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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

By Stephen Winham, guest columnist

Caveat:  I worked closely with Buddy Roemer as state budget director.  I have only the barest of acquaintances with John Bel Edwards. For this reason, I must question how fair my comparison of the two can be.  I admit I am disappointed in John Bel Edwards’ performance as governor to date and have admired Roemer’s efforts even more with the passage of time.

As he assumed office as governor of Louisiana thirty years ago, Buddy Roemer faced a huge budget gap left by his predecessor. The solution was difficult and was complicated by a recalcitrant legislature.  The gap was closed, and a surplus generated within the first year of Roemer’s administration.  In addition, comprehensive budget reforms were enacted to limit the probability of a recurrence of such a gap.

A similar scenario confronted John Bel Edwards 28 years later, yet two years into his administration he has made no real progress on the budget front in terms of balance or reforms.  Roemer and Edwards are very different people and the opposition to their administrations have different roots.

Roemer was, and continues to be a true reformer.  He had little regard, until it was too late, for his gubernatorial re-election chances.  Edwards seems to have been running for re-election from the first day of his administration.  Roemer attempted to buck the system.  Edwards tries to work within it.  They were both elected as Democrats.

Roemer and JBE were improbable victors in their races for governor.  Roemer came from last in the polls to the top (albeit by only 3 points) going into the 1987 primary election.  He won the general election with only 33% of the vote.  His closest competitor was fellow Democrat and three-term governor, Edwin Washington Edwards.  EWE conceded the race rather than face Roemer in a run-off – and denied him an electoral mandate.

JBE was considered a dark horse candidate from the beginning. The only major Democrat in his gubernatorial race, John Bel Edwards finished first in the primary election with 39.9% of the vote. He was expected to lose to his Republican opponent, U. S. Senator David Vitter, in the general election. Despite Vitter’s 23% showing in the primary election, and his personal problems, he was considered a sure winner in the run-off.  To the surprise of most political analysts, JBE won with 56.1% of the vote.

Roemer and JBE were each elected because people were looking for something dramatically different.   Roemer promised to “slay the dragon” and end corruption and special interest control over government.  JBE vowed to bring common sense, fiscal responsibility, and compassion for ordinary people to the office.  Roemer was strident, JBE is calm.

Governors are not dictators.  There is little they can do without action by the legislature and consent, when needed, of the judiciary.  Despite his lack of an electoral mandate, Roemer was able to quickly get a lot of good legislation enacted, mainly because the need was abundantly and undeniably clear – and he was a convenient scapegoat if things went wrong later.   A strong contingent of legislators were loyal to Edwin Edwards and bitter that he was not still governor.  While they went along with the emergency measures Roemer proposed to address the fiscal emergency and reforms including the creation of an official revenue forecast by a new Revenue Estimating Conference, opposition intensified over time.

Historically, Louisiana’s governors were powerful enough to anoint legislative leaders – an obvious plus for enacting an agenda.  The most powerful of those leaders are the house speaker and senate president. The senate is, by its size and nature, a more powerful and cohesive body than the house.  In the middle of Roemer’s term, the senate dealt him a severe blow by replacing his chosen president and returning EWE’s powerful senate president, Sammy Nunez, to that office – an office he continued to hold until he left the legislature in 1996.

Roemer proposed several progressive tax increases that failed in the legislature and the electorate, including a decrease in the sacrosanct homestead exemption.  It is no small irony that he eventually agreed with EWE’s earlier push to legalize gambling and supported an even broader entry into that sector –  the lottery, riverboat casinos, and video poker.

Roemer steadily lost political power as his term went on.  Despite pushing for and achieving hundreds of millions in teacher pay raises, he was vilified because he also pushed a teacher accountability program roundly criticized as unfair by teachers. His environmental reforms angered oil and gas, chemical, and other industries.  He was increasingly perceived as arrogant and hard to work with.

Anxious for EWE’s return, his supporters became even harsher in their opposition to Roemer’s administration.  In 1990, on the grounds it violated federal law, he vetoed a bill passed by the legislature that banned abortion even in cases of rape and incest.  The legislature overrode his veto (a very rare event in Louisiana).  The law was struck down by a U. S. District Court in 1991 for the very reason Roemer had vetoed it, but it didn’t matter politically.

