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POLICY ORIENTATION FOR THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE 2014
LUNCHEON KEYNOTE (January 9, 2014)
THE HONORABLE BOBBY JINDAL
Thank you for that very generous introduction. Thank you for that very warm reception. I want to first of all thank this group for their tremendous work you do even before I get to my remarks. Even before I get to my remarks I want to thank the people of Texas. As the Governor of Louisiana you guys have been tremendous neighbors. You know it certainly goes back to the dark days after Katrina and Rita. I wasn't governor at the time. I was in the Congress but there was no group of people more generous and more opening than the people of Texas in terms of taking our people in, sending folks to help us rebuild. You did the same thing after Gustav and Ike. I could tell you story after story about volunteers, church organizations and others coming out of this state to help Louisiana in our time of need. You know it's not just during times of disaster. Texas has been a great, a great neighbor, a great example to your border to your neighbors to the east. I remember, I remember the very first time I ran for office, because you know the reality is every single family in Louisiana probably had a relative or a friend or somebody they know living in the State of Texas. My wife's got family here. We all know somebody that's gone over to Texas. I met dozens of people today that tell me they've got family back in Louisiana. I remember the very first time I was running for office. I was at the time working for President George W. Bush. I had to go explain to the President why I wanted to leave the Administration. I was working for him at HHS. I'd explain to him why I wanted to leave the Administration I'd go back to my home state of Louisiana. One of the reasons I was running was that we're the only state in the south that for 25 years in a row, the only state had more people leaving the state than moving into the state.
Now we can spend a lot of time talking about why that happened and why that’s a problem. We're a state that blessed with natural resources and beauty and culture and food. Yeah we were losing our sons and daughters. Year after year we would talk about for example there was one year the principal of the year, the teacher of the year, the superintendent of the year in Texas had all actually come from Louisiana. So I was explaining to the President I said Mr. President, and I even used that example, I said you know in recent years we've sent some of our best educators, or best minds, or sons and daughters have been leaving Louisiana to go to the State of Texas. I need to go home to help fix that and I didn't know how he was going to respond. He took a moment. He looked at me and he goes well Bobby, on behalf of the State of Texas I just want to thank you for sending all those good people, I said well no, that's not, I said Mr. President that's not the point. The point is we've got to keep our, our best and brightest at home to build our state, but he was very, very gracious in telling me to go do and follow my heart and run that race.
But it's more than just being a neighboring state. The reality is Texas is an important state and under your great Governor Rick Perry and many of the legislators here you all have enacted important reforms. Whether it's showing the way without an income tax, whether it's cracking down on frivolous lawsuits, whether it's cutting down on government spending, whether it's growing the private sector economy instead of the government economy, you have shown the country the conservative principles work. So I want to thank you for your leadership. I want to thank you for your example and before I get to my remarks I do want to take a, a just a minute of personal privilege. I want to thank Senator Graham. I know there are a lot of elected officials here and I'll get in trouble just by picking on one, but you know Senator Graham has been a great conservative leader for many, many years. I'm gonna tell just two quick stories about him that he may or may not mind it doesn't matter, but I got the microphone. I can say whatever I want. Very first time I met Senator Graham I told him this briefly. He was on the Medicare Commission. We worked together in the 90s. I worked for him. I was the Executive Director of the Medicare Commission. He was one of the 17 members, bipartisan Medicare Commission, came up with the idea of premium support. I went into his office. He's a hero of the conservative movement, this senior senator from the State of Texas. I never met him. I was waiting to see him walk into his office. The very first thing he says to me. Wasn't hello, wasn't congratulations I look forward to working with you, it was how did somebody so smart come out of the State of Louisiana? I didn't know if that was a compliment or an insult, but we got along great.
The second story I'll tell you is you know we dealt with a lot of complicated issues. Medicare is a big program. It's a complicated program and all of a sudden you start talking alphabet soup and acronyms and big numbers and technical words. What I loved was Senator Graham had a way of bringing everything back to the common sense level. He was true to his conservative principles but never got lost in that jargon. He would pound the table and talk about the magic of compound interest. If we could just slow the growth in medical inflation what that could do for the nation's finances, what that could do for the sustainability for the program, but so often you get into a debate with somebody from the left about who just wanted to raise payroll taxes, or just wanted to spend more money and inevitably week after week to drive home his point he would talk about his mama. He would never get into a policy debate in the weeds about the acronyms and the details but he would say my mama was in the emergency room last week and let me tell you what happened to her and would tell that story to illustrate how badly the program was working for many elderly and seniors across the country and then the next week the same mother who had been in the emergency room was then in the nursing home and the next week she'd broken her hip and the next week she was getting ****. By the end of this year I felt so bad about this poor woman, but did such a great job taking those conservative principles and applying them in such a big complicated program. Let's give your Senator another round of applause for his leadership.
You know there was a famous story about Huey Long, one of our famous politicians many, many years ago that reminds me of the Senator's mother and Louisiana at the time it was a big deal. We didn't have democrats and republicans back when Huey was running for office. We did have Catholics and Baptists, and so a reporter would always ask a political candidate well what religion are you? In south Louisiana it was advantageous to be Catholic and in north Louisiana it was advantageous to be Baptist. So one day Huey was answering this question. A reporter asked him the question. He said, well let me tell you. Sunday morning I would get up. I would hitch the horses to the wagon and I'd take my grandparents we'd go to mass. We'd come back, we'd switch horses on the wagon. I'd take my other grandparents to the Baptist church and go to services there. Later his aides were just amazed at this good turn of fortune. Talk about a political blessing. Catholic grandparents and Baptist grandparents, this is the best of both worlds. They said Huey, this is tremendous. Why haven't we heard about this before? He said son don't be an idiot. We didn't even own the horses.
Alright, well that's enough about Louisiana politicians from the last century. I want to talk to you, I want to talk about what I think is an incredibly important issue. Look, I'm blessed to have three young children at home. My little girl just turned 12 yesterday. I was trying to explain to her daddy doesn't want to get any older. She didn't really understand what I was trying to tell her. I got boys that are 9 and 7. I tell you, I try to teach them what my parents taught me. You know Mark Twain said it best. He said the older you get the smarter your parents become. I don't know about you, but slowly and gradually but surely I'm becoming my father every day and it kills me to admit it. I don't know about you. Those of you that have kids maybe you understand. I'm saying things I promised I would never say as a child. I tell my kids things like well you don't live in a democracy as long as you live under our house and our roof you're going to do what I say. I tell my kids things my father used to tell me like if all your friends jumped off a bridge would you jump off a bridge and they have no idea what I'm talking about. It doesn't matter. One day they'll have kids and they'll understand, but one of the things that my father would always tell my brother and me that I didn't really understand until I got older. My father would tell us ever day, sons you are lucky, you are blessed to be born in America and every day you should get on your knees and thank the good Lord that you're privileged enough to be Americans.
Now, to a young child that doesn't mean a whole lot, but now that I'm older I understand what my dad was trying to teach me and I've been trying to teach my children that same things, never to take for granted the freedoms, the privileges that we enjoy and I believe what makes America great it is wonderful we've got the world's most powerful military. It is wonderful that we've got this system of democracy. It's wonderful that we've got a free market economy or many things that are wonderful about America from our natural resources to our beautiful states, but I truly think one of the things that is most special about this great and blessed country is the fact that we are free to pursue the American dream. Now, what does that really mean? You know we talk about the American dream. What does that really mean? To me what that means is the circumstances of your birth don't determine the outcomes, your outcomes as an adult. What that means to me is you don't have to be born in the right neighborhood, the right zip code, the right race, the right gender to do well in this country. How many parents have told their young children in this country if you're willing to work hard, if you're willing to get a great education there's no limit to what you can accomplish. You could be the first in our family to get past high school. You could be the first in our family to be an entrepreneur, to own your own business. You could be the first in our family to be a doctor, a lawyer, and accountant, a farmer, whatever it is you dream of doing in this great country.
