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LABI loses!

It was a headline I never thought I’d get to write as long as we had legislators like Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) and House Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia) carrying the water for the business lobby.

And cheered on by the Baton Rouge Business Report.

And let’s not overlook Sen. BODIE WHITE (R-Central), who withdrew his bill, SB 214, which would have seized control from local communities over burgeoning industrial tax exemptions which have gutted local governments’ desperately needed revenue for schools, law enforcement, and roads and bridges.

He withdrew his bill after it became evident that he didn’t have the needed votes to run roughshod over local government.

As did Rep. Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge) with his HCR 3, which would have done essentially the same thing as SB 214, that is to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’s executive order giving local government more control over the granting of industrial tax exemptions, particularly those exemptions that don’t really result in any new jobs.

What is particularly ironic about this whole thing is the Republican Party purports to be the party that wants government out of our lives, i.e. more say-so about local affairs by the locals.

Except, that is, when those local desires impede business and industry’s desires to pile up more and more tax exemptions, placing the burden of picking up the tab for police and fire protection, road and bridge construction and repair, education, and a multitude of other responsibilities on the already overburdened working stiffs.

One need only examine the campaign contributions of LABI’s four (count ‘em) political action committees to understand the stroke the organization has enjoyed in the legislature.

The same can be said of contributions by the oil and gas industry, nursing homes, banks, payday loan companies, cable TV, health care providers, pharmaceutical companies, private prisons, and insurance companies, most of whom are also members of LABI.

Compare those campaign corporations to those of your average, non-fat-cat individuals to see who has the most stroke in the halls of the Louisiana State Capitol. Take a look around the rotunda and in both chambers to see who the lobbyists represent. See anyone who represents your interests? Didn’t think so.

And, of course, let’s not overlook the abetting of Business Report.

Just yesterday (May 9), for example, the publication chronicled in a headline that Louisiana’s corporate income tax ranks 27th in nation.”

Oh, my. That high? That’s terrible! Something has to be done about that! The sky’s falling!

But wait. What Business Report conveniently overlooked was that conversely, if we have the highest corporate tax, then with only 50 states, that would necessarily mean we also have the 23rd lowest corporate income tax rate.

The headline was reminiscent of the joke about the Russian news agency TASS, back in the old days of the Soviet Union, ran a headline about a two-way automobile race: “Russian car finishes second, American car next to last.”

Of course, you can’t blame Business Report. After all, it was only transcribing as news the Tax Foundation’s PR that lamented in its own press release that “State Corporate Income Taxes Increase Tax Burden on Corporate Profits.”

On the one hand, the Tax Foundation said that yes, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (that would be Trump’s and the Republican Congress’s tax reform that enriched everyone’s lives so much) reduced the federal corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent but alas, “most states also tax corporate income.”

Well, here’s a news flash for you: the federal tax reform did precious little to actually help the middle class while cutting federal income tax by 14 percent and furthermore, most states also tax individual income.

The Tax Foundation also had a by-state ranking which appears to place Louisiana with the 44th BEST (6th WORST) OVERALL BUSINESS CLIMATE. It also shows that Louisiana has the worst sales tax rate, which means that the working poor pay the highest proportionate taxes on goods and services.

And of course, we have the second-best unemployment insurance tax rate, according to the Tax Foundation. That would the unemployed in this state are getting the shaft, thanks to the untiring lobbying efforts of LABI.

It’s probably no coincidence that LABI and lobby sound so similar.

 

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By William Khan, guest columnist

New Orleans business owner

Republicans and conservatives, especially in Louisiana, generally claim to support and rally around three principles: self-sufficiency, fiscal responsibility, and local decision-making—as opposed to edicts from detached levels of government, bench legislators, or bureaucrats. When it comes to Orleans Parish’s fight to fix its infrastructure and pull itself up by its bootstraps, support for Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s initiative should come from all corners of the state and across the political spectrum in the Louisiana legislature.

Louisiana can do tremendous things when people look past party labels and work toward the common good. Our state should not underestimate what we can accomplish when we work together. In fact, Louisiana must work together to tackle massive challenges like restoring our coastline and protecting vulnerable communities.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, our state worked hard to bounce back. If we want to preserve what we have painstakingly recovered and continue moving forward, Louisiana lawmakers should support communities trying to address their flooding and water risks with modern infrastructure and smart funding policies.

