While the Daily Dime took a vacation in July, the news cycle did not. It was a month of big developments on several of the issues that LBP follows closely, and here are some of the highlights:
Audit shows payday oversight is lax
The state agency that regulates payday lenders – which trap many of its customers in “cycles of debt” – issued no penalties during a 30-month period ending last June, despite citing lenders for 8,082 “major” violations during that period. That was one of the highlights in an explosive report from the Legislative Auditor that also found that the Office of Financial Institutions is lackadaisical at best in overseeing Louisiana’s 965 payday storefronts. While the report provided no conclusive proof that payday lenders frequently “roll over” expiring loans into new loans, in violation of state law, it strongly suggests that such roll-overs happen frequently. As Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera told The Advocate: “That’s the real fear. Looks like, smells like an illegal rollover.” LBP issued a statement about the report that can be viewed here.
More proof that raising the minimum wage doesn’t kill jobs
States that raised their minimum wage this year averaged faster job growth than states that did not, according to data by the Associated Press. The 13 states that raised wages in January saw an average jobs gain of 0.85 percent, compared to 0.61 percent in the 37 states where wages stayed flat. As NPR noted, the figures contradict a report by the Congressional Budget Office that predicted a loss of 500,000 jobs if Congress were to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. It also contradicts claims by minimum wage opponents in Louisiana, who succeeded in making sure the Pelican State remains one of just five states without a minimum-wage law on the books. A February report by LBP, found that a even a modest hike in the minimum wage, to $8.50 an hour, would provide an immediate raise for 184,000 workers and create an estimated 1,400 jobs as the extra pay circulated through the state economy.
Mixed reviews for new anti-poverty plan
Give Paul Ryan credit for this: The chairman of the House Budget Committee (and 2012 vice presidential nominee) guaranteed that the national conversation about poverty – and government’s role in combating it – will play a prominent role in the upcoming mid-term elections. His new plan, unveiled last month, calls for consolidating 11 federal programs into a single block grant that states could use to tailor their own solutions to poverty. It provoked a slew of reactions across the policy spectrum, too many to list here, but a couple of points are worth repeating. First is the rare bipartisan consensus developing around the idea that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) should be expanded to include childless adults. Second is the threat posed to federal food and housing benefits under the block grant plan. The SNAP (food stamp) program and housing benefits make up 80 percent of the money that would be set aside for block grant funding, so it’s likely that those programs – which typically help the poorest of the poor – would be scaled back in favor of other initiatives.
Louisiana lags behind in annual Kids Count
Each summer the Annie E. Casey Foundation publishes its invaluable Kids Count data book on the welfare of children around the country. And every year the results for Louisiana are depressingly familiar. We don’t do a good enough job of educating, feeding, and keeping our children healthy and safe. Louisiana ranked 47th this year, with the highest ranking being No. 42 in the health category – largely due to Louisiana’s success in providing Medicaid coverage to low-income children through the LaCHIP program. The good news is that Louisiana improved in 11 of 16 categories, including every education measure, while three indicators got worse. The whole report is worth a read if you want to know how Louisiana’s children stack up against those in other states.
The best of the rest
The Times-Picayune’s Bob Mann points out that Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate hasn’t made us any safer, and that states that have begun clearing their prisons of low-level nonviolent offenders have not seen an uptick in crime. The Advocate’s Quin Hillyer lavishes praise on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s charity hospital privatization initiative, but mostly overlooks the $307 million in upfront lease payments that has landed Louisiana in hot water with federal regulators. David Brooks of The New York Times has an interesting take on the role of personal character in combating poverty, and government’s role in fostering such characteristics. And home-care activist Bruce Blaney wrote a guest op-ed in The Advocate urging legislators to hold hearings on life-threatening conditions in Louisiana’s nursing homes.
Number of the Day
77 – Percentage of Louisiana fourth-graders who are not reading at grade-level. (Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation)