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More proof of expansion's wealth redistribution

It keeps getting worse for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana as further research fortifies the conclusion that it operates largely as another form of welfare designed to redistribute wealth.

Earlier this month, the Foundation for Government Accountability issued a report highlighting the facet of expansion its advocates desperately don’t want the larger public to know: a significant portion of those made eligible and enrolling in it already had or could afford insurance, and in enrolling merely relieved themselves of that expense which they transferred to taxpayers, many of whom must foot their health insurance out of their own resources. And in that document, Louisiana figured prominently.

That research focused on the segment of the population most likely to take advantage of the sweet deal, those families earning 100 to 150 percent of the federal poverty limit. Any under 138 percent qualify for expansion, but from 100 percent up to that – about 85 percent of the total cohort – they also can qualify to receive (very generous, often on the order of 90 percent or more) premium support to buy insurance through exchanges. However, the law forces them into Medicaid if they qualify for it.


Next excuse up: surplus needed for the children

That the explanations keep changing surely indicates the inherent dishonesty by those forwarding the rationalizations, Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards keeps reminding.

Remember when Edwards insisted that Louisiana needed to keep, if not all, at least part of a sales tax increase to prevent emergent budget deficits? Instead, federal tax law changes made that retained increase superfluous and prompted a historic run of overtaxation.

So, he, his administration, and his allies searched for new justifications behind the tax increase that will hang around the people’s neck and the resultant over-funding government for the next five-and-a-half years. Several versions have come out since: the overflow can replenish the Budget Stabilization Fund and pensions funds, it can go towards capital outlay, and/or it would provide a buffer in case of a national economic downturn (to match the one already underway during Edwards’ term).


LA public defense needs to help itself first

It’s a new year, but the same two stories for the Louisiana Public Defense Board and the system it oversees: a need for additional resources, but also a failure of its districts to help themselves.

This year, dire warnings of system collapse came in front of a task force set up to review criminal justice changes that went into effect last year. About 57 percent of all indigent defense funding comes from local sources, which comes from a $45 fee assessed to those convicted and those who forfeit bonds, a $40 application fee, $2 of a $15 fee for every bond posted in a district, a cut of bond license proceeds paid by bailsmen, another bond forfeiture fee, partial reimbursement by clients, and any monies provided by grants or local governments.

In recent years, system representatives have stressed the precipitous loss of fees from a decline in writing traffic tickets that go to court. With a growing number of jurisdictions opting for diversion strategies that bypass courts, the $45 fee has shrunk as a source for funding. In the 41st District (Orleans Parish), for example, in the busiest jurisdiction in the state in less than a decade the number of such tickets has shrunk (through 2017) by almost three-quarters.


Christmas Day, 2019

This column publishes every Monday through Friday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Wenesday, Dec. 25 being Christmas Day, I invite you to explore this link.


Data reveal another Medicaid expansion myth

But, Medicaid expansion!

As the data pile up, that has become a less and less satisfactory answer supposed to solve for several issues facing Louisiana:
  • It supposedly created greater access to care. It never did for many, because the proportion of clients having to wait to see a doctor on Medicaid rose by a factor of 14 after expansion
  • It supposedly saved money. It never did, because it wasted so much on ineligible enrollees and the increased wait times still had people flooding higher-cost emergency rooms
  • It supposedly paid for itself. It never did, not only because of the waste but also because it relied on tax increases that, beginning next year, won’t even cover additional taxpayer costs
  • It supposedly brought economic benefits. It never did, because the alleged benefits have fallen far short of the money extracted from the people to pay for it that could have gone to more economically productive purposes
  • It supposedly gave the uninsured health insurance. It never did, not only because of Louisiana’s anachronistic free charity care predated expansion, but that a third to a half of enrollees already had insurance


Clarify process to tame Edwards law breaking

As has become his habit, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards showed the Louisiana Constitution his index, middle, and ring fingers and said to read between the lines. Now it’s up to the Republican-majority Legislature to respond to that in a way differently from the past.

Just as he did earlier this year, Edwards last week declared he would ignore the state’s governing charter and said he planned to introduce a budget not conforming to its rules. This continues a pattern where Edwards consistently has tried to operate outside the law, only to have constitutional checks imposed by Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry and the judiciary slap him down.

