Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal's Muddled Message

What does he stand for again?

|

Bobby Jindal
Gage Skidmore / Foter / CC BY-SA

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was supposed to be the conservative answer to President Barack Obama: a first-generation Indian-American who rejected offers from Harvard med and Yale law to study political science on a Rhodes scholarship. He was the whiz-bang wonk who would use his policy smarts to lift the Republican Party from its doldrums with innovative solutions and vision, catapulting himself to the White House in the process.

Such lofty prognostications, common seven years ago, are few and far between these days. The Real Clear Politics poll average shows Jindal sputtering in second-to-last place among a dozen Republican presidential hopefuls—behind newbies like Dr. Ben Carson and has-beens like Rick Santorum. And the reason isn't just Jindal's awkward, comedy-inspiring response to the 2009 State of Union address, though that still haunts him.

The real culprit, perhaps, is that Jindal has forgotten a core teaching of Hinduism, the religion he left to convert to Catholicism: Act for the sake of your duty or principles without expectation of material rewards (karam karo, phal ke iccha nahin).

Jindal has subordinated his duties as a governor to his presidential ambitions, and the more he's done that, the less effective he's become as both governor and presidential candidate, paradoxically undermining the very goal he seeks.

By all accounts, Jindal's first term as governor of the Bayou State, where he was born and raised by barely off-the-boat parents, was quite successful. He assumed office in 2008 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and before the economic meltdown—yet managed to rebuild New Orleans, literally from scratch.

He used the weakened chokehold of teachers' unions to push major education reforms, making the city a national leader in school choice. When President Obama was busy shutting down a voucher program that had liberated hundreds of black children from dysfunctional D.C. public schools, Jindal was handing New Orleans' 83 percent minority population virtually unprecedented control over its education destiny through vouchers, charters, and course choice.

Over 93 percent of New Orleans kids attend charter schools today. Graduation rates, especially among black male teens, the most challenging cohort for educators, are soaring, with about 65 percent of them graduating on time last year, six points more than the national average. College enrollment has risen 100 percent since 2005.

What's more, Jindal lived up to his promise of "making Louisiana's economy bigger and the government smaller." He cut over 30,000 workers from the state rolls through aggressive privatization of the state Medicaid program, state-run charity hospitals, and the risk-management office. He used the savings to roll back a 2002 income tax hike.

All of this reversed Louisiana's post-Katrina exodus, producing a net population increase of 250,000 on his watch. Private sector jobs have grown 5 percent, placing the state fifth in the nation in terms of job growth. Between 2008 and 2012, Louisiana's inflation-adjusted GDP grew by 7.9 percent compared to 3.2 percent nationally, boosting Louisiana's average per capita personal income by 15 percent.

And yet… Jindal's second term has been as big a flop as his first term was a success.

Nothing illustrates this better than his plummeting popularity in the state: Three years after being re-elected with a whopping 65 percent of the vote, his approval rating has sunk to 27 percent.

Critics point out that Jindal spent literally half of 2014 outside Louisiana (and only one of the trips was official state business), especially in the nation's capital, making speeches before conservative think tanks, courting donors, and scoping out staffers.

But his ambition has not only distracted him from the state's affairs, but also distorted his gubernatorial priorities. One reason for the state's yawning $1.6 billion deficit is that he has resorted to easy budgetary gimmicks that he once criticized (such as raiding the state's rainy day funds, issuing tax amnesties) rather than dealing with broader structural issues, like the state's bizarre tax code.

Gordon Russell, a Baton Rouge columnist, likens Louisiana's tax code to a "huge Swiss cheese" shot through with special exemptions for businesses "large and small, sublime and ridiculous, important and petty." Thanks to these, Louisiana businesses pay very low taxes, even though on paper Louisiana is a high-tax state.

Jindal proposed a major reform to eliminate the state's income tax in exchange for raising sales taxes and closing some of these business loopholes in 2013. But after that went down in flames, he chose the path of least resistance.

