Minority Central

February 3, 2011
In 2003, Bobby Jindal’s campaign slogan was the powerful but simple “I’m a problem solver, not a politician.” He narrowly lost to Kathleen Blanco in an election tainted by allegations that race was a deciding factor in the campaign but won widespread goodwill for a well-run campaign and a promising political future.   In 2007, Bobby Jindal ran again in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and widespread perceptions of state government incompetence amidst the nation's worst natural disaster.  For voters, there was a deep and collective sense of “buyer’s remorse,” an unshakable feeling that the state took a wrong turn in 2003.  As a candidate in 2007, Jindal parsed out multi-point plans on every question of policy and every facet of government. It was tour de force of conservative and good government platforms and positions. One might have fairly accused Jindal of lacking priorities, but there was no shortage of...
January 21, 2011
Louisiana’s state colleges and universities received relatively good news recently. The worst case scenario - a potentially devastating 35 percent cut - is unlikely to play out over the next budget cycle.  Instead, colleges and universities will brace for cuts of “less than 10 percent,” a welcome relief over scenarios that would have resulted in “blood on the streets” in faculty and staff layoffs. The collective sigh of relief from university administrators is a testament to the skill of the Jindal Administration in setting expectations so dismally low that any cut short of financial exigency would have likely been greeted as a welcome reprieve.  Given that state colleges and universities have already been cut by $310 million (18 percent) over the past two years,  an additional 5-10 percent is nontrivial. In terms of the politics, the Jindal Administration played its hand exceptionally well and is earning accolades for the smaller...
January 20, 2011
In terms of keeping promises, Wednesday's vote to repeal the health reform law stands as a significant checkmark on the House Republican agenda, but what does it mean outside of Washington? Maybe not as much as GOP leaders hope. The overwhelming number of 12 Patchwork Nation community types are not especially interested in repealing the new law, according to an analysis of a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Only two county types -- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-adherent heavy Mormon Outposts and the socially conservative Evangelical Epicenters -- are close to or above 50 percent in the number of people who say they want the law repealed. In the other 10 county types with a wide range of demographic and voter makeups, solid majorities say they would like to see the health care law expanded or left alone. Does that mean the repeal vote, certain to be ignored by the Democratic Senate, was a waste of time for the House...
January 7, 2011
As the state confronts a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has decided to confront the most pressing issue of the day, the use of bath salts as stimulants. In fairness, Louisiana leads the nation in poison control calls related to their use and accounts for more than half the calls nationwide. Something needed to be done. But this is the perfect foe for a governor noted for his political caution. Governor Jindal expressed his outrage in no uncertain terms: "These drugs have crept into our communities and they are hurting our kids. We have to do everything in our power to protect our children and to make sure our streets are safe for our families.  The reality is that the chemicals used to make these dangerous substances have no legitimate use other than to provide a high for the user. Make no mistake – these are very dangerous drugs and we must get them off our streets." At the same time, the next fiscal year looks...
December 29, 2010
Christmas 2010 is in the past and New Year's is approaching, which means it's time to start thinking about ... 2012. Yes, Iowa and New Hampshire are more than a year away, but for presidential hopefuls the political calculations are already well underway. For many they started the Wednesday after Election Day 2008. Tapping into the American electoral zeitgeist is no easy task however and a Patchwork Nation analysis of the vote in 2008 versus 2010 shows just how much the landscape has changed. Both were big change wave elections, but we do not yet know if 2012 will be as charged a political environment. The Democrats lost ground in all of Patchwork Nation's county types in the 2010 House vote compared to the vote in 2008 -- including the reliably "blue" big city Industrial Metropolis and Campus and Career locales. But most troubling for President Obama and the members of his party would have to be the numbers from the wealthy, largely suburban Monied...
December 21, 2010
This year brought big changes in to the United States. The midterm elections shuffled the balance of power in Washington. Economists announced the recession ended in 2009 - though many communities still struggled. Congress voted to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy" and passed another big tax-cut/stimulus bill. But looking at state of the country through Patchwork Nation, 2010 looks more like the prelude to bigger changes ahead in 2011 and beyond. Economically and politically there are strong signs of volatile times ahead. The recession may be over, but there are larger economic forces at play that could lead to long-term changes that will have very different impacts on different communities. And any sense of political stability in Washington is likely to be short-lived as the 12 community types in Patchwork Nation look toward 2012 with very different agendas. Listed below are five news stories to watch for in 2011 as our Patchwork Nation...
December 7, 2010
As the debate over extending the Bush-era tax cuts plays out in Washington, an important element is being left out of the debate - geography. This tax cut debate has a similar sound to others in Congress. Republicans back extending the cuts for everyone, including those making over $1 million because "a rising tide raises all boats" and "wealthy people create jobs." Democrats argue the breaks should go just for "middle class families" and "the poor," because those groups tend to spend the money and they need it. And all of this, of course, is set against the backdrop of a ballooning deficit where the federal government simply has less to spend. But lost in all those talking points is where the money actually goes. Patchwork Nation sees wide disparities in where the wealthy live by county, and in our 12 county types, and those disparities show how the tax cut extension for all may miss the mark when it comes to getting past the...
December 2, 2010
On Tuesday, Congress refused to further extended long-term unemployment benefits, keeping the cut-off at 99 weeks. That doesn't mean the fight is over. Democrats continue to argue for more time, while Republicans say the country can't afford it. But underlying that political left-right debate is a complicated question, when should the unemployed be able to find work more easily or, more succinctly, when does a recession become a recovery? And the answer, as viewed through Patchwork Nation, is it depends where you live. There have been marginal improvements across the board in the unemployment rate, but some communities are still struggling, some are rebounding and some never really got hit that hard to begin with. In other words, the back and forth in Congress may largely miss the point. There are some places in America where an extension is sorely needed and others where there might be a better argument for holding the line at 99 weeks. What's Long Enough? In...
November 30, 2010
Of all the factors that go into making a community the local school system may be the most critical. Better schools not only equal better-educated kids, but often better property values and a better quality of life. On Tuesday, a new report from the America's Promise Alliance studying the graduation rates of high schools around the country showed good news: The number of "dropout factories" in the United States was declining. But the Building a Grad Nation report also found there are still some major challenges - some 40 percent of minority students fail to graduate. Viewed through the prism of Patchwork Nation's 12 county types, the message in the Building a Grad Nation report becomes even clearer. It's not just poor minority students that are suffering disproportionately - it is poor, minority communities. The Struggles in "Minority Central" One county type stands out in sharpest relief in Patchwork Nation - the counties with large...
September 8, 2010
Some days I wonder whether democracy is capable of solving complex long-term problems.  Pick your favorite issue - budget deficits, climate change, health care, Social Security reform, international affairs - and you will find a grating inability to think beyond the next political season.  Contemporary politics is too often tactical, not strategic, inflicted by a collective case of attention deficit disorder, veering helplessly from one crisis or issue to the next. While government is much maligned these days, smart governance can play a critical role in creating the conditions for growth by investing in infrastructure and education and by addressing long-term demands that markets are ill-equipped to address.  The internet, after all, is a product of government investment and a critical piece of the economic boom during the Clinton years.   Unfortunately, smart governance is hard to find as politics is “dumbed down” by an overly superficial,...