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Edwards starts gubernatorial career by flunking speech

In his inaugural address, Gov. John Bel Edwards preached about how Louisiana needed unity, how its diversity need not descend into division, and that he would give the “unvarnished truth” about issues and solutions to pressing public policy problems – and in it proceeded to contradict all of that.

Edwards sprung no surprises in terms of policy preferences; indeed, the familiar bromides he presented played an integral part in the contradictions. His repeating of the statistic often used to mislead concerning pay between men and women, that when looking only at total pay to total workforce, the typical woman makes 66 percent of the amount of money that the typical man does, as something needed some kind of “correction” ignores the mountain of statistics that demonstrate with all intervening factors equal, no significant pay gap exists. In doing so, he promotes division over unity concerning an alleged “problem” that exists only in the minds of ideologues besides dodging the truth of the matter.

He argued as a chief concern raising the minimum wage needs to become a “living” wage, even though fewer than 1 in 100 mature workers earn it, only 1 in 400 serve as a household’s primary breadwinner, that for many of those jobs the minimum wage has risen at a rate five or six times as fast as justified by the gains in worker productivity over the past quarter-century, and that the most widely-used welfare programs pay more than the minimum wage in 35 states – Louisiana included among these. Nothing like trying to unify by starting off stoking some class warfare, is there?

He pointed that large taxpayer subsidies to higher education in Louisiana declined – even as the majority of that amount got made up by tuition and fee increases, which he said “priced many students out of their dreams,” even though the state’s ranking on average tuition paid and per capita income shows institutions underprice tuition relative to income, especially when considering cost-of-living and other factors. Nor did he mention that Louisiana ranks 13th in per capita spending among the states on higher education (2013 data).

While calling for doing better, begrudgingly he admitted progress in elementary and secondary education – engineered through policies that he opposed while a legislator such as increased school choice and greater accountability of schools and teachers. And he would want to take a step in undoing that improvement by forcing out the leader who oversaw it.

On and on it went, all of this varnished truth the way Edwards wants to see the world – thus falling prey to his own admonishment that “We must be grounded in reality and see the facts as they are, not as we want them to be” – when the “unvarnished truth” he promised informs differently and realistically. And, of course, he also could not resist throwing in his oft-repeated lie that expanding Medicaid would divert Louisiana federal taxpayer dollars back to the state, when it actually increases the burden on state taxpayers.

He devoted the least specificity to the problem he admitted as the state’s biggest, the budget. But his remarks on these other topics suggested his eventual strategy would lead to tactics primarily based upon tax increases rather than the undoing of Louisiana’s bloated spending.

Regular readers know that this space usually grades for policy content these first-of-the-year gubernatorial speeches, whether in this form or the usual State of the State address to the Legislature. It didn’t take much to figure this one out; Edwards only can go up from here after flunking his first of these.

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