Growing the economy

Growing the economy

The United States economy has grown almost twice as quickly under Democratic presidents than under Republicans, according to data going back almost a century. The New York Times’ David Leonhardt examines this phenomenon, identified by two Princeton economics professors, and looks for possible reasons. What appears to drive this difference is the pragmatic approach favored by many Democratic administrations, including government stimulus when needed, compared to a dogmatic attachment to tax cuts favored by recent GOP leaders.  

There are situations in which tax cuts can lift economic growth, but they typically involve countries with very high tax rates. The United States has had fairly low tax rates for decades. The evidence now overwhelmingly suggests that recent tax cuts have had only a modest effect on the economy. G.D.P. grew at virtually the same rate after the 2017 Trump tax cut as before it. If anything, the Clinton tax increase of 1993 has a better claim on starting a boom than any tax cut since.

A similar debate will play out this spring in Louisiana, where legislators will consider major overhauls of a tax structure that currently asks more of our poorest residents than our wealthiest. The leaders of the tax-writing committees in the House and Senate want to reduce income-tax rates and make up for the lost revenue by eliminating some tax breaks. As Mark Ballard of The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate reports, there is agreement across the ideological spectrum that change is needed: 

“People across the political spectrum can agree that Louisiana’s tax system needs a lot of help,” said Jan Moller, head of the Louisiana Budget Project, a Baton Rouge research group that advocates policies for low and middle-income people. “A lot of the ideas are no brainers. We agree in general. But it’s the details, it’s always the details.”

Only three tax bills have been filed so far in advance of the session, including a proposal by Sen. Barrow Peacock to redirect state funding that supports higher education and health care to pay for road projects. 

What’s in a name?
With tens of thousands of acres of receding wetlands and a large petrochemical industry footprint , Louisiana is at the forefront of climate change. When President Joe Biden signed executive orders aimed at addressing climate change and advancing environmental justice, he rightfully pointed to Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley,” the Mississippi River corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, as an area whose residents stand to benefit from tighter enforcement of environmental regulations. Sen. Bill Cassidy and the petrochemical industry took exception, pointing to “lifestyle choices” to explain higher-than-average cancer rates in a region where thousands of people live just across the fence from plants that emit toxic cocktails of carcinogens on a daily basis. Tristan Baurick of The Advocate reports

Gail LeBoeuf, an environmental and civil rights activist in St. James Parish, said Cassidy is “blaming the victims.” “We hear it a lot down here — that we can’t be trusted to know what’s hurting us,” she said. “It’s always ‘blame the folks’ – the poor, Black folks – for their own demise.” (…) Air pollution is rising in Louisiana, and the burden isn’t being shared evenly, with many new plants taking shape in predominantly Black and poor communities that already have some of the most toxic air in the country, a recent analysis by ProPublica, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate found.

Checking-in on children’s check-ups
More than half of Louisiana children get their health insurance through public programs, the vast majority of whom are covered through Medicaid and the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (LaCHIP). With such broad reach, these programs play a powerful role in the long term health and wellbeing of families. Donna Cohen Ross, Jocelyn Guyer, Alice Lam and Madeleine Toups write in the Center for the Study of Social Policy on how Medicaid and CHIP financing can be used to foster children’s social and emotional development, a need that is especially acute amid and after the pandemic: 

It will come as no surprise that each and every state is facing unprecedented obstacles, not the least of which is the widespread, serious impact of COVID-19 and the precipitous economic decline that has constricted state budgets. However, although safety issues have driven an alarming decline in primary care visits, health care agencies and organizations have prioritized outreach to the families of the youngest children who still need immunizations, screenings, and connections to social services and mental health supports. Perhaps of greatest concern are the many thousands of children and families grappling with the trauma associated with the illness and deaths of loved ones.

We can cut child poverty in half – today
The United States has one of the highest rates of child poverty among wealthy nations. And Louisiana has the second-highest rate of child poverty in the country. It doesn’t have to be this way. President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan includes a proposal that cuts child poverty in half by providing families with a boost to help pay the bills and keep food on the table. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times has the details:

The centerpiece of the child poverty plan is an expansion of the child tax credit, up to $3,600 a year for young children. This would cost as much as $120 billion a year and, critically, would be paid out monthly to families that earn too little to pay taxes. Even a sum as modest as $3,600 is transformative for many low-income families. One reason to think that this would be so successful is that many other countries have used similar strategies to cut child poverty by large margins. Canada’s parallel approach cut child poverty by 20 to 30 percent, depending on who’s counting, and Britain under Tony Blair cut child poverty in half.

Number of the Day
$1.42 billion – Estimated increase in federal Medicaid funding Louisiana will receive tied to the 6.2% FMAP increase over the 24-month Public Health Emergency. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)