The major candidates for governor spent a lot of time taking shots at each other, touting their own accomplishments and promising new investments in young children. But as Mark Ballard writes in The Advocate, there was virtually no direct mention of the reason why Louisiana fares so poorly on most national rankings of well-being: poverty. But health care, educational attainment, economic development, crime and a host of other social indicators are tied to poverty. And reducing poverty takes more than just a job – it requires jobs with good pay and benefits, backed by a safety net that helps families in hard times.
In an extensive study in 2018, the United Way found that 48% of Louisiana households didn’t make enough money, despite sometimes working multiple jobs, to pay for housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and technology. That’s the nation’s third-highest percentage. “Think about it. Half of Louisiana is one financial emergency, a sprained ankle that keeps you out of work for a week or two, or a car repair away from being decimated,” said Jan Moller, head of the Baton Rouge-based Louisiana Budget Project, which analyzes the impact of state finances on low- and moderate-income people.
It’s not too late for candidates to elevate the needs of low-income people in their campaign. Gov. John Bel Edwards and businessman Eddie Rispone have almost five weeks before the Nov. 16 runoff.
Fiscal 50: Louisiana’s dependence on DC
Nearly 44% of Louisiana’s total state budget comes from federal funding. That’s the third-highest percentage among the states – just behind Wyoming and Montana – and far above the national average of 32.4%. With a high percentage of its population in poverty, Louisiana gets more Medicaid funding than most states, and also receives funding for coastal protection, transportation and disaster recovery. Pew Research Center has the numbers:
A slim majority of states—26—saw declines in the share of their revenue coming from federal dollars in fiscal 2017, including states that accepted as well as states that did not accept federal money to expand eligibility for Medicaid health care coverage. Still, federal funds were at their fourth-highest level in more than 50 years as a percentage of 50-state revenue, based on data going back to 1961, underscoring the significant role that federal dollars play in financing state government.
Soak the rich
The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof reviews the new data showing that America’s 400 richest families now pay lower tax rates than everyone else and predicts that raising taxes on the wealthy will become a dominant one in the years ahead. Kristof points to evidence that shows raising marginal tax rates will do nothing to reduce the motivation and incentive of people to become wealthy. But the money raised can do a lot of good for struggling communities.
By raising taxes on the wealthy, we could end the lead poisoning that afflicts half a million American kids, we could provide high-quality preschool for all, we could offer treatment for all people with addictions and we could ensure that virtually all kids graduate from a decent high school and at least get a crack at college.
The incredibly shrinking higher ed industry
Fewer Americans are enrolling in higher education, and the number of institutions serving them is also declining. That’s according to figures released last week by the National Center on Education Statistics. Inside Higher Ed reviews the numbers and finds that enrollment in for-profit and community college has plunged over the past seven years, and is only partially offset by increased enrollment at public and private four-year colleges.
Higher education enrollments have been falling for years, a well-documented outcome that can be attributed to some combination of a strong U.S. economy, changes in birth rates and, perhaps, growing doubts about the value of a college degree. Another decline is also unfolding — this one attributable to a mix of economic and political forces: the number of colleges and universities in the United States is at its lowest ebb since at least 1998.
Number of the Day
$1 trillion – Additional income that would flow to the bottom 80% of American households today if income distribution were the same as in 1979. (Source: Lawrence Summers via The New York Times)