Louisiana is on a roll, and Gov. Bobby Jindal often seems like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise.
“We now have more people working and living in Louisiana, with higher incomes, than ever before,” Jindal crowed in one of his innumerable op-eds, this one for USA Today.
The governor has some legitimate economic development accomplishments to crow about. Stephen Moret, Jindal’s secretary of the Department of Economic Development, has done much to make the department more nimble in promoting business deals. Jindal himself also has traveled widely to court investment in Louisiana. We applaud that.
To the governor’s credit, there is a lot of prosperity in many parts of Louisiana these days; he would not be a politician if he did not bask in that welcome development. But what people in Louisiana know, and the governor’s op-eds gloss over, is that the dramatic expansion of industrial construction and petrochemical manufacturing is also driven by larger economic forces, principally cheaper and more abundant natural gas.
That the governor has not messed that up, and has been an aggressive recruiter for businesses, is a good thing. Further, while the governor’s comments about ethics “reform” in some of these pieces is overblown, the fact is that Jindal is the third governor in a row avoiding the scandals of personal dishonesty that so marred the Edwin W. Edwards years. His predecessors, alas, are not of great interest to the governor in today’s wave of promotion of his Louisiana Miracle.
Humility is the first casualty in a political campaign, particularly if there is some credible economic data to crow about. But our rooster also crows about top-line statistics in Louisiana that are not of his making.
We are happy about the progress Louisiana has made since January 2008, for there are indeed some things that the governor ought to be praised for. What we worry about is the governor’s needless cuts into the engines of future prosperity, whether in colleges or infrastructure or health care.
Fiscal mismanagement in state government is profound, despite the drop in state payrolls that Jindal notes in the op-ed and others like it. To say the budget is balanced, given the looting of trust funds and other one-time monies paying for operating expenses, is a falsehood of inexactitude that the governor as a candidate would have decried coming from anyone else.
Another falsehood of inexactitude is that oil prices are responsible for this year’s budget crisis. No doubt the fall of oil prices hurts, badly indeed. But that the state budget was already a wreck has not been lost on other commentators in Politico, The Washington Post, The New York Times — and The American Spectator and other conservative outlets, as well.
Some of the reduction in state workers has been in intellectual assets like professors in the hard-pressed state universities; Louisiana is one of only eight states not trying last year to make up recession-era cuts in higher education, and the cuts have been deeper here than most anywhere.
The notion on the op-ed pages is that we’re better off with a government that does not repair the roads and bridges, or give our children competitive educations, or finance the huge demand for more and higher-quality workforce training opportunities.
Those are the goals of the future, and Jindal is obsessed with the past: Every op-ed starts with the beginning of mankind’s progress, the January in 2008 when Jindal took his oath of office.
That forward thinking, we fear, will have to be done by the next governor — one who is, hopefully, more interested in governing than campaigning.