Building Back Better

Building Back Better

The U.S. House this morning passed a budget package along partisan lines that includes transformational new investments in American families and children and that represents the nation’s most significant effort to combat the effects of climate change. The vote on the package, which contains $2.1 trillion in new investments, caps weeks of negotiations in the lower chamber, and sends the Build Back Better plan to the evenly-divided Senate for additional debate. The New York Times’ Emily Cochrane and Jonathan Weisman report

It offers universal prekindergarten, generous subsidies for child care that extend well into the middle class, expanded financial aid for college, hundreds of billions of dollars in housing support, home and community care for older Americans, a new hearing benefit for Medicare and price controls for prescription drugs. More than half a trillion dollars would go toward shifting the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and electric cars, the largest investment ever to slow the warming of the planet. The package would largely be paid for with tax increases on high earners and corporations, estimated to bring in nearly $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

The real “living wage”
Activists have targeted $15 per hour as the gold standard for a strong minimum wage. That figure is often described as a “living wage,” meaning it’s enough money for a family to afford basic necessities if a person works full time. But new data from MIT’s living wage calculator, which looks at what families really need to meet their expenses, found that it costs a lot more than that to survive in New Orleans. Danae Columbus, writing in Big Easy Magazine, elaborates: 

For a family of 1 adult and 1 child, the living wage for New Orleans was $22.89 per hour in 2016 but by 2020 had increased to $32.05 per hour, (Lamar) Gardere (of the Data Center) said. One parent with two children needed to earn $39.01 per hour. For a single parent with three children, the figure rose to $49.39 per hour. Because of the city’s poor educational system and the preponderance of low paying jobs, few single parents in Orleans Parish have the capability to earn $50 per hour – which translates to $8,000 per month or about $100,000 annually.  The living wage “magic” number gets easier to achieve when there are two working adults in the household. With one child, two adults each need to earn $17.43 per hour.

Louisiana remains one of five states without any minimum wage law on its books, which means the state defaults to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which is unchanged since 2009.

Bond Commission picks winners and losers
The State Bond Commission blocked banking giant JP Morgan Chase from participating in a state refinancing deal, even though it offered Louisiana the best terms among the bidders. Treasurer John Schroder cited the bank’s refusal to do business with manufacturers of military-style long guns. As The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ top attorney warned that the state’s efforts to coddle firearms manufacturers could cost the state in the long run. 

But (Matthew) Block said sidelining JP Morgan and two other of the nation’s largest banks in prior financing arrangements will lessen competition for such work in future deals and could cost the state more money because fewer investment firms will be competing. “We’re telling the world … that three of the biggest banks to loan us money at a good rate of interest, we don’t do want to do business with them. What we’re going to end up with is Joe’s Savings and Loan being the one that we have to deal with at the end of this,” Block said. “It will cost us more money in the long run,” he said.

Louisiana’s lethargic medical marijuna program
State lawmakers pressed Agricultural Commissioner Mike Strain on Thursday about the slow rollout of Louisiana’s medical marijuna industry. While the program started providing products in 2019, endless red tape has stopped supply from keeping up with demand and has driven up prices. BR Proud’s Shannon Heckt reports:

One woman with chronic pain testified that she spends over a thousand dollars a month on her medical marijuana products, which would only be a few hundred in other states. “What patients are paying here is at least double if not more than what patients in Colorado are paying for similar products,” said Dr. James Moises of New Orleans. “We’re a poor state, it’s just hard. It really eliminates a large section of our patient population that could use these medicines.”

The Dime is taking a break
Your favorite aggregated news digest is taking an extended holiday break so that LBP’s hard-working staff can enjoy some time with their families, work on professional development and plan for the year ahead. We’ll be back in your inboxes in 2022. Happy holidays and thank you for reading! 

Number of the Day
$32.05 – Hourly wage needed to support a household with one adult and one child in New Orleans – up from $22.89 in 2016 (Source: MIT Living Wage calculator via Big Easy magazine)