Bobby Jindal Makes a Splash with Terrible Ideas

Derek Bridges / Flickr

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Does Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal hate America? It sounds harsh, but when you consider the actual effects of the policies he endorses in this Politico op-ed, it's fair to wonder if he's trying to provoke a combination economic/constitutional crisis.

The piece is centered on the nation's large debt obligations, and ways to address them using conservative ideas. He proposes four things:

  • A federal balanced budget amendment. He says that in Washington, "When you mention the BBA as a solution, they roll their eyes and write you off as a non-serious person." It's true! The balanced budget amendment is an awful idea and you should be mocked for proposing it.
  • "A cap on discretionary and mandatory federal spending by fixing a limit on it tied to a percentage of GDP." He suggests a cap of 18 percent, which—given the demographic changes of the next few decades—would severely limit the government's ability to respond to new conditions.
  • A super-majority to raise taxes.
  • And finally, term limits.

In essence, Jindal wants to turn the United States—institutionally, at least—into a macro version of California, with all of its attendant dysfunction. A world where the government is mandated to maintain a balanced budget is one where it can't adequately respond to recessions and economic disruptions. Likewise, a world where it has a statutory limit on what it can spend is one where it's all but incapable of dealing with new problems and challenges that may require more spending flexibility. A super-majority for tax increases further hinders the ability of the federal government to be responsive to anything, and term limits would hinder the development of legislative expertise—making it harder to build relationships and pass laws, and turning Congress into an even larger hive of lobbyists and rent seekers.

In other words, if you were looking for a way to destroy America's economic and political standing from the inside, you'd be hard pressed to find a better set of policies to accomplish the goal.

Besides their terribleness, what unifies each of these ideas is the fact that they treat narrow institutional preferences as quasi-divine. For Jindal, balanced budgets are the Alpha and Omega of fiscal policy, forever and ever, regardless of what happens in real life.

It's worth noting that these ideas are drawn from the "Cut, Cap, and Balance," a right-wing pledge signed by every Republican presidential candidate (sans Jon Huntsman) which committed them to a grab bag of destructive, hyper-ideological policies.

The best way to Jindal's op-ed then, is as a declaration; he's aligning himself with the far right-wing of the Republican Party, and hoping that he can present himself as a "reformist," despite supporting the same exact policies that cost Republicans the White House and the Senate. Given the small appetite for change in the GOP, it might work.

The rest of us, however, should steer clear of the Louisiana governor. By dint of supporting these insane proposals, he's proven his unsuitability for higher office.