In 1991, Roemer switched parties.  While the national Republican Party sent in big guns to help him get re-elected, emphasizing his scandal-free administration and his budgetary, campaign finance and environmental reforms, he never had the support of the state Republican Party, very many legislators, or the special interests he had disdained.  Quite the contrary. The state party endorsed another candidate and legislators and special interests actively attacked Roemer. It didn’t help that Roemer did not really focus on the campaign but rather continued his zeal for reform to the end. He finished 3rd in the primary and endorsed EWE in the runoff with David Duke – an embarrassing race.  He ran again in 1995 as a conservative Republican but ran 4th in the primary.

His high school’s class valedictorian, like Roemer, and a West Point graduate, versus Roemer’s Harvard education, John Bel Edwards was a conventional, but conservative Democrat.  He is the son of a southeast Louisiana sheriff, Roemer the son of a northwest Louisiana plantation owner. Like Roemer, his biggest obstacle has been the legislature, but for somewhat different reasons.

Louisiana now has a strong Republican Party that believes we should have a Republican governor.  Partisanship was not a big issue when Roemer was governor, but it certainly is now and has gotten more so since JBE became governor in 2016.  Although he had a solid record as a Democratic state representative, what seems to matter most is that he is a Democrat.  Not only do Republicans now control both houses of the legislature, but all statewide elected officials except the governor are now Republicans.  Regaining the governor’s office is a number one priority of the party and since John Bel Edwards has been running for re-election from day one he presents an easy target.

The state house of representatives openly rejected JBE’s choice for speaker.  Rather than elect one of his harshest critics (Cameron Henry who withdrew from consideration), they chose a compromise candidate, the low-key Taylor Barras – who had not even been mentioned as a contender before he was elected.  Not since Huey Long’s administration had the state house elected a speaker not endorsed by the governor, though as noted above, the state senate did unseat Roemer’s chosen president.

Nobody doubted we had a severe fiscal problem when Roemer was elected, but many would argue that we simply spend too much money today – end of story.  JBE’s Republican opposition relishes reports of waste and abuse in the media and remains unconvinced he has done enough to address them.  The governor has not specifically answered the charge he does not do enough to hold his appointees accountable for fiscal irresponsibility unless the media is relentless in reporting it.  This has not helped his case for more revenue.

JBE has proposed both revenue measures and cuts.  However, his proposals are often open to widespread criticism.  When he recommends cuts, they are dramatic and are not presented in such a way that the legislature or public believes they are the only, or the best, ways to cut the budget.  They do not seem to explicitly address the waste and abuse people read about on LouisianaVoice, in the newspapers, and see reported on television.

On the revenue side, JBE did not initially focus on proposals by the task force specifically created to present options for dealing with the “fiscal Cliff.”  That cliff has been forestalled by two years of temporary taxes. The centerpiece of JBE’s revenue proposal last year was the previously unheard of and dead on arrival Commercial Activity Tax.  The CAT constituted over 60 percent of his original package and was so watered down by the time it was actually introduced, it lost what little value it had and was quickly withdrawn.

Another year has passed, and the governor has proposed revenues more in line with what the task force recommended.  The cuts he has recommended are devastating.  His critics in the legislature don’t really like anything he puts forth and as the next election gets closer the criticism is sure to get harsher.

The governor has asked the legislature to present and enact its own proposals if it doesn’t like his.  The legislature has responded by recommending an accountability system and little else.  The proposed system seems to have been presented as a distraction from the need for immediate, concrete, and sustainable solutions.

Let’s face it.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Our fiscal status and options have been studied dozens of times over dozens of years.   The governor can recommend things all day every day, but only the legislature has the power to enact measures to authorize them.  Whether the governor has made truly responsible proposals or not, it is ultimately the legislature’s responsibility to act.  They can blame the governor ad infinitum, but the final responsibility is theirs and the excuse they don’t know enough to come up with solutions is a patently empty claim.

Roemer was able to get a lot done through the legislature in his first year when he had his best chance to do so.  JBE’s chances of significant accomplishments will apparently continue to diminish with time.  Even with the help of the most powerful and long-serving member of the legislature, Senate President John Alario, he has been unable to succeed.  A bloc of opposition in the house stymies him repeatedly.

