Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Meet ALICE; Prison reform a top priority in 2017; Hotel booking site gets the ax; and The tolls of globalization



Much attention is given to Louisiana’s high poverty rate, but what about families living slightly above the line who lack the level of security and stability that marks those firmly in the middle-class? Meet ALICE: asset limited, income strained and employed. A new report from the Louisiana Association of United Ways says that in addition to the 20 percent of Louisianans who live below the poverty line, another 20 percent are on the margin–just one emergency away from falling into poverty. Andrea Gallo with the Advocate has details:


The report is the first of its kind in Louisiana. It highlights the difficulty of stretching an estimated $42,444 for a family of four or $17,304 for a single person over one year to buy basics including housing, food, health care, child care and transportation. These working families who are the focus of the report do not have savings, they do not have money for anything more than necessities, and they are one broken bone or car wreck away from desperation. This group of people spans generations and includes diverse ethnic backgrounds. The United Way dubs them as falling into a category it calls ALICE — asset limited, income constrained and employed.


“At some point in our lives, we all might have been part of ALICE, whether it’s struggling with student loans or being a single mom or maybe you retired earlier than you anticipated,” said Katie Pritchett, the vice president of community impact at Capital Area United Way…ALICE households in the state are 57 percent white, 42 percent black and 3 percent Hispanic. A third of senior households in the state qualify as ALICE…Berthelot said she hopes state lawmakers will use the report as a tool in the upcoming legislative session, despite Louisiana’s budget woes. The report outlines increasing wages and increasing job opportunities as two possible solutions to reducing the number of people in the state who cannot afford anything more than the basics to survive.


Prison reform a top priority in 2017

With tax and budget reform dominating his first months in office, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the push to reduce Louisiana’s highest-in-the-nation incarceration rate will continue to be a top priority for his administration. But a reform package won’t be debated until the 2017 Legislative session, after a panel of stakeholders has had time to study the issue. Elizabeth Crisp has details:


During the American Correctional Association address Tuesday, Edwards noted that high incarceration hasn’t led to the state having lower crime rates than states with lower prison populations. “Having the highest incarceration rate isn’t leading to safer streets and communities,” Edwards told the crowd to applause. Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said the governor has not yet named an advisory panel that will help shape his 2017 legislative package over the coming year.


Hotel booking site gets the ax
If one thing became clear during a series of higher education “stakeholders” meetings convened last fall by Commissioner of Education Joe Rallo, it’s that college administrators were more than a little annoyed by a rule from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration that required universities and other state agencies to book all employee travel through the online portal. But Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne has put an end to the practice, saying it wasn’t saving the state any money and was opposed by Louisiana’s lodging industry. As Times-Picayune’s Kevin Litten notes:


In a memo to state employees in 2014, Jindal mandated the use of, saying it was aimed at promoting “better negotiations and to yield higher savings for the state.” Dardenne said that the state received a rebate based on hotel bookings made through the site that ranged between 2 percent and 2.5 percent. That generated about $140,000 in rebates since the contract took effect in mid-2013, Dardenne said. There was no cost to the state, but hotels had to pay commission to for bookings received through the website.


The tolls of globalization
Your Daily Dime isn’t smart enough to know if the free-trade policies espoused by politicians of both parties in recent decades have been a net positive or negative for American workers and families. But as Steven Rattner notes in The New York Times, it’s undeniable that workers in some manufacturing industries have been badly hurt by such policies, and he  wonders what is owed to those who’ve been hurt by America’s open borders. For example, Rattner notes that only 30,000 of the 2.65 million new jobs created last year were in manufacturing, and that overall manufacturing jobs are down sharply since 2000:


I have never forgotten a powerful article I read in Foreign Affairs in 2007 that called for huge tax redistribution, both as a moral matter and as a mechanism for ensuring political support for free trade. (The authors were hardly left-wing shills — one had served in the administration of President George W. Bush.) That still sounds like the right idea to me. It’s not only morally wrong to fail to help those on the losing end of globalization, but it will also end badly politically, as the ascendant candidacy of Donald J. Trump illustrates.


Number of the Day

40 percent – Share of Louisiana households who are poor or near-poor (Source: The Advocate)