That happened last spring when Edwards tried to introduce a budget that included revenues beyond what the state’s official arm for forecasting these, the Revenue Estimating Conference, had established. Put into the Constitution in 1990 to ensure reliable budgeting that didn’t depend on fantasy numbers, the panel’s four members that include representatives of the governor, House, and Senate, and an independent economist must agree unanimously to change an existing prediction.


Edwards wastes with politicized census panel

While Louisiana’s state government should strive for as accurate a census count as possible, state taxpayers shouldn’t have their money wasted on a matter infused with partisanship that is best left to local governments.

This week, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order creating a complete census count committee. These, urged by the federal government, strive to engage in activities that maximize citizen participation in the census for 2020, and almost every state plus many local governments have established these.

Census data serve many purposes, although three have implications far beyond the rest. These determine the number of House of Representatives seats for each state, create the baselines through which state and local government reapportionment take place, and underpin the distribution of $675 billion in federal grants.


On budgeting, LA GOP lawmakers face choice

On the budget, Louisiana’s Republican legislative majority will have to choose.

The strong majorities in each legislative chamber know that Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards will spend everything he can to keep inflated state government a reality. The outgoing Legislature gave him the chance by foolishly extending a temporary sales tax increase seven years. Occurring simultaneously with federal tax law changes that boosted state income tax receipts, the state likely for the next few years will take too much money from the people.

But for use the excess collection, constitutionally, must garner recognition from the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference. Here, as Republicans demonstrated earlier this month, the veto power each legislative chamber has can prevent this, in effect forcing the spending of fewer dollars. In essence, if not recognized officially even if in fact collected, the money would just pile up.


Potential insular LSU choices risky or worse

For its upcoming presidential search, the Louisiana State University System may take a turn towards insularity that could produce a pick either risky or unsuitable.

With current Pres. King Alexander preparing to vacate the premises, by spring the System hopes to have a new leader in place, who also will head the Baton Rouge campus. Two familiar names quickly surfaced in connection with the job, neither fitting the traditional model of a doctoral holder with substantial academic experience.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Reviews of the term of Sean O’Keefe, who led LSU through the hurricane disasters of 2005, were positive. He holds only a masters degree and had spent just a few years in academia prior to his appointment. However, he had served in a couple of high-profile George W. Bush Administration posts and had years of prior government service in high-level Department of Defense positions. (He also had insider status as part of a politically-prominent family – for better and worse – from New Orleans.)


Edwards flunky complains of separated powers

In its latest spiel of demagoguery, the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration now attacks the concept of checks and balances.

That spleen venting came courtesy of Commission of Administration Jay Dardenne, who took umbrage at the Revenue Estimating Conference’s unwillingness to approve of revenue estimates higher than the current standards from April. Although economists from his office and the Legislature said they expected higher collections for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, with three members of the panel (including Dardenne) willing to raise the official estimates by $170 million and $103 million, respectively, because the House of Representatives’ designee Republican state Rep. Cameron Henry objected, that didn’t go through.

Henry noted that waiting longer would improve forecast accuracy. History backs him up. A recent study of REC forecasting showed a typical error of 1.7 percent (excluding 2006-07 affected by the hurricane disasters of 2005), which translates over time into an $83.3 million error. About four-fifths of the time the error came on the low range, but errors have come a fifth of the time in overestimating – and four times in the past decade – and in the past decade have averaged an overestimation of about $100 million.


LA law gains from retaining KY abortion law

Next up to the plate to help remind of the sanctity of life: Louisiana.

Kentucky had a productive at bat this week when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the state’s 2017 law that required doctors to perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients before abortions. Plaintiffs had argued that practice impinged on freedom of expression, which the Court found so lacking that without comment it didn’t review lower court rulings affirming the law’s constitutionality.

The law directs a doctor, prior to performing an abortion, to perform an ultrasound; display the ultrasound images for the patient; and explain, in the doctor’s own words, what is being depicted by the images. There is no requirement that the patient view the images or listen to the doctor’s description. The doctor also must auscultate the fetal heartbeat but may turn off the volume of the auscultation if the patient so requests.