Louisiana and the Who Dat Nation got the attention of the entertainment, media, and sports world when they unified, spoke up, and convinced the NFL to revise its rules for the upcoming football season. Officials who are usually polar opposites like Steve Scalise, Cedric Richmond, Bill Cassidy, and Helena Moreno found common cause, mobilized, and achieved results. If our state’s diverse and proud representatives can come together to demand action after a sports gaffe, surely they can put aside labels to address a growing, tangible, and existential danger to Louisiana’s largest city and its economic engine.

When New Orleans and Louisiana landed a new office from DXC Technology despite intense competition, the company ranked Louisiana high on a number of metrics but it suggested that the state could improve on regional cooperation, multi-parish collaboration, and a reputation for self-centered political thinking. In the past, Louisiana has struggled with a perception of politicians asking companies, “What’s in it for me?”

To those companies, families, and investors thinking of relocating to Louisiana, our state can send them a powerful message. By voting in favor of smart, sustainable solutions for infrastructure improvement in New Orleans, Baton Rouge legislators can make a strong statement about Louisiana’s potential for regional—even statewide—cooperation, its openness to innovative public policy, and its ability to set aside special interests for the long-term common good.

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By Stephen Winham

Guest Columnist

Inspired by U. S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and introspection, I have decided it is time for my daily bashing of the current POTUS to end.  His life and his almost 2 ½ years in office speak for themselves.

A recipient’s request to be removed from my email blast list this week made me see something I had obviously repressed – I would ask to be removed from a list of daily email blasts supporting the actions of the POTUS and would not have read them anyhow. The request made perfect sense.

I believe 2 immutable (and often mutually-exclusive) things explain the current support of the POTUS by 30-40% of our population:

  1. The belief that any means justifies the end – MAGA – and that he is the secular messiah who will fundamentally change our country in the direction reflected by his words and deeds. The wealthy and powerful in his base see this one way, the underachievers quite another.
  2. Ignorance, or selective dismissal of daily headlines, radio and television stories, easily verifiable facts about his life and his own direct statements and actions – and a general ignorance of history – blind faith.

These two things are apparently not going to change and there is little point in trying.  All I have really been doing so far with my blasts and conversations is simply preaching to the choir – nobody else is paying attention.

Active protests, letters to Congress, diatribes detailing facts readily accessible via other means, and even impeachment are not the answers, but protection of the free press is essential and must be preserved at all cost.

At this point, the only thing that makes sense is to begin now to find an acceptable 2020 candidate and get fully behind her or him.  Party does not matter.  Among the things that should matter are:

  1. Demonstrated deliberation, altruism and honesty
  2. A belief in basic human dignity
  3. A background that includes enough relevant leadership experience in the public sector to enable immediate effectiveness
  4.  A belief that international diplomacy is critically important and that both sides must win for lasting results – coupled with the recognition that the leaders of some countries are despots who cannot be trusted and whose actions cannot be condoned
  5. Fair tax policies – i. e., those that adequately fund a stable government and do not benefit the wealthy to the detriment of everybody else
  6. Recognition that strong environmental regulations are important not just to our personal well-being, but to our long-term economic health

Many other things, like a much-needed transportation infrastructure plan, can be added to this list, all with a positive rather than negative outlook.  A national infrastructure plan, for example, would provide tremendous economic benefits.

Most 2020 candidates will find it necessary to attack the current POTUS.  I now believe that to be unnecessary.  What is necessary is to limit criticism of their fellow candidates.  To the extent the reputations of each of these people are destroyed, we will move toward an election like the last one.  That happens all too often of late and it must stop.  The focus should be on what positive actions can lead to a positive future.

I am asking the 60+% of our people who believe we need new leadership to vote and encourage like-minded people to vote in 2020 in record numbers to prove it so we can move toward uniting this country again.  Hopefully, a good candidate will emerge and be successful, once elected, due to a solid, incontrovertible victory.  In the meantime, we will have one thing in our favor – hope.

FYI:  BELOW ARE THE MAIN TEXTS OF MY LAST 2 EMAIL BLASTS.  I STILL BELIEVE THESE THINGS, BUT NO SENSE BEATING A DEAD HORSE. I AM PROVIDING THEM HERE FOR CONTEXT, BUT FEEL FREE TO IGNORE THEM:

Swinham Blasts:

4/22

I agree 100% with Nancy Pelosi that impeachment is a no-win scenario.  I’m beginning to accept that Trump will not go crazy enough or do enough crazy things for the 25th amendment to work and, though my best outcome would be him resigning and issuing a totally childish rant endearing him to his base in perpetuity – the same rant he will make when he is not re-elected which we have to do EVERYTHING possible to prevent and the only thing I know to do in that regard is get out every vote of like-minded people I can.  

