mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Bobby Jindal, Crony Capitalist”: Giving A Whole New Meaning To The Term “Corporate Welfare”

As much as I hate entertainment tax credit programs, and as obsessed as I’ve become with the bottomless well of opportunism known as Bobby Jindal, you’d think I would have guessed at the cash nexus underlying the prize endorsement of the Lousiana governor’s proto-presidential candidacy by Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson. But afraid it took a report from Bloomberg Politics‘ Margaret Newkirk to get me to see the connection:

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a potential Republican presidential candidate, is trying to close a $1.6 billion budget hole without touching as much as $415,000 per episode in tax breaks that may be due to “Duck Dynasty.”

The A&E television reality show takes part in the nation’s most generous entertainment-tax credit program. Jindal is proposing no changes, arguing that reducing such breaks is tantamount to raising taxes. The state approves enough incentives each year to make up at least $200 million in proposed cuts that led Louisiana State University to say that it may plan for insolvency….

Louisiana, which was the site of the most English-language film productions in the U.S. in 2013, pioneered movie credits, approving the program in 2002. All but 13 states now have such programs, according to Film Production Capital, a New Orleans firm that brokers credits….

Feeding Time Productions LLC, which produces [Duck Dynasty], has submitted expenses for its first four seasons that would qualify it for $11 million in credits once approved, according to state data. That includes $4.6 million for the fourth season, or $415,000 per episode. None have yet been certified.

Louisiana offers movie makers credits for 30 percent of in-state spending and allows them to be sold to brokers.

Film-production companies set up as limited liability companies don’t owe corporate taxes in Louisiana. Most therefore sell their credits to someone that does. They are also allowed to sell them back to the state for 85 cents on the dollar.

That’s right: it’s not enough for Louisiana to let film and TV production companies eliminate their state tax liabilities; the state gives them “transferable” tax credits that can be sold on special markets to companies that do have tax liability, and if that fails the state will buy them back. So this is the corporate version of the “refundable tax credits” poor people get via the EITC.

This makes me kind of ill as an abstract matter, and gives a whole new meaning to the term “corporate welfare.” But it’s especially egregious in a state like Louisiana, with a horrendous budget shortfall, and even violates Jindal’s own principle that cutting back on refundable tax credits (e.g., credits from the business inventory tax) doesn’t violate his no-tax-increase pledge.

I’m not saying Bobby’s taking this inconsistent and politically damaging position strictly out of solicitude for Duck Dynasty; he’s slippery enough that there are usually multiple reasons for every objectionable thing he does. But on the other hand, when Mike Huckabee was going out of his way to pander to the Robertsons in his recent book, he didn’t have tax credits to hand them either, did he?

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 4, 2015

May 6, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Corporate Welfare, Tax Cuts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Juicy Target For Budget Cutters”: To Balance Budgets, Governors Seek Higher Education Cuts

Governors in nearly a half-dozen states want to cut state spending on colleges and universities to help close budget shortfalls, often sparking vehement opposition among state lawmakers of both parties.

Republican governors in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, and Wisconsin, and Connecticut’s Democratic governor have proposed higher education cuts for the coming fiscal year. Higher education spending traditionally is a juicy target for budget cutters because schools can make up the lost revenue by raising tuition.

But students and their families already are being squeezed by steadily rising college costs. In fiscal year 2013, schools got about 47 percent of their revenue from tuition, up from about 24 percent in fiscal year 1988, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut has suggested a tuition hike to compensate for the cuts, but the Republican governors are urging the schools in their states to find the necessary savings by trimming bureaucracy and consolidating campuses.

University officials argue that past budget cuts have pushed them to the breaking point, forcing them, for example, to rely heavily on adjunct professors and teaching assistants instead of full professors. During the recession, 48 states cut higher education spending. Alaska and North Dakota didn’t. They are the only two states spending as much or more on higher education than they did before the recession, when the numbers are adjusted for inflation, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a Washington, D.C.-based research group.

Some critics have urged the Republican governors to roll back recent tax cuts to spare the colleges and universities. But so far the governors have balked, arguing that lower taxes have helped working families and attracted businesses.

Nowhere is the controversy greater than in Louisiana, which has a complicated higher education system and a Republican governor who is considering running for president.

Governor Bobby Jindal proposed a budget that would reduce higher education spending by $141 million in fiscal 2016. In recent weeks, he has proposed offsetting some of the cuts by getting rid of some refundable business tax credits, which have a total value of $526 million. But the business community is strongly opposing that idea. That leaves the Republican-dominated legislature in a bind, forcing members to choose between education and low taxes, two priorities they generally support.

State Senator Conrad Appel, a Republican, said in an interview that if the higher education cuts Jindal proposed all go into effect “it would be really serious” and a big blow to colleges and universities. He said he wants to scale back the proposed cuts, but wasn’t prepared to say exactly how.

“If we vote to replenish, some of the cuts will be mitigated to some extent,” he said. But, he noted that the Louisiana public university system has “structural inefficiencies” that will mean more budget cuts in the future. He said he told college administrators last week that they should take steps to cut their budgets, whether that means consolidation of campuses or other methods.

“What I don’t recommend is for higher education to ignore the opportunity to fix the problem,” he said. “Either they are going to fix it or we are going to fix it for them and they won’t like it.”

Robert Scott, president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, said that since Jindal became governor in 2008, the number of full-time employees at state colleges and universities has decreased 23 percent due to budget cuts, and that schools have been raising tuition along the way. But now, he said, “they are about to price themselves out of the market.” He said the flagship school, Louisiana State University, “still has some headroom” to continue tuition increases, but most of the small schools in the state system don’t have that luxury.

John Griswold, a fine arts professor at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, said his state is a test case for cuts to higher education.

“The conditions in Louisiana were perfect for testing an assault on state-funded higher education,” Griswold said. He noted the state has a conservative governor, legislative rules that preclude cuts in most spending except for higher education and health care, and an economic downturn prompted by the drop in oil prices.

“Similar conditions exist in other states, so conservative politicians elsewhere can also demand deep cuts to higher ed, based on populist appeals to ‘good business’ and an end to ‘welfare mentality,’” he said.

Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a potential presidential candidate who has cut state income and property taxes by $541 million during his tenure, has proposed cutting $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system.

According to Walker, that amounts to a 2.5 percent cut, but other analysts have put the figure as high as 13 percent. The fact-checking service PolitiFact split the difference, assessing the reduction at about 6 percent. The cut would be exacerbated by the fact that there is a tuition freeze in place.

“Through flexibility and empowering current leaders from across the system, (University of Wisconsin) System and campus leadership will have the tools necessary to deliver a high quality education in a strategic manner while saving taxpayers $150 million a year,” Walker’s spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, said.

Meanwhile, two Republican state lawmakers have called for changes in the governor’s budget that would lessen the cut, including raising out-of-state tuition and requiring the university to spend down reserve funds.

“We will work toward a smaller, more manageable cut instead of the $300 million cut proposed in the governor’s budget,” the two, Reps. Dean Knudson and John Nygren, said in a press release last week.

In Illinois, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner recommended a reduction of nearly 6 percent in direct spending on state colleges and universities. Despite the cut, Rauner argues that “this budget proposal continues to offer state support to our public universities” through contributions to the universities’ retirement system and insurance benefits for university employees.

But Rauner faces strong opposition from the Democratic-controlled legislature and from the state’s universities.

Senate President John Cullerton said on his Facebook page that the governor’s budget cuts will “undermine access to health services, child care, affordable college and retirement security for working- and middle-class families” and vowed that the legislature will amend it. While Rauner has proposed cuts in a range of areas, the education chunk is drawing the most attention.

In Arizona, the Republican-led legislature went further than Republican Governor Doug Ducey in cutting higher education, agreeing to a $99 million cut, down from an earlier legislative proposal of $104 million. Ducey had proposed a $75 million reduction as a way to pay for business tax cuts. Universities and proponents of higher education fought the governor’s cuts so doggedly that they prompted a backlash in the legislature, which upped them.

Arizona State University President Michael Crow called the action a “drastic remedy to the state’s budget troubles” and one that will come back to haunt the state when it has fewer college graduates contributing to the state’s economy.

In Connecticut, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy proposed cutting $10.6 million from the University of Connecticut system and an additional $20.6 million from the state’s regional universities. Malloy has expressed support for tuition hikes, after several years of urging that tuition merely keep pace with inflation.

In Kansas, Republican Governor Sam Brownback since 2011 has pushed through a 25 percent reduction in the state’s top income tax rate, lowered sales taxes and eliminated a tax on small-business income. As a result, state revenue has declined by $685 million. Brownback now is looking to make cuts in education and elsewhere in an effort to balance the books.

Walter McMahon, professor emeritus of economics and education at the University of Illinois said cutting higher education to close budget gaps is “very, very shortsighted.”

“Spending on education is really an investment,” McMahon said. “As money is invested in human capital formation, each graduate is in the labor force for over 45 years and contributes increased earnings and tax revenue to state coffers.”

He added that statistics show that more educated people live longer, healthier lives and commit fewer crimes, allowing states to spend less on health care and prison costs.

