Before the storm dominated everyone’s thoughts, last week marked the beginning of a political season that will dominate public conversation for the next dozen weeks.

Both incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat from Amite, and Republican Eddie Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman seeking his first elective office, are sitting on campaign warchests with nearly $10 million each — more than enough money to swamp Louisiana airwaves until the Oct. 12 primary. And the third announced candidate, Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, of Alto, just recruited GOP fundraising daimyos, Boysie Bollinger and Joseph Canizaro, so likely will elbow into the campaign ad stream soon.

Last week the Republican Governor’s Association made a six-figure buy to air a commercial called “Left Behind” that highlights the state’s poor rankings and casts Edwards as the opposite of President Donald Trump. "Higher taxes. Lost jobs. That's John Bel Edwards," the ad says.

Edwards' ad is called "Surplus" and reminds voters that he fixed the chronic budget shortfalls that under former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal had threatened the sustainability of higher education, health care and other states. “We have transformed our state,” Edwards told a New Orleans rally.

This being politics, the sales hooks lean toward simplistic phrases that leave a lot unsaid.

Not mentioned in the Louisiana campaign ads, for instance, was that the increased sales tax that ended the annual deficits and stalled the state’s credit rating slide, which was increasing the cost of lending, cleared the GOP-majority Legislature after a compromise was crafted by Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Also, no doubt ending up on the cutting room floor was that the deficit itself was created with the acquiescence of many of those same Republican legislators as well as then-Rep. Edwards for at least a few of those budgets now described as all “smoke and mirrors.”

Last week CNBC-TV became the latest to calculate various metrics and come to the conclusion that Louisiana was among the worst of the worst.

“Louisiana’s fortunes are inexorably tied to the energy industry, and a downturn in oil prices over the past year has not helped an already moribund economy. Year-over-year job growth as of May was practically nonexistent, which also has put a serious damper on the housing market,” according to CNBC, which ranked the state at No. 46.

Louisiana’s 4.4% unemployment rate is the lowest in a decade and well ahead of Mississippi’s 5%. But only 3.6% of the working age population living in neighboring Arkansas, which just raised its minimum wage, is without work and over in Texas, where the economy is booming after an influx of foreigners, unemployment is at 3.5%.

Actually, like Louisiana, the rural economy in Texas is sluggish. The numbers are drawn upward by Houston, which owes its great economy to big oil and to its diversity. In addition to being home to recent immigrants, Space City is welcoming to the LGBTQ population having been the first major city to elect a lesbian mayor.

In 2009, after the nation’s housing market collapsed and before the federal government’s bail outs had kicked in, unemployment in Louisiana was 6.8 percent. Though higher, Louisiana was in better condition than the rest of the South: Texas was at 7.6% unemployment and Mississippi hovered at 9.6%.

Louisiana scores high with CNBC on the categories like “Cost of Doing Business” and “Cost of Living” — all important factors for people starting their own businesses. Where the state suffers are in things like support of education and access to money for entrepreneurs.

Virginia claimed CNBC’s best-of-the-best spot largely on education investments: small class sizes in public schools, universities with superior academics and research.

Louisiana has the nation’s second highest poverty rate — 19.7% of the residents, up from 17 percent in 2009 — barely ahead of our friends at the bottom of the same lists: New Mexico, West Virginia, Alabama and Arkansas. The national average is 12.3%.

Mississippi is still Number 1 on this list with 19.8%.

Also publicized last week was a far more disturbing survey by Harvard University that showed economic mobility is something of a myth. That poor people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become rich has long been heralded by politicians of both parties.

But looking at the experience of children born in the 1980s into the lowest economic levels, then checking their economic progress in the 2010s, Harvard found that success through work and pluck was achieved by only about 5 percent of the children in the tradition-bound Deep South. Nationally, it’s about 7.7% nationwide.

And undermining the American exceptionalism argument, the study found 11 percent of the low income children in France and Sweden moved into higher economic classes.

In Louisiana, the percentage of low income children moving into the higher income levels was 6.7%. So, ahead of Alabama, even Florida and Georgia. Yeah! But still not very good.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.