Archive for the ‘Guest Columnist’ Category

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” (Mahatma Ghandi)

“If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don’t.” (Comedian John Fugelsang, sometimes mistakenly attributed to former President Jimmy Carter)

“A bunch of rich people convincing poor people to vote for rich people by telling the poor people that other poor people are the reason they’re poor.” (NOLA.com comment, Oct. 14, 2015)


By guest columnist Earthmother

           Not being an economist, there is much I do not understand about macro-economics.  But as an observer, I have some questions that I hope some of you who do understand economic structure can help me comprehend.

(Disclaimer: I am not an ascetic and have not followed Jesus’ teaching to sell all that I have and give the proceeds to the poor. We’ve worked hard, have a nice home and nice things, way more than we need.  I try to remember that money is not the root of evil—the love of money is. In most ways I’m no different from any other middle class American.)

I get the thinking behind the desire of the “one percenters/oligarchs” (or whatever we choose to call the wealthy ultra conservatives) for a poor educational system for the masses while their own children attend outstanding non-public schools. This creates a latter day feudal, Dark Ages situation where people who are kept ignorant and uneducated are easier to control, and provide an unending source of cheap labor. With no critical thinking skills, the disadvantaged vote as they are told by overlord politicians and the hate media….never realizing that they themselves are members of “The Other” that the hatemongers are telling them are the reason their lives are difficult. (Here’s a sad little rabbit trail—to a suggestion that a woman speak to her school board member, she replied in fear, “Am I allowed to speak to elected people?  Will I get fired from my job or punished?”)

Several journeys to Third World type countries make one highly sensitive to socio-political trends that could result in similar conditions in this great country of ours. Here’s a brief, firsthand glimpse of what a nation looks like when the wealthy can afford all the luxuries the world offers while the majority of the population cannot afford the basic necessities of life.

With a minimal tax base and small government, there are few government services, and those are often corrupt.  Many streets are littered with garbage; people live in housing sometimes made of scraps, cardboard and tin—with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Children and adults, dressed in rags, beg for food or change, eat from garbage dumps, and root through trash for anything of use. People who get sick or injured often die because they are unable to afford basic healthcare; there is no government “safety net.”

People of all ages walk for a day to see a missionary doctor in a schoolhouse, then walk for a day back home. People bathe in and drink from polluted streams of water; they are infested with parasites, and die from infections that could be prevented with over-the-counter medicines but which are out of their reach.

When you’ve bought food for toddlers abandoned to the streets because the parents cannot afford to feed them, worked in an orphanage and talked to children who were rescued as army personnel and fun-loving civilians rid neighborhoods of “vermin” street children, you cherish you own kids more and pray such things could never happen at home.  (Google “street children shot” if you think this is melodramatic.) Women have babies they can’t afford to feed, in patriarchal societies where women have few rights and no access to birth control and family planning services, and are beaten if they say no. Men abandon their families en masse either to work far away or just to avoid their responsibility. Women have little education or job skills to be able to support themselves and their children. Even scarce jobs in skilled labor areas such as welding and construction pay paltry wages, leading to illegal immigration.

Louisiana already looks much like a Third World country in many ways. The litter problem is a startling similarity. We have cities with neighborhoods with lovely homes, world class restaurants and attractions, sprawling university campuses that turn out graduates who go on to lucrative careers in prestigious fields.

But we are also a national leader in several less attractive quality-of-life areas: poverty, chronic disease, AIDS and STDs, violent crime and income inequality, and we remain near-last in education and literacy, health care accessibility and outcomes, life expectancy and economic parity. There is a possible correlation between Louisiana’s high poverty rate and poor education, etc., and the fact that we also have the highest percentage of the population incarcerated in the U.S., which has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, gives us the dubious distinction of being the prison capital of the entire world.

