through a program called “Balance Agriculture with Industry” whereby the state used municipal bonds to finance construction of new plants. That practice evolved into tax breaks offered to prospective industries as states began forfeiting property tax revenues to lure new jobs.

Today, Louisiana gives up about $3 billion each year in tax breaks and credits doled out in various programs, all of which are designed ostensibly to attract industry and raise the standard of living through more and better jobs but which in reality, do little of either.

What we’ve received instead are tax breaks for duck hunters, chicken plucking plants, Wal-Mart stores, fast food franchises and for industries that either (a) get the tax incentives but which soon shut down operations (Nucor Steel, General Motors) or (b) claim the creation of great numbers of new jobs but which actually are far fewer than announced.

In fact, the ’86 report said, a long-term study of job promises in South Carolina revealed that only 52 percent of the jobs promised actually materialized. In Louisiana, when Bobby Jindal ran for re-election in 2011, he claimed in TV ads that the Louisiana Department of Economic Development during his first term handed out incentives that brought 25,425 new jobs to Louisiana. The actual number, however, was only 6,729. That’s only 26.5 percent of the jobs promised. https://louisianavoice.com/2011/09/29/jindal-plays-fast-and-loose-with-jobs-claim-tv-campaign-ad/

The ’86 report said as much. “The costs of inducements offered to attract industry are also heavy—and in some cases counterproductive,” it said. Evidence showed that tax breaks did not significantly affect plant location decisions but states nevertheless open up the state treasury for companies to loot even though the benefits do not offset the costs. “Whatever the effectiveness of industrial recruiting in the past, current trends clearly indicate that its value as a tool for economic development is declining,” it said.

That was 30 years ago and we’re still giving away the store by adhering to a faulty ALEC-backed policy of favoring corporations over citizens.

As an alternative, the report recommended that in lieu of spending millions to attract out-of-state industries, states should implement programs to support local development and to encourage entrepreneurship.

The 2002 report, State of the South, only reiterated the recommendations of the study of 16 years earlier. It also should have sent a clear message to the Louisiana Legislature and to Bobby Jindal six years before he came to power. The latter report’s recommendations included:

  • Refocus state agencies responsible for economic development to pursue a broader, more strategic approach;
  • State governments should not measure success simply by the number of new jobs, but also in terms of higher incomes for people and improved competitiveness of regions within the states;
  • Modernize tax systems so that states have the fiscal capacity to provide excellent educatin, widely accessible job training, necessary infrastructure, and community amenities that enrich the soil for economic development;
  • Tighten performance criteria for industrial incentives—and encourage associations of Southern governors and legislators to reexamine the one-dimensional, incentives-driven recruitment strategy in favor of a comprehensive economic development strategy;
  • Dramatically expand efforts to erase serious deficits along the entire education continuum in the South, and bolster the education, health and well-being of children;
  • Draw on universities and community colleges to act as catalysts for state and regional economic advancement.

The 2002 report said high-poverty, sparsely-populated areas are last to get telecommunications infrastructure. More than 60 percent of the zip codes in the Delta areas of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana have no broadband internet provider which further widens the competitive gap for these areas. Yet Jindal rejected an $80 million federal grant to install broadband in Louisiana’s rural areas. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/11/80_million_grant_for_rural_bro.html

Because Louisiana, along with the rest of the South, made a commitment to low taxes, low public investment, and low education in return for jobs. That strategy trapped the state in a cycle of low-wage, low-skill industry “begetting more low-wage, low-skill industry,” and thus perpetuating the “Wal-Mart Syndrome.”

Mac Holladay, who served as head of economic development for three Southern states summed up the situation. “If we had put the vast majority of our economic development resources into incubators, small business services, export training, and existing business assistance instead of recruitment and overseas offices, it might have made a big difference.”

Tax abatements and other financial giveaways, the 2002 report said, “inevitably drain resources from schools, community colleges and universities—public investments that are crucial to long-term economic advancement. Incentives provide a better return on investment when they build a community’s infrastructure, provide workers with higher skills and attract jobs that pay markedly more than the prevailing wages.”

