Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Specifics: Greg Palast On Why Bobby Jindal's Speech Sucked

Greg Palast, as always, knows the score:
[...] following Barack Obama's budget presentation to Congress, effectively the president's first State of the Union Address, the Republicans chose to give their party's response, the governor of the state that wanted to leave the Union, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal.

Jindal told us that Barack Obama is a terrible President who passed a stimulus bill "larded with wasteful spending." Where's the lard? All week, Jindal has been screeching that Obama wants to require states like Louisiana to extend unemployment insurance to - get this - the unemployed! (Technically, the federal government would pay 100% of the cost of reforming Louisiana's and Mississippi's Scrooge-sized benefit requirements.)

Jindal, and some other Republican governors, notably Haley Barbour of Mississippi, are actually turning down millions in federal funds for their own state's unemployed out of fear that, four years from now, they may have to maintain full unemployment insurance like the rest of America.

Barbour's excuse, parroted by Jindal, is that the Obama payments to the unemployed of their states would mean, when the economy returns to expansion, that their state would have to increase unemployment insurance taxes and payments to the US average, scaring away new employers. "I mean, we want more jobs," says Barbour. Um, this is the Governor of MISSISSIPPI talking. Exactly what new "jobs" is he talking about? Is Microsoft is based in Gulfport? Is Genentech opening its new headquarters in Moss Point?

As an economist, I can tell you that the only industry Mississippi leads in is deep-fried chicken-dog manufacturing. I will admit that Louisiana and Mississippi can boast of growing employment at several casinos and cathouses spilling across what the locals charmingly call the "Coon-ass Riviera." Jindal's Louisiana is, after all, the state that solved its unemployment problem by sending its unemployed to Texas in FEMA trailers.

And it's true that Jindal's and Barbour's states do lead the nation in a few indicators. Like poverty: Mississippi has America's highest poverty rate. Louisiana is third worst in America.

And how about their commitment to education? Louisiana ranks 5th and Mississippi 2nd worst in school kids' math scores. As Randy Newman notes about the gulf states' education policies, "good ol' boys... from LSU, went in dumb, come out dumb, too."

Jindal himself is a product of a more advanced culture: His parents are Democrats. The Jindals are Hindus who come from the Punjab in India, a state known for its welfare safety net. Jindal, turning away from the successful example of his parents' politics and culture, has gone native, becoming a born-again Christian Republican who doesn't accept Darwinian evolution nor Keynesian economics. (I hear he may complete his redneck makeover next week by marrying his cousin at a tractor pull.)

For over a century, Louisiana and Mississippi have been trying to attract employers by changing their economy from one based on involuntary servitude to one based on voluntary servitude, selling their citizens to the lowest bidder. The results are blindingly visible: Mississippi and Louisiana, under the Barbour/Jindal Republican regime, maintain the lowest per-capita incomes in the nation (50th and 46th respectively). Mississippi and Louisiana infant mortality rates (1st and 3rd in deaths in the USA) would shame Costa Rica.

I wondered what the hell were they thinking, sending Jindal out there with a pre-prepared speech? What possessed the Repugs to make this mistake again, as they did several times during the general election, sending out their guy with a speech that bore only the faintest bit of relevance or connection to the President's prior speech? Maybe it's because they don't have anyone who can think on their feet the way the President can, or who's not associated with this shitstorm of troubles (i.e., the Congressional Republicans). So they ended up putting Jindal before the nation immediately after President Obama's speech, thereby making him "Gov. Buzzkill," as Keith Olberman called him.

Jindal, to be charitable, lacks President Obama's oratorical gifts. He was stiff, strident; he talked to the audience as if they were children, a marked contrast to Obama's ability to talk to Americans like adults. And his accent! As a friend put it, it sounded southern, with a bit of masala in the background. To be blunt, I thought Jindal sounded like an audience member at a Larry the Cable Guy show. Rachel Maddow nearly fell out of her chair on MSNBC after listening to his rebuttal speech! And, as Jeff Rosenberg put it, "if Bobby Jindal is the best the Republicans have, then they’re going to be out of power for a very long time."

But the specifics of Jindal's speech revealed the same old Republican way of distorted thinking: "government is the problem, tax cuts are the answer to everything, we can't trust the government," yadda yadda yadda. How 1980s of them. As the governor of a state that leads the nation in poverty, ignorance, infant mortality, federal aid to state and local governments per capita, and pollution, Jindal was a poor choice to give the Republican rebuttal to begin with. Add in Jindal's claims that he'll reject part of the stimulus, his membership in the wingnut branch of the Repugs, and you have a recipe for hypocrisy and disaster, as we saw last night. Hey, dude: if anyplace needs the help of the federal government, it's your state! Reagan is dead. And so is his so-called "revolution." Welcome to the mess you and your fellow Republicans made, Gov. Jindal, and welcome to the 21st Century.

Thanks also to the Rude Pundit.

No comments: