Since 2000, the nation’s population grew by 9.7 percent, but Louisiana’s population grew only a 1.4 percent increase to 4.5 million people. As a result, we will lose a congressional seat, which will be devastating for our state. Our citizens will have less representation in Congress, which will translate into fewer federal dollars and projects in the state. In a state that is vulnerable to flood damage, hurricanes and coastal erosion, today’s announcement is extremely bad news.
Of course, politicians can blame Hurricane Katrina for the poor report, but, in reality, Louisiana has faced stagnant population growth for decades.. Just twenty years ago, Louisiana had eight members in the U.S. House of Representatives. After the 1990 census, we lost a congressional seat and a mere twenty years later, we are losing another one. In the last two decades, Louisiana’s congressional delegation has declined by an astounding 25 percent.
The population problems extend back to the mid-20th century. During the early 1970’s, New Orleans’s population hovered over 600,000. In the last forty years, those cities have experienced massive growth, while New Orleans has lost 300,000 people. While many people moved to the suburbs, many others left the state in the search of better economic opportunities.
Today, Atlanta and Houston have international airports and corporate headquarters, while New Orleans has a small airport and only one Fortune 500 corporate headquarters. While citizens of the Crescent City have a strong sense of pride, a resilient spirit and love living in the most unique city in America, the city has not been able to recover its lost population. Fortunately, New Orleans has a new Mayor, Police Chief and District Attorney and is moving in the right direction, but it will take time to change perceptions.
There are many reasons the population of New Orleans and the entire state has not grown. Of course there is too much violent crime, an anti-business tax climate, corruption, a politics as usual system of government and a bad national image to name a few.
We have known about these problems for decades, so now is the time to take action. On the state level, the legislature needs to pass laws creating a much better environment for doing business. Our business taxes and personal income taxes are too high. It is hard to compete with states such as Texas and Florida which do not have state income taxes.
Our state government is too big with more employees per capita than any other southern state. While our population has been stagnant, our state budget has skyrocketed in the last ten years. If we reduce the size of state government, we can offer the kind of tax relief that will attract more people to the state. As an added benefit, a smaller government invites less corruption as well.
Louisiana has wonderful festivals, food, history, architecture, natural resources, bayous, parks, hunting, fishing, climate, and much more. No other state has the combination of the mighty Mississippi River, the French Quarter, a distinct Cajun culture, beautiful bayous and a quality of life that is unsurpassed.
It is a crying shame that we done such a poor job of attracting people and businesses to Louisiana and that so many people have left the state in the past few years.
Simple economics teaches that a wonderful product will not sell without the proper marketing. In addition, if a product is not good, the best marketing in the world will not work. This Census report is a long overdue wakeup call for Louisiana. We need to improve both our product and our marketing..
Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m.weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].