End access incentive to give away tax dollars

If the Louisiana Legislature won’t reform campaign finance laws that convey questionable benefits to elected officials, at least it can change ethics laws in the narrow area of sporting and cultural events.

Back in the news whenever a big sporting event becomes relevant – in this instance Louisiana State University making the college Football Bowl Subdivision playoffs with the national championship game held in New Orleans – is the policy of some organizations to give legislators preferred access to tickets.

LSU does this when some of its teams qualify for postseason action, and in a larger sense that’s not controversial. It’s a state agency and as legislators pay full price – necessary because a ticket is a “thing of economic value” that would run afoul of ethics laws – there’s no foul. All they receive is the same head-of-the-line option to purchase tickets as do season ticket-holders.


LA's odd culture, primary can subvert electorate

It’s a testament to Louisiana’s offbeat political culture and obscurant election regime that House Democrats could have any meaningful influence in the next legislative term starting in 2020.

This fall, voters put 68 Republicans into the House of Representatives, leaving just 35 Democrats and two no-party legislators. That’s an all-time low for Democrats and an all-time high for Republicans since 1880.

Yet in the race for Speaker of the House, a candidate for whom two-thirds of the votes for could come from Democrats with just a smattering of GOP supporters might capture that office. In a radio interview last week, Republican state Rep. Alan Seabaugh described a situation where GOP state Rep. Clay Schexnayder could win with this coalition over Republican state Rep. Sherman Mack, who has the backing of most and the more conservative Republicans in the incoming chamber. Later this week, chamber Republicans will meet to hash out the party’s presumed choice.


Trump bails out Edwards on SNAP policy

Despite Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ narrow reelection win, Louisiana government will shrink a bit and its economy will get a boost.

Thank the Republican Pres. Donald Trump Administration for both. Even though in a relative sense Louisiana had the worst state economy under Edwards, in an absolute sense the state’s economy actually improved in some ways – because of Trump policies, in spite of Edwards policies. Even the leakiest boat rose with the economic prosperity Trump policies of lower taxes and reduced and revised regulations with an eye towards unleashing private sector activity; it isn’t hard to see how a victory by his Democrat competitor Hillary Clinton would have prevented all of this and, at best, continue the worst recovery since World War II, instead of the country experiencing the Trump economic boom.

And this saved Edwards. Because Trump policies could mask to some extent the anti-growth, pro-big-government agenda of Edwards and its deleterious economic consequences, this kept enough people from feeling dissatisfied enough to follow the example of other states in the past five years whose electorates booted out governors for better relative economic performances.


Ailing LA towns need added scrutiny, action

Ailing municipalities in Louisiana have caught the eye of the Legislative Auditor, but need to grab greater attention from policy-makers.

Recently, the Auditor began publicizing a list of 18 such cities, towns, and villages. It doesn’t include a half-dozen that already have had or will have the state take over their functions precisely because of an inability to pay bills or to provide services. This posting reflects the increasing number of entities that have run into trouble.

While municipalities that make the unfortunate grade fell prey to a number of factors that put them in fiscal peril, almost all of these are self-inflicted. The only one that isn’t, more than trivial depopulation, among these two dozen applies in only half of the cases.


More precise analysis needed for LA elections

Even as Louisiana’s 2019 state elections fade temporally, imprecise analysis continues to obscure its larger electoral patterns and consequences.

A previous post dispensed with the notion that Louisiana followed a supposed national trend of suburbs indiscriminately lending support to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ narrow reelection. That view presupposed that some suburbanites converted their voting preferences.

However, as previously noted, whatever new support Edwards picked up came disproportionately from the changing demographic composition of some state suburbs, almost exclusively Jefferson Parish. Compared to other less mature suburb parishes, Jefferson had substantially higher minority population while its median household income tracked more to the state average than the higher number seen in most other suburban parishes.


Senate choosing Cortez blow to Edwards

The slim hopes of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards to advance his agenda in a second term became even more microscopic if one media outlet’s story is accurate.

