July 30, 2009

Bobby Jindal continues to refuse to credit the stimulus package for Louisiana's economic recovery even though as Think Progress noted, he was happy to go around the state presenting jumbo sized checks which included money from those funds.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) reemerged on the national stage yesterday, penning an op-ed in the Politico to slam efforts to reform health care and declaring the Economic Recovery Act a failure. Jindal declared the Recovery Act “a nearly trillion-dollar stimulus that has not stimulated.” However, less than 24 hours before Jindal published his op-ed, Jindal traveled to Anacoco, Louisiana to present a jumbo-sized check to residents of Vernon Parish. The funds included hundreds of thousands of dollars directly from the Recovery Act — at least $157,848 in Community Block Grant money authorized by the Recovery Act and $138,611 for Byrne/JAG job training programs created by the Recovery Act. Rather than credit the federal government or the Recovery Act he opposed, Jindal printed his own name on the corner of the massive check.

When asked about this on Blitzer's The Situation Room, Jindal refused to acknowledge that the stimulus package has been successful, and instead touted the use of the line item veto and said the stimulus money should have been temporary and targeted, and included more tax cuts. Blitzer didn't ask him about the jumbo sized checks he was using for photo ops.

I thought they weren't going to allow that to happen?

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has a message for Republican governors hemming and hawing over whether to accept the stimulus money Uncle Sam is mailing to each state: Take it or leave it.

Several GOP governors, including Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and South Carolina's Mark Sanford, have cited ideological differences with the stimulus spending and suggested they may take some parts of it and decline the rest. For Schumer, it's all or nothing.

"No one would dispute that these governors should be given the choice as to whether to accept the funds or not. But it should not be multiple choice," Schumer writes in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

So why is Jindal being allowed to use the line item veto to block part of the stimulus spending in Louisiana? Full transcript below the fold.

BLITZER: Let's go right to the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. He's joining us from the capital in Baton Rouge.

Governor, thanks, as usual, for coming in.

JINDAL: Wolf, thank you so much for having me back in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Is the economy recovering right now? Do you see the end of this longest recession?

JINDAL: I would say a couple things.

Louisiana continues to outperform the national economy. Our banks are in relatively good shape. We have got the -- one of the lowest unemployment rates in the South, one of the 10 lowest unemployment rates in the country.

You know, national studies have said we have got one of five real estate markets where the housing prices actually went up, not down, this past year. They went up 3 percent. They went down 10 percent across the country. So, we have continued to fare better than -- than much of the rest of the country. We have done it in part -- we have cut taxes, revamped ethics, revamped work force training programs. I agree with what Ali said, though, that, really, you know, the economists will figure out when these recessions start and end.

To the average American, it's really when we start seeing more jobs, when we start wages climb. I'm proud. We have announced economic development wins totaling 32,000 new announced jobs in Louisiana, $4.3 billion in private capital investment.


JINDAL: We are going to continue to outperform the national economy.

But I think, for the country, until we see hiring starting, until we see unemployment rates come back down, I think that's when your average person thinks the recession is really beginning to end.

BLITZER: Are you ready to give the president of the United States some credit for turning -- helping to turn this economy around?

JINDAL: Look, I love what he says. And I -- I do have a lot of skepticism about, in D.C., the fact they think that we can spend our way into prosperity, borrow our way into prosperity. Now they want to tax our way into prosperity.

It was auto bailouts. It was TARP. It was the stimulus. Now it's the health care plan. But -- but, Wolf, let's give credit where credit is due. When he talks about health care reform, when he talked to the national...


BLITZER: I want to get to health care in a moment, Governor.

JINDAL: Sure. Sure.

BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting.

Let's stay on the stimulus for a second. Louisiana -- we just checked -- they were getting, your state, $3.3 billion, part of the economic recovery, the stimulus money. Already, they have made, what, they say, $2.2 billion available. They have paid out almost a half-a- million -- a half-a-billion dollars, $480 million.

I assume, even though you -- you hated the stimulus package, you're taking the money, and it's helping.

JINDAL: Well, a couple of things.

One, we -- we looked at it line by line. We said, we're not taking some of the unemployment money. We're not taking some of the dish (ph) money. We're not taking some of the TMA money, because we thought they would have increased obligations on our state.

BLITZER: Of the $3.3 billion, how much aren't you taking?

JINDAL: I think the unemployment was over $100 million. I don't have the other numbers off the top of my head.

But the bottom line is this. I think they could have done more to stimulate the economy if they had been aggressive, if it had truly been temporary and targeted, as the president said, if it had been more aggressive on the tax cut side, if it had been more aggressive in speeding up infrastructure spending that was going to happen another way, like the investment in our roads. I think...

