Regardless of whatever stats, rankings or carefully shaded reports the Jindal administration puts out regarding job creation or the state of the state’s economy, please know that, in truth, Louisiana is on a high-speed-rail collision course with global economic irrelevance.
Make no mistake, it’s fabulous that Louisiana, under Gov. Bobby Jindal, has spent hundreds of millions of economic development dollars to sustain chicken farmers, enable the manufacturing of high-end toilet paper, land international industrial companies, leverage cheap natural gas to attract manufacturing facilities and provide any incentive necessary to develop the movie and nascent digital media industries. Without question, each and every win by LED’s Stephen Moret has been great for this state.
It’s also wonderful that Louisiana, under Jindal, has moved hundreds of millions of dollars from the state treasury to personal bank accounts and corporate balance sheets thanks to an unprecedented level of tax cuts over the past five years. Even better for the average reader of this publication, nearly every one of these cuts has almost exclusively benefited the wealthiest of this state’s residents and business owners.
Economic development wins and massive tax cuts have buoyed the state economy during the national recession, made Louisiana appear more business- friendly and, without question, earned the ballyhoo of the suddenly authoritative Site Selection magazine.
Yet all of that good news is effectively eradicated by the financial carnage that’s taken place in higher education under Jindal’s watch. The past four years have seen Jindal and the Legislature slash $360 million in higher education funding, $92 million from LSU, the state’s supposed flagship institution.
The result of these nine budget cuts has been a brain drain of campus talent, the elimination or reduction of critical academic programs, and a general sense of despair on campuses from Ruston to Lafayette to Baton Rouge.
The governor’s supporters will tell you the cuts aren’t nearly as dramatic as those of us in the media and academia portray them. They say allowing universities to hike tuition and fees has offset many of the cuts. If the only measurement is dollars, then they have a point. Just as those who argue tuition at Louisiana universities has for decades been far too low are correct. Raising tuition is the right thing to do, but only when done in conjunction with proper funding from the state.
Simply transferring the financial responsibility from the state to the student creates a situation where the student is paying more for a degree that’s worth less. How is that right?
Consider that Louisiana pays more than $8,000 per student annually to educate a child at the K-12 level, but contributes less than $1,000 per student toward higher education.
Incredibly, the worst has yet to hit college campuses. What the governor and legislators are talking about now is a budget that will hack an additional $225 million from higher education, $43 million at LSU’s Baton Rouge campus. To be blunt, higher education and this state can’t survive with cuts that severe.
Blame what likely will be a death knell for higher education on fiscal hawks not wanting to use one-time dollars for recurring expenses in the state budget. Blame several universities teetering on the edge of bankruptcy on the impact of tax cuts this state really couldn’t afford to approve finally catching up to Jindal and legislators. Blame record levels of corporate welfare or blame the ending of federal money post-Katrina. Blame whatever one wants, but there’s no escaping that higher education is collapsing on Jindal’s watch.
How much longer will it be before many of the companies this state is paying so handsomely to locate here find it’s impossible to hire qualified workers? How much longer will we accept a state that ranks 46th in the nation for education attainment?
It’s clear our state leaders have no stomach for restructuring higher education, but do they also have to kill our economic future?
At a time where knowledge, research and creativity have never been more economically important, Jindal and the Legislature are systematically destroying the very institutions that give birth to knowledge, research and creativity.
So while tax breaks and corporate incentives are great, there’s no tax break or corporate incentive big enough to overcome stupid.
JR Ball is executive editor of Baton Rouge's Business Report, where this column first appeared. Email him at
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SEP 30 Here's another story that makes Louisiana look backward; blogger Manny Schewitz writes about a church that won't allow AA to use its facilities because those boozers might track in some gay. Every time he sees one of these, as he calls them "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" type of stories, he always starts wishing: "Please don't let it be Louisiana... Please don't let it be Louisiana..."
SEP 30 Blogger Bob Mann is asking a question that a lot of intelligent people have been asking for several years now - "How gullible does Bobby Jindal think we are?" In this post, Mann is taking a look at the Jindal administration's "smarmy, shameless reliance on our ignorance."
SEP 30 Ever wonder what goes on in a football locker room following a game like Sunday's embarrassment? Here's a post on ESPN about the "reality check" the Saints had. Among the comments: "Right now we're not a very good football team."
SEP 30 Just for fun, here's the Advocate's "Mike and Me" gallery, featuring submitted photos from readers who have taken pictures with LSU's mascot, Mike the Tiger. When the promotion started, the paper expected pictures with the big cat who lives outside the stadium, and they got those, but they also got pictures with the "human" version, and the big statue of Mike.
SEP 30 Anybody who has attended LSU since the late 1980s is pretty familiar with Highland Coffees. It's a cool little (non-chain) coffee shop near the north gates of the university. The recent announcement that it would be moving because the shop can't "come to terms" with its landlord has caused horror and anguish among LSU students and alums. This post on the Red Shtick pokes fun at the landlord who might have other plans for the spot. (The story includes links to a "real" post on Baton Rouge Business Report).
SEP 30 Bobby Jindal probably has a shiny idea of what his legacy will be, and it's a sure bet it doesn't match up with what columnist Clancy DuBos says in this post on Gambit, to wit: "Jindal will be remembered as the governor who lacked the guts and integrity to do what's right." Man, DuBos, don't hold back -- tell us how you really feel.
SEP 30 It's a good thing we got all that BP money to spend on tourism advertising, because plenty will be required to convince people that we aren't a bunch of gun-toting lunatics down here in the swamp. This post on TIME magazine can't help: it's about a Port Allen restaurateur who offers a discount to anybody with a gun. (Anybody? Hmmm.)
SEP 30 This post on PoliticusUSA, an extremely liberal blog, takes aim at Bobby Jindal's disingenuous attempts to play both sides against the middle on the evolution/creationism issue. Jindal is "dutifully serving his Koch masters" on the climate change issue as well, blogger Rmuse writes.
SEP 29 Here's another national media story on Edwin W. Edwards, this one from National Public Radio - despite the fact that, he says, "people who listen to public radio don't vote for candidates like me." His story, with the young lovely wife, new baby, political backstory and criminal history, seems to be irresistible to the media, especially after they've met him and experienced the full force of the Edwards charm.
SEP 29 Here's more speculation on what's next in the Bruce Greenstein situation from the fourth estate. James Gill calls it "the Greenstein problem." What's the problem? If Greenstein lied about the process of awarding a huge contract to his former employer during an investigation, as is alleged in his indictiment, what's the truth? And who else was involved?
SEP 29 To be fair, this story was posted on Business Insider before Sunday's game (and the wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed it). It's about a study that looked at the communities in which NFL teams are based, and what kind of support those teams have there. No team has stronger community support than the Saints, the study found. (But again, that was before Sunday.)
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