I am of the considered opinion that we could all save a lot of time, grief, and money by simply agreeing, right now, to make permanent the temporary sales taxes currently in effect, cut as necessary for the difference, and hope for a better, more responsible future under new leadership.  A fool’s hope, perhaps, but at least everybody would be able to make plans for more than a year or two into the future – individuals and businesses.

LABI and other business interests are hypercritical of JBE and, of course, any business taxation.  In the absence of sustainable solutions how can they possibly expect vigorous business expansion and prosperity?  Future taxes are unpredictable, regardless of temporary incentives. How can they, or we, have hope our mediocre infrastructure, educational system, and other public services will not continue to decline?

Trying to ruffle as few feathers as possible in hope of re-election has not worked for JBE.  Ruffling as many feathers as possible may not have worked over time for Roemer, but we are still profiting from major accomplishments in his first few years.  He wasn’t a good politician and maybe that’s why he never got the credit he deserved.

Whether JBE is a good politician remains to be seen.

 

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By now, thanks to the Internet and network TV news, virtually everyone in the U.S.—and apparently some foreign countries—knows about the ham-handed manner in which the Vermilion Parish School Board shut down one of its teacher’s comments during a recent board meeting.

The manner in which Kaplan middle school English teacher Deyshia Hargrave’s was cut off from speaking and subsequently manhandled by a city marshal was carried out with all the tact, consideration, delicacy, and diplomacy of Donald Trump discussing immigrants from $*%#hole countries.

And the fact that the school board employed the CITY MARSHAL who was previously accused of using excessive force against a 62-year-old man in poor health to carry out the handcuffing and arrest of Hargrave certainly didn’t help matters in what overnight brought national and international negative attention to Louisiana.

And the announcement by the city prosecutor that Hargrave would not be prosecuted only enhances her chances of reaping a financial settlement subsequent to the lawsuit she is almost certain to file for her rude treatment and public humiliation.

To provide a little background for anyone who may not have heard, Hargrave was at the board meeting to protest a $30,000-per-year proposed salary increase for School Superintendent Jerome Puyal (from $110,190 to $140,188) while teachers, cafeteria workers and, support staff received no salary increases. School Board President Anthony Fontana, an Abbeville attorney who has been on the board about a quarter-of-a-century, promptly gaveled her into silence, proclaiming her comments were not germane to the board’s agenda.

One report had Fontana referring to Hargrave, parish’s 2015-2016 teacher of the year, as “the poor little lady” in an INTERVIEW subsequent to the meeting. That charitable reference is almost certain to absolve him of any culpability in what has become a public relations nightmare sufficiently grievous to attract the attention of the ACLU and teachers’ unions, not to mention network television news.

But that all could have been avoided had Fontana simply consulted in advance with the good folks at Gravity Drainage District 8 of Calcasieu Parish Ward 1. Not those folks know how to shut a dissident up quietly and efficiently.

The secret is to get an attorney who isn’t afraid to threaten the dissident and a judge who can ignore the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and issue an order that the dissident may not make public records requests nor have any contact with any members or employees of the gravity drainage district.

Or, better yet, have a gaggle of judges file suit against a newspaper to prevent it from seeking public records from the court.

Problem solved.

Never mind that the gravity drainage district hired with Billy Broussard to remove debris from drainage canals following Hurricane Rita under a FEMA contract and then instructed Broussard to remove older pre-storm debris and that he would be paid to do so.

But when FEMA said the older debris was not part of the project, the drainage district flat-out refused to pay Broussard about a million dollars that was due him for the work. Moreover, some of that older debris consisted of large cypress logs—still very much useful in construction—which mysteriously disappeared.

So, when Broussard attempted unsuccessfully to get reimbursed for his work, RUSSELL STUTES, Lake Charles attorney for the drainage district, wrote a testy letter to Broussard in which Stutes, elevating himself to judge status, threatened Broussard with jail time “the next time any Calcasieu Parish employee is contacted by you or any of your representatives with respect to the project…”

Stutes even filed a petition for injunctive relief to bar Broussard from contacting members or employees of the drainage district and from seeking public records. Incredibly, 14th Judicial District Judge David Ritchie signed the order for the INJUNCTION that bars Broussard from his constitutionally-guaranteed right to seek answers from a public body. That right is also guaranteed under Louisiana R.S. 42:4.1 et seq.

