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20.7.07

Blanco hypocritically denies tax cut to all Louisianans

Predictably politically motivated, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco gave a final “up yours” to groups she no doubt believes forced her into quitting after just one term as governor when she vetoed HB 505, writing another hypocritical chapter into her legacy and punishing the state as a result.

The bill would have eliminated one percent of the state sales tax on utilities expenditures for business beginning next Jul. 1, as well as created for almost three years beginning in October a reduction in tax for certain industries in New Orleans and items shipped through its port. The cost of the cut, estimated only for the statewide utility portion, was about $68 million.

In her veto message, Blanco expressed concern that over the long run a tax cut of this nature would cost the state too much revenue. Economic illiterate that she is, Blanco continues failing to understand that that tax cuts develop the economy to the point that the growth causes increases in revenues beyond what would be “lost.”

19.7.07

Good polling news still means bad news for Boasso

The good news for gubernatorial candidate Democrat state Sen. Walter Boasso is that his support for the job leapt 150 percent in the past couple of months. The bad news is that 2.5 times nothing is still nothing and five-sixths of everything for his main competitor leaves him very much on the defensive in this contest.

Boasso’s poll puts him at 21 percent in the race after a $1.3 million advertising blitz. Problem is that trails frontrunner Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal who barely has spent any money at all and who just formally started his campaign by 31 points who went from 62 percent, according to the released results. That still would give Jindal the outright win.

Curiously, the over-time comparison of results had undecided voters increase by half to 21 percent, bringing that figure up from its unusually low level five months prior to the contest. This likely represents soft supporters for Jindal, who recognized his name and little else and gave previous support on that basis, detached by Boasso’s media blitz. That’s not good news at all for the recent returnee to the Democrats because this result shows the floor for Jindal support is right around the majority mark.

Besides the fact that Boasso spent big and could not even reduce his gap to Jindal who spent little by half, and that Jindal still has a majority, news for him will get worse if New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin launches a quixotic campaign for the office. The poll under-sampled blacks (who are most likely to vote for Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, who the poll showed losing a third of his small support, under the current lineup) and thus overstated Boasso’s support somewhat, but if Nagin actually gets in, by these numbers Boasso will lose the most and almost guarantee his inability to make a general election runoff, if Jindal even lets it come to that.

So while there’s good short-term news in the poll for Boasso, with little to cheer about previously, the long-term picture still remains grim for him or anybody else other than Jindal for this fall.

18.7.07

Vitter annoys media by not cooperating with their agenda

If a recent editorial by the Shreveport Times and other offerings are any indication, the media feel the pain of betrayal at the hands of Sen. David Vitter. But it’s a different betrayal than what some in the public may feel about his moral lapse.

Earlier this week Vitter essentially reiterated an apology for a “serious sin” that remained unnamed but highly likely is related to the presence of his phone number on a list provided by s suspected escort service operator. In general this annoyed the liberal media, most of who never have liked the conservative Republican Vitter and would like to see him out of office. They sensed this was a moment of vulnerability for him and his refusal to deal any more with the matter made them keenly aware his possible departure from office was slipping from their grasp. And they are not happy about it.

This reaction also highlights another attitude all too prevalent in today’s media – that the media somehow are the “guardians” of the public trust and for Vitter not to give them information that could help them live up to this self-assumed, erroneous view of themselves (as well as use that information to boost audience and run him out of office) they think cheats them and disserves the American public. Such egotism shows how far out of touch they are with the real world.

17.7.07

Contrived sideshows unlikely to slow Jindal juggernaut

Both those presumably for and against Rep. Bobby Jindal in his quest to become governor of Louisiana tried to rain on his parade yesterday; that is, his formal campaign kickoff. But it’s unlikely to have any significant impact on its final outcome.

One could argue (as members of a group, of which I was formerly associated, rather unconvincingly did) that the slightly earlier news conference staged by Sen. David Vitter to some degree did upstage Jindal’s highly publicized announcement. Vitter had promised a statement about his apology last week for his phone number showing up in the records of an alleged leader of a prostitution ring, which contained little else other than what he had said last week, and delivered it about an hour before Jindal’s start.

