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24.5.17

Leniency on criminal fines subverts crime reduction

Louisiana’s lawmakers can’t let money concerns overrule good sense when it comes to criminal justice reform, thus requiring compromise within bills such as state Rep. Tanner Magee’s HB 249.

As state policy-makers have made a concerted effort to reform the system that incarcerates more people per capita than any country in the world or than any state in the country, many have sold the effort as a means to save money. They have argued that smarter allocation of resources could result without impairing effectiveness of correctional policy.

But the package of bills to reflect changes to transform the system has faced scrutiny for introducing too much laxity in sentencing and carrying that out. Supporters have had to tone down measures that unwisely would have eroded the deterrent effects concerning the most serious crimes, which also served to erode savings promised.

23.5.17

Caddo-area officials struggling to get with program

Seems a job requirement for many elected officials around Caddo Parish is absolute thick-headedness, judging by their reactions to the evolving Elio Motors controversy and daydreaming about minor league basketball.

Caddo Parish commissioners have become increasingly nervous over Elio, which continues to give signals that it won’t last much longer. The firm desires to build a three-wheel automobile and begun taking reservations to distribute these years ago. To that end, an arm of parish government, the Caddo Industrial Development Board, used $7.5 million in parish money to purchase and lease to Elio two-fifths of the old General Motors plant on the southwest side of the parish.

In response, Elio has kept delaying production while burning through cash at a high rate. That includes proceeds worth millions of dollars from sales of equipment at the site technically under parish ownership, although IDB President Gard Wayt claims only outdated equipment remains. Another entity, Glovis America, said it would lease part of the property as well and had moved closer to launching there production of automobile parts.

22.5.17

Good trafficking bill hijacked for obscure motives

The next chapter in the strange mutation of SB 144 could continue later today in the Louisiana Senate, although more twists could lay ahead if the bill makes it to the House of Representatives.

This bill originally would have barred people from under 21 from performing as strippers in places that serve alcohol. The impetus came to combat human trafficking, which particularly plagues the youngest individuals, research reveals It actually passed last year in a slightly different form without a single dissenting vote, but then lost out on a court challenge that nonetheless demonstrated alterations that could make the law constitutional.

With that in mind, last year’s bill author Republican state Sen. Ronnie Johns submitted this year’s more elaborate version, with no controversy expected regarding it. Even when Sen. Pres. John Alario assigned it to the Judiciary B Committee, unlike last year’s that went to Judiciary C – the two have identical jurisdictions – that didn’t seem so odd since Johns sat on the former.

18.5.17

HB 71 support consistent with conservative principles

My colleagues at the Baton Rouge Advocate raise an issue concerning appropriateness of state government intervention particularly according to conservatism, a concept easily understood if cognizant of the scope and purpose of government as defined in America and conservatives’ views on where in the act of governance optimal policy-making occurs.

Referring to HB 71 by state Rep. Thomas Carmody, which passed the House after two hours of contentious rhetoric, the editorial page shows confusion over the issue. Presently, state law mentions nothing about how local governments may deal with objects such as monuments related to military entities and events. In that vacuum, New Orleans through its representative institutions has removed three related to the Confederacy and has plans to cart off one more.

The bill would change the imputed process as it currently exists – the governing authority brings up the issue of removal or other alteration and may decide whether to make any changes – so that a local governing authority would bring up the issue in the form of a plebiscite where the voters in that jurisdiction decide. To this, the Advocate opines, “For the Legislature’s self-proclaimed conservatives, who are supposed to champion limited government, to meddle in how local communities manage their monuments is the height of hypocrisy.”

17.5.17

Costs of well-meaning IG bill more than benefits

While HB 443 by state Rep. Julie Stokes sounds good in principal, it actually serves as an example of unwise rigidity and duplication of government.

The bill would dedicate $2 million a year to the office of the Inspector General, then index the amount to inflation. This agency, whose head is appointed for a six-year term, investigates malfeasance and waste in government, created over a quarter-century ago spurred by former Gov. Edwin Edwards, whose checkered career in state government would end several years later with a corruption conviction.

Supporters pointed out that by giving the agency a stable source of funding then disgruntled elected officials subject to investigations by it could not yank its resources using the budget process. They noted the office had investigatory powers, unlike the other agency in state government with the task of analyzing actions of agencies and their people, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, which meant it had better capacity to root out corrupt activities than if it had to rely upon cooperation. The LLA also acts upon direction by law or the Legislature, while the IG can scrutinize on his own.