Likewise, the judges of the 4th JDC up in Monroe filed SUIT against the Ouachita Citizen newspaper in West Monroe in order to stymie the newspaper’s efforts to obtain public records from the court.

So, you see, Mr. Fontana, it really wasn’t necessary to shoot yourself in the foot by having the city marshal strongarm Ms. Hargrave, your defense that he was authorized to do so notwithstanding. That just brought unwanted attention to a board what was already contentious in its membership makeup—some of that disharmony stemming from the performance of the very superintendent to whom you trying to give an extra $30,000 per year.

All you had to do was have the board attorney (and you are an attorney yourself) to find a judge who would sign an order for injunctive relief which, while questionable in its legality, would nevertheless have shut Ms. Hargrave up.

For a minute, anyway, to borrow a phrase from Ron “Tater Salad” White, one of my favorite stand-up comics, which he tags at the end of this joke but which is deleted from this VIDEO.

 

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Sometimes you just have to give the devil his due.

I have hammered John Kennedy pretty hard on his record and on his campaign for and his performance in the U.S. Senate, particularly in regard to his unquestioning subservience to his lord and master, Donald Trump.

But recently, in the words of my grandfather, he kicked over the traces (it’s a term about plowing the good earth with an insubordinate mule, for the more unsophisticated among you) regarding the Trumpster’s court nominees.

It was both a long time coming and something of a shock to see Kennedy undergo the delicate medical transplant procedure that involved replacing jelly with a spine—he certainly displayed no symptoms of having a backbone regarding the Republican shell game called tax reform or of challenging any of the other administration agenda items.

But his questioning of Federal Election Commission Chairman Matthew Spencer Peterson, one of Trump’s nominees for a federal judgeship, showed just how shallow Peterson is and how slipshod Trump’s aides are in vetting nominees for lifetime positions on the federal bench. In short, they made it almost too easy for Kennedy.

If I had to sum up Peterson’s performance in a single sentence it would be this:

Based on his lack of knowledge of the most basic principles of law, he should return to his alma mater and demand a refund.

The questioning by Kennedy and Peterson’s feeble responses were at once comical and painful.

I have never set foot in a law school class but after working as a sub-mediocre claims adjuster for the Louisiana Office of Risk Management for 20 years, even I know that the Daubert Standard is used by judges to qualify expert witnesses during trial.

Even I know that a Motion in Limine is a legal maneuver (more commonly employed by the defense counsel and always discussed outside the presence of a jury) to bar certain evidence from admission in trial.

Peterson drew a blank on both questions as he did when Kennedy asked if he had ever actually tried either a civil or criminal case at the state or federal court level. He did say that he “may have” participated in a handful of depositions early on in his legal career—that is, if you can legitimately call his experience an actual career.

Kennedy, who has a knack for mouthing nonsense like “I’d rather drink week killer,” actually had a jewel during an interview with New Orleans TV station WWL when he said, “Just because you’ve seen My Cousin Vinny doesn’t qualify you to be a federal judge.” In the words of Larry the Cable Guy, that’s funny, I don’t care who you are.

Fortunately, but too late to avoid abject humiliation, The White House withdrew Peterson’s name for consideration but not before he managed to turn insult into further self-inflicted injury when he said, “I had hoped my nearly two decades of public service might carry more weight than my two worst minutes on television.”

John Sachs of Ruston summed that remark up rather succinctly: “A garbage collector is performing public service but that doesn’t qualify him to serve as a federal judge.”

For your entertainment, here is a VIDEO of that exchange between Kennedy and Peterson that is certain to instill unshakable confidence in the Trump administration, especially among all those nasty critics in the media who harbor unreasonable expectations of real leadership from our POTUS—or at least sporadic signs of lucidity.

Of course, all that leaves unanswered the burning question of what prompted Kennedy’s sudden display of intestinal fortitude. After all, he had shown all the aggression of a three-day-old kitten when questioning Betsy DeVos during her confirmation hearings for Secretary of Education.