Even when Mississippi granted $68 million in incentives for Nissan’s assembly plant in Canton, a small town just north of Jackson, the company’s director of human resources told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that he could not name any Canton resident likely to be hired for one of the 5,300 jobs starting at $12 per hour. He attributed that to the town’s 27 percent poverty rate, 76 percent of out-of-wedlock births and 44 percent of adults without a high school diploma.

Carley Fiorina, former chief executive for Hewlett-Packard and more recently an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination said, “Keep your incentives and highway interchanges. We will go where the highly skilled people are.”

“Not so long ago,” said the 2002 State of the South report, “the South sought to build its economy by enticing companies from afar to relocate with the bait of cheap land, low taxes, and a surplus of hardworking but undereducated workers. That old recipe no longer works to feed families and sustain communities.

“No comprehensive strategy would be complete without further efforts to bolster public schools,” the report said.

“There must be a recognition that the ultimate challenge lies in the educational and economic advancement of people who have gotten left behind,” it said. “We must get the message out to every household, every poor household, that the only road out of poverty runs by the schoolhouse.

“The line that separates the well-education from the poorly education is the harshest fault line of all.”

Yet, Louisiana’s leaders insist on doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

And we keep electing the same failed policy makers over and over and over…

Insanity.

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The past is prologue

                                    —William Shakespeare (The Tempest)

In 1936, Mississippi Gov. Hugh White successfully pushed through the state legislature his answer to President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal so despised by southern states.

Mississippi could grow and prosper through his landmark “Balance Agriculture with Industry” program, according to Mississippi native Joseph B. Atkins, author of the little-known but important book Covering for the Bosses. The book is an examination of how newspapers in the South refused to give fair coverage to labor unions in their attempt to gain equitable working conditions for workers first in the textile mills and later the automobile industry.

https://books.google.com/books?id=o6AfWT79t2MC&pg=PA237&lpg=PA237&dq=shadows+in+the+sunbelt+1986&source=bl&ots=7Wb_bKCn48&sig=FIjJetyw-Li-lCk0c3zN_muV3MA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjL-Ob4k4_LAhWFPiYKHchPD50Q6AEIUDAJ#v=onepage&q=shadows%20in%20the%20sunbelt%201986&f=false

According to Atkins, White figured he could attract industry to Mississippi through the then-radical concept of offering attractive tax incentives and promises of low wages—and, of course, no unions.

The program, Atkins writes, eventually became a model for the entire South and today, Mississippi, in the latest rankings of the best states for business, can be found sitting firmly in….47th place among the 50 states, ranked ahead of only (in order) Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia. In fact, the South can lay claim to six of the bottom 10 spots in the national rankings. They also include Arkansas (42nd) and Alabama (45th). Tennessee was only slightly better at 38th. Virginia (10th) and North Carolina (15th) were the only southern state in the top 20. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2016/02/17/the-best-and-worst-states-for-business-2/

So what went wrong with White’s grand scheme for Mississippi? Simply put, the same thing that doomed Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee to the bottom one-fourth of the heap. They gave away their tax bases while at the same time condemning their citizens to lives of low wages and poor benefits. And Wal-Mart was first in line to fully exploit the plethora of incentives, be they the 10-year property tax exemptions, Enterprise Zone initiatives or some other inducement.

Wal-Mart, described by Wall Street Journal writer Bob Ortega in his book In Sam We Trust as “an amoral construct with one imperative: the profit motive.”

In October 2005, Atkins writes in Covering for the Bosses, that an internal Wal-Mart memo was leaked which revealed the true, impersonal attitude of the corporate office toward its 1.3 million American workers, 30 percent of whom are part-time workers.

In her memo to Wal-Mart executive vice president M. Susan Chambers complained of the costs of long-term workers. The company, she said, spent 55 percent more on them than on one-year workers even though “there is no difference in (the employee’s) productivity.” She said because Wal-Mart pays an associate “more in salary and benefits as his or her tenure increases, we are pricing that associate out of the labor market, increasing the likelihood that he or she will stay with Wal-Mart….The least health, least productive associates are more satisfied with their benefits than other segments and are interested in longer careers with Wal-Mart,” she said.

In plain language, she was advocating throwing older workers to the curb in favor of newer, lower-salaried workers.

Yet Wal-Mart has shoved its way to the public trough, securing some $100 million in economic development subsidies from the state in 20 cities from Abbeville ($1.67 million) to Vidalia ($1.65 million), from Shreveport ($6.3 million) to New Orleans ($7 million), from Monroe ($3.9 million) to Sulphur ($1.8 million).

Nationally, estimated annual subsidies and tax breaks to Wal-Mart and the Walton family total $7.8 billion per year. This for six Walton heirs whose collective net worth of $148.8 billion is more than 49 million American families combined. http://www.americansfortaxfairness.org/files/Walmart-on-Tax-Day-Americans-for-Tax-Fairness-1.pdf

A congressional report estimated that each Wal-Mart store in America generated an average of $421,000 in Medicaid, SNAP and public housing costs to taxpayers. That’s in addition to the estimated $1 billion taxpayers anted up in local and state government subsidies to have a Wal-Mart in their communities. Wal-Mart workers, who earn less than $10 an hour (about $18,000 per year), are offered a family health care plan with a $1,000 deductible costing $141 per month.

And remember that warm fuzzy “Made in USA” advertising campaign of Wal-Mart in which Wal-Mart in 2013 said it was starting a 10-year plan to increase spending on U.S. made products by $250 billion? Well fuggeboutit. It didn’t happen and last October, the company removed the “Made in the USA” logos from all product listings on its Web site after the Federal Trade Commission caught the company (gasp) lying. http://fortune.com/2015/10/20/walmart-made-in-the-usa/

Instead, much of its merchandise, clothing in particular, comes from third-world sweatshops where workers are paid pennies per hour in wages and children work up to 20 hours per day to make the clothing we purchase from Wal-Mart. https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-sweatshops

And here’s a real eye-opener.

In her book Cheap, author Ellen Ruppel Shell reveals a dirty little secret most consumers are unaware of: name-brand clothing sold at Wal-Mart aren’t quite what consumers think they are. “Discounting dilutes brands, making it less certain that they are a mark of quality,” Shell writes. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/books/review/Shapiro-t.html?_r=0

Hundreds of brands “slice and dice their offerings for various markets, selling different products in different types of stores for different prices under the same brand,” she said. “Chains such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target and Home Depot have items manufactured ‘to their specifications,’ meaning that the brand name is almost devoid of meaning.”

That means a television with a model number available only at Wal-Mart is not really a Sony or a Samsung, for example, but a Wal-Mart television.

“Brands have become an end in themselves,” she writes. “…It is not the brand alone that entices discount shoppers; it is the high value we link to the brand versus the low price we pay that is so seductive.”

In recent years, Louisiana taxpayers have subsidized the construction of Wal-Mart stores in two affluent suburbs to the tune of a $700,000 tax credit. A tax credit is a dollar for dollar reduction of a tax liability meaning a $1 tax credit reduces one’s taxes by a full dollar. Bear in mind, these subsidies were Enterprise Zone projects. The Enterprise Zone program is designed specifically to lure business and industry into areas of high unemployment in order to help economically depressed areas. Instead, one of these stores were built in St. Tammany, one of the most affluent communities in the state.

Likewise, $330,000 in Enterprise Zone tax credits were awarded in 2013 to Lakeview Regional Medical Center in St. Tammany Parish for an upgrade to its facilities which created a grand total of five new jobs.