The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that enough votes have lined up behind Louisiana state Sen. Page Cortez to make him Senate president for the next four years. No other independent source has confirmed this yet, nor has Cortez himself.

If this comes to fruition, it will mark the first instance in decades of the chamber electing its leader without gubernatorial interference. It did, midway through Republican former Gov. Buddy Roemer’s term, replace Roemer’s backed leader with one of its own choosing supported by Democrat former Gov. Edwin Edwards who would defeat Roemer two years later.


Kennedy needs comment clarification again

So, did Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy finally step off the ledge this time?

Last week, Kennedy provoked commentary on two national media appearances. In the first, he said that the Ukraine may have sponsored hacking of former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton campaign computers. In the second, he said he had misunderstood the question to be one of general election interference, that he never meant to say Ukraine backed hacking, and that he would stand by a characterization that the Ukraine did try to interfere in that 2016 election.

This clarification brought partisan attacks from the media, both nationally and in the state, long on assertion but short on factual basis. In essence, meticulously compiled investigative journalism reports which never have been refuted (although recently one of the original reporting media outlet tried to downplay the information by relying heavily on semantics) support Kennedy’s stance.


Kennedy unfairly suffers media's long knives

Welcome to the big time, Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy, and all the liberal media slings and arrows that come with that.

Those who have followed Louisiana politics for the past two decades know Kennedy as an entertaining quote machine about a range of subjects (some not always directly connected to the policy aspects of his job) that resonated well with the state’s public. In part because of that, he could have sent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards back to Tangipahoa Parish courthouse politicking with ease in this fall’s elections.

But in his two years in Washington, the national media have picked up on his quotability and he receives attention out of proportion to his status as a very junior senator. Probably no freshman garners as much airtime on national networks as does he, with the possible exception of Missouri’s Republican Sen. Josh Hawley.


Suburbs, not suburbanites, changing in LA

Paint political phenomena with too broad of a brush and your risk erroneous analysis, which some observers did regarding Louisiana’s 2019 gubernatorial election.

In the wake of incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards narrow win over Republican Eddie Rispone, some analysts identified voting patterns in suburbs as a key. Rispone easily dispatched Edwards in rural parishes in winning 40 of the state’s 64 parishes, while Edwards countered with an overwhelming victory in Orleans (New Orleans) and comfortable wins in East Baton Rouge (Baton Rouge) and Caddo (Shreveport).

Given that Edwards outlasted Rispone by only around 40,000 votes, it might appear that “suburbs” made the difference. Jefferson Parish, just west of Orleans, gave four-sevenths of its vote to Edwards, and in East Baton Rouge, where about half the population doesn’t live in the city, Edwards took two-thirds of those ballots.


LA reapportionment drama looms in 2021

In two years’ time will occur perhaps the most lasting single consequence of Louisiana’s 2019 state elections, reapportionment.

By the end of 2021, the state must have districts drawn representing Congress, both chambers of the Legislature, the Supreme Court and courts of appeals, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Public Service Commission, using the 2020 census data released at the end of that year. In all likelihood, this will occur by special session sometime in 2021.

Redrawing districts happens through the regular legislative process: a bill which must reach majority votes in each legislative chamber and gain gubernatorial assent defines these boundaries for each kind of government institution. If vetoed, two-thirds majorities override.


Edwards victory no model for Democrat wins

The narrow reelection of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards does nothing to change the trajectory of electoral politics both in Louisiana and in America as a whole.

One school of thought, which sticks up its head every time a Democrat at odds with his national party on a few issues wins in a jurisdiction that favors Republicans, evinces hope that Democrats as a whole can learn from the experience to steer the nation as a whole from its lean to the right that favors Republicans. We heard a version of this last week from my counterpart on radio host/entrepreneur Jim Engster’s Talk Louisiana program on Baton Rouge FM station WRKF, Mary-Patricia Wray.

Wray played a prominent role in Edwards’ 2015 campaign, but since has moved on to her own consulting business. In a discussion about the future beyond the (then undecided) governor’s race, she spoke that an Edwards win might serve as a model for Democrats going forward. She likened partisan politics and the median voter to a “pendulum,” and that the model presented might shift that pendulum representing Democrats closer to matching the median voter.