As a footnote, perhaps it should be noted that Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also pulled two other nominees for district court judgeships. It turns out that one nominee, Brett Talley, was a horror book author who has taken part in ghost-hunting activities but never tried a case. Worse, he posted a message board comment in 2011 defending the Ku Klux Klan. Jeff Mateer, who had been nominated for a judgeship in Texas, is on record as advocating discrimination against the LGBT community and as calling transgender proof that “Satan’s plan is working.” Kennedy also had opposed the nominations of both Talley and Mateer.

As to his motivation for torpedoing Peterson, the Washington Post on Tuesday had a lengthy analysis of how this particular testy little scenario played out.

It turns out it may have been as much revenge against White House Counsel Don McGahn on Kennedy’s part as for any philosophical principle or anything having to do with qualifications. Talley is married to McGahn’s chief of staff, so Kennedy’s smack down dug his spurs in a little deeper.

It all started about three weeks ago, wrote Post reporter James Hohmann, when Kennedy first made known his dissatisfaction with the manner in which the White House was ignoring his concerns about the less-than-stellar qualifications of some of Trump’s judicial nominees.

Kennedy was more than a little miffed when Trump refused to nominate Kyle Schonekas, Kennedy’s first choice for U.S. attorney in New Orleans. McGahn, you see, oversees that process.

And then, Kennedy has complained that he was never consulted prior to Trump’s selection of Kyle Duncan for a 5th Circuit judgeship in New Orleans.

It didn’t help smooth the trouble waters when White House spokesman Hogan Gidley (whoever that is) said last Friday that Kennedy humiliated Peterson because he, Kennedy, is one of “the president’s opponents” and was “trying to distract from the record-setting success the president has had on judicial nominations.” Now, anyone with any memory of that ugly 2016 senatorial election, will vividly remember Kennedy blatantly running as an unabashed Trump supporter, so any suggestion that he is Trump’s opponent is typical balderdash from the Trump White House.

Finally, wrote Hohmann (and this is key), Kennedy wants to be Louisiana’s next governor and he feels his sudden flash of independence might boost his chances. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Trump’s approval rating is around 34 percent, which is below even that of Bobby Jindal just before he left office (officially left in January 2016, that is; in reality, he left shortly after his re-election in 2011). Kennedy can read the tea leaves and he’s certainly aware that Trump’s star is in descending mode.

And there you have it: the underlying reasons for Kennedy’s emerging from the shadows as a freshman senator to dare show up Donald Trump on the national stage as a demonstration to the folks back home that he is his own man.

While State Treasurer, he took on Bobby Jindal, a governor from his own party, by repeating his mantra that the state did not have a revenue problem, it had a spending problem. In Washington, where he could just as easily be lost in the crowd, he has elbowed his way to the front in order to face down a president from his own party by challenging the credentials of judicial nominees.

Kennedy, in summation, can be best described by quoting from The Pilgrim, a wonderfully poetic Kris Kristofferson song:

He’s a walking contradiction,

Partly truth and partly fiction,

Taking every wrong direction

On his lonely way back home.

There’s a lot of wrong directions

On that lonely way back home.

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Bobby Jindal said in a 2015 address to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) that teachers are still at their jobs only by virtue of their being able to breathe.

That was when he was touting his ambitious education reform package that was designed to promote and enrich the operators of charter and virtual schools by pulling the financial rug from under public education in Louisiana.

That, of course, only served to further demoralize teachers and to punish those students from low-income families who could not afford charter schools but all that mattered little to Jindal. And perhaps it’s no coincidence that his former chief of staff Steve Waguespack now heads LABI.

Lest one think that sorry attitude toward teachers and the teaching profession went away in January 2016 when Jindal exited the governor’s office, leaving a fiscal mess for his successor, John Bel Edwards, think again.

Here’s a little wakeup call for those of you who may have been lulled into a false sense of security now that the husband of a teacher occupies the governor’s office: That disdain for public education has carried over into the halls of Congress via this proposed new tax bill now being ironed out between the House and Senate.

Much has already been written about how the tax bill is supposed to benefit the middle class when in reality it does just the opposite—yet those blindly loyal zealots, those supporters of child molesters, those adherents of the Republican-can-do-no-wrong-because-they-wrap-themselves-in-a-flag-and-wave-a-bible-in-one-hand-and-a-gun-in-the-other mantra continue to drink the Kool-Aid and cling to the insane theory that Trump, Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell, Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy have their best interests at heart.

