Louisiana’s long nightmare is finally over. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal has finally stepped down as governor of Louisiana, leaving his state a disaster that yet again must be cleaned up by a Democrat. He leaves his office with the second lowest approval rating in the nation – just behind Kansas’ Sam Brownback. He will be remembered for turning a $2 billion surplus into a $2 billion budget shortfall by giving billions in corporate handouts for jobs that never materialized.
He will also be remembered for eviscerating the public school system. He replaced those schools with privatized charter schools, deepening racial segregation and allowing creationism to be taught in those taxpayer-funded schools; Mother Jones even discovered that kids were being told that the Ku Klux Klan did “community organizing.” He then abandoned his state to make a dead-on-arrival run for the presidency, running on a platform of anti-gay and anti-immigrant discrimination.
He will now retreat to his newly purchased $815,000 mansion and begin work at the think tank that he created and used to funnel $340,000 to his presidential campaign, America Next. He will be replaced by newly elected Democratic governor Jon Bel Edwards, who was very upfront and honest in his inaugural speech: “We must be honest with ourselves and one another. We must be grounded in reality and see the facts as they are, not as we want them to be.”
Acknowledging the huge problems facing the state of Louisiana, Edwards then laid out a progressive agenda to begin uplifting his citizens out of the rut that the Jindal administration had forced them to wallow in. One of his first actions will be to accept funding for the Medicaid expansion, giving healthcare to 300,000 of his citizens who desperately need it. He has promised to issue an executive order to begin expansion preparation within 24 hours, aiming to have the process complete by July 1st.
He also focused on alleviating poverty in the state, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation – 19.1% – especially among school-aged children, one in four of whom live in a poor family. He will begin by raising the minimum wage and passing equal pay legislation while somehow grappling with the enormous budget deficit that Jindal left him.
He recognizes the colossal task ahead, but is confident that he will be able to make substantial progress. “There is not a challenge there that we won’t meet and overcome, because it’s too important for the state. I can’t do it alone, and the enormous challenges we face will not be resolved overnight. But together, we will accomplish our mission!” he declared in his inaugural address. A new era is dawning in Louisiana, and with luck and smart policymaking, Mr. Bel Edwards can finally lead the state of Louisiana out of the poverty and ignorance that Jindal inflicted on the people he ostensibly represented.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.