Thursday, January 31, 2019


January 24th, 2019
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


How do you put a dollar value on the worth of a public official?  How about this idea. Shouldn’t receiving any salary increase be based on results?

LSU football coach Ed Orgeron will pocket some three and a half million dollars this year, making him one of the highest-paid football coaches in the nation. He received such an enormous salary package based on results. It’s the old adage that you get what you pay for, and with Ed, LSU ended the football season winning10 games.

Should time and work be the only criteria in paying public employees? Why not pay the governor, the secretary of economic development, the superintendent of education, and a cross section of other public officials that directly affect our lives based on a scale of how well they perform and what results they achieve?

Experimentation with performance pay in the public sector is on the grow. A New York City charter school is promising to pay teachers $125,000 a year, plus bonuses based on classroom and school-wide performance. Sure, this is a lot of money, but those in charge are looking for a significant increase in student performance levels. Bottom line — results.

All of this aside, the heart of our query is about pegging the pay of the governor and his top assistants to performance. I would surmise that most voters in Louisiana would think it’s a good idea, but how do you do it? When you talk about results, it is certainly easier to define in the private sector. Results are measured in the stock price of a publicly traded company or by profit in any other company. The more the company makes, the more its managers can earn.

But can you create an accountability and production index in government? I think you can. This would be a challenge for key economists at Louisiana universities. Develop a formula that would give a “performance index.” Sounds difficult, but why not give it a try?  If you take the economic figures below and compare them with other states, Louisiana comes in 48th in the nation.
·  5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: -0.1% (3rd largest decrease)
·  2017 GDP: $207.9 billion (25th largest)
·  Unemployment: 4.7% (tied -- 4th highest)
·  5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.4% (2nd smallest increase)
I suggest starting a Louisiana “misery index”. Go ahead and pay Gov. John Bel Edwards and his brain trust the big bucks. The governor should make $1 million a year. But this amount would be adjusted by the misery index. Right now, the index is high on poor growth and low on performance, so Edwards salary would be close to what he now makes: $125,000.  Now this should just be the beginning. As Governor Edwards often tells us, future economic growth in Louisiana is tied to job skills through education. Therefore, we should build into the formula increases in high school math performance, elementary student test results, reduction in the state’s troubling pollution levels, and maybe the number of new movies that are shot in Louisiana each year. Leave out the LSU national football ratings but include the student athlete graduation rates. 

Finally, I would factor in consumer confidence. Are the voters getting tangible results? Are they happy with the performance of their top public officials? If you own shares of stock, and have little confidence in your company investment, you simply sell the stock. The average Joe ought to be able to put in his two cents worth as to the value he’s getting out of Louisiana government. Get his opinion through a statewide poll and factor the results in to the performance index.

So to all the statewide officials, I say make your case and ask the salary level you think you are worth. But just like in the private sector, be prepared to defend the bottom line. The proof of course is in the pudding. Be accountable for the results that take place. And if you succeed, reap the benefits.

In ancient Rome, there was a tradition when major projects were built. Whenever a Roman engineer constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible. He stood under the arch.

So pay these pied pipers of change and economic growth the big bucks they say they are worth. But keep them directly under the arch of performance, and let voters know there will be a day of reckoning if this promise of change and results plummet to the ground.

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

Friday, January 25, 2019


Jan. 24th, 2019
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


New Orleans Saints fans and practically the whole state of Louisiana are up in arms.  And for good reason.  It’s become the most talked about call in the history of NFL football.  Simply put-the Saints got robbed.

You had to be trekking in a deep jungle somewhere outside the US not to have been aware of the “no-call” in the final minutes of the NFC championship game last weekend.  The Saints were on the march with the score tied and only 1:45 left in the game, when a blatant slam by the Rams screamed for a penalty.  When no flag was thrown, the fans, both inside the Dome and all over the state, went nuts. The failure to call a penalty has united the state like no other event in recent history.  There is a unifying momentum that what happened was wrong and something should be done.

Not to minimize the wrong no-call, but wouldn’t it be refreshing if the same anger could be directed at state government and the lack of any serious problem solving at the state capitol?  Somebody should open the windows and start shouting, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”  Just look at the problems that ought to make everyone in the state really mad.

