It should be the best of times for Bobby Jindal.
The Louisiana Democratic Party is still trying to recover from a rough patch. No opponents for his re-election bid have stepped forward. He has the main stream media eating acting as a virtual stenography pool reporting his every utterance as if it was handed down on stone tablets.
With all of that, Jindal's popularity is falling this according to no less a source than state Republican's pet pollser, Southern Media & Opinion Research.
According to the poll, which was paid for by a Baton Rouge area businessman active in conservative politics in the state, about 61 percent gave Jindal a good or excellent job performance score, while his negative rating was 37 percent. The figures show a steady slip for Jindal during the past two years. He had a 77 percent approval rating in 2008, falling to 68 percent a year ago and 64 percent in October, according to Southern media polls.
With no organized opposition in sight, Jindal's falling numbers are attributable to his policies.
The Governor's national ambitions and the state's toughening fiscal conditions have combined to force hard choices on Jindal. Each time, given a choice between his ambitions and the interests of the people he was elected to serve, Jindal has followed the path that favors his ambitions.
As a result, the 'no tax increases' stance that keeps him in the good graces of national conservative litmus testers is bringing him into conflict with a growing number of Louisiana constituencies who depend on government services for some aspect of their lives.
The first crack in Jindal's armor was self-inflicted when, in 2008, he rolled over and signed a law that repealed the income tax portion of the Stelly Plan. That has had the effect of denying state government something on the order of $330 million per year. It is the hole that keeps on digging.
The national recession, coupled with decreases in levels of federal disaster recovery money flowing into the state have brought more pressure on state budgets and Jindal has refused to take any measures to increase revenues.
He teetered on the brink of igniting a rebellion among sectors of his electoral base last year when he threatened huge cuts in higher education spendin. Four of his predecessors intervened, talked him off the ledge, and higher ed escaped with half the cut Jindal had originally proposed and considered themselves lucky.
Healthcare has been another matter. Somehow Jindal is viewed as an expert in this field when, in fact, all he has ever shown any inclination to do is to cut Medicaid spending. The problem with this approach is that Medicaid spending actually goes to providers doctors, clinics, and hospitals. Cuts in Medicaid reduce their income, in addition to reducing access to care by Medicaid patients as some providers withdraw from the program. (See top story for more details).
Couple that with Jindal's push to reduce the number of state workers covered by Civil Service (he has no problem hiring unclassified employees at big salaries), and Jindal is antagonizing three constituent bases in his effort to push down Medicaid spending during an era of rising participation in the program.
Jindal's problems are likely to get worse as there are powerful pockets of resistance to the slight of hand tricks he has proposed to balance the state's budget for this year and next. The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) and the Louisiana Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) have come out in opposition to his proposal to raid various trust funds to help close the holes in current and future budgets. The Speaker of the House opposes Jindal's proposal to tap the state's Rainy Day Fund to close an anticipated hole in next year's budget.
Yesterday in a House Committee, one version of his administration's plea for budget flexibility was shot down. At one point the full House voted to call upon Congress to investigate Jindal's poor performance in response to the BP Gulf Gusher. It took a blatant disregard for House rules to get that pulled down.
And, Jindal continues to project hard opposition to implementation of the Affordable Care Act as it becomes increasingly clear that the new law will drive significant benefits to middle class families and small businesses, which also were part of Jindal's core constituency in 2007.
So, while Democrats are not prepared to capitalize on Jindal's weakness at this time, the Governor is doing such a fine job of getting in his own way, we should all just stand back and look on in amazement And let the man keep working his magic!