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Landrieu's silly statements serve his electoral purposes

Perhaps it’s out of spite for an attempt to cut some aspects of his budget severely, or maybe because his big sister got herself reelected for another six years so he can speak freely without negatively impacting her chances, or it could be the siren song of the only office he’s really cared about is calling him again less than a year from its settlement, but regardless of the motivation for his remarks about the budget submitted by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, the content of them shows Democrat Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu can sound like a dunce yet simultaneously win over a preferred constituency.

Last month Landrieu, who has no constitutional authority over the state’s spending process, inserted himself into the budgetary debate by opining that it strategy of cuts was unwise. From his testimony, it appeared somebody had prepared some briefing for him, even if some of the assumptions and assertions were ludicrous. But after some remarks yesterday, it would appear on the surface that this preparation never happened, or Landrieu forgot what he read, or he has made a conscious decision to be as disingenuous and oblivious as possible.

Landrieu again took up the budget topic, declaring that the Jindal budget in the process of being tweaked by the Legislature featured across-the-board cuts. Landrieu might want to read, or have summarized for him, that very budget because in it the Jindal Administration went to some lengths to target cuts, focusing on priorities subject to existing constitutional and legal strictures. In no sense did Jindal decide to cut indiscriminately, so Landrieu either is ignorant about this or spreading false information.

He also criticized that the cuts fell disproportionately on health care and higher education (and, he didn’t directly add, on the few state government functions he oversees) – but given the strictures, that can’t be helped. And that’s probably a problem Landrieu himself helped to create while serving in the Legislature. It would be interesting to review how many times Landrieu voted for eventual statutory and constitutional funds dedications, or for the laws that set up the process for handling projected budget deficits. It’s a sleight-of-hand – create the problem and then blame others for not handling it the way you would like on the terms you imposed – of which observers should note.

It seems that Landrieu also is clueless about state needs, which he claims the state has many that are unmet. That ignores the obvious that for many years they have developed not from revenue difficulties, but from stupid spending decisions, on things like reservoirs, sports teams, rounds of golf, slush funds, and the like. Again, it would be interesting to go back to Landrieu’s voting record in the Legislature and to discover whether he approved of spending tens of million of dollars to dig holes in the ground and fill them with water, to give the governor a fund to let legislators dole out money to privileged interest groups, etc. The stench of hypocrisy might by overwhelming.

Finally, Landrieu gave a full demonstration with just how out of touch with reality he is. He asserts that cuts in services will anger many “voters,” and that the Jindal budget typifies a mistaken strategy that “the outcome is not just to make expenditures meet revenues.” Thus, he supports repealing for three years the income tax cuts passed last year, and lauds governors like California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger who earlier this year won approval of a $14 billion tax increase to cover in part his state’s $42 billion deficit – a telling example as California repeatedly has raised taxes so that they now are the highest in the nation, yet the state still has hemorrhaged money for years in part because of an every-escalating tax burden that discourages economic development coupled with large spending increases.

Note the assumptions made here by Landrieu, the most prominent of which being that state spending is not deserving of being cut. It would be interesting, if not unprecedented, for Landrieu to justify all the spending presently going on in state government and saying we need tax increases to support it. (This could provide comic relief he if took the same approach as when defending his own department.) Here he continues to depend also on the fiction that the Jindal budget was put together haphazardly with only an eye on cutting spending to the exclusion of all else. I will now type this slowly so that even Landrieu can keep up – the Jindal budget made careful weighing of priorities inclusive of the idea that tax increases would do more harm to the state’s revenue situation over time; just because you don’t like them does not negate that fact, and to therefore say the cuts were without thought betrays either political gamesmanship on your part, or outright stupidity.

And there is a reason why cuts of this nature fall so disproportionately on these areas – because the dedications that constrain deficit reduction came about because their constituencies were relatively less able to make compelling cases to prevent their exclusion. Perhaps no state, measured both in quantitative terms regarding the proportion of its citizenry who attended college and in qualitative terms given prevailing attitudes about the value of higher education, treasures less higher education than does Louisiana, and the vast majority of health care expenditures on which the state must fund being for the indigent were shaped more for political interests than for the indigent. So any service cuts to those areas at best will rile distinct minorities (the higher education establishment and institutional health care providers), not the public at large that has little contact with either, so Landrieu’s prediction of voter anger has little chance of coming to pass.

However, these kinds of statements he needed to say to appeal not to the state as a whole, but rather to his narrow constituency – the New Orleans electorate, its majority comprised of people who pay little or no income taxes anyway and who disproportionately utilize government benefits that are scheduled for reduction. While Landrieu may have demonstrably silly ideas about the Jindal budget, do not mistake this lightweight posture masks a calculating politician. More than anything else, Landrieu wants to be mayor of New Orleans (having failed twice already), but recognizes his white face presents challenges with a majority-black electorate. He may spout nonsense, but it is based on the worldview widely believed in New Orleans and responsible for the city’s steep decline over the past decades.

In the final analysis, while Landrieu’s commentary on the budget seems entirely puerile, do not forget that with them his real objective is not to add compelling substance to the debate, but to position himself for his next electoral aspiration.


Anonymous said...

Ah, but the chicken plant bailout is totally OK, and Jindal doesn't have higher aspirations for public office. The glue you're sniffing must make for a pleasant high.

James S said...

The Anonymous commenter would have to agree that landrieu has that most important qualification to be mayor of New Orleans-a healthy dose of stupidity. The man's a clown but I don't think even he would be as bad for NOLA as noggin...

Anonymous said...

Jindal has the proper amount of stupidity to be Louisiana governor as well, apparently.

Anonymous said...

The chicken plant deal proves that Jindal's opposition to the bailout was strictly partisan. And so's this site. The opposition to Landrieu is purely a social thing, dressed in ideological terms. Jinda's on your team, in your tribe, so you can't say much bad about him. You ascribe to people on the other team traits that are easily evident to leaders of your team. It's disgusting.