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 2 North Carolina's film tax incentive is about to expire, and Louisiana is getting the first benefit, this story on the Wilmington NC newspaper's website tells us. 'Banshee,' a Cinemax series from the same guy who created 'True Blood,' is moving production to New Orleans, the story says.
SEP 2 The Washington Post calls Bobby Jindal on his latest effort to get his name in the national media. In this editorial, the newspaper says Jindal's Common Core lawsuits are just aimed at "burnishing his conservative credentials for a presidential run." The paper, of course, reminds its readers that Jindal was a staunch supporter of the curriculum back when he first brought it to Louisiana.
SEP 2 Huff Post takes a look at a project by a California university which mapped hate speech on Twitter. The project counted derogatory words for homosexuals, people of different races and people with disabilities, then used colors to show where the tweets using these words originated. Spoiler alert: We don't look too good.
SEP 2 Blogger Lamar White Jr. offers this commentary on Bobby Jindal's recent comments about the current US policy toward ISIS. Jindal's sudden, shrill interest in the subject can only be attributed to his desperate desire to be president, Lamar opines. All this begs the question: Do we really want someone in the White House who is willing to say anything to get what he wants?
SEP 2 St. Mary Parish homegirl Julie Hébert lets us in on the next step in her career in this blog post. The writer/director, who has worked on shows like ER, West Wing, Numb3rs and Third Watch, has teamed up with John Ridley, the Academy Award winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave, for a new ABC series that will be filmed in Austin.
SEP 2 Here's another round of crazy on the Scott Rogers shooting from the Advocate. The Baton Rouge television personality was killed last week by his son-in-law (and alleged sexual abuse victim) who then turned the gun on himself. The story gets worse and worse.
SEP 2 This post on Deadline Hollywood outlines the massive tax incentive package passed by the California legislature last week. As one California solon put it, the move is a response to years of seeing movie and TV work "cannibalized by states and other countries poaching tens of thousands of good California jobs." Hey -- is he talking about us?
SEP 2 This photo essay on the NOLA Femmes blog examines homelessness in New Orleans. There are pictures of familiar intersections which look very different during tourist events than they do no a normal day in the city, and an account of the issue since Katrina. The post makes a good point: When the city rousts homeless people the day before a tourist event but calls it a "health issue," the claim rings false, doesn't it?
AUG 29 Everyone who cares about Louisiana should take time to peruse this story about coastal loss from Bob Marshall of The Lens. It's not enough to call it a story; it's an interactive experience packed with data and amazing graphics, timelines, history, photos and excellent writing. Set aside some time, because you can't go through this one in a few minutes.
AUG 29 Huffington Post has a blog called Love Letters, which is grandly described as "an anthology of reflections on places the world over." This entry is from LSU Football Coach Les Miles, who, it appears, loves Baton Rouge. (Of course he does; he's a rich straight white man.) And certainly Baton Rouge loves him - unless he loses (ask Curley "Golden Flake" Hallman about that) or leaves (ask Nick Saban).
AUG 29 This story by WVLA tells us about a guy who got busted for speeding in Baton Rouge. Who cares? This guy took that infraction to new heights by going 129 miles per hour on Nicholson Drive. Poor fella - he probably has spent so much time sitting in Baton Rouge traffic he just had to cut lose.
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