…AND BITES IN THE BUTTby Elliott Stonecipher
As a kid, the warning was, “‘Careful: that’ll come come back to bite you on the butt.” What such sayings lacked in absolute truth – I never knew or heard tell of a single kid stabbed by scissors as he or she ran and fell – they made up for in common sense. If this one’s right, Governor Jindal’s backside is in for a tattering. I thank Mark Ballard at the Baton Rouge Advocate for his treatment of the subject in this morning’s paper.
For Louisiana these days, the subject is not really funny, and as Mark mentions and in part explains, it is one about which I am passionate. Among the many things Bobby Jindal’s governorship has brought us, notable is his slavish devotion to spin – it was called propaganda in a more honest time – at the cost of fact and truth. Admittedly mixing metaphors, it hurts to watch Rev. Bobby quickly stride back-and-forth in front of our state’s altar of real and serious problems, preaching his gospel of hellfire and damnation to any and all who prefer or demand – can you shout, Thank you Reverend!! – facts and truth.
Two examples of Jindal’s cost to Louisiana in context are his silly notions of “ethics reform,” and the assertion that he cured three decades of population outmigration. My gratis work with the then-Ethics Board in 2007 intersected Jindal’s junking of our ethics regime, so as Mark Ballard points out, I was early in warning Louisianans that something was very wrong with how our new governor – savior, many seemed to believe – was already and wrongly doing the public’s business.
Jindal’s anything-but-reform schtick involving our ethics code is actually the abandonment of real enforcement to a knock-off which, in fact, served some legislators dealing at that time with ethics complaints against themselves. Jindal’s stinking deal with such malefactors became his “ethics reform” claim, just in time for his campaign to be the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. Then, the notion that an outmigration problem such as Louisiana’s has been, or even could be, “reversed” by any single governor is just nuts. What a governor might do, though, if he or she was thus disposed, is take advantage of some statistically confirmed hiccup of some kind on which to base a bogus claim. The return during his term of evacuees from Katrina and Rita was that hiccup, and Jindal was perfectly at ease in exploiting and misrepresenting it in service of his “Louisiana Miracle” tour around the country.
The facts as to population outmigration are that Louisiana “lost” nearly a quarter-million Census Bureau-measured residents to Katrina and Rita late in 2005, many of them to other states. Precisely, that count for July 1, 2005 to July 1, 2006 was a loss of -241,201. Most returned, many of them fairly soon. In total, though, the return took years, especially since many left, then came back, then permanently left again. To the extent possible, the Census Bureau’s official Estimates program “counted” evacuees as they left, and again as they returned. The process shook-up the Estimates and all other such methodologies, creating factoids which could be asserted by Jindal to be the end to outmigration.
Making such hard statements of fact based on such events and statistics is foolish, of course. Neither is it possible, however, to refute such claims by way of hard statements of fact. That is the kind of opening Jindal and his various enforcers routinely pounce on, as they do state employees who refuse to genuflect. What we can do, responsibly, is look at the matter over a much longer time, tracking the numbers annually. Thus, between the 1980 Census and the official Estimates of July 1, 2012, Louisiana has lost, net, some 608,000 residents to outmigration. That horrendous drain of former residents stems from problems Louisiana knew decades before Bobby Jindal was born. His hokum about outmigration notwithstanding, the most recent data continue to discourage: Louisiana’s net state-to-state migration number has steadily dropped since the storms, from a gain of 28,854 in 2007 down, down and down, all the way down to a loss of -1,234 in the most recent Census data for July 1, 2011 through July 1, 2012. Net foreign migration has added an annual average of 3,964 since then, but the number is subject to all manner of dispute centered on Bureau counts of undocumented migrants which have been proven to be anything but trustworthy.
Preached with both certitude and an appeal to extraordinary faith that he will be U. S. President one day, Jindal’s gospel is also expensive, and that’s not a reference to the millions the Reverend has moved his contributors to toss into his campaign collection plates. Rather, the cost is rather measured in lost chances, and in decades of the stubborn, frustrating and tiresome work toward real reform. Before Jindal’s good government tent ministry set-up in 2007, the effort for a top-class ethics administration was gaining real strength under the leadership of the legitimate Ethics Board, then chaired and led by Lafayette attorney Hank Perret. Likewise, thanks to the Leaving Louisiana series in the early 2000s by the Baton Rouge Advocate, serious work to which I was proud to contribute, real awareness of our old, awful and continuing population outmigration problem was finally being raised. Given that solutions to such Louisiana curses will always depend on disinterested and recalcitrant legislators, Rev. Bobby has set us back, way back, with his false gospel: it provides legislators and many other influential people too much cover as they then choose to ignore such heavy lifting in deference to “problems” which are typically mere self-interest.
Now, as Mark Ballard’s column this morning reports, proof of the falseness of the Jindal gospel is emerging. Point after point, subject after subject, Jindal’s malarky is coming back around to bite him. His credibility is pretty much shot in Louisiana, and it’s headed that way, too, among his lusted-after national audience.
Not that Jindal has packed-up his revival tent and moved on. The so-called “tax-swap” mess is proof that our governor always has a bagful of what polite folk used to call piffle and twaddle. The supposed parking of his tax-swap was actually no more than passing it off to legislators who remain Jindal believers, of whom there should be none left since the ploy in fact evidences Jindal’s cratered credibility. Given that genesis, whatever comes of this will be tainted, just as his ethics reform and population outmigration claims.
There is little doubt that the best days for Jindal’s style of sermonizing, uh, governing, are behind him. As those days change into much tougher times for him, each fact or truth that bites him is purely self-inflicted. It is not the truth that hurts him, it is rather his stark devotion to its absence.
Elliott Stonecipher Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited or accepted for this work. This work is protected, and no other use of it is permitted without the written consent of Mr. Stonecipher.