Cooler heads must prevail

Although we try to not subject readers to more news from the state capitol than is necessary, there are those times when we must, and this week is one of them.

We have included in this issue stories by journalism students at the Manship School at Louisiana State University, whose work appears to indicate that the practice of news writing is alive and well here in Louisiana, even if the news they are forced to report is not good.

Sarah Gamard, Matt Houston and Ashley Wolf contributed a report this week through Manship that says “in a stunning display of mistrust between Republicans and Democrats, the House failed Sunday to agree on any revenue-raising measures, all but killing the special legislative session that was called to deal with a looming $1 billion budget shortfall.

That Louisiana should be dealing with a $2 billion shortfall at all is insanity.

That such an obvious impasse exists is even worse.

Rep. Barry Ivey, a Republican, was quoted in state-wide media including The Advocate in Baton Rouge and New Orleans as saying “We (the GOP) don’t want a Democrat (Gov. Edwards) to get re-elected and we don’t want to give him a political win by doing tax reform. That was something that was told to me,” said Ivey, referring to his party’s leadership. “We placed politics ahead of our constituents. We should all be ashamed.”

Ashamed indeed, not just the Republicans, but anyone in Baton Rouge purportedly representing the people but serving another master instead. Political gain for one party or another is a master of sorts.

Ivey should receive a medal for heroism, just for being as honest as he is being here.

It is difficult to find fault with Edwards, to see him as a bad guy in this, no matter how dire his predictions may be. The bottom line is that a failure to fix this problem — and it will be fixed, at least temporarily, one way or another — amounts to a failure of our state to take care of its business.

It is truly not necessary at this point to look at people getting food stamps or other benefits as part of a poor peoples’ criminal conspiracy to defraud the system, and so to place more restrictions upon them. Yet this is a priority for much of the Republican leadership.

A local representative, Beryl Amedee R-Houma has introduced legislation toward this end. And while regard her as a woman of good intentions, we cannot help but ask why this has to come now. Taking the schools and health care and everything that makes some show of Louisiana caring for its most vulnerable citizens and put them at risk because an agreement cannot be reached on a desire to more accurately and audaciously bean-count poor people and the benefits they receive is not only ill-advised it is cruel.

We are reminded of the time, just as the Great Hunger was beginning in Ireland, that English overlords noted the need to aid the Irish, without making them a nation of beggars. It is good to remember this as we near St. Patrick’s Day.

The Irish will tell you that referring to the event as the “great famine” is a false statement because a famine is a lack of food. In the mid-1940s there was food. But the people were not allowed to get at it. Grain mean for Irish stomachs was shipped to England instead, this the discrepancy.

We are not trying to be overly dramatic. But suggesting that finding what cheats there may be in an ostensibly federal system is not how we solve Louisiana’s problems. It is how we risk creating more suffering in the long run.

By the time this newspaper comes out on Wednesday officially the legislature will show what it is truly capable of, if it can work miracles in the name of decency and good government. We are not holding our breaths. We presume this talk shall continue well into the summer when the fiscal dam is plugged up finally, just in time to come under discussion for the year to come.