Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Income inequality not just about the the one percent; Disconnected in Baton Rouge; Bayou Health reporting still flawed; and Call for more federal aid for child care


Income inequality not just about the the one percent
Much of the debate about income inequality is framed as the “one percent” against the rest. But that isn’t the whole story. America’s upper middle class – the top 20 percent of the country’s earners – have also seen big increases in household income over the past 35 years compared to middle-class and low-income households. The Brookings Institution’s Richard V. Reeves and Nathan Joo report:


While the rise in income and wealth at the very top is eye-catching, it also distracts attention from the action a little lower down the income distribution. The idea that the real divide is between ordinary members of the bottom 99 percent and the rich 1 percent is a dangerous one, since it makes it easier for those in the upper middle class to convince themselves they are in the same economic boat as the rest of America; they’re not.


Indeed, the Louisiana Budget Project’s recent State of Working report found that the top 20 percent of workers were the only group who had seen their hourly wages recover since the Great Recession, while the typical worker was still making 3.6 percent less. And taking a longer view, the report found that over the last 35 years, the higher up the wage scale a worker was, the faster their wages grew.


Disconnected in Baton Rouge

An estimated 168,000 working-age adults in the nine-parish Baton Rouge metro region are disconnected from the workforce, according to a new report from the Center for Planning Excellence. The Baton Rouge Business Report has the details:


Without access to adequate transportation, adult basic education, professional mentors, life-skills training and other key support, nearly 168,000 people in the Capital Region are missing out on opportunities for quality, long-term employment…The report calls on the region’s public- and private-sector employers to increase their engagement and support of organizations that help disconnected workers. The recommendations include an accelerated expansion of the area’s transit network, along with taking advantage of federal funding available through the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act, and the Job Access Reverse Commute program…


In addition, researchers suggest more strategic investment in public transportation for low-income communities and vouchers to help students cover transportation costs. They also recommend expanding services that help disconnected workers overcome challenges like substance abuse, financial instability, soft-skills deficiencies and basic literacy skills.Of the 2.3 million working age adults in Louisiana, about 600,000 do not have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate, the CPEX report says, meaning 26% of the workers are not qualified for skilled work of any type.


Bayou Health reporting still flawed

Last year, the Legislative Auditor heavily criticized the Department of Health and Hospitals’ reporting standards for Bayou Health, the privatized health care system for children and adult Medicaid patients. While this year’s report was an improvement, it still had some issues, the auditor said on Monday. The Associated Press reports:


Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office issued a blistering commentary in 2014 that said Jindal’s Department of Health and Hospitals submitted a privatization evaluation to lawmakers that was riddled with errors and unverified data. On Monday, Purpera’s office said the second yearly review had more reliable information and steered clear of “global assertions on savings and health outcomes” that couldn’t be corroborated. However, the auditor’s office says DHH still hasn’t provided data for 11 of the 29 months of the privatization effort, known as Bayou Health.


Call for more federal aid for child care
The Washington Post’s editorial board has endorsed a new plan from the Center for American Progress to increase the federal commitment to child care. Securing affordable child care can be a big barrier to employment for families, while high-quality care has a positive impact on kids. As the Post notes, it is an important economic issue:


Yet in this nation that spends hundreds of billions of dollars on the elderly each year, much of which goes to people who are not needy, federal support for child care is comparatively paltry: $5.3 billion in block grants to the states, plus a tax credit of at most $6,000 per year that disproportionately benefits the upper-middle class. A proposal from the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) would multiply this commitment many times over, in the form of a $40 billion-per-year tax credit, the bulk of which would pay for center-based care for children under 3 years of age. The top benefit, $14,000 per year, would go to households earning up to 133 percent of the poverty line per year; those earning up to 400 percent of poverty ($97,000 for a family of four) would be eligible for just over $2,300. Families would choose their own providers, to whom the money would be directly channeled by the government. Crucially, those providers would have to be certified “high-quality,” by meeting federal criteria for the wages, working conditions and credentials of their personnel, among other attributes.


Number of the Day


19 percent – Increase in the hourly wage since 1979 for workers at the top, compared to just 3.4 percent growth for the typical worker (Source: LBP’s State of Working 2015)