Faux conservatives crucial to Edwards win

In the 2019 Louisiana governor elections post-mortems, analysts have made a number of valid points about base activation and campaign quality (or lack thereof) to explain the narrow reelection of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. But they miss the most critical aspect of all: how a small cadre of those who call themselves conservatives ended up pulling the lever for an unambiguously liberal politician when presented with a solid, mainstream, and credible alternative in Republican Eddie Rispone decided the contest.

To explain the phenomenon, two case studies suffice. We begin with Rod Dreher, who has pretty good conservative credentials. He’s published in such places of superior conservative analysis as National Review, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, and the Washington Times. But, as he explained in his American Conservative column, he voted for Edwards.

That turns out to be a head-scratcher, to say the least:


Lessons from the 2019 LA governor's race

Louisiana learned some lessons from the conclusion of 2019 state elections, primarily focused on the gubernatorial contest – largely unflattering, but with some hope for the distant future.

Personalism still matters more than issues and ideology. Louisiana’s electorate to a degree not seen elsewhere in the Union places its emphasis on candidate images at the expense of issue preferences in its voting decisions. The state’s history of paternalistic government, its population’s lower levels of educational attainment, and its relative lack of economic development and the insularity that produces all contribute to this being out of step with the nation as a whole and even makes it distinct compared to its regional neighbors.

Louisiana voters, even as this aspect of the political culture continues to erode, disproportionately don’t incorporate and analyze information about candidate records and preferences in making their decisions, preferring to supplanting that with vague perceptions (often influenced by negative advertising that has little to do with reality) about candidates as leaders and providers of things. In essence, the fog created by personalistic appeals obscures the ability of many to vote in their own self-interests (such as this guy, who should know better).


Results reconfirm LA as banana republic

Yesterday, Louisiana proved it’s not yet ready for primetime because, as the state’s junior senator suggested, too many Louisianans are happy with crappy.

Runoffs for 2019 state elections could have resulted in a different story. At their conclusion, had several things happened the erosion of living standards and opportunity for the majority that begun under Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards could have commenced. Tax relief, putting government on a small diet, more efficient use of funds, increased personal responsibility from those receiving government largesse, fiscal reform that rewards initiative rather than encouraging dependency and rent-seeking, and tort reform would have followed had conservative Republicans hit the perfecta.

They almost got it. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will continue to implement education reform based upon accountability and choice as intended under reforms instituted by GOP former Gov. Bobby Jindal, with the election of Republican Ronnie Morris to District 6 that will give that bloc a healthy majority. The Louisiana Supreme Court will retain a majority open to curtailing tort overreach and jackpot justice with the election of Republican Will Crain to District 1.


Day of reckoning here for LA political culture

Saturday's gubernatorial election marks an inflection point for Louisiana’s political culture in two ways, in both products and processes, with a profound impact on the state’s future.

A victory by challenger Republican businessman and novice politician Eddie Rispone would demonstrate a critical mass for evolution of that political culture has occurred. A win for incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards temporarily extends the life of a dying superstructure.

The Edwards vision emanates squarely from Louisiana’s past, a century-old ideology that divides society into exploiters and the exploited, the favored few and the multitudinous unfortunate, and the rescuers and their charges. It proffers a Manichean view of society with enemies of the state, who have used good luck and dastardly behavior to put them in a position to earn too much and have too much, against everybody else, with only government able to tame the oppressing class through redistribution of power and resources that benefits all (although this process inevitably provides opportunities for the elites overseeing it to acquire power and privilege as their price for aiding the unwashed).


Kennedy impeachment intent doctrine fails

News show favorite Louisiana’s usually perspicacious Republican Sen. John Kennedy as always remained glib but missed the mark when he commented about the partisan impeachment circus currently in Washington, DC.

