Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014

WSJ: Income inequality worsened after Great Recession; DHH chief shifts blame for ER debacle in Baton Rouge; Board scuttles sweetheart deal for State Police superintendent; and BP could be fined $18 billion for Deepwater Horizon disaster

WSJ: Income inequality worsened after Great Recession
While the U.S. economy as a whole has made a modest recovery since the Great Recession, the effects of that recovery vary widely depending on where you fall on the income scale, The Wall Street Journal reports. While the top 10 percent of income earners saw a 10 percent increase in pretax income between 2010 and 2013 – a period when average incomes grew at a 4 percent clip – families in the bottom 40 percent saw an inflation-adjusted decline in income during that period. Families in the middle (and upper middle-class), those between the 40th and the 90th income percentile, saw little change in their circumstances, meaning they failed to recover what was lost during the 2007-09 recession.


The Journal’s report is based on new research from the Federal Reserve. “Widening income inequality has gained increasing attention over the past year from economists, policy makers and the wider public amid concerns over the uneven gains of the economic recovery. …

Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, during her confirmation hearing last November, called widening inequality “a very deep problem” but cautioned that “many of the underlying factors are things that are outside of the Federal Reserve’s ability to address.”


DHH chief shifts blame for ER debacle in Baton Rouge

Louisiana’s top health official, in a letter to The Advocate, says it’s not her department’s fault that an emergency room in the heart of Baton Rouge nearly closed its doors because of an influx of uninsured patients. Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert also says the expansion of Medicaid to cover those uninsured patients would not have made a difference.


Coverage does not equal access to care,” Kliebert writes. “Medicaid expansion would make over 500,000 working-age adults eligible for a plastic card and an empty promise.


While it’s true that Medicaid coverage does not guarantee the ability to see the doctor of your choice, Kliebert omits a critical fact: Had Louisiana moved forward with Medicaid expansion – financed 100 percent with federal dollars in 2014 – most of the 400 uninsured patients flooding into the Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s emergency room would have had a source of payment. Which means the hospital wouldn’t be losing $1 million a month providing care to patients who can’t pay.


Board scuttles sweetheart deal for State Police superintendent

Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson will have to make due with about $300,000 less in retirement benefits after the board that oversees the pension system said it will not contest a legal challenge to a law that was passed in the waning hours of the 2014 legislative session. Shortly thereafter, a Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary order blocking payment of the enhanced benefits.


The sweetheart pension deal for Edmonson and one other trooper received near-unanimous approval on the last day of the three-month session, after being tacked on to an unrelated bill. But most legislators apparently had no idea what they were voting on, and one, Sen. Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge, said he was embarrassed by his vote and filed suit to have the law declared unconstitutional.


BP could be fined $18 billion for Deepwater Horizon disaster

A federal judge ruled Thursday that BP was “grossly negligent” and acted with “conscious disregard of known risks in the leadup to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier means the British oil giant could face civil penalties of up to $18 billion for violating the federal Clean Water Act.


“In a toughly worded 153-page decision, Judge Barbier reconstructed the timeline from the risky decision to drill more deeply before stopping to the hellish final minutes of hissing gas and raining mud, concluding with the deadly fireball that erupted on the night of April 20, 2010.”


Federal law requires that at least 80 percent of any civil penalties be used for coastal restoration.


Number of the Day – 38.8  – Percent decline in the median family’s net worth between 2007 and 2010. (Source: Wall Street Journal)