What’s Left? – Give Up the Song and Dance

Christopher Nulty

Sometimes I confuse the Sunday morning talk show circuit for the country’s own political variety show. No matter how outrageous the song and dance, chances are there will be room in the lineup. Louisiana’s Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, performed his own song and dance in opposition to the Obama stimulus package on Meet the Press Sunday morning.

Governor Jindal is willing to accept millions in federal aid for Louisiana as a part of the stimulus package. However, he has made it clear he will be rejecting $98 million of the stimulus package that would expand unemployment benefits. At the state level, funding for the unemployment program would be provided by the federal government through 2010. The stimulus would then require states to tax businesses to continue the program.

To his credit, Mr. Jindal is standing by the standard GOP principles of small government and laissez-faire economic policies. His contention is that although the federal government will provide funding for the unemployment benefits program long enough to avoid taxing businesses for two years, any future taxation of businesses is problematic. In pleading his case, Jindal has attempted to safeguard his argument by playing Robin Hood for Louisiana’s small businesses.

Simply limiting the amount a company (no matter the size) can be taxed does nothing to grow their revenues, and in turn, their profit. In my mind the solution is rather simple: pushing more money into the economy, through unemployment benefits in this case, means consumers have more money to spend on goods and services. If more money is being spent on goods and services, logic suggests there will be an increase in company revenues, making an increased tax burden seem irrelevant.

I am troubled that the citizens of Louisiana have elected such an entitled and selfish governor. It seems that the political song and dance has made Jindal’s own understanding of taxes nothing more than a delusion of grandeur. Currently, Louisiana has one of the lowest state corporate tax rates in the country at four percent, compared to 7.5 percent in New York, 7.3 percent in Illinois or 8.3 percent in California. Businesses in Louisiana are already at an advantage compared to their counterparts across the country. However, Louisiana’s governor has made it pretty clear that the needs of small businesses – two years down the road, no less – take precedent over unemployed people struggling to get by.

The economic stimulus package is purposed to help all Americans, not just business owners. Governor Jindal seems quick to forget that currently Louisiana ranks 46th in median household income in the United States. And thus, when the federal government announced last week it would release an additional $15 billion for federal Medicare/Medicaid programs across the country I think it is safe to assume that a greater percentage of Louisianans benefited from these funds than citizens in states with higher median household incomes.

As the country has watched Governor Jindal face the media over the past couple days I have almost begun to pity him. In a time when our country needs a united vision looking towards the future, the Republican Party has called upon the governor to be the party’s mouthpiece against the Obama administration. A struggle has emerged between the right and left over whom the government should be assisting: everyday people or companies, both small and large. Critics of the Obama stimulus package should beware as many moderate Republican governors like Charlie Crist of Florida have taken a stance against Jindal and the like and gladly welcomed the assistance.

When Governor Jindal announces his candidacy for the presidency in 2012, I really wonder how the people of Louisiana — and voters across the country, for that matter – will remember him. Perhaps they will laud him for taking a vocal and unpopular stand against the “liberal establishment?” Maybe they will appreciate the pocket change he managed to protect Louisianan businesses from having to pay? Or will they just be frustrated that he left unemployed Louisianans without enough money to put food on the table?

I certainly have my own thoughts as to what might happen, but only time will tell. In the meantime, I would suggest that Governor Jindal sit down, accept the $98 million and wait until something worth fighting for comes up before he takes to his song and dance again.