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Stuck on stupid VIII: Louisiana in need of tough love

While it well may be true that the vast bulk of federal emergency monies given to states has been forgiven, neither should Louisiana expect this nor should it be any surprise that it won’t happen given state leaders’ past and present behavior.

Even as Sen. David Vitter has hinted that payback provisions for federal aid would be waived by the Republicans who control the federal government (just in time for 2008 elections), behind this unspoken clemency is the expectation that Louisiana shows it’s trying to help itself by making fiscally prudent choices in the aftermath of the hurricane disasters.

Instead, the Democrat good-old-boy network in the Legislature and its good-old-girl equivalent in the executive branch keep sending absolutely the wrong signals to Washington. The state owes about $30 million on its first “installment,” leaving the Gov. Kathleen Blanco Administration to fret how to meet it. Well, why weren’t they thinking about that when they, through the Blanco-controlled State Bond Commission, authorized some $45 million in capital outlay expenses to go ahead, despite the fact that $17 million of them were peripheral, if not even really necessary, especially in light of what should have been adjusted budget priorities?

No doubt that of the $30 million, the federal government could claim at least $17 million of it was for capital projects reconstructed. Thus, this money easily could have been redacted and the rededicated in the legislative special session to pay this bill.

But even if Blanco had the wisdom to have done this, whether the Legislature would have done its part is another matter. While they have agreed with Blanco and among themselves to cut nearly $600 million from the state budget, they spend more energy trying to twist the state’s Constitution to grab more money which imperils the state even more in the future instead of adopting the new religion of fiscal discipline.

Worst of all, they steadfastly refuse to admit that the same populist/liberal regimen that they have followed for decades which has made the state last in economic development and first in political shenanigans was to blame for Louisiana’s hyper-vulnerability to the economic consequences of these disasters and is a recipe to make any recovery much longer and harder than need be. Instead, on the floor of the Senate you have demagogues like Sen. Rob Marionneaux making partisan points of personal privilege about the latest news of political corruption in Washington in an attempt to minimize his state’s well-earned reputation in that field of endeavor, or like Sen. Robert Adley blaming the media, saying it’s assisted by the remarks of some of his fellow legislators, for painting Louisiana in a bad light.

Either these clowns are so stuck on stupid that they don’t realize it’s their very attitudes about and actions related to governing of those with these same attitudes that draw the nation’s suspicions and bring ridicule upon themselves, or they are so concerned about their political futures and/or legacies that they have to find scapegoats to blame for their own inadequacies as leaders in this state. It is their populist/liberal agenda shared by all too many of their colleagues that has gotten this state into so much trouble, and is what will prevent any meaningful recovery any time soon.

And Washington recognizes this. For some diseases, medicine to cure them is very powerful and creates a thin line between the dosage that can knock out the disease, and a slightly higher one that can kill the patient. The disease of populism/liberalism and the poor quality of government it spawns deeply is embedded in Louisiana political culture, and to allow it to flourish as a result of federal policy designed to help the state recover would be wasteful, foolish, and detrimental to its citizens in the long run.

It’s cure or kill time for Louisiana relative to the federal government. If state policy-makers stop doing stupid things and demonstrate they have the acumen to lead the state to recovery, the cure commences. But if they do not, first the pervasiveness of the disease of populism/liberalism must be killed in order for any cure to work. If needed, this would begin by cutting the state no slack in its federal repayment obligations until obstinate state policy-makers realize the error of their ways (or after a new legislative majority and governor are elected in 2007). Only then could the cure begin.

From the federal government it would be tough, but necessary, love.

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