The case against Amendment 4

The case against Amendment 4

Louisiana voters will decide on seven constitutional amendments in the Nov. 3 election – for which the early voting period ends today. Perhaps the most consequential of these is Amendment 4, which puts a restrictive cap on the state budget that will prevent the state from making needed investments in public services – even in years when revenue is available. LBP’s Jan Moller, in a guest column for | The Baton Rouge Advocate, explains an amendment that seeks to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. 

Our teachers are paid well below the Southern average, and the gap between Louisiana and other states grows every year. We need new investments in quality early care and education programs that allow parents to work and our youngest residents to thrive, and home-care services for senior citizens and people with disabilities who languish on state waiting lists. Our universities are still reeling from the budget cuts of the last decade, while other states race ahead. If this amendment passes, making these types of investments would become harder.

Historical eviction crisis looms
An eviction crisis is looming for the apartment and home-rental market in the United States, as national, state and local eviction bans are set to expire in the coming months and Congress continues to stall on additional Covid-19 relief. The tens of millions of evictions likely to hit soon will be much more than what the country saw when the subprime mortgage bubble burst in 2008, and could severely hinder America’s ability to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The Wall Street Journal’s Will Parker explains how this is the latest example of how Covid-19 is exposing and increasing the wealth gap in the United States. 

Houses are selling at record rates, and home prices have rarely been higher. Recently moribund suburban-housing markets in the Northeast and other regions have sprung back to life as buyers seek more space while working at home. But about a quarter of American renter households with children are now carrying debt from not paying rent, U.S. Census Bureau surveys show. Women and people of color are disproportionately more likely to owe rent, according to the census data. Black and Latino Californians were twice as likely as their white counterparts to face rent insecurity amid the pandemic, an analysis by the University of California, Los Angeles found.

Raise the wage to reduce racial inequity
Raising the minimum wage was an effective tool in advancing racial equity during the civil rights movement, and could provide a more equitable economic recovery from Covid-19. As Ellora Derenoncourt and Claire Montialoux explain in the New York Times, raising the minimum wage would reduce the persistent earnings divide between Black, Hispanic and Native American workers and their white counterparts. 

It is no coincidence that civil rights leaders in 1963 singled out the minimum wage as a critical tool for racial justice, and their demands are just as salient today. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since it went to $7.25 an hour in 2009. And inflation has reduced its value by nearly one-third from its highest real value, in 1968. If America’s contemporary leaders are serious about reducing racial inequality, they must push for simple, bold measures, such as doubling the federal minimum wage. Otherwise, the country may miss an opportunity, after the largest protests for racial equality in U.S. history, to improve the lives of millions of people of color.

Cashing in while their businesses crumble
Executives at several major U.S. companies received six-and seven-figure bonuses in the weeks – and sometimes days – leading up to filing for bankruptcy. J.C. Penney, for example, doled out $7.5 million to its top four executives, despite entering into bankruptcy with $8 billion in debt and not turning a profit in more than a decade. The Washington Post’s Abha Bhattarai Daniela Santamariña explain how corporate executives raid the till just before seeking protection from bankruptcy courts and laying off thousands of their employees: 

“These are bonuses that unfairly enrich the very same corporate managers that led the company into bankruptcy,” said Brandon Rees, a deputy director at the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest coalition of labor unions. “That unfairness is compounded by the fact that we’ve just experienced the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression.” The retention bonuses, which range from $600,000 at the parent company of retailer New York & Co. to the $25 million awarded to executives at Chesapeake Energy, illustrate how the pandemic recession is exacerbating economic inequality in the starkest terms: Those same companies laid off tens of thousands of workers, the majority earning less than $29,000 a year.

Programming Note:
Join us on Thursday for the launch of A Portrait of Louisiana 2020, the latest human development report by Measure of America, a program of the Social Science Research Council, presented in partnership with the Louisiana Budget Project and the LSU Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs! A presentation of the report’s key findings by Measure of America’s Director Kristen Lewis will be followed by a panel discussion on the report’s implications for the state’s road to recovery, moderated by Jan Moller, Executive Director, Louisiana Budget Project. Register here

Number of the Day

$135 million – Amount that executives at 18 major U.S. companies received before their companies filed for bankruptcy and laid off thousands of workers. These same companies listed more than $79 billion in debts. (Source: Washington Post