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An interesting scenario is playing out up in Bossier Parish that could impact the landscape in the 2019 state elections and the 2020 congressional elections with key players being U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson and Bossier Parish Superintendent of Schools Scott Smith.

Back in 2015, there was an uproar over students’ plans to install “prayer boxes” at Airline High School in Bossier City. While the controversy died down rather quickly, it provided a window for then-State Rep. to lead the fight against the ALCU right on into Congress.

Today, the dispute is between the Bossier Parish School Board and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State over last May’s Benton High School graduation ceremonies that opened and ended with prayers and Smith is right in the middle of the controversy.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/news/education/2017/09/25/bossier-schools-respond-complaint-graduation-prayers/699983001/

Cynics are asking, “Why Bossier?” and “Why now?”

The scuttlebutt, when plotted out, makes good political sense and a couple of comments from Smith’s wife, former State Rep. Jane Smith only serve to validate the rumors.

But first some background:

During Johnson’s time in the State Legislature, he authored House Bill 707, known as the MARRIAGE and CONSCIENCE ACT, which would have prohibited the state from denying any resident, nonprofit or business a license, benefits or tax deductions if the business took actions “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction” about marriage.

Critics said the bill had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with discrimination against same-sex marriage and the bill died in committee only to have Bobby Jindal promptly issue an executive order to enforce the intent of Johnson’s bill—a similar one of which had already been struck down in Kentucky by the courts.

JANE SMITH, a former Bossier Parish School Superintendent in her own right who was in her third term and term-limited by the Louisiana Constitution, was appointed by Jindal in 2012 as deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue even though, as she admitted to a friend, she knew “nothing about revenue.”

So, what to make of all this?

Well, word is that Johnson has his eyes on bigger and better things than being a lonely voice among 435 members of the U.S. House.

Governor?

Nope. That plum belongs to U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, presently a not-so-lonely down-home voice among 100. It’s the worst-kept secret in Louisiana that Kennedy wants desperately to challenge Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2019.

The plan, according to some observers is for Johnson to run either for lieutenant governor or attorney general. Barring entry by any other candidates in those two races, we would be left with the less-than-desirable choice between Johnson and Billy Nungesser or Johnson and Jeff Landry.

Should that scenario play itself out and should Johnson be elected to one of those statewide posts, that would leave the door wide open for Scott Smith, who those same observers in northwest Louisiana, is already being groomed to run for Johnson’s vacated seat in a special election in early 2020. Johnson is tight with Landry but if Landry opts for a run at higher office, Johnson may feel the job is his by divine right. At any rate, speculation is the deal has already been cut.

Far-fetched? Perhaps not so much. The information making its way down to LouisianaVoice is that Jane Smith is already telling close friends that she has accepted a lobbying job in Washington.

All we can say for certain in all of this is anytime a politician waves a Bible while wrapped in the flag, little good can come from it. Sanctimony is not a trait becoming to anyone.

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When I was a student at Louisiana Tech, I worked part time as a disc jockey at KRUS radio station in Ruston. Occasionally, I would have a “Golden Oldies Show,” during which I played only old rock & roll records.

I saw a story in the Washington Post recently that conjured up memories of old news stories and at the same time made me wonder if the Republicans in Congress were paying attention all those years.

The story, headlined, “GOP abandons any pretense of fiscal responsibility,” noted that the Republican Party has essentially abandoned its platform of fiscal restraint, “pivoting sharply in a way that could add trillions of dollars in federal debt over the next decade.”

https://politicalwire.com/2017/10/07/gop-abandons-pretense-fiscal-responsibility/

So, doing the minimum research, it was almost too easy to find stories that reveal that the tax cuts proposed by Trump would further widen the gap between wealthy and low-income Americans. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/42177-trump-s-proposed-tax-cuts-would-further-widen-the-gap-between-rich-and-poor

The Trump-led (and that’s a very loose term) Republican tax reform would cut taxes for the very rich and place the burden on the rest of us.

In 1970, the bottom 50 percent of U.S. wage earners averaged $16,000 a year in today’s dollars. In 2014, that figure had skyrocketed to $16,200.

The top 1 percent, meanwhile, saw their average income increase from an average of $400,000 a year to $1.3 million during the same time period, hardly enough to keep the lawn watered in the Hamptons.

Some might dismiss these sources as typical liberal media, but the conservative U.S. News & World Report seems to agree with their assessments.

More than two years ago, on May 20, 2015, the magazine ran a story headed simply as THE PARTY of RED INK.

That story did cite the $1.2 billion budget deficit that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Mally left for his Republican successor, but for the rest of its story, USN&WR hammered one Republican state governor after another. Those included our own wunderkind Bobby Jindal (a $1.6 billon deficit), Chris Christie (a staggering $7.35 billion structural budget deficit), Scott Walker of Wisconsin ($2.2 billion deficit), and Sam Brownback of Kansas ($1 billion shortfall).

Their collective answer to these budgetary nightmares? Cut taxes.

But along with tax cuts go cuts to services.

Back when I was a student at Tech—and given, that’s been a long time; Terry Bradshaw was emerging as a top draft pick back then—my tuition was $99. Today, my grandson, a computer engineering student at Tech, is forking over $9,000 per quarter to stay enrolled.

In Louisiana, cuts to higher education, public education, referral services to the mentally ill, services to children with disabilities, foster child services, and other cuts have had devastating results. Yet, the Republicans go merrily along with their vision of fiscal reform.

Jindal’s obsession with tax cutting, service cutting, and privatization was such a dismal failure that Newsweek on June 1, 3015, published a story headlined HOW BOBBY JINDAL BROKE the LOUISIANA ECONOMY.

But a March 26, 2015, story was even more revealing. That story, admittedly by a partisan Democrat writer, nevertheless cited a report by an outfit called WalletHub, a commercial personal financial web site that rated all 50 states on their dependence on federal dollars to prop up their respective economies.

The REPORT basically said that red states, America’s stalwarts of fiscal responsibility, suck more money out of the federal treasury than any others and that some of the poorest states, of which Louisiana is certainly one, depend on federal funding for 30 to 42 percent of their total revenue.

Louisiana depends on federal dollars for 42.2 percent of its budget That just happens to be the highest percentage in the nation. Mississippi is right behind, drawing 42.1 percent of its budget from the feds, according to a report released in May of this year. http://www.governing.com/topics/finance/gov-state-budgets-federal-funding-2015-2018-trump.html

Yet, who screams the loudest to get the federal government out of our lives? Well, that would be the Republicans, who control both Louisiana and Mississippi.

And yet, there they go again, to paraphrase Mr. Reagan. The Republicans in Congress are pushing that same agenda of tax cuts for the rich, cuts to services, increased military spending, heavier tax burdens on the middle class, and economic stagnation for what now, something like the 35th straight year?

And yes, I am keenly aware that some of those years included the administrations of Clinton and Obama and that some of those years Democrats controlled Congress. But that only goes to prove my oft-repeated point that there is little difference in the two parties when Wall Street, big oil, big Pharma, the NRA, and defense contractors exert such a heavy influence on the national agenda.

But with the Republicans, it’s not so much a political philosophy as it is an obsession, a mindset.

They adhere to the Laffer Curve at all costs. That’s the theory advanced by one Arthur Laffer, who says that tax cuts pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth.

Anyone seen any economic growth around these parts in the last couple of decades or so? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

The Laffer Curve might be appropriately named were it not such a cruel joke.

 

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If you really want to know what’s wrong with our political system and the people we elect to office, it can be summed up in the current race for State Treasurer.

Here are the Duties of that office:

According to Article IV, Section 9 of the Louisiana Constitution, the treasurer is head of the Department of the Treasury and “shall be responsible for the custody, investment and disbursement of the public funds of the state.” The Treasury Department website outlines the treasurer’s duties:

  • receive and safely keep all the monies of this state, not expressly required by law to be received and kept by some other person;
  • disburse the public money upon warrants drawn upon him according to law, and not otherwise;
  • keep a true, just, and comprehensive account of all public money received and disbursed, in books to be kept for that purpose, in which he shall state from whom monies have been received, and on what account; and to whom and on what account disbursed;
  • keep a true and just account of each head of appropriations made by law, and the disbursements under them;
  • give information in writing to either house of the Legislature when required, upon any subject connected with the Treasury, or touching any duty of his office;
  • perform all other duties required of him by law.
  • advise the State Bond Commission, the Governor, the Legislature and other public officials with respect to the issuance of bonds and all other related matters;
  • organize and administer, within the office of the State Treasurer a state debt management section

https://www.treasury.state.la.us/Home%20Pages/TreasurerDuties.aspx

Nowhere in al that does it even once say or even imply that the job has once scintilla to do with:

