Starting a new job can be an exhilarating experience, especially when that new position is at the wishes and consent of millions of voters. However, for Louisiana’s new governor, John Bel Edwards (D), whatever exhilaration might exist at being chosen to run the state likely turned to fright and despair when he realized just how devastating was the severe budget crisis left him by his predecessor. It is an all-too-common story in America: a Republican administration inherits a surplus and directly sends the economy into free-fall by racking up colossal deficits, and then a Democrat has to spend their time and energy cleaning up what is always an economic disaster.
Last month Louisiana’s residents were weeping and gnashing their teeth when the state’s new leadership publicly admitted that “the elite” Louisiana State University (LSU) football program was in jeopardy due to the state’s budget crisis. However, now that the full extent of the economic clusterf*ck executed by former governor Jindal and Republican legislature left for the new leadership is fully realized, it is curious there is not a mass migration out of state. Or at least mass suicides due to the seemingly hopeless economic situation another Republican put another state in.
The real tragedy is that when Jindal came into office, the state was flush with money from the federal government’s largesse after Hurricane Katrina; money Jindal promptly handed over to the rich and to corporations.
The fine folk of Louisiana may lose a lot more than their precious LSU football program thanks to the typical Republican’s trickle-down catastrophe. Former governor and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal (R) left Louisiana in such a disastrous economic mess that observers are fearful that “Louisiana may soon fundamentally cease to function as a state.”
The idea of a Republican enacting economic policies that cause a state to “cease to function” is not big news or unexpected, but it should be a clarion warning of what every Republican wants to do to America.
The economic situation Jindal’s trickle down madness left Louisiana prompted Governor Edwards to convene a second special legislative session to resolve a nearly $1 billion shortfall for the current fiscal year – the one ending in just three months. Edwards is hoping against hope that the legislature can also stave off the projected $2 billion shortfall next year. According to state economists’ estimates, the state will be unable to operate at all, much less even keep the lights on, unless politicians come up with $3 billion in a couple of days and the Republicans are not inclined to eliminate tax cuts Jindal and they enacted.
That massive shortfall will put an end to the most basic services the government typically provides; education, emergency rooms, hospitals, scholarships, safety nets for families in dire poverty, and even the agencies that guard abused and abandoned children. However, the government will continue to provide Jindal’s tax cuts for the rich because Republicans control both houses of the legislature.
If lawmakers and the governor cannot resolve the budget crisis, many Louisiana state agencies will see “Doomsday” budget cuts. Those cuts are in addition to the years of seriously drastic resource cuts Jindal already made to protect his trickle down tax cuts for the rich.
There are no agencies or departments that are not in dire jeopardy thanks to Jindal’s tax cutting madness. Education is already down 44 percent compared to when Jindal came in office, and further cuts to cover the present crisis will force schools to close. It is noteworthy, too, that Jindal squandered what little resources were allotted to education by shifting massive amounts of public school funding to his private religious “school choice” agenda.
The state’s hospitals are due for serious budget cuts to match the “doomsday” cuts to education. Hospital administrators warn that the “best-case scenario” they can hope for is that they survive on an only $64 million reductions in healthcare spending. Still, even that horrid “best-case scenario” will trigger equal reductions in federal matching funds and leave some hospitals with no other option but to close their doors; but the rich and corporations keep their tax cuts.
The entirety of this mess is attributable to Bobby Jindal’s attempt to keep pace with Kansas’ governor Sam Brownback’s undoing of Kansas’ government with economic malfeasance and unfunded trickle-down tax cuts for the very rich and corporations.
As soon as Jindal was elected, he started dismantling the state’s income tax system by cutting taxes on the rich that automatically slashed revenue to the tune of more than $800 million every year. Like George W. Bush, Jindal quickly turned considerable surpluses in equally considerable deficits; all to give the rich and corporations their tax cuts.
Despite the annual trickle-down deficits, Jindal argued, like Sam Brownback in Kansas, that the only way the state could possibly bring in more tax revenue, and solve the tax-cut induced deficits, was to double down and give the rich and corporations more tax cuts.
In fact, in 2013 Jindal tried, like Sam Brownback, to repeal taxation altogether; a move he pledged would generate more tax revenue for the government. Jindal’s attempt failed, and his next solution was giving the rich $25,500 more in tax cuts and hiking taxes on the bottom 80 percent of the population.
When Jindal was not slashing taxes for the rich and corporations, he was delivering ever-expanding “expensive giveaways to corporations that were so generous they looked less like subsidies and more like bribes.” For example, in the first 8 months of the current fiscal year the state has spent $200 million more on tax breaks for big business than it collected in business taxes. As one pundit put it, it is the “public policy equivalent of an actor handsomely paying his entourage to hang out with them.”
Faced with such inflexibility and crisis, Louisiana lawmakers now realize that facing a massive budget crisis, they are left with only dramatic options; options Democrats do not like but the legislature is controlled by the same Republicans that helped Jindal decimate the state. The Republican legislature is “considering cuts to programs that are protected by the state Constitution even in emergencies,” as well as the current doomsday across-the-board cuts to most of the state’s agencies that are not constitutionally protected. Some Democrats in the legislature want to reverse Jindal’s income tax cuts and restore the pre-Jindal era rates, but Republicans want to hike the state’s sales tax so the poor and middle class bear the burden – all to preserve the tax cuts for the rich and corporations.
For residents of Louisiana who are not rich, it is a pity that they are victims of yet another Republican administration’s deliberate economic malfeasance and demise, but it is also a prime opportunity for Democrats, nationally and at the state level, to point out that Republicans’ trickle down madness is literally destructive. It is a very bad sign when a state’s politicians and economic analysts say that Jindal’s tax cut madness means that “Louisiana may soon fundamentally cease to function as a state,” and if it was just one state it would be bad enough. But it is every Republican state that appears to exist only to give or preserve tax cuts for the rich and corporations.
Every Republican presidential candidate has proposed even more massive tax cuts than Jindal enacted in Louisiana, and if any of them wins the White House; “America may soon fundamentally cease to function as a nation.” it is, after all, exactly what Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, and Republicans have been working diligently to accomplish since their demigod Ronald Reagan was president.