Not only did he embrace the bulk of the state's 400-plus corporate giveaways, he expanded them and even implemented some new ones. Louisiana's six largest giveaways—worth $200 million under Jindal's predecessor—have grown to $1 billion on his watch, partly because he wants to come across as business friendly and partly because he wants to do nothing that seems like a violation of his no-tax-hike pledge to Americans for Tax Reform. The state now hands out nearly $250 million in film subsidies alone—with every episode of Duck Dynasty, whose homophobic protagonist-and-owner is Jindal's biggest fan, receiving $330,000. Jindal might have gotten away with handing out such corporate pork—if cheap oil hadn't decimated the state's oil revenues, or if so many of Louisiana's budget items weren't protected by voters or the state constitution.

Instead of meeting these challenges head on, Jindal seems to have given up on Louisiana and, in turn, the state seems to have given up on him. (His 2016 budget includes some cuts in corporate pork, but it is too little, too late.)

Without a solid gubernatorial performance to tout, there doesn't seem to be anything unique that Jindal can offer GOP voters that other GOP candidates can't, especially now that Scott Walker, the spectacularly successful governor of Wisconsin, is considering a presidential bid. Not only did Walker prevail against the most powerful liberal interest group in his state (labor unions), but restored his popularity as well.

Perhaps Jindal senses his comparative advantage slipping, which is why he's been casting around wildly for a workable message. In recent months, he's tried to position himself as the ideas candidate (admonishing the GOP not to be the "stupid party, releasing copious proposals for health care and energy reform), a religious warrior (who's had it with the liberal war on religious liberty), a cultural purist (who wants to restrict Muslims because they don't assimilate in America), and a security hawk (who demands a boost in defense spending).

Jindal's new faith might be a great source of personal strength. But to sort out his existential confusion as a politician, he might have to reacquaint himself with the wisdom of his old faith and try and figure out not how he can become president, but why he should. Material rewards come not when one chases them directly, but as a byproduct of pursuing a higher cause.

This column originally appeared in The Week.

Advertisement

NEXT: Victims of Communism Day

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. …this boy wonder…

    Obviously a racist dig at people from India. Shameful.

    1. Shikha, the Self-Hating Hindu.

      1. I thought she was the Christian / Redneck hating Hindu?

        1. Wait a minute, you mean Shikha isn’t a white woman from Kentucky?

          *mind blow*

    2. Well, he’s forgotten or is ignoring the Hindu teachings from his youth, so….

      /Dalmiaworld

    3. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……
      http://www.work-cash.com

  2. Are you kidding me? Another Jindal piece? This is starting to resemble a Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction kind of situation.

    Get a life, you fucking Dipshit loser.

    1. Can’t tell if sarcasm or retarded. What I can tell is that reason’s last piece focusing on Bobby Jindal was published four months ago.

      1. Your calendar may need calibration.

        https://reason.com/blog/2015/04…..-bad-karma

        1. DOH! one minute….

      2. Uhh….Dalmia’s second-most-recent piece was posted here a couple days ago.

        https://reason.com/blog/2015/04…..-bad-karma

        Column’s at “The Week”, but I count “posted on Reason” as “close enough”.

        Perhaps YMMV…

      3. No, there was something a few days ago.

        1. WAY TO NOT INCLUDE THE LINK, PROL….

          1. The link is within my mind. The Internet is a crutch.

            1. When you can walk across the rice paper and leave no trace connect to the internet with your mind, then, you will have learned.

              /Kung Fu

              1. Everybody was Kung-fu typing.

                  1. [Snatches pebble out of Swiss Servator’s hand and leaves this place.]

          1. I understand that there may be proof of my assertion, out there, somewhere. Or maybe it was a dream?

  3. We get it. He’s an Indian guy who converted to Christianity and acts Southern – so you dislike him intensely.

    1. He’d better invest in a state-of-the-art alarm system if he doesn’t have one, because pretty soon he’s going to walk in the door and find a rabbit boiling on his stove.

