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26.4.07

Boasso switch encourages Dems to lynch Jindal

State Sen. Walter Boasso announced his intention to run as a Democrat for governor, marginally increasing the chances of that party to win the governor’s mansion this fall, and reducing the zero the chance that a liberal will occupy the office.

Unitl now, the party’s main hope had been Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, an idea which must have blanched in the minds of moonbat liberals who enthuse in baby-killing, work to defeat America at all costs, and delight in perpetrating the myth that the majority of Americans enthusiastically support the oppression of (approved liberal: read “non-Asian”) ethnic minority members – he’s just an liberal economic populist. Their problem is Boasso is even more off the reservation than Campbell.

According to his voting record the past two years, Boasso is a semi-reliable conservative (with conservative/reform scores of 66 in 2005 and 60 in 2006). Because of that, while a switch may make him more likely to win heads-up in a general election runoff with Republican frontrunner Rep. Bobby Jindal, by cobbling together moderate Democrats, voters from the GOP disaffected with Jindal’s almost impeccably conservative record, and conservative Democrat racists, black and white, that cost Jindal the 2003 tilt along with hate-Jindal-at-all-costs blacks and white liberals, he’s not likely to make the general election runoff to get in position to do so in the first place. Instead, most of those black votes will go to Campbell, and enough wingnut liberals will support Campbell to push him to the runoff where Jindal will annihilate him.

Which is why, more than ever, expect state Democrats, goaded by the national party, to wage a scorched earth campaign against Jindal. They’ll let Boasso spend his own funds to promote himself, but liberals’ real agenda will be to prevent Jindal from winning and that’s the task on which they’ll spend their money. Jindal is living proof of the invalidity of their ahistorical, illogical, dehumanizing liberal ideology, and national Democrats who understand this cannot afford to allow such a potent candidate to grow as a political force that can have an impact on national politics. This course of action becomes easier because Boasso’s deep pockets allow him to fend for himself, and they do not want to support a conservative – mirroring their national policy regarding the war on terror: criticize real solutions but offer nothing realistic or beneficial on their own.

Thus, the biggest impact of a Boasso switch is that against Jindal opening the floodgates to a vicious attack agenda the likes of which Louisiana, or perhaps the country, never before has seen.

25.4.07

Legislature must deal with pork now, or Jindal later

If the Louisiana Legislature doesn’t clean up its own act regarding doling out taxpayer money to private entities with next to no oversight, political events may end up doing it for it.

Last year, the typically slow-reacting Gov. Kathleen Blanco administration, after failure of bills to do so and some ruckus raised outside Baton Rouge, got around to drawing up reporting requirements that recipients of state money outside of the normal budget process had to file. This irked legislators who enjoy the privilege of being able to pass taxpayers’ money along to these almost-unknown groups who no doubt remember these gifts come reelection time, with the complainers led by one of the most enthusiastic practitioners of this tactic state Sen. Cleo Fields.

Atty. Gen. Charles Foti, without the need to pass signals to putative candidates or dealing with an issue that could affect his reelection, did actually issue an opinion on the matter siding with the plaintiffs. Although it seems the crux of the matter mainly was that Blanco would hold up 80 percent of the money as use it to reimburse expenditures, the opinion also covered the very concept of requiring extra reporting.

Fields indicated that he felt it was obnoxious, if not downright nosey, of the public to question his and his colleagues’ decisions to send the people’s money to black holes: “I'm a bit tired of coming down here every session and appropriating money and then having people question what we do.” But on the off chance that a majority of the Legislature has the good sense, Fields won’t have to worry about that because the information will be all up front, at least to certain legislators.

HB 266 by state Rep. Blade Morrish would make it a matter of state law that such reporting be done for members of the respective committees dealing with appropriations. Something similar was attempted last year but political hi-jinks voided that effort and if Fields has his way, the same will happen.

