Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014

AP: Minimum wage hike a “long shot” in upcoming session; Another conservative stalwart sees the benefits of expanding Medicaid; “Americans for Prosperity” wants coastal Louisianans to be less prosperous; and A note on the “minimum wage economy.” 7.1 - Percent of Louisiana workers paid hourly rates at or below the federal minimum wage, the fourth-highest in the country. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).

AP: Minimum wage hike a “long shot” in upcoming session
The Associated Press looks at the various bills that have been filed in advance of the legislative session and concludes they stand little chance of passing given opposition from Gov. Bobby Jindal, the small business lobby and conservatives in the Legislature. “The likelihood of passage for a minimum wage increase in Louisiana is dampened further by President Barack Obama’s push for an increase to $10.10 hourly at the federal level,” Melinda Deslatte writes. “The Democratic president is unpopular in the state, and his support of the wage hike nationally shapes the issue in more partisan tones.” That’s too bad, because the issue is not partisan among the actual public — 73 percent of whom in Louisiana support raising the minimum wage to at least $8.50 per hour and allowing it to grow with the economy. The article also includes the following gem from Jindal spokesman Mike Reed: “It is undeniable that an increase in the wage floor will harm economic growth and hurt Louisiana families.” This would be true only if by “harm” Reed actually meant “provide a pay raise to more than 20 percent of Louisiana’s workers while creating new jobs through increased demand for goods and services.”


Another conservative stalwart sees the benefits of expanding Medicaid
The list of conservative governors who’ve looked at the numbers and decided the opportunity to accept new federal health care dollars is too good to pass up continues to grow. The latest is Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who was a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act as a member of Congress but now is looking for ways to accept the dollars made available for covering low-income people. There is one catch, as The Washington Post reports: Don’t call it Obamacare — or Medicaid expansion. “Pence is among a small but growing number of GOP governors and lawmakers looking for alternatives to expanding Medicaid. They don’t want to be seen embracing a law that is almost universally loathed in their party, but the hundreds of millions of dollars available to their states through the law’s provisions are too enticing to pass up.” Not only Pence, but Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett, Utah’s Gary Herbert and even Wisconsin’s Scott Walker — all opponents of the ACA — are asking the federal government for waivers that will allow them to accept federal dollars for expanding coverage. “There’s a lot of trying to say they’re not doing Obamacare so that they can call it something different,” Diane Rowland of the Kaiser Family Foundation told The Post.

Then there is Louisiana, where an estimated 250,000 low-income adults continue to go without available health coverage because their governor refuses to negotiate with the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, where he once served as a sub-cabinet official.

“Americans for Prosperity” wants coastal Louisianans to be less prosperous
The Kansas billionaires who are asking Louisiana legislators to deny critical health coverage for low-income adults are also fighting against a bill that seeks relief for residents being hit by steep flood insurance premium hikes, reports. Americans for Prosperity is the group financed by the conservative Koch brothers that recently set up a Louisiana chapter and has asked every Louisiana lawmaker to sign a pledge vowing to oppose Medicaid expansion. Now comes word that the organization is fighting against a bill backed by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy and other Louisiana lawmakers that would prevent large premium increases scheduled to take effect for coastal homeowners under a 2012 law meant to reform the National Flood Insurance Program.

A note on the “minimum wage economy”
Unless you’ve been under a rock the last two days, you probably heard that Gov. Bobby Jindal raised a political ruckus outside the White House on Monday following a meeting with President Obama. He criticized the president for running a “minimum wage economy” and “waving the white flag of surrender,” drawing hackles from national and local commentators. And while the governor’s protocol breach is not the concern of the Daily Dime, we are concerned about the minimum wage workforce in Louisiana and elsewhere.

If the governor’s point is that we have too many workers making minimum wage, he is of course correct. While Louisiana’s manufacturing renaissance continues to make well-deserved headlines, much of the actual growth in the state’s job market involves jobs in the “minimum wage economy” — home health aides, retail clerks, restaurant and tourism-related jobs that pay at or near the $7.25 federal minimum. The fastest-growing economic sector in Louisiana since 2007 has been “education and health services,” at 14 percent. Manufacturing jobs, despite their recent rebound, have fallen nearly 10 percent over the same time span. What’s troubling is the implication that the answer to this riddle is for government to do nothing except get out of the way. Quite the opposite. The state and federal government should be investing more money in educating and training workers to fill the high-wage jobs of tomorrow. But even the best efforts won’t change the fact that many thousands of low-skilled workers will still be needed to bus tables, check out our groceries and care for our seniors in nursing homes. And that’s where government can truly make a difference by raising the minimum wage and making sure that people who work full time are not mired in poverty.

Meanwhile, Danny Vinik at the New Republic points out an inconvenient fact: While minimum-wage jobs spiked during the Great Recession, they have been falling steadily as a percentage of the overall workforce in recent years.

Now you’re all fair and balanced.  

7.1 - Percent of Louisiana workers paid hourly rates at or below the federal minimum wage, the fourth-highest in the country. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).