Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kristof: Is a hard life inherited; The Advocate calls for stronger payday loan regulations; School year starts with Common Core in place; Study: Louisiana is second-most expensive place to drive

Kristof: Is a hard life inherited?
There has been much discussion recently about the myth of American mobility, the difficulty of moving up the economic ladder if you’re born without advantage. Roughly 70 percent of people born in the bottom 20 percent of income earners will fail to make it into the middle class. On Sunday New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof returned to the Oregon farming community where he was raised and puts a personal face on the story. He introduces us to Rick Goff, 64, an intensely bright man who also embodies the social pathologies — drugs, family instability, low educational attainment — that keeps millions of Americans trapped in poverty and despair.

Kristof says men like Goff are often overlooked, or treated with scorn by people born into nurturing middle-class families, and that this needs to change if America’s growing class chasm will ever be narrowed.

“This crisis in working-class America doesn’t get the attention it deserves, perhaps because most of us in the chattering class aren’t a part of it. There are steps that could help, including a higher minimum wage, early childhood programs, and a focus on education as an escalator to opportunity. But the essential starting point is empathy.”

 

The Advocate calls for stronger payday loan regulations
A recent audit that found lax oversight of Louisiana’s payday lenders should serve as a wake-up call for legislators who passed up an opportunity to rein in this predatory industry, The Advocate notes in its lead Sunday editorial. Auditors noted that the state Office of Financial Institutions, which regulates the industry, issued no fines despite uncovering more than 8,000 “major” violations.

“While we were concerned about any increasing regulation of business activity, it seemed that payday lenders should be at least subject to the same kinds of restrictions on lending that are applied to credit unions and banks. Yet that is what a phalanx of lobbyists objected to, noting all the while the existing OFI regulation. With more than 8,000 major violations under its belt, maybe it’s time the industry came up with a better argument.”

Comedian John Oliver wasn’t nearly as nice to the payday folks on “Last Week Tonight,” which featured a brutal, 16-minute evisceration of the industry and its influence on policymakers. (Warning: Strong profanity).

 

School year starts with Common Core in place
Lost in the ongoing political showdown over the Common Core state education standards is this simple fact: As school starts this week, more than 700,000 Louisiana children are returning to classrooms where the standards are already in place. The only question is how students will be tested on the new standards-based curriculum. The Advocate’s Will Sentell spoke with school officials throughout South Louisiana who didn’t seem nearly as concerned about this as the politicians who’ve spent much of the summer posturing over the issue.

 

Study: Louisiana is second-most expensive place to drive
The average Louisiana driver spends $2,555 per year to keep their car on the road – with half of that going to car insurance – according to a new report that says the Pelican State is the second most expensive state in the country to operate a motor vehicle. Left unmentioned in the study by Bankrate.com is that driving in Louisiana is about to get even more expensive after the Legislature authorized $53 million in new levies on drivers who let their insurance coverage lapse. The additional fees were approved in the waning hours of the 2014 legislative session so that State Police could receive a pay raise.

 

Number of the Day
16.5
— Percent the federal government is overpaying for flood insurance by allowing private insurers to manage the National Flood Insurance Program (Source: GAO via Nola.com)