Bobby Jindal: Morphing from a statesman into an economic problem-child



Rukma Singh

“They’ve used all the smoke that was in the can and all the mirrors that they could buy and now they’re out of tricks,” opines Treasurer John Kennedy about the economic policies implemented by the Bobby Jindal Administration.

Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Indian immigrants, Jindal studied for a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Public Policy at Brown University and then at Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar.

From being the youngest man to become a United States governor in 2008 to leading the massive downfall of the state of Louisiana, Jindal has come a long way in this eventful journey.

With the exception of his first year in office, 2008, Jindal has constantly faced state financial shortfalls.

Louisiana’s budget shortfall is projected to reach $1.6 billion next year and is expected to remain in that zone for a while. The already momentous problem has been further aggravated by the plunge in oil prices, forcing midyear cuts in the current budget.

“The shortfall next year is almost entirely due to the declining revenues, and the vast majority of that is due to falling oil prices,” said Jindal in an interview to NBC.

Economists, however, have a different tale to tell. They point out that next year’s projected shortfall was well over a billion dollars even when oil prices were high. They argue that the fiscal policy pushed by the Jindal administration, backed by the State Legislature is the only reason to blame for the massive shortfalls.

Due to Jindal’s chaotic and myopic policies, Louisiana has only jumped from one end of the budget crisis loop to another. Hence, there hasn’t been any real improvement.

There have only been efforts to hide this loop from the public eyes.

He put together money from one-time legal settlements and property sales, using it to pay for continuing programs. This further ensured the continuation of the crises. The dollars either don’t pan out or the sources of financing end, resulting in a crucial need for replacement.

Such a mechanism was flawed from the onset itself. The continuation of important programmes was based on the ambiguous possibility of the state receiving money through unreliable sources.

It was a move that, sooner rather than later, had to fail.

“Our budget has been full of sleights of hand — it’s almost a Ponzi scheme of moving moneys around, one-time money around, to serve recurring needs,” said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, one of the Republican aspirants hoping to become Louisiana’s next governor, at a recent forum.

The only successful reduction in the spending was done by cutting more than 30,000 full-time state employees, reducing the state’s vehicle fleet, privatizing much of the Medicaid program, and giving the state’s charity hospitals to outside managers.

Evidently, Jindal has resorted to what seems to be his favourite measures for rectifying mistakes: ‘short-term’ solutions that pose humongous threats for the future. Economic development deals will cost the next governor at least $340 million over his first four years.

Talking about his own record, Jindal claims of having reduced the budget from $34 million to $28 million. What he has been reluctant to explain is the mechanism he used to create that reduction. Much of the drop was induced by expenditure of the one-time federal recovery dollars after hurricane Katrina and Rita.

Here’s what Jindal’s office says about his record as a tax-cutter:

Since taking office, Governor Bobby Jindal has cut taxes a total of six times, which included the largest income tax cut in the state’s history – giving back $1.1 billion over five years to the hard working tax payers across the state, along with accelerating the elimination of the tax on business investment, making Louisiana no longer one of only three states in the country that taxes manufacturing machinery.

Moreover, when the state faced a $341 million budget shortfall, Governor Jindal chose to make state government more lean by finding strategic costs savings in the budget, rather than making across the board cuts or passing the bill on to taxpayers.”

“Finding strategic cost savings in the budget” has only meant moving money from one source to another to cover the structural inadequacies in the budget. If sufficient concentration was centred around computing real measures, Louisiana’s future would have been less darker than it is today.

“Everybody says, ‘Oh, you’re using one-time money.’ I tell people that say that, ‘Well, tell me what you want to cut. Is it higher education? Or is it health care? What university do you want to close?’ The truth is, from a political standpoint, that’s not possible”, said Jack Donahue, a Republican who is also the Senate Finance Committee Chairman.

According to reports, funding for higher education and health care services will almost certainly be subject to cuts higher than the ones that have already been endured in recent years.

The funding gap is so large that state officials have warned of being unable be to conduct the usual Advanced Placement tests and other types of assessments in schools next year. The problem has reached to such an extent that some public colleges and universities might even have to close.

This entire scenario links directly to the 2016 Presidential Elections. The general public view about Jindal’s policies directly hints to the fact that far from recognizing the problem, Jindal has become the problem

The basic question looming over his position is, why should a governor who drove Louisiana into a state of economic turmoil, be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the United States of America?