But something Fields is unlikely to veto is the political tide of 2007. Or, to be more precise, can you imagine in 2008 a Gov. Bobby Jindal not brandishing a line-item veto pen (which is what Blanco should have done last year) on these kinds of obscured items? Fields may stand in the way of structural reform and better government, but despite his opposition political considerations well may produce those changes.

24.4.07

Call to make new Big Charity big reveals hidden agenda

The good old boys aren’t going to give up without a fight on the patronage and prestige that Louisiana’s two-tiered, government-run health care system gives them, if the latest attempt to justify the system in a backdoor way is any indication.

Recently, a report was issued, backed and paid for by the Democrat-run executive branch with the Democrat-lead Legislature’s blessing, that stated the ideal size of a new public hospital in New Orleans was not a smaller figure cost-conscious, mostly Republican, policy-makers such as Sen. David Vitter wanted, nor even a figure that supporters of a larger facility, mainly Democrats including the legislative leadership and Gov. Kathleen Blanco, had wanted. Instead, the bed figure with cost to match was at the upper range – 484 at $1.2 billion – of what anybody had anticipated.

One doesn’t have to be of suspicious nature to see quickly validity problems about this conclusion. The consultant was hired by the forces wanting to justify a bigger size – this requirement as a result of a stunning victory a couple of months previous for the forces against the larger size – and we know how that tends to make things turn out in this state: recommendations favoring more useless reservoirs, money-losing public hotels, taxpayer-draining sugar mills, etc.

But logic also fails to substantiate the claim. The basis on which the claim is made that larger is better is that if it’s “too small,” it won’t make enough money to pay off its construction costs. Two red flags immediately go up concerning that idea.

First, it makes the disastrous assumption often mistakenly made when government thinks it can do a better job than the marketplace at providing for efficient use of resources, the “Field of Dreams” error: build it and they will come. It assumes that the marketplace will be sufficient to fill the increased number of beds, meaning two things: that the market will be large enough, and that against the private sector a public hospital will be competitive enough to draw enough people in.

The study estimates that by 2016 the area population will be at 82 percent of pre-Hurricane Katrina levels. Given that would be an increase of 15 percent from the current rate in nine years, that is optimistic but not beyond believability. The same cannot be said for the other crucial estimate made in the report, that the patient mix would include 11.3 percent paying patients as opposed to the 10 percent historical level (note that means that currently 90 percent of patients seen pay nothing). “Big Charity” has not recently ever approached that higher level but the consultants cross their fingers and chirp loudly that modern facilities will encourage referrals there – and so, even if that worked, what happens when other hospitals themselves up the ante by redoing their facilities? Do Louisiana taxpayers keep paying through the nose to rebuild facilities in a chase for patient dollars?

Which demonstrates the second, disastrous, assumption made which directly impacts the related statewide issue of health care redesign – that debate being does Louisiana abandon its only-in-the-nation money-goes-to-the-institution philosophy of indigent health care, with its lower outcomes and greater expense, in favor of the money-follows-the-person system being steadily adopted by other states? That is, that the new Big Charity is primarily going to be an indigent care facility as opposed to a teaching hospital.

If Louisiana truly redesigns health care, existing charity hospitals will see drops in patient numbers, either forcing their closure or sale or reduction in size meaning there is no way a facility of the size imagined by the consultants ever would be financially viable. In fact, that would not be the purpose of an institution whose primary objective is medical education – by definition, there is an expectation that the state will subsidize the facility (and will reap tuition dollars as well) because it function is educative. Creating a facility designed at least to “break even” is relevant only when you plan to use the facility as a relevant cost center in a government-run enterprise.

This fact illuminates the strategy being employed here by those with vested interests in the current inefficient system: create a huge charity hospital in New Orleans, then try to justify retention of the existing system with it, bleating that the “sunk costs” of the new facility make pursuing real reform more expensive than keeping what already exists. It also demonstrates the suboptimal mindset these politicians have, that it is government’s job to directly provide full-spectrum health care, a view abandoned everywhere else in the country.