16.5.17

Panel refuses to halt LA inspection money grab

The handling of HB 597 provides an object lesson in how not to erase a bad statute from the books.

Earlier this week, the Louisiana House of Representatives’ Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee tossed aside the bill by state Rep. Larry Bagley that would have ended the necessity of vehicles, with the exception of those garaged in parishes – at present East Baton Rouge and four surrounding it – under federal clean air jurisdiction, to have inspections. As originally written, the state would have joined 42 others that do not have an annual or biannual requirement for all passenger vehicles.

Inspections meant something a half-century ago in an era of far less durable vehicles and without modern safety features. Data from about a decade ago when cars were significantly less safe than now show only a little over one percent of all accidents occur because of something wrong with the vehicle that would be part of an inspection – and involved items that easily could fail in between annual or biannual inspections with little warning, meaning it would be blind luck if an inspection happened to pick up on it right before failure.

15.5.17

Changing selection makes convention bill useful

Today the Louisiana House of Representatives Appropriations Committee takes up a measure to call a limited constitutional convention. With some tweaking, it’s an idea whose time perhaps has come.

HB 486 by state Rep. Neil Abramson would begin next year a process that could end up having a substantially revised governing document in place by the time of swearing in of the next governor and Legislature. A committee of 27 representing special interests, elected officials, and academia would meet in the first part of 2018 to determine the necessity of revisions and, if needed, to construct draft portions, followed by election later in the year of 105 others to join them in vetting the document. In 2019, the 132 would consider the changes through May 30, and, if deemed necessary, draft a revision to appear for statewide electoral approval at the time of the regular 2019 elections. Majority assent kicks in the new, revised document (and chooses among any alternatives, an option employed the last – actually in state history only ever – time the state undertook this utilizing a popular vote) at the beginning of 2020, just as new officials come into power.

Essentially, alterations could occur only to four areas of the present constitution: revenue and finance, local government finance, retirement systems, and higher education organization and finance. This deliberate attenuation of scope addresses areas over which a growing consensus has emerged that need change and assuages fears of some both within the public and among elected officials that this threatens to empower government too much and/or reduces their power and influence, as a means to rally support for the idea.

11.5.17

LA higher education freedom of speech bill needed

Perhaps HB 269 by state Rep. Lance Harris would not have precluded the immature behavior witnessed recently at Bethune-Cookman University, but it certainly would provide a valuable backstop that enables more effectively delivers higher education in Louisiana.

The bill mandates that Louisiana higher education leaders devise standards and procedures that protect academic freedom, both inside and outside of the classroom in regards to university-sponsored events and spaces. It seeks to prevent protests against speech from impending the presentation of learning experiences.

While Louisiana public institutions of higher education largely have been free of such disruptions – just last year, Louisiana State University Baton Rouge handled well an event where some elements wished to block presentation of certain views – the incident in Florida reminds of the possible negative consequences if a school has not prepared to defend free speech. That involved the commencement speech by Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to graduates of the historically black university.

10.5.17

Budget battle threatens to make Edwards irrelevant

As long as the Louisiana House of Representatives Republican majority holds the line on tax increases for next fiscal year, they will have teed up Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards for a humiliating defeat and seized control of the governing agenda at least through 2019.

Having previously dispatched into ignominy Edwards’ entire fiscal package, last week the chamber sent to the Senate HB 1, the general appropriations bill. It contained $677 million fewer than Edwards wanted, who will need to hike taxes to come close to bridging that gap. This represents $237 million fewer spent than the current fiscal year, which House leaders call a “standstill budget” that includes no growth in overall spending plus intentionally holding back 2.5 percent from this year’s as a buffer in case revenue projections disappoint.

Conditions came with the measure. The bills makes off-limits cutting programs that aid people with disabilities, which actually received a small increase, and if as part of a response to the lower spending public-private partner hospitals receive a haircut, the shearing cannot single out any facility disproportionately. It also orders that cuts must first arrive in the form of scrapping vacant job openings and disallows pay raises for state employees on the basis of performance. Otherwise, the bill gives few specific directions.

9.5.17

Establishment politicians take hit in NW LA elections

Dissatisfaction at the ruling class was apparent. How deep it ran was the surprise.

Last month, Caddo Parish voters rejected all five ballot propositions presented to them after high-profile campaigns for and against the four Caddo parish-wide property measures. These that attempted to renew taxes at higher millage rates than at the initial approval levels all narrowly lost.