As far back as 2012, then-Secretary of the Department of Economic Development Stephen Moret said the Enterprise Zone program no longer fulfilled its purpose. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/12/louisiana_economic_development_1.html

A Legislative Auditor’s report agreed, saying that 75 percent of new jobs, 68 percent of new businesses and 60 percent of capital investments were made outside the EZs. http://app1.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf/92629A33AAE8C55F862579EB0072ACEB/$FILE/00029DFA.pdf

That’s because unlike other states, Louisiana’s Enterprise Zone program allows the generous five-year tax breaks for retail establishments, businesses whose salaries traditionally are at the low end of the pay scale. Those include, besides Wal-Mart, chain stores like Walgreens and Raising Cane’s chicken outlets.

“Most of the projects are larger companies investing in relative affluent areas in Louisiana today,” Moret said in something of an understatement. He said that fact alone underscored the importance of making changes to the program.

Were changes made? No. In fact, in 2013, the year after his comments, the state awarded EZ tax credits totaling $19.6 million for projects that produced 4,857 new jobs which in turn generated about $10 million in state income taxes, or a net loss of more than $9 million to the state.

Meanwhile, Atkins quotes author Bill Quinn as saying Wal-Mart “has done more to stomp out Middle-class America than all other discount houses put together.”

Yet, the official policy of Louisiana has been to continue to give generous tax breaks to a company that underpays its employees, deceives customers into thinking they are “buying American” when in reality, they are propping up third-world sweatshops whose workers churn out second line brand names under slave-like working conditions.

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After eight years of Bobby Jindal’s whiz-kid ALEC-backed policies of awarding tax incentives, exemptions, and inducements to the business and industry lobby and his constant boasting to Iowans and to Fox News of his smashing successes, Louisiana remains mired as the second-worst state in the nation for business.

So says the latest report of 24/7 Wall St., a financial news and opinion company headquartered in Delaware which publishes more than 30 articles per days on economics, health, and politics.

For its most recent survey, 24/7 compiled 47 measures into eight separate categories to determine the business climate for each state: business costs, cost of living, economy, infrastructure, labor and human capital, quality of life, regulation, and technology and innovation.

The U.S. has seen 71 consecutive months of private sector job growth through January, the report noted. Despite the consistent improvement, which dates back to February 2009 (the month after Jindal was first sworn in as governor), the recovery has been uneven and some states have experienced substantially less growth than others.

One of those is Louisiana, where the gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 1.5 percent was 21st lowest in the nation and average wages and salaries of $46,136 was 24th lowest.

Both of those ratings put the state at about the middle of the pack but other indicators showed a much bleaker picture. But only one other state, Maine, has experienced an annualized GDP decline over the past five years.

The 434 patents issued to residents in 2014 was 14th lowest in the nation. The projected working-age population growth through the year 2020 of minus 3.2 percent was seventh lowest and the 22.9 percent of adults with bachelor’s degrees was fifth lowest.

A decreasing working-age population, combined with the relatively low educational attainment means trouble for employers to fill positions with qualified job candidates. That could explain the high number of tax incentives to industries with low-paying, unskilled workers such as chicken plants and Wal Marts.

Almost 20 percent of Louisiana’s population lives below the poverty line, a statistic Jindal refused to address during his entire eight years of running for president. Moreover, the state unemployment rate was 6.4 percent. Both figures are higher than the national rates.

So, if Louisiana was second worst for business, which state was worst? Well, this time it wasn’t Mississippi which traditionally holds down the anchor spot. In this case it was West Virginia with lower GDP growth, lower average salaries, lower percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree (actually the lowest), lower number of patents issued to residents and a lower projected working-age population growth than Louisiana.

The best state for business? That would be Utah. Where Louisiana and West Virginia each had a minus projected working-age population growth rate, Utah’s projected working-age population growth of 20.5 percent was second-highest. Despite the healthy projected population growth, Utah had an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, fourth lowest in the nation.

Just more evidence of how Jindal was perfectly willing to twist and distort numbers to fit his ambitious but hopeless agenda.

Does anyone still wonder whether he was simply clueless or callously committed to his own ambitions?

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