How many moms and dads have told their little boys and girls anybody can grow up to become President of the United States? Unfortunately, in this last election we learned just how true that statement was, but I want to go back to that American dream because I don’t think everybody shares that notion, that idea of the America dream. Unfortunately, we've got a federal government today. We've got an administration today when you hear them talk about the American dream it sounds very different from what my father tried to teach us when we were little boys. For example, when I hear the President talk about class envy and warfare, when I talk to him talk about the equality of outcomes not opportunity, when I hear him demonizing those that have been successful and wanting to just engage in redistribution rather than creating new wealth. When I talk to him about, when I hear him talking about growing government spending, borrowing and taxes really sounding like they want to manage the slow decline of this great economy of further dividing the existing pie rather than growing the pie, that to me doesn’t sound like the American dream and I want to get back to what I think is an essential component of the American dream. I don't want to talk to you today about what we can do to make sure that as every generation before us we leave more opportunities for our kids than we inherited from our parents. When you think about it, every generation before us has done that and we dare not become the first generation that mortgages our children's future. Now, part of the reason I'm so passionate about this is that my parents have lived the American dream. To me it's not just theoretical. It's not something you read about. My dad was one of those typical American success stories. One in nine kids. The only one of nine that got past the fifth grade. Literally grew up in a house without running water and electricity. I know because I've heard these stories every single day of my life. I mean to hear him talk about they walked uphill to school, they walked uphill coming home from school too. They were too poor to afford downhill.
This was the same father if you ever asked him for an allowance he'd want to charge you rent for the space you were occupying and room and board for the food you were eating at his house, but you know what was so great to me is my parents came to this country over 40 years ago. My mom was pregnant with me and she came to study at LSU. They'd never been to America before. They didn't know anybody in Baton Rouge. They didn't know anybody in Louisiana. This was before the days of the internet or cell phone, so you get on a plane you got your pregnant wife with you, you come over to a brand new country. My mom was going to study at LSU. My dad didn't have a job. What he did have was the confidence. If he could get here and if he worked hard he could provide for his new family and his children would be able to do better than he could do and what I love about the next part of this story is he didn't want a government check or a handout. He wanted a job. So he did what he knew to do. He got out a phone book and he opened up to the yellow pages and he started calling company after company looking for somebody to hire him. Now, my dad's got an accent. I don't mean like me, a southern accent. He's got an accent and so in his thick accent he was calling company after company. I don't know how many hours and how many days it took but he never gets discouraged and so finally, finally there's some guy from some railroad company that agrees to hire him on the spot just on the phone. So taken by his audacity, by his courage, by his conviction he says alright you got a job and you can start Monday and this is what I love about the story. Only my dad, you'd have to know my dad to understand this. Only my dad would now tell his new boss this. He goes well that's great because I don't have a car, I don't have a driver's license, so you're going to have to come pick me up on the way to work on Monday morning and his new boss does and you know six months later I was born.
My dad's working. My mom's working, studying at LSU. They're living in a student apartment. Wouldn't buy their first home until I was 7, but they weren't poor. They loved each other and they could pay their bills. When I was born they politely called me a pre-existing condition. Now, they were married. I just, I didn't predate the marriage I just predated their insurance. They had insurance but it didn't cover me. What I love about this story is my dad didn’t think about asking anybody else to pay for it. He simply went to the doctor, shook hands with the doctor and agreed to pay as much as he could every month until he paid off that entire bill. Now, I've had two of our three children by the way were born at that same hospital in Baton Rouge. We had good insurance for each of those births. It took hours for us to fill out the paperwork, but when I was born when my dad shook hands with that doctor there was no paperwork. They simply shook hands and made a promise and he paid the bill in full. It was a simpler time back then and I don't know if that would work today. I asked my dad. I said dad how do you pay for a baby on layaway? I mean if you skip a payment, what are they, are they gonna come take the baby back, I mean what do they do if you miss a payment? He always says no look you were such a bad baby he said we would have sent you back if that was an option. He guarantees me we're paid for.
But what I love about that story is that every person here has probably got that same story. Every one of you, maybe you were the first in the family to get past high school. Maybe it was your parents; maybe it was your grandparents. We have all heard those stories growing up about what a great country this is. That's what we want for our children. I think the American dream starts with making sure that our kids get a great education. You know I thought long and hard about what I wanted to talk to you about today. I could certainly talk to you about tax reform. We've done some of that in Louisiana. I could talk about economic development. We've ended the out migration.
