The incident that precipitated this conversion (or revelation of hypocrisy -- I merely report; you decide) was the bankruptcy of chicken giant Pilgrim's Pride. As part of this process, in February, the company decided to shut down a plant it operated near the town of Farmerville in Union Parish in northeast Louisiana. The plant employs about 1,300 workers and supports another 300 or so independent chicken ranchers in the region. The loss of those jobs would have delivered a devastating blow to the region (one of the poorest in the country) that was already reeling from losses in jobs in the paper, timber and chemical industries.
As the free marketeers would have predicted, a private sector buyer (Foster Farms of California) stepped forward. The company offered Pilgrims Pride $40 million for the plant that was headed towards a shutdown.
Pilgrim's Pride rejected the offer as insufficient.
Guv'nah Jindal and his administration decided that they needed to get involved (perhaps the decision was motivated by the fact that he had already decided to reject about $90 million in unemployment benefit enhancements in the federal economic stimulus package, but I digress).
The next offer for the Pilgrim's Pride plant in Farmerville was a joint offer involving Foster Farms and -- you guessed it! -- the State of Louisiana. The total offer was $60 million. Foster Farms had actually reduced its offer to $20 million, but Jindal (fancying himself as a latter day Colonel Sanders?) had his administration offer to put up $40 million.
Still, that was not enough to satisfy Pilgrim's Pride. The sale price, their CEO told the Monroe News Star, was $80 million. The state asked Foster Farms to increase its offer. Foster Farms agreed to go back to their original offer of $40 million, which the State of Louisiana matched, for a total bid of $80 million, which Pilgrim's Pride accepted on Friday.
It turns out that the state and Foster Farms are actually committing $100 million to buy the plant. The selling price is $80 million, but the company and the state have each committed $10 million to upgrade the plant.
So, the State of Louisiana has intervened in the marketplace to help save 1,600 jobs in northeast Louisiana. It's a good and necessary move that should help stabilize economic conditions in a part of our state that was already on the ropes.
But, it further exposes Jindal's supposed belief in the sanctity of the marketplace to be a sham that he wields when he believes it to be expedient.
That itself is pretty close to the definition of an opportunist. Hardly the type of guy to serve as the standard bearer of the Grand Ole Party of moral certainty.