While it might have been a slight show of defiance from Vitter to the man who most assuredly will become the undisputed leader of the state GOP to eclipse him, more likely Vitter did so in order to create further distraction from his situation. If so, it seemed hardly to work as the media were there in force and brazenly insistent on his spilling his guts, like those who attend stock car races solely for the purpose of hoping to catch a glimpse of fatal crashes.

No doubt their journalistic twins waited for, or even possibly some actually at the Vitter sideshow then scurried over to, the Jindal announcement and almost immediately asked how Jindal would treat Vitter and his revelations. Jindal coolly said he had said everything he wanted to about that and minimized the media’s story plans by reminding them this was his campaign and about the future of state government.

Another sideshow presented itself when Jefferson Parish President Democrat Aaron Broussard on the radio show of Democrat stalwart Prisoner 03312-095 said he thought Jindal opponent Republican businessman John Georges had a decent chance of winning if he switched to the Democrats. Broussard must have slipped back into his faulty memory/poor judgment mode of post-Katrina with that sentiment; with Jindal enjoying universal name recognition and high popularity, just because a rich guy who gives freely to both parties throws a bunch of money into the race does not provide enough impetus to overcome a big Jindal advantage reinforced by a lot of money and volunteers – especially with two other competitive Democrats in the race to split that vote. (And Broussard isn’t the only one whistling into the wind on Georges’ candidacy.)

Finally, piping up from the Yat gallery and demonstrating a continuing irrelevancy in the race, candidate Democrat state Sen. Walter Boasso tried to argue Jindal “blindly” followed Pres. George W. Bush and thus was a questionable leader. Of course, Boasso didn’t say what he would do as governor which is why more Louisianans have greater knowledge about his weight than about his issue preferences, and tying Jindal to Bush probably isn’t that great of a strategy since last we knew 47 percent of state residents approved of Bush’s job performance and that probably has risen in recent months as Bush’s national approval numbers now beat the Democrat-led Congress’ handily.

This approach, by candidates, candidate surrogates, and media allies, isn’t going to derail Jindal’s juggernaut of a campaign. It will take real demonstrated weakness on his part in a contest essentially his to lose. The only way his opponents will make any ground on him on their own is to present, in force and with maximal realism and plausibility, issue preferences that clearly are superior to Jindal’s. At this time, they haven’t found such magic bullets. Sniping from below while building castles in the air isn’t going to do it.

16.7.07

Selective outrage shows what LA Dems really think

One has to laugh at the selective outrage and post-modern hypocrisy shown by the Louisiana Democrat Party in its online petition for Republican Sen. David Vitter to resign – but in the process also to realize what it tells us about them.

Last week, Vitter issued an apology for an unspecified “sin” after his phone number turned up on a list connected to an alleged brothel operator in Washington, D.C. Previously politically invulnerable, Vitter’s enemies piled on him that is unlikely to remove him from office one way or the other for a long time.

That reality isn’t keeping state Democrats from trying with this petition which presents a reason for him to resign as being “hypocritical.” Funny thing is, though, that the very selectivity of its outrage demonstrates the hypocrisy of the party itself in revealing their hypocritical view of what “hypocrisy” is.

Vitter has admitted to no crime nor does it appear he is prosecutable for any crime, much less one of dealing with corrupt activities while in office. He confesses error in his personal life and promises to do (and apparently has done) better. Yet Democrat Rep. William Jefferson is indicted for corrupt activities while in office and I don’t see any calls from his state party for his resignation. Nor when former Democrat Gov. Prisoner 03128-095 was known as the “Silver Zipper” for his activities did we see his party ask for his resignation.

The reason, of course, is that Democrats know they are seen as the anti-moral party. It particularly enrages them that some Republicans get elected by stressing morality in both personal and public behavior and/or try to encourage it in public policy and then every once-in-awhile one of them is found not to have lived up to those articulated standards in private life. As far as Republicans go, that somehow then disqualifies them from serving in office.

Well, let me pose this question for my Democrat friends: is not better to aim high and occasionally miss than to aim low and never miss? Who would you rather have in office, someone who ethically promises much and delivers almost always, or someone who promises little and maybe can’t even do that?

More to the point, if a Democrat who never stressed moral behavior in campaigns or legislation gets in a similar situation as Vitter, is he not just as culpable and would we not demand true repentance on his part? After all, marriage vows are not contingent on your party affiliation (something Democrats seem to have forgotten in the case of Democrat Pres. Bill Clinton who went even farther by committing illegal acts to prevent investigation of the matter).