We’ve had five years of people moving into the state, more people working than ever before. Talk about cutting government spending. We've cut our spending 26 percent. We've eliminated over 25,000, 2,600 state government jobs. All kinds of things we could talk about, but the most important thing. The most important thing I think we can do to ensure the American dream for our children and one of the most important issues facing us at the state level today I believe is making sure that every child in Texas, every child in Louisiana, every child in America has the chance to get a great education because if we really believe in the American dream, if we really need it and want it to be true it starts with having a great education. Now, there are practical reasons to be for a great education. You want to lower the incarceration rates, if you want to grow your economy, if you want to boost healthcare outcomes it starts with a great education. But I would argue there is also a moral imperative. I'd also argue that if we believe in this country that the circumstance of your birth really don't determine your outcomes as an adult then every child needs that chance to get a great education. I'd also argue we're not doing that today.
Everybody says they're for it, but we're not there today. If you're in your 50s, when you got your education we ranked No. 1 in the world. If you're in your 20s, we ranked about 16. Before the latest numbers we ranked 17th and 25th in science and math. You know we're No. 16 doesn't really sound like an American rallying cry to me. I know a little bit about the people of Texas. I've never heard them say well we're No. 16. You know on the other side they'll tell you we just need to spend more money. We’ve doubled what we spent since the 1970s even after inflation per student scores are flat. We spent the second largest percentage of our GDP amongst the developing countries, our scores are flat. So it's not just throwing more money at the problem, but there are things we can do today and you know it's really not that complicated. We passed dozens of laws in Louisiana.
I want to talk to you simply about two things I think are absolutely critical to help restore the American dream for our kids. The first is this. Every study shows this, but it's also just common sense. Every study shows one of the most important things you can do to make sure that your children get a great education is to make sure there's a great teacher in the classroom. Now you probably don't need a study to tell you that, but Stanford has showed if your child has a great teacher they'll likely earn thousands of dollars more over their careers. There have been studies out of the east coast showing that for example if your fourth grade daughter has a great teacher she's more likely to go to college and less likely to become pregnant as a teenager. There've been all other kinds of studies showing that a great teacher can make a huge difference in your child's life, but you know you probably didn't need a study to tell you that. I bet you everybody here can remember that great teacher that was harder on us that took a special interest in us that motivated us that is, that teacher that is the reason we are where we are today. So everybody says there for a great teacher. You put that on a bumper sticker. If you poll that, I'm sure everybody would raise their hands and say absolutely, we're for great teachers. Yet look at our policies in most states. Look how we hire teachers. Let's look at how we fire teachers, how we pay them, how we promote them. Let's look at our tenure policies. You know I challenged our folks in Louisiana. I said if we really believe in great teachers why don't we have laws where we reward, recognize, and promote teachers based on student achievement rather than just how long they've been breathing in the classroom, and that's exactly what we did.
We went out there and overhauled all the tenure laws, the hiring laws, the firing laws, the compensation laws. Just yesterday one of our teacher unions stood up and said Governor we're willing to work with you. We just wish you wouldn’t tie the student, the, the teacher evaluations so closely to student achievement. You know if education isn't about student achievement, what's it about? That's like saying we're going to go to the LSU A and M game and don't worry about the final score. I mean if education is not about kids, education reform is not about the adults in the classroom it's about the kids in the classroom. So we have done that in Louisiana but let me tell you we met with a lot of resistance. We met with folks marching on the capital. We met with folks trying to recall me, trying to recall the Speaker of the House. We met with multiple lawsuits. At one point it got so bad there were so many, there were so many people marching I had to tell me kids I said that's just a parade for daddy, don't worry about it. I said that's why they got daddy's picture on all those little posters. That's, I said no, they're not going to throw you any Mardi Gras beads so you all need to stay inside but don't worry about it. We had a bunch of school districts they actually said, they had a couple of them at least in southwest Louisiana that said, to their teachers, if you want to protest the Governor's policies you can have a paid day off otherwise you got to come to work and if you want to go to the capital we'll pay you to go do that, and my little girl was probably around 9 years old at the time.
