Legislators evade responsibility, speak hypocritically
A pair of Central Louisiana legislators shows us the only thing worse than blaming someone else for the consequences of your own actions is then to criticize them in doing whatever they did something you’ve done yourself.
You didn’t hear the likes of state Reps. Chris Hazel or Herbert Dixon moan when the “preamble adjustment” that the Legislature passed – with both of their approvals – was used to give a budgetary haircut to the Departments of the Treasury and Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. The passage instructed the Commissioner of Administration to excise, from any part of the budget, $15 million.
But they sure got into high dudgeon when it was used against spending in their districts in order to comply with the adjustment. The Democrat Dixon saw about 200 government jobs eliminated at health care facilities while the Republican Hazel will see the J. Levy Dabadie prison shuttered that will cost those personnel their jobs, although the roughly 100 would be offered positions at nearby state prisons, courtesy of line item vetoes cast by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Note that Hazel actually had tried to perform an end run around Jindal’s plan in the budget that originally called for the joint’s closure, successfully getting the operating budget amended to slice around $6 million out of about $30 million that would have gone to the larger facility. But, unlike Dixon, who knew when to stop talking so that he merely can be accused of blame-shifting and failing to take responsibility, Hazel didn’t and additionally made himself into a hypocrite.
The outright idiocy of his remarks deserves full rendition:
“Nothing with this governor shocks me. I have low expectations of him, so I can’t be too disappointed. It's very bizarre. He spends money like a drunken sailor [on things he wants but cuts things that provide services to the community] …. He dislikes Louisianans; he dislikes Louisiana …. It’s amazing. It defies common sense.”
Three things stand out with this barely-literate tirade. First is the charge that Jindal is an excessive spender. Of course, Jindal has cut spending in his years in office, driven as he and the Legislature have been by constitutional imperatives. But perhaps what Hazel is trying to contrast here is in the waning days of the Legislature many House Republicans wanted and tried to cut spending even deeper than Jindal wanted, who resisted them.
While there was disingenuousness all throughout that attempt – these lawmakers, who said they were against using money that they defined as not coming from a predictable revenue stream, cordoned off some recurring funds that did come from predictable revenue streams and on an artificial basis declared them non-recurring and therefore not usable – despite that atheoretical justification the fact remained that they wanted to cut spending. Hazel apparently was at first with them, because he voted for the House’s final product containing those cuts.
But then he changed his mind, maybe because his amendment survived the Senate, and voted for concurrence which did not contain those cuts. He’s free to do so, but then to complain about somebody else as a big spender who stayed consistent in his view on the matter when ultimately he did the same not only is intellectually dishonest, but reeks of hypocrisy. And, I guess Hazel spends like a drunken sailor as well, if we are to say those who did not want steeper cuts throughout meet this definition?
Second, Hazel articulated that what Jindal does spend on is at the expense of services to the community, indicating a “dislike” of “Louisianans.” But it doesn’t take too much digging to discover Hazel’s own voting record indicates he’s willing to lavish huge sums on programs that not only help few, but their net cost to Louisiana taxpayers runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Let’s leave almost all others aside and take that obvious layup: Hazel supported making permanent with his affirmative vote for what would be Act 478 of 2009 the wasteful motion picture tax credits that for every 13.5 cents brought in cost a dollar, making for a total bill by the end of this year to Louisianans in the half-billion dollar range.
If Hazel truly believed in pumping money into the community, he would not be for transferring it away from programs that could have gotten it had it not stayed in the pockets of filmmakers and their investors, many of whom aren’t from Louisiana. Jindal signed this act into law, but at least the current cut made by his commissioner of administration saves taxpayer dollars and promises perhaps all of those affected to have jobs. Yet how is it that Hazel feels he can come off criticizing Jindal for that when he himself far more monumentally has advocated deprivation of services by spending on the things that Hazel prefers that benefit the few and wastefully so?
Third, the whole rant appears based upon the obnoxious populist notion that government exists first and foremost to give people stuff at the expense of others. Like far too many legislators, Hazel seems to endorse the idea that government must operate as a direct job-provider, no matter what transfer of wealth from citizens’ wallets it requires. Rather than face the fact that consolidating prisons in the face of declining populations through demographic and policy changes might be a better use of the people’s resources, he’d rather spend unwisely in order to take credit for those jobs and thereby use that as a tool by which to get reelected. It’s the same old story and mentality which has kept economic development away from Louisiana.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 14:15