I’ll be honest. I don’t like you. I’ve never liked you. Maybe it’s your awkward folksiness or your generally amateurish disposition. It’s hard to say, really. I must admit, though, that when you were elected, I felt reasonably confident that you could handle the job. I thought to myself, “Well, he’s not my guy, but at least he’s smart and moderately competent.” Holy shit, was I wrong.
I realize you’re not as dumb as you pretend to be. My guess is that you decided at some point that intellectual integrity is a political liability. And maybe you’re right. Maybe everything about politics militates against intelligent discourse. Maybe, as a matter of strategy, it’s safer to do nothing and appear smart to stupid people than it is to actually lead. I honestly don’t know.
The point of this letter is to tell you what I do know and to explain to you why you’re not good at your job. For most of your tenure, you’ve been a complete and utter failure. Rather than advance the interests of Louisianans, you’ve shamelessly served your own. Instead of fixing things, you’ve devoted much of your time to writing stupid and largely incoherent columns for national publications, virtually none of which have anything to do with Louisiana. You’ve also made a habit of traveling about the country making gaseous (and unintentionally ironic) speeches about the GOP’s need to “stop being the stupid party.”
It’s safer to do nothing and appear smart to stupid people than it is to actually lead.
You’ve done all of this in order to position yourself as a national figure in the conservative movement. You seemed to believe that you were a viable presidential candidate. You’re not, of course, but that’s not really the point. The point is that you’re the worst kind of politician: always maneuvering, always deceiving, always thinking in terms of the future at the expense of the present.
Now, you may think I’m naïve, that I don’t understand politics. Not true at all. I don’t expect politicians to eschew personal ambition, but there’s something uncommonly offensive about your willingness to screw Louisianans for short-term private gain. Some examples may help to illustrate what I mean here.
Let’s start with your rejection of $300 million of federal stimulus money for high-speed rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Now I know how worried you and your fellow conservatives are about the federal deficit. That’s fair enough. Thing is, those federal dollars were being spent in any case – either in Louisiana or elsewhere. So, you managed, at the same time, to do nothing about federal spending while also denying Louisiana a critically important link between its economic center and its capital city, a link that would have helped the state and its citizens in innumerable ways for years to come.
What were you thinking? Well, it appears you wanted to boost your conservative credentials and improve your post-Louisiana political prospects. In other words, you shat on your own state to further your own career.
How about your record on higher education, child care, Veterans Affairs, and the environment? According to a report in The Advocate, state funding for Louisiana’s public colleges and universities has been cut more than 80% since 2008; youth services by 40%; Veterans Affairs programs by 69%; and spending for the Department of Environmental Quality was cut by 96%. All of these moves, I assume, were part of your contrived effort to market yourself as fiscally conservative in future elections. But that’s bullshit.
There’s something uncommonly offensive about your willingness to screw Louisianans for short-term private gain.
These numbers may stiffen the pants of teabaggers around the country, but the policies behind them have done nothing – NOTHING – to improve the lives of everyday Louisianans. Worse still, they haven’t even improved Louisiana’s economic status as a whole. Recall that you entered office with a budget surplus of $1 billion. In 2016, Louisiana is facing a projected deficit of close to $2 billion. You see, your whole narrative as a presidential candidate is an illusion, and a rather obvious one.
The truth is that Louisiana still depends disproportionately on the federal government for basic services (nearly 40% of the total budget, in fact), and to the extent that your policies have yielded benefits, they haven’t trickled down to the people who most need them. In 2007, for example, the year before you took office, Louisiana ranked 30th in per capita income. As of last year, we ranked 29th.
But there’s more. As a recent article by bestofneworleans.com notes, Louisiana also boasts some of the nation’s saddest health care stats. To wit, we have the highest infant mortality rate; the highest diabetes-related death rate; the highest rate of death from breast cancer; the third-highest rate of cancer deaths overall; the sixth-highest rate of children born to teenage mothers; and the eighth-highest rate of teen pregnancies. Pretty impressive, right?
Have you even considered how disjointed your position on health care has been? No? Maybe I can help. For reasons that aren’t quite clear to me, you recently turned down federal funds under the Affordable Care Act that would have expanded Medicaid to thousands of low-income Louisianans. Now, I get it, you’ve got future elections to consider, and you can’t be seen taking money from an illegitimate Kenyan president. But seriously, what the hell were you thinking?
I get it, you’ve got future elections to consider, and you can’t be seen taking money from an illegitimate Kenyan president.
Surely you could have explained to GOP donors and teabagger enthusiasts that there was no conceivable reason not to take the money, as Louisianans, like taxpayers everywhere, have already paid into this program, which is now enshrined in law. This means that Louisiana is in the preposterously stupid position of paying for a program from which it won’t benefit. In fact, thanks to you, Louisianans, many of whom are sick and without health care, get to sleep at night knowing their tax dollars helped expand coverage in other states. So at least there’s that.
You may be wondering why I’m writing this letter now, given that I’ve never liked you. Well, last Friday, you signed Senate Bill 469 into law. Normally, I’m not surprised when a local politician performs legislative fellatio on the oil and gas industry. We expect these sorts of things. But this was a special “fuck you” to the people of this state.
For those who don’t know, this bill killed a New Orleans area flood authority’s lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies. What’s more, not only does this bill protect companies like BP against legitimate legal claims, but it also ensures that the unfettered destruction of Louisiana’s coastline will continue unabated for the foreseeable future. So, companies irresponsibly destroying and dredging thousands of acres of wetlands can now do so without restraint.
This shit bill was terrible for Louisiana but, naturally, great for you. It was a well-earned return for the oil and gas folks, who’ve already given you close to $1 million. But even better, as Tom Aswell over at louisianavoice.com pointed out, it was a great victory for your brother, Nikesh Jindal, who, incidentally, works for one of the law firms representing BP in the negotiations that ended criminal charges against the company. Nicely done, Bobby.
I’ve probably said enough now. Enjoy what’s left of your term, Governor. You were bad at your job and you won’t be missed.
Sean Illing is a reluctant academic with a penchant for pissing people off with words. He has found an outlet for his smartassery here at The Red Shtick. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_illing, or learn more about the man at SeanIlling.com.