 

By: Elaine S. Povich, The National Memo, March 30, 2015

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Governors, Higher Education, State Budgets | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another Math Problem For The 2016 Hopeful”: Bobby Jindal’s Budget Doesn’t Fund Presidential Primary

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is learning the hard way that presidential primaries aren’t free. As of now, his state hasn’t budgeted for one.

To fill a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, Jindal proposed hundred of millions in spending cuts in a budget plan earlier this month, slashing the budgets of several offices. Secretary of State Tom Schedler was one of several state officials who testified to the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that the budget underfunded his department and was lacking $3.4 million for a presidential primary next spring.

“I have no funding for elections past the fall elections,” Schedler told lawmakers Wednesday, later adding, “I want to hold a presidential preference primary if you want to pay for it.”

Jindal’s office and the Department of State lay the blame with the other party. According to the Washington Post, Jindal’s office said they gave Schedler’s office a “target savings number” to hit, and that cuts are at his discretion. Schedler’s spokeswoman said the Department of State informed the governor that primaries would be one of the first objectives to go if the budget was cut.

And so, the governor’s office has been aware of the primary election shortfall for weeks, and the gap is only just now becoming an issue. Officials are now working with the legislature to figure out how to come up with the extra funds, while Democrats are using the story to call attention to Jindal’s low placement in recent presidential polls, according to Reuters.

If Louisiana can’t afford a primary, it might set up a party-run caucus or convention, which might work in Jindal’s favor. “He wants to convince his own core group of people to rig it for him so he doesn’t come out looking so bad,” Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana State Democratic Party, told Reuters.

It’s just as likely that Jindal was hoping the Department of State would cut funds somewhere a little less relevant to his political ambitions.

 

By: Arit John, Bloomberg Politics, March 2015

 

March 22, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primaries | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unapologetic, Unrepentant”: Who Regrets Slavery? Not Steve Scalise

I know that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) doesn’t have “a racist bone in his body,” but it’s hard to reconcile that with his actions. The third-ranking member of the House Republican leadership didn’t just attend a neo-Nazi conference in 2002, he also led opposition to a 1996 resolution in the state House that expressed mere “regret” for the institution of slavery.

To get some perspective on this, the reason that the resolution was an expression of “regret” rather than a straight-up apology is because David Vitter negotiated watered-down language in exchange for his support.

Another familiar face was in the committee meeting as well: Republican David Vitter. The U.S. senator and 2015 Louisiana gubernatorial candidate was also a state representative serving on the panel.

Vitter echoed Scalise in the meeting, arguing that an apology for slavery implied an “admission of guilt,” according to the minutes. The future U.S. senator said “an expression of regret” was more appropriate.

[Then-state Rep. Yvonne] Dorsey eventually agreed to Vitter’s suggestion, and the resolution was unanimously amended to include the “regret” language.

But this wasn’t enough for Scalise. He made an effort to “defer” the bill in committee [it failed 11-2] and then he vocally yelled ‘no’ as the bill was passed on the House floor in an uncontroversial voice vote.

I know that we’re all supposed to make certain allowances for the way things used to be in the South, and, yes, 1996 was a long time ago. But even by the standards of the mid-1990’s, Steve Scalise was an outlier.

Let’s be clear, too, that this wasn’t an expression of regret for the more recent Jim Crow laws. This was about slavery. And Scalise wasn’t making some pedantic point about how it’s anachronistic to hold our ancestors to the moral standards of the present. He just didn’t think that there was anything to regret.

Dorsey, who now serves in the state Senate and goes by Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, told The Hill this week that she was hurt when Scalise attacked her resolution in the House and Government Affairs Committee.

“I didn’t like what he said and how he said it. It was callous,” said Dorsey-Colomb, who is the descendant of slaves. “I think he wanted nothing to do with it. It was like, ‘How dare you bring this up and ask us to do this?’”

I remind you that Steve Scalise is the House Majority Whip, a position held in the past by folks like Dick Gephardt, Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt, Kevin McCarthy, and Steny Hoyer. Other relatively recent Republican (minority) whips include Eric Cantor, Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Cheney.

Scalise holds a position that is powerful in its own right, but it’s also a position that tends to lead places.

Yet, we’re told that Scalise isn’t actually a racist. We’re not told that he used to be a racist and then had some kind of epiphany like, say, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Basically, we’re just told that Scalise never was a racist despite the obvious fact that he behaved in an obviously racist way over the period of many years while serving in the Louisiana legislature.

As I’ve said before, pretending to be a racist isn’t somehow better than actually being a racist. In some ways, I think it is worse. I don’t like excuses that take the form of “that’s just what I had to do to get elected.”

But that’s the best excuse available to Scalise, and, in that case, he was too convincing as an actor.

