Walter Pierce

re: Our Stimulating Governor

by Walter Pierce

Jindal doctors reality with the hypocritic oath  Gov. Bobby Jindal may have difficulty with oratory (see Pooyie for more on that) and has done nothing yet to erase that wind-up toy national speech back in February, but he’s rapidly acquiring the critical ability to willfully ignore facts and to massage public sentiment with photo ops. Politicians on both sides of the isle must have this skill set, and our man Bobby is becoming an adept. Pucker up infants, here comes the gov.

Case in point: Jindal’s “Louisiana Working Tour.” The governor is whistle-stopping in all 64 parishes, handing out multi millions of dollars to local officials for a wide range of projects. The natives are giddy. It’s all about economic development and jobs-jobs-jobs, the governor says. “Our number one mission is to establish an economic environment that creates opportunity for our people,” his Web site proclaims. “We will not stop until our state is the best place in the country for businesses to invest, grow and create jobs for our people.”

That’s a tall order to fill, but it turns out the administration is getting a little help from Uncle Sam, or Uncle Obama as it were. What the governor has failed to mention as he tours the state, smiling beatifically beside over-large Publishers Clearing House-style cardboard checks with mayors and police jurors standing by in enthralled gratitude, is that a sizable amount of funding for many of those checks comes from the feds including but not limited to the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as (cue forboding music) the stimulus plan.

That would be the same federal initiative the governor panned as recently as last week when, in an op-ed he wrote for on-line journal Politico, he referred to is as “a nearly trillion-dollar stimulus that has not stimulated.” The same stimulus plan of which, in an act of political posturing or fiscal responsibility, depending on whom you ask, he refused to receive more than $95 million in unemployment money for out-of-work state residents.

But no where on these photo-op checks do we get a hint of their funding source. (Other federal aid including hurricane-recovery money also figures into the checks.) Instead, they are emblazoned with “State of Louisiana - Office of the Governor” and a big, fat logo for the governor’s office. As one political blog put it, “Despite the fact that the checks contain millions of dollars of Recovery Act funds for job training programs, housing assistance programs, homelessness prevention programs, police training, criminal justice technology upgrades, and community development block grants, Jindal has been printing his own name on the checks and taking credit for the money.”

In fact, there are no signs of the stimulus plan in Louisiana, literally. In an article in The Advocate last week, the state Department of Transportation and Development acknowledged that, at the order of DOTD Secretary William Ankner — a Jindal appointee — state road projects funded through the stimulus program will not bear the customary yellow signs indicating the funding source. A DOTD spokesman cites the cost of the displays — up to $800 each — for their absence. When asked why DOTD used similar signage for highway projects funded through state surplus money, the spokesman replied, “But we put up really cheap signs.” Maybe it’s for the best; Obama is popular like poison ivy in Louisiana.

This is neither itchy nor scratchy for me; it’s the unleaded fuel of political chatter and helps with my job-job-job. Now, please enjoy the rest of this week’s edition. I wrote the entire thing myself.