Appearing on a Sunday morning show, Kennedy argued that Republican Pres. Donald Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian Pres. Volodymyr Zelensky where Trump discussed that the Ukraine uphold treaty obligations in assisting on a corruption probe that included the son of Democrat former Vice Pres. Joe Biden – a potential challenger in 2020 – possibly could be an impeachable offense. During the call, Trump never mentioned military aid, which had been negotiated but not yet delivered. Zelensky didn’t even know the aid, which showed up three months later, as of the call had not arrived, nor did he feel like Trump was bargaining with him. In fact, the Ukraine has yet to pursue Trump’s request to provide any investigatory assistance.

Nonetheless, Democrats have declared the episode worthy of impeachment and conviction to remove Trump from office. Kennedy largely disagrees, with one exception:


Early voting small advantage to Edwards

So, early voting statistics for this Saturday’s contest predict a Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards reelection? Not so fast, my readers.

At the conclusion of early voting this weekend, about 115,000 more people voted early than in the general election of Oct. 12. This set an all-time record for early turnout proportion – although history suggests that won’t last long, as early voting for the 2020 elections that features the presidential race should surge past it.

But, significantly, the proportion of blacks in early voting rose from around 25 to 31 percent from the general election to runoff, undoubtedly spurred by efforts of special interest groups to round up and deliver them to early voting locations in larger parishes (typically two locations). As roughly of 90 percent of blacks will vote for Democrats, this gives a boost to Edwards and others of his party running in down-ballot contests (although only a handful of state-level contests went to a runoff featuring major party matchups, and in every case leaving Republicans heavily favored).


Veterans Day, 2019

This column publishes every Monday through Friday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Monday, Nov. 11 being Veterans' Day, I invite you to explore the links connected to this page.


Worse schools, less likely to support change

Not only do the just-released school and district accountability scores in Louisiana speak to the educational quality and pace of improvement within the state’s elementary and secondary education, these also illuminate how many Louisianans vote against their own self-interests.

The state’s Department of Education announced yesterday the scores, which federal law requires that it computes. Overall, these showed improvement from 2018, particularly among worse-performing schools. Tempering that good news, about 17 percent of schools ended up classified as “struggling,” while 44 percent had at least one student sub-population of interest classified as that.

However, out of all of this comes a fascinating nugget of electoral and political importance. A relationship exists between the quality of a school district and vote in the 2019 gubernatorial general election. Specifically, the worse the schools perform, the more votes for Democrats in that election.


Leftists increasing LA early voting efforts

If reelection of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards goes down in flames, it won’t be for lack of trying by one far left Louisiana special interest group.

Edwards finds himself locked in a tight reelection battle against Republican Eddie Rispone. Further, in the general election his candidacy didn’t seem to generate as much enthusiasm among Democrats, especially blacks, as seems necessary to win.

However, one group aims to change that, and it’s off to a good start. The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice launched efforts at the commencement of early voting last Saturday to get as many people, very disproportionately black and Democrat, to the polls.


Edwards lies again about Medicaid expansion

Election season lies just keep coming from Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards about Medicaid expansion.

Edwards has held up expansion as a major accomplishment of his tenure, despite flimsy arguments in its favor. Throughout his reelection campaign he has touted how it brought insurance to many who didn’t have it and attributed care received under it as care that otherwise never would have occurred. In fact, as many as nearly half of all expansion enrollees already had privately-paid insurance and the remainder had access to care at the state’s charity hospitals. (And in any event, the health benefits allegedly conveyed by expansion are wildly overblown.) Further, about a tenth of enrollees at the peak were ineligible – largely because upon entering office Edwards’ Department of Health deliberately weakened verification standards – wasting $500 million a year in inappropriate payments.

That fact alone falsifies the idea that expansion “saved” money – an argument that almost made sense in 2016 when the federal government paid for all but several million dollars in administrative costs. But the tens of millions of state dollars wasted through inappropriate payments cancels any economic benefits from rerouting tax dollars from other states to pump through Louisiana (while Louisianans also see their federal tax dollars going elsewhere to pay for other states’ expansions) – even as an Edwards Administration-financed report erroneously inflated claims of economic benefits and left out other important data that left it almost useless to understanding expansion’s economic impact.


Edwards politicizes "reform," capital outlay

If Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has shown anything in his just about four years in office, it’s that he plays politics ruthlessly with state money in his quest to create an image and to hold onto power.