  • standing with President Trump to create new jobs or to cut wasteful spending, as former Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis would have us believe in her TV ads;
  • fighting to make drainage and infrastructure top priorities in the state budget, as State Sen. Neil Riser insists in his TV ads;
  • having the guts to say “No! No to bigger government, no to wasteful spending and to raising your taxes,” as former State Rep. John Schroder proclaims in his TV ads, or
  • stopping cuts to education, healthcare and wasteful government spending, as the TV ads of Derrick Edwards insist.

http://www.wafb.com/story/36425632/la-treasurer-candidates-launch-tv-ads-analyst-calls-them-flimsy-on-duties-of-office

So, why do they insist on campaigning on issues in no way related to the actual duties of the position they are seeking?

For the same reason candidates for Baton Rouge mayor (former Mayor Kip Holden and State Sen. Bodie White, who ran unsuccessfully for the job, come to mind) consistently campaign every four years on improving schools and reducing the number of school dropouts when the mayor’s office has zilch to do with the school board:

They consider the average voter to be unsophisticated, ignorant fools who don’t know any better. Or they’re so stupid they don’t know any better themselves. Those are only two choices.

Period.

Their campaign ads clearly illustrate the complete and total disdain the treasury candidates have for Louisiana voters. They obviously think they can throw up (ahem) fake news and pseudo issues that leave voters in complete darkness about each candidate’s relative qualifications to hold the job.

And by so doing, they send a loud message that neither is qualified for—or deserving of—the job.

When John Kennedy, who had previously served as Secretary of Revenue, an appointive position, ran for treasurer in 1995, he ran a somewhat relevant ad that said, “When I was Secretary of the Department of Revenue, I reduced paperwork for small businesses by 150 percent.”

That ad carried a message that actually resonated with small business owners drowning in paperwork and which at least sounded germane to the office of state treasurer—never mind that it was physically impossible to reduce anything by 150 percent. Once you reduce something by 100 percent, you’re at zero.

All of this rant about the four candidates for treasurer and the lame campaign rhetoric of candidates for Baton Rouge mayor—and just about any other political office you can name—just illustrates to what lengths politicians will go to cloud the real issues and to shy away from discussing matters they can actually address when in office.

How many times have you heard a candidate for U.S. Representative or U.S. Senate implore you to send him to Washington so that he can “make a difference”?

It’s disingenuous at best, fraud at worst.

So, on Oct. 14, be sure to go to the polls and cast your vote for one of the four frauds running for treasurer.

It’s the Louisiana way.

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Long before he took an oath of office to serve first in the Louisiana Legislature and later in the U.S. Senate, Bill Cassidy took the Hippocratic Oath.

But one would never know that from the abomination called the Cassidy-Graham Bill that, if passed would replace the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.

This is not a defense of Obamacare. I know little about the ACA other than (a) it has provided health care for millions, including about 400,000 in Louisiana who otherwise would have no health care insurance, and (b) it’s far from perfect.

From what little I know about it, a single-pay plan seems to be the best alternative—if there must be an alternative plan for one that could probably be rescued with a little bipartisanship and a common-sense approach to correcting and improving existing problems. (I know, bipartisanship and cooperation in politics have gone the way of the telephone booth and Life magazine.)

That said, it’s pretty obvious that the Republicans in Congress are far less interested in the welfare of poor Americans, particularly those with pre-existing conditions, than they are in beating down anything with the Obama name attached to it.

And that’s the issue in a nutshell: Obama. They couldn’t get him on his citizenship or his religion, so they (with apologies to Fed-Ex) “absolutely, positively” have to erase all evidence that he ever existed. In a Congress hopelessly gridlocked on everything, it’s the one issue on which most Republicans are fixated: Get rid of Obamacare if we don’t do anything else—and we probably won’t (do anything else, that is).

