Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Louisiana Governor Passes on Great Opportunity!

Thursday, January 30th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana’s two-term governor and aspiring presidential candidate, Bobby Jindal, just returned from a 10-day junket to the Far East. Stops were made in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for the expressed purpose of seeking out foreign investment in the Bayou State.  But if industrial development in the state by foreign companies was his goal, Jindal missed the mark by some 1300 miles.
Jindal is one of two Indian American governors in the U.S.  But so far, he has passed on the opportunity to travel to India and move Louisiana onto the front burner of a special relationship with the world’s largest democracy.  The other Indian American Governor, Nicki Haley of South Carolina, has made several trips to India. Her first visit was just a few months after taking office.
Jindal had a face to face meeting with the Prime Minister of India back in 2009, when he attended a dinner in the Prime Minister’s honor at the White house. And if Jindal is the smart Rhodes scholar he has been touted to be, one would have thought that he would have seized the chance to build a special relationship based on his ancestry.  In  recent years, India has been reaching out, worldwide, for both export and import opportunities.  If Jindal had played his cards right,  Louisiana would now be the bountiful beneficiary of a new and huge trading partner.
Jindal had more in common with the Prime Minister than just their mutual Indian heritage.  The leader of the world’s largest democracy, like Jindal, took a degree from Oxford University, and worked as a policy wonk in several government appointed positions.  The chemistry is there to build a strong relationship between these two leaders and their respective country and state.
Speaking in Washington to the United States-India Business Council, Prime Minister Manmohan made it clear India would do a significant amount of business in the United States. He said, “I am happy to say that American business has been part of India’s economic transformation. Most of the large American corporations are now present in India as foreign direct investors. Many are engaged in high technology work, with their Indian operations forming part of their global supply chains. US business in India has also groomed managerial and technical talent which they have liberally used for their global operations.”
The problem is that India, up till now, has had little trade flow or business ties with Louisiana.  India has become a major importer of products readily available in Louisiana, yet there has been only minor trading activity. India needs to import petroleum based products, including synthetic rubber imports and a vast array of chemicals and chemical related goods including synthetic fertilizers.  Louisiana, of course, has the largest concentration of chemical plants in the nation.  Coal has become a major import for India.   Jim Welch, who heads up Louisiana’s permits division for natural resources, confirms that the state has a vast supply of lignite coal in Northwest Louisiana that is ripe for mining.
India has become a major importer of fruit, and is particularly looking for citrus. Oranges from Plaquemines parish and strawberries in southeast Louisiana have strong export potential. If increasing market opportunities became available, there could well be agriculture options to produce apples, pears, figs, plums and a variety of other fruits. And don’t forget sugar. The India Daily newspaper reported recently that sugar prices in India have skyrocketed with forecasts of gloomy prospects for sugar production that Indian officials say could lead to a high import demand due to an output shortfall. This country also is importing cotton, soybeans, and animal hides for leather production.
Do you see the correlation? One of the fastest growing economies in the world is actively seeking a number of products that are available in massive quantities right here Louisiana. And all these imports would be a financial boon for Louisiana’s numerous ports.  Recently, there were news reports of a 29% drop off in cargo passing through the Port of New Orleans. We need the business, and India needs our products.
Jindal’s lack of initiative in regard to India is particularly vexing to a number of Louisiana businessmen who would like the chance for trade openings with the world’s fastest growing democracy. A former U.S. Senator from Louisiana told a group in Washington last year that he had made repeated requests to organize a trade mission to India with Jindal leading the way. He received no response. Jindal passed on the chance to open up trade opportunities for his home state, and also to develop his own foreign policy experience as well.  In his six years in office, international trade has not been a priority for the Louisiana Governor.  But when you have a special entrée to the world’s largest democracy that continues to prosper in spite of the present economy, Jindal had a real shot at opening up business opportunities for a number of Louisiana companies.  It’s too bad he did not have the foresight to jump into the fray. 
Arabian Proverb
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  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Secession for Louisiana?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Roseanne Roseannadanna summed it up pretty well in trying to make sense out of the trials and tribulations of Louisiana.  “Well, it just goes to show you, it’s always something,” she said. We are hearing cries that Louisiana is unable to take care of its problems, and should be treated differently than other states. Some even  say, OK, then -- make it a protectorate of the federal government.  And you know what?  Maybe that ain’t too bad of an idea.
The proposal took legs recently when Froma Harrop, a nationally syndicated columnist and editor for the Providence Journal, broached the idea in print. “Louisiana has had more than its share of tragedies in recent years, and some, such as hurricane Katrina, could be deemed an act of nature.  But whatever the cause, every calamity that befalls Louisiana is made worse by a corrupt civic nature. A protectorate could provide the structure of government people need.”
