Louisiana’s gubernatorial candidates agree that Medicaid expansion, which provides health care to Louisianans making below 138% of poverty ($16,753 for one person and $34,638 for a family of four) is here to stay, regardless of who becomes governor. The program remains under threat, however, as a reckless lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act works its way through the courts. The Advocate’s editorial board weighs in on how Louisiana’s commitment to health coverage for low-income adults ties into a larger vision for prosperity:
The state’s economic future rests on education reform, investment in colleges and universities and better infrastructure. All are vital, but the realities of life in low-wage households are also part of that larger picture. People in pain cannot stand all day at a counter or labor on a farm.
Poor households and IRS audits
The Internal Revenue Service now audits poor households at the same rate as the wealthiest 1% of households. The reason? Poor people are cheaper to audit. After a decade of cuts to the IRS budget, agency officials say they cannot adequately staff its enforcement unit and will continue to focus on the working poor until they receive more funding – a dubious prospect under the current administration. Paul Kiel of ProPublica reports on how underfunding for this critical agency affects poor working families:
Auditing poor taxpayers is a lot easier (the IRS said): The agency uses relatively low-level employees to audit returns for low-income taxpayers who claim the earned income tax credit. The audits — of which there were about 380,000 last year, accounting for 39% of the total the IRS conducted — are done by mail and don’t take too much staff time, either. They are “the most efficient use of available IRS examination resources,” (IRS Commissioner Charles) Rettig’s report says.
New rule “chills” immigration
New immigration rules proposed by the Trump administration and set to go into effect on Oct. 15, tilt the scales in favor of immigrants who are wealthy and white, leaving out immigrants of color striving for a better life. The new rules redefine who immigration officials consider a likely “public charge.” Advocates are challenging the new rules in court, and have asked that changes be put on hold until legal challenges are resolved. Abigail Hauslohner of The Washington Post reports on the rule change, and potential impact on immigrant families:
For as long as the term has existed in U.S. law, critics say, “public charge” has been defined as someone who relies on government assistance for more than half their cash income. The lawsuits argue that the new “public charge” definition deviates substantially from more than 100 years of legal interpretation. They say it will cause significant harm to the health and well-being of immigrant families, as well as the institutions that service them, by leading many to abstain from seeking public benefits that they or their children may need.
Reparations debate moves to states
In an effort to grapple with the impact of slavery and racism on modern day inequities, some states are taking up the topic of reparations. Legislators in several states, including Texas and Florida, have joined the debate with bills that aim to document and address racial injustices. In Pennsylvania, a team of researchers has been assembled to chronicle every state law that has had a “racist impact” since 1776. Teresa Wiltz of The Pew Charitable Trust spoke with the author of the Pennsylvania legislation:
“When we wonder why these racial disparities endure, we have to start at the origin,” said [Pennsylvania state Rep. Chris] Rabb, who is black. “It’s policy. It’s not a cultural deficit. It’s not bad decisions by individual black people. It’s the system.”
Michael Leachman, Michael Mitchell, Nicholas Johnson and Erica Williams of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities document the history of state tax policy in creating and maintaining racial inequities, and offer policy solutions that could help level the playing field.
Number of the Day:
29 percent – Share of U.S. wealth held by Top 1%. (Source: The New York Times) (This article on the state of the U.S. middle class as told through four family budgets is worth a read.)