Cassidy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are just the latest to attach their names to that list of Republicans who would defeat Obamacare at all costs, no matter the consequences to millions of working poor Americans.

That said, their latest attempt at tearing down Obamacare would leave those with pre-existing conditions the most vulnerable. Both senators claim that no one would lose coverage under the latest plot against Obamacare disguised as an alternative, but in reality, their premiums would be unaffordable.

Scott Adams, creator of the popular Dilbert comic strip read daily in hundreds of newspapers, has his own take on Cassidy-Graham, which would transfer responsibility to the states.

“The responsible approach,” Adams says, “would be to test some healthcare ideas in a few states or counties and then work with what we learned. A wholesale change such as transferring responsibility to the states is reckless and, in my opinion, unethical. The unethical part is that moving funding to the states is little more than a political trick to protect Republicans in the 2018 elections. It has nothing to do with helping citizens.

“…I am forgiving of politicians who intentionally exaggerate and ignore facts, so long as their intentions appear to be directed at the greater good. But shifting money for healthcare to the states is for the benefit of Congress, not the greater good.

“My bottom line is that I can support a government plan that involves testing small before going big. But going big on an untested idea is not leadership. It is just bad management, or worse.”

Isn’t it interesting that a cartoonist would have such a firm grasp on the obvious when our elected officials can’t seem to come to grips with reality? But then it was a cartoonist (Thomas Nast) who helped bring down New York City’s William M. “Boss” Tweed.

The issue long ago ceased to be about health care: it’s all about Obama, plain and simple. Nothing else. And whether you like him or not, that should not be the focus—but sadly, it has become an obsession with Republicans, particularly those who identify with two of the most divisive Americans of the 20th century—Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh, with honorable mention to Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and a few others.

It has reached the point that Republicans in Congress are crawling over each other to be the one who can make the claim in his re-election campaign that he was the one who delivered us up from the evils of Obamacare.

And that’s a damn poor excuse to embark on a crusade of destruction.

Cassidy, in taking the HIPPOCRATIC OATH, swore, among other things, to the best of ability and judgment to:

  • Apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required;
  • Remember that…warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife of the chemist’s drug;
  • Not be ashamed to say, “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are need for a patient’s recovery;
  • Tread with care in matters of life and death;
  • Remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems;
  • Remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the inform.

There is another PRINCIPLE taught in health care providing classes that often is mistakenly thought to be part of the Hippocratic Oath but in fact, is not.

It is the Latin phrase primum non nocere.

Translated, it says, “First do no harm.”

The point of “first do no harm” is that, in certain situations, it may well be better to do nothing rather than intervening and potentially causing more harm than good.

Dr. Cassidy appears to have forgotten a lot that he learned.

Or perhaps he was just absent on those days as he was on those occasions when he billed LSU for teaching classes while in he was in Washington.

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John Sachs, a good friend and an old—and I do mean old (flies leave fresh dog poop just to follow us around) Ruston High School classmate (Class of 1961) is something of a political activist.

He learned well at his father’s knee. Dr. Tony Sachs, longtime head of the Louisiana Tech University Department of English had something of a liberal bent at a time when it was extremely unfashionable in north Louisiana, a trait he passed down to son John and daughter Elizabeth.

The word liberal has been turned into something nasty over the years but all it really implies is that its adherents believe that the poor that are entitled to the same rights as the rich, that people of color are entitled to the same protection under the law as whites, that women deserve the same opportunities—and pay—as men, that gays are entitled to the same consideration as straights, that the religious beliefs (or non-beliefs) are personal and should not be infringed upon, and that no one—NO ONE—should be deprived of his or her rights under the law.

In short, the liberal is rock steady in his support of non-discrimination in all areas of society—a resolve difficult to find in so-called conservatism, particularly of the Republican stripe.

After all, it is a document called the Declaration of Independence that proclaims:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

That brings us to the point of all this:

What gives Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan or anyone else the right to deny a dying child critical health care?

All those Republican members of the House and Senate who pay lip service to our military men and women but want to scrap Obamacare without a viable replacement are little better than pathological liars.

Let me explain.

Have you ever been to the Vietnam War Memorial Wall where the names of 58,000 Americans killed are inscribed? Well, there would be a lot more names had it not been for the Hmong, an ethnic tribe of the Golden Triangle of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma).

