Thursday, June 28, 2018


June 28th, 2018
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Legislators were high fiving this week over the balancing of the state budget by increasing the already highest sales tax in the nation. Fully funding the TOPS tuition program for college students became the centerpiece for much of the discussion. But through all the euphoria of self-congratulation, lost in the shuffle was the failure to address or even discuss early childhood leaning and funding the childcare assistance program.

There are 144,000 children who need early childhood care.  Pre-school care for kids under four is almost non-existent in Louisiana. They come from households where both parents are working, or the single parent is holding down a job.  A recent study by Tulane University's Education Research Alliance found that 90% of a child's brain development occurs between birth and age 4, and quality Pre-K programs are an important piece of that development. But many children in Louisiana don't have access to good childcare or pre-school.

Industry consultant Andrew Shapiro from Princeton says that Louisiana’s educational problems begin at the elementary level and build from there. “To have a skilled labor force, preparation must begin the moment future workers enter the school system. The problem in Louisiana is that new students enter the system way too late. Louisiana is not creating a capable workforce that can compete,” Shapiro writes. He went on to say that Louisiana has no foothold in the growing high-tech field, and that job creation is suffering due to a lack of early learning skills. What makes this all the more disturbing is that there is virtually no discussion of funding and commitment to pre-school and elementary programs. 

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes about early learning skills in his national bestseller, “The World is Flat.” He points out that the reason countries throughout the Far East are making such giant leaps in productivity is the emphasis placed on teaching the Internet to young learners. A child in a small mountain village in China has just as much access to information as a student in any Louisiana public school. How many legislative candidates or those aspiring to lead the state did you hear talking about computer access for our young people in the most recent election?

What we have not recognized is that there is a great disparity in learning accessibility throughout Louisiana. Middle and upper-class kids have laptops they can take home at night, and have full access to the Internet. But Louisiana has the highest underclass of poor kids in the country. And by and large, they have little exposure to the world of computers.

Our educators have made little effort to bring cheaper laptops into the classroom. A number of other states are actively seeking grants to give laptops to students who can’t afford to purchase one of the new less expensive laptops. A national organization called the $100 Laptop Project will ship between 50 and 100 million laptops a year to children in underdeveloped countries. So if there is a will, we can help kids throughout the world, but our elected officials are reluctant to make the same commitment to children right here in Louisiana. Just how important is it for a state to become computer literate? The Internet has become the overwhelming driving force as an information source in the world today.

One out of every eight couples married in the U.S. last year met online.

There are over two and a half billion registered users of Facebook.

There are over 2.7 billion searches performed on Google each month.

The number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the population of the planet.
The amount of new technical information is doubling every 12 months. According to IBM, new technology will soon allow the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

Simply put, if a Louisiana child does not have access to their own computer both during the school day and at home in the evening and on weekends, they will be, for all practical purposes, functionally illiterate as they grow older. Since Louisiana has one of the highest percentages of children below the poverty line, it would seem imperative that the focus be on early learning, training and developing a plan to put an affordable laptop into the hands of every child in Louisiana public schools. 

So legislators, no more “high fives.”  You still have a lot of work to do.

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, June 21, 2018


Thursday, June 21st, 2018
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


”The Russians are coming!  The Russians are coming!”  And according to politicians in both parties, they are out to infiltrate the entire U.S. election process.  A special prosecutor is looking under every rock to find out the culprits involved.  And down here in Louisiana, the Secretary of State’s office is calling for the immediate replacement of some 10,000 voting machines at a cost of $60 million. Wow! This looks like a really crisis. But is it?

I have a bit of knowledge about the election system, having served as Louisiana’s chief elections officer for eight years, and served as president of the National Secretary’s of State Association.  I’ve been hearing the cry of election fraud and the need for new voting machines for years. Try as I may, I never could find much Election Day shenanigans.

Oh, there was occasional voter hauling and paying a few folks to vote a certain way.  But widespread voting irregularities, or some group like the Russians infiltrating the Internet to fix elections is pretty far-fetched.

