Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bad policy is bad policy

I agree with much of what Moesely says here about Jindal's strategy

Do we understand yet that Jindal’s so-called tax-swap plan was only a “sleeper,” to borrow a term from hotrodding’s golden age. The revenue offsets in his initial plan were always completely negotiable as long as they yielded an income tax repeal. The higher sales taxes, the closed loopholes, the appeals to simplicity … all that crap was political window-dressing. That’s why it kept changing.

Jindal’s overriding mission, though, has always remained the same: to end the state income tax. As long as that is within reach, Jindal’s “parking job” is only a tactical retreat.

I'm not sure this is something most observers got wrong, though.  Jindal told us as much, himself, in his speech the day "parked" his plan.

"Now, to be clear, I still like my plan, but I recognize that success requires give and take," according to the remarks. "And I recognize that in this instance I need to be the one who gives so that we can have the chance to achieve success. But I'm not going to pout, I'm not going to take my ball and go home.

"Already, several of you have filed plans that phase out the income tax. So, let's work together to pass a bill this session to get rid of our state income tax."
It looked like Jindal had decided to go a similar route to the way President Obama took with regard to health care.
Mr. Obama said early on that he would not repeat the mistakes of Mr. Clinton, who wrote his own detailed plan, only to see it fall flat on Capitol Hill. Instead, the president set out broad principles — an approach that the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, acknowledged at a rally last week, when she thanked Mr. Obama for “the intellectual contributions” he had made to the legislation.

The president’s distance caught Congressional Democrats by surprise. It took them months to realize that Mr. Obama would not weigh in on some issues, like the precise shape of a government insurance plan. One House Democrat called it a “a laissez-faire strategy.”
After a few weeks of feeling intense pressure from all sides, Jindal decided to take a page from Obama's book and play this one hands-off for a change.  Jindal hasn't had to finesse the legislative process too often during his time as Governor so this is unusual.  But the idea that he would just completely drop a key policy aim is absurd given the amount of power he continues to wield.

This reader email to TPM captured things pretty well.
Jindal absolutely expects to get a complete income tax repeal out of this session, and the legislature is still afraid enough of him to deliver it. However, without any of the attendant sales tax increases, the offsets will be only from cuts: heavy, deep cuts to health services and higher education, after six straight years of heavy, deep cuts to health services and higher education.

This is how he will get what he wants: the credit for repealing the income tax with none of the blame for the cuts that will follow. And because his original plan was intended to be “revenue neutral,” he will even get to demagogue the legislature for ignoring his plan and cutting too much, even though the governor could care less about how much gets cut.
Jindal simply does not give a shit about how his ideologically driven initiatives affect the state government's ability to function... at all. This should be crystal clear to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to his administration.

If the legislature gives Jindal an income tax repeal that forces the state to simply eat the estimated $2.7 billion revenue loss, he will sign it.   They probably won't pass something that drastic. Given the chaotic situation, they might not pass anything at all.  But whatever they might pass is certain to fail at the now abandoned "revenue neutrality" benchmark the Governor was never serious about in the first place. 

Moesley suggests that, politically speaking,  this is where Jindal wanted to be all along. I don't discount that. It agrees with everything I've just pointed to here. But I'm also quite confident that if the winds had favored the Jindal "tax swap" plan as presented, he would have happily accepted that.  But the plan itself was bad policy. Which means it wasn't the wrong move for critics to shout the bad policy down as  Moseley seems to imply that it might have been.

Whatever comes next will undoubtedly be bad policy also. And then that can be shouted down too. As for Bobby Jindal's political balance sheet, it's all the same either way.

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