The Hmong were America’s secret weapon. They protected our radar stations in Southeast Asia and rescued and cared for downed pilots. Without their assistance, many more Americans would have died in that terrible war.

After the war, many Hmong settled in the U.S. One particularly intelligent Hmong girl, a teenager, fell ill with a rare illness that was extremely expensive to treat. She lives in Minnesota and Obamacare got her the medical care she so desperately needed. With the scrapping of Obamacare, she loses her insurance and with a pre-existing condition, it will be cost-prohibitive to get insurance—if she can get it at all.

Thanks Mitch, thanks Trump and thanks John Kennedy.

The reason I single Kennedy out when all of Louisiana’s congressional delegation but Rep. Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat, voted to kill Obamacare, is that John Sachs wrote Kennedy to plead with him to consider all the ramifications of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Of course, there was much wrong with the ACA but there are also weaknesses—glaring weaknesses—in our tax code, our sentencing guidelines for criminal acts, our campaign finance laws, and the laws enacted to protect American citizens from predatory Wall Street greed mongers, to name only a few. If there is a problem with a law, the duty of Congress is to address specific problem areas and pass bills to eliminate the flaws, not scrap the law in its entirety.

I have yet to see a single Republican member of the House or Senate rushing to tweak a tax code heavily weighted in favor of the wealthy, or advocating revamping the criminal code, or reining in Wall Street (to be completely fair, it was Obama’s own Attorney General Eric Holder who punted his responsibility to prosecute the criminal element that brought about the 2008 financial crash). And other than McCain-Feingold, there have been precious few attempts by either party to reform campaign finance laws.

After John Sachs sent his letter to Kennedy, this is the canned (but typical) response he received from Louisiana’s junior senator:

Thank you for contacting me in opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act. I appreciate hearing from you.

Obamacare was sold as something that would provide millions of uninsured Americans with access to affordable healthcare.  Unfortunately, Obamacare failed on those promises.  Americans were promised lower health insurance premiums.  In reality, premiums will increase by an average of 25 percent this year for the millions of Americans in the exchanges.  Americans were promised “if you like your plan you can keep it.”  What really happened is that 4.7 million Americans were kicked off their health care plans by Obamacare.  Americans were also promised more choice when purchasing health insurance, but a large part of the country has only one insurer offering plans on the Obamacare exchanges.  That’s not choice. 

Americans deserve better.  I am focused on repealing Obamacare and replacing it with personalized, patient-centered health care that will be affordable.  Americans should not be forced to buy insurance they don’t like, don’t need, and cannot afford.  I’m working to make sure they won’t have to for much longer.

As you know, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act on May 4.  Also, a draft Senate bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, was released on June 22.  I am carefully studying it in its entirety to see how it would impact Louisianans.  As I am reviewing, I will be sure to keep your concerns in mind.  Thanks again for writing.

If he is really that appreciative, why didn’t he conduct town hall meetings during a recent recess? Instead, he was nowhere to be found.

There’s no mistaking that Kennedy is in complete lockstep with Trump and that’s really strange. If you recall, Kennedy fought Bobby Jindal during Jindal’s entire eight-year reign of error, goading Jindal to cut contracts and repeating the mantra, “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” And now we have Crump who is Jindal 2.0 and Kennedy practically wets his pants trying to make Grump happy. Witness Kennedy’s fawning over Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions during their confirmation hearings. DeVos was a horrible person to put in charge of educating our children and Sessions is a throwback to Southern demagogues Strom Thurmond and George Wallace.

Kennedy invokes the Chump mantra of 4.7 million Americans being kicked off their health care plans by Obamacare, yet he conveniently ignores the fact that McConnell’s plan would strip 23 million Americans of their healthcare.

How can Kennedy reconcile those numbers and still call himself an advocate of Louisiana citizens? Is this his idea of compassion?

Is he an intimidated, frightened, cowering little man afraid to stand up to the bully or is his behavior an indication of blind, unquestioning loyalty to Frump in the belief that it will enhance his own political career?

If the latter is the case, I would strongly suggest that Kennedy has misread the tea leaves and hitched his wagon not to a falling star but a plummeting one.

 

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