The gap widens

The gap widens

Louisiana has never done a particularly good job of supporting families with economic struggles. We have the second-highest poverty rate in the nation, and no minimum wage law on the books. People who lose their jobs have some of the lowest unemployment benefits in the country, and our health indicators are among the worst. And now the economic gaps that separate us will likely get even wider, writes Stephanie Grace after the Supreme Court took away the constitutional right to abortion. 

Let’s be clear about what will happen now that the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority has spoken. Women with means and connections — including those in the policy-making class and their families — will be insulated from the worst effects of the decision, as they’ll be able to take time off and pay the cost of traveling someplace where their rights remain intact. Young professional women will still have options, although it’s easy to imagine them choosing to live in a state where government doesn’t intrude in their most deeply personal decisions. But those who are less fortunate won’t have many options at all. … The progressive Louisiana Budget Project noted that Black women and lower income women are proportionately more likely to get abortions, and will thus be more affected by their unavailability.

The Washington Post’s Anne Branigin and Samantha Chery look at the racial disparities that undergird the abortion debate.

Of the 22 states that have banned or may now severely limit abortion, many are in the South, which is home to nearly half of the country’s Black population. Abortion rights advocates worry how that will impact Black people and other people of color, who are more likely to die from childbirth-related complications. Mississippi, which filed the Dobbs case, has among the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the nation. Those rates are even worse for Black people: In the United States, an average of 18 birthing parents will die for every 100,000 live births. For Black women in Mississippi, that rate is 51.9 per 100,000 live births, the Jackson Free Press reported.

Louisiana Budget Project Executive Director Jan Moller’s statement on the court ruling is here.

A new focus on ‘Cancer Alley’ 
President Joe Biden’s administration is paying closer attention to environmental justice issues, which includes looking at the ways that Louisiana’s massive petrochemical industry has affected the health of nearby Black and brown communities that disproportionately bear the brunt of pollution. The Advocate’s Mike Smith was there last week when an Arizona congressman began a bus tour of the region known as “Cancer Alley,” starting with a visit to the Whitney Plantation. 

Actions involving Louisiana taken so far by the EPA under (Administrator Michael) Regan, the first Black man to lead the agency, include an investigation into two state departments over the granting of plant permits. Regan also announced a series of steps related to air monitoring and other moves in Mossville in southwest Louisiana, St. John and St. James parishes, and the Gordon Plaza neighborhood in New Orleans. Beyond that, a proposed settlement of lawsuits against the EPA could further reduce toxic emissions at Denka Performance Elastomers and other plants in Louisiana. Still, community activists in the state say many of their concerns remain unaddressed.

A decade of DACA
It’s been a decade since then-President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, providing young undocumented immigrants with access to drivers’ licenses, higher education and other opportunities that most Americans take for granted. While DACA did not offer a pathway to citizenship, The New York Times’ Isvett Verde cites research showing that the protections it offers led to improved mental health and access to jobs and resources that otherwise would be off-limits. She profiles several so-called Dreamers, including Erika Andiola, an activist on behalf of undocumented youth. 

I graduated with a degree in psychology in 2009, but I wasn’t able to get a job because I didn’t have legal status. DACA changed that. I received my work authorization card in 2012 and went on to get a job as the outreach director for then-Representative Kyrsten Sinema. Being able to work meant that I could help my family financially. In time, I even bought my mother a house — something I had dreamed of doing since coming to this country as an 11-year-old child. Being protected from deportation also gave me the confidence to be more outspoken and advocate for my mother and millions of others across the country.

Hope from high gas prices
The rising price of gasoline – sparked by an increase in demand amid tight supply – has put pressure on America’s oil companies to ramp up production. But so far that isn’t happening, despite cajoling from the White House and others. The Times-Picayune’s Bob Marshall writes that this might be a good signal that the long-awaited energy transition is finally drawing near: 

Oil and gas executives know ramping up production and drilling now will cost many billions over several years that could leave them sitting on product as demand begins slipping — just like during the pandemic. So they’re choosing to squeeze as much profit out of the world’s misery while bankrolling for their futures in renewables. It’s business. Of course, governments can ease the pain. The U.K. is using a windfall profits tax on oil companies to ease the bills on low-income households. Don’t expect that to happen in the U.S.; Republicans would block any such attempt in the Senate.

Number of the Day
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Louisiana’s national ranking on social and economic factors that influence health outcomes. (Source: America’s Health Rankings, United Health Foundation, 2021)