Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal got himself some attention this week for being the skunk at what is typically a diplomatic, nonconfrontational exchange between a bipartisan group of governors and reporters outside the White House after a meeting with President Obama. His accusation on the White House lawn that President Obama “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” on the economy drew an angry rebuke from Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy and a double-down retort from Jindal recounted in this AP story and video.
Jindal was likely lashing out to get attention for a screed he wrote for the National Review challenging Obama to adopt a different use of the “phone and pen” he said he would use to bypass Congress if necessary to improve the economy. Jindal wrote that Obama should instead “roll back policies which are creating barriers for innovation, implement policies which encourage investment, and build toward the future with reforms that will help prepare Americans for the challenge of tomorrow’s economy.”
For a governor with an eye on occupying the Oval Office who has also famously said that Republicans should “stop being the Stupid Party,” Jindal has offered up a stunningly vacuous and fraudulent 10-point agenda to “jump-start growth” that withers under the harsh light of reality.
Number one on his list is approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Jindal says the pipeline will create “thousands of jobs”; actually, construction of the pipeline will generate between 4,000 and 6,000 temporary jobs over two years, according to a State Department study. But once construction is over, the total number of jobs directly related to the pipeline will be 100 or less. And contrary to what Jindal implies, the gasoline produced from this oil will be sold on the world market, not directly to American gas stations.
Jindal adds other sops to the energy industry to his list, including opening up more land for energy exploration and licenses for energy export facilities. There’s also this biggie, a demand to “scrap proposed new rules regarding greenhouse gases” for coal-fired power plants. The common thread tying these together is a determination to allow energy companies to operate with as few constraints, and as few costs, as they can, without having to answer for the impact they have on the environment or to local concerns about how land is used. (It’s not surprising, given that what little economic vitality Louisiana has experienced is largely due to the growth of oil and natural gas.) West Virginia, North Carolina – and, for that matter, Louisiana’s Gulf coast – become models for the country rather than cautionary tales, the polluted waters and disrupted lives in both states due to lax regulation of energy companies notwithstanding.
Continuing the anti-regulatory bent, Jindal touts the “One In, Two Out Act,” a bill by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) that would require the federal government to offset a regulation deemed to have an estimated compliance cost of more than $100 million by lifting a regulatory requirement of equal or greater cost. It’s a law that makes the reputed cost of a regulation on business the sole arbiter of its value, ruling out the benefits of the regulation to the public at large or the costs imposed on people if a regulation is lifted. The ultimate objective is not a better process of balancing regulatory costs and benefits; it’s to make it more difficult for the executive branch to regulate the behavior of businesses, period.
In that spirit, Jindal calls for the elimination of the “gainful employment” rule the Obama administration imposed on private vocational schools; without those rules, schools could take on students receiving federal loans and grants, and hence profit from them, without actually providing the job-getting education they promised. Eliminating that rule might create a few jobs – but for unscrupulous school executives, not students trying to train for a decent job. Jindal also lists “school-choice vouchers” as an economic jump-starter, even though vouchers as stimulus is a claim almost never made by even ardent proponents of shifting money from public schools to private and religious schools.
By adding the elimination of “project labor agreements” on federal construction projects to his list, Jindal all but says that federal contractors should be free to pursue a race to the bottom, trampling worker salaries on the way. Project labor agreements assure that the jobs created by federal dollars pay well enough to enable people to support themselves and their households. They avoid the perversity of the federal government being the nation’s largest poverty-wage employer when it comes to contracts not covered by project labor agreements – services such as food concessions and janitorial. That had to be addressed by President Obama signing an executive order this month setting a $10.10 minimum wage for these contracts. Workers having more money in their pockets to spend creates jobs, but in Jindal’s world that doesn’t count.
Finally, there is this odd addition on an economic policy wish list that calls on Obama to “direct the IRS to eliminate any program that targets individuals, small businesses, or nonprofits based on their political beliefs.” That is a direct reference to the widespread belief – proven false – that the Internal Revenue Service singled out tea party groups to deny them tax-exempt status. (Newly formed progressive groups were also targeted for potentially overstepping nonprofit tax rules.) The inclusion of that item betrays what Jindal would do with his phone and pen – put them at the service of right-wing oligarchs like the Koch brothers who have spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to control America’s political system and bend it exclusively to their will.
Jindal’s 10-point agenda is not about jump-starting the economy for ordinary people; it’s about accelerating the takeover of the economy by the right-wing ideologues among the 1 percent. It’s about protecting their monopoly on the country’s economic gains against the demands of working people for more jobs, better wages, a cleaner environment, more financial security and a government that works for them and not just for the lobbyists who write the largest checks. From the viewpoint of the plutocrats, Jindal may be one grade above membership in “the stupid party,” but the rest of us would be stupid to take what he says about jump-starting the economy seriously.