Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reality-based Bobby

Last month, Bobby Jindal's office released the results of an internal poll that purported to show a dramatic turnaround in the Governor's dismal approval ratings.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's approval rating stands at 50 percent, according to a poll released Monday by his political consultancy firm. The numbers contradict those released by a different firm earlier this year that showed a dip in Jindal's ratings to an all-time low of 37 percent.

According to the poll released Monday by OnMessage, Inc., half of those polled approved of the governor's job performance while 46 percent disapproved. The numbers were a four point increase over previous OnMessage ratings for the governor.

But they represented over a 12 point increase when compared with polling numbers released in April by Southern Media & Opinion Research -- a firm with funding from conservative businessman Lane Grigsby -- and a 13 point increase over a February poll released by Public Policy Polling.
That On Message poll was a significant outlier, and a particularly suspicious one at that.

Never mentioned (by the Jindal folks, anyway) is the fact that the 50 percent approval rating was the result of a poll by OnMesssage of Alexandria, VA.

OnMessage. Sound familiar? It should. It was OnMessage that hired one Timmy Teepell to head up its Southern operations in Baton Rouge—except there was never a Baton Rouge address or telephone number in Baton Rouge for the company and Teepell’s Jeep has remains parked in the back lot of the State Capitol since his hiring.

Despite recent rumors of OnMessage’s dissatisfaction with Teepell’s failure to attract clients for the political consulting firm, there is the matter of some $1.2 million that can’t be ignored when considering those rosy OnMessage poll results.

That’s the amount that Jindal’s Believe in Louisiana non-profit, tax-exempt propaganda machine paid OnMessage through last September. That figure included $456,551 paid in March of 2012, ostensibly for polling and research.

It’s enough to make one wonder how much Jindal (or Believe in Louisiana) paid OnMessage for the latest good news.
Team Jindal needed to buy some good news that week since other polls coming out then indicated he was becoming America's Most Unpopular GOP Governor.  Sometimes, in such situations, it helps to get at least one positive headline out there.  If you buy the right propaganda at the right time you might be able to turn the overall trend around.

Except if this time it didn't work.  Bobby Jindal's bad poll numbers are still bad.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's polling numbers might be higher if the Louisiana economy was stronger or, absent that, his communication skills were sharper -- especially when it comes to economic policy, according to a report in Governing Magazine.
In other words, he'd be polling better if he weren't so terrible at either A) politics or B) policy. Under better circumstances, you might be able to lie your way out of bad news.  But it turns out Jindal isn't quite as convincing a liar as we maybe used to think. Also the news is still bad.
The study ranked the states in order of the success of their state economies; it then looked at the relationship, if any, between the level of that success and the governor's popularity.

Louisiana's economy placed 40th on the Governing list, a relatively low number considering a recent boom in the state's natural gas sector that some say is leading to the "reindustrialization" of the region.

While the Jindal administration continues to push the narrative of economic growth, the study claims if the state economy was truly booming, Jindal would see higher polling numbers.
Here's something else about that "reindustrialization." It comes with a heavy price in corporate giveaways. 
On the cost side, Albrecht said the state not only provides incentive-subsidy packages -- what he deems "flat-out check writes" -- but also hands firms cash money to influence their decision.

Sasol, for example, will get $115 million in cash in 2018 and 2019 to build their liquids-to-gas facility in southwest Louisiana. In these years, state tax revenues in excess of cost will actually be negative, according to LED's own projections, but officials still state the "cumulative" tax revenues will be positive.

Albrecht disagrees with this characterization.

"They're trying to imply that it's still free even though their annual benefit is negative in that year," he said in an interview Thursday. "I think a little of disingenuous."

This cash incentive throws a wrench into the budgeting plan for those outlying years, because lawmakers will have to find the money from the state general fund, construction budget or elsewhere. When asked where he thinks the administration will say the money is coming from, Albrecht said he didn't know.

"They don't say," he said. "When (the costs from the Sasol project) starts, they're going to be gone and they've obligated future legislators to come up with $115 million in cash."
Recall that Jindal's main stated objection to accepting federal medicaid expansion dollars is his concern over future state budget obligations.  In effect what's he's saying there is that future outlays to care for sick people just aren't as sexy as giving cash directly to chemical companies.

Also, the giveaways aren't doing any good. You may not know that if you get all of your information from business magazine listicles, though.  Which is why it was refreshing to see this column where Robert Mann calls attention to the kind of research on which such pieces are based.

This month, it's Area Development, which concluded that Louisiana is sixth among the "Top States for Doing Business" in 2013. The editors assert that Louisiana has secured economic development projects "that are creating more than 63,000 new direct and indirect jobs and more than $28 billion in new capital investment, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in new sales for Louisiana's small businesses."

"This resurgence is largely due to the innovative economic policies put forth by [Jindal] and the state legislature," the publication says. "Action items have ranged from removing unconventional business taxes to reining in government spending, reforming governmental ethics laws, revamping work force development programs, and implementing landmark education reforms for Louisiana students."

I'm not sure how the magazine is qualified to comment, for example, on the correlation of economic development to education "reforms" enacted only last year and not fully implemented. But that doesn't influence the objective data used to calculate Louisiana's ranking, does it? Except, one wonders, just how does the magazine know Jindal created those 63,000 jobs and $28 billion in investments?

I submitted that very question to Gerri Gambale, Area Development's editor. Her answer was surprising. The data, she told me by email, "came from the website of Governor Jindal."
Mann goes on to debunk Jindal's PR with some less sanguine numbers furnished by the BLS and also this report from the Louisiana Budget Project which tells us, among other things, that Louisiana manufacturing jobs are down 9.6% since Bobby "The Re-Industrialist" Jindal came into office. 

But the reindustrialized Louisiana isn't just supposed to be the new robber-barron's paradise in the sense of direct payments to industrialists. There are also public services to privatize.
Shortened emergency room waits and an eliminated prescription backlog in Baton Rouge. A re-established gynecology clinic in Lake Charles. The reopening of operating rooms in New Orleans and an orthopedic clinic in Lafayette that were previously shuttered by budget cuts.

Those are among the examples of health care changes highlighted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, seeking to quell criticism as the last pieces are put in place for the privatization of Louisiana's charity hospital system.

The governor and top cabinet leaders say the first outsourcing deals, rolled out in April and June, have improved services for the poor and uninsured and boosted medical training for students, as private health providers have taken over the services previously run by LSU.
Oh wait, wait, I'm sorry, we're doing that thing where we just copy down what the Governor's office tells us again.  Where's the.... OK here we go.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of the LSU-run public hospital network is bringing in $39 million less in lease payments for the facilities than expected this year, according to a report from the Legislature's financial analysts that is disputed by the Jindal administration.

The budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 was built on estimates provided to lawmakers by the Jindal administration that anticipated the new hospital managers would lease those facilities and their clinics for more than $140 million.

In a new publication, the Legislative Fiscal Office says that so far, the leases are only expected to generate about $101 million for the 2013-14 year. That would leave the budget with a $39 million gap that lawmakers have to fill before the fiscal year ends June 30.
If Bobby Jindal is ever going to become a serious candidate for national office, he's going to have start giving his lies a little more staying power than this. It's almost a little sad watching him try and fail repeatedly like this.

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