The most unequal place in America
In a country and at a time when the gap between rich and poor has rarely been wider and more stark, the most unequal place in America sits 192 miles from Baton Rouge, in Louisiana’s far northeast corner. Lake Providence, the parish seat of East Carroll Parish in the poorest section of America’s third-poorest state, is deeply divided between black and white, rich and poor. John Sutter, a CNN contributor, takes a searing, an in-depth look at this often-forgotten part of Louisiana and the people who live there. It’s a place where the middle class has all but disappeared, and wealth resides with those who own the fertile farmland on the banks of the Mississippi River:
The best a non-land-owning person can hope for here is a job at the prison (the sheriff’s department is the largest employer), a bank, the schools or one of several restaurants, including The Dock, which sits on the lake and has a giant crawfish on its roof. There’s also Uncle Darrell’s, a convenience store on Second Street, on the south side of the lake. Everybody knows that, outside, that’s where you’re likely to find the drug dealers.
Race is part of the divide, to be sure. Land was given to white families in the 1800s, not to blacks. The town resisted integration in the 1960s and ’70s, and at least one voting rights activist was shot in the parish during that struggle. The history of slavery and discrimination is still present.
But class has become the new barrier — one that is both persistent and legal. The richest 5% in the parish earns $611,000 per year on average. That’s 90 times what the bottom fifth makes per year: $6,800. And 16% of parish residents are unemployed.
920,000 Louisianans will experience food stamp cuts Friday
More than 900,000 Louisianans will see their food assistance benefits cut Friday, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires. The total loss to Louisiana families from November 2013 through September 2014 is projected to be $98 million. The modest boost in food assistance was included as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). For a family of three in Louisiana, the cut translates to a loss of $29 per month – or the equivalent of 16 meals. The rollback comes as the U.S. House of Representatives is proposing another $40 billion worth of cuts to the program — cuts that would be devastating to Louisiana families and the state’s fragile economy. For more on how these cuts would hurt Louisiana, read a new LBP blog entry, “920,000 Louisianans will experience food stamp cuts in November.”
Thousands more workers needed to meet state’s industrial demand
The lack of a skilled workforce is shaping up to be Louisiana’s biggest impediment to successfully growing its industrial sector. According to government and industry officials meeting this week in Lake Charles, Louisiana needs 86,300 more skilled workers to meet the demands of the industrial projects that are set to begin operations in the next few years. This number is most likely a low-ball estimate; it is highly likely that more workers will need to be trained due to normal attrition rates for experienced blue-collar workers.
President Obama criticizes governors who won’t help with health care
President Barack Obama criticized governors who won’t participate in Medicaid expansion, saying that they “are so locked into the politics [that] they won’t lift a finger to help their own people.” As Nola.com reports, Obama in his speech in Boston on Wednesday said those governors are responsible for leaving millions of Americans uninsured unnecessarily. “That’s a shame, because if they put as much energy into making this law work as they do in attacking the law, Americans would be better off.” Gov. Jindal has repeatedly fought against expanding Medicaid in Louisiana, despite the fact the federal government would cover 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and no less than 90 percent thereafter. Expanding Medicaid in the Pelican State is estimated to benefit 400,000 Louisianans.
Four timing gimmicks that could disguise fiscally irresponsible tax reform
State lawmakers under pressure to balance budgets and cut taxes sometimes resort to budgeting tactics that cover-up fiscally irresponsible reform. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities highlights four of these gimmicks in a new report this week. Those for gimmicks are: Treating as tax revenues changes that raise revenues initially but lose more revenues over time; ignoring the fact that revenue gains from some tax changes shrink over time; phasing in costly provisions so their full cost doesn’t show up in the 10-year budget window; and “sunsetting” costly provisions that lawmakers intend to extend permanently. The report also notes that timing gimmicks can be used to hide tax reform’s long-run impact on the progressivity of tax systems.