During his reelection campaign, Edwards has touted certain capital outlay projects and “savings” from criminal justice changes he promoted. The latter claimed it could lower the state’s incarceration rate without an increase in crime and thereby save money, by diverting nonviolent offenders and releasing others early. Money retained would go into the general fund and programs that supposedly would reduce recidivism.

But a review of the outcomes indicates that benefits from these – money for criminal justice efforts and projects benefitting local areas – often didn’t materialize in areas where Edwards has faced criticism from other elected officials. Indeed, Edwards on projects has gone out of his way to deny these to specific legislators critical of his policies.


Lying, panicked Edwards sees himself behind

The last Louisiana gubernatorial debate confirmed what other signs had indicated: Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards thinks he’s going to lose reelection.

Up to that point, the Edwards reelection had brought to battle some weaponry of questionable effectiveness in its quest to outpace Republican businessman Eddie Rispone in the runoff. It has replicated the 2015 playbook in attacking your runoff opponent, but this time with a distinct lack of ammunition. So, it has treated the public to ranting about Rispone’s ties to someone who similarly has donated copiously to conservative candidates, complaining that Rispone wouldn’t show up to every single candidate forum that issued invitations, and asserting that voters don’t know what they would get with Rispone in the Governor’s Mansion. In turn, this makes Rispone, according to Edwards, allied with corruption, shirking his duties, and too much of a risk in office.

These charges are, of course, nonsense, but they do serve the purpose of distracting from Edwards’ dismal record in office with – considering Louisiana can’t create jobs under his watch, its economic growth remains anemic compared to other states, it lags them as well with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, and on a per capita basis had a higher net population loss last year than all but one state. Meanwhile, taxes were raised that cost Louisianans over $4 billion more over the course of Edwards’ term while spending from state sources increased at almost twice the rate of inflation.

Naturally, and on display at the debate, Edwards cherry-picks the few, largely meaningless picayunish statistics that run counter to the negative big picture (such as celebrating a dead cat bounce by saying for just one recent year the state’s economy grew faster than in most states; regression to the mean inevitably happens but doesn’t indicate a trend). But his campaign spends as much effort on trying to trash Rispone on phantom criteria, which Edwards again pursued almost pathologically throughout the televised forum.

In fact, viewers with no interest in Louisiana politics perhaps looking for the decisive seventh game of the World Series who stumbled across the debate might have gotten sucked into it momentarily at the sight of a wildly expressive, eyes bulging with excitement, well-dressed figure remonstrating furiously, interrupting often, and constantly complaining. They would have been surprised to know this panicked visage was that of the state’s 56th governor, looking for all the world like a backwoods Tangipahoa politician trying to gin up impressionable voters – and failing.

For the first two media questions, Rispone looked and sounded far cooler and in control than the maniac next to him. Edwards calmed down afterwards, but then towards the end had something happen indescribable except as a meltdown when Rispone needled Edwards’ on his inability to achieve fiscal reform other than by raising the sales tax. If Edwards – who a number of legislators privately admit flies into rages when he can’t bully them into toeing his line – acted this way in the Army, he couldn’t be entrusted to lead effectively even a phalanx of toilet attendants.

All in all, when considering polls show Edwards can’t reach 50 percent of the intended vote – and keep in mind these have undercounted Rispone’s support a bit and of those who claim undecided status in these most will vote for the challenger and the rest won’t show up – Edwards’ insistence on more and more debates (challengers typically want that in order to try to catch an incumbent perceived race leader into making a gaffe), and his attack strategy and unhinged debate behavior, seasoned campaign observers know indicate a candidate who thinks he’s behind and can’t win without something big and fortunate happening for him.

This standoff covered almost entirely the same ground as past efforts, save a startling admission by Edwards: he thinks Louisianans aren’t taxed enough. Referring back to a Tax Foundation report using 2012 data that showed the state with one of the lowest tax burdens – even as the interest group publicly has rebuked Edwards for using old data while more recent studies by other organizations put the state in the middle – he claimed there was room to grow on that.

