Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal just announced his intent to run for president in a video released on his Facebook page.
Jindal was once considered the "rising star" of the GOP. With his Ivy League credentials (he graduated with honors from Brown with degrees in biology and public policy) to the much-needed diversity he brings to the party, Jindal was once referred to as the "great beige hope" of Republicans.
However, Jindal has succumbed to criticism in recent years, especially after his disastrous response to President Barack Obama's joint address to Congress in 2009. His favorability rating is under 1 percent in Republican primary polls, meaning he might not even qualify for a spot at the upcoming Republican debates.
Opposes TPP fast track, but approves of free trade
When addressing the Committee to Unleash Prosperity at a recent gathering, Jindal said he is against fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, due to his distrust of Obama. If a "generic Democrat" were in power, he said, his answer might be different.
Jindal actually supports many aspects of TPP. During a recent interview, he explained, "I am for free trade, I am for presidents in both parties having fast-track authority, and on this particular deal, I think that a good deal with Pacific countries would actually be good for our country, not only economically but strategically. I think it can help hedge against China." However, Jindal fears that Obama will used his fast-track authority to sneak in pet projects, such as environmentalist policy or immigration reform.
As governor, Jindal has worked to attract trade with foreign countries. In 2013, Australian manufacturer Incitec Pivot invested $850 million in a Louisiana ammonia plant. The next year, Jindal visited Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in an effort to court further investment. Louisiana received a $1.85 billion investment from Chinese chemical company Yuhuang Chemical later that year.
Opposes Obamacare — and one of the few Republicans to have released a concrete alternative
To Jindal, Obamacare is an "unpopular, unworkable, and misguided law." The only way to fix it: a full repeal.
However, Jindal says a repeal won't be persuasive unless Republicans can find an apt replacement for Obamacare. He has criticized other Republicans for only offering alternatives that would "impose new tax hikes on the American people."
Instead, Jindal released a 26-page report in 2014 highlighting the changes he would make to replace the current Affordable Care Act. Titled "The Freedom and Empowerment Plan: The Prescription for Conservative Consumer-Focused Health Reform," the plan was developed by Jindal and America Next, a conservative policy group that Jindal chairs.
Jindal's plan would allocate $100 billion in federal grants to encourage states to provide insurance coverage for those with low incomes or preexisting medical conditions. The individual states would then be free to make decisions about how to implement health-care policy as they see fit, assuming they abide by certain federal standards.
For example, Jindal says he would apply restrictions to the grants in order to keep insurance premiums low. One proposal is that states would get their grants cut if state premiums exceed a certain percentage of the state's median income.
Jindal also suggests removing existing tax breaks for employer-provided insurance and instead applying a standardized tax deduction to all types of insurance, thus providing Americans with an economically neutral choice between purchasing an employer's insurance plan and a plan they find on their own.
A convoluted record on taxes
Jindal's Louisiana has one of the most bizarre tax systems in the union — in part a product of conservative bias against raising taxes. When Jindal entered office in early 2008, the state had a $1 billion budget surplus, but revenues quickly declined following the recession and more recent plummets in oil prices.
Jindal had to find a way to raise revenue while honoring his commitment to keeping taxes low — he has signed the pledge against tax increases sponsored by Grover Norquist, head of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. The legislature, under Jindal, has found small ways to increase revenue, usually increasing taxes to specific purchases. This month, the legislature voted to increase sin taxes on cigarettes by 50 cents; the extra revenue is expected to go toward health-care costs.
Tax bonuses to attract businesses
In the past seven years, Jindal has worked to attract businesses to his state using tax exemptions and loopholes. Consequently, audits ordered by the state's Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield found that only a quarter of big corporations within the state pay state corporate taxes. Some of this relates to unusual features of the Louisiana tax code. For example, according to Barfield, Louisiana doesn't use a "combined reporting" model when accounting for business profits, allowing corporations to wiggle out of state taxes by distributing expenses and profits among subsidiary companies. The combined reporting model is used in about half of the 50 states.
Backs conscientious objections to marriage equality
As a devout Christian, Jindal has expressed opposition to same-sex marriage. In an op-ed in the New York Times, Jindal maintained his commitment to religious liberty, in spite of what he perceives as pressures from "corporate America." In accordance with these beliefs, Jindal has supported several initiatives to protect businesses and individuals practicing their religion.
In 2010, Jindal signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which explicitly banned government activity that "compels conduct or expression which violates a tenet or belief of a person's religious faith." This could mean that the government would unable to compel an inn or a coffee shop to serve same-sex couples, for instance.
Other protections have followed. Earlier this year, the Louisiana legislature introduced House Bill 707. Like similar legislation proposed in Indiana and Arkansas, HB 707's aim was to defend "religious freedom from government intrusion," specifically with regards to views on marriage. Critics of the proposal contended that it will encourage discrimination against the LGBTQ community by protecting employers, business, and even nonprofits from refusing services to people based on their sexual orientation. Ultimately, HB 707 was voted down 10-2 by the House Civil Law Committee.
Jindal, who was "disappointed by the committee’s action," responded by signing an executive order that will effectively mimic HB 707, ensuring tax benefits and licenses even to groups that refuse to acknowledge same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Unlike the proposed law, however, the executive order will lapse late next year, when Jindal finishes his term as governor.
Improved Louisiana's ethics policies
Jindal increased transparency by requiring all officials to disclose financial information, and forced lobbyists to disclose information about their dealings. Thanks to Jindal's changes, Louisiana rose to 15th place in a national survey on government integrity.
However, ethics laws in the state still contain many loopholes, which undermine Jindal's promise for greater transparency. Jindal himself has signed personal exemptions, for example allowing a former state senator to lobby the Louisiana legislature despite the fact that his brother is a current state senator.
Expanded Louisiana's school voucher program
One of Jindal's trademark programs was dramatically expanding Louisiana's school voucher program, which uses tax money to fund private school education. Jindal has advocated for vouchers on the platform of providing more choice to inner-city students and ensuring equal opportunities for children regardless of family income.
However, Jindal's voucher program has come under fire for supporting evangelical Christian schools, which question established science about the Earth and its age.
While supporting questionable science curricula at Christian schools, the state has blocked other religious schools, such as the Islamic School of Greater New Orleans, from being eligible for voucher funding.
In November 2012, Jindal's voucher program was ruled unconstitutional by a Louisiana court, because it diverted public money into private schools. Jindal appealed, and the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled against him again in 2013.
The federal government has also expressed concerns that the voucher program counteracts school desegregation in the state, and has tried to block voucher awards in certain districts through a federal injunction. (The Department of Justice later backtracked and only asked for student demographic information.) Jindal contends that such criticism is politically motivated and stands in the way of allowing minority students to transfer out of public schools to better private schools. On this point he has several prominent supporters, including Speaker of the House John Boehner and the nonprofit Black Alliance for Educational Options.
Opposes Common Core and has taken the government to court over it
Originally, Jindal supported Common Core standards: In 2012, he cited the adoption of Common Core as a way for Louisiana to "raise expectations for every child."
However, he began to criticize the standards after he saw an increase in federal involvement. Making an appeal to federalism, Jindal quipped, "[C]entralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education. Education is best left to local control."
In 2014, Jindal issued two executive orders that blocked the procurement of Common Core tests by Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Jindal was promptly sued by a group of parents and charter school advocates at a Baton Rouge court, and lost. Jindal appealed, but lost again in a state appeals court.
Jindal also sued the federal government last year over Common Core, claiming that the nationwide standards violate the 10th Amendment, which limits the federal government's powers. His main complaint is that Obama's Race to the Top program, in which states competed for optional grants to implement Common Core standards, is tantamount to coercion. However, as witnesses for the federal government have pointed out, states like Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky still retain their Race to the Top grants despite dropping Common Core standards.
Praised for his response to Hurricane Gustav
Jindal received bipartisan praise for his role in evacuating Louisianans before 2008's Hurricane Gustav. Gustav only took 16 lives in total — or less than one one-hundredth of the deaths attributed to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In preparation for the disaster, Jindal's administration worked with Amtrak to provide rides for more than 7,000 elderly and disabled residents to evacuate the state.
Jindal's response was seen to have contrasted positively with former Governor Kathleen Blanco's response to Katrina, which was criticized as weak and ineffective.
Deeply critical of BP after 2010 oil spill; has a mixed record on the environment
Jindal was governor of Louisiana when the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill polluted the Gulf Coast with 4 million barrels of oil.
Jindal has sharply criticized the British company for spending "more money on television commercials than they have on actually restoring the natural resources they impacted." His tone was praised by various policy wonks and media outlets, some of which referred to him as the "action hero" Louisiana needed during the crisis. Jindal's criticism came after BP complained that it was the victim of fraudulent claims, and began shying away from paying up for claims.
While a state representative in 2005, Jindal introduced a bill, known as the Coastal Preservation Act, that incentivized tax payers to protect shores and wetlands by providing them tax credits on expenditures used to prevent erosion.
That said, Jindal's position on the environment hasn't always been green. In 2006, he proposed the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act in the House of Representatives, which would encourage the building of deep-sea drilling stations (just like the Deepwater Horizon rig) all along the American coastline.
More recently, Jindal signed a bill that would protect the oil and gas industry from what he described as "frivolous lawsuits." Environmental advocacy groups have criticized the move, warning that it will provide a buffer for negligent oil companies, which may repeat the mistakes of BP in 2010.
Advocates for easier pathways to citizenship, except for "radical" Muslims
Jindal has called the current American immigration system "backward," advocating for heightened border security coupled with easier pathways to citizenship. Jindal's "broad gate" policy for immigrants — in other words, improving legal pathways to citizenship — seems to mostly apply to foreigners with advanced degrees.
Jindal has been especially critical of Muslim immigrants to the US. During a recent trade mission to London, Jindal addressed the conservative Henry Jackson Society about the danger of so-called Muslim "no-go zones" — alleged communities of non-assimilated immigrants where Sharia law is practiced — despite no evidence that such communities exist. And when addressing the conservative think tank American Action Forum, Jindal suggested that America has a right to refuse entry to those who believe in "radical Islam." Even conservatives like Fox's Megyn Kelly criticized his view, saying, "Some religions continue to treat women as second-class citizens, and it's not just some forms of Islam. Are we going to start banning everybody who doesn’t treat women or children or criminals, for that matter, the way we like?"
A strong supporter of gun rights
Jindal has long been a fervent supporter of gun rights and the Second Amendment. Under Jindal, Louisiana has approved a variety of pro-gun laws, including allowing off-duty cops to carry guns in schools and levying fines and jail time on people — including journalists — who publish the names of concealed-carry permit holders. Jindal has also approved legislation allowing civilians to carry concealed guns into places of worship, as a way of providing security.
At the same time, Jindal has also taken steps to consolidate records about gun ownership with the federal authorities. For example, a 2013 law required court clerks to report to the state Supreme Court, and then to the FBI, when a person loses the right to own a gun — as can happen when a person uses an insanity plea as part of a criminal defense, or is considered unfit by lack of mental capacity to stand trial.
This past weekend, Jindal has open criticized President Obama for his response to the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting, in which nine African-American churchgoers were shot in a historically significant black church. Jindal claimed that the president's remarks — which, in part, criticized the country's lax gun control laws — were "completely shameful."