Add an unfair, regressive  tax system, wages kept low so that people at the top can take home more, a criminal justice system that appears designed to perpetuate poverty,  uncaring and/or ineffective leaders, all agenda-driven and backed by a sophisticated and effective propaganda machine, and we have a Third World-style society in the making.

So finally to my questions: Since the one-percenters already have more money than they can spend in several lifetimes, and the servant class is already sufficient in number to care for them, how does it benefit them to impoverish large numbers of people and create a huge underclass? With no money to buy things, the poor can’t purchase the goods and services to keep the wealthy wealthy.

Why inflict the unpleasant sights of abject poverty on their families?  (Seeing these things is very disturbing if one has a heart at all.) Often the “let them eat cake” people don’t notice the poor and disadvantaged in our midst. No one has explained that people who are hungry, poorly nourished with non-nutritious foods, and chronically ill, are not good students or employees.

If not motivated by altruism, what about the purely pragmatic idea that throwing a bone to the underclass keeps the upper class safe in their homes and safe from people who have little and want to take theirs in order to survive. If you read local and national news it should come as no surprise that we already have a huge problem resulting from the struggle between the Haves and the Have-Nots.

Does denial of healthcare services to the less advantaged provide more and better care for the wealthy? Does paying a living wage and allowing employees to work enough hours to qualify for benefits and earn enough to pay the rent and buy food somehow diminish the rich?  Why destroy traditional corporate pension plans and also attempt to cut Social Security benefits, so that retirees fall into poverty and lose their dignity?

How does it make sense to deny birth control and family planning services to poor women, then penalize them for getting pregnant by curtailing pre-natal care and seeking to withhold nutrition assistance to mothers and children? Why continue to insist that cost-free abstinence-only is all that’s needed to prevent pregnancy, when it’s proven to be rather unrealistic? Has anyone reasoned that when women are abstinent, theoretically their male significant others are, too? Just ask Sen. Bill Cassidy’s teen daughter if it works, and ask never-married spokeswoman-in-chief Bristol Palin how that abstinence thing is working out for her and her growing family.

Why do smart people ignore the failure of Friedman Chicago School economics, wherever it’s been implemented, worldwide? (Hint: read Naomi Klein Shock Doctrine.)

It would be naïve not to acknowledge the fact that every dollar (or euro, kroner, peso, lempira, or whatever) not given up by the wealthy in the form of reasonable taxes or fair wages and benefits for employees is another dollar in their bank account. Employers’ base pay rates on the value they place on work, and employers certainly have that right. What does it say about one’s attitude about the inherent value of people who perform menial task—those who clean their toilets, secure their property, and cook and serve their food? When is more than enough enough? And why is it desirable and moral to deny everyone else a reasonable standard of living?

Seriously, what is the rationale for the rich wanting to keep other people down?   How does it benefit them? How does it enhance their lives, or take anything from them if other people have sufficient resources to live on? I was taught that the U.S. classless society was different from other countries where aristocrats controlled the peasants. Was that teaching wrong or just invalidated by human nature?

When did the term “common good” become socialist/un-American/anti-capitalist? When did it become alright to take funds from needy children, the poor, the sick, the disabled, and give those tax dollars to the rich in the form of corporate welfare, including sports franchises and motorsports tracks owned by mega-millionaires? Why do free market capitalists thinks it’s their right to demand government handouts to grow their wealth instead of investing their own money?

Awaiting enlightenment from folks wiser and more educated than I.



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Folks, if you don’t read anything else today, please read Bob Mann’s post. It should strike a chord with every person in Louisiana who struggles to make his or life a little better. It will break the hearts of teachers who see the effects that abject poverty has on children’s ability to learn. It will resonate with those who are unable to afford health care. It should infuriate those forced to pay higher tuition at our colleges and universities because the politicians can’t seem to find the funds to support higher education.

But it will clang with an empty thud with those who want to absolve themselves of any responsibility, who fail to see society’s problems as their own and who, instead of striving to find solutions, choose only to blame the federal bureaucracy in a sweeping dismissal of the ills that afflict us all—economically, physically, emotionally, and morally.

