Wednesday, October 27, 2010 

Written by The Independent Staff

When Sen. Ben Nevers told the Baton Rouge Press Club last week that he favored temporarily reinstating the Stelly Plan to fill persistent holes in the state budget, many across Louisiana had a singular response based on his name: Never! The Stelly Plan, enacted six years ago and repealed in 2008 when oil prices were high and the state was still flush with hurricane-recovery cash, raised state income taxes for middle- and higher-income filers in exchange for getting rid of state sales taxes on food and utilities. We know what happened after its repeal: The national economy went in the crapper and the price of oil plummeted. And because the sales tax cuts remained in place after repeal, Louisiana has been left with an annual $300 million budget gap. With another $1 billion to $2 billion shortfall expected next year and no federal stimulus money to lean on — lawmakers used $3 billion in stimulus cash to fill gaps in 2009 and 2010 — Louisiana is facing some excruciating choices. Kudos to Nevers, a Bogalusa Democrat, for at least floating the idea and keeping our statewide civic conversation directed toward our dire straits. Cutting education and health care can only go so far. Eventually, “revenue enhancement” will have to be discussed.

City-Parish President Joey Durel is in the lavatory. He’s washing his hands and applying cologne, masking the funky aroma of Louisiana’s junior senator — necessary ablutions after recording a robo-call on behalf of Sen. David Vitter, our famously lascivious, extravagantly hypocritical “family-values” rep in Washington. Durel’s automated message urging voters to support Vitter has gone out to presumably thousands of phones, both mobile and land line, in Lafayette. One constituent, LSU medical student and native son Andrew Suire, was so incensed he fired off an email to Durel complaining about it. Durel’s response — “Obama and Melancon want to undo what many generations have worked hard to accomplish, many giving their lives for it. Considering the fact that Senator Vitter represents the views of a large majority of the people in Louisiana, I will support his candidacy with everything I’ve got.” — was pure tea party pablum. We get it: Vitter is anti-Obama. Obama is bad. Socialism. Death panels. Yada yada. Even Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has been jetting around the country for other GOP candidates (and, of course, for himself), refuses to endorse Vitter, realizing Vitter’s a shoo in and the governor’s endorsement will do nothing but sully Jindal’s squeaky clean image. Our city-parish president should have done the same.

What is he smoking? Dr. James R. Stoner Jr., the Harvard-educated chair of the political science department at LSU, has been moonlighting on another decidedly less prestigious faculty — at Beck University. We’re not making this up. The tea party’s chief cheerleader and weeping, paranoid man-child, Glenn Beck has started his own on-line center of learning about “real American history.” For a fee, one can view seminars on “Charity,” “Faith,” “Hope,” “Presidents You Should Hate” (Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson) and other topics from “Professor” Beck and his three-man faculty, which comprises Stoner along with the head of a management consulting firm and the founder of a family-values group. Stoner’s curriculum vitae is spot on: an Ivy League education, publication in prestigious journals, a term on the National Council on the Humanities. By getting mixed up with the Goldline huckster and Fox News provocateur, Stoner can add “couillon” to his impressive CV.

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