A win and a loss for representative democracy

A win and a loss for representative democracy

Publisher’s Note: The Daily Dime is going on its annual hiatus for the month of July. We hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Summer!

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two contentious rulings Thursday that will affect institutions at the foundation of American democracy for years to come: the rules for drawing political districts and the process for counting who lives in America through the U.S. Census. Partisan gerrymandering has overwhelmingly benefitted Republicans, who dominate state legislatures and used that power to draw legislative districts to their political advantage. The court ruled that such gerrymandering should not be reviewed by federal courts, dealing a blow to those who argue that representation in government should better reflect the preferences of voters. The court also ruled that the U.S. Census bureau is not allowed to add a question about citizenship to next decennial survey. Adding a citizenship question likely would have dissuaded many undocumented residents, even green card recipients and people in mixed-status families, from answering the Census, driving down participation among communities of color and diluting the political power of left-leaning parts of the country. Michael Wines with The New York Times discusses the rulings and their implications

[P]recisely because the gerrymandering and census cases were so deeply divisive, their resolution seems likely to reverberate through the political system, regardless of which political camp claims victory. The rulings on Thursday only raise the stakes of elections across the country next year. The focus will now be on a handful of states like Texas, North Carolina and Georgia where political control is increasingly up for grabs and the fruits of victory — control over the mapping of scores of congressional districts, not to mention state legislative seats — are especially rich. … Adding a citizenship question to the census could have a profound impact on American politics, as the country relies on population figures from the census to divvy up seats in the House of Representatives and to draw political maps at all levels of government.


Louisiana leads the way on treating Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is deadly if untreated, but a cure exists. Unfortunately, that treatment is financially out of reach for many people with the disease. Louisiana’s Department of Health is changing that through a new deal with Asegua Therapeutics that allows people on Medicaid and those who are incarcerated to access as much medication as needed in exchange for a fixed yearly payment. It’s the “Netflix model” for treating Hep C. Selena Simmons-Duffin and Alison Kodjak of National Public Radio elaborate

In Louisiana, at least 39,000 people either on Medicaid or in the prison system have hepatitis C, a viral infection that attacks the liver. It’s a curable condition, but that cure is expensive — generics cost as much as $30,000 per course of treatment — and some states have been in the position of rationing care to limit the strain on their budgets. … Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards explained how the new deal with the drugmaker would work in an announcement Wednesday at the CrescentCare clinic in New Orleans. Asegua will provide an authorized generic version of its drug Epclusa. “The state will receive an unrestricted supply of this lifesaving medication while capping our expenditures at the same time,” he said. And he explained what’s in it for the drugmaker: “This model gives the company exclusive access in the Medicaid and corrections markets in this state.” Gee said her department’s goal is to treat at least 31,000 people by the end of 2024. “An elimination plan and innovative payment model will ensure that we can cure this deadly disease and prevent long-term illness and disability in those who have it,” she said in a statement.


Louisiana’s pension debt improving
Pensions provide a major benefit to government employees who likely will make less than their similarly credentialed private sector counterparts over the course of their working lives, offering them security in retirement and compensation for taking a drop in earnings to serve the public. Pensions are also expensive, and many states have had a hard time controlling their pension debt, called unfunded accrued liabilities or UALs. While this debt has historically been a sore spot in Louisiana, the surging stock market helped Louisiana make real progress this year in paying it down. Sam Karlin of The Advocate has more

That $18.2 billion gap [between the pension system’s assets and liabilities] represents a decline of nearly $2.5 billion from the year before, Pew found. The drop comes as pension systems throughout the U.S. experienced a strong performance in the stock market and with other investments that boosted their financial positions. … Louisiana outperformed most other states in a benchmark called net amortization, which measures whether a pension system is paying down the principal on its debt. While most states fell short of the benchmark, Louisiana paid more than enough to stop its debt from growing, Pew found.


Black workforce being left behind
National economic data on unemployment and poverty rates don’t always tell the full story of what’s happening in specific communities when it is not broken down by gender, race, nationality, and other categories. The national unemployment rate is a good example. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment was 3.6% nationwide in May. But this number is nowhere near the reality for many Black Americans and Black communities. Andre M. Perry breaks it down in a blog post for the Brookings Institution:

Although economists consider the U.S. economy to be approaching full employment – a situation when there are more jobs than people – black Americans are experiencing unemployment at Great Recession-era levels. For many black Americans, the unemployment rate is significantly higher now than during the recession. While the national unemployment rate is the lowest in 50 years, this figure primarily reflects white employment dynamics. Last month’s lower employment figures certainly should raise concerns of an economic downturn, but black communities are already in a recession. …  Take the 10 largest black-majority cities. In each of these cities, the black unemployment rate is 3.9-10.8% higher than that of white residents. Black residents of Atlanta and New Orleans experience unemployment rates of 11.5% and 11.3% respectively, figures more than five times larger than the white unemployment rates of 2.5% and 2.3%. In Macon-Bibb county, Ga., the black unemployment rate (11.5%) is quadruple the white unemployment rate (2.7%).

Number of the Day
11.3% – The unemployment rate for black residents of New Orleans. (Source: The Brookings Institution)