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Times are tough, so Governor Bobby Jindal is tightening the collective Louisiana belt. There is a $342 Million shortfall in the state’s budget, so he’s taking away $118 Million from the state’s healthcare system. Trouble is, Louisiana already ranks 50th (yes, that’s last place) in health care according to AmericasHealthRankings.org.

Another $55 Million will be taken from the state’s public higher education system. This means that tuition will go up yet again for college students in Louisiana. The Pelican State’s colleges and universities already receive an F for affordability, according to Measuring Up: The National Report Card On Higher Education (of course, so do 48 other states).

I can’t blame the governor for doing what he has to do; after all, times are tough, especially in a state that has 25% of its citizens hooked up to a $7 Billion Medicaid health-support system. If he doesn’t cut funding, then he has to raise taxes, or (God forbid!) the state government has to become more efficient. That’s Economics 101. Still, this move is going to give his opponents plenty of debate ammunition to use against him should he run for president in 2012. He’s already admitted that Louisiana is treading water when it comes to health care, saying that “simply keeping the status quo is not an option. Our people deserve better than that. The health care system we’ve got today in Louisiana is not working to help the very people it’s designed to serve.” Now it appears that some mean economic riptides aren’t even going to let him do that.

Jindal is certainly a forward-thinking, conservative reformer, if there is such a thing these days. If he can turn things around in Louisiana, he’ll certainly gain some major credibility for a run at the White House. I’m not too sure, however, that anyone would be able to turn around Louisiana’s health and higher-education systems.

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As this Newsweek piece reminds us, there are still 21 of them. I’m really not in the mood to talk about Bobby Jindal right now, since for the first time in my life a key figure in the Republican Party is younger than me, and I’m still stinging from the blow. (They don’t call in the Grand Old Party for nothing.)

It’s worth a read. The party has a great deal to figure out, in terms of policy and, as Mike Huckabee reminds us, process.

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