My kids they were young enough when I got elected. They don't necessarily pay attention that much to the news and the politics, but she's beginning to read that stuff a little bit more and understand that stuff a little bit more. One night she had trouble falling asleep and I was talking to her and she asked me and I never lie to her. She said daddy she said those teachers they're made at you, right? I said well yeah sweetheart they are. I was going to tell her the truth. I said yeah they are and I explained to her why some of the unions were but not all of the teachers were and explained to her why we were doing this and then she asked me the question that was really worrying her. She said daddy is my teacher mad at you? And I thought for sure she was worried she was going to get graded lower. She was going to get punished. I said sweetheart nothing to worry about. Your teachers actually support these reforms. They're not mad at daddy. You're not going to be in trouble at school tomorrow. I had misjudged my little girl. She says well daddy that's not fair. She said if my teacher was mad at you I wouldn't have to go to school tomorrow, right? I said well this is great. She's going to school to lobby her teacher to oppose my reforms so she can stay home. But it's not just about a great teacher in every classroom. The second thing we did was this. And we did other things, like letter grades and, and charter schools and other things. But we said, we want the dollars to follow the child, instead of making the child follow the dollars. Now what does that really mean? That means that every child learns differently. Some children will do great in traditional public schools. Some children will do great in charter schools, other children will do great in online programs, dual-enrollment programs, private schools, parochial schools, Christian schools, independent schools, home schooled.
The point is, that parents know best. Teacher unions didn't like this idea. One of the leaders in Louisiana came out and said this: during the debate said that poor parents don't have a clue when it comes to making choices for their kids. Parents don't have a clue when it comes to making choices for their kids. To me you can't summarize the debate any better than that statement. The other side doesn't trust the American people. They don't trust parents to make decisions for their kids. I met with a group of moms the next day. They said Governor, we make choices for our kids every day.
We know the needs of our kids better than those bureaucrats in Baton Rouge, Washington, DC, and I think they would've said Austin or any other state capital as well. And, you know, the results are that, in our charter schools in New Orleans, we've got 90 percent of our kids in charter schools. Highest percentage of any city in America. In five years we have doubled the percentage of kids doing reading and math on grade level. Across the state we now offer school course choice. Kid can start their day in a public school and then take courses from private online or other providers throughout the day. We've got employers and others rushing to offer courses so that they can find skilled employees to fill their jobs, and so kids can have good-paying jobs as they complete their education.
We've got a scholarship program we started in the City of New Orleans in 2008, we've expanded it statewide. So parents can take the dollars we would otherwise spend on their children's education and go to those private or other schools, or even other public schools that make the best sense for their children. We started it in New Orleans, now we've grown it statewide. We've had double-digit growth every year in terms of percentage growth. We've had 93 percent of the parents are satisfied. We spend about 60 percent of what we would otherwise spend, the scores are going up. Who could be opposed to this? Saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, giving parents meaningful choice. And here's the powerful thing: I bet you everybody living, hearing, uh, everybody in this room listening to me today, I bet you almost every one of us will do what it takes to make sure that our children and grandchildren get a great education. I bet you we will move to those neighborhoods with great public schools. I bet you we will save the dollars that it takes to pay the tuition and send them to great private schools or do whatever it takes to make sure that our children get a great education. But the sad truth is, there are too many children in Texas, Louisiana or America, across this country, whose kids are trapped in failing schools. They can't afford to move, they can't afford to send their kids to private schools.
So this scholarship program's important. It is especially important to those parents who don't otherwise have a choice. Now we've done other things, like scholarship tuition organizations, refundable tax rebates and other programs as well. But this is especially important. And so I ask rhetorically, who could oppose this program? I'll tell you who could oppose this program, our very own Department of Justice. The reward for a good deed is to be taken to federal court. Eric Holder decided that, and his Department of Justice has decided they needed to take us to federal court to try to stop this program. Now here's what's amazing to me. Nearly 50 years to the day after Martin Luther King's famous I Have a Dream speech, our own federal Department of Justice goes to federal court, tries to use the same court cases and laws designed to protect the most-vulnerable children in this country, tries to use those same laws to trap these children in failing schools. Never mind the fact over 90 percent of the kids are minorities. Never mind 100 percent of these kids are, come from low-income families, never mind that 100 percent would otherwise be forced in a C, D or F public schools. Never mind 93 percent plus of those parents are happy with the choices they've made. I think this lawsuit is cynical, immoral and hypocritical. Why do I say that? Cynical 'cause it's, I think it's a perversion of the very rules designed to protect these kids. Hypocritical because I don't think there is a chance in the world the President or the attorney general would send their children to these failing schools. And by the way, I don't begrudge them, I'm happy the President, I'm happy Eric Holder can afford to send their kids to great schools. I think that's a great thing. I don't criticize them for doin' it, I just want the same chance for the families of Louisiana, the families of Texas, and every family across the entire country. I also think it's immoral. I think the President knows better. These kids only have one chance to grow up.
