Tag Archives: louisiana

We’re So Sorry About Louisiana’s Senator John Neely Kennedy

New Orleans      Those of us who live in Louisiana or care about the role of the state and its people in public affairs are just as sorry as we can be every time our junior Senator John Kennedy tries to take the stage with cameras running to provide the sordid sideshow commentary about the impeachment, the President, or almost anything else.  When Ronald Reagan or Sony Bono were elected to federal offices, it was clear voters, right or wrong, were pulling the lever for entertainers who had become politicians.  Somehow Louisianans who voted for Kennedy, right or wrong, thought they were voting for a seasoned politician to represent the state’s interest in Washington and now discover we’ve humiliated ourselves as he’s decided to act as some kind of cross between country bumpkin, horse’s butt, and total dufus.

He thinks he’s a quipster and comedian of some sort tossing out one-liners here and there appropriate for nothing.  We knew this was coming when he said he would rather drink weed killer than support Obamacare, and he didn’t stop even when many roared, “Please!”  As the Bayou Brief reviewed his act,

It’s part of a carefully, albeit mysteriously, calculated image to portray a well-educated professional politician as a cracker barrel philosopher; a character straight out of the long-running teevee show, “Hee-Haw.” In short, our senator and former state treasurer thinks he’s Grandpa Jones only without the banjo and the droopy mustache:.

Stephanie Grace, a columnist for the local paper in New Orleans in a rarity, stepped out of her comfort zone recently and zinged Kennedy for trying to act the “class clown,” and worse for being a dupe or a shill for the President’s widely discredited Russian coverup fantasy that Ukraine rather than the Kremlin was behind all of the 2016 monkey-business and election interference.  As Grace writes,

…he is a shape-shifter, a worldly scion of Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia School of Law and the University of Oxford who adopts an aw-shucks demeanor on television, and a former moderate Democrat who put his finger to the wind and tacked hard to the right.

Worse, with impeachment soon heading for the US Senate, who is going hold the hook that pulls Kennedy and his act off the stage so serious business can be conducted?

We’ve been there and done that before, but Huey Long was an original, and that was last century.  He was also a brilliant politician with his finger on the pulse of peoples’ pain and aspirations.  Those were different times.  There’s no going back.

In 2019, there’s no traction in being a cornpone, country hick in a state like Louisiana trying to move forward rather than backward.  Lil’ Abner’s Dogpatch is hardly making it in Arkansas, and only Dolly Parton can be the impresario of Dollywood, but if John Neely Kennedy wants to audition for a part in some atavistic Louisiana hayride role, he should get on with it, rather than practicing that shtick in Congress. The people of Louisiana and America, frankly, deserve better than a comedy act when it comes to dealing with the current tragedy of our government.


Unclaimed Property:  Service or Scam?

Milwaukee       “Unclaimed property” is an interesting concept.  What is it really?  Years ago, I would have thought it was some share of property in a farm somewhere in the country and people were looking for a long-lost relative who was named in the will, and the state was trying to lend a hand.  Or, maybe, it was a phone or utility deposit that had gone uncollected when a family was forced to move quickly for whatever reason, and the state was doing the good turn of saving it for someone until they realized they needed to collect it.

Could be it’s both of those things, but it is also clearly a good deal more.  Every state has someone somewhere in its administrative bureaucracy that deals with unclaimed property, and as our financial system has become more complex and opaquer, a dollar here and a dollar there unclaimed by lots of people can add up quickly.  In Louisiana, this has also become a political issue which sheds so light on this dark money hole, but for me it has also become personal since I have had occasion to interact with this system.

John Schroder is the Treasurer of Louisiana and like most office holders in the state is a Republican. John Bel Edwards is the Governor of Louisiana and in a refreshing surprise a Democrat.  Schroder is responsible for unclaimed property and has been stirring up controversy because he wants to ramrod a proposal through the legislature that unclaimed property that remains unclaimed should be used for infrastructure repairs in the state.  Edwards on the other hand was counting on $25 million to fill a gap in the state budget.

If I understand this correctly, this has been the common practice.  The Times-Picayune/ New Orleans Advocate reported that this has been commonplace for years “with $15 million shaved off since 2008 to pay Interstate 49 projects and the remaining dollars poured into the general fund to pay for a variety of programs.” To bring a sharper point to the fight, Schroder is now refusing to release the money to Edwards, claiming the legislature and governor never should have had access to the money, and that Edwards will have to go to court to get the cash.  Without irony though, he believes that he has the right to make the decision and spend the cash.

Schroder argued as well that the “unclaimed property fund has a dwindling balance because technological advancements have helped find people who are owed cash.”  Wait a minute.  His job is to be a steward of other peoples’ money, so that should be a good thing, so that sounds wrong for a lot of reasons.  I’m also skeptical that it is even true, and this is where my personal experience comes in, and I bet it’s the more common situation.

Over recent years, it has fallen to me to settle the estates for my family.  The so-called “advance” is that you can go on a website and try to find out if you, or anyone you know, has unclaimed property.  Once someone dies, I guarantee there’s going to be something there.  Some odd dividend from a forgotten stock or a bank account that no one remembers or whatever.  It’s a clunky site, and often just not correct.  Even as I got letters from various companies claiming they would collect the money for a percentage, the website would be claiming nothing was there.  I knew better or at least I thought I did.

Before Schroder took office in December 2017, I had the names of several people who worked there.  I met them when happened to take a call from one of them when I inherited this job while visiting my mother before she died.  A woman had found a small annuity in my father’s name and wanted to make sure I knew they had it.  Wow!  That’s public service, and she was right, and she and her co-workers were very helpful.

When my brother passed away, I tried to call them.  No luck.  I went through the website and sent everything as they instructed including an original death certificate, which no one requires I’ve learned.  Months later, I got a letter from the Treasurer listing the unclaimed items that I had listed in my claim, and in yellow marker highlighting everything I needed to send them to collect, all of which was exactly what I had already sent.

I fumed and stewed for another year, and with the passing of my mother, adopted a new strategy.  I refused to allow them to put me in the position of me identifying what property they held, which of course is the opposite of Schroder’s claim.  This time I made what we refer to in labor negotiations as a global offer.  I assembled all of the court documents, all of the death certificates, and what they needed from me.  I could not send them a copy of my Social Security card, I sent them four documents attesting to my SSN with an explanation for why I didn’t have it when I lost it in a canoe spill twenty-five years ago.  I also sent a cover letter detailing my previous good experience, and my current disappointment.  I packaged it all up and sent it certified mail.  This time weeks later, I received an email from someone acknowledging receipt and the fact they had some unclaimed for my mother, father, and brother.  She told me none of the names I mentioned in my letter were employed by the office anymore, nor did she detail what they were holding.  She insisted that I had to have a brokerage account to receive the funds, so I got one, and sent it to her within twenty-four hours.  Nothing since then.

But, reading Schroder’s claims, sometimes they don’t have the money to pay.  He claimed earlier this year they had to wait 120 days to refund money.  What the heck is going on here?!?  He wants to spend money that isn’t his, claims that they are reaching out for people when they are not, gets rid of competent people, and then doesn’t return to people the money that is their property once it is claimed.

I’m now skeptical of unclaimed property everywhere.  Are there any rules or oversight or is this just a cash cow and a slush fund?  It isn’t the state’s money, it’s citizens.  How long are the funds being held before they are determined to be abandoned and now state property?

What should be a service, increasingly seems to be a scam.