Search This Blog

Loading...

5.3.09

Jindal endorsement takes risk with uncertain payoff

Gov. Bobby Jindal took a bit of a risk in endorsing one Republican candidate, businessman Lee Domingue, over two others, Laurinda Calogne and Dan Claitor, in the special election for the District 16 Senate seat occurring this Saturday, while any payoff seems small.

Typically, there are three reasons why a high-level elected official endorses someone lower down: because the preferred candidates’ issue preferences are distinctly different from the others and can prove definitively helpful for that policy-maker’s future agenda, the policy-maker wants to have a way to demonstrate political power, or because of a strong personal relationship between the two. Only one of these would seen even to come close to explaining Jindal’s action here.

Frankly, in policy terms, the three candidates don’t differ much. All would be reliable voters for a conservative agenda that Jindal backs. Further, while Jindal has said he is friendly with Domingue, usually there has to be a pretty strong bond between individuals for an endorsement to be made unless is for a comparable office for partisan reasons. For example, former Rep. Jim McCrery made just one such endorsement for the entire 20 years of his service – for his college roommate running for the Caddo Parish Commission. (For the record, that candidate lost.)

The reason why elected officials almost always shy away from these kinds of support is by its nature any endorsement is risky when coming from somebody already with power. If the favored candidate were to lose, not only would this be considered a negative reflection on the political strength of the higher official, but chances are the winner would harbor a grudge against him and be much less reliable of a supporter in the future had there been no intervention. This payoff must be really high and/or the victory of the desired candidate pretty certain for the official to go out on a limb like that, especially as an endorsement carries more weight in a low-stimulus contest like this legislative special election race.

It’s possible that Jindal has inside information that Domingue is expected to win, and perhaps even has given tacit support to him all along, so he may not see endorsement as a risk. Even so, if somebody looks likely to win, why alienate others if he really doesn’t need the help to win unless you really want to prove a point? One never knows when, down the road, political help might be needed by a vanquished candidate and this endorsement makes this far less likely.

There could be another explanation, but it seems pretty unlikely: Domingue contributed $3,500 to past Jindal campaigns, and others in his family $115,000, to Jindal since 2006 while the others contributed nothing. But other candidates for other state and local office from legislative on down have given big sums to Jindal and he never got involved in those contests. If one could “buy” a Jindal endorsement this way he’d have been making them left and right and it would be known so Domingue’s opponents could have made their own before qualifying. In any event, this would not be a good political strategy for Jindal to be known for auctioning off an endorsement, so it’s got to be something other than this.

Perhaps friendship had something to do with it, and don’t put it past Jindal to send as a friendly subtle warning to potential candidates that a donation to his campaign might be some good insurance, at the least, to prevent an endorsement for your opponent (and also note that Jindal technically lives in this district, so I suppose he has every right as a constituent to voice an opinion), but the main motive here seems to be a demonstration of power. If so, there is some risk here. Should Domingue pick up an absolutely majority on Saturday, Jindal probably can claim some small credit and a little additional political capital. However, if he heads to a runoff in April, while it may bring Jindal on this account no loss it likely brings him no gain, either, and an elimination of Domingue now or defeat in April will harm Jindal’s standing.

Obviously, Jindal is not going to comment on these types of motivations so we’ll never know for sure how much of a role these considerations played in his decision-making, but it is even more obvious that this unusual and unexpected move represents a real potential risk for Jindal the payoff for which may not be commensurate.

4.3.09

Study confirms wastefulness of LA film tax credits

Always looking out to justify its existence, the Louisiana’s Department of Economic Development commissioned and has released a report blowing some more sunshine up the skirts of taxpayers in the guise of the state’s corporate welfare program for motion picture development.

This report, which follows one done for the state a few years ago, throws out all sorts of seemingly-impressive numbers for 2007 that the state gets for the $115.1 million given to producers of movies: $429.2 million in “direct in-state spending” (almost half of which were wages at an average of around $32,000 annually per job) which translates into $763 million in “economic benefit.” It also directly pays $14.6 million in tax revenues.

Of course, that means that the taxpayers are still on the hook for $100.5 million. And that’s the part LED hopes you gloss over: the credits never pay for themselves in terms of actual return for the state. This was noted back in 2004 when Louisiana’s own Legislative Fiscal Office prepared a report which, ironically, is still considered one of the seminal works and is used often to point out that these kinds of tax credit programs, where producers can write off portions of in-state expenditures on Louisiana income taxes (or, more likely, sell these credits to brokers to resell them to high-income entities within the state), cost far more in revenue than they bring to state tax coffers.