    2. We get it. He’s an Indian guy who converted to Christianity and acts Southern – so you dislike him intensely.

      As I note below, not just any Indian guy, though. He was also a Rhodes Scholar and high-end consultant. They’re definitely not allowed to go native.

    3. “”acts Southern””

      explain

      1. His favorite things in life are pig meat, grits, and church in some order. What an asshole.

        1. you are forgetting pussy and rock and roll.

          after grits

  4. “with every episode of Duck Dynasty, whose homophobic protagonist-and-owner is Jindal’s biggest fan, receiving $330,000.”

    Overall, I think the article makes some good points, but this comment seems specifically personal and out of place. It’s clearly just a snipe at something Dalmia personally objects to.

    1. “just a snipe at something Dalmia personally objects to”

      That would be “Bobby Jindal”

    2. The homophobic label certainly seems gratuitous in the SJW vein; like it would be forgivable to hand out money to TV stars in Louisiana if they were homophyllic.

  5. I don’t know why [probably because RACIST!] but these always make me think of that comedian from the south who’s of Asian descent….

    [Google]

    THIS guy.

    Henry Cho

    He’s also Christian and speaks with a southern accent. So he probably should be shot, based on the Dalmia Scale.

    1. I’m kind of guessing that for people like Dalmia, Jindal’s crime in “going native” is worse than other ethnic rednecks because he was a Rhodes Scholar and McKinsey consultant. That’s definitely not the type who’s supposed to be one of “those people”.

  6. I encountered a redneck Indian outside of Boone, NC a couple of years ago at a convenience store. The accent, the look, the whole shebang. But Indian.

    1. You sure that wasn’t a cigar-store wooden indian you were chatting up? Just wondering, cause most of them are racist as hell. From what I’ve heard, that is…

      1. Nope, a live, fully operational India-Indian Indian.

        1. He was in no ways tired? Hillary might need his help….

          1. He was fully caffeinated and ready to take on any task.

  7. I was at a haunted house this past Halloween (Reindeer Manor, which I invited Sloopy to, but he had “work”), and damned if my wife (who is Chinese) and I didn’t see a young clearly East Asian woman dressed in camo arm-in-arm with a white redneck looking dude in Duck Dynasty t-shirt and Nascar hat, in a larger group of what I assume was his family (older gentleman and woman), and they were also dressed in camo.

    We just stared slack-jawed as they walked by, indignant that she would stoop to non-conforming to the stereotype of her race that most people have in their minds. A 20-yr old Chinese hunter dating a white Nascar hick…that bitch!

    1. Kind of like when I kept running into black guys in Scotland….and was surprised when they spoke with Scottish accents.

      Cause I’m from the US, and I JUST WASN’T EXPECTING THAT.

      Same with the lady who ran Checks party store (pro tip – deep fried haggis on a stick – DEEEEERISHous!). Young, pretty asian woman – SCOTTISH as hell. Always with the “salt and vinegar?” that sounds like “sllllllll nnnnn vinnnnnnnnnrrrrr?” from the Glaswegians.

      Yep – she were full-on raised there.

      Interesting.

      1. I told my wife straight up that I’d leave her if given a chance at that Scottish Chinese chick in the Harry Potter movie.

      2. I made friends with one of the Royal Scots Borderers…Fijian who came to Scotland, liked the looks of the place and stayed…first time he spoke to me, I was delighted to hear that Scot-speake straight from a Pacific Islander.

        1. As many times as I’ve been there, it still catches me off guard. Love the accent, but I’m SOOOOO American, I’m used to all “minorities” having….’murcan accents. Cause Melting Pot?

          1. Yes, while I haven’t been to Scotland, I will gladly correct every black person there I see and instruct them in ebonics.

            1. +1 aight

            2. “You’re the oddest African-American person i’ve ever met!”

