Fact Check Week

President Donald Trump

The Trump economy has been good for America. Since Republican President Donald Trump took office, total non-farm employment has grown by 5.6 million jobs. America currently has more than 7 million jobs open, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Manufacturing jobs are also up under Trump by close to a half a million.

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The 224,000 jobs created nationally last month exceeded expectations. The unemployment rate is down to 3.3.%, the lowest in 50 years. We’ve never seen the unemployment rate stay this low, this long as it has under Trump. It’s morning in America again.

But unfortunately, in Louisiana, times aren’t as good. America’s economy has grown twice as fast as Louisiana’s under Trump. The country’s GDP increased 14% while Louisiana’s increase has been less than 7%.

Under Trump, Americans' incomes are up, way up. Personal income has grown 23% since Trump was elected. That’s three times faster than Louisiana’s income growth.

Under Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, private sector employment is down 0.7%. Nationally, it’s up 6.4% in the same time period. And many have left the state. A stunning 10,000 people have left Louisiana since Edwards became governor. Most of those left last year.

Louisiana lost more jobs under Edwards than any other state. Four thousand fewer people are working in Louisiana since Edwards took office. Forty-six other states have gained jobs during the same time period, according to an analysis by Andrew Smith, a research associate at LSU’s Center for Energy Studies. It’s a staggering contrast to our nation’s economy.

Edwards will boast about the state’s unemployment rate dropping under his tenure. But what he won’t tell you is that fewer people are looking for work, which  caused the rate to drop.

What has flourished under Edwards is government. The overall money spent on government in Louisiana went from $27 billion to $34 billion. That’s a 25% increase.

Edwards has increased state spending by $7 billion in three short years. Five billion dollars of that increase came from federal tax dollars as a result of the governor’s expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. Edwards also signed the state’s the largest tax increase in history. And he has the distinction of giving Louisiana the largest budget in history, coming in at a whopping $34 billion.

For those who focus on the health, vibrancy and wholeness of government, Edwards has been a hero and a smashing success. But those who prefer a prosperous private sector — not so much. LSU professor Jim Richardson gave Edwards a pass for his dismal record on the private sector economy in a story in The Advocate last week. Richardson claimed governors typically have little short-term influence over the performance of a state’s economy.

“Their ability to impact the economy is really limited,” Richardson said. “I know that any governor talks like he can control the economy, especially if it’s going well. That’s what politicians do. Every president does that, too. Presidents have more influence than governors.”

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But state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican, isn’t buying it.

"Of course the governor can take action to improve our state's economy,” said Hewitt. “He can start by dropping the ill-conceived coastal lawsuits against 94 oil and gas companies that have driven high-paying energy jobs out of Louisiana. Secondly, he can support legislation that reduces the cost of doing business in Louisiana by lowering taxes, lowering insurance costs, and eliminating frivolous lawsuits.”

Gifford Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, agrees.

“The governor’s executive order on expanding Medicaid, his executive order on the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, and his supporting litigation of coastal lawsuits, those three decisions alone have had a significant impact on the state’s economy,” says Briggs.

Daniel Erspamer, CEO of the Pelican Institute, a Louisiana think tank that promotes free market ideals, also isn’t giving Edwards a pass for the state falling behind.

“If you are going to take credit for the good stuff, you have to take responsibility for the bad stuff,” said Erspamer.

If Edwards is to win reelection, he’ll have to convince enough voters that Louisiana's failure to keep up with the Trump economy is not his doing. It’s a tough sell.

Email Dan Fagan at faganshow@gmail.com.