Friday, June 13, 2008

The pay raise that will try Louisiana's soul 

I don't know why certain (invariably small) issues awaken the political spirits of the masses. Perhaps it's the "last straw" effect, when something outrageous fits into a running narrative, and everyone climbs on board. This pay raise deal seems to be the latest "thing" that has set everyone off, and conservative pundits in particular are marking the day in blood:

In a column titled "Louisiana: Let The Revolution Begin Over Legislative Pay Raise", Jeff Crouere writes:

Finally, the sleeping giant has awakened. The people of Louisiana have been roused from their decades old slumber. The issue of a legislative pay raise has struck a chord like no other issue in years.

As noted by political watchdog C.B. Forgotston, “The people of the state are more upset about this pay raise than anything I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime of living in Louisiana.”

Well, if that's true it's pretty freakin' sad. I guess if Governor Jindal vetoes this bill, we can go back to being complacent about flood protection, the coast, schools, jobs, roads, crime, housing and rebuilding New Orleans.... until, presumably, a few decades pass and the Legislature wants to award itself another raise. Then a new generation can safely revolt! (Of course, there might be fewer South Louisiana leges at that time because 1/3 of the state will have washed away, but why should that possibility elevate anyone's blood pressure?)

Crouere continues:

One very beneficial impact of this [pay raise] debate is that, finally, voters are paying attention and inundating the Governor's office, legislative offices and media outlets with their denunciations of this monstrosity. It is the type of passion that I have been waiting to see all of my political life.

Crouere hopes that this pay raise kerfuffle will inspire a lasting civic passion in Louisiana where the Katrina/Rita/Federal Flood disaster of '05, and the prospect of a Nazi Klansmen Governor in '91, couldn't. Lay your bets, Pelicans.

As noted by Forgotston in an open letter to Jindal, “If you don’t side with us on this issue, all of the reforms that you are pushing (and have passed) will be meaningless.” [oyster note: most of them already were] As usual, Forgotston is quite right. All of the legislative accomplishments from tax cuts to ethics reforms will be lost on the public if this pay raise becomes law.
...
[This] is the equivalent of a political death sentence.

This overheated rhetoric is the equivalent of a future YRHT blog post that writes itself. Anyhoo, Chad Rogers-- who has never saw fit to "rant" about, say, Louisiana's coastal destruction-- is there to keep things in perspective:

Jindal needs the support of those who have fought the longest and the hardest for reform in this state.
...
If he fails to veto this bill and allows it to become law, the consequences will be disastrous, for his future and to the future of this state. Among the ranks of reformers I have spoken to, a kind of despair is already setting in. It is painfully clear that if Mr. Jindal doesn't take a stand on this, the hopes reformers (most of whom have worked longer and harder than I) will be dashed and many of us will acknowledge permanent defeat.

It will be considered nothing less than treason, a knife plunged into the heart of anyone who had hopes for Jindal as a reformer. If the legislators get a raise, Jindal will have left them for dead crying "Et tu, Bobby?"

These are the stakes.

Those aren't the "stakes" at all. Acting like this is a life or death matter, or that this "issue" will have lasting political impact, is naive. But I'll play along for political purposes.

Governor Jindal: if you don't veto this bill, it will be the greatest catastrophe for the "Gret Stet" since... since... well I can't even remember when. Three Novembers ago, when I was gutting my flooded house, and throwing out my daughter's moldy toys, all I could think about was the heinous possibility of those damn legislators passing themselves a pay raise. And sure enough, they did it, and now I am hella-pissed!!

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And precisely what constitutes being a "reformer" in Rogers' mind, anyway? Is it someone who works hard to torpedo a competent alternative to Ray Nagin, and "would have voted for Nagin" if they lived n New Orleans?
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Jeffrey has an excellent post on this "issue".
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Update: The (websiteless?) Greater New Orleans Republicans speak out on the issue. These are the "reformers" who, like Rogers, endorsed Ray Nagin for re-election. To my knowledge, they have kept their reformist jaws shut about the massive pay raises Nagin has awarded to his executive branch.

