Thursday, February 04, 2016

LOUISIANA BIG LOSER IN IOWA CAUCUS!


February 4th, 2016
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

LOUISIANA BIG LOSER IN IOWA CAUCUS!

The biggest loser in the recent Iowa presidential caucuses was not Donald Trump or any of the other candidates who did not meet expectations in garnering voters.  No, the title for the real loser was, hands down, the state of Louisiana.  Because of both selfishness and a lack of any creative thinking, state officials in the Bayou State passed on the chance of receiving worldwide publicity and having hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the state’s economy.  Simply put, Louisiana blew the chance of being the first presidential primary state and reaping all the benefits.

Iowa scored the presidential Super Bowl by being the first state out of the box. The Washington Post reported that “Iowa matters.  It is the first test, coming after almost a full year of campaigning, polling, punditry and the like.”  And with all the campaigning, Iowa was the center of political attention for the past six months.  Who’s leading in Iowa?  What do Iowans think about the country’s direction?  What’s the make up of Iowa?  There was media coverage ad infinitum about a small Midwestern state best known to most of us for growing corn.

Right now, Louisiana’s presidential primary is set for March 8th, a week after Super Tuesday when the nominees could well be decided.  But what an opportunity missed. Louisiana could have held the nation’s first presidential primary at the same time as the recent gubernatorial election. No other state holds an election so close to the presidential primary season. So the Bayou State could have garnered all this same national attention and financial benefits, and for no additional cost since state elections were already taking place.

Just imagine the national media coverage and the excitement of Donald Trump dropping in a Hammond’s Hi-Ho barbeque restaurant to meet with the locals.  Or how about Hillary Clinton venturing up to Rapides Parish for a ham sandwich at Lea’s Lunchroom in LaCount? (She probably ought to pass on the famous coconut or chocolate pies.)  Senator Ted Cruz is from Texas, and would no doubt be partial to Cou-yon’s Barbecue in Port Allen.  A stop in Crowley for Marco Rubio would require a visit with B.I. Moody as he holds court each Saturday morning with the regulars at the Rice Palace Café.

And if any of the other candidates feel the necessity to actually go to Iowa, well no big deal.  They will be heartily welcomed in Iowa, Louisiana, by Mayor Carol Ponthieux.  (Pronounced “poncho” for all you Yankees and Rednecks.)   The Mayor, who puts her home phone number on the town website, will treat any of the presidential candidates to coffee and beignets at Lil Red’s.

Just how much did Louisiana lose by failing to hold the first in the nation presidential primary?  The candidates campaigning in the state of Iowa spend over $100 million.  Media outlets, consultants and campaign volunteers ran up a similar amount over the past year. Economists often quote the “economic turnover effect” of dollars spent in a local or state economy as anywhere from six to seven times.  So $200 million dropped into the Louisiana economy that turns over a number of times is certainly no small change.

So why wasn’t there an effort made to hold a presidential primary at the same time as the gubernatorial election in Louisiana this past November?  Governor Bobby Jindal quickly scuttled any initial interest in such a novel idea because of his delusional campaign for president.  His own campaign was sinking fast, and he did not want to be embarrassed by a certain poor showing in his home state.  And legislators at the time didn’t have the gumption to take on the good fight for a cause that would have brought bountiful publicity and huge financial rewards.

Louisiana will be merely a footnote when the campaign comes to an end.  Once again, a lack of vision and commitment will cause the Bayou State to be irrelevant in deciding who will lead the country.  But, at least, you can go to Iowa.  That is, Iowa, Louisiana.  It’s one of the last stops traveling I-10 on your way to Texas. But don’t expect to see anyone there campaigning for president.

******

So it’s perhaps a sign of how dire the situation is in Louisiana that Jindal’s budget was missing $3.5 million for presidential primaries, and nobody raised a fuss.
Washington Post

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.





Wednesday, January 27, 2016

ARE NEW LOUISIANA TAXES REALLY NECESSARY?


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

ARE NEW LOUISIANA TAXES REALLY NECESSARY?

Paraphrasing but updating former Louisiana Senator Russell Long’s famous saying about how to raise revenue, “We’re going tax you, we’re going tax me, we’ll even tax that guy behind the tree.”  With only a few days in office, Louisiana’s new Governor John Bel Edwards wasted no time in echoing Chicken Little’s admonition that the sky is falling when it comes to having enough revenue for the Bayou State to pay its bills.

So to keep up the current spending level, the new administration set out a whole litany of new tax proposals.  Many of us didn’t even know there were that many taxes on the books that could be raised.  Sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, utilities taxes, telephone taxes, auto excise taxes, new taxes on tobacco and alcohol, inventory taxes, insurance premium taxes, taxes on out of state Internet purchases; and this is just the list of new taxes on the Average Joe out there.

