Rich v. poor in a New Orleans court

Rich v. poor in a New Orleans court

New Orleans magistrate court, which makes initial bail decisions for people awaiting trial, consistently sets bail at rates higher than low-income defendants can afford, leaving poor people deemed a low risk to their communities to languish in jail while their wealthy counterparts walk free. A federal court ordered Judge Harry Cantrell to halt the practice in 2018. But as Richard A. Webster reports for the Guardian, that order hasn’t changed much for poor defendants, and civil rights attorneys are once again asking a federal court to intervene.

Recently, Cantrell set a $1,250 bond on Miles Moran, a homeless man arrested for allegedly stealing $21.28 of drinks and potato chips from a drug store. Moran’s public defender argued her client was indigent and couldn’t “afford any amount of bond”. If released pending trial, she told the judge, he would admit himself to a local drug treatment facility where a bed was waiting for him. Cantrell lowered the bond to $300 at a second hearing, which was still more than Moran could afford. He spent the next two months in jail until prosecutors dropped the charges to misdemeanors, after which he was released.


ITEP reforms are working
From the 1930s until 2016, the state Board of Commerce & Industry had the authority to grant manufacturing corporations 100%, 10-year exemptions from paying local property taxes. Between 1998 and 2015, the Board approved those exemptions over 99% of the time. But a 2016 executive order by Gov. John Bel Edwards – which has since been amended – reduced the size and scope of these tax breaks and gave local governments a say over what happens to their own tax dollars. While doomsayers predicted dire consequences for the state’s economy, Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson writes in the Advocate that the reforms have left Louisiana’s economy intact:

Current U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis figures show Louisiana had the fourth-fastest growing GDP in the country. Louisiana has record-high personal income and an unemployment rate lower than when the governor took office. We’ve landed economic deals in 52 different parishes that will deliver over 40,000 jobs and $42 billion in capital investment. (Advocate columnist Dan) Fagan is simply ignoring the coming uptick in industrial construction because it doesn’t fit the narrative he’d like to sell about Gov. Edwards and ITEP. He couldn’t be more shortsighted.


Wage growth leaves black workers behind
In last night’s State of the Union address, President Donald Trump touted the country’s economic growth. But America’s workers have not seen the same gains from this recovery as they have in rebounds from previous recessions, and gains from the recovery have not reached all workers equally. According to the Economic Policy Institute, black workers with college degrees have seen their real wages decline over the last four years, even as the overall economy has grown: 

In a recovery, as the unemployment rates falls, you expect wages to grow. But in that respect this current recovery significantly lags the recovery of the late 1990s. Both recoveries have had similar declines in the unemployment rate, but wages today have not grown nearly as fast or as evenly across race and gender as they did during the late 1990s. Today, workers with bachelor’s degrees are not seeing nearly the level of wage growth that this group saw in the late 1990s. In fact, wages fell for black college graduates between 2015 and 2019, even as unemployment rates were falling significantly.


Medical bills are a health issue
Unpredictable medical costs, gaps in insurance coverage and wide variations in fees between medical providers often leave Americans facing two challenges when they get seriously ill: the illness itself and the heavy financial hit of paying for medical care. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Drs. Simon C. Mathews and Martin A. Makary point out that the financial harm of expensive treatments undermine patients’ health:

The financial harm of medical care should not be separated from the clinical consequences of care, because both outcomes can have a major influence on the health and well-being of patients. Financial harms also may affect access to care. … Incorporating measures of billing quality into reports of overall hospital quality could provide patients with a more complete assessment of a given medical center or practice.


Number of the Day
58% – Share of delinquent debt in the United States that originated from a medical bill. (Source: U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, via the Journal of the American Medical Association)