  1. S.  I thought the newspaper article about Admiral Mike Rogers’ phone call from Trump reported in the Mueller report was among the most damning things in there, but I realized it would have NO impact on Trump’s base, or if it did, it would be positive since they seem to love everything he does.  Meanwhile, this and everything else in the report, or that Trump says and does, is becoming for the rest of America, “Ho Hum, nothing to see here” – and there’s the rub.  If his behavior is accepted as the norm will enough people wearing our jerseys get out there and vote for his opponent or will this, combined with the Democratic candidates’ attacks on one another as they vie for the nomination, make it impossible for the rest of us to aggressively support the ultimate nominee, poisoned as s/he will have been by her own party members?  In other words, will we again face 2 candidates we don’t like?

4/23

The most significant thing Trump said after the release of the Mueller report, when told his own people had to refuse his orders, was, “Nobody disobeys my orders.”  Putting aside the obvious reflection of his innate persona, the clause “…and gets away with it” is implied and reflected in the number of resignations and firings during his tenure.  Therefore, the people working for him (clearly including the Attorney General) can only remain if they are willing to agree with him on everything and follow his every order without question.  What an unhealthy environment for the rest of us – and what a picture this paints of how people in powerful positions in our government can either lack  moral fiber, or put it completely aside for their own benefit – and that includes Congress and all but one member of our own delegation – maybe 2 if we count Garret Graves – so let’s say 1 1/3.  Whether Trump has violated the U. S. Constitution may be debatable.  The fact Congress is refusing to exercise its own powers to provide checks and balances is not.

 

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Public Service Commission (PSC) member Foster Campbell of Elm Grove has issued a press release announcing he has will ask telephone companies what they are doing to help customers deal with the latest plague: robo calls.

All I can is good for Campbell and good luck tilting at windmills.

Campbell’s intentions are good, but, being the realist that I am, I’m afraid he’s fighting a losing battle.

The damned robo callers have too much technology going for them when they can hijack your personal telephone number to initiate calls so that recipients looking at caller ID understandably but mistakenly assume the call is from someone they know.

I’ve even received calls on my cell phone with the caller ID showing that the call is coming from my own telephone number. At 75 years of age, I was beginning to think I had finally gone over the precipice of Mt. Senility.

It’s a nuisance that I’ve been unable to stop and I’m certain the same applies to all of us. For a while, I tried to have a little fun with them, especially with Heather who keeps calling to offer me a reduced interest rate on my credit card. At the prompt, I would press “1” to talk to a rep. If it was a male, I’d blow a referee’s whistle in his ear. If a female, I’d breathe heavy and ask in a whisper, “What’re you wearing?” But my playful mood soon turned to boredom and then to fury at the incessant flood of calls.

“The new generation of robo-callers is breaking the law by using internet technology to avoid detection,” Campbell said, adding that Louisiana has “a strong ‘Do Not Call’ law,” which he said has been on the book for 20 years. “It prevents law-abiding companies from calling people who don’t want sales calls at home.”

And therein lies the problem. Yes, there are tough laws but these people don’t give a rat’s patootie about the law. “We need help from the telephone industry to defeat these outlaws,” Campbell said.

Again, good luck with that.

Campbell said the PSC will hear from phone companies at its meeting tomorrow (April 26) in Baton Rouge.

At least he is responsive to the concerns of his constituents on this issue. That’s more than can be said about most of our legislators who seem more concerned about combating the governor than looking out for the interest of the citizens of Louisiana.

(I received three robo-calls as I wrote this relatively short post.)

 

 

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I received a very official-looking envelope in the mail last week. Inside was a return envelope stamped, “Process Immediately, Congressional District Census Enclosed. Along with the envelope was a questionnaire to be completed and returned.

My first thought was, “Oh, census. This is important governmental business.” Then it occurred to me that the official U.S. census isn’t until next year, so I took a closer look.

That’s when I saw it was not “census” information at all, but a push poll “Commissioned by the Republican Party.”

They must not know me very well. I haven’t been a Republican since midway through Bobby Jindal’s first term. Maybe they were going by the previous 30 years.

Anyway, here’s what they said:

“Mr. Aswell: Your Participation is Urgently Needed.” (bold faced and capitalizing inappropriate words, just like Donald Trump in his tweets.)

Trust me, they don’t really want my responses. Their poll questions phrased in such a way as to “push” the respondent not toward what he/she would like to say, but what the party wants to hear so they can trumpet the “overwhelming support for Donald Trump” shown by the party’s poll.

