Thursday, April 9, 2009

Louisiana Spends More on Juvenile Justice Than Three Other States Spend

and, apparently, our legislators are angry about that:

From TP:

Louisiana lawmakers question youth prison costs
by The Associated Press Thursday April 09, 2009, 7:27 AM
BATON ROUGE -- Figures that show Louisiana pays well above several other Southern states to imprison its juvenile offenders prompted angry complaints from state lawmakers.
Louisiana spends more than $115,000 annually for each one, compared to $70,000 in Florida, $85,000 in Alabama and $34,000 in Arkansas. That's according to information provided Wednesday to the House Appropriations Committee by its budget analyst.
Lawmakers say the Office of Juvenile Justice seems to have too many employees at its three youth prisons. They also criticized plans to make budget cuts by eliminating prevention programs.
The head of the youth services office, Mary Livers, says she's working to improve efficiencies in her agency and to cut costs.
Last we heard, the Louisiana Legislature was closing Jetson Center for Youth in Baton Rouge and issuing a sort of gentleperson's agreement to establish "13 or 14" more regional rehabilitation centers modeled after Missouri's vastly more effective juvenile justice system. Now, the Louisiana Legislature is offended by the amount that the state spends per resident in a system that is ostensibly intended to rehabilitate young people sentenced to the inadequate number of centers we do have. This turnabout alone is enough to make the head spin.

In addition, it's hard to determine whether The Times Picayune or the legislators, or both, have now opted to term youth detention centers, or centers for youth, "youth prisons." But whoever is making this conceptual error should stop. There is supposed to be no such thing as a "youth prison" in the U.S. to start with, and that's a fact I'm appalled to have to remind anybody of.

Furthermore, that we spend more than Florida, Alabama, or Arkansas, is hardly anything to be ashamed of, now is it? I take it we don't spend more than Missouri, the state with the model we're supposed to be emulating.

This type of uncritical knee-jerk reporting and legislating is certainly living up to Louisiana's reputation as a backward state. Perhaps one way of cutting costs is to lower the number of youth detainees, now "prisoners," by ceasing to incarcerate so many young people for victimless offenses such as possession of marijuana. But this article gives so little information that it's impossible to get any sense of what exactly the legislators' complaints are. Here's another case in which there's no reflection on the idea that social spending is problematic in and of itself and that young people who get locked up for whatever reason are undeserving of anything.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jindal's Budget: Bait and Switch

From Times Picayune:
To keep the budget in balance, the administration is proposing to use $943 million of the estimated $3.6 billion Louisiana will receive from the federal stimulus bill. The remaining stimulus money would be used in the following fiscal year. Most of the stimulus money would be used to offset cuts in health care and higher education.

If you can explain this refusal to spend even 1/3 of the stimulus money this year, please do. The purpose of the stimulus package is to revive the economy now so that it does not continue to spiral downward for years to come. Jindal makes the competing claims that the stimulus money must be reserved because the economy will continue to spiral downward for years to come and that the stimulus bill is ill-conceived because the economy will quickly recover on its own. Which is it?

In addition, the budget above is a bait and switch. It claims to use stimulus money for health care and higher education, yet deeply cuts those services simultaneously. The result is a devastating 5% cut from this year's starvation budget for health care and 10% from higher education. The result is closing of health facilities, reduction in Medicaid payments, higher class sizes and fewer course offerings at state colleges and universities, long-term layoffs and hiring freezes, as well as tuition hikes.
Jindal said the stimulus money is intended as a "bridge" as Louisiana downsizes state government after several years of rapid growth.

"The federal funds don't remove the need to make reforms. They give us time to make reforms, " Jindal said.
Again, Jindal finds self-evident the claim that growth in "state government" (i.e., education and health care) is problematic. He also continues to refer to the renewal of state services decimated by Katrina as "rapid growth."
Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine said the budget reductions are intended to lay the groundwork for even deeper reductions in the years ahead, when federal stimulus dollars disappear. "The next three years are going to be very challenging, " Levine said. "We've got to make policy decisions today that decrease our cost structure overall."
Yet again, we're confronted with the rationale that we should not use the stimulus money now because it will disappear later, beyond three years, and the state does not foresee any increase in revenues then, either. No higher tax revenues, no higher oil revenues, no repeal of tax cuts? Or are we merely being ensured that this administration refuses to spend on state services regardless of the shape of our economy?

To add insult to injury, Bobby Jindal refuses to tap into the state's 4M+ "rainy day" fund, a.k.a. the state's budget surplus. A "need" to deny services to the elderly, to mentally ill children, to those on Medicaid, and to working- and middle-class people seeking higher education does not apparently constitute "a rainy day" to Jindal.

For instructions on how to recall a governor, please see the post below.

Recall Bobby Jindal: Here's How. Alternate Title: Bobby Jindal's War on Louisiana is Over. (If you want it.)