If the GOP wants to carry this anvil, they’re welcome to it, but the nation deserves better than this. We have an example to set for the world, right?

This isn’t getting it done.

 

By: Martin Longman, Ten Miles Square, The Washington Monthly, January 15, 2015

January 18, 2015 Posted by | Racism, Slavery, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dems, It’s Time To Dump Dixie”: A Lost Cause, A Different Country

I don’t remember a much sadder sight in domestic politics in my lifetime than that of Mary Landrieu schlumpfing around these last few weeks trying to save a Senate seat that was obviously lost. It was like witnessing the last two weeks of the life of a blind and toothless dog you knew the vet was just itching to destroy. I know that sounds mean about her, but I don’t intend it that way. She did what she could and had, as far as I know, an honorable career. I do, however, intend it to sound mean about the reactionary, prejudice-infested place she comes from. A toothless dog is a figure of sympathy. A vet who takes pleasure in gassing it is not.

And that is what Louisiana, and almost the entire South, has become. The victims of the particular form of euthanasia it enforces with such glee are tolerance, compassion, civic decency, trans-racial community, the crucial secular values on which this country was founded… I could keep this list going. But I think you get the idea. Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment. A fact made even sadder because on the whole they’re such nice people! (I truly mean that.)

With Landrieu’s departure, the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South, and I say good. Forget about it. Forget about the whole fetid place. Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise. The Democrats don’t need it anyway.

Actually, that’s not quite true. They need Florida, arguably, at least in Electoral College terms. Although they don’t even really quite need it—what happened in 2012 was representative: Barack Obama didn’t need Florida, but its 29 electoral votes provided a nice layer of icing on the cake, bumping him up to a gaudy 332 EVs, and besides, it’s nice to be able to say you won such a big state. But Florida is kind of an outlier, because culturally, only the northern half of Florida is Dixie. Ditto Virginia, but in reverse; culturally, northern Virginia is Yankee land (but with gun shops).

So Democrats still need to care about those two states, at least in presidential terms. And maybe you can throw in North Carolina under the right circumstances. And at some point in the near future, you’ll be able to talk about Georgia as a state a Democrat can capture. And eventually, Texas, too.

But that’s presidential politics. At the congressional level, and from there on down, the Democrats should just forget about the place. They should make no effort, except under extraordinary circumstances, to field competitive candidates. The national committees shouldn’t spend a red cent down there. This means every Senate seat will be Republican, and 80 percent of the House seats will be, too. The Democrats will retain their hold on the majority-black districts, and they’ll occasionally be competitive in a small number of other districts in cities and college towns. But they’re not going to win Southern seats (I include here with some sadness my native West Virginia, which was not a Southern state when I was growing up but culturally is one now). And they shouldn’t try.

My friend the political scientist Tom Schaller said all this back in 2008, in his book Whistling Past Dixie. I didn’t want to agree with Schaller then, but now I throw in the towel. He was a man ahead of his time. Look west, Schaller advised the Democrats. And he was right. Now it’s true that many states in the nation’s heartland aren’t winnable for Democrats, either. Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah will never come anywhere close to being purple. But Colorado already is. Arizona can be. Missouri, it’s not crazy to think so. And Montana and South Dakota are basically red, of course, but are both elect Democrats sometimes. (Did you know that both of Montana’s senators right now are Democrats?!) In sum, between the solid-blue states in the North and on the West Coast, and the pockets of opportunity that exist in the states just mentioned (and tossing in the black Southern seats), the Democrats can cobble together congressional majorities in both houses, under the right circumstances.

But it’s not just a question of numbers. The main point is this: Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats. As Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen recently told my colleague Ben Jacobs, the Democratic Party cannot (and I’d say should not) try to calibrate its positions to placate Southern mores: “It’s come to pass, and really a lot of white Southerners vote on gays and guns and God, and we’re not going to ever be too good on gays and guns and God.”

Cohen thinks maybe some economic populism could work, and that could be true in limited circumstances. But I think even that is out the window now. In the old days, drenched in racism as the South was, it was economically populist. Glass and Steagall, those eponymous bank regulators, were both Southern members of Congress. But today, as we learned in Sunday’s Times, state attorneys general, many in the South, are colluding with energy companies to fight federal regulation of energy plants.

It’s lost. It’s gone. A different country. And maybe someday it really should be. I’ll save that for another column. Until that day comes, the Democratic Party shouldn’t bother trying. If they get no votes from the region, they will in turn owe it nothing, and in time the South, which is the biggest welfare moocher in the world in terms of the largesse it gets from the more advanced and innovative states, will be on its own, which is what Southerners always say they want anyway.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 8, 2014

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Mary Landrieu, Politics, The South | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: