In search of Gov. Bobby Jindal
13th May 2013 · 0 Comments
By Edmund W. Lewis
Louisiana Gov. Bobby “Piyush” is feeling very blue these days, I imagine.
He is after all, fighting to hold onto the power he amassed years ago in Baton Rouge and scrambling to justify a number of moves he has made in public education and health care that have left many Louisiana residents wondering what the former protégé of Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster must be thinking.
Like him or loathe him, there was a time when even the biggest Bobby Jindal critics had to admit that the young fella had a way about him and a knack for getting things done. Depending on your political affiliation, Bobby was either a whiz kid with the right stuff to lead this state or a number-crunching automaton with no compassion for those less fortunate.
His actions of late—from the shortchanging of New Orleans homeowners through the Road Home program to the mass termination of New Orleans public school teachers, administrators and staff after Hurricane Katrina, the extraction of public-school funds to pay for student vouchers and his refusal to accept a federal infusion of Medicaid funds even though Louisiana remains one of the poorest and least healthy states in the Union—make it easy to conclude that it is time for him to go.
It isn’t bad enough that he has gone out of his way to undermine efforts to safeguard the public against mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn. by adamantly opposing gun-control legislation, he also has tried to replace the teaching of evolution with creationism in state schools, has closed mental health facilities in New Orleans and ran up a bill by using taxpayer funds to pay for his many trips across the nation to promote himself and fellow GOP candidates. For a while, it appeared as though he was untouchable and unstoppable but he may have bit off more than he can chew when he tried to do away with the so-called Hollywood South tax incentives that have brought many film projects to the state.
It doesn’t help that Louisiana has the nation’s highest incarceration rate. Think about that for a minute: In the nation with the world’s highest incarceration rate, Louisiana is the state with the highest incarceration rate. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2011 Louisiana had the third-highest poverty rate in the U.S. with 29 percent of residents living below the poverty line, with only New Mexico (31%) and Mississippi (32%) faring worse. Louisiana also has a dismal record with regard to illiteracy, homelessness and gun violence — not exactly the kind of stuff that elevates an elected official to higher political ground, which might explain why Gov. Jindal is no longer even being considered as a viable candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
Like someone a litter closer to home who shall remain nameless, Bobby has insisted on passing bills that increase transparency and accountability for other elected officials while carrying out his own plans under a cloak of secrecy and privacy. What’s amazing is how long he has been able to get away with it?
It appears as though members of both parties are hip to the governor’s myriad games and have grown weary of letting him have his way. He may somehow manage to get some of the things he wants to accomplish during this legislative session but he is clearly no longer sitting in the catbird’s seat.
Even before the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that his voucher plan was unconstitutional, several GOP judges had ruled that the governor overstepped his authority when he made several moves to undermine teachers and traditional public schools and an increasing number of legislators from both major parties have publicly criticized the governor for his refusal to expand Medicaid in a state with widespread healthcare needs and few solutions on the horizon.
Despite the ridiculosity and lunacy of his plan to do away with a state income tax and growing criticism of his refusal to put the needs of the state above his political aspirations, to date Gov. Jindal has refused to budge.
His singleminded stubbornness might be laughable if it were not so detrimental to the well-being of Louisiana residents. Despite his best attempts to paint himself as an ardent reformer who is hellbent on saving Louisiana even if he has to drag the state kicking and screaming into greener pastures, Bobby Jindal comes across more like the poor little monkey from an age-old fable who loses his piece of fruit after seeing his reflection in a lake for the first time and thinks the monkey looking at him has a bigger, tastier piece of fruit than he has.
The once-rising political star is now seeing his options go up in smoke with every bad move he makes.
No one believes any more that he is the candidate to help the GOP recapture the White House or change the way the party is viewed by Americans of all hues. He missed his chance to rise to the occasion and must now live with regret about the choices he made that backfired.
Bobby Jindal’s fall from grace, coupled with the recent election, show that voters are sick and tired of being sick and tired and ready to do away with elected officials and ordinances that don’t get the job done. It’s not just the money-grubbing, lying and manipulative variety of elected officials that voters are sick of, but also the egomaniacal, self-serving and unimaginative sort as well.
It’s a new day and hopefully the beginning of an era of true accountability and transparency from top to bottom in electoral politics. Let the comfortable politicians know that change is coming to those political offices where nothing of lasting significance is being done. Change your ways or be prepared for a career change.
It’s hard to feel sorry for an elected official who never really seemed to grasp the concept of what it means to be a public servant. Bobby never really learned that his purpose as an elected official is to serve and meet the needs of the people. He never really showed any evidence of humility or compassion for those among us who are least fortunate. He showed no signs of being torn up about having to deprive Louisiana elders of a chance to receive better Medicaid benefits, nor did he spend a great deal of time and energy making sure that families had a chance to lift themselves out of poverty. For all his talk about Christianity and family values, there is not much evidence in his political record to indicate that he was motivated by his Christian faith or family values to help others. He clearly identified with the rich and powerful in Louisiana, the ones who signed all those campaign checks and helped him to amass a considerable war chest.
Although it really did look for a while like this day might never come, it looks like Piyush Jindal is finally approaching his expiration date. He has worn out his welcome and made more enemies than he could ever defeat.
In an AP article last week. State Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, talked about complaints from the Jindal administration about being kept in the dark about tax-break negotiations in the State Legislature.
“You said you felt out of the loop? Now you know how we feel … Welcome,’’ Johnson said.
What happened to that young, brilliant bright-eyed kid some folks thought once had the brainpower and organizational skills to turn Louisiana around? What happened to the number-cruncher whose mind was sharp and unfettered with political ambition and pressure to tow the party line?
Simply put, life happened.
This article originally published in the May 13, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.