Evidently the opponents’ arguments hit home. They noted that the increases came on top of reserves that equaled about double the parish’s budget, a level approximately 20 times higher than the typical local government’s. Further, the taxes would not expire soon, but from 2019-22. They critiqued whether the parish needed more money than ever, and why ask for it prematurely.

8.5.17

LA Medicaid work requirements good, if done right

Work requirements in Louisiana for able-bodied adults without disabilities to enroll in Medicaid make a lot of sense, even if it would not save much money. It’s just its effective implementation that gets tricky.

SB 188 by state Sen. Sharon Hewitt would require this category of Medicaid enrollees to fulfill a “community engagement” standard, defined as employment, volunteer work, caretaking, job training, education, or job search activities comprising at least 20 hours a week. The bill would exempt many from the requirement, essentially those who care for dependents of some kind. Last week the Senate Health and Welfare Committee took up the bill, but in the face of opposition Hewitt deferred the bill in favor of a study resolution.

The notion build upon successful application of work policies in other federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program that distributes vouchers for food and drink for lower-income households. However, it would not act as a panacea to rein in runaway Medicaid costs, given the tightly drawn nature of this measure, which mimics those in a handful of other states. Only roughly 11 percent of current Medicaid recipients – jobless able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) – fit the bill, and using a slightly lower percentage the Legislative Fiscal Office saw for next year only about $7 million saved, not including $4 million in initial costs, nor a small annual cost to review client eligibility, nor continuing reduction in the 5.5 percent premium tax charged on managed care policies into which Medicaid clients enroll.

4.5.17

Denied validation, interests continue divisiveness

Despite hitting the canvas in Round 1, backers of the “war against blacks” narrative signaled they would not take the federal decision not to charge two Baton Rouge police officers with civil rights violations lying down, coming out swinging in Round 2 – to the detriment of the community.

The U.S. Department of Justice, in an investigation spanning the Democrat former Pres. Barack Obama and Republican Pres. Donald Trump Administrations, concluded that while the officers did not engage in perfect policing, it found insufficient evidence that the officers had malicious and abusive motives towards Alton Sterling when he was shot last summer while resisting arrest. A typical reaction from this crowd came from the Alinskyites at Together Baton Rouge, who expressed disappointment and frustration of no charges filed, called the federal government unjust, and implied as suspect the coming state investigation if it resulted in no indictments of the officers in the death of Sterling.

This closed-mindedness indicative of the group by this kind of pre-judgmental criticism and shared by its ideological allies sadly reveals a cancer in the body politic. They seize upon every incident where a black “gentle giant” loses his life in an altercation with police as evidence to back up their narrative, refusing to let facts which do not conform to their narrative inform them.

3.5.17

Excellent budget presses Edwards to defend choices

They did their homework, leaving the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration and the Legislature’s minority party sputtering with little effective response.

Louisiana’s House of Representatives Republican leadership successfully passed its first hurdle with the fiscal year 2018 budget. HB 1 largely adopts a standstill strategy, meaning some agencies would deal with unfunded mandates, plus shaved 2.5 percent from that previous figure to bankroll for unanticipated revenue shortfalls. It also shifted around dollars to reflect the majority party’s priorities while inviting Edwards to reaffirm or change policy choices within that framework. The reductions total $237 million from the current FY 2017 budget.

More specifically, it took from the Department of Health $235 million, but issued instructions as to where cuts could not come – waiver programs for people with disabilities and not disproportionately made to any one public-private partner charity hospital. It also took from corrections and public safety nearly $29.5 million, the Department of Child and Family Services $19.5 million, more than $18 million from the Department of Education, $20 million from the judiciary, and $11 million from itself.

2.5.17

Landrieu audition echoes life under dictatorship

Maybe that explains it. Maybe that’s why Democrat New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a diatribe full of obfuscation and empty of logic to justify government secrecy: he’s running for president.

A national newspaper threw Landrieu’s hat into the ring for 2020, theorizing his raised profile as a result agitating for and beginning the removal of the city’s statuary makes him someone appealing to a national party veering every further to the political left. His comments regarding stealing away the Battle of Liberty Place monument in the middle of the night certainly suggest compatibility with this goal.

Both opponents and supporters of carving the monuments out of the city’s landscape have expressed that the dissections happen with public notice, even with pomp and pageantry attached. Instead, it happened in the dead of night with no warning. Attired more like Islamic State insurgents than public servants and contract employees, balaclava-adorned participants did the deed while keeping from view any identification of the contractor.

