Economist: America close to “ungovernable”
You know things are getting bad in the nation’s capital when the Economist magazine — a generally reserved and mostly conservative British journal — looks at the current political stalemate and says America’s prestige could be at stake. And while many of their American counterparts have been careful to distribute blame among both parties, the magazine leaves no doubt about what caused this imbroglio or what’s at stake: Republicans are setting a precedent which, if followed, would make America ungovernable. Voters have seen fit to give their party control of one arm of government — the House of Representatives — while handing the Democrats the White House and the Senate. If a party with such a modest electoral mandate threatens to shut down government unless the other side repeals a law it does not like, apparently settled legislation will always be vulnerable to repeal by the minority. Washington will be permanently paralyzed and America condemned to chronic uncertainty.
“It gets worse. Later this month the federal government will reach its legal borrowing limit, known as the “debt ceiling”. Unless Congress raises that ceiling, Uncle Sam will soon be unable to pay all his bills. In other words, unless the two parties can work together, America will have to choose which of its obligations not to honour. It could slash spending so deeply that it causes a recession. Or it could default on its debts, which would be even worse, and unimaginably more harmful than a mere government shutdown. No one in Washington is that crazy, surely?”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that at least 20 House Republicans now support a “clean” budget resolution that gets the government up and running without any of the demands issued by Tea Party hard-liners. If you’re counting, that means a majority in both the House and Senate are in favor of ending this shutdown while preserving funding for the Affordable Care Act. The only thing standing in their way is House Speaker John Boehner, who refuses to allow votes on anything that doesn’t have support from a majority of the GOP caucus.
Federal aid for pregnant women and children funded through October
Despite the government shutdown, a federal program that provides nutrition benefits for low-income pregnant women and children up to age 5 will be funded in Louisiana through October. The state Department of Health and Hospitals announced in a press release Thursday that Louisiana’s Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) will use money set aside from the prior fiscal year to maintain the benefits, which were on track to expire by the middle of the month.
800 Louisiana youth qualify for autism treatment through Medicaid
Approximately 800 Louisianans might be eligible through the state’s Medicaid program for a specialized therapy program that’s proven successful in improving the lives of autistic children. As The Advocate reports, the program was made available after the New Orleans-based Advocacy Center won a lawsuit seeking help for Medicaid-eligible children on a waiting list for specialized services for the mentally impaired and developmentally disabled. The new autism therapy is the latest outgrowth of that lawsuit. The state Department of Health and Hospitals will initially reserve 165 slots in the new program, which is expected to cost $9.5 million.
Teachers begin receiving merit pay based on evaluation scores
Louisiana’s public school teachers will begin receiving merit pay based on their 2013-14 evaluation scores. Nola.com reports that the merit pay will range from $200 to $700 a year for teachers ranked in the top two tiers of the four-level evaluation system. The average top-tier teachers will receive $600. While some critics say the small payments won’t be enough to entice teachers to be more effective in the classroom, state Education Superintendent John White said paying teachers for good performance is less about money and more about recognition. The idea remains controversial, however, because state law requires local school systems to fund the bonus money out of their own budgets. Many systems have frozen their regular pay increases for several years running due to funding problems.
Herman Wallace dies a free man
Just three days after being released from a life sentence, Herman Wallace, 71, died this morning in New Orleans of complications from liver cancer. Wallace spent 42 years in solitary confinement as a member of the “Angola Three,” convicted of killing a security guard at the maximum security prison that had an international reputation for brutality in the 1960s and 70s. A judge ordered his release earlier this week after ruling that the original grand jury that indicted him for the murder improperly excluded women.
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