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27.10.22

Not worst, but bad news coming for LA Democrats

Early voting in Louisiana has commenced and data from the most recent poll of the Senate contest shows the biggest question about it is whether existing elite Democrats can hang onto power in their own party and whether the party stays relevant.

Public Policy Polling, aligned with leftist interests and somewhat notorious for its willingness to push voters but also much less expensive, conducted one in early October. To nobody’s surprise, incumbent Republican Sen. John Kennedy lapped the field, whose 53 percent indicates unsurprisingly he would win without a runoff.

That was the case even with the push question included, which asked about willingness to vote for him upon realizing he voted against the Democrats’ massive special interest-fueled spending bill from this summer. Rather embarrassingly for the pollster, respondents said overall they would become more likely to support Kennedy knowing that. (This can’t be good news for the state’s other GOP senator, Bill Cassidy, who voted for it.)

26.10.22

Perkins tax gambit fails to absolve his failure

Shreveport Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins has been trying to post a lot of wins lately in his bid to retain his job, but his reading of tax accountability and roads responsibility won’t be one of these.

Over the past month, Perkins has trotted out a series of alleged policy-making victories as he makes the case to win reelection. He boasted about a drop in crime over the past several months, even as it remains higher than when he assumed office and won’t drop at all over his term unless the recent trend continues. He crowed about building a whole new ballpark at the Fairgrounds and bringing in a minor league baseball team, even as it remained entirely uncertain whether that ever could happen or what the city would pay and the city still must deal with a half-demolished hunk of an old stadium. He bragged that he launched, in conjunction with the library system, free wireless Internet provision in some parts of town although without a plan to continue funding its operation as its capital costs came from one-time money. Plus, the city filed suit against its former consent decree contractor, claiming improprieties to claw back hundreds of millions of dollars that it probably won’t see again even as three or four times that amount remains to be spent in meeting a timetable unlikely to be attained.

Of course, in that span he suffered some losses he rather would have avoided. Chiefly, a former employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit contending that he was fired, backed by Perkins, because he revealed financial irregularities with payroll and Perkins’ travel expenses. That came on the heels of a Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s report confirming the legal problems behind the travel expenses.

25.10.22

Sensible sales decision escapes BC on other items

The only thing worse than a governing authority making an unpopular decision is subsequently butchering its implementation, as Bossier City discovered with its new $12 parking fee at the city-owned, money-losing Brookshire Grocery Arena. Which should teach it a lesson in intruding into matters better handled by the private sector it finally tentatively seems ready to learn after decades.

With little publicity, at the beginning of the month the city revealed the new fee, to be collected in a cashless form using smartphone applications. It went into effect for an Oct. 7 concert, and social media lit up afterwards with horror stories about how the system didn’t work. Complaints about incredible lag times if being able to connect at all, double charging some, or not charging others filled posts and comments, which also extended to general justifiable griping such as poor air conditioning performance and restrooms barren of supplies. No doubt a portion of these filtered to city councilors.

Citizens justifiably were outraged, as not only do they own the building awash in red ink, but now they have to pay for parking next to their own white elephant. Since 2010, a budget year which ended with the Arena Special Revenue Fund that tracks the profitability of the arena having a balance of -$261,284, through last year the facility has lost $6,413,517, requiring $6,953,663 in transfers from other city revenues to leave a balance of $278,863. And, this doesn’t count the tens of millions of dollars spent since then for maintenance.

24.10.22

Edwards politicized kid jab flip-flop exposed

On the issue of Wuhan coronavirus vaccinations for students, Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards keeps finding his ideology putting him into politically embarrassing situations.

Last year, Edwards went gung ho on making Louisiana only one of two states that would force schoolchildren to receive such a vaccination, unless parents opted out. His Department of Health promulgated a rule to take effect this fall to do that, then after a House of Representatives panel vetoed that he overruled it. His action fit the politicized nature that marked his policy-making in this area that sought to leverage the issue as a method to increase command and control by government over the citizenry.

