If you probe even a little into issues behind Louisiana government today — and especially if you are an informed, motivated person who looks to get ahead in life — Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ second inaugural speech was, in a word, depressing.
Not so much because it contained the ever-growing litany of half-truths and outright lies Louisianans have heard Edwards repeat over the years. There were plenty, but the most prominent examples will suffice:
• “There’s no denying we are in a much better place now than we have been in many years.” Horse hockey. A net nearly 100,000 people have fled Louisiana since the middle of 2015, and since Edwards took office it has had a worse business climate, worse fiscal health, and has fallen compared to other states in almost every category of economic health from unemployment to number of jobs to personal income growth to state gross domestic product. Meanwhile, taxes are higher and so is poverty.
• “And another clear sign of progress is our improving economy, which is the largest it has ever been.” Monkey muffins. Since Edwards took office, Louisiana has had among the slowest growth among the states, having the tenth-worst through the third quarter of 2019. Meanwhile, the rest of the country has taken off under Republican Pres. Donald Trump’s agenda of lower taxes and reduced regulation, and this rising tide that captured even the leakiest Louisiana boat is the only reason Louisiana, like every other state except two, has a record high gross domestic product.
• “[W]e expanded Medicaid … we saved more than $300 million.” Buffalo bagels. The tax increases on insurance policy-holders, taxpayers generally, and the sick to finance expansion only cover the state’s additional costs by having it starting this year. And then there’s the nearly $100 million in waste identified by the Legislative auditor and giveaways to hundreds of thousands of people already insured who simply dropped their insurance to go onto the taxpayer dole. By the end of Edwards’s term, the nearly eight years of expansion will be a net cost to Louisiana, even with over $300 million annually in tax increases to support it.
• And, despite this space having told him otherwise, during his term allegedly because of Medicaid expansion “we haven’t had a single hospital close.” Wrong: last Oct. 19, Leesville’s Doctor’s Hospital at Deer Creek shut its doors.
In almost every way, Louisiana offers less opportunity for its able-bodied citizens to use their own talents and desire to improve their lives since Edwards took the helm. But what really inspires enervation among these folks is, in his speech, he shows no signs of ceasing to blow sunshine up skirts while stubbornly pursuing an agenda that will make matters worse.
Again, to review a tiresome list, he wants to cause more economic havoc by raising the minimum wage and to control wages on the basis of the wage gap myth. He wants to throw more money at a deficient elementary and secondary education system without increasing accountability thus performance and at higher education without streamlining an overbuilt system. He has no plans to give people back their money from the tax hikes that bring in money beyond what he claimed the state needed.
Because of this bull-headedness that puts special interests ahead of the people, he can stand athwart and neutralize any positive change that the Legislature, with a supermajority of Republicans in the Senate and nearly of that status in the House, can try to rectify the shortcomings the Edwards agenda continues to inflict upon Louisiana. That’s the really discouraging aspect to the speech, that the state must endure for four more years a wanton sabotage of policies designed to correct decades of leftist bad policy.
In effect, the subliminal text of the speech is this: if you think you have talents to succeed and you think you can put forth the effort to bring them to fruition, don’t stay here. Join that nearly 100,000 who left to go where they would have their efforts appreciated and rewarded, where jobs are available that offers careers that maximizes their potential. Don’t stay in this sinkhole where our redistributive philosophy that empowers government rather than people while privileging special interests will needlessly hamstring you in trying to make a better life for yourself.
You won’t be blamed if you take off. Four years is too long to wait in anybody’s life. Maybe the signal you send will wake up enough Louisianans so they stop putting in office those like Edwards who are the problem and start electing people who are, at long last and well overdue, part of the solution.
Jeff Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport. He has studied and written about Louisiana politics for more than a quarter of a century, and authors the blogs Louisiana Legislature Log and the award-winning Between the Lines.