These delusional people get all bent out of shape when a jock refuses to kneel at a football game because they consider it an affront to our military (it’s not) while this tax bill rips more than $40 billion from HUD, including programs that help provide housing for homeless VETERANS. How’s that for honoring our fighting men and women? Where the hell are your real priorities?

Any of you die-hard Republicans out there on Medicare? Are you ready to take a $25 billion HIT? You will under this tax “reform.”

All you Trump supporters who have been so critical of the federal deficit prepared to see that deficit increased by a whopping $1.4 trillion? Sens. Cassidy and Kennedy are. So are Reps. Steve Scalise, Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson, Ralph Abraham and Garrett Graves.

Those of you with college kids presently on tuition exemptions like TOPS might want to get ready; your son or daughter is going to have to declare those benefits as taxable income. Is that why you voted Republican?

And while all this is going down, you can take comfort in the knowledge that the proposed tax “reform” will eliminate the tax on inherited fortunes (you know, the kind that made Donald Trump Donald Trump) and will maintain the “carried interest” loophole which taxes the fees of private-equity fund managers (read: the mega-rich, Wall Street bankers, etc.) at low capital gains rates instead of the higher income tax rates.

But after all that’s said and done, the part of the tax bill that really turns my stomach, the part that sticks in my throat, is a provision that is of so small an amount as to be insignificant—if it weren’t for the principle of the whole thing.

Call it a carry over from Jindal, a snub of teachers, or whatever, it’s galling.

Here it is:

Teachers, particularly elementary teachers, traditionally spend hundreds of dollars per year of their own money on materials and supplies for their classrooms. And it’s not for them, it’s for the children. Keep that in mind, folks. While there are parents out there who would rather buy meth and booze and cigarettes than supplies for their kids, there are teachers who quietly enter the school supply stories and stock up so that kid will have a chance.

Call it personal, if you wish, and it might well be. When I was a student at Ruston High School, I was injured right after school one day. My English teacher, Miss Maggie Hinton, never hesitated. She led me to her powder blue 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air and took me to Green Clinic—and paid the doctor to patch me up. You never hear the Jindals of the world tell those kinds of stories. They don’t fit their agenda.

Under the present tax laws, these teachers, who on average spend $500 to $600 per year (school principals, by the way spend an average of $683 of their own money annually on snacks and other food items for students, decorations and supplies like binders and paper), can take a tax deduction of up to $250 for those expenditures. (And to interject a very personal story, once, while I was making a purchase for a school in Livingston Parish at Clegg’s Plant Nursery, the owner would not accept my money. He donated the items because he, too, supports public education.)

Now understand, that’s a tax deduction of up to $250, not a tax credit, which would be a dollar-for-dollar tax cut. A deduction benefits the teacher only $40 or so off her taxes. But at least it’s something.

The Senate version of the new tax bill would double that deduction to $500, thank you very much.

So, what’s my beef?

Nothing much…except the HOUSE version would eliminate the deduction in its entirety.

That’s right. While the Republicans want to take care of the fat cats (those in Trump’s income bracket would realize tax breaks of approximately $37,000), teachers, under the House version of this tax bill would no longer get even that paltry $40. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Thank you, Garrett Graves, et al.

That really angers me and it should anger every person in Louisiana with even a scintilla of a conscience.

Because teachers are my heroes. Nearly fifty-seven years after graduating from Ruston High School, my heroes are still named Hinton, Ryland, Perkins, Garner, Lewis, Peoples, Edmunds, Barnes,  Johnson, Garrett & Garrett (any I omitted is only because I took no classes under them). They took a personal interest in a kid with no real promise and made him a little better person. They and my grandparents alone have stood the test of what a true hero should be.

And I am proud to defend the honor of teachers everywhere in their memory.

And the fact that five Louisiana House members—who, by the way, are all up for reelection in 2018—voted for this tax “reform” bill that slaps my heroes in the face really pisses me off.

Did I mention those five are up for reelection next year? That’s 2018, less than a year from now.

A smart voter remembers who represents him.

Those not so smart should go fishing on election day.

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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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