Most of these taxes are regressive and fall heavily on the ordinary working family.  If this new governor was supposed to be a liberal democrat, you sure couldn’t tell it by his tax proposals.  Remember, this is the candidate who campaigned for governor on the assertion that the current fiscal mess could be addressed without raising any new taxes. While campaigning, the new governor said Louisiana has “a spending problem.”

Taxpayers keep hearing about a $750 million budget shortfall that has to be addressed in the next 5 ½ months, then an additional $1.9 billion hole for the following year.  But here’s the fallacy the governor and legislators want to ignore. These deficits are only incurred if spending continues at current levels.  Does Louisiana really have to spend $750 million beyond it means this fiscal year, and four times that amount next year?  If you don’t have it, maybe you should not spend it.

But oh, the naysayers will say, the Chicken Little scenario will take place with colleges closing and state services grinding to a halt. Really? I served in Louisiana public life for 28 years. As a state senator, I helped draft budgets. As a delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention, I helped write (along with future Governor Buddy Roemer) the revenue sections setting out how the state raises tax dollars. As a statewide elected official, I often had to cut my budget to make ends meet. 

Simply put, there are a number of ways to cut the present spending levels in Louisiana government.  Sure, it will take some political courage, for the lobbyists and special interests that live and breathe out of the state capitol will pounce and oppose. Here is a list of items that could and should be reduced or eliminated before the governor and legislators consider more taxes.

Freeze all state travel and purchases for the next 6 months.  No new vehicles, equipment, furniture, etc.  Rescind the $2 million raises handed out by Gov. Jindal to his key staffers in the past few months.  State Treasurer John Kennedy points out that the state has 19,000 consulting contracts at a cost of almost $3 billion.  There is plenty of room here to reduce or eliminate.  Abolish a whole list of special tax credits and tax breaks that many economists say are way too rich with the state getting little in return.  They include solar panels, enterprise zone tax credits, new market tax credits, and motion picture credits that bring in only one dollar in new taxes for every three dollars the state gives away. Review and drastically reduce the hundreds of millions of dollars going to NGOs (non-government contracts to non-profits, many of which are politically connected).

TOPS, the free state tuition grant program, has grown to some $300 million a year, with much of the money going to families with adequate income to pay the cost.  The program needs to be immediately capped and limited to students in actual need.  Corporate welfare?  It would take several columns to list the questionable expenditures being given away.

The bottom line is that Louisiana does no “performance auditing.”  What is the taxpayer getting in return for the billions being doled out by the legislature?  Before there is any effort to raise assessments on a state already heavy in its per capita tax burden, taxpayers need a convincing assessment of how their dollars are being spent and just what services they are receiving in return.  Until then, let’s stop all the “new tax” rhetoric.

********

“Just tell 'em you're gonna soak the fat boys and forget the rest of the tax stuff...Willie, make 'em cry, make 'em laugh, make 'em mad, even mad at you. Stir them up and they'll love it and come back for more, but, for heaven's sakes, don't try to improve their minds.”

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.





Thursday, January 21, 2016

WAS THE COURSE OF HISTORY CHANGED IN LOUISIANA?

January 21st, 2016
New Orleans, Louisiana

WAS THE COURSE OF HISTORY CHANGED IN LOUISIANA?

Two hundred years ago this month, Louisiana was the center of a major turning point in both American and world history.  The War of 1812 was the first time in the short time of the nation’s history that the U.S. had declared war, and the three-year conflict came to a final struggle at the Battle of New Orleans. The major victory over the British by a small group of ragtag Louisianans launched America on to the world stage, and the new nation became a significant power.  But it also just might have caused a domino effect that changed the course of world history.

New Orleans had always been a major target for the British. The Queen City of the South was the largest American metropolitan area west of the Atlantic coast, and the major outlet for U.S. exports world wide was through the Port of New Orleans. But General Andy Jackson and his motley band of rogue Bayou stators held firm and were immortalized in Johnny Horton’s lyrics:


We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin'
There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began to runnin'
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

But what if the British had prevailed?  What if America had become a territory under the British Commonwealth similar to Canada at the time?  How would the world be different today?  Let’s start with the Civil War. Britain outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833. Without slavery, one can well argue that there would have been no Civil War. Remember that every other slave nation abolished it without any battles. Britain certainly would not have allowed slavery to continue throughout the Americas.

And without the Civil War, New Orleans could well have been the trade and financial center of the nation for the next century.  No reconstruction, no carpetbaggers, and no share cropping that kept poor farmers, black and white, in continual servitude. So a good argument might be made that British abolition of slavery, and America as a member of the Commonwealth, just could have been the best outcome for Louisiana.

America would become a reluctant warrior in World War I that began in 1914.  When U.S. interests became at risk with American supply ships to Britain under attack, President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany in April of 1917.  Germany misjudged U.S. economic involvement in Britain and assumed it would stay out of the war.

