Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Fifty years ago this month, rock band The Who released their megahit rock opera called “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”  The song ended with the lyrics: “Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss.”  From the early debates in the approaching Louisiana governor’s race, voters are hearing few fresh ideas as how to get the Bayou State out of its fiscal and quality of life disarray that has continued for years.

Those monitoring the previous debates, including members of the press, rarely ask specific, tough questions.  All the candidates running are cookie cutter in their scripted responses.  Pro, guns, pro life, let’s have a study on fiscal issues, everything is on the table, we will review, will work with the legislature.  We’ve heard these same habitual retorts for decades. Isn’t it time to get specific?

How about a gubernatorial candidate who will step up and embrace an unambiguous Contract with Louisiana?  An explicit and detailed set of guarantees, put in writing, that offers votes an agenda for Louisiana renewal?  Not a list of worn out platitudes that pits one interest group against the other, but a management document that addresses head on why the state is laggard in so many policies and basic services.  And back off the right vs. left gibberish. It’s time to talk about the future vs. the past.

Forget about Bobby Jindal. He’s a has-been who ran state government on a day-to-day basis, with no concern about future consequences.  Sure, he is leaving the state in financial disarray.  But it time for a gubernatorial wannabe to spell out benchmarks to be met on a yearly basis.  So what are these targets?

First, call a constitutional convention to specifically rewrite sections dealing with how to raise and spend state dollars.  In the 1973 constitutional convention, future Governor Buddy Roemer and I co-chaired and wrote the revenue and fiscal section.  We were both adamant that there be no dedicated funds.  We agreed that benchmarks for state spending would change, and the legislature needed the flexibility to set financial priorities.  But little by little, constitutional amendments were passed that dramatically reduced what funds were available for the legislature to appropriate.  A new constitution should let the governor and the legislature do their job, and then hold them accountable.  But don’t tie their hands as we have under existing limitations.

Next, pledge to undertake a complete review of state spending.  The current system of monitoring how state dollars are spent falls to the legislative auditor and the inspector general, and the results are mixed.  Too much waste fall through the cracks. The massive spending to buy jobs through corporate welfare rarely works and has not been properly monitored. Let treasurer John Kennedy head up this effort.  He will easily be re-elected, he is capable, and bored with the work he is doing now.  So turn him loose to cut out unnecessary spending of tax dollars.

Then require much greater accountability in higher educational spending.  Colleges continue to demand more dollars, but what are taxpayers getting in return?  Why are a majority classes being taught by grad students and non-tenured professors?  Why are there so many non-teaching employees making six figure salaries?  Why isn’t there even one Louisiana school that ranks anywhere near the top tier of colleges in America?  Why does it take a majority of Louisiana students six years or more to graduate?  Taxpayers deserve answers.

Is the Common Core debate all that critical to the success of our kids? We’re talking about a few tests for goodness sakes.  Louisiana has one of the top educational superintendents who is recognized nationwide in John White.  We should trust him to make the call on testing. Turn him loose and let him do his job.

Healthcare?  Take the federal money and run.  We have the least healthy population in the nation.  It’s our tax dollars that would be coming back from Washington.  If we don’t take the Medicaid money, then our tax dollars go to some other state, and not to us.  How could any rationial official pass on OUR money?

Hey, I’m just getting started here. The list is goes on and on, and fodder for another column.  Louisiana is in a rut, and continues to make the same mistakes over and over again.  In five months, voters hopefully will demand more, much more from those who want to lead.  A Contract with Louisiana would be a good beginning.  So, as The Who says, we won’t be fooled again.

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, May 21, 2015


Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


This fall’s Louisiana governor’s race has settled down into a four-man contest.  U.S. Senator David Vitter is far out front, and conventional wisdom points to a republican-democratic runoff between Vitter and Rep. John Bell Edwards from Amite.  But is the current field of candidates set in stone?  Is there still room for another major candidate-an Independent?

Senator Vitter’s lead is hefty and he has racked a large war chest of campaign cash.  But as BayouBuzz publisher Steve Sabludowsky wrote last week, Louisiana voters have “a long history of punishing frontrunners and promoting also-rans.”  So is there another candidate out there; a third party candidate who can swoop in at this late date and make a formable run for the Governor’s Mansion?  I’m talking about that John Wayne Dude.

In the days following Hurricane Katrina, the Crescent City was in chaos and on the verge of anarchy with little sense of law and order.  I was there daily and saw it first hand.  The calming force that entered the city leading the Army's 82nd Airborne division and the 1st Cavalry was a native Louisianan, General Russell Honore.’  He was widely credited as being the “Rudy Giuliani of the Gulf Coast” and bringing restraint and stability to the bedlam that had been taking place.

Since retiring from the Army, the General headed up a national consulting firm for disaster response, and has written several books, including nationally acclaimed “Leadership is the New Normal.” He moved back to his home in Point Coupee Parish, and has become a leading environmental voice in the state.

Gen. Honere’ is telling friends and associates that he is seriously considering a race for governor, and is confident, with his national connections, he can raise the necessary funding.  And he won’t be caught without an answer in political debates.  During the Katrina recovery, his comments included;  This is a Disaster. This isn't something somebody can control. We ain't stuck on stupid.”  And my favorite:  “I can't swing a dead cat without hitting a reporter.”

So what political banner will he run under?  The Republican field is crowded with three well-funded candidates in Vitter, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and PSC member Scott Angle.  And Democrats have been rallying around John Bell Edwards.  So is there an opening for the General?  Yes, as he contemplates running with support from the fastest growing politically designated group in the state-Independent voters who have abandoned both republicans and democrats.

There are some 750,000 independents or “No Party” voters in Louisiana, roughly 25% of all voters registered throughout Louisiana.  If a large majority of these voters, who have turned their backs on both major parties, could be galvanized behind a charismatic candidate like Gen Honore’, a run-off spot would be possible.  Even if he failed to make the runoff, he would still be in a position to have a major affect on who gets elected by his endorsement.

Actually, if Honore’ can rise the necessary funds, he is not that far behind in getting into the race.  LSU’s Public Policy Research Department has just released a poll showing that a majority of voters in both parties are paying little attention to the statewide election that takes place in five months.   Fewer than 25% of registered voters are even following news about the election.  So there is fertile ground for a new entry to gain momentum.

When Gen. Honore’ first arrived in downtown New Orleans by helicopter, he admonished troops surrounding the Convention Center to:  “Put your rifles down.  We are here to help these people, not harass them.” Louisiana certainly needs a lot of help right now.  And it has been a longtime in the state capitol since leadership was anything but normal. 

Will this high profile Louisiana heed the call and jump into the political fray?  There is still time to organize and put together a major campaign.  When or lose, General Honore’ would bring a whole new dimension to the campaign.  And to many voters, that would be politically refreshing.

You can't vote that water out of the city of New Orleans.
General Russell Honore’

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


New Orleans, Louisiana


Louisiana’s next governor will take office in less than eight months, and will jump into the abyss of a state with massive fiscal problems, an educational system that is dysfunctional, a healthcare system that needs a major overhauling, a highway system that has been neglected for years…get the picture?

So where to begin?  Maybe he (there is no she running, at least for now) ought to take a deep breath, clear his head, and curl up with several books.  What you say?  The Bayou State is going to hell in a hand basket, and the best you can come up with is to begin a reading list?  OK.  Just calm down a bit and read on.

A responsible new governor (has this been a past oxymoron?) needs to first address the biggest single failure by the state’s leadership at many levels, and that’s the fiasco of not having a well thought-out master plan. The brushfires will continue to burn, so a short period of “getting a handle” on what to do in the long run will be critical for actually finding some workable solutions, rather than just plunging financial holes year after year.

First on the reading list is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  A New York Times best seller for years, Gladwell talks about how one can “catch up” when they are far behind in any given area.  If a state lags in educational attainment and needs to make a huge leap, as does Louisiana, it’s not just important to adopt what other progressive states are doing.  Louisiana is at the back of the pack in many areas, so there has to be a quantum leap forward.  The Bayou State is to far behind the curve to merely try to catch up.

 Gladwell follows the same reasoning put forth in Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. A kid in a small mountainous village in China has access to the same information as the student at a major American university, and thus has quickly closed the learning gap.  Say “computers.” Basic laptops are being given to students in a number of states. Less than $100. And both local businesses and foundations are donating large numbers. Louisiana is not in this mix. Why not?

Next, Greg Leroy’s The Great American Jobs Scam.  His premise, simply put, is to quit buying jobs from other states. It’s a giant waste of money.  Louisiana has paid out billions of dollars in recent years to bring new jobs into the state.  Leroy argues convincingly that these inducements do not work, and are never a major reason for a company moving for one state to another.  He cites numerous examples or CEOs saying, “of course we will take your money, but these state programs are never a significant reason for our company to move.”  These businesses were coming anyway.  They just play the state for all it was worth and bilk taxpayer dollars.

And finally, Start -Up Nation, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. It’s a story of Israel’s economic miracle, but there are a number of good lessons for Louisiana.  Israel has no natural resources.  They are abundant in Louisiana.  Israel produces more start-up companies than do most of the world’s major industrialize countries.  Louisiana has few start-up companies.  Israel has more companies on the NASDAQ than those from all of Europe, Korea, Japan, Singapore, China and India combined.  Louisiana has one listed company.

The key, Senor argues, is how universities are brought into the mix.  Private-public think tanks have been formed, and the state has encouraged venture capital with tax breaks taking an aggressive pro new business attitude.  No outright effort to “buy” companies as does state government in Louisiana, but a business-state partnership that has produced bountiful new higher paying jobs.

There is a critical need for a concentrated review of what direction Louisiana will take in the years to come.  A long-range master plan, filled with ideas taken from the best and brightest concepts in place all over the world. Such a roadmap should have been developed years ago. Will the next governor heed the call?


“Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.” Peter F. Drucker.

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