Political Horizons for Dec. 9, 2012

Gov. Bobby Jindal again waded into the national scene Thursday, this time to wax on the “fiscal cliff” facing the federal government.

Nationally, Jindal was blasted by some for his lack of depth. Locally, many wondered why Jindal has focused on the speck of sawdust in the national eye, while Louisiana has a plank of lumber in its own.

Politico publishes, mostly online, about the political doings in Washington, D.C., and includes Jindal on its list of possible 2016 GOP presidential candidates.

For folks who don’t start their day reading Politico, Jindal’s political strategists on Thursday morning widely emailed copies of his opinion piece with the subject line: “Making Sense When Nobody Else Does.”

Jindal floated several proposals, including one that Republicans demand structural reforms to the federal budgeting process. Specifically, the GOP needs to demand a constitutional amendment that would require the federal government to balance its budget annually, Jindal wrote.

Nationally, reacting to Jindal’s column, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote Thursday in his blog, “The Conscience of a Liberal.” “You really have to wonder how someone who’s a major political figure could be this uninformed — but you have to wonder even more about the state of mind that induces you to write an op-ed about a subject you don’t comprehend at all,” Krugman wrote.

Commentator Jonathan Chait, of New York magazine, agreed, writing Thursday in his blog: “It also appears that Jindal lacks any understanding of what the fiscal cliff is or why economists think it’s bad … A balanced budget amendment would require us to impose massive contractionary policy that would dramatically worsen any downturn.”

Jindal tweeted Friday afternoon: “I really enjoy being called ‘dumb’ and ‘ignorant’ by the liberal elite and their media water carriers.”

President Barack Obama’s strategy has been to invest public money to jump-start spending in the private sector.

The U.S. Labor Department announced Friday that the national economy added 146,000 more jobs in November, while unemployment fell to a four-year low of 7.7 percent.

Some economists predict the nation’s recovering, but still fragile, economy could plunge into recession on Jan. 1 when massive federal spending cuts and the expiration of tax cuts automatically take effect at the same time.

Obama asked Congress to change current law to allow continuation of breaks for taxpayers for most brackets, with the costs covered by households making $250,000 or more per year whose taxes would go back to 1990s rates. Republicans disagree and say the richest 2 percent of Americans could continue their tax breaks by revoking other, unspecified tax credits.

Should Obama and the Republicans fail to agree, a typical Louisiana family of four, making $68,900, could see its income taxes rise by $2,200, according to The White House’s National Economic Council.

Jindal’s commentary on the national economy came three days after state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell officially ducked opining on the constitutionality of Jindal’s handling of Louisiana’s budget, noting that a handful of legislators apparently are preparing a lawsuit that would question the validity of appropriating monies that are only available if certain contingencies, like the sale of state assets, are fulfilled.

For the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2013, state government again projects about $1 billion less in revenues than are needed to cover services.

Jindal steadfastly refuses to increase taxes. His aides also took off the table the possibility of eliminating some of the 460 state government tax breaks and diverting that money to help offset the revenue shortfall.

The Wall Street Journal noted that of all the states, Louisiana spends “the tenth-smallest proportion of its budget on social welfare.”

The publication on Nov. 27 ranked Louisiana at No. 41 on its list of “The Best and Worst Run States in America,” also mentioning the state’s high crime rate and that about one in five residents lives in poverty.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards, who chairs the Democratic caucus in the Louisiana House, on Thursday afternoon reacted to Jindal’s column by echoing U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. On Monday, she asked Jindal to reverse his stance — popular among some Republicans — and accept federal Medicaid monies. The federal funds would go a long way to alleviating the state’s revenue crunch while protecting health care services, she wrote.

Edwards, of Amite, added, “It’s time to govern Louisiana, not demagogue the issue.”

Mark Ballard is editor of The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau. His email address is mballard@theadvocate.com.