If you look up John Bel Edwards on Wikipedia, it describes the governor as a “conservative Democrat.” Someone should correct that. Sure, as we know from the last election—as he endlessly told voters—the governor is pro-life (due to his devout Catholic faith and a personal family experience) and he supports the Second Amendment. (What country boy in Louisiana doesn’t hunt and own a gun?) I respect that.
While I admit those two positions conflict with the new socialist Democratic Party we see espoused in the presidential primary, Edwards’ conservative credentials end there. Other than that, he has a family tradition as a Yellow Dog Democrat. Like the liberal presidential candidates, he loves the unions, thinks big government should take care of folks, and believes there’s nothing wrong with raising taxes to “put a chicken in every pot.” He would make former populist Democratic governors like Huey Long and Edwin Edwards proud. But those old politics of the past are taking Louisiana backwards, not forward.
Let’s be honest, Louisiana voters didn’t choose Edwards to lead. He won as the default “other guy” to former Sen. David Vitter, who was unelectable. Folks didn’t even know who Edwards was or that he was a Democrat for that matter. But they knew a lot about Vitter and a majority were not voting for him. After the way he trashed fellow Republicans Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne, even they wouldn’t support him. I can’t blame them.
Gov. Edwards had no real platform except to expand Medicaid. He did that. We saw other signs of the yellow dog wagging his tail. In his first post-election speech, before the annual meeting of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Edwards said, “You’re going to have a partner in the governor’s office.” He also told them he wanted to get rid of state Superintendent of Education John White. Just like his Democratic predecessors, Edwards was determined to take care of the unions that helped put him in office. Thank goodness he never had the votes on the BESE Board or in the House Education Committee.
In 2015, the governor spoke at the CABL luncheon and was asked about new taxes. He coyly replied, “Have I proposed higher taxes?” You noticed he was hedging and didn’t say, “No, I will not raise taxes.” But there was another time just weeks before, during the campaign in a televised debate between Edwards and Vitter. The moderator asked both very directly, “Will you raise taxes on individuals or businesses?” Then candidate John Bel Edwards answered without hesitation, “No.” His subsequent actions made his statement and pledge untrue. Voters didn’t know it then. They were counting on that “West Point honor code.”
It was just a matter of time and he started raising taxes. Edwards speaks about the deficit, blaming former Gov. Bobby Jindal and saying he had no choice but to raise over a billion dollars in taxes on business and individuals (giving us the highest sales tax in the nation). But many point to the repeal of Stelly Plan tax increase in 2008 as a leading cause of the deficit. And you know who voted for that repeal? Rep. John Bel Edwards, head of the minority party. While he voted for the repeal of Stelly, he and his Democratic Party friends voted against most other fiscal reforms proposed by Jindal to reduce spending—like pension reform (cost is insane) and the merging of SUNO and UNO (14 four-year universities is unsustainable). Jindal did manage to cut 20,000 positions in government and closed the archaic Charity Hospital system run by the state. If Gov. Edwards were really a “conservative” he would be continuing to trim jobs.
One of our former Yellow Dog Democratic governors was Edwin Edwards. He was a disaster for this state and did more harm in our past to multiple generations than anyone I can think of in my 63 years. It is shameful what this ex-con did to benefit himself and his friends—but especially pitiful is what he didn’t do for those in poverty who counted on him most.
Edwin Edwards was convicted by the feds on 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, fraud and conspiracy to award state riverboat casino licenses. He got a 10-year sentence.
Our current Gov. Edwards has whined often over the past three years, criticizing Jindal for all his problems. But on his own election night in 2015, he thanked Edwin Edwards, who was in attendance, for his help on the victory. He also attended a 2017 gala for Edwin Edwards’ 90th birthday as the “guest speaker.” And as Tyler Bridges reported this year in The Advocate, for “the hottest Superdome ticket in 10 years: Saints vs. Rams, among the select group of elected officials and political insiders who got their wishes realized, for free, in the governor’s state-provided suite” was ex-con Edwin Edwards and his wife. That speaks volumes.
If Gov. Edwards is not embarrassed by the company he keeps, then he may have ignored recent reports and rankings that show our state is struggling and not going in a good direction. Louisiana, in finishing last in the U.S. News rankings, performed the worst among all states in the areas of economic opportunity, pollution, and crime and corrections. The state was also near the bottom in terms of economy (49th in economic growth) as well as education and infrastructure (both at 48th). This is the third year in a row Louisiana has finished 50th.
In addition, from 2017 to 2018, Louisiana is one of only nine states that had a net loss of population—the fourth largest, with 27,914 people moving to other states. That is not good.
If that ranking wasn’t bad enough, last week a new one came out from CNBC and the headline read, “Louisiana finds itself in the bottom 10 of ‘Top States For Business.’” Louisiana was ranked 46th this year. “The good times are not rolling in a state with one of the nation’s weakest economies. Falling energy prices do not help,” CNBC wrote of Louisiana, citing poor ratings in the workforce, economy, infrastructure, quality of life, technology, business friendliness, cost of living and access to capital categories. In fact, Louisiana received either a grade of D or F in every category except for “cost of doing business,” where it received an A-.
I decided to look back at the two previous rankings to see the cost of doing business. In 2017, we had a 44 ranking and the cost of doing business was ranked 4th-best. In 2018, our ranking remained at 44, but the cost of doing business rose to 7th. And now in 2019, our ranking dropped to 46th and the cost of doing business is now 13th. This is not moving in the right direction. Governor, higher taxes raise the cost of doing business. It may have helped you in the short-term to create a surplus, but if you lose companies and jobs that surplus goes away quickly.
Of course, Edwards’ solution is to change the constitution, embracing a $9 minimum wage that would just raise the cost of doing business even more.
So as this election for governor is now underway—and with less than 90 days before we vote—you have to figure out which direction is Louisiana going. Are you happy with the present and optimistic about the future? What has Edwards really accomplished in his term? Are his views in sync with the people of Louisiana and will he even be able to work with a more conservative Legislature due to term limits?
Study the candidates and look at their records. Listen to the debates. But get involved and vote. Your future is at stake.
I believe we have seen the real John Bel Edwards over past 3 1/2 years, and his politics and populism reminds me too much of the last Edwards. No thanks.