Louisiana is one of the poorest and sickest states in our country. Our roads are a nightmare, our bridges are crumbling, and our politicians are often horrific examples of corrupution. My congressman, Clay Higgins, is a viral video star who used his local fame to leverage himself a seat in the House, despite being woefully unqualified to be a police officer, let alone a member of Congress.
On Monday, Governor John Bel Edwards addressed our state legislature and brought up the fact that 80 percent of businesses registered in Louisiana did not pay state income taxes. He has proposed a new tax structure that would better fund Louisiana government, but of course, conservatives and their corporate backers are not happy.
Louisiana has rolled out the welcome mat for any corporation willing to settle here, and previous administrations have been thrilled to have them, even at the cost of huge tax breaks and incentives that have our budget running in the red every year.
Corporate taxes are so minimal, revenue from casinos outweigh the money paid by businesses. The tax burden is rested heavily on the backs of consumers that pay as much as 9 percent in sales taxes, while their employers pay little or nothing to fund the state and resources they exploit.
Yet, the poorest people keep voting against their interests, and keep electing conservatives who are in the pocket of Big Oil. They defend and work for fossil fuel companies that refuse to pay a living wage, and ship their profits out of state rather than invest in the local communities.
Louisiana is on the verge of economic collapse unless drastic changes are made quickly. With lower oil prices and the fossil fuel industry moving on to cheaper oil patches to exploit, the voters still can’t understand that education and diversifying the state’s economy is the key to a future beyond oil and gas.
The coast is eroding due to climate change and corporate greed. The Cajun way of life is threatened by pollution, a changing job market, and politicians who care more about appearing in viral videos and lining their own pockets than representing their citizens.
If trickle-down economics and giving more tax breaks to corporate interests were the key to prosperity, Louisiana would be one of the richest states in the country. Instead, we are desperately poor, and exploited by the corporations who continue to pay almost nothing for infrastructure or education.
This status quo is unsustainable. There is no reason for the brightest young minds of Louisiana to stay here when they can escape to other states after graduation. Tech companies don’t want to bring business to a state that can’t provide educated workers, and manufacturing industries are appalled by our crumbling roads and bridges.
Louisiana is at a crossroads. It isn’t too late to change things, but a conservative legislature is determined to resist progress for their short-term political gain, even as Louisiana slowly slides into the Gulf of Mexico.