BLITZER: But the $3.2 billion that you're taking, you're -- you're happy with? You're happy? That money is going to help your state and the people of Louisiana?

JINDAL: Well, I think they could have done more to help our state to get the economy growing.

Here's what I worry about, Wolf. That added to the deficit. That's a deficit my children and grandchildren are going to have to pay back. It's not free money. That means interest rates, inflation rates will eventually go up, the currency will go down. And, so, what I worry about is, in the short term, for the sake of short-term spending, are we creating longer-term problems for our people?

I think it would have been better if had been more focused, more targeted, temporary, as the president described his original intent behind the stimulus.

BLITZER: Let's talk about health care reform, a subject close to everyone's heart.

Listen to what President Obama says.


OBAMA: Because the truth is, we have a system today that works well for the insurance industry, but it doesn't always work well for you.



BLITZER: All right, he was referring to the fact that there are millions of Americans who do have health insurance right now who are very scared, if they ever need it, it won't be there for them.

How worried are you about this point the president is making?

JINDAL: Oh, I think he's right.

I think several things he says on health care is right. Look, we need to reform the insurance market, so it's truly portable, so it's required to cover people when they get sick, so that you can take it across state lines, across jobs. It doesn't make sense to have insurance if it's not there when you truly need it.

It needs to cover preexisting conditions. I like what the president has to say when he talks about choice and competition, a plan that is fully paid for, doesn't add to the deficit, that uses electronic patient records, that you don't have to give up your insurance if you like it. You won't be forced into a government-run plan.

My concern is, that's not what the House bill does. Again, I agree with a lot of what he says. I thought he did a great job talking to the country last week. but you look at the House Democratic plan, you look at a plan that adds to the deficit nearly a quarter-of-a-trillion dollars, increases taxes during one of the worst recessions we have seen -- I don't know why anybody would want to raise taxes now -- but, third, and most importantly, introduces this concept of a government-run plan.

Studies indicate as many as 100 million Americans may leave their private insurance for this government-run plan. And let's be clear.

BLITZER: Which studies are you talking about?

JINDAL: Well, the Lewin estimates -- the Lewin study estimates it could be as many as 100 million. The Urban Institute has done their own study, tens of millions. There are a range of studies.

But it really comes down to this fundamental point. Why do we think we need a government-run plan to make the insurance market...

BLITZER: Well...

JINDAL: ... to fix the insurance market? Yes, we need to fix the insurance market. I'm not saying -- I'm not defending the status quo. But we don't argue for government-run factories, or government- run stores, or government-run TV stations, for other marketplaces.

Why do we believe we need a government-run plan to make health care work? I think that it is very, very doable to get a bipartisan reform agreement on fixing the problems in health care.


JINDAL: But the Democrats have to decide, do they want a government-run plan...

BLITZER: All right.

JINDAL: Do you want take a step towards a single-payer system, or do they really want to focus on reducing costs and making health care more accessible and more affordable?

BLITZER: On the -- on the Lewin -- on the Lewin study, that's part of a group owned by you United Healthcare, so, a lot of folks are thinking that's not necessarily an objective observer of the scene, since United Healthcare has a huge stake in trying to avoid some sort of government competition for the private insurance industry.

JINDAL: Well, Wolf, whether you look at the Urban study or you look at the Lewin Institute, the bottom line, though, is, we have seen what happens when the government tries to run health care. We have seen what happens when the government tries to run banks or car companies.

The bottom line is, look at in Medicare and Medicaid. The government routinely underpays providers, shifts costs to the private sector. You're going to have a taxpayer-subsidized system that has government subsidies.

And the problem with that is, they will be able to underprice the private sector, shift those costs temporarily, drive out that competition. There are things we can do, like allowing people to pool their purchasing power, so they can actually avoid health care coverage.

There are things we can do, like going after the cost of defensive medicine. One study says it could add up to $100 billion to the cost of health care. Let's go after those frivolous lawsuits. We don't hear any mention of that in this plan.

Really, you know, I want to...

BLITZER: All right.

JINDAL: ... give Senator Kennedy credit. He, at least, a couple of weeks ago, in "Newsweek," said his ultimate goal originally had been a single-payer government-run health care system.

I think the Democrats can get a bipartisan deal, as long as they're willing -- they have a fundamental choice. Do they want to drive down costs or do they want a government-run health care plan?

BLITZER: Well, we will see what happens.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

JINDAL: Thank you, Wolf.

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