Canada decided to take a new approach to curtailing poverty, and the results were startling: between 2015 and 2017 the poverty rate decreased by 20 percent, bringing it to the lowest level in history. How did they do it? Through a sustained, multi-year effort that brought everyone to the table. Small groups of about 100 citizens representing business, nonprofits, government and those living in poverty worked together to identify the barriers and opportunities unique to their town. The result was a national patchwork of detailed plans that, when implemented, worked to reduce poverty and increase opportunity. Equally important is Canada’s national child benefit, which offsets the costs of caring for children. New York Times columnist David Brooks reports:
They spend a year learning about poverty in their area, talking with the community. They launch a different kind of conversation. First, they don’t want better poor; they want fewer poor. That is to say, their focus is not on how do we give poor people food so they don’t starve. It is how do we move people out of poverty. Second, they up their ambitions. How do we eradicate poverty altogether? Third, they broaden their vision. What does a vibrant community look like in which everybody’s basic needs are met. (…) By the time Canada’s national government swung into action, the whole country had a base of knowledge and experience. The people in the field had a wealth of connections and a sense of what needed to be done. The two biggest changes were efforts in city after city to raise the minimum wage and the expansion of a national child benefit, which can net a family up to nearly $6,500 a year per child. Canada essentially has guaranteed income for the young and the old.
Closing the gender pay gap
Women in Louisiana earn 68 cents for every dollar earned by a man, putting the Pelican State at the bottom of another “good” list when it comes to equal pay. A recent report by the National Partnership for Women and Families details the disparity, which amounts to an average annual difference of $15,737. Closing this gap could make a big difference not only for women, but for the families that rely on them for income. In Louisiana, 48.7 percent of single-parent households with minor children headed by women live in poverty. Greg Hilburn of the Monroe News-Star reports on efforts this legislative session:
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ previous efforts to push legislation he believes would narrow the gap have failed, but he’ll try again in the upcoming session through state Sen. JP Morrell’s Senate Bill 136, which seeks to eliminate pay secrecy in the workplace. Edwards and Morrell say “wage transparency” would allow women to know whether they’re being paid equally for the same type of work. “Simply put, it’s embarrassing that Louisiana continues to have the highest gender wage gap in the nation,” said Edwards, a Democrat. “When we don’t pay women the same as their male counterparts, it harms our communities, our businesses and our families.”
Reducing Louisiana’s prison population by half
While Louisiana has made historic progress in reducing its shameful incarceration rate —we are now the second most incarcerated state in the nation, behind Oklahoma—a report by the American Civil Liberties Union is a good reminder that there is more work to be done. The authors lay out a blueprint for cutting the prison population in half by 2025, saving the state millions of dollars and addressing chronic racial disparities in our justice system. As Grace Toohey reports in The Advocate, corrections officials see the ACLU’s goals as ambitious, but potentially attainable:
“Racial disparity is so ingrained in the system that it cannot be mitigated by solely reducing the scale of mass incarceration,” the report says. It recommends shifting money from law enforcement to community initiative, fighting statutes like gang sentencing enhancements that disproportionately affects people of color and addressing potential racial bias in prosecution or access to diversion programs. While [Department of Corrections Spokesperson Natalie] Laborde recognized the numbers the ACLU put forward are ambitious, she called it a great goal. And she noted that with the progress Louisiana has made in the last five years — since 2012, the state has reduced the prison population by about 8,000, down from about 40,000 — such a goal is no longer out of the realm of possibility. “It’s a lot more realistic than it’s ever been in our state’s history,” Laborde said.
The hidden costs of repealing the ACA
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has done much to expand and improve health care access throughout the country, including in Louisiana, where more than 470,000 low-income adults have gained coverage through Medicaid expansion since Gov. John Bel Edwards opted into the program in 2016. But a lawsuit to repeal the landmark law by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and others is working its way through the courts with support from the Trump administration. Jessica Schubel of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities outlines some of the ways that ACA repeal would be a disaster for the millions of Americans who have seen their access to health care improve:
To be sure, the ACA’s most significant Medicaid change is its expansion to adults with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which let millions gain Medicaid coverage for the first time and produced significant benefits for them, their families, and their communities, research shows. If the ACA is struck down, almost 13 million low-income adults would lose their health insurance and, with it, access to treatment for chronic conditions, mental illness, and substance use disorders. It would also cause greater financial instability for safety net providers, such as hospitals, because they would incur greater uncompensated care costs due to the higher number of uninsured adults.
If Landry is successful, Louisiana stands to lose 28,063 jobs, $2.2 billion federal healthcare dollars and insurance coverage for 558,000 people, according to a 2017 analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.
Number of the Day
68 cents –The amount a woman earns for each dollar a man earns in Louisiana. (Source: National Partnership for Women and Families)