Democracy needs defenders

Democracy needs defenders

Today marks the one-year anniversary of a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol aimed at overturning the results of a free and fair election. With a year’s distance, the Advocate | Times-Picayune editorial board looks back at how Louisiana’s congressional delegation responded to that assault on American democracy. What they find is not encouraging:

Our members weren’t among the lead instigators, but with the exception of U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, Jan. 6 was not a proud moment for Louisiana’s Republican lawmakers. …. The very notion of a peaceful transfer of power according to the will of the voters defines our democracy, and last Jan. 6, we came perilously close to losing it. All it takes for that to happen is for people who know better to refuse to say that enough is enough. Last year, too many of our elected officials failed that test. We’re still living with the repercussions.

The costs of low teacher pay
Surging Covid cases from the vaccine-resistant Omicron variant have hit schools hard, complicating plans to bring students back in person after winter break. But as Vox’s Anna North reports, the teacher shortages impacting schools now aren’t only a result of new infections. Instead, policy decisions long predating Covid—including significant cuts to school funding and educators’ pay—have made schools less attractive workplaces. Now, with schools facing the same economic pressures as other industries, those choices are making our current crisis worse.

There’s a big reason school districts haven’t been able to entice workers back, or find new ones: money. In public education, pay has been stagnating for decades, with teachers making 21.4 percent less than other workers with comparable education and experience as of 2018. Bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and substitutes often make even less. Today, when workers are urgently needed, letting pay fall so low “is coming back to bite a lot of school districts,” Groshen said.

A ticking clock for climate action
Last year, every parish in Louisiana experienced multiple climate-related disasters. The Pelican State, the only state in the nation with that grim distinction, has much to gain from action to slow global warming—and much to lose from inaction. As some congressional Democrats push to restart talks on climate legislation, Sarah Kaplan and Andrew Ba Tran of the Washington Post lay out the stakes:

Planet-warming pollution, primarily from burning fossil fuels, surged to near-record highs last year. The Build Back Better bill, which contains the biggest clean energy investment in U.S. history, stalled in Congress. The United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, produced pledges that put global average temperatures on track to rise about 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century — a degree of warming that would transform once unthinkable disasters into near-annual occurrences.

More housing aid for New Orleanians
Louisiana received hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency rental assistance to support renters and landlords affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. But that program, left to state and local governments to administer, left many renters without help when contractors failed to process applications quickly enough to meet the need and when money ran out. Now New Orleans, which has obligated all of the $40 million it had to distribute, is getting $25 million more to help struggling renters. As The Times-Picayune’s Ben Myers reports, the money comes from other Louisiana governments that failed to spend their rental assistance on time. 

The U.S. Treasury has approved a direct allocation of $25 million, bringing the total rental assistance that New Orleans has received from two COVID-19 relief bills to about $65 million. City officials expect to receive the money within a month and plan to begin disbursing rent and utility payments almost immediately. “Some folks we are hearing have already secured jobs again, but they’re behind on their rent a couple months or behind on their utilities. We are really looking forward to being able to assist them,” said Marjorianna Willman, the city’s housing director.

Number of the Day
$50 trillion – Wealth transferred from the bottom 90% of American earners to the richest 1% of Americans thanks to policy changes since 1974. Policy changes favoring the rich cost the median full-time worker $42,000 a year (Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)