I remember his first official state of the union speech. In 2010 he actually, he actually said something I agree with on this topic. He said education is the best anti-poverty program. And to paraphrase, he said the quality of a child's education, the ability to fulfill his or her potential, shouldn't depend on the geography of the child. He was right in his words, wrong in his actions. But then again, how many times has that been true about this President? I mean, he was right when he said that if you like your doctor or health plan you should be able to keep it. He was right when he said that he was gonna cut our premiums, he should've cut our premiums $2,500.00. He just was wrong in his actions. Just didn't do what he said he was gonna do. Now we're in federal court, the Department of Justice, they withdrew their injunction to permanently stop the program and that was a small victory, but then they followed up with this. In their latest filings, this is what they had to say earlier this week: they said after the State of Louisiana grants a scholarship to a child, for 45 days they don't want us to tell the child they've gotten the scholarship. They want 45 days to decide if that child is, quote, the right race to receive the scholarship. I think every child, regardless of race, deserves the opportunity to get a great education. And I'm gonna make this commitment to you here: we're gonna fight the Department of Justice, whether we have to go to the appellate court of the United States Supreme Court. We have fought the unions, we fought the recalls, we'll fight all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. We're gonna do everything we can to make sure the children of Louisiana can get a great education, despite what Eric Holder thinks. But you might wonder how we've gotten to this point. How do you get to the point where your own federal government is suing you in federal court to stop children from getting a great education? Well I think it starts with, you may remember many, many years ago, President Bill Clinton famously said the era of big government is over. Never before in modern political history has a politician been so wrong about something so important. I think this is what happens when you get a government so big, so powerful, so centralized, that they think they know how to live our lives better than we know how to live our lives.
Yeah, if I could go back in time, and if I could travel back in time and predict a few things for you, I bet you wouldn't believe me. If I could go back six, seven, eight years and say that we would have a president who was gonna take our debt from 9 trillion to $17 trillion, you probably wouldn't have believed they could've done that. If I could've gone back in time and said you'd have a president that would create a new entitlement program when we can't afford the entitlement programs we've already got, you probably wouldn't believe that. If I could go back in time and say that we would have a Department of Justice that is tryin' to stop law-abiding Americans from getting guns while they're giving guns to drug cartels in Mexico under Fast and Furious, you probably wouldn't believe that. If I could go back in time, if I could go back in time and say that our ambassador was gonna be killed in Libya and the administration was gonna blame it on a YouTube video, you probably wouldn't believe that. If I could go back in time and if I had told you that our secretary of state, Secretary Clinton at the table, got so frustrated at having to answer questions from the United States Senators that she would say what difference does it make regarding this, this episode, you probably wouldn't believe that either. If I could go back in time and tell you about so many of the things we have seen in the last five years, you probably wouldn't believe that. Which leads me to a pretty important question about our current administration in DC. And I've thought long and hard about this, and I really don't know the answer. You know, I'm not sure, is the Obama Administration simply the most ideologically, extremely liberal administration we have seen in our country's history, or is the Obama Administration the most incompetent administration we have seen in our country's history? Well, the only answer I've got is, I'd quote Secretary Clinton, what difference does it make? You know, as I wrap up, and I wanna leave time for questions, I wanna make this observation as I close. It is very popular: you can go to any leading university, you can read any editorial page of any mainstream newspaper in a big city, and it is very, very popular to find folks willing to tell you that America's best days are behind us. Very popular for people to tell us this century belongs to China. Very popular for people to say that, that our, our ability to continue to generate wealth and growth is no longer what it used to be. Very popular to describe a new normal, where economic growth is 2 percent; where our standing on the world stage has diminished, where our culture just continues to decay year after year after year.
I'm here to tell you, I don't believe any of that. I'm here to tell you, I'm an optimist about this country. I think our best days are ahead of us. I think we are a young country at heart. I think my children will inherit more opportunities than I inherited from my parents. I think the American dream is still alive and well. And the reason I believe that is not because we're a group of politicians in Washington, DC. Our founding fathers understood something incredibly important about America. What makes America great has nothing to do with beautiful monuments, beautiful buildings in DC or federal programs or our elected leaders. What makes America great is our people. And it is the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. And I think there's a rebellion brewing. I know the government is spending more, borrowing more, taxing more and growing more . But I think the American people are finally saying enough is enough. And I think this rebellion is brewing in places like Texas and Louisiana and all across this country, as enough Americans are saying, we're tired of the IRS scandals. We're tired of the, the spying on the AP. We're tired of the NSA overreaches. We understand. We understand this isn't what the founding fathers intended. And so I'm excited, because I know that the work y'all do every day is so important to showing that freedom is still alive and well. What works in Texas works in Louisiana and can work across the entire country. God bless y'all and thank y'all very much for allowing me to come speak to y'all today.
Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank y'all. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.
I think we, the governor has so graciously agreed to answer a few questions, and I'm gonna stand up here with him so I can help him find the questions. Uh, if you do have a question just stand up and raise your hand. We'll start with you sir in the back, and if you would wait 'til the microphone gets to you so everyone can hear, that would be great.
Governor, the State of Ohio, on November the 20th, passed a resolution calling for an Article 5 convention for a federal balanced-budget amendment. Do you feel that that would be appropriate way to amend the US Constitution?
Absolutely. Uh, I mean, that's, uh, and I would, I would say this as well. And I hope Louisiana will join them, when our legislature starts meeting in March, March 10th of this year. We, like y'all, we don't, we're not a full-time legislature and so, uh, we'll be meeting for, for about three months starting in March. I understand y'all meet every other year, which is even better. I wish we could do that. I will say this, I go beyond that. I think, I think we need a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. I'll need just add a couple other things I'd like to see happen as well. 'Cause it's very popular to say if we could just get our guys elected we'd finally get rid of all this deficit spending. Well the reality is, we've had deficit spending under Republican majorities, under Democratic majorities. It's gonna take structural changes. And what I think we need is this: I think you need a balanced-budget amendment in the Constitution. I think you need a constitutional amendment to say that government spending can't grow faster than the private sector economy without at least a supermajority vote. I think you need a constitutional amendment to say they can't raise our taxes without a supermajority vote. I think you need a part-time Congress, the way that the founding fathers intended and used to be the norm.
I think, I think you need term limits, so they have to live under the same rules they apply to the rest of us, then go back to the private sector, not the lobbying sector. And I've got one final idea, which may or may not be as popular, but I still think it would work. And by the way, everything I just told you, I know the liberal media folks will tell you that would never work, it's not practical. We have all of those in Louisiana's Constitution, and all of that works just fine in Louisiana. And lemme say, by the way, was enacted with bipartisan support, and I should've said this about education reforms. Had 50 percent of the Senate Democrats and about a quarter of the House Democrats voted for those reforms. So these aren't just Republican ideas. These are bipartisan ideas. One other idea I'd like to see as well. You know, in Louisiana, we pay our legislators based on a per diem. Y'all may do the same thing, and Congress, we pay them differently. I'd like to change the way we pay members of Congress. I think we should pay them on a per diem as well, but I think we should pay them only on the days they stay outside of Washington, DC. The more they stay home, the more we're willing to pay 'em. You know, we used to pay people not to grow crops, why not pay them not to pass laws? I think, you know, Twain again said, your wallet was safer when the legislature wasn't in session. The reason I'm so strongly in favor of the balanced-budget amendment and these other amendments is, the way, and I don't mean to insult my kids, but Congress will never tackle the tough issues until absolutely forced to do so.
It's kinda like my kids and their homework. My kids went back to school yesterday for the first time, over 2 1/2 weeks they had Christmas break, New Year's break. Yesterday, first day of school. So Tuesday night, you know, it's kinda late. I'm, I'm comin' back from work, and I see my little 9-year-old boy running outside to grab a leaf of a – I said, what're you doin' Sean. He said well Daddy, I got homework. I said, you got, it's Tuesday night after two, and you're doin' your homework now. But that's how kids are, and that's how Congress is. They'll kick the can down the road, they'll kick the can down the road until there's no other choice. Churchill said this about Americans, you can count them to, on them to do the right thing after they've exhausted every alternative. The problem is, we've almost exhausted every alternative and so absolutely.