1.5.17

Largesse should serve people, not special interests

The trick to the scam is staying with it. That typifies the reaction of those associated and allied with the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority to legislation that threatens some of their taxpayer largesse.

Better known for its ownership and operation of the Convention Center and Exhibition Hall, diversion of decades worth of taxes collected by state and local governments have let this state-created entity bank (at the end of 2015) $268 million, with only $36 million committed to ongoing expansion projects. Because of these tax receipts, it took in nearly $25 million more than it spent in 2015, although its user fees, concession sales, and other minor charges without the subsidy would have left it $32 million in the red.

HB 622 and 623 by Republican state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty would stop the excessive siphoning to this special interest. The bills would move the proceeds of two citywide levies, a third of a three percent tax on hotel lodging and half of a half-percent tax on food and drinks, to a new special government set up to fund roads. In 2015, the pair, which were dedicated to an expansion project that never materialized yet the Authority continued to collect these, accounted for around $16 million in 2015.

27.4.17

Not real reform, Edwards tax changes fail anyway

Think of how much Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards would have struggled had he actually tried genuine tax and fiscal reform.

When his old desk-mate state Democrat Rep. Sam Jones euthanized Edwards’ idea of a gross receipts tax out of its misery earlier this week, that ended what little resemblance the governor’s agenda had to addressing the state’s Byzantine and inefficient fiscal structure. Without the measure in place, not only did his plan lose its primary aspect, the raising of more money for government to spend, but also it no longer had a compensatory mechanism to offset changes to individual and corporate income rates, lowering these while broadening the base through the elimination of targeted exceptions.

Of course, he intended the plan first and foremost to inflate the budget, with any reform a byproduct, and tried to take the easy way to do it. That strategy aimed to avoid what plagued the efforts of Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal, who four years ago also tried to tackle the same structural issues but in a much more comprehensive way.

26.4.17

Helping Edwards understand minimum wage folly

Louisiana’s Gov. John Bel Edwards, in an interview with my colleagues at the Baton Rouge Advocate, seemed perplexed about opposing a raise of the minimum wage. “I don't understand the opposition to that,” he said to them. “I don't know that it's principled or that it can be well articulated that in why 2017 someone ought to be working for seven dollars and a quarter an hour.”

That’s OK, I’m here to help. Other than the facts that the minimum wage – especially for the least skilled – costs Americans jobs, encourages illegal aliens to flock to America and drives prices artificially higher, it’s a great idea.

It causes a problem as it sets an arbitrary floor on the price of labor. In a free market without a monopoly on labor, such as caused by unions (or the highly unlikely event of monopsony, such as in days gone by when a town formed around a single employer, which as the nature of the economy has changed monopsonic conditions have become almost extinct in America), voluntary transactions correctly price the value of labor, exchanging remuneration for the value added to society that the labor produces. But if government intervention forces greater payment than the actual worth of the work, the inefficiency of the use of that resource ripples across the economy.

25.4.17

NW LA elections feature clash between old, new

Upcoming elections in Caddo and Bossier Parishes revive the ongoing struggle between the old ways of politics and modernization.

This Saturday, Caddo voters face five ballot propositions, although Shreveporters don’t participate in a sales tax maneuver that combines two existing millages for general parish operations worth 1.5 percent on sales for approval into perpetuity. The other four renew property taxes, but in controversial ways.

These take propositions to fund generally facilities, the health unit, the juvenile court and detention center, and courthouse operations, and attempt to extend their terms early, anywhere from over one to four years prior to expiration. That tactic may stem from the humiliating 2013 defeat of a bond issue for capital improvements, repeated in 2014, which would have had the effect of taking the 1.55 mill rate at the time and elevating it to the full 1.75 mill rate allowed for general obligation debt.

24.4.17

Edwards bears responsibility for contract dispute

Recently, a U.S. House of Representative with a Republican majority gave Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards the business over the speed and execution of flood relief. But did he deserve that?

The committee’s majority probed certain decisions made by the Edwards Administration that seemed to delay getting money into the hands of flood victims. One line of inquiry in particular focused upon the on-again, off-again, now maybe off-again situation with hiring a contractor to coordinate the distribution of aid, which had become entangled with the realities of executive power.

