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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MAR 7 Here's a great read on Mother Jones about Bobby Jindal and how his personal history has shaped the candidate. Again, the concept of personality and charisma (or a lack thereof) is raised, when Tim Murphy writes that Jindal has tried very hard but has "been eclipsed by a succession of shinier objects" like Rubio, Cruz and Christie. His real problem, former Gov. Buddy Roemer is quoted here as saying, is his ambition.
MAR 7 A Baton Rouge legislator is trying again to put the famous (or infamous) red light cameras to a public vote, this WBRZ story reports. One bill prefiled by Jeff Arnold would require voters to approve the money-making operations. Another would require that each ticket be served, instead of mailed, on the alleged violator.
MAR 7 Don't look for Bobby "I've got the job I want" Jindal to be in Louisiana this weekend. As this story in the Los Angeles Times reports, he'll be on the East Coast kissing bu--- er, pressing flesh at CPAC. If you want to see his speech, click here. The conservative love-fest will feature speeches from all the (current) 2016 GOP contenders, with Ted Cruz kicking it off and Sarah Palin wrapping it up. In between, the most anticipated speech is probably that of Chris Christie, the story reports. There's also a straw poll (Rand Paul won last year).
MAR 7 Columnist Mark Moseley writes about "commentgate" in this post on the Lens, mostly to remind us that "we don't know jack squat" about what really happened. Sure, the scandal of federal prosecutors anonymously commenting on the Picayune's website about cases in their office brought down Jim Letten and all of his buds, but we still know virtually nothing about what really happened, and all the perpetrators have not been identified, Moseley argues.
MAR 7 Blogger Rod Dreher examines a recent poll that found Catholics sure like the new pope, but it's not having any effect on their behavior. He's a good guy and represents a positive change in their church, but it doesn't mean they're going to Mass more than they used to, Dreher tells us. Why is that? Dreher thinks it is because most American Catholics are just going to do what they want, regardless of who the pope is.
MAR 6 In this week's post, Jim Brown is remembering former Gov. Jimmie Davis, who was sworn in 70 years ago this week. Included in here is the governor's recipe for raccoon, which was his favorite dish, Brown says. He also tells us who "Sunshine" was - Jimmie's palomino. She's buried at the late governor's farm, Brown says.
MAR 6 If you're on the Facebook, you've seen this video of two NOLA police officers line dancing with some Mardi Gras revelers. But this one is even better: it's a NOLA police horse line dancing on Bourbon Street. Hey -- this is Louisiana. We all can get down, if the situation calls for it.
MAR 7 Blogger Stephen Sabludowsky writes about the upcoming political spring in this post on Bayou Buzz. He's covering Jindal's agenda, education, this year's attempt to repeal creationism in public schools, and Bill Cassidy's Tea Party alignment, among other things.
MAR 6 Here's some more new info on the continuing controversy at Louisiana College, this time posted on the Tennessean (so maybe this story is pretty interesting outside of Louisiana, too). The story, originally written by Town Talk reporters, tells us about a document with allegedly forged signatures which was sent to SACS, the organization which issues accreditation for southern universities and colleges. The plot thickens?
MAR 7 To follow up on dad Don Briggs' recent splash in the headlines, here's a story that reads more like a letter to the editor by Gifford Briggs, vice president of LOGA, the group his dad heads up. It's time to stand up and support the poor, defenseless oil and gas industry, we're told. The "greedy trial lawyers" are trotted out, and we're urged to help him "change Louisiana."
MAR 6 Columnist James Gill applies his special combination of wit and sarcasm to our friend Don Briggs in this post. Gill read the oil and gas leader's deposition and almost felt sorry for him -- almost. The problem seems to be related to Mr. Brigg's "stupendous ignorance of his purported area of expertise," Gill writes. He also credits Briggs with doing more for the environmental cause in a couple hours than tree-huggers can accomplish in years.
MAR 7 First it was a bunch of federal prosecutors, now an Arkansas judge. A political blogger outed a circuit judge as the same guy making nasty (and possibly racist, sexist and homophobic) comments on an LSU sports message board, the Picayune reports here. The judge, who was running for an appeals court seat up there, has ended his campaign and apologized. Not a good move for someone whose judgment affects people's lives.
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