An investment in Louisiana’s Infrastructure

An investment in Louisiana’s Infrastructure

The U.S. Senate, in rare bipartisan fashion, approved a $1.2 trillion bill this week that includes more than $6 billion for Louisiana to upgrade our roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure, while putting more of our state’s residents to work in good jobs. Sen. Bill Cassidy was a lead negotiator on the bill, which now heads to the House for more debate. Mark Ballard of The Advocate has more on the bill’s benefits for Louisiana:

The 2,704-page bill also includes money for strengthening the power grid and responding to global warming as well as pouring more money than ever before into repair, replacements and upgrades to highways, bridges, ports, airports and other public works that have been aging for decades. About $66 billion will help passenger and freight rail, while a $7.5 billion chunk will be spent on a network of charging stations for electric vehicles, and another $15 billion to replace lead pipes in drinking water systems. Another $65 billion will go to expand broadband internet access. … Years of neglect because of underfunding led American Society of Civil Engineers give a D grade to Louisiana’s infrastructure, along with noting in the group’s 2021 report that the state has needed “immediate attention” for more than a decade. 

The ‘Scarlet E’ 
Being evicted from one’s home is an acute crisis that can have long-lasting consequences. One eviction on a renter’s record can shut them out from future housing opportunities for years. And evictions further perpetuate inequality for communities of color. With millions of renters behind on their rent due to Covid, including an estimated 154,000 in Louisiana, some states are pushing privacy laws to help protect tenants, but advocates fear that a piecemeal approach won’t be enough. Matthew Goldstein of the New York Times writes about how an eviction can follow a renter, causing housing problems for years after the initial event. 

Although the federal government has set aside $47 billion in rental assistance, only $3 billion has been distributed so far, according to the Treasury Department. The Biden administration’s new eviction moratorium is intended to buy more time to hand out the aid, but problems abound. States have had to create programs to handle the money, and in many cases landlords must agree to participate. Housing advocates fear that the new laws and government efforts won’t be enough to stem a flood of eviction cases that will linger on background checks for years, marking tenants as untouchable — even if their cases are dropped once the aid arrives. “We know this Scarlet E does cause all kinds of harm to people, and there is no reason to cause further harm to people,” said Kathryn A. Sabbeth, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, who recently wrote a column about how such cases linger. “Using eviction records exacerbates inequality and the challenges that people face.”

“Free college” isn’t enough for adult learners
States are facing mounting pressure to get more adults into post-secondary education and training. This has led to the creation of more than 67 “adult promise” programs that provide free or low-cost tuition for adult learners. Unfortunately, many of these well-intentioned programs come with requirements that conflict with adult learners’ needs. The Hechinger Report’s Laura Pappano has more:

Experts in higher education note that college has been set up for 18- to 22-year-olds with flexible schedules who like to sleep in and take weekends off — and are supported by parents.  Adults may have jobs, child care concerns, questions about past credits, loan defaults, even anxiety  about returning to school, said Laura Perna, executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania, who oversees a database and research on college promise programs.  “There is a complexity to adult learners,” said Perna. Programs to serve them must consider finances, schedules and supports. “It is really recognizing, ‘What are the circumstances of individual people’s lives?’ If someone is to enroll in college, how do you make it possible for them to attend?”

CEO pay is skyrocketing 
Corporations laid off millions of workers last year in response to the pandemic. But CEOs saw a 19% growth in their pay. On average, chief executives were paid 351 times more than the typical worker. This continues a pattern that has seen CEO pay skyrocket 1,322% since 1978, compared with just 18% growth for the typical worker. This CEO money grab has pulled in resources that could have gone to workers to help reverse income inequality. Lawrence Mishel and Jori Kandra of The Economic Policy Institute report

Exorbitant CEO pay is a major contributor to rising inequality that we could safely do away with. CEOs are getting more because of their power to set pay and because so much of their pay (more than 80%) is stock-related, not because they are increasing their productivity or possess specific, high-demand skills. This escalation of CEO compensation, and of executive compensation more generally, has fueled the growth of top 1.0% and top 0.1% incomes, leaving less of the fruits of economic growth for ordinary workers and widening the gap between very high earners and the bottom 90%. The economy would suffer no harm if CEOs were paid less (or were taxed more).

Number of the Day
59% –  The percentage of voters who support the expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit, which was enhanced this year and transformed into a fully refundable credit that is paid out in monthly installments. (Source: Fighting Chance for Families)