But what if the British had prevailed at the Battle of New Orleans and the U.S. was a part of the British Commonwealth when Germany considered attacking England?  They would have considered that a giant ally full of natural resources, a major world trader, and a flourishing nation would have come to Britain’s defense right from the first sign of German aggression. Would Germany still have attacked England with such a major partner at its side?  Simply put, would the full scale of World War l have even taken place to begin with?

And without World War I, would there have been a World War II?  After Germany’s defeat and their surrender as part of The Treaty of Versailles, the Germans were bitter in their downfall over the demanding repatriations imposed by the victorious allies.  An obscure painter named Adolf Hitler was elected German chancellor after the war, running on a platform of tearing up the treaty and rebuilding Germany to days of glory. Germany again took on Great Britain. But would Hitler have even emerged without Germany’s loss in World War I? 

Oh yes, the whole scenario could seem pretty far-fetched?  And maybe it is.  But when one domino falls, it can often begin a cause and effect that is unpredictable.  What seems pretty clear is that there is a real possibility the course of human history could well have been affected by a handful of Louisianans banding together to fight the British at the Battle of New Orleans.

*******

“The domino effect has the capacity to change the course of the entire world.”
J.D. Stroube

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com


Thursday, January 14, 2016

UPHILL BATTLES FOR LOUISIANA’S NEW GOVERNOR!



Thursday, January 14th, 2016
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


UPHILL BATTLES FOR LOUISIANA’S NEW GOVERNOR!

Louisiana’s newly elected governor began his inaugural day on a high note with religious services at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Baton Rouge.  But before he could even begin his inaugural address, things got dicey. The Louisiana House of Representatives rejected his hand picked candidate for Speaker. Is this an indication of how his term as the state’s chief executive will succeed?

Governor John Bel Edwards was the first governor in my memory to announce his choice to be speaker.  Yes, most previous governors had their personal choices. But they quietly worked behind the scenes to build a consensus for their candidate.  When Bobby Jindal first took office, he met with each house member and asked whom he or she wanted for the post.  It was a “see which way the wind is blowing” approach.

When Edwin Edwards was elected governor back in 1972, Representative Bubba Henry was not his choice. Henry had supported Edwards’s opponent, Bennett Johnston, and Edwards was not keen on working for the election of Henry as speaker. But the Jonesboro representative was popular with his housemates.  So Edwards flew to Henry’s home in Jonesboro, and the two held a meeting at the local airport to hash out their differences.  Henry agreed to cooperate in supporting Edward’s ambitious agenda, and the two worked well together during the following eight years. In fact, Edwards supported Henry’s efforts to be elected chairman of the 1973 constitutional convention.

Since a majority of Republicans make up the present House of Representatives, current Governor Edwards publicly climbed far out on a limb to support Democrat Walt Leger and suffered his first defeat. Many capitol observers felt he should have seen the writing on the wall.

Edwards also stirred up a firestorm among pro-life advocates with his choice of Dr. Rebekah Gee as the new secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services.  The Louisiana Right to Life Federation strongly criticized the appointment saying, “Louisiana Right to Life's research reveals that the newly named Secretary has a long history of troubling connections with organizations that advocate for abortion-on-demand.”  They vowed to fight her confirmation that is required by the state senate.

The new governor’s challenge is to not get overly involved in too many side controversies and stay focused on the elephant in the room.  What to do about the huge and growing deficit, how to balance next year’s budget, and how to keep the current ship of state afloat.

The current legislature has little appetite for new taxes.  Former Governor Jindal has pounded the anti-tax message so hard that many lawmakers are quivering over the thought of having to make such a vote.  “It just ain’t going to happen,” one senior lawmaker observed on inauguration day.  So what can be cut and where to begin?

How about begin at the beginning?  We keep hearing that more than half the current budget is constitutionally protected and untouchable.  But when the current constitution was adopted in 1973, there were no dedications. This provision was written in the constitution by former Governor Buddy Roemer and yours truly.  The idea was to let the legislature set spending priorities depending on current needs.

But little by little, one special interest group after another lobbied to give their pet interests constitutional protection. There are $12 billion dollars of protected funds. Legislators should consider putting it right back on the voters.  If the state is in such a crisis, maybe it’s time to undedicate this money and reexamine just how all state dollars are being spent. Why allow favorites as the state is doing now?  It would take a new constitutional amendment, so let the voters decide.

There are a number of ways to balance the budget.  There has never been a “performance audit” of every state agency to see how well current state dollars are being spent.  Are taxpayers getting the best bang for the buck?  Let’s find out.

There are other financial suggestions that ought to be contemplated by the new governor and legislature, all that are fodder for future columns.  Plugging the leaking financial dyke with new taxes is a cop out.  Begin by going back to square one, prioritize current financial income, and make the best use of what revenue is currently available. It makes common sense to most taxpayers. Let’s see if the new governor and legislature get the message.

********


Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com