By John Fund
The irony isn’t merely rich. It’s tragic. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech this week, the Obama Justice Department is suing the state of Louisiana to stop it from distributing school vouchers to kids seeking to escape failing schools.
Justice wants the vouchers stopped in the half of Louisiana school districts that are still under decades-old desegregation court orders. Justice’s lawsuit demands that students from these schools be barred from using vouchers to attend private schools unless a federal judge signs off. Justice argues that “many of those vouchers impeded the desegregation process.” A court hearing is tentatively set for September 19.
As an example of its concerns, Justice cited Independence Elementary School in Tangipahoa Parish. It notes that the school lost five white students because of the voucher program, and claims this “reinforc[es] the racial identity of the school as a black school.” Justice also cites Cecilia Primary School in St. Martin Parish as a majority-white school in a majority-black district; this school’s loss of six black students is “reinforcing the school’s racial identity as a white school.” This is bean-counting madness.
Louisiana’s legislature passed vouchers in 2008 to help low-income New Orleans students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The Louisiana Scholarship Program went statewide in 2011, giving students the chance to attend schools of their choice if they came from low-income families and were attending schools rated fair, poor, or failing by the Louisiana Department of Education.
State education superintendent John White is appalled by the lawsuit. “It’s a little ridiculous” to engage in racial bean-counting when the real issue is the huge number of schools that fail students, he told the Associated Press. He also lamented that the old desegregation orders used to combat racism were now being used to trap black students in miserable schools.
White noted that schools are banned from participating in the voucher program if they practice segregation or discrimination. The program was declared constitutional by Louisiana’s supreme court earlier this year.
Governor Bobby Jindal, a staunch supporter of the program, issued a swift reaction: “Make no mistake — this motion is a threat to the children in our state who only get one chance to grow up and deserve the opportunity to get the best education so they can pursue their dreams.”
The voucher program has proved highly popular. A survey earlier this year from the Louisiana Federation for Children and the Black Alliance for Educational Options found that nearly 93 percent of parents are happy with their child’s scholarship school. Seven voucher schools that haven’t performed well have been dropped by the program, an accountability measure almost never applied to public schools no matter how profound their failure.
The lengths to which the Obama administration will go to fight vouchers are remarkable. Ever since it took office in 2009, it has tried to kill the federally funded Opportunity Scholarship Program in Washington, D.C. In 2010, Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas found that the graduation rate for Opportunity Scholarship recipients was 91 percent. In D.C. public schools, the graduation rate was 56 percent. We have a president more interested in the agenda of teachers’ unions than in helping inner-city kids escape failing schools.
Justice’s lawsuit has a real chance of disrupting the lives of voucher students. It’s been assigned to Judge Ivan Lemelle, a liberal activist who ruled last November that parts of Jindal’s education-reform package were unconstitutional. The state is appealing Lemelle’s ruling in that case.
In King’s 1963 speech, he told of his “dream” that his four children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
That dream remains noble, but it hasn’t been advanced by a civil-rights leadership that opposes school choice and often follows an “I have a scheme” method of activism. As liberal journalist Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News said last Friday: “We’ve gone from Martin Luther King to the Reverend Al Sharpton, and . . . it’s very dispiriting.” It’s also deplorable that King’s dream has been sullied by an administration that claims King’s mantle but acts against the interests of children so that they can be counted “by the color of their skin.”
Published by the National Review.
By Gov. Bobby Jindal
Scan the news on any given day in America, and you will invariably find multiple stories about race, racism, ethnicity, and race relations. We can’t seem to get enough of this topic, and correspondingly, the media appetite for all things race-related is unquenchable.
Racism is one of the more tragic features of the human condition. Like greed, envy, and other sins, it has been around for thousands of years, on every continent.
So here we are, in the most advanced, successful, and powerful nation in the history of the world, and yet we continue to struggle to get past the color of each other’s skin.
There is no more shallow, hollow, or soulless way to think about human beings than in terms of their skin color. It is completely inane. Under what logic would any intelligent, logical, or decent person give any thought to the pigmentation of a person’s epidermis? It’s nothing short of immoral, not to mention stupid (oops…there’s that word again).
On the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in August 1963, many are asking the question: Are we in a better place today when it comes to race relations?
Yes and no. On the yes side, consider the following:
My parents immigrated to the United States from India a few years after Dr. King was assassinated. They came looking for an equal opportunity, and they got it, in the Deep South, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My parents wanted only to be judged based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
In 2003, I decided to run for governor of Louisiana, a state where David Duke got 44 percent of the statewide vote in 1990. The pundits said I was insane to even try. Friends worried about my mental stability and begged me not to run. I narrowly lost that first race, but I’ve won every race since then. I wish I had a nickel for every time East Coast political journalists have asked me about discrimination, and I wish I had a dime for every Louisiana voter who has broken those journalists’ ugly stereotypes.
Here’s what I’ve found in Louisiana: The voters want to know what you believe, what you stand for, and what you plan to do, not what shade your skin is. And I think that’s true of the country as a whole: America’s younger generation pays less attention to skin color than the generations that preceded them. (By the way, I noticed recently that the president of the United States, a man with whom I disagree with on almost everything, seems to have darker skin than most Americans. He hasn’t had a problem getting elected.)
When I look at America, I see a country that increasingly has lost its way in terms of morality. As a Christian, as I look at American culture over the past half century, I don’t like a lot of what I see. Divorce is through the roof, pornography is everywhere, sexual predators are on the loose and on the Internet, our abortion rate is higher than almost every First World country, vulgarity and profanity are mainstream and commonplace. In general, our culture has become coarser, and I regret that.
I do believe however, that while racism still rears its ugly head from time to time, America has made significant progress in the half century since Dr. King’s incredible speech.
But not all the news is good. In another respect, we have taken some steps backward. We all remember learning in grade school about America as the great “melting pot” — a concept that was completely compatible with Dr. King’s dream of every American being judged on the content of his character and not the color of his skin. You come to the United States and you become an American, regardless of your heritage, your ethnicity, your traditions, or your accent. But now we seem to act as if that melting pot is passé, an antiquated notion.
We have made tremendous progress, but as long as our society is comprised of imperfect human beings, we will always be striving for a more perfect union. We must not let this constant process prevent us from acknowledging the enormous strides we have already made.
Yet we still place far too much emphasis on our “separateness,” our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few.
Here’s an idea: How about just “Americans?” That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our “separateness” is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot.
There is nothing wrong with people being proud of their different heritages. We have a long tradition of folks from all different backgrounds incorporating their traditions into the American experience, but we must resist the politically correct trend of changing the melting pot into a salad bowl. E pluribus Unum.
When I became chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association last year, I gave this advice to the Republican Party: If you want people to like you, a good place to start is to demonstrate that you like them.
I try to treat people as individuals, and that is the way I want to be treated. I’m extremely proud of my parents and family, but that does not deter me from going “all in” on the idea of America. Put simply, I just do not care about the color of anyone’s skin – or eyes or hair either, for that matter.
We are all created in the image of God — skinny, fat, tall, short, dark, light, whatever. Who cares? What does it matter? It’s time to get over it. It’s time for the end of race in America. Now that would be progress.
Published by Politico.
Wall Street Journal
By Neil King Jr.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal traveled to the Canadian Rockies to blame “blind leftwing ideologues” for the impasse over building the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.
In all, the Republican makes 16 references to leftwing opponents to the pipeline in a sharply partisan speech before a gathering of Canadian oilmen, according to an advanced text of the address provided by the governor’s office. He makes no mention of President Barack Obama, who will have the final say over the project.
“He’s beholden to the left,” a Jindal spokesman said of the president, in explaining why Mr. Jindal left him out of the speech. “This is a long-term issue with the left.”
The two-term governor, who is widely considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate, says in the speech that his remarks will “completely destroy the arguments of the radical left in America” who oppose the pipeline, which would carry crude from Canadian oil sands in Alberta to U.S. refineries.
In sharper terms than many others in his party, Mr. Jindal portrays the Democrats as elitists who oppose all forms of traditional energy production and explicitly favor higher energy prices.
“There are no logical reasons to oppose construction of the pipeline other than an irrational liberal ideology that blindly and unscientifically opposes all forms of energy which they themselves do not deem to be sufficiently ‘green’ or ‘renewable,’ “Mr. Jindal says.
Environmental groups strongly oppose the pipeline, saying it will encourage further production of Canada’s oil sands, which require huge amounts of water and energy to develop, and make it harder for the U.S. to move off fossil fuels. They also cite fears of major spills along the pipeline’s route.
Mr. Obama said in a speech on climate change in June that the pipeline should be approved “only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Mr. Jindal, governor of a major oil-producing state, ticks off his arguments for why he thinks the pipeline’s opponents are wrong. But in the speech to the Oilmen’s Business Forum at a resort in the ski resort of Banff, he mainly lets loose on his political opponents.
“The sad truth is that the Democrat Party in America is the party of energy austerity, and is holding America hostage to their extremist and unscientific views,” he says, according to the advance text. “They want the government to tell Americans to live in smaller houses, drive smaller cars, set their thermostats higher in the summer and lower in the winter.”