We need to make structural changes. It's not just personalities, it's not just getting our guys elected. Now look, I'd prefer Harry Reid not be the majority leader, I certainly don't want Nancy Pelosi to be the speaker again, but it's more than just the personalities and gettin' our guys in the majority. We need structural changes, so absolutely.
I'd, I'd be in support. And I'm hoping to get a resolution like that. I'm hopin' our legislature would approve somethin' similar when we're in session.
Mm hmm. Yeah. In the far back.
Hey. Um, Governor Jindal, my question is, uh, kinda following up on what you just said. There's a lot of, um, good ideas that people have to sort of get the federal government out of the way, and I think everyone for the most part in this room would support just about all of them. But those things are gonna take time. It's gonna take a while to get all that done. Um, you know, we thought we'd have an opportunity last year and that obviously didn't happen. Um, so what can we do below the federal level, at the state and the local level, to essentially make the federal government as irrelevant as possible before we can finally lead, you know, officially go and change a lot of this stuff?
Sure, well look, I'll tell you one of the great things about federalism, and, you know, the founding fathers talked about the states being laboratories of experimentation, one of the great things is, we can see the results. When Texas, for example, we enacted the largest income tax cut in my state's history, but we wanted to do more. And one of the things we point to is Texas and say, Texas doesn't have an income tax, look at their economy, why don't we do something like that. When Texas did, when Mississippi, I'll tell you an example, Mississippi, in addition to Texas, a couple years before Texas, Mississippi cracked down on frivolous healthcare and medical lawsuits in their state. You can see the practical impact in the Town of Vidalia. A rural town in Louisiana, on the border of Mississippi, we got a beautiful, beautiful hospital physician building sitting on the levy there on the border with the State of Mississippi.
And you kinda look at it, because Vidalia and Faraday are fairly rural communities. A lot of cotton, uh, farms and other things out there but not huge population centers. And you look at this hospital and you look at this building and think, it seems bigger than the population warrants until you realize that it was Mississippi doctors tellin' their patients, go across the bridge and we'll treat you in Louisiana, 'cause we're so worried about frivolous lawsuits here, until Haley Barbour cracked down on that. And you see what, what that legislation does. You can actually see that it changes behavior. So one of the things I think we can do at the state level, we can fight to get rid of unnecessary regulations, fight to get rid of unnecessary taxes. We can fight to give parents more choice when it comes to school choice. We can fight back against the federal government's overreach, whether it's the EPA or other job-killing agencies.
I know Greg Abbott here in this state's gone to court, uh, when that's necessary. It's fighting against overreaches from the federal government when it comes to healthcare. Whether it's the exchanges, the Medicaid expansion or the other fights as part of the Obamacare legislation. But here's one of the great things: I think states that have enacted these conservative reforms are doing better. I don't think it's any coincidence that states led by Republican governors on average have unemployment rates that are lower than states led by Democratic governors. I don't think it's, uh, any coincidence. You can look at the economies of states like Texas and Louisiana and other states led by conservative governors, you contrast that. I think you're gonna see a very uneven recovery in this country. Even as the economy starts growing again, I think you look at California, you look at Illinois, you look at Maryland, you look at states that haven't made the hard choices on public pensions, on tax reform, on cutting government spending.
If you compare them to states like Wisconsin and Indiana and Texas and Louisiana and Florida and other states that are doin' those things, and I think you'll see a great contrast. So I think one of the things we can do at the state level is enact conservative reforms, show that they work, and I think that, first of all, people already movin' with their feet. Companies are movin' their jobs, their capital, their investment. Then I think that can bubble up to the national level. One of the last great examples of that was welfare reform. Back in the 1990s Republicangovernors in Michigan, Wisconsin, other states, showed that expecting people to work could actually help them more than simply writing them a check. Largest drop in poverty . The President finally signed it after vetoing it a couple of times, largest drop in poverty we've seen in this country. I think school choice, I think is the next big fight. Next great example. Something we can do at the state level and then push Washington to follow us, whether it's letting those federal dollars follow the students or getting the Department of Justice and Department of Education out of the way.
Please help me thank Governor Bobby Jindal and his wonderful work.
Thank you. Thank you.
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