Dan Fagan: In over his head? Quite the opposite — Edwards is skillfully advancing his agenda

Via The Advocate

Once the failed special sessions began to pile up under Gov. John Bel Edwards, I began to hear rumblings from some legislators questioning his competency. Edwards is in over his head, they would tell me privately, or he is way out of his league. But if you look at what our rookie governor has accomplished in only 2½ years, you could argue he knows exactly what he’s doing when it comes to advancing his agenda.

His first month in office, Edwards began the process of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. His executive order brought in a tidal wave of billions of federal dollars. The tsunami of new money led to one-third of the state’s population being on Medicaid, creating close to 500,000 new government dependents in Louisiana. While the feds are picking up most of the tab for those new dependents, more of the cost will begin to shift toward the state in 2019 and even more so as the years go on. States opting for Medicaid expansion are like those customers buying new furniture because the store promises no payments for the first year. You will pay, eventually.

Edwards had no trouble expanding Medicaid but ran into a small head wind when he tried to raise state taxes. But during his first year in office, despite the Legislature being controlled by Republicans, Edwards pushed through close to $1 billion in new revenue by passing a temporary one-cent sales tax. Then later that year, he got legislators to go along with a second tax increase, this time for $262 million. Two tax increases totaling more than $1 billion in his first year was not too shabby for our rookie governor.

But Edwards wasn’t done raising taxes. He knew he had to up his game to get a third tax increase through a Republican Legislature. During his second year in office he began warning of an impending catastrophic fiscal cliff. First, he told us it was $1.6 billion, but finally admitted it was only $600 million. Edwards convinced the Senate and the media unless taxes were once again raised, hospitals would close, nursing home patients would lose the roof over their heads and food stamps would go away, leading to widespread starvation. It worked. Eventually, enough House members caved, and Edwards had his third tax increase in only two and a half years.

Edwards’ first tax increase generated $1.8 billion over two years and has expired. His second one brings in $262 million a year and will generate $2.3 billion through 2025. Edward’s third tax hike, which expires in 2025, will bring in $3.2 billion over its lifetime. That means even though Edwards has only been in office two and a half years, he’ll be responsible for transferring a total of $7.3 billion out of the private sector into government by the year 2025. Incompetence? Ineptness? Hardly.

To understand just how successful Edwards has been advancing his agenda, you have to realize how most Democrats view success. The economy is typically not a priority. Democrats tend to focus more on making government far-reaching, vibrant and financially healthy.

Edwards has certainly done that by increasing the overall size of government by more than $5 billion and creating a half a million new dependents with Medicaid expansion. And his tax increases didn’t hurt either.

And yet under Edwards, the state’s gross domestic product has declined considerably. Louisiana is now last in the nation when it comes to the rate of economic growth. Nationally, the economy is booming with a 2.1 percent GDP growth. In Southeast states, the GDP grew at an average of 2 percent. Under Edwards, our GDP declined by 0.4 percent his first year and then 0.2 percent last year.

Texas led the nation in GDP growth last year, largely because of the resurgence in the oil industry. A recovery Louisiana is missing out on in large part because of Edward’s war on the oil industry with overzealous lawsuits.

Under Edwards, the government sector grew at the expense of the private sector. Mission accomplished if you are a Democrat. Edwards is not in over his head. He’s simply a Democrat who gets things done.