Essentially, the entity responsible for vetting the selection, the State Licensing Board for Contractors, on advice from its counsel Larry Bankston, shaped the original bidding so that the contract would have gone to an entity that employed his son. The disqualified winner then sued the state, in short order the state rebid and again awarded it to the original firm, and now another firm has filed a complaint with the state over the process which ultimately could end up in court.

20.4.17

Remarks indicate LSU chief getting restless

He might as well take out a full page advertisement announcing it: my singular uber-boss (although he serves under two collective entities), Louisiana State University Pres. F. King Alexander, apparently is on the market for a new job.

There seems no other way to explain comments he made yesterday during a symposium regarding the intersection of race and public policy. The main speaker, Baton Rouge Mayor-Pres. Sharon Broome, broached a number of topics.

But at one point, Alexander interjected something Broome hadn’t addressed: the 2015 petition by residents representing most of the unincorporated area of East Baton Rouge, styling themselves as creating “St. George,” to form their own municipality. Without prompting, Alexander volunteered that “We worked together successfully about a year and a half ago to make sure the city wasn't split in half” and then, by way of mentioning a documentary that alleged racist motives behind the incorporation drive, asked Broome how to prevent a similar future attempt. By law, no such try can occur prior to this summer, an effort past organizers have signaled they will resume.

19.4.17

Bill submission shows Edwards on the ropes

No doubt as an Army officer Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards loathed ordering his men to retreat. He must not be feeling all that great today.

Today, Democrat state Rep. Sam Jones filed HB 638, which would postpone the Jun. 30, 2018 sunset date for the one cent increase in sales taxes enacted just over a year ago for five years. Jones, who shared a desk with Edwards for eight years in the Legislature, alleges he received no marching orders from the Governor’s Office to do this but did it now because bill filing ends today.

We must take that assertion with a grain of salt. Dozens of bills already existed addressing sales tax, many by Democrats, who would not have minded an amendment like this if and when the need arose. Nor must a commander give a direct order for his subordinates to intuit a course of action. No; this comes precisely because Edwards has realized the need for it has arisen, in a form most easily controlled by him.

18.4.17

Politicized report elicits climate alarmist screed

This week the Louisiana Legislature begins review of the state’s politics-infused 2017 Coastal Master Plan, just in time for the state’s dotty old uncle of environmentalism, former newspaperman Bob Marshall, to go off the rails on related matters.

Marshall now has a gig at his old stomping grounds, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, apparently to pen opinion pieces now and then about environmental matters. His initial piece indicates that, if in his personal life he has the same intensity of religious faith as he does in the belief of significant anthropogenic climate change, when the time comes he’ll head to Heaven in record time.

The piece began by proclaiming recent moves by the Pres. Donald Trump Administration to reverse the draconian environmental policies of former Pres. Barack Obama would drown Louisiana, and it went downhill from there. Allegedly everyone living within 35 miles of the coast faced a “death sentence,” while those 15 miles more inland merely had to look forward to “soaring flood insurance rates.” He expressed this not just his “opinion,” but as the “judgment” rendered in the plan, approved a few months ago by the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

16.4.17

Easter Sunday, 2017

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Easter Sunday, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

This Easter Sunday, I invite you to explore this link.

13.4.17

Bill should add taxis to rideshare state regulation

The Louisiana Legislature met me halfway. But I argue in the case of point-to-point passenger transportation it should go all the way.

Last year, this space recommended, as a number of local jurisdictions began to regulate transportation network companies (that is, rideshare arrangements), that the state move in to assume the regulatory role. At least one attempt now hasappeared, HB 527 by state Rep. Kenny Havard, which would have the state Department of Transportation and Development create standards and conduct permitting, kicking back 0.95 percent of gross receipts of the rides to the points of origins’ local governments (having taken out .05 percent for administrative expenses).

Complaints from local jurisdictions have come in two kinds. One, the language within the statute some consider not restrictive enough, in areas such as insurance, background checks, drug testing, surge pricing in case of emergencies, and determination of discrimination in provision. Local ordinances reflect some or all of these; for example, in New Orleans a detailed receipt must be generated at the end of a trip and the data reported to the city that could use it to assess whether some form of discrimination is occurring, while the proposed law allows for sending a receipt electronically with less information and no mandatory forwarding of the data to the state.

12.4.17

LA must combat populist impulses on waterworks

Lack of money only plays a small part in woes across many government-run water systems in Louisiana. Inability to keep adequate records and accounting has something to do with it as well. But the main cause of over $5 billion in maintenance needs statewide plaguing local government water utilities is the state’s populist heritage, which any corrective policy must address.

Thrown into sharp relief with the problems encountered by the town of St. Joseph – crumbling infrastructure eroded water quality that necessitated state intervention – the event spurred the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to include a look at systems run by local governments as part of its performance audit of private and nonprofit water works regulated by the Public Service Commission. The results revealed a potentially large-scale crisis ready to erupt statewide.

It turns out that over half of all systems have significantly aged infrastructures, creating larger pent-up demand for refurbishment or replacement. Relatively small systems, defined as serving 3,300 or fewer properties, comprise an even higher proportion of the total, which cannot enjoy economics of scale in operation. With these higher costs, a significant number of government systems operate in the red. Mainly among the smaller, some governments operate their systems poorly, with faulty collection practices and accounting lapses, the latter preventing them from applying for state-backed loans for repairs and upgrades, as legally a government must have a clean audit to do so. They also become prone to wasting water through seepage, theft, and laxity.

11.4.17

State must take taxpayers off hook of dubious deal

In the face of far more important priorities and much more cost effective venues, the time has come for Louisiana to end its experiment with Hodges Gardens State Park, located near Florien.

About a decade ago the state assumed control of the land, which a citizen had built and ran as a private facility. For a half-century, the family developed it as a botanical garden open to the public. But times changed and with the completion of Interstate 49, it became too expensive to run and began to deteriorate. Then, political connections brought it to the attention of the state, and a sweetheart deal to have the state operate it while the family’s foundation technically still owned it blossomed.

From the start controversy surrounded this transaction, as its transfer came along with a mysterious unrelated land swap clouded in intrigue. Then-House Speaker Joe Salter backed the bill, and former Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed it that, even without the dubious swap, would add forecast costs to the state of $1.5 million annually in the aftermath of the hurricane disasters of the year before.  Naturally, over the years the state learned the same truth as did the owners and now along with a few others parks the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism has signaled it might close these should the state’s revenue environment not improve significantly.

10.4.17

Politicized speech earns obstinate Edwards D-minus

With equal parts pugnaciousness and disingenuousness, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ highly-politicized 2017 State of the State speech laid out a truly flawed vision for Louisiana going forward.

One could gig Edwards – who appeared to need new contact lenses – for spreading a host of specific misperceptions and mendacious arguments in his address. For example, as if trying to bolster weaker arguments to come, he started by spreading the usual selective information about Medicaid expansion, concentrating on individual stories representing the several dozen of over 400,000 new enrollees who obtained medical treatment through the program, and alleged it would continue to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Of course, he ignored inconvenient truths about expansion. He did not mention that roughly half of the new enrollees likely dropped insurance from the private sector, socializing their costs onto taxpayers. Nor that “savings” come as a result of higher taxes on insurance and hospital visits passed down to people, nor that the escalating costs of the program – which may go much higher depending upon Medicaid reform coming out of Washington – that already increase on an annual basis each Louisianan’s share of the national debt by $500 (or, perhaps more precisely, for each federal income taxpaying filer in the state $1,200 each year) and will cost state taxpayers by 2020 hundreds of millions of dollars more extra, regardless of the hundreds of millions squeezed from them from those higher taxes that prop up current expansion spending.

6.4.17

Loyola NO invite continues diluting Catholic identity

In a sense, there’s nothing inconsistent about the invitation of Loyola University of New Orleans to talk show host Van Jones for his services as its spring commencement speaker. After all, both hold themselves out as something they are not.

In Jones’ case, for the past dozen years he has positioned himself in the political mainstream, culminating in a high-level appointment to former Pres. Barack Obama’s White House Office months after Obama assumed office. Almost immediately, he found himself out of that job upon the publicizing of his past, which included association with or membership in radical and communist organizations, his support of similar individuals and articulation of communist ideology, and his peddling of 9/11/2001 conspiracy theories alleging U.S. government involvement in causing the horrific event.

Jones was smart enough by the new millennium to stop calling himself a Marxist and trafficking in its rhetoric, following the trend of post-Watergate radicals who realized to increase their influence they had to avoid labels viewed overwhelmingly scorned by the public and to jettison Marxist terminology in their verbiage, all the while restating its concepts in ways less alarming to people. But little else changed with his associations and ideology. Recently, he became host of a CNN program, just after making comments that framed the 2016 election results in racist terms.