Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is a talented executive who, in his attempt to please conservative ideologues, adopted reckless fiscal policies that have run his state into the ground. He is also the latest Republican to enter the presidential race.
Jindal began his career as a wonky wunderkind: The son of Indian immigrants, he was a Rhodes scholar who became secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals at age 24, president of Louisiana’s university system at 28, and assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at 30. After a stint in Congress, he was elected governor, and whispers of the White House started swirling. But from the beginning, he seemed to want it too much.
Jindal’s two terms as governor have been a disappointment for Louisiana residents — in recent polls, he garnered a 32 percent approval rating — and for all who had hoped he would govern as a problem-solving pragmatist.
After inheriting a $1 billion budget surplus, Jindal agreed to an income tax cut that the state couldn’t afford. He cut spending where he could, particularly on health care and higher education, and reduced the state workforce. But balancing the books required relying on one-shot revenue windfalls and resorting to other fiscal sleights of hand that have left the state’s cupboard bare.
Jindal was an early champion of the Common Core educational standards — until they became a tea party target. He then reversed course, putting his political ambitions ahead of the interests of Louisiana’s schoolchildren, who regularly finish at the bottom of national rankings.
Jindal joined most other Republican governors in rejecting the expansion of Medicaid. And after Indiana found itself at the center of a national controversy over a religious freedom law that allowed discrimination against gay couples, Jindal pushed for a similar law in his state.