Published by The Wall Street Journal.
Governor Bobby Jindal
We already know ObamaCare is a poorly conceived law that is unworkable in the real world. We know the law is already driving health care premiums through the roof contrary to what President Obama promised. For instance, in my home state, our largest health insurance provider reported recently that health care premiums could go up by more than 200 percent on some customers, and the average increase could be almost 30 percent according to one study.
We also know that implementation of the law has been a disaster so far. The Obama administration made the decision last month to delay the penalty provisions in the bill on employers for another year. So the boss gets spared, but no such luck for the working stiff.
This action is an acknowledgement from the administration that the law is not ready for primetime. Worse, the delay is going to increase the cost of the already too expensive bill by $12 billion. And there are clearly political motivations behind the delay as moving the tax on employers beyond the 2014 elections removes a burden on Democrats running to defend this terrible piece of legislation.
The writing is already on the wall -- the entire ObamaCare law needs to be repealed.
But wait, as they say in the infomercials, there’s more! By August 15, the Obama administration is expected to spend $54 million of our tax dollars to hire community organizers to push this law on the American people. The president was once a self-professed community organizer, so perhaps this is his way of “giving back” as they say.
Here is how it is supposed to work.
Over the next few weeks, the Obama administration is set to dole out grants and begin to hire thousands of marketers to help sell ObamaCare. The Obama administration came up with a clever name for these marketers – ‘navigators’ – who are charged with helping to sign people up for ObamaCare.
‘Navigator’ is a crafty name, but in reality, there are very few restrictions on who they are, and what exactly they are supposed to be doing. ‘Navigators’ are supposed to be hired to help consumers understand the law and the insurance coverage provisions in the new health exchanges. Sounds like a job for a rocket scientist.
The ‘navigators’ are prohibited from having financial ties to an insurance company, but other than that there are few constraints. Union organizers and community activists are among the types that are allowed to be hired as ‘navigators’, and having prior experience working in the health care field doesn’t seem to necessarily be a pre-requisite for the job. I wonder what percentage of these ‘navigators’ will be partisan Democrats?
The ‘navigators’ will be required to take only 20 hours of online course training, which will apparently make them experts on the 1,000 page ObamaCare bill. An HHS official was even quoted this week saying, “We view training as an ongoing process.” Count me as skeptical.
To make matters worse, these ‘navigators’ are going to have access to all kinds of personal information that will make the whole program ripe for fraud.
When helping individuals sign up for ObamaCare, these community organizers will have access to sensitive personal information, including social security numbers and tax information.
Amazingly, HHS is not planning on requiring background checks on these individuals before putting them to work. Besides the obvious identity theft concerns, this is a frightening development in light of the political activities and invasion of privacy, which the IRS and others have engaged in during the Obama presidency.
But the biggest problem with the ‘navigator’ program is it appears the federal government still doesn’t have the complete means to verify if an individual is even eligible for exchange insurance subsidies.
Coupled with the delay of the employer mandate, there is little way to know if a person has access to affordable insurance through their employer, making them ineligible for subsidies. This makes the system open for fraud and abuse. ObamaCare is now on the honor system.
Beyond the serious implications for taxpayers that thousands could be signing up to receive taxpayer subsidies who are not eligible, this is problematic for consumers who could be forced to pay back money if they mistakenly sign up for ObamaCare, along with the potential for fines.
You could not make this stuff up. No one would believe it. I’m not sure I believe it.
In Louisiana, I signed a law to ensure that felons and ex-cons are not the ones who will be in charge of the ‘navigator’ program and have access to all this sensitive personal data. This is a step in the right direction and some other states have passed similar legislation, but running the ‘navigator’ program without a proven means to verify if a person is eligible for ObamaCare has the potential for disaster.
Like he did with the delay of the employer mandate, the president needs to halt these lucrative grants to the ‘navigator’ program immediately.
ObamaCare is just not ready for primetime, and there is something more than a little odd about using taxpayer money for a marketing campaign aimed at taxpayers. The troubling details of the navigator program provide just another example of the poor planning and implementation of ObamaCare and shows why the law must be repealed.
Published by Fox News.
Governor Bobby Jindal
Eight years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina struck our shores, devastated our state and left the city of New Orleans in peril. Many people thought the city would never fully recover, but state and local leaders have worked together to prove the doubters wrong. What has happened in the eight years since Katrina is truly remarkable, as New Orleans has reestablished its historical position as one of the world's great cities for both culture and commerce.
When I took office, we set out to make Louisiana the best place in the world in which to live, work and raise a family. In order to do so, we immediately got to work on strengthening governmental ethics laws, cutting taxes, revamping our workforce development programs and reforming our education system so that we could create a competitive business climate. Thanks to these and other reforms, targeted state investments and aggressive business development efforts, Louisiana now ranks higher in every national business-climate ranking than it ever did prior to 2008. Nowhere in Louisiana is our hard work on display more so than in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.
Since becoming our nation's first district of autonomously run charter schools, New Orleans schools have improved student achievement measures from 35 percent proficient on literacy and math tests to 63 percent. The New Orleans graduation rate now tops the state average for all students and the national average for African-American students. New Orleans is the only school system in America where educators rather than school boards run the schools and parents choose from a marketplace of competing options. In short, New Orleans schools increasingly are providing a pipeline of well-educated workers that companies from every industry seek when they are looking to invest or expand.
An expanded digital media tax credit we created has helped New Orleans to cultivate a burgeoning collection of tech startups as the city has become one of America's top new centers for entrepreneurship. This latest generation of businesses has buoyed the spirit of New Orleans and its economy, leading Forbes to name New Orleans the No. 1 brain magnet and Inc. magazine to call New Orleans America's coolest startup city. Enhanced, targeted state incentives have helped numerous startups and high-growth young firms to lead the way, including Audiosocket, iSeatz, TurboSquid and many more.
New Orleans built its reputation on maritime commerce, and we've been proud to help continue that tradition. With state support, the Port of New Orleans recently has seen container volumes jump by 50 percent. The growth of the port helped enable Louisiana to be named the top export state in America by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2012. A $25 million state investment in new gantry cranes will enable the port to take advantage of significant new growth opportunities associated with the upcoming expansion of the Panama Canal.
For the first time in decades, the New Orleans area is attracting investments and jobs from leading companies around the world. For example, GE Capital decided to open a 300-job technology center in New Orleans, thanks in large part to an innovative higher-education partnership that we funded to expand computer science programs in the area. Our best-in-the-nation workforce program, LED FastStart, helped New Orleans to secure a 150-job game-development studio of one of the top mobile game developers in the world, Gameloft.
At the same time, we've helped existing New Orleans employers to expand. For example, Folgers consolidated operations from two other states, adding 120 jobs. Lockheed Martin is adding 166 new jobs at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility. We've also attracted huge industrial projects to other metro-area parishes, such as Nucor in St. James Parish (up to 1,250 jobs and $3.4 billion in capital investment) and Dyno Nobel/Cornerstone Chemical in Jefferson Parish (more than 540 direct and indirect jobs and $1.0 billion in capital investment). More big announcements are on the way.
Meanwhile, a multibillion-dollar biomedical district is under construction, anchored by the new university research hospital funded by the state. Film production and digital media industries are growing exponentially.
In decades past, the continuous, slow decline of New Orleans was a leading contributor to the economic underperformance of our entire state. Today, New Orleans is one of Louisiana's consistent growth drivers for both jobs and population. Bloomberg even designated New Orleans the No. 2 Boomtown in America.
Thanks to determined work over the past few years at both the state and local levels, New Orleans today outshines virtually every expectation from the bleak days after Hurricane Katrina. Twenty years from now, people may look back at this time as one of the most remarkable turnarounds of a major American city. As New Orleans approaches its tricentennial, we will continue working to make this great city a shining example of urban possibility.
The success we've enjoyed in New Orleans is indicative of the economic momentum we've experienced across Louisiana. Since January 2008, job growth in Louisiana ranks second-best in the South and seventh-best nationally. In just the last six months we've added more than 11,500 new jobs, and we are one of only 14 states with more jobs today than in January 2008.
Our state's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown by $36 billion during my administration, representing growth that is nearly 50 percent faster than the national GDP and 25 percent faster than the South. Per capita income in our state has grown by more than $3,600 since we took office and it's at its second-highest national ranking in more than 80 years. Louisiana also now ranks in the top 10 of three major national business climate rankings.
And, my favorite statistic - for the past five years in a row, more people are now moving into Louisiana than moving out - reversing a more than two decade trend of more people moving out of our state than moving in.
These are all tremendous accomplishments, but our work isn't finished. As part of our commitment to making Louisiana the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family, we aren't going to rest now. Instead, we are going to continue fostering an environment in New Orleans and across our entire state where businesses want to invest and create opportunities for our people.
For many people around the world, New Orleans defines their perception of Louisiana. Fortunately, this special city has begun a remarkably positive second act, and its future is very, very bright.
Published by The Times-Picayune.