Writing at the American Conservative late last week, Rod Dreher reflected
a bit on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) national ambitions. "I keep telling my friends in the national media that if you think Bobby Jindal has a chance in hell of becoming president, send a reporter down to spend a few days in Louisiana, seeing what condition he's leaving his state in," Dreher said.
With this in mind, the far-right governor couldn't have been pleased with this headline
from the Associated Press yesterday: "Jindal to leave Louisiana's next governor with budget mess."
Year after year, Louisiana didn't have enough money to cover its expenses, yet Gov. Bobby Jindal refused to roll back income tax cuts or ever-increasing corporate tax breaks. Instead, he raided reserve funds and sold off state property. Jindal suggested job growth from his economic development wins would replenish those assets once the recession ended. It hasn't -- and money from the lucrative oil industry has taken a nose dive with crude prices. Now, the Republican is running out of short-term patches and is struggling to plug a $1.6 billion budget hole just as he tries to build support for a possible 2016 presidential run. Funding for higher education and health care services will almost certainly be subject to cuts deeper than what they already have endured in recent years, and Jindal's successor will have to repay a string of debts and IOUs.
Just in case this wasn't quite brutal enough, note that when Jindal became governor seven years ago, he inherited a healthy, $900 million budget surplus from his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
In other words, Jindal, in Bush-like fashion, quickly transformed a good situation into a bad one by imposing a failed conservative economic agenda, leaving a big mess for his successor to clean up.
Asked for an explanation, the governor blamed falling oil prices for his troubles, though as the AP added
, "The numbers ... don't back up the governor's explanation."
attended a breakfast discussion with Jindal last week, and noted that the governor sounded like "a homeowner dismissing the significance of his foreclosure by noting that he had done a fine job tending the flower beds."
Louisiana's travails are particularly problematic because they have been caused in large part by Jindal's tax cuts, which, along with declining oil revenue, blew such a hole in the state budget that even huge spending cuts haven't made up the gap.... Jindal ate up the first 15 minutes of Monday's hour-long breakfast with an extensive preamble about an education reform policy he is proposing for the nation. But his record quickly intruded. "Is there some irony in your talking about ramping up education while you're cutting it in Louisiana?" Cook inquired. The governor ignored the specific question. [...] Minutes later, when Simendinger asked Jindal to explain why the big state deficit "qualifies you to run for president," the governor replied with a string of non-sequiturs.
Why Mark Halperin, a prominent Beltway pundit, considers
Jindal "one of the smartest people" he's ever met remains something of a mystery.
In Louisiana, Jindal's constituents have come to a different conclusion: after seven years in office, the Republican governor's approval rating is underwater
in this increasingly deep-red state.
Under the traditional model, a governor does so well at the state level that he or she decides to pursue a promotion to the White House. Jindal appears to be taking more of a falling-up approach -- failing at the state level, but looking for a promotion anyway.