I won’t bore you with all the questions, but here are a few (with my observations in parentheses):

  • Do you think the Democrat Party as a whole is promoting a Socialist agenda for America? (as opposed to the Republican Party promoting a fascist agenda, a choice not provided? You mean all those god-awful socialist programs like social security and Medicare, minimum wage, federal highways, police and fire protection? That socialist agenda?);
  • Do you think that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat-controlled House will work with President Trump to address the critical issues facing our nation? (as opposed to asking if Trump would work with Pelosi and the Democrats—I mean, cooperation is supposed to be a two-way street. Trump and a Republican-controlled House and Senate, after all, have already given us an additional $1 trillion federal deficit.);
  • Do you currently trust the federal government bureaucracy to act in the best interest of the citizens of our nation? (as opposed to the days of tainted meat, child sweat shop labor, runaway Wall Street speculators throwing the country into depression, unsafe vehicles, unregulated food and drugs, pre-social security and Medicare, unsafe working conditions, unclean air and water, no minimum wage, 60-hour work weeks with no vacation, no sick leave, no health care or retirement benefits?);
  • Do you believe the national media has (sic) a strong bias against all things Donald Trump and Republican and fails to tell America’s voters the real facts about Republican policies, principles, goals, and accomplishments? (Well first of all, media is plural and should take the verb “have.”) (second, you mean like the reality of the tax reform bill that only benefited the wealthy while creating an additional trillion-dollar federal deficit cited in my response to question two above? The abolishing of net neutrality? Trump’s attempt to deny aid to the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico? Like the repeated attempts to strip poor Americans of health care?);
  • Do you support canceling all federal funding to sanctuary cities that fail to enforce U.S. immigration laws? (I would refer you to question number three above);
  • Do you support President Trump in his determination to appoint judges who will adhere to strict Constitutional principles and not use the court to advance their personal ideologies? (Oh boy, I damned near choked on that one. Didn’t know these Republicans had such a sense of humor.);
  • Do you think race relations in America are getting better or worse? (Seriously? You really want an answer to that question after you, the Republican Party, has done everything in its power to strip African-Americans of the right to vote, the right to work, the right to do about anything other than get shot with impunity—all while encouraging a resurgence of white supremacy activity?);
  • Do you believe more federal laws that impede individuals’ Second Amendment rights are the proper response to gun violence in our nation? (C’mon guys, you already have Russians as members in good standing of the NRA, Russians who funneled $500,000 into Trump’s campaign through the NRA and you don’t want any discussion of ways to keep assault weapons out of the hands of mentally deranged people. Why would we want any additional pesky laws that might impede your fine work on behalf of the mass slaughter of school kids?);
  • Under President Trump’s leadership, improvements have been made to ensure that our nation’s Veterans (there you go with the capital letters again) receive the quality of care and services they deserve (Oh, gawd, surely you jest). Yet much remains to be done. Do you agree that Republicans should push for additional legislation to be passed that will address problems still confronting the Department of Veterans Affairs? (Why do you need my opinion on that? Didn’t Trump already turn over the VA to some local hacks at Mar-a-Lago, hacks who don’t even work for the government but are just members of Mar-a-Lago?);
  • Do you support rebuilding our nation’s military by expanding our military investment? (By “rebuilding,” you mean spending even more than the current 57 percent of the federal budget already devoted to military spending? Hell, why not 100 percent? Maybe they could find a cure for bone spurs.);
  • Do you agree with President Trump that fixing our nation’s inner cities and working to rebuild our crumbling highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools and hospitals must be a top federal priority in the next few years? (First of all, I agree with the concept but to say that that is Trump’s “top priority” is something of a reach, since all I’ve heard his first 27 months in office is “wall, wall, wall, wall, wall, wall….” To tell the truth, I haven’t heard much serious discussion about the nation’s infrastructure from either the Republicans or what’s-his-name.);
  • Do you have any interest in serving as a volunteer to help at your local Trump Victory Headquarters or to assist a Republican candidate in your area? (only if I can do so in the same manner as the late Dick Tuck. If you don’t know who he was, google him.);
  • Do you plan on supporting Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential election? (Haw! Snort, giggle, chortle!)
  • Can the RNC count on your help to re-elect President Trump as we fight to Make America Great Again? (Same response as above, but add a guffaw.);

Finally, under the section set aside for my pledge of $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000, or “Other $_______, was this:

“I cannot send a donation at that level right now. But I am enclosing $15 to help pay for the cost of processing my Census Document.”

Well, there’s two thing you can’t accuse them of having: pride and integrity.

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