The Conservative Voice warns: "Bobby Jindal is the best chance Louisiana has ever had to be President of the United States since Zachary Taylor but should he fail to publicly veto the pay raises he will throw that opportunity away."

Jindal says he disagrees, but won't veto it.

Forgotston: "Rush owes President Ronald Reagan an apology."

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11 Comments:

So, essentially you have to be either independently wealthy, on the take, or very nearly on the take in order to serve in the Legislature...How's that been working out for you?

By Blogger celcus, at 6:36 PM  

Oyster,

I'll say here what I said on Jeffrey's blog:

1) Our legislators do not get below a living wage. Anybody who says that is doing a flyby on this issue and doesn't know what the heck they're talking about.

2) The total compensation of state legislators is currently just below $35k per year. They get a salary plus an expense stipend plus daily pay for the three-or-so months a year when they're in session.

3) $35k per year is appropriate for part-time work and appropriate for a state legislature. And the idea that we need to pay them more to keep them honest is just plain silly and has no basis in fact.

As for your other comments -- sure, it may be too much to expect that this bill has lasting impact. But it has riled many people because pretty much nobody save a the uniformed and the legislators themselves actually supported this pay raise. It had broad unpopularity. It's hard to point to individual policies that have made schools, crime, et al, so bad. On the other hand, if the legislature was trying to pass the "Anti-Schools and Jobs Act of 2008," that too would be seen as a possible tipping point.

This may not be a tipping point. They timed it well, and voters are generally akin a five-year-old with ADD who just replaced his Ritalin with sugar pills -- they ignore the horrible things their incumbent did at the beginning of his term because they like his personality, or he shook their hand at a rally and looked sincere, or some other such nonsense.

However, I wouldn't mock somebody for at least hoping that this latest debacle was blatant enough to wake the sleeping giant. They might be wrong, but goodness, I would hope we could agree that it's a nice sentiment at least!

By Anonymous Owen Courrèges, at 8:01 PM  

The problem is that some people really bought into the 'conservative' rhetoric. My Senator, Robert Adley, a douchebag if ever there was one, voted for the increase.
Adley switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party AFTER being re-elected last fall because he is such a great conservative and loves the new conservative governor.
All of that being said, you are correct, it will not have lasting impact. It will blow over in a couple of months.

By Blogger Jim, at 8:52 PM  

Oy veh!

I hate to say I told y'all so, but . . .

http://revolution-21.blogspot.com/2008/06/rebels-without-cause-or-clue.html

By Blogger The Mighty Favog, at 5:47 AM  

Or . . . since it didn't want to hyperlink:

http://revolution-21.blogspot.com/2008/06/rebels-without-cause-or-clue.html

By Blogger The Mighty Favog, at 5:50 AM  

Did anybody have the foresight to either print out or save the lists of past officers of the GNOR that you used to be able to find on the GNOR website? Someday I'll learn. I'd be willing to bet that they took down the website because of the number of people who don't we be exposed as past officers of a group that helped re-elect Nagin.

By Blogger bayoustjohndavid, at 11:25 AM  

"I'd be willing to bet that they took down the website because of the number of people who don't we be exposed as past officers of a group that helped re-elect Nagin."

I really hope that's the case.

By Blogger oyster, at 6:43 PM  

I'm pretty sure an "Anti-Schools and Jobs Act of 2008" would pass in LA somehow, unless it had a sazerac bill tacked on.

By Anonymous mac, at 8:13 PM  

Ha! Good one, mac.

By Blogger oyster, at 8:42 PM  

The truly silly people are those who actually thought Jindal was a reformer, those who swallowed the bait and didn't see that he was one more ambitious politician. It's time that he has a turn in the hot seat.

The pay raise is not the end of the world, but the legislators should not have done it. Many folks in Louisiana make do on a lot less than their part-time pay.

By Blogger Grandmère Mimi, at 11:12 PM  

Legislators need to be paid for their service but this particular episode smacks of the arrogance of power and entitlement along with contempt for the governed.

If there were an intervening election, I might actually support the pay raise. Unfortunately the legislators in their arrogance assume with contempt that the voters will forget by the time election come around again.

By Blogger mominem, at 11:26 PM