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Gov. Jindal announces his run for president

29th June 2015   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

Have missed opportunities doomed Jindal’s chances?

In his announcement speech at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center last Wednesday, Bobby Jindal pledged above all “to grow the private sector economy” if elected President of the United States.

The timing of those words could not have been worse. Likely scripted despite rumors of film industry departures from Louisiana thanks to the new $180 million cap, and IBM scrapping hundreds of jobs in Baton Rouge due to the governor’s “religious freedom” Execu­tive Order, the economic record of which Jindal hoped to boast in his announcement for the White House was clearly overshadowed.

More bad news was something Louisiana Governor desperately did not need. Currently running 12th in Iowa behind Donald Trump, one wonders if the collapse of Hollywood South and the trampling of the Silicon Bayou might undo the last small bit of credibility Bobby Jindal enjoys in the crowded Republican field – that of the policy wonk wunderkind capable of fixing any troubled and overly bureaucratic government program.

The man who said he could shrink government to allow the private sectoto thrive appeared — thanks to the recent spite of bad corporate news–as solely skilled at driving away business due to ideological concerns.

When his exploratory committee formed, the Jindal campaign team reportedly sought to use the 2015 Legislative Session as “a victory lap” of sorts. Months ago they reasoned that the governor had the luxury of staying disengaged. As a “lame duck” even the most popular of chief executives engender little hope of enacting major legislative changes. With Jindal’s poll rankings going south even a year ago, they reasoned “better to stay away.” Then, triumphantly launch the Presidential campaign free of controversy.

Well, disengagement made things worse. The 174 days that the Governor spent outside of Louisiana in the past 365 won him a public approval rating below that of Pres. Barack Obama and behind Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head presidential matchup — in Jindal’s own home state.

The local electorate finally grew tired of a governor more focused on running for President than running the Pelican State, especially when years of plugging the budget with one-time monies matched with a dropping oil price finally manifested into the crisis of a $1.6 billion deficit.

In his announcement speech for the GOP nomination on June 24, 2015, Jindal declared, “We owe voters more than just a tirade about the problem — we owe them honesty about our solution. I will do the things that you cannot do in Washington, and say the things you cannot say.”

That’s what the people who Louisiana thought they were electing in 2007. The fiscal mess of 2015 ranks as precisely the form of budgetary crisis that Bobby Jindal was uniquely supposed to have the intellectual and experiential tools to solve — without causing grave damage to the economy. His past work as Secretary of LA Department of Health & Hospitals, as head of the La. Community College System, and Deputy Sec. of U.S. HHS was predicated upon creative fiscal problem resolution.

And when he had the chance to display those talents in what is arguably the most powerful chief executive post in United States, he preferred to eat popcorn at the Iowa State Fair.

Moreover, for much of the past year that Jindal has spent in the Hawkeye State potential caucus voters have been asking him uncomfortable questions about Louisiana’s health care and higher Ed cuts—verboten topics amongst Iowans who pride themselves on their well-funded university and medical infrastructure.

It could have all been different, lamented Jim Brown in an interview with The Louisiana Weekly. “Bobby Jindal had the chance to be the greatest governor that Louisiana ever had,” the former Democratic Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner, himself a one-time candidate for Governor, explained. An early Jindal enthusiast, he wondered why the great reform ideas that a young policy wunderkind once shared with him seemed to evaporate when it came to governing Louisiana?

Brown, who actually defended parts of the Affordable Care Act as a talk-show host on a conservative radio station, WRNO, gave a recent example. “Last year, Jindal laid out a good plan on how to replace Obamacare.” They were compelling and well-thought out proposals, the former Insurance Commissioner said. “Why didn’t he try some of them in Louisiana?”

Jindal could have employed his concepts of refundable tax credits for Health Insurance within the State Income Tax code. His plan would have increased insurance access for the working poor, the same people who were denied the ACA Medicaid expansion. Employing tax credits to expand coverage would have required taxes elsewhere to offset, yet revenue exchange would have been kosher with conservative pundits like Grover Norquist.

Such a reform, that disproportionally used the tax code to provide credits to low-income individuals and families far beyond the amount they paid in taxes, would have bolstered Jindal’s compassionate conservative credentials. Creating the credits in Louisiana, perhaps by offsetting them with cigarette tax increases, would have given him a national platform to argue against the ACA—with a track record.

It’s a good concept, Brown argued.

A more recent missed opportunity might have been seized if Jindal had paid any significant attention to the machinations of the legislative session. The Governor ideologically shielded his tax increases through the creation of a phantom college tax credit that universities could not claim and students could not utilize. The SAVE or “Students for a Valuable Education” Credit existed only on paper, and in the mind of Grover Norquist.

Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Jefferson), a conservative critic of Jindal’s, had a much more practical solution that the Governor himself had endorsed just three years ago. Louisiana stands as only one of six states still levying a Corporate Franchise Tax. Henry proposed to phase it out over five years, at a cost of $912 million, but enact tax increases this year in that amount to plug the deficit. His plan proved acceptable to Americans for Tax Reform, as it was revenue neutral over the long term (if not this year). However, it would have meant permanent tax increases elsewhere to become law.

In other words, passing the franchise phase-out would have required active gubernatorial leadership. Jindal would have had to be intricately involved in “horse trading” on the floor, something that he avoided until the very last day of the session, when it looked as if his SAVE plan might even fail.

Nevertheless, the press coverage has proven catastrophic anyway. Film job loss reports overshadowed his campaign launch. Then, metaphor turned to humor at the moment Jindal was supposed to fly away triumphant from the crowds at the Airport Hilton and “launch” his formal campaign.

The governor’s plane sat immobile on the runway for hours after his campaign announcement due to mechanical problems. As a result, he missed Thursday morning cable appearances on MSNBC, Fox, CNN, Fox Business, and CNBC. Not a good turn of fate when a candidate ranks only at one percent in national polls amongst GOP primary voters.

Running late, he headed straight to the Granite State for a campaign Q&A. The failed mechanics of his delay seemed an apt metaphor for the failed mechanics of his governorship. The plan seemed good, but the execution, or lack of, resulted in employments losses and a declining fiscal condition.

Ultimately, one is forced to wonder as Jindal runs from ap­pearance to appearance over the next half of a year, while in Louisiana the movies and tech jobs go away, will Jindal have anything compelling left to tell to the people of Iowa?

This article originally published in the June 29, 2015 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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