A survey released on Thursday (Sept. 17) shows that Louisiana is the 8th poorest state in the nation. With the abundance of natural resources that we have in this state, that should never be. It should an extreme embarrassment to our leaders, especially one so oblivious as to believe he is presidential timber. Here is the link to that survey: http://247wallst.com/special-report/2015/09/17/richest-and-poorest-states/?utm_source=247WallStDailyNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=SEP172015A&utm_campaign=DailyNewsletter

Bob Mann has said the things that I have wished a thousand times for the skill and the proficiency to articulate. Go here to read today’s post:


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On the eve of Bobby Jindal’s anticipated earth shaking announcement that he is squeezing himself into the clown car of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, I thought we should let our readers know that I am still on the job, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

As we wait with collective bated breath for word that Bobby is not only available but more than willing to do for the nation what he has done for Louisiana (God help us all, Tiny Tim), I remain cloistered in my cluttered home office, working diligently on my book, as yet untitled, in which I intend to fully document precisely what he has done for to Louisiana.

Among the topics to be covered are public education, higher education, health care, the state budget, campaign contributions, political appointments, ethics, privatization, his ALEC connections, the explosion in corporate tax breaks during his two terms, the lack of progress as reflected in myriad state rankings and surveys throughout his eight years as our largely absentee governor, the lack of transparency, his thinly veiled use of foundations and non-profit organizations to advance his political career, his intolerance for dissent (teaguing), his actual performance as compared to campaign promises as candidate Bobby, and his general incompetence.

I was asked on a local radio show if I could be fair to Jindal, given my personal feelings about his abilities as reflected in more than a thousand posts on this site. The short answer is: probably not. The long answer is I can—and will—be as fair to him as he has been to the state I love and call home. Because I do not claim to be objective (as opposed to the paid media who cling to that word as if it were some kind of Holy Grail), I am not bound by any rules that place limits on the expression of my opinions. I see what he has done, I understand the adverse effect his actions have had on this state, and I will offer my take on them for the reader to either accept or reject. If that is not fair, then so be it.

I have written about 60,000 words of an anticipated 100,000-word manuscript thus far. A couple of other writers have volunteered to contribute chapters, which should add another 20,000 words. I have a self-imposed deadline of July 1—give or take a few days—in which to have the rough draft completed. I also have several very capable editors poring over the chapters as they are completed. Their corrections, deletions, additions and suggestions will be incorporated into the final manuscript which is to be submitted to the publisher by late August.

The publisher originally gave me a publication target date of next Spring but recently moved the anticipated publication date up to January, with an e-book to be released possibly as early as this Fall.

That would coincide nicely with Jindal’s second ghost-written book, scheduled out in September.

There will be one major difference in our books: Mine will be based on his record while the source of his claims of balanced budgets and other wild, unsubstantiated assertions are certain to remain a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (with apologies to Winston Churchill).

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By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)

On Monday (June 8, 2015) Salon published an excellent piece by Lamar White about Bobby Jindal and his political machine.  Here is a link to that article:


Months ago, I joked that Bobby Jindal was not running for President, but rather for Pat Robertson’s job as host of The 700 Club.  Lamar’s piece has made me believe the concept underlying my joke may, in reality, be at the core of Bobby Jindal’s ostensible campaign for President.

The 700 Club takes its name from a Pat Robertson telethon in 1963 to energize and support a fledgling religious broadcasting station via pledges of $10 per month by 700 people. From this humble beginning, an empire emerged.

Though started by Robertson, the first permanent host of The 700 Club was Jim Bakker who, along with his wife Tammy Faye, later created the hugely (albeit temporarily) successful PTL Club. I became fascinated with Jim and Tammy Bakker in the early 1980s. It was absolutely amazing to me that they could rake in enough money through their television “ministry” to support lives of open excess and build the 3rd largest theme park in the United States, Heritage USA. Not only were they able to achieve personal wealth, they put many old line preachers, gospel singers and others to work.

