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November 18, 2015
Morning Jolt
... with Jim Geraghty
A Stupid GOP Electorate Takes a Pass on the Best Governor in the 2016 Field

Alright. I’m ready to just burn down the primary process.

Do you why I was such a big Bobby Jindal fan? Look at the condition of his state the day he took office, and look at the condition of his state now. Yes, Jindal’s approval rating is way below its peak, and two-thirds of Louisianans think the state is headed in the wrong direction. I’ll explain more on that in a bit. But let’s take a time machine back to 2007, right before Jindal was elected.

Democratic governor Kathleen Blanco had performed so abysmally during Katrina and its aftermath, she chose to not run for reelection. The state-run program to distribute federal disaster relief funds was in typical disarray. By January 2007 -- 17 months after Katrina! -- fewer than 250 of an estimated 100,000 applicants had received payments from the program. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin was still talking about keeping his devastated locale “chocolate city.” (In 2014, Nagin was convicted on 20 of 21 charges of wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering related to bribes from city contractors before and after Hurricane Katrina; he was sentenced to ten years in federal prison.) The FBI raided the local congressman’s home and found $90,000 cash in his freezer; he was later sentenced to 13 years in prison. Eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded, and 70 percent of homes were damaged. High crime, failing schools, a state government gripped by incompetence and corruption . . . You think the United States of America in 2015 is a mess? Louisiana in 2007 was in as bad a situation as any state in the union has been in the past 50 years.

Look at Bobby Jindal. Just look at him. He’s 90 pounds soaking wet, he speaks a million words a minute, and he’s got the brains for Oxford and can’t hide it at all. When he’s not nerdy, he’s square; he chose to be called “Bobby” because he liked the character on The Brady Bunch. A state that still reveres Huey Long the way the Turks revere Ataturk was never going to give a guy like him the keys to state government unless they were desperate and looking for a miracle.

So they put Bobby Jindal behind the wheel and damn, did he perform. Fed up with government corruption? Jindal recognized that nothing would work if you didn’t fix that first:

Louisiana’s dramatic jump was rooted in the state’s poor performance in 2006, when it was ranked as number 44, with only 43 points. The disappointing score motivated Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to push a sweeping ethics reform package soon after entering office in January 2008. He signed the bills in the package over a period of several days beginning March 3, 2008, and the new laws took effect this past January. They require all lawmakers to report their outside financial interests -- the first time such disclosure has ever been required in Louisiana. As a result of Jindal’s initiative, Louisiana has rocketed to the top of the Center’s rankings, with 94.5 points, earning the top slot among all 50 states.

Then there’s the economy. Here’s Forbes in 2013:

Louisiana has become one of the most attractive states to do business across a wide spectrum of both traditional and burgeoning industries. This is in large part due to governmental reforms and economic development efforts that were executed in 2008, at a time when most states were pulling back on those efforts due to the beginning of the economic recession. In the past four years, the state has improved on all major business climate rankings, excelling on several lists among the top 10, and luring in dozens of economic development projects that are creating more than 63,000 jobs and over $28 billion in new capital investment.

Just last month, New Orleans was ranked no. 1 overall in economic recovery out of the largest 100 metro areas in the United States, according to the Brookings Institution. Specifically, the Louisiana city came out first in employment, first in Gross Domestic Product output, 87th in unemployment, and 26th in housing prices.

Did Jindal have some wind at his back for much of his first term with higher oil prices in his oil-rich state? Sure, and with oil prices coming down, it’s hurting the state’s economy, one of the reasons for gloom in Jindal’s second term.

Do you like school choice? Jindal pushed for the biggest expansion of it anywhere. Do you like big, sweeping, honking reforms that actually improve schools where they were previously disastrous failures? Look to New Orleans.

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina wiped out huge swaths of the city’s infrastructure and displaced its population, a disaster that paradoxically gave the city the chance to redesign its failing school system. Rather than re-create the neighborhood-based schools that had recapitulated generations of poverty, the city created a network of public charter schools. The charters, which have open admission and public accountability, have produced spectacular results. Before the reforms, New Orleans students -- like overwhelmingly poor students in most places -- lagged far behind more affluent students. Since the reforms, the achievement gap has nearly closed. The proportion of New Orleans students performing at grade level, once half the rate of the rest of the state, now trails by just 6 percent:

If immigration’s your issue, here’s the guy who talked about assimilation and could point to his family’s life experience:

“We need to insist people that want to come to our country should come legally, should learn English and adopt our values, roll up their sleeves, and get to work,” Jindal, the Louisiana governor, said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We need to insist on assimilation. You know, in Europe they’re not doing that. They’ve got huge problems. Immigration without assimilation is invasion. That can weaken our country.”

He’s the one who kept telling people to not call him Indian-American, just “American.”

What the hell, Republican-primary voters? I mean, what the hell? A record like that, and you don’t give the guy a second look?