3.3.09

Sheep, sophists deny veracity of Jindal remarks

It is an indicator about how much the world has turned upside down when Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers a tepid but insightful response to a well-done but absolutely moronic address by Pres. Barack Obama, and it’s the latter who earns accolades. This attitude already is doing significant damage to the country and that will not go unnoticed by the public.

Jindal’s remarks, if not well-delivered, were spot on. They hewed to what every valid theory about human economic behavior tell us, confirmed statistically throughout history: government that governs the least governs the best, that government cannot tax and spend its way to prosperity, and only by empowering people instead of government can prosperity be attained.

By contrast, Obama’s polished bromides not only revealed a stupidity about optimal economic policy, but were false and misleading. Aside from errors of historical fact, Obama advocated for an incredible surge in spending that he insisted would not significantly increase debt because of tax increases, a stance even his liberal allies questioned afterwards and when the first of his budget proposals began to filter out. Meanwhile, Americans voted with their resources and in the past week have taken $1 trillion out of the markets because they know these ideas will kill growth for the next months or years.

To summarize, Jindal told it like it was and many in the chattering classes tried to knock his effort not only in style, but in content despite the veracity of his message. By contrast, Obama’s polemic reminds one of the old joke, “how do you know when a lawyer is lying – when his mouth is moving,” yet not just gets a pass, but some actually think his ideas have merit. As market performance shows, and as anybody in a pension plan, with an IRA, or with a 401(k) or equivalent can tell, the notion that Obama and Democrats know how to deal adequately with the economy is pure rubbish.

Fortunately, while the American people often can be taken in by glib sophists, over time reality has a habit of waking people up. It’s already beginning to set in, and hopefully we won’t need Carter hangover misery index numbers to drive home the point, with its concomitant losses of economic resources and personal freedom stolen by a government whose ideological tunnel vision will not permit unleashing individuals to improve life for everybody, but instead which rapaciously demands for itself resources in its quest to remake society in its twisted image.

Jindal’s message warns about this (even concerning his criticism about spending on monitoring volcanic activity which, if it is so meritorious, why wasn’t this done in the Democrat Congress the past two years and in the Obama budget instead of imbecilic spending on “green” initiatives based on junk science, larger welfare payments, etc.?) and it is a message that will resonate increasingly as the know-nothings who now run government further shatter the hopes and dreams of the people. The fatcats who lord over the people at present may disparage Jindal’s remarks now, but in years to come his (and others’) prescience will be recognized by the people who will pull these oppressors down from their perches into the dustbin of history that they so richly deserve.

If things continue as they are at present, history will vindicate Jindal’s sentiments, while Obama’s will be dismissed as part of a period of national insanity. Because in the end, substance trumps style and long ago liberals like Obama intellectually disarmed themselves for which no amount of smooth talking can compensate. That there are so many lemmings out there that cannot understand the difference, or provocateurs who want to create a crisis situation to enhance their own power and prestige, is to their everlasting discredit.

2.3.09

Policy change would benefit merchants, public, disabled

Rights in conflict always pose public policy and juridical problems. But in the case that unnecessary ambiguity exacerbates the conflict, government can reduce this.

Twice in the past year northwest Louisiana commercial establishments have encountered controversy over the appropriateness of service dogs on premises. Recently, another such incident occured in Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, current nationally-defined disability law is the source of misunderstandings in this realm.

The Americans with Disabilities Act allows service animals (almost always dogs, but other animals can be used if they are “individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability” where the animal must perform an act that the disabled person cannot) into almost any public place (if the animal does not compromise the essential function of the business; for example, they can be excluded from zoos because they may carry diseases to zoo animals). The problem is, the law does not define what constitutes “training” nor does the owner typically have to provide any documentation concerning that training or his “disability.”

To ask about the latter is considered discriminatory and while many organizations provide high-quality training and include identification cards, vests, and the like, and states may have certification programs, none of this documentation is required to allow admittance to the animal; simple assertion by the owner is enough. Not even state or local health regulations supersede the initial contact: while dogs in general may be prohibited from entry because of health concerns, service dogs cannot be unless after entry they create a health hazard (such as licking foodstuffs) or other disturbance to the nature of the business in which subsequently the dog can be prohibited and the owner invited to stay in the business without the dog.

This vagueness and bias greatly in the favor of the “disabled” person has produced two regrettable trends that not only produce confusion and needless conflict, but also cast negativity upon the disabled using service animals in general. One is that some places like pet stores offer to “train” dogs to be service animals in a matter of hours. Frankly, this is almost legalized fraud. For adequately dealing with the demands of most disabilities and for public conveyance of an animal, qualified dogs take months or even years to train.