Ultimately, Bakker was the victim of his own greed and corruption, as were his followers.  He did a stint in federal prison on fraud and conspiracy convictions. This followed the exposure of his affair with (or rape of) a church secretary, Jessica Hahn, who later appeared nude in Playboy. But, I digress.

Bakker is out of prison now and he and his new wife host a millennial/survivalist themed televangelism program broadcast on a couple of Christian television networks. They now live on a 600 acre property near Branson and are apparently doing pretty well despite the rumor Bakker still owes millions to the IRS.

A former Baptist minister, Pat Robertson is now more a politician and conservative commentator than televangelist. He clearly makes a good living from The 700 Club and other enterprises by appealing to a loyal group of supporters. He has founded several large organizations, including the Christian Broadcasting Network, the ABC Family Channel and Regents University. He makes money. His employees make money. His viewers get reinforcement for their beliefs.  Though his politics are extreme, he is apparently not engaging in illegal activities like his former protégé’ Bakker. He fought hard for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1988, no doubt broadening his base of support in the process.

Whether he has tanked or not, Bobby Jindal and his handlers have made a lot of money from his supposed Presidential aspirations. He has become phenomenally well-known and is developing a base of devout supporters around the country. Could it be that he and his inner circle are achieving their real goals even as we speak? Governor Jindal has proven, via stunt after stunt, that gaining as much attention as possible is at the forefront of his interests. Timmy Teepell and others have made good money engendering that attention and acting as Jindal’s sycophants.

The type of things we may consider stunts made Jim Bakker a multi-millionaire. He blew it, but, incredibly may be on his way back. Robertson endures and makes radical proclamations regularly. You may remember he implied Katrina could be God’s retribution for America’s abortion policy and was possibly tied in some way to 9/11. His views on Islam and other issues are essentially the same as Jindal’s.

Robertson only needed about $7,000 per month from 700 believers to get his empire going. That wouldn’t cut it today, but if Jindal could get his own 700,000 club going, it would certainly be a good start for him, generating $7 million a month even at the old subscription fee of $10.

If there are approximately 55 million registered Republican voters in the U. S. [sources give varying numbers, the party was in decline in 2014], 700,000 equals slightly more than 1.2% of them. All things considered, it is not unrealistic to expect Jindal could attract a loyal following of that number, if he hasn’t already.

My point is obvious. Was my original joke a joke, or has the real joke always been on us? In other words, have we mistaken a coldly calculated prosperity plan for tomfoolery aimed at genuine Presidential aspirations?

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Dear Legislators:

“Jindal Vows to Bankrupt State to Preserve Conservative Credentials” (Comment on nola.com)

LEGISLATORS:  What are YOU going to do about that?

The state of Louisiana is facing bankruptcy – this was utterly predictable and almost feels deliberate.  Read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Kline and you will shocked all right, to see that jindal has pulled off an economic coup that has made Louisiana no more than a Third World economy.

I am addressing this to legislators, because YOU are to blame for the coming collapse of state government.  YOU, state representative or senator, put political party, out-of-state organizations and misguided individuals ahead of the people of Louisiana in violation of your oath of office.

You legislators are the only people in the state who have the power to fix the mess you have created.  The foolishness we are seeing during this legislative session shows that many of you are still abdicating any semblance of responsibility for the common good for our citizens.

A majority of you have played along with Jindal’s disastrous fiscal policies for your own selfish reasons.  Just a few of you have stood boldly and courageously in opposition from the beginning of this reign of (t)error.  You have allowed an annual fiscal mess that has created a huge corporate welfare state and left us with crippling cuts to government agencies that serve our citizens.  Every one of you should hang your head in shame for what you have done to the people of the state you were elected to represent.

You chose to allow us to truly suffer the consequences of Jindal’s sociopathic, narcissistic, self-serving ambition.  He is finally about to be honest about running for president, and the ever-absent governor will be completely MIA in the state that is paying his salary.  Just as he did when he took his salary as a congressman while running for governor.  Forgot about that, didn’t you?  Jindal is a serial thief via payroll fraud.

Here are things you can and should do to help make Louisiana a decent place to live, work and raise families:

One: Impeach Jindal.  Pay attention to what the public thinks.  People are ready for Jindal to go and they are not content to wait until January 2016.  Everyone knows he’s stealing his salary and rent on the mansion.  Do what the citizens want.  Get rid of him now.  Impeach him for cause.  There is plenty of it.  There is great public will for drastic action on YOUR part.

Get rid of the tyrant NOW.  He does not need to finish the last few months of his term.  Impeach him now and you will save yourself a lot of trouble at the end of the session, because if you are responsible enough to actually pass provisions to raise needed revenue, Jindal has clearly and unequivocably stated that he will veto them all because of his loyalty to Grover Norquist, not the people of Louisiana.  He has stated that he will not let you raise revenue.  “Revenue neutral” is complete bull.  We need more revenue, not the same amount we have now; that IS the problem.

Criminal grounds? Start with blatant payroll fraud, malfeasance and dereliction of duty.  Public payroll fraud is a felony in Louisiana.  Jindal long ago stopped performing the duties that he was elected to do, but continues to draw his handsome salary and his family still lives in the taxpayer-owned governor’s mansion. He has completely shirked his responsibilities to the state, and his slavish loyalty to Grover Norquist and powerful business interests, and his total lack of care and compassion for Louisiana people have driven us to brink of bankruptcy.  Then there’s the theft of state trust and reserve funds, and sale of properties belonging to We the People.  The list goes on and on…

While you’re at it, get rid of Jindal’s hatchet people.  There is probably some jail time in their futures for malfeasance in office, fraud and criminal actions having to do with ignoring state laws on contracts, procurement, employment, etc.


Two: Many of you signed Grover Norquist’s destructive and completely unrealistic no-taxes-ever pledge, and you must now pay the price for your misplaced loyalty.  You might want to google Grover Norquist.  Ultra-conservative Glenn Beck recently revealed that Norquist is widely thought to be a closet Muslim. Norquist’s former business partner is in federal prison for financing Al Queda terrorists.  Norquist is married to a devout Muslim woman thought to have terrorist ties.  Norquist’s real agenda appears to be destruction of our nation from within. You should take time to research him and decide if that is where your loyalties should lie.  You sold us out to a Muslim economic hit man/terrorist.

Renounce your anti-tax pledge to Norquist publically – NOW.


Three:  Accept the fact that government should not be the personal piggy bank for corporate interests.  There should be no profit motive in provision of government services.  Privatization requires profit, which is fine when businesses are truly private interests.   Governments abdicate their responsibility to citizens when services are privatized.

If you think the private sector always provides better services than lesser-paid public employees, take a look at the recent revelation about the Blue Cross Blue Shield takeover of the Office of Group Benefits. BCBS has paid millions in fines for poor performance. You did not hear a lot of complaints when OGB staff operated the plan. Ask the patients at the state’s few remaining mental health hospitals if they are getting enough to eat from the private contractor that now feeds them, after replacing the low-paid state employees who worked in those hospitals. After public complaint after complaint, you have still allowed those patients to go hungry because the contractor does not prepare enough food. Shame on you. SHAME ON YOU.

Government services provide for quality of life and public safety.  Today state services in every area are jeopardized, from police and fire safety, water safety, food inspection and public health to libraries, state parks, and highway safety. Medical services for the less fortunate and accessible higher education may be niceties of the past.

Please read Matthew 25:36-40 – that’s The BIBLE, y’all, the book that some of you wanted to make the Louisiana state book (which, apparently, many of you have not bothered to actually read).