 CNN travel editor Chuck Thompson drove the dagger in deeper in his recently released book, Better Off without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Succession.”  He summed up his, and purportedly other Yankee feelings, by calling the leadership down here in the deep South, “a coalition of bought-and-paid for political swamp scum from the most uneducated, morbidly obese, racist, morally indigent, xenophobic, socially stunted, and generally ass-backwards part of the country.”
So if that is a growing northern attitude towards us poor lost souls in the Bayou state, maybe we should consider succeeding and let the U.S. make us a protectorate like Harrop and others above the Mason-Dixon line suggest. Anyone who does a bit of research will find that, right now, Louisiana is contributing much more to the national economy than the federal dollars the state is getting back. As a general rule, so-called protectorates receive much more in financial aid from their respective overseers than the country or state being protected contributes.  Not so in Louisiana. Yes, you will read about all the federal dollars that have been flowing into the Bayou State, particularly post Katrina.  But whatever federal sums have been allocated is a drop in the bucket when you add up the massive mineral resources that have been drained from Louisiana.
And when it comes to receiving federal dollars in other areas, Louisiana often gets the short end of the stick there as well. Louisiana taxpayers subsidize numerous programs that proportionately benefit other parts of the country significantly more than they do at home.  Here are a few examples:
 Federal highway funds. A federal gas tax is charged on every gallon of gasoline that goes into a national highway fund to build highways. For years, a formula has been used to distribute the money that has worked against Louisiana. For every dollar we send to Washington, Louisiana taxpayers are getting only a little more than ninety cents back. California receives $1.30 back for every dollar they send in, as do most of the states along the east coast. Louisiana taxpayers are subsidizing roads and bicycle trails throughout California, New York and many other states. A recently released report pointed out that Louisiana is tremendously underfunded in its effort to improve its roads. One big reason is that the state is paying substantially more into the federal pot that it’s getting out.
 Louisiana receives federal reimbursement to nursing homes that take care of the poor under the Medicaid program. But the formula works dramatically against Louisiana nursing homes. Where patients in New York nursing homes receive reimbursement of up to 300.00 a day, the same patient in Louisiana receives, on average, some  $150.00 a day. Some states are receiving four times what Louisiana gets. Alaska, for example, receives $500.00 per day. Louisiana has one of the lowest reimbursement amounts in the country.
So maybe those east coast columnists are right.  Louisiana might be much better off if it did become a protectorate.  There is ample support throughout the country for states considering the option of becoming independent.  Recently, a national Rasmussen poll found that 28% of Americans believe it is at least somewhat likely that some states will try to leave the United States and form an independent country over the next 25 years or so.
How about this!  Louisiana becomes an independent protectorate of the U.S., with Washington providing all the international protection like they do for Canada and Mexico. Sure the U.S. can continue to use the port of New Orleans (largest port in the nation), as well as Baton Rouge (third largest in tonnage) and Lake Charles (5th largest in tonnage), but of course there would be fees similar to those charged in other international ports. The oil and gas would continue to flow to the rest of the country, but with adequate severance and processing fees for the quite reasonable sum of $7 billion to $10 billion. This is much less than the importation charges that the U.S. is paying OPEC countries now.  No more groveling for a small share of offshore oil payouts.
Mississippi might also want to join in the protectorate effort. The two states might even agree to create a “coastal nation of Louisissippi.”  The French would be appalled, but who cares.
So who is going to run this new protectorate?  The test?  Who knows how to get results.  Walking the walk rather than talking the talk.  There really are only two candidates for the job.  One is former Army General Russell Honoré.  He’s the “John Wayne dude” who blew into New Orleans post Katrina and took charge of the disastrous recovery efforts.  He lives in Baton Rouge and seems to be well rested and ready. And right there in contention is New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton.  Now he does know how to get a job done.
The Ambassador to Washington? The “Ragin Cajun,” James Carville is the man to demand fair respect for the Bayou State in the nation’s capitol. Also an easy choice is the treasury secretary.  New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is, hands down, the best guy to go after the foreign aid.  He is Louisiana’s greatest robber baron, having talked the Louisiana Legislature out of $500 million dollars.  Remember that no other NFL team has received a penny from their respective states. He’s definitely the man to go after to get the money.
The state flag would be a combination of black, purple and gold.  And of course native-born Randy Newman (Louisiana-They’re Going toWash Us Away.”) should write the national anthem.
Maybe the columnist is right, and we should give it a try. Let the feds protect Louisiana’s borders and let us keep all our minerals.  If you look at the numbers, I have a hunch that any redneck or Cajun would jump at such a deal.
 We say grace, and we say ‘ma’am,’ If you ain’t into that, we don’t give a damn.”
—Hank Williams, Jr., Country singer

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  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tax Dollars for Pro Franchises? Why?

