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GOP, Obama, Landrieu move her closer to checkmate

Her political life continues, but the sharks definitely are circling and continue to close in on Sen. Mary Landrieu as her reelection polling numbers erode further, Republicans maneuver to leave her no way out, and the Gromyko of the White House refuses to toss her a lifeline.

The Louisiana Democrat, despite having an exceptionally liberal voting record in her 17 years in office, has survived because she began with a narrative that she was a moderate willing to buck her party on important issues to the state and expanded it to an imagery that her experience made her too effective for replacement. But (brace yourself in visualizing this metaphor) the clothes are off the empress for many, beginning with her failure to vote against the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare’), which otherwise would have defeated it. As the latest poll numbers from the Democrat-sympathetic Public Policy Polling shows, an absolute majority of registered voters loath the law that already is pricing many out of the insurance market, forcing them to change providers, encouraging rationed and less convenient care, and making some pay for the leisure activities of others.

As a result, the PPP summary notes she has an absolute majority of respondents also disliking her, a number that has continued to rise (and this trend perhaps explains why PPP had a gap of just two months from the last polls of this contest, which ballooned nearly to five months this time). In tandem, keeping in mind that the voting model here by using registered voters disproportionately favor Democrat candidates and is based upon presidential, not midterm, electorates that also favor Democrats, support for her main challenger Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy has continued to rise as has his name and party recognition. If not already, this trend threatens to become irreversible.


Edwards parrots bogus study, adds own analytical error

The political story here isn’t that an interest group put out flawed data, nor that it used that in a bogus argument, but that a Louisiana gubernatorial candidate fell for it hook, line, and sinker – again – and then added his own misinformation to compound the error.

Last week, Louisiana was one of 10 states mentioned in a report by the leftist group Good Jobs First, which criticizes government subsidies and tax breaks only to corporations as part of its government-centric, labor-friendly, static view of economic development. The report reviewed, quite selectively as pointed out by Louisiana’s Secretary of Economic Development Stephen Moret, such programs in these states and compared their costs to pension costs. It concluded that in all states reviewed these subsidies/breaks exceeded pension costs, and the gap was greatest in Louisiana. This assertion was used in support of a narrative that states ought not be trying to find ways to reduce pension costs to taxpayers when they apparently give away so much corporate largesse.

Specifically for Louisiana, the group selected $1.8 billion in corporate subsidization (which admittedly contains some speculative numbers, such as the estimate made by a Ralph Nader-connected interest group that claimed “corporate tax avoidance” cost the state nearly a half billion bucks) and determined pension costs were about $350 million a year. These costs were derived from data from the two, of four, “state” retirement systems (the nine other “statewide” systems are much smaller) presumably because the two, the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System and the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana, between them have 85 percent of all state system retirement assets.


Centenary's education commitment questioned by hike

It’s not that Centenary College asks students and their families to pay a lot more, or perhaps even at all, to make an ideological point, but it is that the school’s administration is willing to put fashion ahead of its education mission.

Last month, in this year’s State of the Union address, Pres. Barack Obama exhorted that American subnational governments (that had not yet done so) raise their minimum wage laws to $10.10 an hour. Of course, doing this, or even having such a notion as a minimum wage, betrays profound ignorance of economics. In a market system with provisions against monopoly, the market sets wages in proportion to the benefits they provide society through the activity being compensated. Artificially inflating wages only serves to channel resources inappropriately, removing them from more productive uses that if they instead went to those uses then would increase overall societal wealth, including a rise in the absolute living standards of the lowest wage earners (of which 2.9 percent of all workers make the minimum wage, of which two-thirds are part-timers, most of whom are not sole breadwinners, and half are 24 or younger).

This also promotes increased unemployment, as the pot of money (which now will grow more slowly because of the misallocation) is allowed to be divided among fewer individuals, and fewer jobs holds down the rising of levels for everybody. While some analysts, who no doubt believe that money grows on trees and in the Tooth Fairy who brings it from nowhere, argue that this increases purchasing power of the recipients which should promote economic growth, they either are too ignorant to grasp or deliberately ignore that the money is redistributed from elsewhere, and from its more productive uses. It’s nothing more than wealth redistribution for unjustifiable reasons, and an immoral act that deprives those the least able (if willing) to contribute to society by erasing their means by which to achieve this.


For outsiders to it, St. George opposition driven by greed

It’s easy to understand why opponents inside and outside of the proposed city of St. George and of a school district built around it likely following its incorporation so strenuously lobby against these: greed.

St. George would include most of the unincorporated area of East Baton Rouge Parish, which historically has been a net generator of tax dollars compared to services used. By contrast, the city of Baton Rouge has become a net debtor in comparing expenses to tax dollars generated. The same relationship to a different degree has been the case for comparing the same areas for school district purposes, although any separation of these at some point will involve construction of new facilities that may end up requiring tax increases to fund the new St. George school district, although it may well avoid them in that the present entire district itself presently has no bonded indebtedness.

Although these units are separate matters, they are linked in the minds of parish residents because the school breakaway idea came prior to the new city incorporation idea, where the latter is seen as a way of facilitating the former. While the Legislature has already approved of the separate district, it has not created a way to fund it; advocates of it hope that creation of the city, accomplished by getting a petition calling for an incorporation election of a quarter of registered voters among those living in this unincorporated area with simple majority approval, will spur the Legislature to finish the job by amending the existing district (which does not conform to the boundaries of the proposed municipality) and enabling the funding.


Bargain LA tuition means hike it more to help education

As debate launches about the appropriate funding mix for Louisiana higher education and discussion occurs about reforming free taxpayer-funded rides for its students prior to the upcoming regular session of the Legislature, usually lost in it all is the fact that Louisiana undercharges these users both in relative and absolute terms, with deleterious effects.

Over the past several years, with legislative countenance to make the process easier, rising tuition (and the addition of a small amount of fees or their increases) by the state’s higher education institutions have changed significantly the role that user charges have played in funding this enterprise. In the fiscal year that encompassed the first six months of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s initial term in office, tuition and self-generated fees paid for 26.3 percent of the $2.814 billion spent. In this fiscal year, it’s budgeted to pay for 48.7 percent of $2.629 billion. By way of example, this means over this period that resident tuition and fees at my institution have gone up for a full 12+-hour load per semester from $1,667.40 to $2,471.64, a hike of almost 50 percent.

Critics of Jindal’s budgeting and legislative acquiescence of it claim this presents an unacceptable barrier to access for cash-strapped households, and decry that the state’s contribution, directly or indirectly, has gone down hundreds of millions of dollars as a result. But such a view fails to understand that reductions seem so stark only because the state has historically so generously subsidized students – to the detriment of the system and possibly to the students themselves.