Or by the resignation call for Vitter by state Democrats on the basis of being “hypocritical” show that they believe not stressing values in campaigns and legislation inoculates one from any evaluation of yourself in moral terms, i.e. you can behave immorally if you don’t stress these things? Maybe that’s why Democrats often promote the idea that government should not encourage “conventional” morality so we are as free as we want to act badly without taking personal responsibility for that?

In the end, there are going to be former supporters of Vitter who feel betrayed because in moments of weakness (apparently now long past) Vitter failed to practice what he preached – values these people place primacy in not only in their own lives but in how they evaluate a politician. Their outrage is deserved and justified. But while marital fidelity and related moral precepts are meaningful values in these people’s lives, to the state Democrats they are merely political issues they try to use for personal gain. The political impact of the petition will be nil; the real message of the effort will be the demonstration that this is how state Democrats see moral “values.”

15.7.07

LeBlanc cannot defend poor Blanco budget choices

So Louisiana Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc challenged critics of the Blanco administration's financial decisions to supply a list of better ways to use state general revenue and surplus funds? Coming right up; he isn’t going to like being reminded of the Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s administrations shortcomings in this regard.

First, he says the huge increase in state spending – around $32 billion when everything is thrown in, more than double a decade ago – is skewed because a quarter of that is in federal funds related to disaster recovery spending. But that view misses the point that, on a comparative basis, state spending already was too high to begin with. And Blanco just made it worse, epitomized by spending, in a state whose population is declining, not only to continue to fund vacant state positions, but to give these “ghosts” pay raises and create almost 1,200 new jobs on top of them.

Second, he brushed aside criticism that the state budget contained tens of millions of dollars in local projects and/or ones of dubious statewide interest by asserting he has resisted this idea and tried to stop it. That’s hard to take seriously: if Blanco really wanted to stop those kinds of items from popping up, she would use her line-item veto them. The fact is, neither LeBlanc nor Blanco wanted to stop the practice because it serves their political and ideological interests.

Third, LeBlanc argued of a lack of perspective, that huge, even “historic” amounts had been budgeted by Blanco to address long-standing needs. Certainly $600 million against a $14 billion backlog in roads (a portion he did not define of which he dismissed as “the magic wish list”) is a lot and a record sum. But if Blanco were serious about these needs, she would have put into a place a mechanism to make sure the backlog was kept at a minimum. Instead, her administration argued against the likes of HB 722 which could have started sending annually at least $300 million a year for transportation needs.

The way that bill would have worked, it would have removed money going now into the general fund from transportation-related revenue sources, meaning there’s that much less to spend on recurring commitments. But considering that the state is overpaying about $100 million a year in long-term health care costs, refuses to reform indigent health care to make it more cost efficient, and has wasted hundreds of million on building lakes, among many poor uses of funds, this would not be a problem – and the Blanco Administration did nothing to stop or solve for these. Again, it’s not “you have to say enough is enough,” it’s a simple matter of political will: this reordering of priorities doesn’t occur because the Blanco Administration has other political goals in mind which involved making government bigger.

Fourth, in terms of the foolishly forgone option of giving tax cuts greater than the roughly one half of one percent of the entire budget that Blanco has allowed, LeBlanc seemed wedded to the tired, disproven idea that reducing the size of government takings from the people have a negative impact on future state revenues. As demonstrated historically time and time again, tax cuts lead to economic development that increases funding to government naturally since the economy grows. This, however, runs counter to the Blanco Administration’s belief that it is government that knows best what to do with the people’s money to develop the state economically.

Finally, this attitude is reflected further in LeBlanc’s of claims plowing money into high-profile areas that will help the economy grow, such as in secondary education. But this will turn out to be just good money chasing bad if not done correctly, and Blanco’s approach – throw money at teachers without asking for accountability from them in their job performances – leaves little confidence that there will be any real improvement in education quality in the state.

Nice try, but for those who know something about this latest budget and understand behind it its liberal/populist precepts, proven bankrupt both logically and historically, LeBlanc’s rhetorical defense of the Blanco’s Administration throwing away a great opportunity fools no one.