Thursday, January 17th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Should State Government Subsidize Pro Sports?
Throughout the current NFL season, I have remained a die-hard New Orleans Saints fan.  But I also have really admired the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are one of the best examples of how a sports franchise should operate. They don’t go to the state capitol hat in hand, looking for a handout.  The team is owned by citizen stockholders all over Wisconsin, and the Packers’ management doesn’t regularly try to blackmail public officials into giving more handouts under threat of picking up and moving the franchise.
Recently, when it came time for Green Bay to revamp and refurnish legendary Lambeau Field, the state of Wisconsin didn’t put up one penny.  All proceeds to pay for the renovations came from the private sector. Season ticket holders were charged a one-time user fee of $1,400, which fans can pay over several years.  In addition, the Packers did a stock offering, just like many corporations do for capital improvements.  And finally, the Packers took out a team loan to be repaid out of yearly revenues.  No sweetheart deals from the state, no special considerations, no coming to the public trough for taxpayer money.
What happens in some states, including my home state of Louisiana, is that team owners cry wolf saying that they will have no choice but to move their franchise elsewhere if the tax incentives and outright dollars are not bountifully offered.  But a review of the NFL team financial arrangements will show that team income is structured in such a manner that it is theoretically possible to run a profitable franchise even in a small location like my old hometown of Ferriday.
Unlike other professional sports operations, individual teams do not sell television revenues.  In baseball, the New York Yankees get broadcasting revenues significantly greater that what a smaller market team like the Kansas City Royals receives.  In pro football, every team shares in one gigantic pie.  Little Green Bay receives the same television revenues as does a team in New York or Chicago.
The other major factor that lets a small market stay competitive without taxpayer dollars is the National Football League salary cap.  Not only is the incoming revenue approximately the same for each team, expenditures are also more or less the same, as each team shares the same parameters as to just how much can be spent on team salaries.  This means salary limits, which allows a small market team like Green Bay to stay competitive year after year.
Finally, the Packers have bought up 28 acres spending more than $27 million to develop an entertainment district.  This would give the team revenues that it would not have to share with other clubs.  It is a business strategy that a number of NFL franchises are undertaking.  Yes, the New Orleans Saints are following this diversity approach.  But here’s the difference.  The Saints get it all paid for by Louisiana taxpayers.
Forbes Magazine recently reported that the Saints owner will receive almost $400 million from state subsidies through 2025.  Four years ago, he negotiated one of the most complex — and lucrative — stadium lease agreements in the NFL, adding to his fortune as his team was bringing in estimated yearly profits of $31 million. Over 15 years, the term of the lease, the state will pay Benson at least $198 million in increased revenue from the Superdome, $142 million in rental payments on property Benson owns, $10 million in bonuses for bringing the Super Bowl to New Orleans and $2.6 million in tax breaks.
Then there is the agreement for the state to lease office space in a downtown office building adjacent to the SuperDome being purchased by the Saints owners.  The state is to lease more than 320,000 feet at $24 dollars square foot, which is one of the highest rental rates in the state today. So Louisiana taxpayers are basically paying the cost of the building the Saints ownership is buying.
 “That’s incredible. I‘ve never heard of that one before,” said Robert Baade, an economist at Lake Forest University who studies stadium financing. “There is no end in how creative governments get to supporting subventions. That’s just another form of subsidy.”
But what about all these projections of how much the economy in New Orleans will be positively impacted, with millions more in tax revenue. Figures are being wildly thrown around, with little study, indicating a $500 million economic impact. A University of New Orleans study, quoted in a New Orleans Times Picayune editorial, estimated the Saints produce some $22 million in state revenue.  Here’s the fallacy.  Any such study assumes that all of the dollars spent at Saints games are dollars that are new to the region’s economy.  Most dollars spent on football tickets are dollars that would have been spent on other leisure activities in the area.  There are numerous choices as to how to spend leisure dollars.  Going to a football game is just one.
The Brookings Institution’s recent 500 page study titled, Sports, Jobs and Taxes, concluded that professional sports teams “realign economic activity within a city’s leisure industry rather than adding to it.  Professional sports,” they write, “are not a major catalyst for economic development.”  They are saying, in effect, that all the public subsidies accomplish is to help shift spending from other forms of entertainment to stadiums like the Dome, with little net employment gain or significant increase in new tax dollars.” Consultants, often hired by team owners who say otherwise, according to the Brookings study, “are peddling snake oil.”
The Green Bay Packers are on of America’s great football franchises. But more important, the Packers represent the best of the American free enterprise system.  They built a championship team by paying their own way without trolling for taxpayer dollars.  It’s the way a franchise should be run.  Go Packers!
“The Green Bay packers never lost a football game.  They just ran out of time.”
Vince Lombardi

Peace ad 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  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A&E and Duck Dynasty-Did We Get Conned?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Did the Duck Dynasty and the A&E folks see us coming or what? For weeks, America has been consumed with the saga of head Duck Phil Robertson and the pros and cons of his right to rant and rave about homophiliacs and his experiences with neighboring African Americans, who, according to Phil, were happy as a lark in Red Neck country when he was growing up.