The initial allegations of supposed Russian penetration of the election process came for the Department of Homeland Security following the past presidential election where 21 states were supposedly at risk.  But the Department was so worried about Russian subversion that it didn’t ever notify any Secretary of State. Some major threat!

Now I don’t doubt for a minute that the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans and any number of nations would love to tamper with our election system. After all, America has been doing that very thing in countries all over the world for a number of years.

A study from the Carnegie Mellon Institute reports that the U.S. has a long history of rigging polls, supporting military coups, channeling funds and spreading political propaganda in other countries. The study found that there were 117 “partisan electoral interventions” between 1946 and 2000. That’s around one of every nine competitive elections held since Second World War. The majority of these – almost 70 percent – were cases of US interference. And these are not all from the Cold War era; 21 such interventions took place between 1990 and 2000, of which 18 were by the US.”

So is an unsuccessful effort to infiltrate our elections, as the U.S. has been doing to other countries for a number of years, a justification for Louisiana to spend $60 million on supposedly tamperproof voting machines?  Hardly. As Earl Long once said, “Let me pick the company that makes those voting machines, and I’ll make them dance.”

There is no necessity for new expensive voting machines. The more sophisticated they are, they more likely that they can be hacked.  The key, as obsolete as it seems, is to have a paper trail. As the Washington Post has argued:  “Virginia rightly took 2016 as a wake-up call and retired its vulnerable DRE voting machines. But that’s not good enough. The federal government should mandate that all elections must, at a minimum, be able to produce an independently verified paper trail for every election held at the state and local level.”

We here in the Bayou State do not need the feds to tell us what to do.  But a backup paper trail of how votes were tallied makes since, even in this day and age. Yes it’s the 21st century, but the best protection against voter fraud is probably using 1st century technology-paper.

Back in 1980, when I was first elected as Secretary of State, there were numerous changes of election fraud, particularly in close elections. I appointed an Elections Integrity Commission to investigate.  The commission found some mistakes by voting commissioners but no sign of actual fraud.  Voting took place on those old heavy Shoup machines.  And you know what? They worked fine and produced a paper trail for verification.

There are a number of small and portable voting machines on the market that allows for a paper trail and at a reasonable price.  Actually the machines the state uses now are sufficient.  In a financially busted state like Louisiana, sixty million dollars can find a much better use.

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 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Thursday, June 14th, 2018
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