You know why it’s great to have a governor running for president? Because you already have this nice, big detailed record to examine to get a sense of what kind of leader they’ll be. There’s a lot less guesswork than, say, giving the keys to the Oval Office to a CEO, a brain surgeon, or a real-estate developer and saying, “good luck.”

Now, on to Jindal’s home-state troubles. He cut state government in both the easy ways and the hard ways, and people didn’t like it -- including self-identified conservatives.

Huey Long set up a bunch of state-run hospitals; a big project of Jindal’s first term was privatizing them. Here’s Rod Dreher, writing in the ironically-titled American Conservative magazine, lamenting Jindal’s decision to privatize state-run hospitals and refuse the Medicaid expansion offered under Obamacare:

He has largely privatized the state’s public hospitals, and refused as a matter of principle to take the federal Medicaid money due the state because of Obamacare. So now he can tell GOP primary voters nationwide that he stood up to Obamacare . . .

[Baton Rouge] General’s midcity ER is closing, it was announced this week. The hospital was losing $2 million each month treating the indigent, and could no longer sustain that kind of hemorrhaging. This was foreseen back in 2010, when Jindal and the GOP legislature chose to close Baton Rouge’s charity hospital:

Bill Holman, president and CEO of Baton Rouge General Medical Center, said the agreement won’t ensure that the patients who currently receive care at Earl K. Long will move to The Lake. He said an ambulance will take a patient to the closest hospital in an emergency, and when Earl K. Long closes, one of the closest hospitals will be Baton Rouge General’s mid-city campus.

Holman said his hospital couldn’t handle an influx of uninsured or Medicaid patients without the higher reimbursement rates that will be paid only to The Lake.

“We will have no choice but to close services or ration patient care to survive,” he warned.

Services are now closed. There is now no emergency room in north Baton Rouge, where the majority of the city’s poor, uninsured people live.

The title of the piece? “How Bobby Jindal Wrecked Louisiana.”

Here’s another post from Dreher at the American Conservative, this time lamenting the enormity of Jindal’s proposed cuts to higher education.

I know there must be some pro-Jindal Republicans in Louisiana somewhere, but I haven’t yet met one in the three years I’ve been back. When I ask them why they turned on him, every single one says a variation of, “Because he’s sacrificing the state for his national political ambitions.” Most of them add, “He’s destroyed LSU.”

Comes news that the Jindal Administration is forecasting cutting state funding for its public colleges and universities by $200 to $300 million.

The title of that one? “Destroying Louisiana’s Public Universities.”

Those poor public-university professors.

Hell, man, we don’t need conservatives and Republicans to make those arguments. We can get them from liberals and Democrats.

Here’s a governor willing to make the hard cuts, not just the easy ones, and he gets incoming fire from state Republicans and self-identified conservatives. The Left, hey, we count on their opposition. The wishy-washy middle who want everything funded and somebody else to pay for it -- “Hey, let’s just tax the richest one percent!” -- we figure they’ll abandon ship the moment students start protesting. But no, Jindal’s approval rating plummeted in large part because Louisiana Republicans -- many of whom would describe themselves as conservative -- turned against him for “cuts to health-care services and higher education.”

(Another portion of the dissatisfaction in Louisiana stems from locals’ believing he’s spending too much time on his presidential campaign instead of his gubernatorial duties. This is what happens when your governor or senator runs for president. This doesn’t make much sense as a gripe, whether you like or hate your governor or senator. If you like him, that means that guy you like might soon be doing his good work from the presidency, not just the Senate or governor’s mansion. If you hate the guy, why aren’t you glad he’s spending time away from his day job?)

See, a lot of us conservatives walk around in a reassuring trance believing that people like and want small government. Most people don’t. At most, they like and want small government for other people. Farmers like farm subsidies, defense-contractor employees like big spending by the Pentagon, most senior citizens explode at the slightest mention of cuts to Social Security or Medicare. Most self-identified conservatives not only don’t fight for smaller government, they fight against it when it personally impacts them. And then they turn around and complain that lawmakers never manage to reduce the size of government.

ADDENDA: Mattias Shapiro offers some kind words for Heavy Lifting.

The celebratory tone of this book is what really separates it from the rest of the scoldings that young guys are used to getting. In fact, I almost wish I could change the subtitle from “Grow Up, Get a Job, Start a Family, and Other Manly Advice” to something that might be more at home on the “How To” shelf. In this book, Geraghty and Edwards spend only a little time diagnosing the problem of guys who aren’t aligning with the view of how a man grows up. Instead, the book is filled with the stories and struggles of two guys who did grow up and found out that it is a lot more fun than you might realize. Think of it as a “playbook” with great “moves” for life.

He observes, “We spend a lot of time trying to be giants, be respected and adored, in our personal and professional lives. Kids will give that to their dads almost by default.”

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