Worse, many of these places claim they can take your own dog and train it this way. The fact is, reputable organizations (one example being Canine Companions for Independence) are highly selective in the dogs they take, judging them on strength, intelligence, sociability, and discipline – and most dogs wash out because of the exacting standards. Hardly any pets meet these standards. The few dogs that make the cut are recertified by their training organizations on a regular basis.

Those people permitted to be given one of these dogs also must qualify. For example, someone who claims disability because of “anxiety” probably could not legally use a service animal because there is no specific “task” or set of them that the animal helps that person perform. Qualifying individuals also spend days or weeks in training in all aspects of service dogs so that the dogs are used properly without their training dissolving (dogs being dogs it can disappear rapidly through poor technique applied by the owners). The humans also face recertification by the organizations and additional training if necessary.

High-quality trained and superior dogs are necessary because anything otherwise makes them far likelier to cause disruptions. Owners themselves must be knowledgeable. So with dogs ill-suited for their roles and owners who don’t know what their doing, perhaps who know even less about the law itself, combined with merchants’ confusion, these create a recipe for potentially disastrous relations. In turn, each such incident raises the animus of the public against the disabled using service animals, unfairly besmirching responsible human team members.

Local governments can only alleviate the situation somewhat given the legal primacy of the ADA and its ambiguity. But one thing they can do is require licenses for any service animal team on the basis of health and safety that would involve testing owners on their knowledge of the ADA and when it applies relevant to service animals. While legally it could not prevent the use of these animals without it, this would increase levels of education that might avoid inappropriate or illegal uses of animals and potential conflict (licenses automatically could be granted to those who get animals from reputable trainers, such as members of Assistance Dogs International).

In the granting of business licenses, part of that also could require testing on the ADA so proprietors (responsible for training their employees) are aware of when animals legally may be used and when they may be denied. This can be legally required and enforced.

As the ADA has expanded through regulatory and judicial arenas, conflicts over the rights of the disabled and those in public purveyance only can increase. Especially since Louisiana aspires to be a tourist destination, it would be wise for local governments to take these proactive steps.

1.3.09

Vitter shadow challengers for now banking only on hope

Whisper campaigns to encourage Republicans to run against Sen. David Vitter in the 2010 primary probably will come to naught considering Vitter and the present objects of these desires.

Tony Perkins, former state legislator and for the past few years the head of the Family Research Council, admitted the job had been suggested to him. Similarly, former member of the U.S. House John Cooksey gave his assent to have people begin fundraising on his behalf for pursuit of the office. For over a year, Sec. of State Jay Dardenne has done nothing to discourage speculation that he will run for the office as well. All of this has come about because of Vitter’s admission last year of a “serious sin” that appears related to a prostitution ring which has led some to believe Vitter now is vulnerable to a successful challenge.

This appears to be wishful thinking on at least some people’s behalf. The whole premise to the vulnerability thesis is that the widespread perception that Vitter cavorted with call girls will make enough supporters ignore everything else about Vitter’s service as senator and base their vote on that. For the fact is, on nearly every issue Vitter has faithfully and genuinely reflected the preferences of anywhere from slim to large majorities in the state, and with a large campaign budget (he’s got plenty) he can make sure in any campaign that his record will not be ignored.

Further, Vitter has the advantage of incumbency. He can point to an actual record as senator, one favorably viewed by a majority of the state, whereas these unannounced challengers can only speak of hypothetical acts or doings from their own legislative careers largely unrelated to those of a senator. This is especially relevant given these would be primary challenges where these purported opponents could not claim to be any more, and may be not even as, conservative as Vitter. Nor can they claim a special “outsider” status as a merit badge against the “establishment,” as in Pres. Barack Obama’s America Vitter already is about as outsider as one can get.

And each of these three names has its own negatives. Perkins failed in a previous Senate bid and having been out of state for awhile may be seen as too much of a Washington insider and Louisiana outsider. Cooksey also lost a Senate try and comes from the sparsest-populated area of the state having been out of the public eye for seven years. Dardenne is considered by many conservative Republicans to have gone too easily with the tax-and-spend winds when he was in the state Senate.

But the problem all will face is that the only issue that they really can distinguish themselves positively from Vitter on presumably is “character,” and, given Vitter’s record and experience, that’s not enough to make them more electable than Vitter against a Democrat opponent. They know that, and this is why all are being coy about a candidacy. The measured approach they are taking is that a swell of enthusiasm and/or fundraising will provide a definitive positive signal to run. If they especially don’t get substantial commitments financially, they’ll stay on the sidelines.

As long as Vitter has no problem raising money and there’s no apparent congruent reaction accompanying any other shadow candidate, when actual qualification comes Vitter’s not going to face a quality challenger in the GOP primary.