Comedian and “Real Time” host Bill Maher once said he wished for a recession because it would get rid of his Republican adversary, President Donald Trump. Naturally, reasonable individuals, myself included, were appalled at those comments for suggesting that the welfare of the American people be collateral in the growing political rift between Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C.
While politics should, in principle, never be put above the well-being of citizens, ideological polarization has encouraged politicians to increasingly view politics as a zero-sum game. Nationally, both Democrats and Republicans unabashedly sabotage the opposing party to the detriment and progress of the country.
However, this hyper-partisanship is even more pronounced in state governments. Recently, Republicans on the Louisiana Department of the Treasury’s State Bond Commission stooped to a new extreme of self-sabotage having disavowed their fiscal conservatism to spite Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat. By voting 7 to 6 to prohibit Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., two of the nation’s largest private banks, from underwriting a $600 million bond for road infrastructure, Republicans have abdicated their duty to taxpayers.
Under the guise of conservatism, Republicans on the State Bond Commission exacted political retribution on the Democratic governor to the extent of which they unjustifiably obstructed the free market and jeopardized a lower bond interest rate. As a result, the interest taxpayers will be coerced to pay on the bond will almost certainly be higher. By casting votes in favor of the prohibition, State Treasurer John Schroder and his co co-conspirators on the State Bond Commission betrayed Louisiana taxpayers through their fiscal irresponsibility.
Without the two top-ranked underwriters of long-term municipal debt participating, the more reasonable individuals on the State Bond Commission issued their concerns. Louisiana Sen. Jay Luneau argued that the exclusion of the two biggest underwriters of long-term municipal debt might mean Louisiana doesn’t get the best rate.
His concern isn’t without merit. “It is disappointing that the taxpayers of Louisiana will be deprived from competitive bidding for necessary public works because the process has been politicized,” Citigroup spokesperson Scott Helfman said. A true free market allows unfettered competition to set the lowest price and determine the best outcome for the parties involved. In this case, Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. lowered the interest rate; however, restricting their entry into the bond market means less competition and therefore a less favorable interest rate. Free market capitalism was once a cornerstone for Republicans, but now it’s the Democrats who champion fiscal conservatism.
Meanwhile, Schroder, chair of the State Bond Commission, justified the unconscionable affront to capitalist values by citing the banks’ policy of not lending to gun manufacturers that sell military style rifles for civilian use. “I personally believe the policies of these banks are an infringement on the rights of Louisiana citizens [to bear arms],” Schroder said. I must remind Treasurer Schroder that a private bank can lend money to whomever it pleases; moreover, for a Republican in government to bar a private bank from entrance into a free market is a disconcertingly anti-capitalist offense.
An explanation may be that Treasurer Schroder is taking too many cues from the former treasurer and current U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, whose vanity trips to Russia seem to have inspired recent free market restriction. Or, more likely, Treasurer Schroder and the other incompetents on the State Bond Commission are willing to burden taxpayers with the political cross intended to crucify Gov. Edwards before the upcoming gubernatorial race.
In posturing themselves as Second Amendment stalwarts, they’ve abandoned fiscal responsibility—prioritizing political ambitions above the welfare of Louisianans. Gov. Edwards isn’t to blame for free market restrictions. In Louisiana, Republicans have claim to that.
Patrick Gagen is a 21-year-old mass communication and finance senior from Suwanee, Georgia.