However, the evidence against such unwise policy, clear then, became even more so as the calendar changed to this year. The “vaccine” isn’t one but merely a prophylactic that more often than not prevents virus contraction or reduces its impact; it doesn’t prevent transmission, and as the virus involves increasingly doesn’t even work as a prophylactic. And, as almost no children of school age contracting it suffered more than minor symptoms, much less died from it, there was little reason to make vaccination a default condition for attending classes. Worse, there still is medical uncertainty about whether the vaccines, the first ever based upon messenger RNA, have serious long-term side effects, most specifically heart conditions concerning male youths, posing questions that may take decades to resolve that makes discretion the better part of valor.

23.10.22

Right call to bounce adviser willing to pursue ESG

There’s good reason for Louisiana Republican Treasurer John Schroder and the State Bond Commission he heads to have ended a dozen-year relationship with a firm that advises the SBC: because they found one more knowledgeable therefore likely to make better decisions.

Current adviser Lamont Financial Services found itself ousted last week when the SBC voted to award the contract to Public Resources Advisory Group (PRAG), which has similar deals with 18 other states. The adviser makes recommendations for financing deals looking for the lowest interest rates on state debt.

Although Lamont’s longtime liaison with the state plans to retire, what probably contributed more the switch was remarks made by its founder Bob Lamb about the role of “environmental/social/governance” criteria in making decisions. ESG is a somewhat nebulous concept but typically means making investing decisions on the basis of these nonpecuniary objectives. Increasingly a number of investment funds have included these criteria that brings up controversy because political viewpoints define these. This could mean, for example, a fund won’t invest in a certain industry because of its area of business, or a certain business because of labor practices, or a certain country because of its system of government over ideological displeasure with these.

Schroder has declared that he will not do business with entities that practice viewpoint discrimination, specifically mentioning banks that won’t lend to businesses related to firearms and funds that use ESG criteria, which connotes viewpoint discrimination, and has hinted that the state may end sharing of information with credit rating agencies that use ESG as part of their process. Another SBC member, GOP Atty. Gen Jeff Landry, has issued an opinion how ESG criteria likely runs afoul of state law in a number of areas.

But when queried about ESG exclusion, Lamb sounded skeptical, arguing that by automatically excluding those kinds of vendors the state may miss out on better deals. For its part, the senior managing director of PRAG, Wendell Gaertner, during the vetting expressed that ESG should receive no special emphasis.

As it is, the data support the idea to disregard ESG when it comes to investing. A Harvard Business Review article earlier this year summarizes the most recent research into whether investment by ESG principles has any impact on returns, with an answer that if it does likely it would be negative

Specifically, funds with articulated ESG objectives generally fare more poorly in financial terms than the universe of funds. And while investors might wish to sacrifice returns to achieve the political results, in fact funds specifically chasing ESG often don’t even attain those goals compared to funds without specific criteria, with one study revealing on labor and environmental rules that they have worse compliance than funds that don’t have such criteria. Even more interestingly, when explicitly ESG funds added companies in which to invest, those additions didn’t improve compliance by those firms.

Indeed, public relations appears as a major motivator to specific ESG pledges. ESG scores of company signatories to the United Nations’ Principles of Responsible Investment didn’t improve once a firm signed on and their financial returns were lower and risk higher than non-signers. Some evidence shows that companies publicly embrace ESG as a tactic to explain away poor financial performance, using it as an excuse.

In sum, the authors speculate that prudent managers take a variety of factors into their decision-making, ESG included, and that following an ESG strategy distorts that by overemphasizing it to the detriment of return. Thus, “[t]he conclusion to be drawn from this evidence seems pretty clear: funds investing in companies that publicly embrace ESG sacrifice financial returns without gaining much, if anything, in terms of actually furthering ESG interests.”

Schroder and the SBC got it right. They owe citizens the best fiduciary stewardship of their money, and advice that treats ESG objectives on par with returns disserves the public on that account, the evidence shows.