There is a partisan divide in the nation’s capital over President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan. But outside the capital Beltway, there appears to be broad public support for an aggressive government boost to the ailing U.S. economy. The New York Times’ Emily Cochrane and Jim Tankersley report on public polling showing 7 in 10 Americans support the plan, which includes new money to fight the coronavirus, expand the child tax credit and provide direct payments to most American adults.
In the SurveyMonkey poll, 4 in 5 respondents said it was important for the relief bill to include $1,400 direct checks, including nearly 7 in 10 Republicans. A similarly large group of respondents said it was important to include aid to state and local governments and money for vaccine deployment. They split evenly on the question of whether they are more concerned that the plan is too big, further driving up the federal budget deficit, or too small, and thus unable to quickly spur economic growth.
Closer to home, a Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate editorial says additional aid to state and local governments – criticized by conservatives as a “blue state bailout” – is especially important.
The reality is that the recovery depends on another dose of household checks and — importantly, we think — aid to state and local governments. The states cannot borrow freely like the U.S. government. In places like New Orleans, where the tourism industry was hammered, keeping vital services going will depend on a big helping of federal aid as part of the eventual Biden package.
Louisiana turns its back on rehabilitation
Almost 4,400 Louisianans – 14% of state inmates – are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. Nearly three-fourths (73%) of them are Black, in a state where 32% of all citizens are Black. Both the percentage of “lifers” and the proportion of them who are Black are the highest among all the states. And despite a series of reforms that have reduced the overall state prison population, Louisiana still remains the most heavily incarcerated political jurisdiction in the world. These findings come from a new report by the Sentencing Project. Lea Skene of The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate explains why the 2017 criminal justice reforms did not include any changes for people locked up without any hope of release:
Lawmakers considered changes that would have expanded parole opportunities even for people convicted of murder and other serious violent crimes. But the state District Attorney’s Association expressed opposition, arguing that such reforms would retraumatize crime victims and their families. … Many places, including Southern states, make most lifers eligible for parole after 20 or 30 years. But “life means life” in Louisiana, where the legislature voted decades ago to eliminate parole for all lifers.
Jobs and climate change in Louisiana
Louisiana’s fossil fuel extraction industries have been shedding jobs for a generation, and there appears to be little hope of a rebound as world markets adjust to the reality of a changing climate. Some states, like Colorado, are actively planning for this transition by finding new employment and training opportunities for displaced workers. This is a model Louisiana should follow instead of pining for a past that will never return. The Times-Picayune |Baton Rouge Advocate’s Bob Marshall writes:
[W]hile Louisiana leaders are wasting time ignoring the future and accusing President Joe Biden of declaring “war on oil and Louisiana,” other petro-states are accepting reality and moving to develop new industries that can employ laid-off energy workers. … The good news for Louisiana is few states are better positioned to fill that void. Reports by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last year showed the wind energy in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico could produce half the nation’s electricity needs, and that Louisiana was positioned to develop that potential due to its existing industrial base constructing and maintaining offshore oil and gas structures.
The New York Times’ Eduardo Porter reports that there is growing talk among economists and politicians in Washington about expanding the federal government’s role in making sure jobs are available for anyone who wants one – an idea that hasn’t been tried since the Great Depression.
On paper, at least, a job guarantee would drastically moderate recessions, as the government mopped up workers displaced by an economic downturn. But unlike President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s programs to provide jobs to millions displaced by the Great Depression, the idea now is not just to address joblessness, but to improve jobs even in good times. If the federal government offered jobs at $15 an hour plus health insurance, it would force private employers who wanted to hang on to their work force to pay at least as much. A federal job guarantee “sets minimum standards for work,” Dr. (Darrick) Hamilton (of the New School for Social Research) said.
Don’t be a mess like Texas
Louisiana policymakers are forever comparing our state to Texas. But the devastating collapse of the Lone Star State’s power grid last week should serve as a warning to Louisianans who want to emulate our neighbor’s deregulation experiment. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports that the state Public Service Commission has been studying whether to adopt a Texas-style approach, but says there are better options available:
A relatively simple solution that could start now is making Louisiana homes and buildings more energy efficient, which would help save power and keep people more comfortable during the hurricanes and polar vortexes that lead to widespread power outages, (Logan Atkinson) Burke (of the Alliance for Affordable Energy) said. … The reality is that the low household incomes in Louisiana, which also has the second-highest poverty rate in the nation, make buying expensive energy efficient appliances and insulation economically unfeasible for most.
Number of the Day
93% – Percentage of Americans who support government intervention to provide employment for people who lost their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic (Source: Gallup via The New York Times)