I will be editing this post, probably several times, because I have just thoroughly read Bobby Jindal's new state budget proposal (above). Clear evidence that your government is waging war on you (and I mean "you" if you live in this state) is the psychological equivalent of a blunt force trauma. At least a short recovery period is necessary before one is able to articulate as clearly as one did prior to the assault. Therefore, a thorough, fully documented analysis of the implications of the budget, including a refutation of the argument for its draconian cuts to health care and higher education, is forthcoming.

Because I know that any regular readers of this blog already understand the implications of/ideological motivation for Jindal's budget and already see the outright lies used to justify it, I will, for now, focus on fully explaining the steps that we must now take to remove Jindal from office:

Louisiana is among 18 states with gubernatorial recall provisions, and, unlike many of the other states, Louisiana does not dictate specific conditons under which a recall can be initiated. So we are in a good position to save ourselves: if 33.3% of Louisiana's citizens who were eligible to vote in the gubernatorial election sign a recall petition within 180 days of its circulation, the recall procedure officially begins.

In most states with gubernatorial recall provisions, the required number of votes is about 25% of those in the initial election for the governor in question, so we do have a steeper climb in that regard. But if voters come to fully understand the implications of Jindal's ongoing war against state services, dating all the way back to his tenure at DHH, long before this economic crisis hit us, it's a sure bet that 33.3% will sign.

Call me a dreamer...but I'm not the only one. Let's get busy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jindal Holds the Jobless Hostage in Bid for Political Power

As the man many Republicans tout as "the new face" of the Party of No, our governor finds it necessary to fly in the face of most economists, who consider the extension of unemployment benefits the most stimulative aspect of Obama's recovery package. Jindal initially claimed that he may well refuse all aid offered from the stimulus package, but apparently coming to cursorily understand the political stakes involved in that risk, deemed it appropriate to deny funding only to the most vulnerable and least politically powerful beneficiaries: people who have lost their jobs. Those left unemployed by the failing economy (or by Jindal's decision to cut funding for state jobs in order to initiate state tax breaks last year) may be among the least likely to become formidable political enemies given the humiliation and sense of powerlessness associated with poverty, one of the greatest stressors that humans face. And targeting them to suffer in his attempt to demonstrate that the tested-and-failed conservative ideology will somehow work under his leadership aligns him with the petulant strategy of the shattered Republican Party--to cover their ears and close their eyes in the face of economic collapse, chantinmg the mantra "To the only sacred entities in the Universe, tax cuts and a shrinking public sector, we submit ourselves."

Jindal's justification for declining the funds to extend unemployment benefits is entirely lame (though mainstream media seems not to notice)--that in three years the stimulus money will be exhausted and, at that time, prolonged unemployment benefits would raise unemployment insurance on businesses. Ahem. The entire purpose of the stimulus package is to reduce unemployment and rebuild the economy, and when the stimulus funds run out in three years, Bobby Jindal can easily reduce the length of benefits in Louisiana with the warmest of support from his constituents. If he wants to get a head start on that, he can easily make it a promise now, one that he commits to writing, to be executed at the end of his first term. So if this "raising-taxes-on-bidniz" business is the only excuse that he can come up with, his real reasons must be entirely unfit for mainstream consumption.

I see two interrelated motivations here. The first is, of course, his need to polarize himself from Obama, whose success Jindal believes comes at his political detriment, even as the Party unabashedly refers to him as "the Republican Obama." What they really mean is "The Anti-Obama," but that's another post. The second is his need to maintain a Republican stronghold in the South, which is and would always have been impossible to achieve without appealing to the South's nastiest legacy: racism. I'm sorry to say that to a majority of Louisiana's white population, the term "unemployment benefit" is synonymous with "handout" or "welfare," terms they despise, even though poor whites are the greatest beneficiary of all of them. The Depression is not firmly enough entrenched at this point (and god-only-knows how long it would have to be) for this demographic to let go of the notion that Jindal is refusing money to black people, who, they believe, are solely responsible for every ill known to humanity, including the fact that they--"hardworking [white] people"--have to pay any taxes at all. Jindal is, of course, quite keen to this idea. Otherwise, why would he turn down money that results in at least a little spending power for the unemployed when accepting it would cost him nothing but perhaps some fleeting, misguided conservative accolades?

For the love of God, Bobby Jindal, will you please release your political hostages, come to the window, and show us the real new face of the Republican Party?

(Photo credit: Catholiccommunityradio)

Monday, February 16, 2009

The State Capitol on State Jobs in Higher Education and Health Care

from TP:

"It's hard to cut this beast. You have to starve this beast," House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, said of the growing job rolls. "You have to force efficiencies through tight budgeting." Getting a handle on Louisiana's payroll will take more than management adjustments, said Sally Selden, a Lynchburg College management professor who runs the Government Performance Project for the Pew Center for the States.
The "beast" of which Tucker speaks is partially comprised of the increase in state health care providers, whose numbers have finally risen in the past year in response to the devastating shortage of health care providers in the New Orleans area since Hurricane Katrina.
"The reality is, you've got to make some tough choices -- about not offering some services," Selden said. "It's not just a management decision, it's a political decision. It's very painful, but it's very important."
The painful decision, it seems to me, would have been the January 2008 slashing of state taxes that now accounts for much of the current shortfall.
Scott said states across the country are using furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts to deal with the economic downturn. California is closing government buildings two days a month.