It’s a clever slight of hand that might fool those not attentive, but the fact remains that the non-government sector will do a better and cheaper job of providing health care than the government, that government policy should not provide disincentives to provide this care, and that building a larger Big Charity will be a costly mistake that unfortunately has become custom in this state, another example of putting politics before people.

23.4.07

Stuck on stupid XXIV: Landrieu postures rather than helps

Once again, as is often the case led by Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana is making itself known to the rest of the country as a bunch of whining ingrates who recoil at the slightest hint that the state ought to be financially responsible for its own affairs – all to serve Landrieu’s political agenda.

This latest unsavory reminder comes from Landrieu’s posturing concerning S. 965, the bill dealing with supplemental war funding which among other things would waive the state’s 10 percent (down from the usual 25 percent) match on a portion of disaster relief funds that federal law requires. This amount is estimated at around $800 million and the amount on which it is based is but a small fraction of the entire federal aid sent free to Louisiana to deal with the hurricane disasters of 2005. Republican Pres. George W. Bush threatens to veto the bill if this provision is included, among others of course (such as any deadline to remove troops fighting in Iraq, something that runs counter to American interests and goals also supported by Landrieu).

This space already has recounted the extraordinarily favorable treatment the state has received over this money, mostly echoed recently by federal recovery coordinator Donald Powell:

  • Funds with absolutely no strings at all given by the federal government more than compensate any matching requirement and could be used by such if the state desired – and doing so would not beggar the state in any way since the federal government has pledged, and so far adhered to it, that all the money genuinely needed for recovery by the state beyond its means will be provided
  • The state’s record budget surplus in the form of higher tax collections almost solely is due to the tens of billions of dollars given free by the American people through federal spending, a total amount of aid far exceeding any disaster assistance for any other single episode, or even adding the next several-highest together.
  • Contrary to statements Landrieu and others have been making that this instance was almost the only one where the full cost of the disaster was being borne by the federal government, another official also pointed out that in only two other instances had the federal government completely waived all costs, so there’s no lack of favoritism here.

    Powell also pointed out how the state could solve for technical objections to the law such as paperwork requirements. Instead, it seems like Landrieu would rather screech and play politics rather than facilitate the obvious solution.

    One thing Powell didn’t point out was Landrieu’s own culpability behind her most sensational (and somewhat illogical) charge that Bush made a “factually false” claim that Louisiana had received enough no-strings-attached money (Community Development Black Grants). Her lack of clarity and rationality makes understanding what she tries to mean difficult, but apparently she is arguing that the state, relative to others, did not get “enough” of these kinds of funds, so therefore it should not be expected to use them to pay its share of the match.

    But what Landrieu doesn’t want people to realize is that Louisiana’s share of this money is determined by federal law over which the president has no influence. Only Landrieu and her colleagues can change that, and that’s part of this obnoxious bill that, for Democrats, serves a dual purpose: to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory to score political points, or to get Bush to veto the bill to score political points. Again, this shows that Landrieu is using the issue to score her own political points at the expense of real solutions.

    Of course, she must cover up this fact that the bill cannot succeed to provide anything by opining that if Bush vetoes the bill, there would be enough votes to override. While this part of the legislation was made broad enough to encompass all the Gulf Coast states in order to try to buy their senators’ votes, the rest of the country’s senators aren’t going to want to give any more handouts to Louisiana – and Republicans aren’t going to want to endorse waving the white flag of surrender that Democrats advocate, so no override attempt would come close to be successful. Even the state’s Republican senator David Vitter wisely voted against the measure, which barely passed.

    But if she were serious about this, she would be working on getting enacted something like H.R. 1144 which is largely a standalone version. Even if misguided, it represents an attempt to get the bill passed on its own merits rather than attaching it to a bill designed for political purposes.

    We must recognize all of this represents an effort by Landrieu to boost her sagging reelection chances which must deflect the Louisiana public’s attention away from her record. Thus Landrieu, as is typical, remains stuck on stupid.