Health-A newly released report by the United Health Foundation lists Louisiana as dead last with obesity at an all-time high.  Yet there is no nutritional education, school lunch menus are laden down with pizza and fried chicken nuggets, and school vending machines are often loaded with sugar loaded soft drinks. With food stamps, one can purchase a whole line of unhealthy sugar loaded foods that include Soft drinks, candy, cookies, ice cream, and any bakery sweets. The American Lung Association gives Louisiana an Ffor failing to enact proven policies that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, noting that 1/4thof the state population are smokers.

Insurance-Louisiana continues to have the highest insurance costs in the nation for both automobile and homeowner’s insurance, with policyholders paying the highest percentage of their income for insurance compared to any other state. Surrounding states have insurance costs much lower, something every policyholder should be really mad about. The insurance regulatory climate get an according to Washington-based conservative think tank R Street Institute in its Insurance Regulation Report Card.

Early Childhood Education- 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. Yet Louisiana has limited early learning agendas in public schools. The legislature has failed to adequately fund this highly important program and gets an Ffor failing to do so.

Quality of life- WalletHub just issued a happiness ranking using 31 different metrics, ranging from adult depression rate to the degree to which residents get enough sleep, to income level and commuting length, to came up with the rankings.  Louisiana was close to last, listed as number 48.  Their comments? “For tourists, Louisiana is a blast. But for people who live there, not so much.”

Trash- A State Litter "Scorecard" released American Society for Public Administration has listed Louisiana as one of the trashiest states in the nation.  This one was easy to determine.  Just drive down any major road in the state and view all the trash on the sides of the roads.

Drunk Driving- It seems a week does not go by where you read of a driver getting a 4thor 5th DWI. Louisiana has some of the toughest DWI laws of any state in the country.  For a third offense DWI there is no discretion for judges.  An offender with three convictions faces a mandatory sentence of two years in jail. But the laws are not enforced, and many judges ignore the law.

There are many other categories to list, but you get my drift.  All these problems get scant attention when the legislature is in session. It’s election year, with voting just months away. What if voters got as riled up and mad about the state‘s numerous problems as they did about the terrible no-call in the Superdome last week? After all, it was only football game. Isn’t there much more at stake for voters this fall?

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 17, 2019


January 17th, 2019
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 

I picked up a recent copy of Men’s Health Magazinewith a lengthy article on weight loss based on research from Louisiana’s own Pennington Biomedical Research Center.  The results were typical-eat less, eat early, breath deep, get and lots of exercise. And sugar?  The Pennington study concludes that all those naysayers who express concern over the dangers of sugar are exaggerating a bit.  “The evidence is underwhelming that sugar is much or any worse than other refined carbs.”  So great news for all you sugar addictors.  Just cut back a bit on the carbs say the folks at Pennington.

There’s always been a disconnect between the accolades LSU gives itself for academic achievement and the bottom line results that come from national rankings. Louisiana’s flagship rarely cracks the top 100 universities in the U.S., with a majority of SEC schools outperforming LSU year after year. In the 2019 university rankings by US News and World Report, LSU comes in at number 140.
But there’s always been one shining star in the LSU System — The Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Pennington has been recognized as a world leader in obesity research and disease prevention. The center’s mission statement reflects the pride it takes in its work:

“Since 1988, the mission of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center has been to promote healthier lives through research and education in nutrition and preventive medicine. As the largest academic-based nutritional research center in the world, we have the unique distinction of housing the greatest concentration of obesity research scientists.”

The center’s mission is commendable considering that the most recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. The annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. is approaching $200 billion. The public picks up on any new study from Pennington Center, because of its stellar national and international reputation.

 The LSU Center released another study not too long back on why so many Americans are overweight. Pennington’s executive director called the study “cutting-edge research.” Their conclusion? The center’s press release cites “a lack of physical activity” as the main culprit. Nothing about Big Macs, fries, and sugar coated almost everything. And, oh yes — no mention at all of soft drinks like Coca Cola.

So who paid for the study? What public interest organization funded this noble effort to get our kids healthier? Why none other than, you guessed it, Coca Cola. The world’s largest producer of sugar loaded beverages wants us to quit worrying about cutting calories. Just get more exercise. That apparently is the key to losing lots of weight. Yeah, right!

