Bobby Jindal and the Triumph of Lunacy

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        The other day Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, upon leaving a White House meeting with other governors, accused President Obama of poor stewardship of the economy. "What I worry about is that this president and the White House seem to be waving the white flag of surrender after five years under this administration," Jindal announced to reporters. "The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy. I think we can do better than that. I think America can do better than that."

            Inexcusably, Jindal was not asked by any of the reporters present to explain precisely what policies he believes that, in contrast to those of President Obama, would improve the wages of American workers and spur the growth of the economy.   


             Jindal is, in fact, an unrepentant member of the GOP's Neanderthal caucus, who continues to insist, all evidence to the contrary, that a competitive marketplace with minimal government regulation promotes economic growth and personal freedom.

             Ironically, Jindal is unable to reconcile this professed belief with his unwavering support for Louisiana's "right-to-work" laws. Those laws - which epitomize government inference in the most basic unit of economic organization - the work place - impair the ability of employees to organize unions and to bargain freely and collectively with management over wages and working conditions. Those laws also make it virtually impossible for agricultural workers - who are often among the most vulnerable and exploited - to ever be able to improve their standard of living through mutual, collective action.

             Jindal is also unable to explain how, given his opposition to unions, his refusal to support a state minimum wage - and Louisiana's continued reliance upon the prevailing $7.25 the federal minimum - are defensible?  In what ways does that current minimum wage better address the economic needs of thousands of low-wage workers in his state than the proposed legislation by the President and Congressional Democrats to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10?

             Jindal's documented hostility to the  needs of ordinary Louisianans is not surprising. He presides over a state that is, by almost all measures, a rural, third-world, low-wage state. The economy of  Louisiana, aside from tourism, some ship building and commercial fishing, is still largely dominated by oil, gas and extractive mining interests  - i.e. the production of minerals, oil and natural gas, sulfur, lime, salt, lignite; petroleum refining; chemical and petrochemical manufacturing - and agriculture.  

             According the U.S. Census Bureau data, Louisiana has fewer high school graduates than almost all other states in the union, and the number of adults who have earned a bachelor's degree or better is well below the national average, as is the number of residents who have ever served in the Armed Forces of the United States. In addition, between 2008-and 2012, Louisiana's median household income lagged almost $10,000 below the national median while the number of  persons living in poverty between 2008-2012 - 18.7% or almost one fifth of the states' population - was the second largest recorded number among the 50 states. 


             A Gallup study reported in USA Today, February 27, 2014, descried Louisiana as the "tenth most miserable state" in the union based upon its misery index. The report summarized its findings: "Louisiana residents suffered from limited access to basic needs. Last year, nearly 9% of those surveyed in the state noted they did not have easy access to clean and safe drinking water, while nearly 12% of residents lacked easy access to medicine, both among the worst rates in the nation. Just 61.4% of respondents felt safe walking home alone at night, the lowest rate in the U.S., and significantly lower than the national rate of more than 70% who felt safe in the same circumstances. Louisiana also ranked among the lowest in healthy behaviors because of its residents' high smoking rate and limited healthy eating. As of 2010, there were 229.4 deaths due to heart disease per 100,000 people in the state, fourth-highest nationally. That same year, life expectancy at birth in the state was just 75.7 years, one of the worst figures in the nation."

             A Times-Picayune report by Rebecca Catalanello in October 16, 2013 described a Kaiser Family Foundation study that found that 242,150 poor people who currently lacked health insurance would be denied access to insurance provided for under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act because of Governor Jindal's refusal to accept the federal government's proposed Medicaid expansion.

             Another Times-Picayune reporter, Bruce Alpert, in a December 05, 2013 dispatch, cited a study by Commonwealth Fund that found that, as a result of its rejection of federal funds under the Affordable Care Acts expansion of Medicaid, Louisiana would lose $1.65 billion in 2022, or more than twice as much as it is projected to receive in federal highway and transportation funds.

             Gov. Bobby Jindal rejected the Medicaid expansion because he claimed that the proposal would be too expensive to the state and that, in addition, an expansion of Medicaid was not an efficient way to improve access to health care, although U.S. Census Bureau data showed that in 2011, 886,000 residents  -or roughly 20% of the population - of Louisiana were uninsured.

             If the corporate media in this country were less supine, Governor Jindal would have been dismissed as clueless long ago, rather than extolled as a potential candidate for President of the United States. The disconnect between Jindal's rhetoric, his policy prescriptions, and his stewardship of  Louisiana's economy suggest that, despite his formidable educational credentials, something is not quite right. It prompts one to wonder whether the current state of what passes for politics and civic discourse in the United States, particularly among the GOP, is now so bizarre and dysfunctional that its study should become the exclusive domain of mental health professionals. 

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