The federal stimulus package will offer relief to the ailing states, but that should be viewed as only a temporary fix, Selden said.

"Now is the time to make tough choices," Selden said. "If we don't do it now, when will we ever do it?"
Selden speaks of eliminating state services here as one would a decision about when to deal with a crystal meth addiction. From my perspective, her statement would more accurately read "if we don't lay waste to mandatory state services now, while we can make use of this shoddy bandwagon approach to convince people of the inevitability of the process, at what other time do you believe we can get away with such a devastating and perhaps irreversible blow to social services and higher education?"

Do read the entire article if you're feeling nostalgic. The attempt at "journalism" here ranks equally with those of the "journalists" and other "experts" planted by the Bush Administration. There is not a moment's reflection upon the premise that state job growth is an evil from which we must be delivered.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama's Chief of Staff...

From NYT:

is someone who once wrote in Campaign and Elections magazine that “the untainted Republican has not yet been invented” and who two years ago — according to a book about Mr. Emanuel (“The Thumpin’ ” by Naftali Bendavid) — announced to his staff that Republicans are “bad people who deserve a two-by-four upside their heads.”...

Mr. Emanuel acknowledged in an interview Friday that a stereotype of him as a relentless hothead has some factual basis. But it is an exaggerated or outdated picture, he said.

“I’m not yelling at people; I’m not jumping on tables,” he said. “That’s a campaign. Being the chief of staff of a government is different. You have different tools in your toolbox.”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bobby Jindal Screws Higher Education Once Again

To: The UNO Community

From: Timothy P. Ryan, Chancellor

Date: December 15, 2008

Re: Mid-Year Budget Reduction

Earlier today, the Louisiana Legislature through the Revenue Estimating Conference accepted a shortfall in state generated revenues of $341 million this year and predicted a shortfall of $2 billion for next year. This reduction in general fund revenues is directly related to losses from sales taxes, personal income taxes, the repeal of other state taxes and declining revenues from energy markets.

[Notice that the shortfall in state-generated revenues equals, almost to the penny, Jindal's repeal of state taxes. This repeal was justified by Louisiana's budget surplus early in Jindal's tenure, yet, simultaneously, he froze all state hiring. He justified the latter by claiming that the state could face a budget shortfall of this magnitude in the future. If you can make sense of these competing claims, please let me know.]

To address the budget shortfall, all public universities, colleges, community colleges and management boards have been informed by Dr. Sally Clausen, Commissioner of Higher Education, to prepare for a mid-year budget reduction of $109 million or 7.8 percent. This reduction translates into a shortfall of $5,277,249 for the UNO campus. I was also informed this afternoon that the University will be required to submit our budget reduction plan to the LSU System by close of business tomorrow. In response, I have called an emergency meeting of all Deans and Vice Chancellors to determine how best to meet this new challenge. Although I am hopeful that UNO’s actual mid-year budget reduction will be less severe, we must however be prepared if necessary. Any cuts that we make will be strategic cuts---to prepare the University for the future in the optimum manner.

I want to assure each of you that I and my administration will continue to do everything we can to ensure UNO’s continued prosperity and growth. We will continue to work with UNO’s key legislators, the Commissioner of Higher Education, our governing boards and the Governor to mitigate the impact on UNO which, as you know, is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Let me stress, the only way we can positively influence our budget is through enrollment growth obtained through increased efforts in recruitment and retention by all members of the University community.

One positive opportunity for UNO is the newly proposed formula funding allocation, which for the first time includes factors that recognize and reward our mission as an urban university. Once fully implemented, as we regrow our student population, UNO will be eligible for an increase in funding. The inclusion of these new factors favorable to UNO was the result of a series of meetings with the Governor’s staff and members of UNO’s governing boards.

[Good luck with that.]

It may be of little consolation, but we are not alone among state funded universities facing budget reductions. Other colleges and universities across the nation are experiencing cuts including the University of Central Florida which just received a 16% budget reduction, the University of South Carolina System which just received a 14.9% budget reduction and the University of Georgia which just received a 10% percent reduction.

[It is of little consolation since I cannot help but notice that all of the states mentioned are governed by Republicans, all of whom have demonstrated an insane antipathy toward state services and public education.]

This trend, coupled with the predicted budget shortfall released today, only serves to remind us that UNO must maintain the core mission of teaching, research and public service and achieve priorities as set forth in the University’s Strategic Plan. As information becomes available about the status of UNO’s funding, I will continue to share it with you.