 Can you put lipstick on a pig? Well, business leaders are certainly giving it their best shot in an effort to counteract the fact that Louisiana’s outrageously expensive insurance rates make the Bayou State an environment hostile to the attraction of new businesses.  But, last week, compounding the problem, new figures showed automobile rates continue to rise, along with insurance rates for every homeowner.  And unfortunately, both legislators and insurance regulators are assuming a blasé attitude — “that’s just the price you have to pay for living in Louisiana.”
 Newspaper headlines blared out across the country about the skyrocketing insurance costs of driving an automobile in Louisiana.  USA Today:  “Louisiana Car Insurance Costs Most – the state can’t catch a break.”  The San Francisco Chronicle:  “Louisiana Tops State Rankings of Car Insurance Rates.”  National Auto Week:  “Drivers in Louisiana are hit hardest on Car Insurance Premiums.”  New York Daily News:  “Louisiana has the nation’s most expensive car insurance.”  Similar headlines appeared in newspapers coast to coast.
 Just how bad are the Louisiana rates?  Compared to surrounding states they’re stunning.  The Bayou State far outpaces its neighbors to win the dubious distinction of having the highest car insurance rates in the nation.  Annual premiums in New Orleans average more than $4,000 per year with Baton Rouge a little cheaper at an average of more than $3,300 per year.
Texas weighs in at $1,545, making it over $1000 cheaper to insure in Texas than in Louisiana. To the east, Mississippi, a state that fares worse than Louisiana on most lists, car insurance averages a paltry $1,345.  Should it really cost $1,354 more for auto insurance in Louisiana than in Mississippi?  To the north, Arkansas comes in at $1,545, which is $1,154 less than insuring in Louisiana.  In every other state in America, the charge of insuring a vehicle is not just less, but a lot less, with the cost being 46 percent higher than the national average.
 Thousands of Louisianans have a camp or beach property in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida where legal residence is claimed in order to obtain a much cheaper rate. Take note of some of your fellow employees or neighbors who drive around your city with out of state license plates.  Even at the state capitol, some of the top assistants to statewide officials drive cars registered in other states.
 Why are Louisiana costs so high and so out of line with the rest of the nation?  Lawsuit abuse — “It’s those damn lawyers,” shout the insurance companies.  But a check of the laws shows that both Mississippi and Texas allow for punitive damages that dramatically increase jury verdicts, where Louisiana does not allow such damages.  Doctors in Louisiana only have to buy the first $100,000 of malpractice coverage, with a state fund picking up the excess.  The problems go way beyond “those damn lawyers.”
 Louisiana brags about its wonderful differences and the special charm of living in the deepest of the deep southern states. And rightfully so, when it comes to the culture, music, food, architecture, plantation homes, football and ambience.  But the lousy roads, drunk driving, uninsured drivers, and poorly trained drivers are part of Louisiana’s differences as well, and they aren’t so wonderful.
 Then there is regulation, or the lack thereof in Louisiana.  In most states, there is a pre approval system that requires insurance companies to submit a rate increase request to the Department of Insurance.  Yes, there is a submissions process in Louisiana.  But the insurance company can go right ahead and raise their rates before regulator review.  This makes as much sense as closing the gate after the horse is already out of the barn.
 If you add up the much higher charges incurred by Louisiana insurance purchasers as compared to surrounding states, the local folks are stuck paying out well over $1.5 billion a year more.  That’s $1.5 billion that has been taken away from the local economy. 

It’s $1.5 billion that Louisiana families could be using to educate their kids, and improve their quality of life. It’san injustice to Louisiana taxpayers that elected officials seem unwilling to address.   And all Louisiana families are the losers.

 “It’s not hurricanes that are causing high insurance rates, but bad government policy.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                               Policy analyst Michelle Minton
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 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, June 07, 2018


June 7th, 2018
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The Times Picayune reported last week that the New Orleans Saints may ask the state to pay for a $350 million upgrade to the Superdome before the 2024 Super bowl. That’s a huge taxpayer commitment for a state that can’t even fund education at all levels and basic healthcare for hundreds of thousands of its citizens. So how should any upgrade be paid for?

The Green Bay 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 under threat of moving. 

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 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 my home state of Louisiana is that team owners have cried wolf saying they will have no choice but to move elsewhere if, the tax incentives and outright dollars are not bountifully offered.  But under the NFL financial structure, owners can’t loose money.

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 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 Los Angeles.

The Packers have also 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. The Saints have the same strategy but Louisiana taxpayers pay all the costs.

The Saints receive $6 million in direct funding, from the state of Louisiana each year.  But there is much more they will receive that is every bit as valuable as direct payments, including millions in upgrades for luxury boxes that mean more profit.  The state pays the cost, and the Saints get the income.
Then there is the agreement for the state to lease office space in a downtown office building adjacent to the Dome 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 the Louisiana taxpayers are basically paying the cost of the building the Saints’ ownership is buying.

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, indicating an $500 million economic impact. A University of New Orleans study, quoted in a New Orleans Times Picayuneeditorial, estimated that the Saints produce $22 million in state revenue.  Here’s the fallacy.  Any such analysis assumes that all of the dollars spent at Saints games are dollars that are new to the region’s economy.  Most dollars spent going to the Superdome 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. Consultants, often hired by team owners who say otherwise, according to the Brookings study, “are peddling snake oil.”

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 a lesson that should be adhered to by both the Saints and the State of Louisiana. 

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 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at