Education is a key component that creates a prosperous middle class.  Public education in Louisiana is in jeopardy, from pre-K, K-12, to higher education.  I am disgusted with hearing about “government monopoly schools.”  Public education was established by the earliest Americans to provide opportunity for all, not just the wealthy.  Now there is talk of privatizing our universities along with the K-12 grab.  Those institutions belong to us – We the People of Louisiana – the same as our state parks and historic sites, museums, libraries and other state properties.   Are you actually going to allow the state of Louisiana to close universities, community and technical colleges, or price them out of reach of all but the wealthy? Do you really choose to let our state sink to the level of a Third World country?  (I spend time in such a country every year, and believe me, Louisiana already looks much the same.)

While you have sort of passed some financial relief for higher education, some of us actually realize that it’s not over til the session is over, and some ploys like the SAVE tax credit insanity provides non-existent funding. Plus, everything is open to jindal’s veto.


Four: be courageous and get our fiscal house in order:

    • Just do it. Roll back the corporate welfare that makes the business community that takes the profits and runs out of state a larger entitlement group than the poor. Jindal is now complaining about corporate welfare, which is laughable. He practically invented the idea.
  • Immediately cancel ridiculously expensive contracts such as Magellan and the five Bayou Health contracts that steal money by providing little or no services, services that were previously provided by mid-pay range state employees who actually got the work done.
  • Un-privatize the public hospitals, Office of Group Benefits operations, food service in the few remaining mental health hospitals, etc., so the money spent will actually pay for services to people, rather than profit for out-of-state companies. Don’t think you can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again? Look carefully at the history of the Office of Group Benefits and you will see that it has been done before.


  • Reinstate reasonable taxes on business and individuals, such as the Stelly tax. The People voted it in, and y’all eliminated Stelly without asking The People if they agreed. We didn’t. Consider that an additional, temporary one-percent income tax on the top one or two percent earners, until our budget house is back in order, may be necessary. (I’m probably in that number, so I have “skin in that game.”) We have to accept the fact that we must pay for the services we need and want. Take a look at the tax bases of the good quality-of–life states, like Minnesota. They levied a small, temporary income tax hike – result: the state is rolling in revenue and business is booming.

Five: re-gain the trust of our citizens by re-defining YOUR loyalties.  Is your loyalty to a delusional sociopath named jindal, to selfish, to self-serving out-of state entities such as ALEC, the greedy Koch Brothers machine and Grover Norquist, or to the people of Louisiana who elected you and whom you are supposed to serve?

A lot hangs in the balance for you personally and for the rest of us.  For you, there is your continued ability to be elected to public office and to maintain the respect of people around you, not to mention the state of your own immortal soul (read The Bible some more and see what the Lord has to say about people to whom much is given, etc.).  You are playing with fire….eternal fire… and I think it is very appropriate to point that out, since so many of you claim to be devout Christians.  Christians who want to legislate your personal religious beliefs into laws affecting everyone of all faiths and no faith, effectively turning our state and nation into a theocracy, in violation of the U.S. Constitution (which you claim to revere).

And now we find that many of you voted in favor of House Concurrent Resolution 2 that would endorse a “Convention of States” seeking to eliminate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that the United States Constitution, federal statutes and treaties are “the supreme law of the land.”  The Supremacy Clause is the bedrock that binds the states together a one nation.  This proposed convention of the states is a far-reaching plan to make radical changes in the federal government that will not benefit ordinary citizens. If that resolution was sold to you as a way to undermine a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, think again.  Pay attention for once, since you have admitted to voting for bills and resolutions because someone told you to, when you have not even read them.  Wake up to what you are doing.  The “convention of states” would begin the descent into anarchy as each state makes its own rules.  No more United States of America.  Welcome to 50 Shades of Pray.

Do the right thing.  Step up to your responsibilities as elected representatives of the people.  Make the right decisions for Louisiana, not a political party, an individual or organization. Get our house in order.

Believe me, we are all watching.



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