The Baton Rouge Advocate’s James Gill succinctly asked: “Why do academics bother was such a charade? Give ‘em a sack full of money and they’ll solemnly go through all the motions of a quest for the truth. All together now: ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke.’”

Back during my days in public life as Louisiana’s Insurance Commissioner, I proposed legislation that would eliminate sugar loaded soft drinks from dispensaries in public schools. The beverage alliance, including Coca Cola, strongly lobbied against such legislation, arguing that profits from these machines went to buy school athletic uniforms. So you load up the kids with sugar before sending them out on the playing field in great looking uniforms.

The front organization for Coca Cola’s money, called The Global Energy Balance Network, has issued a press release that says, “Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is that they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on. And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that in fact is the cause.”
No compelling evidence? What! There have been numerous non-biased scientific studies that repeatedly and conclusively prove fast food and sugary drinks cause obesity. To say otherwise insults the intelligence of even the average observer. Coca Cola does a great disservice by allowing their front organization to make such unfounded claims.

The Pennington Center press office told me that this study is ongoing and subject to refining as research progresses. They have their work cut out for them. To leave their initial conclusions that exercise far outweighs poor dietary choices doesn’t pass the smell test. Or for that matter, the taste test.

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, January 09, 2019


January 10th, 2019
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


It’s the end of the college football season with Clemson taking a resounding victory over favored Alabama.   The year also produced a financial bonanza for top tier football schools all over the country. ESPN has paid some 7 billion dollars for the rights to telecast just seven games a year over the next 12 years. Television revenue has doubled for major college football programs over last year. Stadiums are expanding and ticket sales are at an all-time high. So let’s ask this question-is it all about the money?

Initially, college football and other athletic programs were supposed to be extracurricular activities; a break from the rigors of taking classes and qualifying for a degree. No more. Just absorb the words of Cardale Jones, a recent quarterback for national championship powerhouse Ohio State. His message on Twitter complained: “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”

Maybe Cardale has a point. For many colleges, it’s all about the dollars and winning football games. My old friend and University of North Carolina football coach Mack Brown summed it up this way: “When you hear college presidents and athletic directors talk about character and academics and integrity, none of that really matters. College football is growing closer and closer of being like the NFL.”

When it comes to priorities, my home state’s football powerhouse is a case in point. Louisiana colleges are in a financial free-fall, with new budget cuts being imposed yearly. LSU has seen its state-funding cut by over 40% in recent years. The endowment of the state’s flagship university is one of the lowest of any major colleges in the country. In the most recent edition of U.S. News and World Report’s college rankings, LSU weighed in at a lowly 129th in the nation
But when it comes to football financial rankings, the Fighting Tigers are high on the list. In the recent Forbes rankings of the most valuable football teams, LSU comes in at number 4, with a current value of just under $100 million, and a football profit last year of $47 million. Coach Ed Orgeron is paid $3.5 million plus performance bonuses and endorsement fees. One of his assistants is paid $ 2.5 million. To compare athletics and academics, the University’s top remunerated professors receive an annual salary of $78,000. 

Most Wall Street hedge funds would love to see blue chip stocks increase at the rate of college football revenue. Schools like LSU are paid over $12 million by companies like Nike, just to wear the company’s logo. But to make that kind of money, the football team has to be a winner. And to win, even the top academic schools often cut corners.

My alma mater, The University of North Carolina, consistently ranks as one of the top academic universities in the U.S. But the alums want a football winner. In recent months, press reports documented that for the past 18 years, thousands of athletes, primarily football players, have taken fake “paper classes’ with no attendance and no work performed.

And just what do these athletes receive? Only enough to cover the basic college expenses — room, food, tuition and books. No pocket money to go to the movies, no gas money, no extras whatsoever. So we have college athletic programs raking in millions on the backs of talented, disciplined, hardworking athletes, without sharing the revenue with those responsible for generating it.  Such a system is ill-defined at best and hypocritical at worst.

