June 24, 2008

Huckabeeing Bobby Jindal

Posted by Adam Graham in : Presidential Race 2008

The Club for Growth, which focused on the less conservative parts of Mike Huckabee’s Arkansas record with laser beam intensity is doing the same thing with Governor Bobby Jindal (R-La.) in order to boost their favorite candidate for the Vice-Presidency, Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC). Writes Nachema Solveichik:

The Jindal love feast is running into some stumbling blocks. The NY Times has an article analyzing Bobby Jindal’s refusal to veto a massive legislative pay increase despite a campaign promise to do so.

The next Ronald Reagan? I don’t think so.

The linked article in the New York Times gives background on the pay increase and why Jindal isn’t vetoing it:

“I will keep my pledge to let them govern themselves,” the governor said in a statement last week after the State Senate passed the increase, backing off a rejection of the raise, though he also said he was “very sorry” about it. Editorialists and radio show hosts have since had a field day juxtaposing that “pledge” to the Legislature with the promise Mr. Jindal made when he was running last fall to “prohibit legislators from giving themselves pay raises…”

The legislators have not had a base pay increase since 1980 and complain that with the governor frequently calling them into special session, their job is no longer part-time. The increase would put salaries in the upper tier for similar part-time legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Mr. Brandt agreed that some sort of modest raise could be justified — an independent commission recommended a 12 percent increase several years ago — but said the 123 percent rise, with additional increases pegged to inflation, was “problematic.”

Mr. Jindal’s strategy was apparently based on a desire not to jeopardize the other elements he won in his legislative wish list, like a voucher program for private schools in New Orleans, or restoring spending cuts made by fiscal conservatives in the Capitol.

I disagree with the Governor’s decision, but have the Club for Growth and a few Louisiana Conservatives lost all sense of perspective here? You get a School Choice bill, you get a bill through the legislature cutting business taxes (which was the governor’s ideas), you get serious reform of State ethics laws, you get more freedom of discussion on public schools on hot button issues like evolution and global warming. And all that gets dwarfed by a State legislative pay increase that while high (the amount paid is $37,500), I can’t necessarily say is completely unreasonable.

If you take the legislature’s salary of $16,800 in 1980 dollars (last time there was a pay increase), you find that it’s worth $44,167.69 in today’s money, so in reality they’re earning less than they were in 1980 in real money. Hate to say it, but if you want to insure the only people who get elected to office are on the take or are rich and out of touch, setting legislative salary at a pittance and never increasing it is as good of a way to do it.

Jindal is faulted because he’d rather not antagonize the legislature. I would agree that there can be some criticism leveled, but as for Solveichik’s “He’s no Reagan” statement, fiscal conservatives have created a godlike image of Ronald Reagan. No one can live up to it–not even Reagan.

Reason Magazine, in an interview with Ronald Reagan in 1975 summarizes his early record:

 After achieving national publicity for his televised speeches for Barry Goldwater in 1964, Reagan went on to win the California governorship in 1966 and was re-elected to a second four-year term in 1970. Throughout his eight years in office, Reagan stressed the idea of holding down the size and cost of government, nonetheless, the state budget increased from $5.7 billion to $10.8 billion during his time in office.

Reagan did institute property and inventory tax cuts, but during his tenure the sales tax was increased to six percent and withholding was introduced to the state income tax system. Under Reagan’s administration, state funding for public schools (grades K- 12) increased 105 percent (although enrollment went up only 5 percent), state support for junior colleges increased 323 percent, and grants and loans to college students increased 900 percent Reagan’s major proposal to hold down the cost of government was a constitutional amendment to limit state spending to a specified (slowly declining) percentage of the gross income of the state’s population. The measure was submitted to the voters as an initiative measure, Proposition One, but was defeated when liberal opponents pictured it as a measure that would force local tax increases.

Reagan instituted a major overhaul of the state welfare system that reduced the total welfare caseload (which had been rapidly increasing) while raising benefits by 30 percent and increasing administrative costs. He encouraged the formation of HMO-like prepaid health care plans for MediCal patients, a move that has drawn mixed reactions from the medical community. His Federally-funded Office of Criminal Justice Planning made large grants to police agencies for computers and other expensive equipment, and funded (among other projects) a large-scale research effort on how to prosecute pornographers more effectively. He several times vetoed legislation to reduce marijuana possession to a misdemeanor, and signed legislation sharply increasing penalties for drug dealers…

Thus, Reagan’s record, while generally conservative, is not particularly libertarian. But one’s administrative decisions, constrained as they are by existing laws, institutions, and politics, do not necessarily mirror one’s underlying philosophy. We were therefore curious to find out more about the real Ronald Reagan.

Two things. First, Reason Magazine of 1975 showed far more wisdom than Club for Growth or many other conservatives in 2008. Second point, look at Reagan’s record according to Reason and it appears to me that Bobby Jindal’s got a leg up and Mike Huckabee was about even on fiscal matters when compared to the real Reagan rather than the god. This is before even factoring in social issues such as the law Reagan signed legalizing abortion and Huckabee’s various pro-life and pro-family measures in Arkansas.

What led to what happened in California under Reagan? State issues are generally not reported by critical groups. For example on a 24 percent increase in spending which came with a hefty tax increase, Reagan explained,

REAGAN: Oh, for heavens sakes, I don’t know what the percentage was–but you see, the problem was that the state budget we inherited didn’t mean anything. We got in and found that to get through the election year, the previous administration had changed the bookkeeping and had a budget that was financed by 15 months’ revenue. By changing to an accrual method of bookkeeping, what they really were doing was postponing until after the election what they knew was going to have to be a tax increase. We won and found that out to our surprise –because we were quite unable, even in the period between election and inauguration, to get very much information from the outgoing administration. It was not an orderly transition! In fact, the Director of Finance in his briefing said to one of my representatives, “Look, we’re spending a million dollars a day more than we’re taking in–I’ve got a golf game–good luck.” That was our briefing in finance! We had to–much as we objected–institute a gigantic tax increase, and put the state back on a solvent basis. I said at the time that I did not recognize that as permanent–that we were going to try to give the money back to the people, just as we could institute reforms. Over the eight-year period we gave back in the form of one-time rebates, tax cuts and even bridge toll cuts $5.7 billion–which comes pretty close to giving back the amount of that increase.

I would suggest that citizens take a full look at the philosophy of potential candidates, as well as their full record. This goes for Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Governor Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) too (who the Club for Growth has castigated for the unconscienable sin of signing a bill barring people from text messaging or watching videos while driving.)

If we’re looking for perfection, I’ve got news. Christ will not be a candidate in any upcoming Presidential campaign.

1 Comment

  1. Comment by Stephen

    Thank you for bringing some perspective on candidates conservative credentials and how Club for Growth seemed to have lost theirs. Its easy to pick and choose statistics inside a vacuum without seeing the bigger picture. Club for Growth unfairly demonized Mike Huckabee and appear to be doing the same to Bobby Jindal. If you read Ronald Reagan’s political record as Governor of California without attaching his name to it, Club for Growth would have NOT endorsed Ronald Reagan. This shows that the Club for Growth is quickly losing credibility in accessing a candidate’s conservative credentials.

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