Interestingly, Rispone’s one blunder of the night occurred when he mixed up this study with the most recent U.S. News annual Best States survey that keeps putting Louisiana last, although Rispone later corrected himself. Yet it wouldn’t be a 2019 debate without an Edwards fib, and this time it came over that study, which Edwards alleged used data from 2014-16 – basically, before he got things going as governor. In fact, the earliest data that study uses come from 2015 and most are in the 2017-18 period; for example, on the economy where Louisiana finished 49th, growth used 2017 data, employment 2017 and 2018 data, and business environment 2017 and 2018 data. Edwards is a bald-faced liar; with his policies he owns this awful ranking.

Maybe it’s internal polling data telling him this, or vibes he’s getting out on the campaign trail, but, from wherever, Edwards’ behavior during the debate showed all the hallmarks of somebody running behind and desperate to catch up. If that’s what he thinks, be prepared for his campaign to deliver a fortnight of obfuscation, distortion, extreme exaggerated hyperbole but, most of all, plain nastiness.


Polling puts LA governor job on knife's edge

The 2019 Louisiana gubernatorial runoff race is closer than polling even thinks.

Since the general election put incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone through to a runoff, two polls independent polls have come out taking the temperature of the race. We Ask America had the race tied at 47-all percent, while JMC Analytics gave Edwards a 48-46 lead.

That’s close, but when breaking down each poll’s assumptions, things actually tighten more. As a reference point, keep in mind that on Oct. 12 the electorate was 69.1 percent white, 27.6 percent black, and 3.3 other race; and 44.9 percent Democrat, 37.1 percent Republican, and 18 percent other/no party. Further, females comprised 55 percent of the registered electorate eligible to vote (the state doesn’t keep statistics on proportion of the electorate voting by sex).


Party, not sex, matters in LA legislative choices

In Louisiana, it’s not the sex of the candidate that matters, but their issue preferences.

The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Mark Ballard recently wrote a semi-lament about the relatively low rates of women winning election to the state Legislature. According to him, great anticipation existed that this election cycle could turn out as “the year of the woman,” with females making significant gains in the number of seats won to drag Louisiana up from the bottom of proportion of women elected to legislative seats.

Instead, not much progress in the way of numbers look set to occur. The present legislature has nine Republicans and eight Democrats among women representatives, and the Senate has two female Republicans and three such Democrats. After the runoff round concludes, likely Republicans will increase by two to 11 while Democrats could hold even at eight, while in the Senate probably the GOP will increase by one to three with Democrats maintaining three.


Edwards pushes false Rispone tale to distract

Don’t believe the latest narrative forwarded by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards pursuant to his reelection attempt, both uncritically amplified by the media and rich in irony.

The Edwards campaign has pushed a theme that gubernatorial runoff opponent Republican Eddie Rispone gives little in the way of details about his issue preferences, which media figures and special interests supporting him gleefully have picked up. Edwards himself alleged that “[n]obody has a clue what this man would do if he were governor.” My Shana Alexander last week claimed so, as have newspaper opinion columnists.

But just because something gets asserted and echoed doesn’t make it true. Let’s review the latest example of an opinion writer going wrong on this subject.


Higher education fires first in feeding frenzy

Now that it’s been fattened with excess taxpayer largesse, the first stab at Louisiana’s fatted calf has occurred, from the state’s higher education institutions following a flawed master plan.

At its meeting last week, the Louisiana Board of Regents for Higher Education expressed its desire to grab over two fiscal years for itself more than $300 million of a projected $534.8 million surplus. It wants $155.6 million to increase operational spending, or about a 15 percent increase in discretionary funding over this year’s fiscal year 2020 budget for FY 2021. Additionally, it petitioned for $150 million in capital outlay spending from the nearly $350 million potentially available for that purpose from the FY 2019 surplus, to address a wish list of $1.5 billion.

Specifically, the Board wants $36.3 million to raise faculty salaries to the southern regional average, $34 million for GO Grants to increase need-based student aid which more than doubles that, $9 million to fund fully Taylor Opportunity Program for Students merit aid, $28.7 million to reward schools for improving student outcomes, and $18.3 million to cover mandated expenses such as rising health insurance and retirement costs. This would add on to the $47 million taxpayer boost from this fiscal year.