Now don’t take this as a knock on being a red neck.  I point to mine with pride.  I’m from Ferriday, Louisiana, home of Jerry Lee Louis, country music star Mickey Gilly and Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, among other notables.  Ferriday is stone’s throw, metaphorically speaking, from West Monroe in Northeast Louisiana where Phil and all the Dynasty family hang out.

I bought my first duck call, a Duck Commander, from Phil, back in 1975 when I really took to duck hunting.  I had a good-sized slough in the front forty of an old plantation site I had restored on Lake Concordia just across the Mississippi River from Natchez, Mississippi.  In winter, ducks coming down the Mississippi River flyway flocked to that slough, and they were there for the taking.  That is, if you knew how to bring them in with a duck call.

Ole’ Phil had opened up his shop in a dilapidated shed, where he spent 25 years making duck calls from Louisiana cedar trees.  And make no mistake -- his duck calls were the best.  If you knew how to twill your tongue as you blew into the cigar shaped wood instrument, all the while saying "hut", "quit" or "ut," you could make a variety of ducks glide right towards your decoys.  Phil’s duck calls were a significant factor in making me a pretty darn good duck hunter.

And don’t be mislead.  Phil ain’t no dummy.  He turned down a chance to play professional football for the Washington Redskins, and holds a Masters Degree in Education.  And look at him today.  With or without the A&E Network, his Duck Commander Company is turning big, really big, profits.  Have you checked out the products under patriarch Phil’s label at a Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart or any number of other stores nationwide? 

As you would expect, there’s a large variety of hats and T-shirts carrying the Duck Dynasty label.  But don’t forget the Duck Dynasty body pillows, watches, fleece throws, fleece jackets, camo jackets, pants and shirts -- the list goes on and on.  A Wal-Mart salesman in New Orleans says the demand is so high that he can’t keep enough duck duds in stock.  Bloomberg News reported last week that the Duck Dynasty empire amounts to some $500 million and is growing.

So it looked like the Robertson gang had their ducks in a row and the world by the tail.  But in steps the Grinch at Christmastime the A&E Network. A&E is no small time operation, being partly owned by ABC.  This is not their first rodeo and they knew what they were doing.  They echoed the Godfather’s tactics saying it’s strictly business. “We have our standards,” they lamented, “and Phil ‘crossed the line.’ ”

Louisiana state officials were stunned.  “How could they?” demanded Governor Bobby Jindal, who accused A&E of violating Robertson’s freedom of speech and his religious liberty.  Jindal either ignores the fact, or isn’t aware that these freedoms, guaranteed under the Bill of Rights, are there to keep government from interfering.  When the governor maintains that A&E, a private company, has no right to determine whom it can hire or fire, then it’s the state that’s interfering with the freedoms of a private contract.

Then the lieutenant governor jumped into the fray saying the state of Louisiana would find a way to keep the show on the air.  The program already gets tax breaks from the Louisiana state film and television incentive program.  Do we need more tax dollars flowing to the Dynasty producers?

In reality, all the hoopla is purely academic. The whole Robertson gang, including Phil, is going nowhere.  And they never were. This whole controversy was, in my opinion, a sham.  Each Robertson family member individually contracts with the A&E network.  If the network wants to can Phil, the other family members are contractually required to carry on or be in violation of their contracts.

So despite the ruckus, Phil will be with us for the foreseeable future.  The next 14 episodes are already produced and ready for viewing, so Phil is not needed to show up again for filming until April.  A few weeks suspension was a mere slap on the wrist. Or was it?  As I said, A&E executives are no fools. They know their audience well. So they brought Head Duck Phil “back” before he was ever really gone.

But wasn’t that the plan all along?  The controversy generated a huge windfall of publicity for A&E and the Dynasty.  Millions who never heard of Duck Dynasty are now tuning in to see what the fuss is all about.  A&E numbers will skyrocket driving a substantial increase in advertising revenue.  The Robertson’s have become even bigger mega reality stars, and the demand for their family products continues to soar.

So did Phil Robertson and Governor Jindal stir up a cultural war as some have claimed?  Heck no.  It’s all about making money.  A&E and the Duck Dynasty gang pulled a fast one on us.

But we really shouldn’t be surprised.  After all, isn’t that what Duck Dynasty is all about?  Make some loud quacks and get a variety of ducks (viewers) to glide right to where you want them – then laugh all the way to the bank.


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  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at