Bobby Jindal's cynical anti-worker politics

Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal launched his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination this week by delivering his party's response to President Barack Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress, Feb. 24.

In his response, Jindal failed to offer new ideas or even give an inkling of an impression that he understands the significant hardships of working Americans or the dramatic shift in ideas and politics that has occurred over the past four or five months since the collapse of the economy and the election of President Obama.

Instead, Jindal spouted stale Republican ideological talking points about the need for more Bush-style tax cuts for the wealthy and attacks on 'big government.' The subtext of Jindal's speech expressed a hope for continued economic hardship in order to boost his personal ambitions for the presidency.

Jindal's speech, which was universally panned, was part of a recent two-pronged effort on his part to launch himself as the presidential frontrunner of his party. Earlier, he had vowed to reject almost $100 million as part of the president's economic stimulus package earmarked for unemployment benefits for his state.

Ignoring the fact that his state lost about 430 jobs every day in the month of December, Jindal described the stimulus spending as wasteful and even harmful.

Jindal's move, designed to appeal to a shrinking and narrow Republican Party base, will harm as many as 25,000 Louisiana families, responded ACORN in a statement this week.

'Governor Jindal is holding the recovery and the state's economy hostage to his own ideology and his naked ambitions for national office,' said Gwendolyn Adams, board member of Louisiana ACORN.

ACORN called on the state legislature to force the governor to accept all of the estimated $4 billion headed to his state as part of the president's stimulus package.

'Unemployment in Louisiana is up 50 percent over the last year, and unemployment assistance is the quickest way to get money into our struggling economy as jobless workers spend those funds immediately on necessities with our Louisiana merchants,' said Adams.

Louisiana's Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu sharply criticized Jindal's maneuver also. He suggested that Jindal may have abdicated his job first and foremost as the state's governor by taking on the responsibility of becoming the national spokesperson for the GOP. Landrieu added, 'It puts the governor at risk of sending mixed messages. … Louisiana should be very aggressive in going to get this money.'

After Jindal's announcement of his refusal to accept the money, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin described Jindal's presidential ambitions as 'clouding' his judgment.

have pointed out Jindal's refusal of some of the stimulus money may have an even more insidious side. Official government statistics on unemployment are determined by the number of people who apply for jobless benefits, the program for which Jindal has refused stimulus money.

Unemployment benefits are limited, however, to a certain period of time. So when a worker has been out of a job past that deadline, he or she is no longer eligible for benefits and is simply no longer counted by the government as unemployed. President Obama's stimulus package aimed to remedy this situation by expanding the unemployment compensation program.

But by refusing the money and the inclusion of more unemployed workers in the program, Jindal's unstated goal seems to be to artificially reduce the state's official unemployment rate – without creating any new jobs – to make himself appear to be successful.