The long-term benefits of building back better

The long-term benefits of building back better

Congress returns to work next week to finish the second part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure agenda -The Build Back Better Act. The legislation makes historic investments in children and families, combating climate change, workers and communities. Some have argued that these investments are not financially sustainable. Joel Friedman and Sharon Parrott of the Center on Budget Policy Priorities push back: 

Crucially important is whether the investments will meet important national needs and benefit the nation in ways that outweigh the cost of any Increase in debt service. Major investments in this package — such as investments in children, early education, college access and completion, and health coverage — have a strong base of evidence. Investments that reduce poverty and hardship among children, for example, improve children’s long-term education and health outcomes, helping them meet their full potential and benefiting the nation as a whole. Investments in health coverage improve access to health care and health outcomes and reduce financial hardship. Investments in quality child care and preschool and efforts to improve college access and completion help children and students succeed later in life and strengthen our future workforce, while helping parents get or keep jobs and make ends meet. These investments also make us a fairer, more equitable nation.

Demos’ Daniella Zessoules and Shruti Banerjee write that the investments contemplated by the bill would also make it easier for people to participate in our democracy:

Our elected officials’ unwillingness to invest in social infrastructure has systematically prevented Black and brown voters from fully participating. This was painfully clear during the pandemic, when essential workers could not access critical benefits because they were not citizens, Black and brown communities were hit with prohibitively high medical bills, and a lack of affordable housing and evictions disproportionately impacted Black and brown voters who then were unable to request or receive absentee ballots. These structural problems are interconnected and collectively work to hinder Black and brown political power. The Build Back Better framework has created a rare opportunity to push back against racist socio-economic policies and build a more equitable democracy. 

Will Louisiana reverse non-unanimous convictions?
The fate of 1,500 people who were convicted long ago by non-unanimous juries rests with the Louisiana Supreme Court after a pair of contradictory rulings from state appeals courts. As The Advocate’s John Simerman reports, the New Orleans-based 4th Circuit ruled that the state’s 2018 ban on non-unanimous jury convictions – a relic of the Jim Crow era – should be applied retroactively. But the Lake Charles-based 3rd Circuit took the opposite view. The rulings set up a potential showdown in front of the state’s high court: 

Advocates point to the state constitution’s equal protection clause, which says that “no law shall discriminate against a person because of race or religious ideas, beliefs, or affiliations.” Now that Louisianans know the law’s “clear racist history” and its enduring effect on black defendants and jurors, Ward argued, the state should have no interest in defending it. “I grew up in Louisiana, 38 years old, never realized there was a law still on the books the entire purpose of which was to disenfranchise Black defendants and jurors,” [Promise of Justice Initiative Attorney Hardell] Ward said. “When you discover that, you do what Louisiana did. You have to address it. You can’t ignore it. These are people. Our argument is simply that it is so fundamentally unfair, justice demands it be (retroactive).”

Many restaurant workers are still struggling 
Restaurants are struggling to fill open positions, particularly in the kitchen, due to ongoing fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. Cooks and other kitchen jobs are generally low paid and take place in sweltering, fast-paced environments. During the pandemic, back-of-house restaurant work has proven to be one of the most dangerous occupations, with restaurant workers dying at rates even higher than health care workers. Frances Nguyen writes in PRISM that while the restaurant industry talks about a “worker shortage,” restaurant workers are demanding better working conditions: 

Restaurant workers experience poverty at nearly three times the rate of workers in other industries, and workers of color experience poverty at nearly double the rate of their white peers. And now, in an industry notorious for its Jim Crow-legacy wages, [back of house, or BOH] food preparation and kitchen staff, such as bussers, dishwashers, line cooks, and chefs, are being forced to accept considerable health risks to continue working. Restaurants remain one of the most dangerous environments in this pandemic, especially for those working BOH. A recent study by the University of California, San Francisco found that line cooks have had the highest risk of dying during the pandemic, surpassing even healthcare workers.

Big business isn’t hurting from inflation 
While families feel the pinch from inflation in the checkout line and at the gas pump, the stock market is hitting an all-time high, continuing to boost corporate profits. Andy Kiersz with Business Insider has the story on how, for big business, inflation has provided cover for jacked-up prices and bigger profits: 

Top executives have been well aware of their “pricing power” during this inflationary moment, and if you pay close enough attention, they’re letting slip how great this time is for profit-making. CEOs and CFOs of companies from PepsiCo to McCormick spices have openly announced likely price increases through the rest of this year, bolstering revenues even as costs increase. “We’ve been very comfortable with our ability to pass on the increases that we’ve seen at this point,” Kroger CFO Gary Millerchip said in October, one of several executives to brag about how much they’ve been able to jack up prices in 2021.

Reminder: Election Day is tomorrow
Click here to read LBP’s guide to the constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Number of the Day
145,429 –  Number of people who have voted early or by mail in advance of Louisiana’s Nov 13 statewide elections (Source: Louisiana Secretary of State)