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Jindal shows astuteness, critics obtuseness, on spending

In case you didn’t already know, comments made by some state elected officials about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to accept some federal dollars courtesy of the recently-passed spending package confirmed that there is no IQ test required to run for their offices, but ideological rigidity is more than welcome.

Jindal turned back over $98 million which would have gone to paying benefits to people who quit their jobs for various reasons and to part-time workers. He said he did so for purely fiscal reasons, because the federal subsidy would halt after two years and if the state changed its laws to allow this it would then be on the hook for paying this extra amount. This legally would require a tax increase on business, which funds unemployment insurance. It also reduced the work length requirement to three months, making it much easier for people to game the system.

What he tried to delicately avoid in this argument is there is a policy component to it all. Changing the law to alter the eligibility for these funds would connote a policy change, because unemployment insurance payment throughout its history has made no distinction about the reason for leaving a job, only if it was not instigated by a full-time, long-time worker. In other words, this part of the law (as well as many other parts) is an attempt to undo welfare reform, which over a decade ago ended the practice of lifetime supplementary benefits for those that did not earn income, and for Louisiana to change the law to fit it would endorse this unraveling. While Jindal may not want to admit that his resistance is based upon the idea that able-bodied people should not be paid not to work, that is its practical import.

Then the dunderhead chorus piped up:
  • Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu incredulously equated the entire flawed spending bill with the interests of the state, noted Republican opposition to it, and then stated, “Those interests don’t always line up. It puts the governor at risk of sending mixed messages.… Louisiana should be very aggressive in going to get this money.”
  • State Sen. Lydia Jackson couldn’t grasp grant procedures in opining, “How do we tell Washington that we don’t want this money but that we want other sources of federal aid?”
  • State Sen. Robert Adley got confused about the entire grant philosophy when he argued, “Our issue is that it is tax money that has been sent there by the taxpayers of Louisiana and we should get our fair share.”

    Let’s deal with this ignorance one remark at a time, using Jindal’s statement on the matter as a starting point: “The federal government, Congress, it’s their right to go and say, ‘We will give you these dollars if you make these changes.’ It’s also our right to say, ‘We don’t think this change is good for Louisiana.’ ” And in this case, he is absolutely right about the undesirability of this particular change, so not only does Landrieu creates a false dichotomy when he equates the spending as in the state’s interest and only partisan considerations triggering opposition, he is exactly wrong in not admitting the long-term impact of the law will be to harm the state. There are no mixed messages here at all: rejecting much of the bill (if Jindal had been really bold he would have included other rejections like extension of unemployment benefits and increased amounts that only will delay recovery by creating incentives not to work) is in the best interests of the state and Landrieu appears entirely confused about this.

    Jackson’s comment shows, despite years in elective office, that she has no idea how all of this works. Jindal’s statement speaks equally to her denseness as well in that states legally are perfectly free to refuse federal money, an obtuseness on her part born of her liberal political ideology that demands the maximal spending of money by government because in its removal of resources from the people and redistribution by government of them it gives politicians like her more power and privilege. In other words, the statement reflects such a narrow-mindedness that she cannot consider for one moment why government should refuse spending money (unless perhaps it’s on something necessary like national defense which doesn’t transfer money to a preferred constituency).

    Adley, also a veteran legislator, shows more philosophical then procedural vapidity concerning the grant process but betrays the same liberal mentality that it is government’s primary job to take money from some and give it to others. A “fair share” exists only when it benefits all citizens equally, but that’s clearly not the case with the rejected funds which would have gone from the broader, working population that pays most taxes to a small segment that would choose not to work and thereby pay little in taxes. There is no “fairness” to that arrangement at all. Even more disturbingly, Adley seems to promote the idea that a state should accept funds regardless of their purpose without some examination of the policy behind it. For example, just because it was there would Adley accept increased federal funding devoted to abortion if the federal government mandated that it go to more killings of the unborn?

    Sadly, too many of our elected officials in Louisiana display such sub-par mental acuity in evaluating important issues of the day. Unable to think critically, they fall back upon simplistic ideology. Happily, Jindal can think for himself. He is to be applauded for making the right call, and let us hope he is as vigilant regarding all aspects of this injurious new law.

    Anonymous said...

    Landrieu is an idiot so he'll be a good fit as mayor of New Orleans. A continuation of the current situation...

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks Jeff for giving Jindal credit for doing what is right. Too many editors and talk show host have been critizing Jindal for "running for President" instead of running the state. Bobby has the best interest of the state and am still glad for my vote in 2007.

    Unknown said...

    Come on, Prof. Sadow. You're the one who doesn't get it.

    Hasn't anyone informed you it's Mardi Gras and all the legislators who want to say "Look what I did" to their districts keep yelling, "Throw me my fair share, Mister!".

    Who cares where the money comes from, or what strings are attached for the future?

    Anonymous said...

    We need more people like you who are willing to give credit where credit is due. I don't think there can be a better signal to the country that Louisiana is willing to change than to have a Governor who is willing to look behind the gift wrap and consider the long-term effects of acceptance of these funds and then kindly refuse them. I was happy to be directed to this site through Dead Pelican. I'll be back.

    Anonymous said...

    I wish I had the time to write blogs during my work hours. In any case, Jindal does not care about what is to about to happen to Louisiana's education - he just wants to position himself for the presidential run in 2012.

    Anonymous said...

    Talk about ideological rigidity - Jeff, you certainly show yours.
    You go from talking about "people who quit their jobs for various reasons and to part-time workers" to "a small segment that would choose not to work." Such compassion! Such disregard for the growing class of unemployed!

    The ideological regidity that you and the Replubicans in Ccngress are showing is sending the conservative movement over a cliff. Jindel won't have a chance in the next presidental race.

    Anonymous said...

    To me there seems to be a difference between "Ideological rigidity" and having a back bone. Standing up to a party that seems, at best, to want to give the future of this country away through what they call stimulus by voting on something that no one reads! Pork laden that will cause very few jobs. I sure hope that someone would have the backbone to say 'enough'.

    And speaking of ideological rigidity...Robert Adley is a prime example of that. One day a Democrat then the next day a Republican...seems he has a hard time figuring out exactly what he is. So i would imagine he would also have a hard time figuring out the economics...."Just get me re-elected, at ALL costs."

    Pat Austin Becker said...

    Great analysis! I've linked you in a post on my blog - hope you don't mind.

    "dunderhead chorus" - love that!