Louisiana’s fossil-fuel industries have seen a steady decline for decades as global climate change has driven a shift to renewable energy. The question now is whether the state’s economy will adapt and change, or cling to the past. As a coastal state that loses a football field of land every 90 minutes, we also have a lot at stake. With companies like General Motors pledging to phase out gasoline-fueled vehicles by 2035, Camille Manning-Broome of Center for Planning Excellence writes in The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate that Louisiana should be leading – not following – when it comes to the energy revolution:
Failure to adapt to the changing world around us will not only cost us economically but likely also spell devastation for the most vulnerable Louisiana communities — the very places that keep our culture alive and make Louisiana a global destination. Business-as-usual will continue to produce communities traumatized by climate disasters that include flooding, land loss exacerbated by sea-level rise, and economic disinvestment resulting from reduced productivity. These effects disproportionately fall on the poorest parishes, making the urgency of his transition an economic and an equity issue. Let’s focus on creating sustainable jobs, closing equity gaps, cleaning up our environment, and promoting economic vitality by putting people and families first. It’s time to focus our investments on clean industries, instead of doubling down on declining markets that leave us more vulnerable to climate disasters. We have more to gain than we have to lose by joining the global energy transition.
Black history is American history
February is Black History Month, when Americans are encouraged to learn about the lives and contributions of Black Americans—history that is all too often erased. Recently, President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission tried to continue that erasure in response to the New York Times’ documentation of 400 years of slavery and discrimination against Black Americans in the paper’s lauded 1619 Project. Jonathan Holloway, in an op-ed for the New York Times, poses a key question: Shouldn’t 400 years of Black history on American soil be enough to recognize Black history as American history?
Although African-Americans have had to endure arguments, policies and practices that declared they were not fully human, that they could not be citizens and that they were not civilized, African-Americans have been undaunted in their desire to be considered all of the above. These desires have not been satisfied, in part because African-Americans’ contributions to this country’s history have been ignored. The erasure is as stunning as it is thorough. The role of Black labor in building the Southern economic infrastructure has been routinely denied. The contributions that Black scholars have made in the humanities, the life sciences and the natural sciences have been lost because of segregated workplaces. The work of Black creative artists has been disregarded since it became appropriated into the national cultural apparatus. These denials exact a great psychological toll. The writer James Baldwin understood as much when in 1965 he soberly declared, “It comes as a great shock to discover the country which is your birthplace and to which you owe your life and your identity has not in its whole system of reality evolved any place for you.”
Right-to-work hurts state economies
The right-to-work laws that exist in 27 states, including Louisiana, have steadily decreased union membership and destroyed worker power. Such laws have historical ties to Jim Crow and anti-semitism, and research also shows that they are connected to lower wages, higher infant mortality rates and more stagnant state economies. Frank Manzo IV of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and Robert Bruno of the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign elaborate in a new report:
In “normal” economic expansions, the data shows that the states that are most effective at improving job quality are those that support collective bargaining. States that have collective-bargaining freedom laws have higher wages, greater health insurance coverage, better retirement security, more investment in education and worker training, fewer on-the-job fatalities, faster growing economies, less consumer debt, higher life expectancies, lower infant mortality rates, and broader civic and political engagement than “right-to-work” states. By imposing “right-to-work” conditions in state and local governments, however, the June 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 decision is likely to degrade these outcomes in the 23 free collective-bargaining states over time.
Vouchers gaining steam
Louisiana’s school voucher program came under fire in 2019 when investigative reports uncovered that public funds were subsidizing failing parochial schools. But voucher proponents are gaining momentum around the country after being prioritized by former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. While supporters argue this increases school choice for families, public school advocates express concern over the privatization of public education and the siphoning of public dollars for private institutions. Rebecca Klein of the Huffington Post has more:
So far, new legislation related to private school choice has been introduced in over 15 states during 2021. … Supporters argue that these programs give students the opportunity to choose and attend the school that works best for them – an option affluent families always have – regardless of their own economic circumstances. … As students use these scholarships, they take their per-pupil funding from the state with them, even as overhead costs for public schools, which required to serve all students, remain the same. Further, private schools aren’t beholden to the same anti-discrimination rules, academic standards or requirements regarding students with disabilities as public schools, and a vast majority are religious.
Deadline approaching for the State Policy Fellowship Program
Applications for the 2021 class of State Policy Fellows are due next Friday, February 19, 2021. The State Policy Fellowship is an exceptional opportunity to develop in-depth policy expertise. Fellowship responsibilities include tracking and analyzing legislative proposals and state budgets as well as conducting research and analysis on state budget, tax and other issues to improve the lives of families from all backgrounds.
Fellows in this cohort would begin in August 2021. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Click here to apply.
Number of the Day
50,000 – Coronavirus infections in Louisiana that were likely “seeded” by a single infected visitor from Texas who visited New Orleans two weeks before Fat Tuesday last year. (Source: Scripps Research Institute, Tulane University and other institutions via The Times-Picayune |Baton Rouge Advocate)