Fifty-six years ago, I was lucky enough to attend the University of North Carolina on an athletic scholarship. I was given a housing and food allowance that exceeded my costs, as well as “laundry money” that allowed for weekend dates, gas, and a few frills above the basic scholarship outlays. What I received then was equivalent to some $300 in pocket money if the same were allowed today. But the NCAA tightened up the rules, and college athletes get less today than athletes like me received some years back.

The system in place brings in millions of dollars for those that run the football program, but allows our young college athletes to be exploited, and the exploitation is being committed by their adult mentors.  What a deal-your body in exchange for a pittance of basic expenses.

Something is definitely wrong with the way college football is run. But with all the money coming in, don’t expect much to change. After all, we only care about winning.

“Football: A sport that bears the same relation to education that bullfighting does to agriculture.”

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 03, 2019


December 3rd, 2019
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


For as far back as I can remember, comparisons have been made between Louisiana’s state capitol city and Austin, Texas. In the 1960s the population of both cities were about the same. Austin and Baton Rouge were the homes of both the centers of state government and the location of each state’s major university.  Both cities were laid back and growing at an average southern pace.  So how do they rate today?

Austin has become one of the fastest growing cities in America.  The University of Texas is ranked as one of the top public universities in the nation with an endowment that rivals number one Harvard.  US News and World Reportjust released their national rankings as the best place in American to live. Their number one ranking?  Austin, Texas.  And the icing on the cake came in the recent announcement that Apple will invest over one billion dollars on a new high-tech campus.  Apple will create in Austin 5000 new jobs that will increase to 15,000 employees with an average salary of $150,000. The Texas hub was also just named as on one of the top five places to retire in the U.S.

The Baton Rouge population base has been stagnant, although there has been significant growth in surrounding parishes, primarily due to the influx of Katrina relocators. The capital city’s ranking on the US News’best places to live is 100. (Lafayette is listed as number 107, New Orleans at 111, and Shreveport at 119 No other Louisiana cities were listed.)  LSU doesn’t crack the top 100 national universities, coming in at 140. The LSU endowment is one of the lowest of any college in the U.S., and one of the least funded of all SEC colleges.

So why the disparity? What happened that has allowed Austin to thrive and for Baton Rouge to just trudge along as just another slow growing average southern state? There were several major turning points that accelerated the differences.

First, a major thriving university can be the catalyst for flourishing cities across the country.   Governor Huey Long continually professed his commitment to LSU pledging to make it the Harvard of the South.  But he failed to put into place permanent finance guarantees.  So LSU, just as today, was required to go hat in hand each year to request funding from the state legislature. Texas on the other hand, directed a significant portion of the state’s oil and gas revenue to set up a continuing revenue stream to the state’s flagship university.  LSU struggled while the University of Texas thrived.

Second, the assassination of President John Kennedy dealt another blow to Baton Rouge.  The original NASA Space Center was to be located in New Orleans. LSU would have received major funding as a research center for the NASA project. But after Kennedy’s death, Lyndon Johnson changed the locations to Houston, and saw that millions of dollars of research funds went to the University of Texas.  If the Center had stayed in Louisiana, Baton Rouge would have greatly benefited by the federal dollars to be spent on the project.

Third, the 1973 constitutional convention dealt a blow to LSU, and thus Baton Rouge, by not adopting one board to govern higher education. As a delegate to CC73, I pushed for such a “one board “concept but was unsuccessful in getting this concept adopted. In the years that followed, every college in the state wanted to become a little LSU will full funding for graduate programs.  The tax dollars splinted, and mediocrity thrived.  LSU’s leadership compounded the problem by failing to aggressively build an endowment of financial gifts from alumni and supporters; something many other SEC schools have done effectively. 

Fourth, Austin has worked hard to become a clean city.  Businesses and potential newcomers like that about Austin. They pick up their trash. A great slogan of “Don’t Mess with Texas.”  Baton Route? Just look out your car window as you drive around the city.  When was the last time you heard of someone being given as ticket for littering?  And how many times have you cringed as the car in front of you lowers their window and throws out a cup, a wrapper or a cigarette butt?

Baton Rouge and every Louisiana city has had some bad luck, but they all can do better.  It’s a new year.  Either commit to grow and thrive or stay passive and dwindle. It takes political leadership and vision.  Let’s hope for a better 2019.

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