Monday, October 12, 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015

Advocate: State needs new revenues; Boosting family incomes helps kids; Jeff Sadow is wrong, again; Life - and death - in Caddo Parish


Advocate: State needs new revenues

Louisiana’s next governor and Legislature will face multiple problems in dealing with the state budget. There is the budget deficit left over from last year – an estimated $100 million, according to Treasurer John Kennedy. There is the mid-year shortfall in the current-year budget, stemming from a $300 million deficit in the Medicaid budget and lower-than-expected oil prices. And when those problems are fixed, there is a 2016-17 shortfall that could top $1 billion and long-term structural problems as far as the eye can see. Add them all up, and The Advocate’s editorial writers reach the obvious conclusion that new revenues are needed.


All these problems have been apparent for a while, and we imagine it’s on the mind of the four men running for governor; one of them will take office in January. Robert Travis Scott, of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, observed in June the problem waiting on the cleaned-out Jindal desk: “From Day 1, the next governor will be facing another crisis in the budget and will be under the expectation by just about everyone that he will fix the long-term fiscal sustainability problems.” As taxpayers, we’d like to see budget cuts take some of the load off our structural imbalances, but the reality is that some new revenues — not the short-term remedies adopted by the 2015 Legislature — will be needed to deal with the problem Jindal leaves behind.


Boosting family incomes helps kids

Two decades ago, researchers began tracking 1,420 kids in rural North Carolina, in an effort to better understand the psychological effects of poverty on children living in rural areas. But then something remarkable happened: Roughly one-fourth of the kids were members of an Indian tribe whose reservation built a casino, which raised those families’ incomes by around $4,000 per year.  As Roberto A. Ferdman reports in The Washington Post, this gave researchers a golden opportunity to study the ways that changes in family income can improve a child’s life.


Not only did the extra income appear to lower the instance of behavioral and emotional disorders among the children, but, perhaps even more important, it also boosted two key personality traits that tend to go hand in hand with long-term positive life outcomes. The first is conscientiousness. People who lack it tend to lie, break rules and have trouble paying attention. The second is agreeableness, which leads to a comfort around people and aptness for teamwork. And both are strongly correlated with various forms of later life success and happiness. The researchers also observed a slight uptick in neuroticism, which, they explained, is a good sign. Neuroticism is generally considered to be a positive trait so long as one does not have too much of it.


Jeff Sadow is wrong, again

The Advocate’s guest columnist, Jeff Sadow, is supportive of the state’s decision to forgo $150 million a year in federal money to help unemployed adults put food on the table. He’s so happy, in fact, that he makes up phantom arguments to support his case. To wit:


Critics who point out that, as the program uses only federal funds, the state sees no financial gain from this reform are mistaken on two accounts. First, Louisianans’ federal taxes pay for it. Without this extra tax burden, they could keep more of what they earn — and possibly spend more of their wealth in the local economy, a plus for the state’s tax revenues.


In other words, Sadow maintains that cutting off food assistance to able-bodied adults will result in a lower federal tax “burden” for Louisiana residents – a claim that simply isn’t true. The state’s decision to forgo a waiver will do nothing to change anyone’s federal tax bill. It simply means $150 million a year in federal tax revenue won’t be spent in Louisiana grocery stores and convenience stores. It most certainly will not be “a plus for the state’s tax revenues.” While food stamp purchases are exempt from sales taxes, the $150 million a year supports jobs in every parish – and those jobs pay wages that are then taxed at the state and local level.


Life – and death – in Caddo Parish

We already knew that the Shreveport area is the worst part of the country to be charged with a capital crime – particularly if you’re African-American. Caddo Parish hands out more death sentences than any other jurisdiction in America, with 77 percent of those going to black defendants. We also knew that Glenn Ford was sprung from Angola in 2014 after 30 years on death row, and that his prosecutor, Marty Stroud, is deeply sorry for the miscarriage of justice. What we didn’t know, until  last night’s edition of “60 MInutes,” was the lengths the state has gone to deny Ford and his family $330,000 he is owed for three decades of wrongful imprisonment. Take it away, acting District Attorney Dale Cox:


According to Louisiana law, Glenn Ford was entitled to $330,000, about $11,000 for every year of wrongful imprisonment. But the state is denying him the money. Why? In the original trial, prosecutors said Ford knew a robbery of Rozeman’s jewelry shop was going to take place. But he didn’t report it. Ford was never charged with that crime, but the state says that’s reason enough to deny him.


Bill Whitaker: Do you believe he should be compensated for the time he spent in prison?

Dale Cox: No, I think we need to follow the law. And the statute does not require that you be charged or convicted or arrested for any of these other crimes. The statute only requires that Mr. Ford prove he didn’t do these other crimes.

Bill Whitaker: So he’s guilty until proven innocent in this case?

Dale Cox: No, because it’s not a question of guilt or innocence. It’s a question of whether he’s entitled to money…taxpayer money.

Bill Whitaker: But you say he has to prove that he’s innocent of these other charges, these other crimes for which he’s never been charged, for which he’s never been tried.

Dale Cox: That’s correct.

Bill Whitaker: He has to prove he’s innocent of them in order to get the compensation?

Dale Cox: That’s correct.


Number of the Day


$830,000 – Amount Louisiana taxpayers have spent on private attorneys to wage Gov. Bobby Jindal’s so-far unsuccessful attempts to derail the Common Core education standards (Source: