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The Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” Fails Again

WaPo Gets It All Wrong In Trying To Pin The Struggles Of The New Louisiana Governor On Bobby Jindal

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The Washington Post’s strange, biased history of slandering Bobby Jindal continued Friday in the form of a “WonkBlog” post in which the author swallows new Louisiana Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards rhetoric hook, line, and sinker. It reads like a press release from the Office of Governor Edwards, laying out arguments (more like begging) for the Louisiana Legislature to abide by the governor’s wishes to raise taxes in order to expand government and return Louisiana to the nanny state of years past.

The inaccuracies and biases in the story are too numerous to address. To point out just one, the WonkBlog argues that Governor Jindal’s policies have put higher education in a position in which campuses are falling apart, graduation rates are plummeting, and schools are about to close. When in fact, higher education’s total budget remained flat for the years Governor Jindal was in office (despite state government as a whole being reduced by 26%), and he left office with LSU graduation rates at an all-time high. By offsetting state funding reductions with flexibility over tuition, Governor Jindal forced higher education to dramatically improve its product and be more responsive to its consumer – the student. To this day, Louisiana tuition rates are still roughly $1,500 less than the national average. Governor Jindal fought for $750 million in infrastructure improvements on our campuses and made major investments to improve our community and technical college program. He fought to protect TOPS (Louisiana’s state funded college scholarship program) every year despite closing state deficits many years he was in office. Governor Jindal did this despite significant pressure from legislators (including Rep. John Bel Edwards) to cut the important and popular TOPS program. Indeed, Governor John Bel Edwards crocodile tears on how he is now going to need to cut the TOPS program unless taxes are raised is indicative of where his heart truly is on protecting the program.

The original headline of the Washington Post’s WonkBlog tells you all you need to know: “The Debilitating Economic Disaster Louisiana’s Governor Left Behind.” For Democrats and the Washington Post, they measure the health of the “economy” by how much money state government brings in, not in terms of how many jobs the private sector is creating. It is a backwards logic that Governor Jindal fought to change during his tenure in office.

Tellingly, the facts that Louisiana received 8 credit rating upgrades (and no downgrades) while Governor Jindal was in office, the state hit an all-time high employment record in the summer before Governor Jindal’s term expired, and Louisiana’s business climate rankings reached all-time highs under Governor Jindal are completely ignored by the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

Now, there is no question that historically low oil & gas prices have had a tremendous effect on Louisiana state government’s bottom line, and our state has been far too reliant on this industry to prop up the state budget for too long. Louisiana’s tax code is a mess; it was that way long before Governor Jindal took office. Governor Jindal tried to address it in 2013 by putting forward a proposal to rein in the corporate welfare and giveaways in the tax code, while at the same time lowering tax rates. This would have stabilized revenue and made us less reliant on certain sectors in the Louisiana economy. Unfortunately, there was no appetite in the Legislature to tackle this third rail of Louisiana politics and it was cast aside (Rep. John Bel Edwards led the efforts at the time to oppose the Jindal proposed tax code overhaul). Of course, the Washington Post completely ignores this storyline; it doesn’t fit in the “just blame Jindal” message.

Since taking office, the new governor has decided it is easier to propose to raise sales taxes by 25% instead of taking a smart look at the tax code and state spending and finding areas to trim the fat. Of course, as The Washington Post points out, this will have a devastating effect on every Louisianian, from big and small business owners, to the wealthy, middle class, and even more so, the poorest of our citizens.

Raising taxes is not popular – Governor Edwards, the left, The Washington Post, and others need a bogeyman to blame for it. It’s easy to point the finger at the predecessor and “blame the other guy.” Instead, Governor Edwards and the Legislature should take this opportunity to continue to find areas to cut the size of government and make government live within its means. It is impossible to fathom how our leaders in Baton Rouge are unable to find savings in a $26 billion state budget, and instead tell us the only option is to raise taxes on hard-working families, and then just blame Bobby Jindal when they do it.

Additionally, the liberal left has always had a tough time making arguments against cutting taxes. It is easier for them to go after conservatives on motivation, instead of the actual policy merits. It is easy for them to just say, “Bobby Jindal only cut the size of government and cut taxes because he had personal ambition to be President,” than it is for them to argue that cutting the size of a bloated government is the wrong thing to do, or letting hard working people keep more of their income is poor political ideology.

Louisianians are smarter than this. The “sky is falling,” “it’s all Bobby Jindal’s fault” rhetoric from Baton Rouge is going to get old really fast. At some point, someone is going to have to take some responsibility and lead. We elect leaders to make decisions that will make state government function better for its people. Screaming that LSU football season is going to end, college campuses are going to close, and state services are going to shutter if taxes are not raised rings hollow. Louisianians will see through these sad, stale, scare tactics of Democrat political strategy.

Michael Reed is a Baton Rouge based political consultant and the former Communications Director for Governor Bobby Jindal.

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