With the Louisiana Legislature now out of session and pocketbooks finally safe again, we can compare Edwards’ aspirations with his achievements on this score. Spoiler alert: it’s not impressive.
What his agenda lacked in ambitiousness it made up for in unreality. Two of his top four items he has championed since the day he took office but had no chance of enactment: a watered-down minimum wage increase (because it would not have applied statewide but would have come by local option) and a watered-down “equal pay” bill (because it didn’t mandate comparable worth or similar schemes that would force artificially employers, public or private, to push annual compensation of women closer to that of men regardless of other factors, but instead would have prevented employers from keeping compensation arrangements secret). Naturally, both never made it out of their chamber of origin, the Edwards-friendlier Senate.
Such longshots damaged perception of Edwards leadership marginally, but he took a humiliating hit when the bill he supported that would have imposed an inflexible set of rules on insurers in case the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of a challenge to the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (brought, in part, by Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry) went down in flames while a best-practices alternative he initially fought gained traction. He’ll sign the alternative and do his best to make people mistakenly think he backed it all along.
The only major initiative of his that will come into enactment almost nobody opposed, a pay raise for elementary and secondary education employees. That shows a lot of skill and leadership, running to the head of the parade. The scraps that comprised the rest of his agenda largely fit the same pattern of uncontroversial or picayunish measures.
It all adds up to the relative ineffectiveness Edwards has displayed in his four years in office. His legacy to date includes only two major items, ruinous Medicaid expansion (which the Supreme Court impending decision could wipe out) and criminal justice changes that may end up costing more than they allegedly would save. Meanwhile, sales taxes have gone up 11 percent with a corresponding increase in government spending, with that total rising 28 percent and all state-sourced spending up 10 percent – while the rate of inflation has been just 7 percent.
That’s the Edwards record of few accomplishments except for bigger, more expensive government that does little but redistribute wealth. Good luck in defending it this election season.