          2. First time I encountered that was as a runner at a law firm in college. The receptionist was black and had a great English accent.

  8. Also ^^^ THIS is why Postrel hates us.

    I blame Bush, and acknowledge my part in fucking up reason.com.

    *sad face*

  9. The real culprit, perhaps, is that Jindal has forgotten a core teaching of Hinduism, the religion he left to convert to Catholicism: Act for the sake of your duty or principles without expectation of material rewards

    And she writes for Reason?

    1. Poorly…but yes, she does write for Reason.

      1. I’m wondering how long that’s going to last. Beloved writers have been disappeared for much less.

        1. DON’T TALK ABOUT….

          Say, whatever happened to Kmele Foster….didn’t he write as well as appear on

      2. Well, she should stick to pimping for cheap Mexican labor – er, freedom of immigration.

    2. Yeah, it is interesting that she notes he “left” Hinduism…..but he’s still supposed to….adhere to it? “Respect” it? “Be informed” by it? Or something?

      Yeah, I “converted” from basically atheist to Christian – my pastor would be disappoint if I continued to “learn from”, “adhere to” or “act on” my prior beliefs….as would I.

    3. It is weird seeing a Reason writer getting all worked up over a politician’s apostasy.

      1. The worst part of it, and I think Dipshit just might be so fucking stupid that she doesn’t know this, is that Jindal isn’t merely “acting” southern, he IS southern!

        He was born in Baton Rouge, and with the exception of some of his schooling years, he has spent pretty much his entire life in Louisiana. And the last time I checked, Baton Rouge and Lousiana were part of the American south!

  10. OT: Looks like they’re going to charge all 6 Baltimore cops with homicide, state’s attorney just flatly declared in a press conference that arrest was illegal and unwarranted.

    1. We ask that you please be patient. Reason will have a post up on the new development as soon as all the facts are gathered. Everyone here should remain off their keyboards until such time.

      1. I can’t – I have work to do.

      2. Just like the in-depth and lengthy piece Reason did on Rotherham?

        1. I think that was a Brickbat.

    2. And, six months from now on page D38, “6 cops acquitted on all charges.”

  11. I think the fact that all the reason writers have gone on their annual Orgy in The Woods vacation and left Shikha behind is really like totally not cool

    1. Someone had to feed the cats. I hear they drew straws, so it was fair.

      1. Cats?!?

        I suspect that is nick’s fault. the jacket needs them.

  12. Yeah, you know where I first heard this?

    A STAG BLOG POST.

    There were no misspellings, just for the record…

  13. I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I’ve been doing,

    ————- http://www.work-cash.com

  14. Jindal is too valuable as a future head of HSS than be allowed to run for president.

    I am not joking either. You want to remove or replace ACA?

    You will need Jindal there.

    I am impressed with his educational record, which I had not heard about.

    I also think its unfair to judge governors on their record while they are still there as sometimes there is a time lag, and often the state can only stomach so much change before they get upset.

    1. That last sentence looks so dumb now that I read it again!

  15. Bobby Jindal has decided to favor business over people and does not recognize the Constitutional separation of Church and State. He favors teaching mythology in science class and lying to kids in health class. He believes money will grow on trees if we cut taxes enough. No wonder no one likes him.

  16. my best friend’s aunt makes $85 /hr on the laptop . She has been laid off for 10 months but last month her pay check was $18401 just working on the laptop for a few hours
    …… ?????? http://www.netjob80.com

  17. I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I’ve been doing,

    ————- http://www.work-cash.com

  18. he’s a bright guy but can’t sing & has no real presence/charisma!

  19. Nathaniel . although Stephanie `s rep0rt is super… I just bought a top of the range Mercedes sincee geting a check for $4416 this last four weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . no-doubt about it, this really is the best-job I’ve ever done . I actually started seven months/ago and almost straight away started making a nice over $79.. p/h….. ?????? http://www.netjob80.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.