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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NOV 24 Because of a town ordinance, the police will come to a disabled girl's home this week to take away her service dog and kill him. Sound like a bad Lifetime movie? Nope - it's real life in Moreauville, blogger Lamar White Jr. tells us in this post. The dog's crime? Being born a pit bull. What's the reason for this ordinance? Well, the town fathers are a little vague on that one. Maybe Obama?
NOV 24 Columnist Stephanie Grace is writing about Bobby Jindal's continuing refusal to accept federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid. It's purely an attempt to benefit him politically, meaning the decision is "cruel, short-sighted and remarkably self-centered." Well, yeah. Have you met him?
NOV 24 The New York Times editorial board is writing about the 40 years that Albert Woodfox has spent in solitary confinement in this post, calling it "barbaric beyond measure." Since Richard Nixon was president, the man has been in solitary in Angola Plantation Penitentiary. How is that OK with us?
NOV 24 The GOP has a boogie-man for anybody thinking about voting for Mary Landrieu: President Obama. But the Dems have one for Bill Cassidy, too, Melinda Deslatte writes in this AP post on The Reading Eagle -- and his name is Governor Jindal.
NOV 24 Blogger Bob Mann is blogging about race and the Senate campaign in this post. Sure, everybody knows that Mary Landrieu doesn't do too well with white folks, but how come the GOP can't get arrested in the black community? Bob is asking.
NOV 24 Early voting for the December election began Saturday, and this post on NOLA Defender tells us what Mary and Bill were up to. The polls and the pundits have their opinions, but none of that can replace actual voting, NODEF says.
NOV 24 Blogger Tom Aswell tells us about Bruce Greenstein's grand jury testimony in this post. The former state health secretary testified in an investigation into the lucrative contract Louisiana awarded to his former employer. Apparently, Mr. Greenstein has a bit of the C.R.S. disease.
NOV 24 Last week, an SUV carrying a blended Texas family overturned on the Interstate near Shreveport, killing the parents and three of their kids, and seriously injuring two other kids. According to this story in the Dallas Morning News, the DA has exercised some compassion and dismissed the ticket given to the teen who was driving.
NOV 21 One (possible) positive from Hurricane Katrina is a comprehensive zoning ordinance for New Orleans. Nine years later, we're getting closer to that being finalized, but the current version has some problems. Here's the latest in a series of posts on The Lens in which residents give their views of the draft; this one is more amusing than most.
NOV 21 The end of the term has come for the grand jury investigating a lucrative Medicaid contract and a former state health official's ties to the company that won it, the Advocate reports here, but that doesn't mean the investigation into this stinkiness is over. There are still some things to look into, the lead prosecutor says.
NOV 21 Bobby Jindal is headed to Iowa again, the Des Moines Register reports here. The paper outlines what's going on with Bobby's non-campaign for president, and there's a lot of stuff here -- too bad none of it sounds like somebody running Louisiana. Hey, wasn't that the job he wanted?
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