Commercials from Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards accusing fellow gubernatorial candidate U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican, of deception and hypocrisy have become as common on television as Kardashians. Yet Edwards lives in a glass house on this charge.
If elected, Edwards proclaims he will save state budgets plagued with chronic revenue shortfalls without needing increased taxes on individuals. Yet simultaneously he calls for new spending on a host of things — promising $231 million worth in the final gubernatorial debate alone — by waving the magic wand called scaling back business tax exceptions. All the while, he doesn’t admit that firms levied with tax increases will no doubt pass the tab along to consumers, meaning individuals will really end up paying for them. That’s just what they’re doing now with the more than $400 million in tax hikes Edwards helped vote into existence this spring.
Often he has claimed that the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid has meant annually “sending $1.6 billion a year in Louisiana taxes to other states,” implying that to accept expansion somehow would keep these funds at home. Louisiana has no control over others states’ expansion choices, so that wealth transfer has nothing to do with any Louisiana expansion decision. In fact, with expansion, the state would face net increased costs of $4 billion for the decade beginning in 2020.
Edwards also has said he would save dollars through having 5,500 fewer state prisoners (who are all felons), or over 14 percent of those incarcerated, by diverting non-violent offenders from jail. But given that single-felony drug or property offenders comprise less than 10 percent of the state prisoner population — and also keeping in mind the majority of these inmates pled down from more serious charges — he cannot reach that goal without releasing dangerous criminals into the community.
Having spoken and voted against every serious education reform effort as a legislator, Edwards would try to undo advances in school choice by limiting charter schools, his rationale being that, while some serve a valuable purpose, “many more (charter schools) are caught in scandal and malfeasance and aren’t serving their intended purpose — to fit a special need of a district that is going unmet.” That’s blatantly false. Only a handful of the roughly 200 charter schools that have operated in the state had charters revoked for legal violations, an incidence no worse than numerous examples of fraud and corruption that have occurred in traditional public schools.
Nor do charters operate only for “special needs.” The law empowers their existence when traditional schools have failed. And as research into Louisiana education has demonstrated, on the whole they have done a better job of educating children than the schools they replaced.
It seems every other sentence out of Edwards’ mouth asserts that his views on social issues are informed by his Catholicism. But in a recent Vote Smart survey, he answered that he supports abortion in the first trimester, when the mother’s life is endangered and when pregnancy came from rape or incest. That’s opposed to Catholic doctrine that unequivocally terms any abortion for any reason any time after conception as murder. While in his personal life this may not be the case, in the political world, his faith of convenience is no faith at all and seems designed to fool the public.
An Edwards’ ad claims that at his alma mater West Point, with its honor code, Vitter would not last a day. Using his deceitful conduct with the Louisiana electorate as a model, today Edwards would not last there even a minute.
Jeff Sadow is an associate professor of political of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport, where he teaches Louisiana Government. He is author of a blog about Louisiana politics (between-lines.com) and, when the Louisiana Legislature is in session, another about legislation in it (laleglog.com). Follow him on Twitter, @jsadowadvocate. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His views do not necessarily express those of his employer.