Jonathan Chait

Jindal's Louisiana Purchase

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Via Thinkprogress, The Eunice News reports that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal persuaded Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, a Democrat, to join the healthcare lawsuit he had deemed frivolous by promising to spare his office from budget cuts:

But his decision may not have been as willing as he attempted to make it appear.
In a subsequent address to employees of his office, the Attorney General said the decision was made more out of the necessity of saving jobs in his agency than any real hopeor desireof overturning the health care law.
One employee said Caldwell, in a candid admission, claimed that a deal was made with Jindal. Under terms of that agreement, the governor would not make additional cuts in the attorney general’s budget if Caldwell joined in the litigation. Caldwell agreed to be the “token Democrat,” he said, so that he might save additional job cuts by an administration whose state goal is to reduce the number of state employees by as much as 5,000 per year over three years.

This is worth keeping in mind when you evaluate the right-wing rage against "backroom deals." Legislation always involves deals, and those deals are always made in private. Sometimes deals involve the trading of parochial favors -- Ronald Reagan secured John Breaux's vote for his budget plan by promising to keep in place sugar tariffs -- a regressive, utterly indefensible form of corporate welfare. Breaux commented "I can't be bought, but I can be rented." The law was absolutely larded with special-interest bargains like this. Conservatives do not consider Reagan's 1981 budget a tawdry display of vote-buying but rather the high point of domestic policymaking in the postwar era.

None of this is to say that the parochial side deals in the Affordable Care Act are good public policy. But they are, nonetheless, a very minor part of the bill, and likely to be totally ignored by historians. And the conservative dudgeon over "backroom deals" ought to be understood as pure opportunism. The level of conservative complaint over Bobby Jindal's successful bribery of his A.G. to join the health care lawsuit will provoke approximately 0% of the conservative outrage generated by any of the health care side deals, give or take 0.1%.

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